Raise your hand if you’re a busy, exhausted, unfit mom who is a little (or maybe a lot?) intimidated by the traditional gym environment? If your hand is up, then you are exactly the kind of woman South African champion athlete Lauren Cannon wants in her garden gym.
Mount Edgecombe mother of two Lauren has gone from being a high-performance athlete, doing hours of training every day, to teaching women who hate exercise just how amazing the feeling of endorphins really is and just how much it lifts your spirit and mental state. And she’s doing it from her garden!
Lauren was first featured in the Get It magazine in 2019 when, just six months after undergoing major foot surgery and being told that she may never compete again, she not only finished first in the KZN Olympic distance champs, but won the 70.3 Durban Ironman as well.
Lauren loves a challenge and has learned to weather them well. She gave birth to her two daughters, Scarlett and Stella, just 19 months apart (in 2015 and 2016) and, despite being told by her doctor that she would never be able to run more than 5km after her foot surgery, she set her sights on achieving her goals and reached them.
But now (like for many of us) her life has taken a slightly different turn. Lauren has given up competitive racing for the time being and has started a small, intimate personal gym called Fitness Garden in her garden. And she absolutely loves it. “It has been the most incredible transition and my cup has never been this full.”
Lauren’s aim was to create a gym that offers not only a Covid-friendly environment, but also a more ‘chilled’ approach to gym. “I believe in working hard at the gym, but didn’t want to create an environment where people would be embarrassed about their bodies, fitness abilities or strength.”
During her classes, Lauren says she does absolutely everything with her clients. She has six identical stations and everyone does the same exercises but with different weights. “My biggest goal is to show unfit, busy moms the power of endorphins. There is no better feeling than setting goals and achieving them – whether they be weight loss, fitness and strength or just enjoying the rush of endorphins you get after a good one-hour workout.”
Lauren has learned a number of lessons on her journey from professional, competitive athlete to a females-only gym trainer and has also seen changes in her own body. “I’ve learnt that looking thin and lean doesn’t mean you are strong and fit. When I am my strongest and winning events my body is very different to what it is today. It is very ‘block like’ and, in fact I look much bigger than I look at the moment. I usually train a minimum of four hours a day and honestly didn’t look that great in a bikini! Now doing gym I am much leaner; I hardly do any cardio, use very light weights and am able to control my eating as I am not over-exerting myself with cardio.”
Probably one of the things that stands out most for Lauren, she says, is how intimidated many women are by gyms. “They worry that they are not fit enough, they don’t have the right kit and are very self-conscious. Those are the people I love getting in my hands! There is no greater gift for me than to show them the power of an endorphin-rush!”
While training is an important part of being fit and healthy and reaching your goals, Lauren admits that eighty-five to ninety percent of what our bodies look like starts in the kitchen, which is why she works closely with a dietician from Johannesburg named Michelle Hawksworth. “I am not a qualified dietician (although I have done many many fad diets to keep myself thin) and I believe this side of the program needs to be out-sourced. Michelle is amazing.”
Lauren’s biggest focus at Fitness Garden, is ensuring that her gym is a safe haven for women to come together – and a happy place for working hard and having a friendly chat (only after class though!). The Fitness Garden training days are Monday to Sunday, R150 per session (your first session is free).
Text: Leah Shone | Photographs: Adam Christoforos, True North Creative