Cover model Carly Rowena has won us over with her Instagram channel @CarlyRowena. Here, she talks 10-minute workouts, her love of food and staying body positive…
When it comes to digital fitness, we at Women’s Fitness like to think of Carly Rowena as one of our original sources of online fitspiration. Now 34, and mum to two-year-old Jax (who she shares with fellow YouTuber and husband, Leon Bustin), the Norwich-based personal trainer emerged on the fitness vlogging scene in 2013, when she decided to start posting workout tutorials on her self-named YouTube channel.
Popular posts such as The One Song, One Workout (for which you follow moves to the beat of just one song) took off and Rowena soon amassed followers. It’s eight years on and Rowena now has a whopping 421K subscribers to her YouTube channel, plus 170K followers on Instagram.
She not only inspires fitness, but also posts on sexual wellness, intimacy and self-care. Plus, Rowena organises wellness retreats, leads online workouts via her Let’s Sweat! channel and has recently collaborated with Halo Fitness to launch the CR X HALO activewear collection!
Here, she tells us why becoming a mum has changed the way she exercises and how carving out some me-time can be a powerful thing.
When did you discover a passion for fitness?
‘I’d always been active as a child but I was useless at sport, so it wasn’t until I joined a gym at 18 that I discovered how powerful weights made me feel. I loved getting stronger and the independence it gave me.’
What inspired you to become a fitness vlogger?
‘I actually turned to YouTube out of desperation. I was working in the motor trade, feeling very underwhelmed and lost as to what career direction I should take.
‘I looked to YouTube as my personal talent finder– I uploaded videos on all sorts of topics in the hope that I’d find a new direction. I never expected that fitness and YouTube would be that direction, but my followers supported me and showed me the hidden passion I didn’t know I had!’
What’s your favourite way to exercise?
‘Right now, it’s paddleboarding! I love jumping onto my board and paddling, with the sun on my skin, my daughter splashing the water next to me and friends joining in when they’ve finished work.
‘When I’m not on my paddleboard, you’ll find me boxing, running or throwing weights around at my local CrossFit box, Spitfire.’
How has being a mum changed the way you work out?
‘My shape has changed since having my daughter but so has my view on exercise. My workouts have to be more compact now that I’m a mum, and they’re more about headspace, me-time and feeling independent than about burning calories, which is why a quick 5K run, a 30-minute box session, or a paddle on the water with my daughter have become my most-used forms of activity.’
How do you fit exercise into your day?
‘I’m not very good at putting myself first and I have “mum guilt” when it comes to doing things for me, so I work out before Jax wakes up and try to team my longer CrossFit workouts with picking her up from nursery.
‘I also try to do shorter 10-minute workouts with her –nothing hardcore; it’s more about having fun and moving our bodies to encourage a love of movement.’
What advice do you have for other mums who are trying to balance parenthood with keeping fit?
‘If I’m being honest (and I get nervous saying this because the online parenting space can be critical), I’ve found the easiest time to get back on track with fitness is before baby is crawling.
‘It goes without saying that you need to be cleared for postpartum exercise, and certainly soak up the newborn snuggles, but at around three to four months is when you might want to start carving out time for you. Aim to do just 10 minutes of something, as this makes it so much easier to get back to fitness.
‘When the little one starts moving is when it gets trickier because they might be sleeping less and moving more, which means you can’t take your eyes off them for a second! This is when I recommend asking for help.
‘Leon and I had a deal that we would support each other, as he didn’t want to get a “dad bod” and I didn’t want to feel like I’d lost myself, so that really helped on those tired days.’
You often talk about enjoying food as well. Do you feel passionate about finding a balance?
‘Food has always had such a bad rep, and I hate that I find myself with a negative narrative towards some foods. I think it became even more apparent during lockdown, as food was one of the only luxuries we could really enjoy.
