In recent years the Bikini Category in fitness and physique shows has boomed in the UK and a prominent figure on the bikini stage is personal trainer and sponsored athlete Sian Toal. But for this athlete it’s not just about the bikini training, there’s much more to Sian than meets the eye.
Sian began her career as a personal trainer eight years ago when she left university, graduating with a performing arts degree. Her inspiration to become a trainer originally came from a dance fitness trainer she had met at university, who had been hired to help the dancers improve their stamina and fitness levels.
His passion and dedication to nutrition and training sparked a new drive in Sian and he taught her what could be achieved through hard work, commitment and the importance of goal setting. His approach focused on life balance and long-term changes rather than quick fixes, which to this day Sian continues to emphasise in her training principles.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
“Sian emphasises the healthy mind and healthy body concept to her clients daily as it has so much importance in being successful, professionally and personally.”
After a very difficult second year at university, Sian’s confidence and ambition took a knock and seemed to disappear without control, “It was a very dark time and it seemed like there was no way out”, admits Sian. “There will be times for everyone when you feel this way and I learned a strategy to help me overcome this’.
Sian found her direction and solace in her training and this enabled her to gain her inner strength to excel in her course and believe in herself again. After university Sian auditioned as a dancer for a while but felt she wanted something more fulfilling for a career.
Her decision to train as a personal trainer was fuelled by her own experiences and she wanted to translate these to other people. Specifically she wanted to show what the benefits would be to your physical and emotional life that can be achieved through good training and nutrition. Sian emphasises the healthy mind and healthy body concept to her clients daily as it has so much importance in being successful, professionally and personally.
Before taking on a dance degree, Sian had always been involved in sport and started her career as an athlete where her discipline was sprinting. In 2010, Sian decided to try her hand at competing in a physique show after harbouring a desire to compete for a few years.
She went to watch a show and felt inspired by what she saw but at the same time felt she didn’t quite fit in. “I was a more muscular shape, with sprinter quads and short, bobbed dark hair”. She was unsure she’d have the confidence to compete or fit into the competitors she saw in that show.
Things were improving on the confidence front, as teaching group fitness brought back the performer in her. But what made her decide to take the leap and step on stage? Sian had dreamt of being a fitness model having been inspired by the fit bodies of the models on the covers of fitness magazines such as ultra-FIT, Oxygen and Muscle and Fitness Hers.
“It started as a personal challenge, to train for aesthetics rather than for performance and to challenge my confidence”, explains Sian, “I decided that I have a different look and why not bring that to the stage? For me this was a personal journey, not about fitting in or trying to copy others, it was about embracing and accepting who I am and learning to set goals and plans and see them through.”
Having grown up in sport, Sian has a natural competitive streak in her personality but this is channelled into being competitive with herself. “I have learnt from competing that this is the most important part. What you bring to the stage should be your best and that on show day you are happy with how you worked through your prep.
Of course go there to compete … I always go in with a winning mindset, but always walk away proud of yourself. No matter what the result,”
“Despite growing up on the stage and completing a performing arts degree at university, the idea of being back on the stage still scared Sian…”
Despite growing up on the stage and completing a performing arts degree at university, the idea of being back on the stage still scared Sian. Her confidence had improved tenfold but she hadn’t been on stage since university. Sian now trades on a new-found confidence and desire to go for it, “If it scares me, it now drives me to tackle it head on!”
So what began as a way of re-gaining her confidence resulted in four first place trophies and an overall title in her first year. “In my first show, I couldn’t believe I won…I didn’t really know what I was doing in the prep leading up to the show and I was also violently sick with food poisoning a week before.” At the finals, Sian took home the British Bikini and Fitness Model Titles, the European Bikini title and also the Overall title.
“It proved to me that I can overcome whatever I set my mind to.” Having won the show and qualifying for the finals, Sian then asked herself, if she can win not knowing what she was doing, how far could she go with a knowledgeable coach to guide and instruct?” She was put in touch with contest prep coach, Nathan Harman and has worked closely with him ever since.
