Hi Gabi we were super impressed with your Instagram so we thought we’d ask you a few questions about you, your passions, your career and all that stuff.
Can you tell us a little about your background, where you’re from… Why London? And were you born athletic and naturally thin or have you had to work your butt off for it? What is the secret to looking as great as you do? Do we all have to lift weights and go to Crossfit?
I was born in Lithuania, raised in a small seaside town Klaipeda by my hard working parents. My mum was always concerned with raising me and my sister in a diverse environment. From age 8 I started gymnastics and dance at school. I then moved onto Sport Dance and shortly fell in love with acting which I did at an arts school until I moved to London with my family at the age of 12. Hard discipline was drilled into me by my coaches and my parents; it’s just the eastern European way. If you’re going to do something you’re going to do it to the best of your ability — that is the mindset I developed. I was naturally a very lean and active child and I don’t remember ever struggling with my weight, although I do feel I have a very fast metabolism but it could just be a consequence of doing a lot of sports. I was also lucky as my mum cooked us very healthy meals — very seasonal. Lots of fish, a variety of vegetables and lots of dairy in the diet. We would go pick berries and mushrooms and fish, which we would have to prep ourselves too. I was taught to earn my food and feel the element of reward.
London was the place of opportunities back when I was little, my parents were really excited to change the environment thus we all left Lithuania as a family.
When I came to London, I learnt that in UK there were no opportunities for young people to pursue Sport Dance. I was heart broken. I picked up volleyball at age 16, followed through with it until now. I played for my university team and the beach volleyball team, but I never felt it was my true sport. I worked really hard at it being only 5’2, I did manage to play attach. As the training got more intense I found myself going to the gym more. I started to explore the weights section — testosterone fuelled, full of sweaty, grunting men, definitely a very intimidating place for a small female like myself at the time. But I loved it! The stronger I got the more confident and empowered I felt in every aspect of my life. I didn’t feel the “weak female” stereotype anymore. That’s where the weight training developed into building my physique.
I was determined to compete in a bodybuilding competition for a while, yet as I became a full time personal trainer I was swept up by CrossFit. I was fascinated by all the different components of it — weightlifting, powerlifting, gymnastics. It is a very demanding form of sport, at high intensity can be very taxing on the body. Thus you have to start slow — which I didn’t do, therefore suffered a few minor injuries straight away. During rehab I learned a lot about my body, how it moves / how it should move. I am now taking a break from intensive training and concentrating more on my body through yoga and calisthenics to strengthen the muscles I had damaged.
Honestly, there is no secret to having the body physique, health and fitness you want to have. You just have to have a growth mindset. What your mind believes your body will achieve. You have to be able to perceive every challenge as possible and imagine yourself at the end goal. Leave the fear of failure behind. When things go wrong you cannot let this stop you — you adapt, learn and move. Its perseverance and repetition — good old grind.
There are many fitness disciplines/sports that will allow you to achieve optimal fitness. You definitely don’t have to be lifting weights/using exercise machines to become strong and build lean muscle mass. You don’t even need to train at the gym to get a six pack. I guess lifting weights and high intensity training is popular because it’s fun, easily accessible, simple to manipulate and guarantees results. I believe you should never put your self into one category, because there are so many important aspects you can learn from other disciplines. Never stop learning, never stop exploring — your body only grows by responding to new stimuli, therefore don’t be scared to try new things.
You’re a PT/nutrition advisor, have you started your business from scratch and are you a private PT only or are you hired by larger corps, such as gyms etc?
At the moment I work at Virgin Active Canary Riverside club, but I also coach people privately both fitness and nutrition. I did start completely from scratch and it was hard work. And just like with any new business, it was putting in long hours for little in return at the start. The grind was definitely worth it, it has been an extremely valuable experience so far. Being a PT is so rewarding, being able to impact someone’s life for the better is a very powerful feeling. I fell in love with every one of my clients and I look back at this experience with pride and joy, because it only made me stronger.
Firstly, what is Mindful Gains? We see it a written a lot. Is it a catchphrase? A business? A way of life?
How did you first realise you were interested in the science behind staying healthy and strong?
It’s my business slogan. I remember very well the day I thought this up. It was a year ago when I immersed myself in nutritional neuroscience research for my university dissertation. I was obsessed with how food can impact the brain and the body at the biochemical level. The more research I did the more I realised there are only two definite variables we can take control over to improve our health — fitness and nutrition. As I mentioned before my diet wasn’t great before I delved into this research. Although I looked fit, I was quite sickly on the inside from stress and poor diet, which lead me to develop a lot of inflammation-related health problems. This made me realise the significance of simple lifestyle factors such as eating, sleeping, activity levels, stress levels, sunlight etc. Mindful Gains is about conscious wellbeing. I promote optimal cognitive and physical performance though mindful nutrition and fitness.
Talk us through your neuroscience degree. Does it make you more valuable as a personal trainer? Or do all personal trainers have them?
I guess it’s a little unusual to be a PT with a degree in Neuroscience with Psychology. When it comes to working with people on their fitness and health goals, it’s all about looking at behavioural habits and behavioural change strategies that will suit best. I always prioritise this over fitness programming, as I believe that no matter how much the person will come and train with me — if we cannot work on the mindset first, we will make overall very little progress or the progress will only be short lived. Being able to understand how all of that works down to the molecular level is pretty useful. Having the in-depth knowledge of how the brain and body works and how it responds to the surrounding stimuli has allowed me to manipulate each one of my clients cases towards their goals.
Being out there in IG you must be all too aware of the dangers of social media inaccurately representing healthy lifestyles. What are your thoughts on this?