‘My day is filled with food but, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve taken notice of what food makes me feel good and the ones that don’t – that can be a powerful feeling. I love to create meals that are full of colour, and I always aim to choose something that not only looks good, but also tastes good and leaves me feeling satisfied.’
How important is it to you that women have access to body positive information?
‘I see how important it is to embrace our own bodies more so now that I’m a mum! There is nothing that makes you realise how incredible the human body is more than seeing your little one strut around naked with complete happiness and acceptance.’
You’ve launched your own line of activewear with Halo Fitness Clothing. What was your inspiration?
‘I’ve been lucky to be able to wear so many incredible brands but I’ve always wanted to wear my own. I’ve gone through so many stages of my life that I wanted a selection that would suit every woman – high neckline for more coverage and support; straight neckline for smaller boobs…
‘It’s been amazing seeing everyone in the clothes, and the models, who were from my online community, look incredible!’
What tips do you have for the time-pressed exerciser?
‘Start small – 10 minutes can be really effective if you work hard. Think about when you have the most energy and schedule movement in for that time.
‘Exercise doesn’t have to mean being in the gym for an hour; it’s about moving your body in any way that you can – walk more, take the stairs, dance with loved ones, play football with your child, or run with your dog!’
Abs of steel workout
Looking for a home-friendly workout that will crush your core and help you to build stronger abdominals? Cover model Carly Rowena has it sorted!
Exclusive to Women’s Fitness readers, this core-carving session can be done at home to give you a taste of Rowena’s methods.
You’ll work your entire core muscle group – your six-pack abs, hips, pelvis, obliques and transverse abdominis – which will not only help to power up your sports performance but also support the movements you make in everyday life.
Perform 20 repetitions of each move for 3-4 sets. Beginners, opt for 10-15 repetitions.
- Sit on the floor, with your legs hip-width apart and an object such as a water bottle placed in between your feet.
- With your core engaged and legs straight, lift your left foot up and over the bottle. It will then be on the floor next to your left foot.
- Reverse the movement to move your left foot back to the other side of the bottle, then repeat with the right foot.Continue alternating.
- Lie on your back with legs straight and arms by your sides.
- Engage your core to roll up to almost sitting, while bringing your right knee up to meet your hands.
- Roll back down to lying, then repeat on the left side. Continue alternating
REVERSE CRUNCH + BICYCLES
- Sit on the mat with feet on the floor, arms extended and legs bent.
- Lower backwards to a prone position, slowly declining to the tempo of a count of four.
- When lying down, perform 10 bicycle crunches by putting your hands behind your ears, raising your legs a few inches off the floor and using your abs to drive your right elbow and left knee towards each other. Twist back to the centre, then drive your left elbow and right knee towards each other.
- Rise up to seated and repeat the entire sequence
- Start in a high plank position, hands shoulder-width apart and your body in a straight line.
- Brace your abs, drive your right knee towards yourupper body and tap your foot with your left hand.
- Switch sides and continue alternating
REPS: 20 (each side)
- Start in a side plank with your right arm on the floor, elbow under shoulder and feet stacked. Place your left arm in a straight line over your head.
- Tighten your abs and draw your left leg towards your right elbow. Repeat 20 times and then switch sides.
- Start on your hands and knees, with hands below shoulders and knees below hips. Rise up on to the balls of your feet.
- Brace your abs, move your left hand backward and right knee forward to tap together.
- Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating until you’ve completed 20 reps.
GLUTE RAISE + JACK KNIFE
REPS: 20 (each side)
- Lie on your back and place your heels towards your glutes, then raise your hips up into a bridge position.
- Raise hands overhead and extend your right leg in line with left knee.
- Crunch your hand and leg towards your middle. Extend and repeat.
- Complete 20 reps, then swap sides
- Lie on your back with legs extended in the air, knees together and hands raised in the air.
- Squeeze your abs as you lift your hips off the floor, crunching your feet towards your hands.
- Lower with control, then repeat for the set number of reps.