Kate Maxey is a master trainer at Third Space London. She’s a former England hockey player who specialises in strength and conditioning training.
In this interview, Kate gives us an insight into her work as a stress management coach, her successful battle with cancer, and the importance of fitness trackers for gym enthusiasts.
It was brilliant to speak to Kate about her fitness beliefs, methods and philosophies, and you can follow Kate on Instagram @maxeyfitness.
Thanks for taking the time to speak to Human Window, Kate. I wanted to start by asking you how you began your fitness journey from the beginning until now?
I played sport all of my life, so hockey was a major part of growing up for me. My sisters played and I’ve always been really active. I played international hockey up until the end of university. I went to Loughborough, which is a sporting university and did sports science.
So for me, sport has always been part of my everyday life. When it came to the time of choosing a career, I wanted to be able to take my passion and help other people as part of their everyday life, rather than it feeling like this chore all the time. I then began personal training, which I’ve always loved.
From there, I really missed the ‘team’ environment, so now I’ve got to teaching more classes, starting in a smaller studio and then building from there and working at Third Space. I teach classes and also educate new instructors. It all started from playing hockey, which I still play now just not as seriously. That’s still my passion and it comes into play when I teach.
How has playing hockey for England shaped your fitness beliefs and values?
I have a bit of a motto – ‘if you train like an athlete, you’ll look like an athlete’. Athletes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from pole vaulters to sprinters to marathon runners. Whatever that idea is of what you might want to look like or whether you want to be the fittest you can be, athletes are at the top of their game.
So why can’t an ‘everyday person’ be able to train like an athlete? I think the foundations of my training is being able to take what I’ve been put through and bring that to everyone. Also, I have been there. I have done those early-morning sessions, two or three sessions a day. I feel that pain and so hopefully that comes through and people are able to utilise that to keep working through it.
Do you think that it’s important to focus on movement and being agile and not just lifting weights?
I think sometimes we focus on the end goal too much. Where we want to be – it takes time. So bringing in different elements and not just doing the same thing keeps it fun and keeps you motivate. Your body is then always guessing.
For me, it’s about creating that rounded individual, especially when we are teaching ‘everyday’ members who are not top athletes but super fit people who want to come and get a great workout.
Movement is a huge thing. Most people in jobs don’t move that much. I have clients that have done 3,000 steps a day and what we’re told is to do 10,000 a day. Probably, we should be doing a little bit more. For me, getting people trying something new is really important.
You’re also a stress management coach. Could you explain how you became involved in that and what it is?
It started when I was working with lots of people with ‘normal’ nine to five jobs. There is a lot of pressure and stress that goes on, as well as your home life. I think in London especially, we have such a pressure that we feel we all need to be working, doing better, getting a higher salary… Everyone on the tube is rushing to get to work but nobody really wants to go.
For me, it was really important to be able to progress my clients and tailor programmes for people that are relevant for them. If you’re super stressed, then your cortisol levels are going to be high and so you’ll be running on adrenaline all the time, also known as ‘fight or flight’. We always want to have those ups and downs during the day but we need to be able to recover.
When we have those super high-stress work environments and maybe at home as well, then we are always running up high on adrenaline.
We need to be able to bring it down and the gym is a great place where you can have that moment for yourself. Whether it’s 45 minutes or an hour, it might be a strength class or personal training, that allows you some time. But sometimes it needs to be a bit of recovery, like doing a yoga class and chilling. I got into it originally with a company called Viavi:be, who do a lot of this stress management.
It’s about taking a look at their day to day, can you get out at lunch, what is your downtime, what’s you life like at home? What are we doing to our bodies apart from that 45 minutes in the gym. It’s actually about creating an entire programme for their lives and being able to look at wellness so much more than just the gym. What can we look at as a whole? The stress side of it is assessing what your day-to-day is. How can we create a programme that allows you time to chill?
Fifteen minutes out at lunchtime and taking a walk away from your desk can make a huge difference to your entire day. Coming home and having a shower before you see your family and using lavender shower gel can make a difference. Getting into different clothes can help to take you our of that ‘work’ mindset.
I try to look at people’s entire lives, not just the fitness side of things, and create a wellness programme for someone.
I know you’re an advocate of Myzone and other fitness trackers – what do you think they can bring to enhance a training experience?
I think it’s a really important element, to be able to track what we’re doing. Sometimes there are so many options these days, we can over-track. But if we don’t look at what we’re doing and we’re going to the gym every day and are not aware of what you’re eating, how much water you’re drinking or how many steps you’re taking, how do you know that you’re being the healthiest version of yourself? I think it’s a really good investment to try something like Myzone.
In the gym, Myzone allows you to keep yourself honest and accountable. When you come to the gym, are you actually pushing as hard as you can do? If you’re doing a hard cardio session, you should be getting that heart-rate up to 80-90 per cent of that max heart rate, so that you know you’re getting those results.
At the same time, it’s also assessing that when you’re tired and run down, is that a good idea to be going at 80-90 per cent? No. That might be the time to go the gym and do a gentle jog or some yoga. You can use a Myzone for then keeping yourself to within, say, 70 per cent of your max heart rate. It’s not always about ‘smashing it’, which often happens because you get points for working out. It’s actually looking at it as a wider thing. I’m going to asses what I’ve done that week to be able to chill it out and use it.
Another way of using the heart rate trackers is for your recovery. You’ll know you’re getting fitter if you’re recovering quicker. So if you’re getting the heart rate up to 80 per cent and you have a 30-second gap and it drops back down to 65 per cent, that means your body is able to adapt quicker and replenish the oxygen in your muscles, which is a good sign that you’re fitter, healthier and recovering better. It’s a really important element to use it for that recovery side.
