A Day In The Life of Dr Joanna McMillan

Day-in-the-life-joanna-mcmillian
Amelia Phillips

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Being a health and fitness coach, I meet a lot of people every single day. From personal trainers, life coaches, dieticians to top-class entrepreneurs. These people inspire me on a regular basis, be it with their life mantras or health and wellness tips.

In this new segment on my website, I’ll be sharing the fitness tips of some of Australia’s most beautiful people, who I’ve had the honour to call my dear friends. I’ve learnt something from them, and hope you can too.

This week, I speak to this country’s favourite nutrition expert, founder of Get Lean in 4 Easy Steps and a TODAY show regular, Dr. Joanna McMillan.

She’s originally from Scotland, but made Australia her home at the crack of the Millenium year. When she’s not sharing her wealth of knowledge with Karl and Lisa on your television screens, she’s writing books, weekly columns and serving the Australian Lifestyle Medicine Association as their vice-president. Her holistic approach to health and wellbeing is what makes her work approachable, credible and incredibly inspiring.

What does your average week of exercise look like?

This depends on whether I am training for one of my physical challenges or just in the lulls in-between! I set myself an annual challenge – in the last few years I’ve trekked Kokoda, climbed Kilimanjaro, completed an Ironman 70.3 and the 100km Coast Trek walk. I haven’t set the next one yet, so my routine at the moment is a mix of gym, running, walking and a hot yoga class.

Are you an indoor or outdoors trainer?

I love training outdoors and this suits me, from a time perspective. When I’m struggling to get to the gym I know I can run from home and have a good workout in 45 mins, and be showered and back at my desk quickly. I am also a member of a fantastic gym in the city. My partner goes there and so we try to get a couple of workouts together in the week, sometimes more. I also have another friend who I do a long walk with once a week. We get to catch up, gas bag while exercising – perfect!

How long do your sessions last for?

When I walk, it’s a 2-3 hour session, but generally my runs are 45 mins long.

How would you describe your training intensity? Say, are you a slow burner or fire cracker?

I’m a bit of both. I’m a slow burner when I run, but at the gym I like to go pretty hard. The way I see it, I want to get the most out of the time I have. I don’t waste time when I’m in the gym.

How do you fit exercise into your crazy schedule? When do you train?

I diarise it. I can’t recommend that enough. I’m lucky in that, I work for myself and so can plan my work hours, but essentially I view exercise as one of the things I have to fit in. It’s no less important than anything else in my diary, so I treat my scheduled workout as another meeting.
I admit it is much harder on some weeks and it doesn’t always go to plan, but I don’t let that go on for too long. As soon as I find myself slipping I get my diary out and kick myself back on track.

Do you like to work towards a goal? What’s been the most recent one?

This is one of the reasons for doing the challenges, mentioned above. It gives me something to train for and an end goal in mind. It’s been great to put myself in beginners shoes and try things like cycling and swimming while training for the Half Ironman event, for example.

It really put me out of my comfort zone and shook up my exercise routine. I never set weight goals, but do judge myself on how my body feels and how my energy levels are. I know when my skinny jeans are getting too skinny and I have to take action!
I see lifestyle change as a work in progress – you never reach the destination but constantly have to re-evaluate where you are and what you could do better. I, like most others, get out of whack and have to set goals for things I want to change.

What do you find the hardest about exercise?

Despite what I said above, finding the time is the biggest struggle. If I haven’t spent that time putting it in the diary I can easily find myself still at my desk at 6pm and then thinking I have to get cooking dinner for the kids and I haven’t done my exercise. I’ve been much fitter in the past than I am right at this moment and that is a good motivator.
When you know how it feels to be at your best, it’s easier to motivate yourself to get back there.

Have you always been an avid exerciser?

Not as a kid – in fact I was more an academic kid than a sporty one. But I discovered aerobics as a teenager and I haven’t looked back. I used to do Jane Fonda’s workout in my bedroom before school and owned many pairs of leg warmers.
I then taught fitness classes for 15 or so years. Since giving up teaching it’s been nice to do some different things like running and long walking.

Legwarmers, wow! I’m seeing a whole new Joanna now. Okay, a song or two you like to work out to?

No particular song – I usually listen to the Ministry of Sound compilations – they’re great to run too and I do believe in the power of music to help lift your energy and workout harder.

How does exercise improve your life? What do you notice about yourself physically, mentally, day-to-day when you are training regularly?

I firmly believe that exercise lifts your spirits, it’s good for your brain, it’s essential for your metabolism and to get your body working as it should, and it has a whole host of benefits physiologically. Research backs up these factors.
Time away from your desk exercising will only make you more productive and creative when you are at your desk. Reminding myself of that allows me to see exercise as another thing I fit into my day and not something that is a luxury.

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