“We have a great coach/competitor relationship but at the heart of it all we’re good friends, which is so important when competing as you need to trust each other to produce amazing results. Since that first show she has competed in the UK, internationally in Europe and USA and picked up her Pro Card in April 2013.
Sian works out most days and uses weight training and cardio to maintain and develop her bikini body. She loves to train legs and glutes, which have become a bit of a trademark for her, and maintaining her link with the past also hits the track for sprints.
She recommends assessing your physique realistically if you plan to compete, but that you should also make sure that you are mentally able to handle competing. “You are asking a panel of people to judge your body, it’s important to be strong minded and compete for achieving your best.
Each person starts in a different place, some may need to spend time building muscle while others already have a great muscular base. Your focus might be changing shape, building certain areas to create the desired shape.” Sian however, emphasises that you should not rush and that you should train smart and eat well.
Sensibly she argues that, “Constant dieting won’t give you the body shape or muscular gains you may be after. My muscular base stems from many years on the track and in the dance studio and it has set me up well for sport of physique competitions. Muscle isn’t built in a week……”
“Constant dieting won’t give you the body shape or muscular gains you may be after. My muscular base stems from many years on the track and in the dance studio and it has set me up well for the sport of physique competitions.”
Growing up with active healthy parents really set the scene for her career. “I have a lot to thank them for in teaching me about working for what I want to achieve and about the importance of exercise and nutrition.” Sian’s achievements earned her sponsorship with PhD Nutrition in her first year and she is an ambassador for their female range, PhD Woman.
“I believe in every brand I work with and I used PhD Nutrition from the very beginning of my career, so I feel honoured to work with them’. This year she had also collaborated with Fresh Fitness Food, a bespoke food delivery service which allows her to follow her nutrition plan, whilst running a busy studio and training clients. Her sponsors tie together her workouts, fitness show aspirations and fitness lifestyle.
2013 was a big year on the fitness stage for Sian, but away from the bright lights her professional career has also been moving from strength-to-strength. Her clientele became very exclusive when she began training clients in their homes in Notting Hill and West London, together with seeing a few high flyers in the City.
“Part of my challenge is to compete but to continue to develop professionally. I like to learn and take inspiration from those around me.” Back in 2011, Sian began training interior designer and Dragon on BBC1’s ‘Dragon’s Den’, Kelly Hoppen. Kelly’s body began to transform, giving Sian the nickname the ‘exterior designer’! It was Kelly’s business experience and knowledge that influenced and inspired Sian to take her business further.
In January 2013 Sian and her fiancée, Jay Benedetti, opened ‘Onpoint Training’ in London, a personal training studio purely focussed on delivering results to their clients. “Every ‘before and after’ is real and our clients become part of our team. There are two focus points at our studio”, says Sian, ‘Firstly, clients receive a total package, our knowledge and commitment to their results.
Not just in their hour of training but on a daily basis, we take care of training, nutrition and how to manage your time out of the gym to keep you on track to reach your goal. Secondly, we provide a space for trainers to run their own business, a place for them to provide their own unique service. We pride ourselves on creating a great atmosphere to work and train.”
Just a year later they are expanding the studio space, allowing room for more trainers to be able to run their businesses from Onpoint, whilst still being able to be their own boss. Sian and Jay work in conjunction with Fresh Fitness Food to provide,
‘The most complete 12-week body transformation package’ in London professional training and coaching, your food made and delivered to your doorstep to the exact nutritional requirements set by Sian and Jay, your supplements pre and post workout. “All you need to do is turn up, eat your food and stay committed,” says Sian.
So what lies in the future for Sian? “The 2014 competing season will see me bringing many more improvements to my physique and performance. I like to hide away and then bring something special on show day! The studio will grow and Onpoint will move from strength to strength. Plus there is also that little thing called a wedding to prepare for….!”