Steps are also important. Just being able to look at what you’ve done during the day and maybe that motivates you to go to the gym in the evening if you know you’ve done only 2,000 steps. Being able to track your daily movement and assess if you’re hitting your 10,000 or if you need to up it.
If we don’t track it, how do we ever know and how do we make that change to becoming healthier and fitter?
That’s the good thing about Third Space, the range of classes that we offer. They offer Yoga and strength training classes, where they are going to require a lower heart rate. You’re still going to work hard but it’s a different emphasis. Are we doing enough to recover?
You’ve been open about your battle with thyroid cancer in 2018. Has your mentality towards health and wellness changed since then?
It was something that I took in my stride because I had to. It came out of nowhere and I was super-lucky, because a lot of people have it way worse. A couple of operations down the line and then taking thyroxin every day, is almost kind of a reminder that I have been really lucky. We never know what’s around the corner. We take so much for granted when we’re well. It’s a bit like when you have a cold and you can’t breathe properly.
You really took breathing for granted! For me, it was a massive point in my life but it just makes me remind myself that it could have been so much worse. There are people who can’t work out, there are people who would love to be able to go for a run and be able to move their bodies – and they can’t. That is a massive thing for me.
It’s a reminder that you never know when something might change with your health. For me, as a fitness professional, I was pretty healthy, I looked after myself.
You don’t ever think it won’t happen to you, but when it does, you think ‘oh cool’. It doesn’t matter where you are, but don’t take for granted that you’re able to walk down the street and get to the gym. That is my motivation and it’s been a big thing in how I train other people as well.
You can do it, and you never know what’s going to happen so why wouldn’t you? Yes, we all push ourselves but what about you and what you do for yourself that makes you better? It’s the whole package.
Fitness and exercise plays a big role in mental health…
Definitely, and I think it’s a topic that now is being spoken about a lot more. On social media, depression and anxiety is spoken about a lot more. We all have down days and times where we struggle. Fitness and exercise, whatever your thing is, I think it’s that headspace you have by yourself.
It’s not sitting in a room and thinking about work and things you need to do. I think we get into this self-pressure on ourselves that we can do better, and should be doing more and shouldn’t be just sitting around. Exercise is great because it releases endorphins. It gives you that ‘happy feeling’.
Getting outside into nature is a great way to get back to yourself. It takes you out of your space of sitting in a room. For me, running is a huge thing. I get stressed and when I go for a run, I come back and I’ve got my plan together and will be super on it. It’s really important about finding what works for you.
If it’s hiking, amazing. For some people it might be doing a hard HIIT session where they can forget about everything else and focus on their own body for a little while – and not feel guilty. Sometimes we feel guilty for giving ourselves a bit of love and time, rather than focusing on everything else.
We’ve seen a massive rise in strength training. The mental effects of strength training are huge. When you’re training, you can’t focus on anything else. When you’re doing a heavy squat or a heavy lunge, you have to be focusing on what you’re doing.
When you’re focusing on what you’re doing with each movement, then you forget about work and it’s just about you. Also, being able to see the difference. So with strength training you might start on two kilograms. Two weeks later you might be on five and four weeks later you might be able to lift 15kg.
It’s a massive confidence boost, especially in women, where we’ve seen a big rise in strength training. People feel that they can do it and be empowered by it. Finding what works for you is so important. Don’t go to the class that you dread every single day. Go and do something that you enjoy. If you feel good afterwards, then it’s a good sign.
Tell us a bit about The Speed Project 2020…
Basically, I’m running in a team of 10, relay-style, all the way from LA to Las Vegas. It’s 340 miles through Death Valley. We leave on 20 March at 4am and we’re aiming to do it in around 40-44 hours. I’ve always wanted to do a challenge and I’ve never run further than 10km before this.
It will be at least 34 miles if we all do it equally but it depends on what happens on the day. A member at the gym spoke to me about it in March 2019. He’s done quite a lot of big challenges and did seven marathons in seven days.
This year, a couple of months ago, he sent me an email and asked me if I was in for this year. I couldn’t really say no. We have two teams of five in the RVs. One team runs 50km, probably breaking down into 5kms each. Then we will drive 50km while the other team does 50km and keep going. The best thing is that you get a poker chip with ‘TSP’ written on it. That’s all I’m doing it for!
Have you got any other goals for 2020?
At the moment, my aim is to do two challenges a year. I’m raising money for children with cancer. After what I went through and sadly I lost my uncle at the end of last year, I felt that no child should go through that. For me, a really big thing is to raise money for this.
It’s a big motivation for me in doing this challenge, but also to push myself outside my comfort zone. One day I’ll be 50 and life will have passed me by. I want to experience it and do these amazing things. The Speed Project was one, and then potentially another one could be this year but I haven’t got anything planned.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
I think to say, back yourself more. I think I’ve grown in confidence so much. I was thinking about it on the way here, from when I started personal training and being scared to even go up to someone and speak to them. I was always second-guessing myself from when I started with hockey.
Even though I was playing at international level, I never really believed I was that good. Well, I was obviously doing something right. It’s a British thing to never pat yourself on the back and say actually, I did pretty well with that.
Go out and get stuff, don’t wait for anything to come to you, because then it’s never going to happen. You have to go out there and know what you’re going to get. If you get turned down for it, fine, but you have to really focus on those goals and pushing yourself as far as you can all the time. Definitely to back myself, push myself and get into those awkward conversations to find opportunities a little bit more.