The first thing you notice about Lauren Hannaford is her energy. Even through the phone, the popular personal trainer’s vibrant nature radiates through, immediately revealing why in this digital age she has attracted such a dedicated following.
With 41,000 connections on Instagram alone, and the lean physique and bubbly personality to go with it, Lauren is in many respects a modern day fitness star. But unlike some of her Insta-famous peers, Lauren’s wellness career started long before social media came to dominate so much of our lives.
By the time Lauren took on the persona of Dorothy the Dinosaur and went on tour with The Wiggles, she was already an accomplished gymnast, had worked as a gymnastics coach and was a qualified personal trainer. But it wasn’t until she embarked on this rather unusual adventure that she was forced to distil her training knowledge into a gym-free fitness solution.
‘I grew up as an elite gymnast, having started gymnastics when I was five. I trained and competed nationally for most of my life,’ she explains. ‘Then I was coaching gymnastics and transitioned that knowledge into more everyday fitness training. Instead of always doing the usual shuttle run to push-ups, I would do a run cartwheel and then do some push-ups!’
‘My life then went pretty randomly in a completely [different] direction when I toured with The Wiggles,’ she continues. ‘With travelling and being on the road all the time, I needed to figure out how I was going to keep that element of fitness and training for myself, while being outside of my daily routine and the gymnastics gym.’
Undeterred by the impractical nature of touring, Lauren set about developing a more convenient approach to fitness. The resulting workout would eventually inspire a move into fitness entrepreneurship as the face and founder of FHIT by Lauren Hannaford.
FHIT is a functional high intensity workout program that requires no equipment and can be performed anywhere by anyone at any time. Through an online subscription platform, FHIT members have the option to follow a six or 12 week workout plan or to dip in and out of the guided training video library as they please.
The nutrition side of FHIT by Lauren Hannaford is equally flexible in that members can follow a set six week meal plan that aligns with their recommended calorie intake or work more freely with the recipe bank to build menus of their own.
While Lauren acknowledges the potential business benefits of focusing on a particular audience, FHIT caters for everyone. ‘It’s for the time poor parent who needs to be able to just grab a moment and do a workout and the high-end executive who is just as time poor,’ she says. ‘I encourage everyone to do it at their own pace. There are low impact, low intensity workouts, but there are also really fast paced high intensity workouts so there is something that suits everyone. You do it at the level you’re up to and the pace that suits you.’
Given her experience in both fitness and performance, Lauren’s transition to virtual trainer seems like a natural progression, but the 32-year-old says FHIT by Lauren Hannaford was as much inspired by the women who reached out to her online as her own desire to merge her existing skills.
‘I had so many mums writing to me through Facebook and Instagram because I was putting videos up on my social of me training backstage or in a car park,’ she explains. ‘They were writing and asking questions about how I stay motivated and what I eat and wishing they could do some form of exercise while their child was asleep. I saw I needed to create something for these people that they could access that’s going to make them feel good; something that will help them create a moment for themselves.’
While the concept of human connection may seem out of place in the online fitness world, it is Lauren’s ability to connect with FHIT followers through a variety of mediums that makes her program so unique. ‘I base everything on communication and emotional connection,’ she says. ‘It’s amazing how many people send me an email and write as though we’ve known each other forever because of the style of [workout] I’ve tried to create.’
This sense of connection is not confined to Lauren and her clients, but has gone on to spark an international community of FHIT followers through a members only Facebook group. It was through this page that Lauren recently witnessed two Canadian women bond as they discovered they were both from Ontario. ‘To see these two people connecting with the same interests and the same goal was just such a nice feeling,’ she recalls.
While FHIT by Lauren Hannaford is easy to use and integrate into daily life, it is by no means reductionist in its approach to health. The program has been carefully crafted to address the key elements that restrict weight loss and limit healthful living – movement (or lack thereof), nutrition, lifestyle and mindset.
It is the last of these factors that has gained much attention in recent years, yet many people still struggle to align their actions with their goals. When asked about maintaining motivation, Lauren says she encourages her clients to focus on the short-term benefits of working out rather than becoming intimidated by lofty long-term goals.
‘I always say think about how you’ll feel afterwards, how you’ll feel once the workout is done. You might be puffed out or it might be a difficult workout to do, but you feel invigorated from it. It’s almost like the more energy you expend, the more energy you feel you’ve got. You feel that classic endorphin rush.
‘Have your goals, but break it down, make it shorter term. You’re not necessarily turning up because you’ve got a goal that’s at the end of the month or end of the year. Literally turn up because of how the end of your workout yesterday made you feel and come back the next day for that same feeling.’
Interestingly, while so many of us adopt the latest fitness offering with the rather superficial goal of weight loss, as we proceed on our fitness journeys Lauren has noticed how the focus is inclined to shift to something far more important, but much more difficult to explain.
‘The thing that I love the most is that before people even talk about losing the baby weight or being down two dress sizes, they always say how it makes them feel,’ Lauren reveals. ‘You turn up for something because of the emotional connection to it. People always write to say, “I love doing my FHIT workout, it makes me feel so good,” or “Before I know it my 15 minutes is over and I just want to keep going”. Then they say, “And I’ve lost my baby weight”.
‘It is exactly my intention that weight loss is not the main focus and that they keep turning up for how the workout makes them feel. They feel energised, they feel encouraged, they feel motivated and they’ve lost weight.’
Having long been inundated with messages about weight loss, Lauren’s perspective seems refreshingly forward thinking. By transitioning our intentions from how we look to how we feel, perhaps we could unlock a more enjoyable relationship with fitness, one where weight loss, where appropriate, becomes a happy side effect of genuine healthful living. In one sense this idea seems almost radical. Yet in another, it feels just right.
Full access to the FHIT by Lauren Hannaford workout library
15, 30 and 45 minute guided workouts with high and low intensity options
No equipment required
Weekly meal guides, nutritional advice and healthy recipes
Personalised fitness testing
Mindfulness advice and exercises
Access to the Facebook FHIT community.