The inside track…
Vicki Anstey, SAS Who Dares Wins
An interview with Very.co.uk
Vicki Anstey is one of the UK’s leading fitness experts and Founder of London’s original barre and ballet studio, Barreworks.
Vicki recently reached the final of series 4 of Channel 4’s ‘SAS: Who Dares Wins’ and became one of the first ever female recruits to qualify for the programme.
Where did your decision come from to apply for SAS Who dares wins?
I saw that applications from women were being accepted this year and put out a post on my Instagram to applaud it. I was inundated with suggestions from friends and people I train with to apply. To begin with I laughed and dismissed the idea. Then I couldn’t get it out of my head. I thought ‘what if I could do that?’. I had just turned 40, was going through a divorce and had never been fitter or stronger, I thought it would be the perfect way to begin the next chapter of my life.
Can you tell us a little bit about how you prepared for the course? Both mentally and physically?
In truth, there wasn’t much time to prepare for the course. I had a week’s notice. There wasn’t much I could do in that time to improve my strength or fitness, but I began to wear the army boots they issued us with EVERYWHERE I went and worked with my PT to address concerns I had about being in water and being prepared for fighting. I even got him to punch my in the face so I knew how it felt.
What did you find most challenging during your time on SAS?
So much of it! The tasks were brutal – and we could be (and were!) woken up at any time of the day or night for a beasting. The conditions were really tough, with no washing facilities or change of clothing, 2-3 hours sleep a night, altitude – and it was freezing for the majority of the time. But the part you don’t really get a sense of on TV is the constant anxiety about what is coming next. We lived in a high adrenaline state 24 hours a day which is exhausting. To have to perform at your best when you feel at your worst was what it was all about.
Being on a calorie restricted diet on the course, how did this affect your fitness levels?
To be honest, I found the food ample most of the time. It was very carb-heavy and I’m not used to that in my diet, so I had plenty of fuel from the food. Saying that, I still lost 4kgs during the 11 days I was there. Before we went into interrogation however, they began to restrict our intake. So for the last 48 hours of the course, we had had no food (or sleep) at all. That was tough, but a reminder of what your body can do even at its lowest ebb.
What foods did you crave the most during your time on the course?
Not what you would expect! The food was pretty ‘stodgy’ so I really craved fresh vegetables and fruit. I’m a bit of a coffee addict though and we only had watered-down coffee from a dispenser at mealtimes. I would have done anything for a decent flat white.
How do you keep yourself motivated for training?
I really try to break things down. Not to get obsessed with (and overwhelmed by) the overall goal. I think ‘what can I do now/today/tomorrow/this week towards my goal’ and then I get obsessed by completing those tasks or training sessions. Too often we get de-railed by impatience or a sense of
Being on the first ever SAS Who Dares wins to include women, what advise would you give to other women taking on challenges outside of their comfort zone?
What I learned from SAS WDW is that women are capable of anything. In some situations, we are stronger and more capable than men. In ALL situations, we are stronger and more capable than we think we are. In the many exchanges I’ve had since doing the programme, I have come to realise that WE are our own biggest limiting factor. We put barriers down in front of ourselves all the time – ‘I’m too old, too fat, too thin, too weak’ etc., The only way to achieve our full potential is to smash through these barriers and fears. I would also say that the more we talk about the gender issue (in relation to what each is capable/not capable of), the more it exists. Let’s just get out there and get on with the business of living the fullest life we can.
What do you miss most after finishing the course?
Honestly, the people. And not just the Directing Staff (Ant Middleton, Ollie Ollerton, Jason Carl Fox and Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham) but also the 24 other recruits. We became very close, very quickly and I feel that I have made friends for life with many of them. We’re still all in touch and have had a few reunions and meet-ups. I feel hugely privileged to have shared the experience with them and really humbled by their varied life stories. I learned the power of camaraderie and acceptance.
What fitness essential can’t you live without?
It’s so hard to pick just one thing! I literally LIVE in lycra and love brands like PE Nation, Varley and Hey Jo. But because I often have more than one workout a day and find myself dashing in between them and meetings, I’d probably go for the De Mammiel Botaniques Dewy Facial Mist which makes me feel like I’ve washed my face just with a quick spritz. Could have done with THAT in Chile!
What is your daily exercise routine and how does it differ from when you are preparing for the show?
My daily/weekly exercise regime is really varied, but it is a ROUTINE. I schedule my workouts (as if they are meetings/dates) each week in advance. And I don’t apologise for the fact that I don’t allow other engagements to derail them. So I may decline/reschedule a meeting or a night out or a phone call if there’s a conflict. I keep it really disciplined because then I know I’m starting from a baseline of having my fitness taken care of – and everything else will follow. I teach barre 6-7 times a week, train at my local crossfit box 4-5 times a week and do heavy gym/weights sessions with a PT 3 times a week. I also run with my dogs, do Keiser spin sessions and military bootcamps. It’s a huge volume and I don’t really have a day off. That wouldn’t work for everyone, but right now, it works for me.
What do you eat on training days? And do you have cheat meals?
I try to eat a balanced diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg, slow-release carbohydrates and enough protein for muscle re-growth. I’m a porridge addict, so I have that every day at breakfast, lunch could be a salad with chicken or a sweet potato with tuna. For dinner I might have an array of veg, some quinoa/brown rice and lean protein. I indulge like anyone, but I don’t particularly enjoy fried or sweet foods. So if I was going to have a cheat meal, it would be something like a bowl of cereal or granola with some dark chocolate. I also LOVE deliciously Ella protein balls and probably eat more than I should!
What are your plans for the future?
I celebrated the 10 year anniversary of my business, Barreworks in February this year, which was a HUGE milestone. I’m now using my recent experiences to build the business out and have some really exciting plans ahead. I’m also spending lots of time doing speaking events and engagements, delivering my ‘story’ to different audiences both in and out of sport. It’s a hugely rewarding experience and I never ceased to be amazed that people are inspired by what I have to say. I don’t think I am, or have done anything extraordinary – and I think it is in all of us to excel and reach our potential, I’m just lucky to have had some incredible experiences to use as examples of how we can all put ourselves in the driving seat in life, learn what we are really capable of doing and achieve things we never thought possible.