You definitely need to be very careful who you choose to follow on social media. In many cases it is polished, rehearsed and airbrushed content which represents an idea rather than a fully sustainable lifestyle. This is what most people get caught up and misinterpret — it can have a massive influence on the younger generation. On the other hand, there is so much useful content we can learn from — you just have to learn to filter the information load and be selective.
Does your holistic approach to being a PT and nutrition advisor mean you study your clients and take into account their mental health?
My knowledge in this field allows me to do, yes. We live in a very stressful environment, research shows mental illness is rising. I went through many life struggles myself including mental health issues and life stresses. I saw my loved ones get sucked into it. It was a big factor that contributed to my choice of pursuing a career in the health and fitness industry. A person’s physical wellbeing reflects on their mental wellbeing, thus we must address how we can optimise that before we pay attention to the aesthetics.
Would you say mental and physical health need to be worked on in tandem for the best results?
Definitely! The mind and the body are two inseparable entities. The way we choose to perceive ourselves and different situations will have an impact on physical health. Mindfulness practice and self love allows forming healthy eating and fitness habits.
We notice you are London-based, predominantly in Canary Wharf. Are a lot of your clientele city slickers or do you have people from all walks of life coming to you for help staying strong and healthy?
I think the diversity of my job is what I enjoy most — it keeps me on toes. I meet all kinds of people, with all kinds of goals and ambitions. My approach has to be very organic. There is a lot of trial and error involved until I find the right strategies I can adapt to each person, through knocking down barriers and assisting people to change.
Canary Wharf is a business district thus it is not a surprise and a lot of my clients are highly driven professionals. Interestingly the age range of people I train is between 24-60. I do see a pattern of the kinds of people that choose to train with me, most are looking to get stronger, gain confidence, lose weight, build a solid physique, and just gain knowledge about fitness and nutrition in general. This is probably due to the strict, goal driven work ethic I implement.
What, to you, is the difference between mindful training and mindless training?
I always say focus on the process, not the outcome. If you don’t fully engage in the training that you do you will gain very little. You have to focus and track your body and it’s response to training. That is why I am not a big fan of the “class bunny” approach — hopping from any class to class week in week out. Being in a class of 25 people, how are supposed to know if you’re doing everything in the correct form? The instructor doesn’t have 25 pairs of eyes to overlook everyone. That’s where problems such as injuries, postural imbalances, and overactive muscles come in. I’ve picked up quite a few gym bunny victims I had to start training from the very basics. I had to make sure we retrain the brain and reset the body to reverse the damage done. I am not saying doing fitness classes — you are bound to get hurt — you have do a little bit of research on how to perform the exercises correctly and adapt those to your body before you go hard and intense. This also definitely applies to CrossFit. CrossFit has so many incredibly technical components. I’d even say get yourself to special classes – powerlifting, weightlifting, gymnastics that cover the absolute basics before you start throwing barbells around under an intensive regime if you don’t want to make more damage than good.
Your meal ideas are really inventive and colourful. Have you ever considered releasing a cookbook?
Lots of plans and lots of ideas are under development, lets leave this one for now. I am still experimenting and adopting the plant based philosophy, thus only time will tell how I choose to share my nutritional approach.
How does The Gram help you in your work and daily life? Do you have any brand partnership deals and do you think posting photos of your gains helps your mental health and self-esteem?
It’s been very useful to grow my business and clientele. I love sharing my knowledge with people and gain feedback — positive or negative, it allows me to grow within my field of expertise. I do work with a few brands. I have been very selective as to who I want to work with. I would never promote something I don’t support or believe in. I work with and promote the Revolution Foods company who produce vegan protein and superfood supplements. I have a lot of respect for the founder Dean Howell, he stayed with his beliefs of eating as close to nature as intended and you can really see this reflected in his brand vision. I also work with founders of Band Force-Seamus Wright and Harry Rowland. Definitely a unique company, selling resistance bands, because as I said — you don’t need much equipment to get strong and lean. I use their bands for both rehabilitation and training. I also promote HeavyRepGear sport wear.
For someone who might fear exercise and thinks eating healthy food is boring, how would you adjust them to healthy living?
There is an activity for everyone — you just have to be willing to put in the effort to try different things. You have to be willing to change, the rest will come naturally with time. The body is adaptive — expose it to anything repeatedly and it will soon start to thrive.
For someone looking at your page on IG and thinking “That will never be me” what would you say to that person?
As I mentioned before: what your mind believes your body achieves.
Thoughts on fasting
My dissertation covered a big chunk on fasting, fasting mimicking diets and how they can be used as therapeutic strategies to target disease. I found this such a fascinating subject, I delved quite deep. In particular research by Dr. Valter Longo, and Dr. Sachin Panda have influenced my own feeding approach and the nutrition advice I give out. Fasting / time-restricted feeding can activate hormetic processes in the body just like exercise or heat exposure do. These things are just stressors to the body to which it responds to by activating a series of biochemical reactions to accommodate for this. In the long term the body gets stronger and more resilient to such stressors. Thus fasting has a much greater role than just weight loss and detoxification. It clears away tumorigenic cells (cancerous cells), improves brain activity, insulin sensitivity, metabolism and many other essential mechanisms for optimum survival. Interestingly my clients who did pick up intermittent fasting (abstaining from food for periods of 12-16 hours daily) found it made a big impact on their weigh-loss and overall improved their health. I myself have been practicing intermittent fasting for the past year, and I definitely love the aspect of brain clarity, better sleep, better mood and of-course building lean muscle mass.