Courtney Black used to be a self-confessed gym bunny. ‘I would do an hour of weights and an hour of cardio in the gym every day,’ says the personal trainer and fitness influencer.
‘I would sometimes go twice a day, but I would never leave feeling fulfilled. I was obsessed with the gym and didn’t think I could get good results doing a workout at home. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it either.’
And yet, the 24-year-old from east London couldn’t have been more wrong. She’s now being dubbed the ‘Queen of home workouts’ and she’s added more than 500,000 followers since March 2020 by posting daily home workouts.
‘I did my first live workout because I had no motivation to train at home myself,’ she admits.
‘I thought that if a few people did it with me, it might motivate me as well. But it became infectious. I could play my own music – gym playlists are so boring – wear what I wanted and literally roll out of bed to work out. I had hardly any space in my flat and had to move the TV and coffee table to put my mat down, but I started to see really good results and it spurred me on.’
Each of her live sessions would attract more than 30,000 people and her fitness app, Courtney Black Fitness, was downloaded more times than the NHS Couch To 5k app in the first lockdown.
So what is it about her workouts that have made them so popular?
Firstly, her enthusiasm is infectious. Secondly, she does the workout in real time with you. And thirdly, she’s so, well, normal.
Not only that, her method works and the before and after photographs speak for themselves. ‘I put so much effort into my workouts,’ she says.
‘I’m not just posting a workout for the sake of it. Social media is flooded with people lifting chairs and working out on sofas, it’s ridiculous. Lots of influencers don’t want to give away a whole workout, so they post something and people think that’s all they have to do. But that influencer will be doing way more than they’re posting. People need to see the good with the bad.’
Courtney isn’t afraid to share her good and bad. She’s upfront about her past eating disorders and obsession with training and thankfully is now in a much better place.
‘I’m eating more calories than I could ever have imagined and I’m doing shorter workouts. I feel in the best shape of my life. Everything changed when I did my personal training course and the more educated I became, the more I wanted to share that knowledge.’
Courtney’s sessions are a combination of HIIT (high intensity interval training) circuits and weight training.
She believes this is best suited to home training as you can focus on short bursts of hard work. ‘Workouts are around 30 minutes long and, seriously, who can’t fit that into their day?’ she says.
‘Make some time when the kids are in bed or wake up earlier. Take some time out from your phone, or throw something in the slow cooker for dinner and jump on your mat. You’ll be glad you did as HIIT causes an EPOC [Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption] effect and raises your heart rate so you burn more calories even after you’ve trained.
‘Plus, the weight training builds muscle mass and the more muscle you have, the more efficient your body becomes at burning energy at rest. It is a winning combination.’
And if you’re lacking motivation, that’s totally fine, says Courtney. ‘I like to think that people have bad moments, not bad days,’ she explains.
‘Sometimes you just don’t want to workout at 6am and that’s fine. You might change your mind by 6pm. And if not, it’s not the end of the world to change your rest day. You just need to recognise when you’re being lazy and, if so, remember why you’re doing the workout in the first place.’
Courtney is keen to stress that calorie burn doesn’t define a good workout. ‘We are way too obsessed with calories. If you’re eating a Sunday roast, then running five miles in the p***ing rain, that’s not life affirming, that’s punishment.
‘Don’t be too restrictive with food. You don’t need to cut out food groups, you just need a calorie deficit. When people are too restrictive, they binge and then they are back where they started.
‘I’m not telling you you’ll get miraculous results after 28 days,’ she adds. ‘But I give you all the stuff you need to achieve your fitness goals, whilst developing a positive attitude towards food and body confidence along the way.
‘The 28 days challenge is not just about looks. You are exercising and eating better than you probably were before, so yes, you are going to look better. But you are also going to feel better. You are going to wake up in the morning and have a more positive mindset – and we could all do with that right now.’
Amen to that, Courtney.
The Pocket PT by Courtney Black is out now.
Courtney’s top three exercises
Reverse-lunge with bicep curls
Start in a standing position, feet together and with a dumbbell in each hand, arms by your side, palms facing inwards.
Take a large step back with one foot and as you step back into a lunge (touching the floor with just the ball of your foot), lower your back knee towards the ground, keeping your core engaged and chest up. As you lunge down curl your biceps up.
Return to start position by driving through your front heel and squeezing your glutes together. Alternate legs each time you lunge back.
Dumbbell squat to upright row
Start in a standing position, with your feet wider than shoulder-width, arms straight down in-between your legs, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
Squat down keeping your arms straight and as you come up from the squat, lift your elbows and row your arms up to shoulder level. Make sure you don’t lift your shoulders up to your ears – keep them level.
Burpee renegade row press
Start in a standing position with a dumbbell in each hand and arms by your side, palms facing inwards. Lower the dumbbells to the floor, bending at the knees, then burpee back (jump both legs back together).
Keep your core engaged and as soon as you are in the high plank position, pull one dumbbell up towards your chest, bending at the elbow – remember to squeeze your lats (back muscles) as you row. Hold, then lower it back down and repeat on the other side.
Once completed on both sides, jump your legs back together. As you stand up, lift the weight up, then push them up into a shoulder press. Bring the weights back down with control and repeat.
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