Pilates instructor Leah Simmons-Reed not only knows her stuff when it comes to health and fitness (umm, have you seen her body?), but she’s our Co-Founder Pip Edwards’ BFF. So when we recently asked to shoot with her, she jumped at the chance and we took full advantage of asking her far too many questions so we could find out exactly how she gets that ‘Body by Leah Simmons’.
In summary, Leah boiled it down to three key things – food, fitness and mindfulness. But like many in the health sector today, she recognises that these things work best when in conjunction with one another and no one thing is more important than the other. A great place to start when reassessing your #bodygoals is in the kitchen, explains Leah. However, she says it’s important to recognise how far you want to take things and the results you want to achieve.
“There’s no point having a super lean body if it means you’re miserable because you can’t have a glass of wine or a piece of chocolate. It’s all about balance,” she says. “I am prepared to sacrifice certain things because I truly love training and the way I feel when I am nourishing my body with nutrient-dense foods – but make no mistake, I am not perfect and I love a glass of wine (or three!!!)”
When it comes to her favourite food, Leah’s top three vary from dining out to liquid meals to her mum’s good old chicken soup.
“I am obsessed with the Rainbow Super Smoothies from About Life. It has so many things in it including raw cacao, raspberries, raw vegan protein, coconut oil, chia seeds, LSA, aloe vera, maqui, wild gubinge, camu camu, raw organic AFA, blue-green algae and more. It’s surprisingly delicious, nutritious and I love it,” she says. When dining out, Leah loves her beloved Icebergs Dining Room and Bar in Bondi where she is partial to the oysters, rib eye, mashed potato and pea salad, which she says is ‘actual heaven’. And lastly, who could go past their mum’s very own chicken soup? “I know it’s a cliché,” laughs Leah. “Salty, noodle-y, chicken-y goodness. No one makes it like Mum!”
Make no mistake; Leah works hard for her enviable body. You simply need to take a quick scroll through her instagram or read her blog to know that she is both incredibly disciplined and hard working.
“Body by Leah Simmons is not so much about achieving a perfect body, it’s about instilling a work ethic that if you work hard, you get results”. And by hard work, what Leah means is varied and consistent exercise that essentially ‘shocks’ your body. “I mix up my sessions as your body very quickly gets used to the same movements. You may find that your progress starts to plateau or even regress if you do the same thing over and over. Changing it up not only keeps it interesting, it ensures your body experiences new muscle responses which keeps them actively working”. A typical training week for Leah includes three days of strength circuits, a day of pilates and a day of ‘active recovery’, which may be interval sprints, stair runs or just “a lovely long walk”.
“My top 5 all time exercises are compound movements”, says Leah, meaning they work all of the muscles in your body.
Squats – the king of all exercises. Variations ranging from bodyweight squats to highbar, low bar, front squats and pause squats. “I literally stopped doing specific abdominal exercises once I started squatting – it’s an all round exercise that works the lot”.
Deadlifts – A great exercise for working the whole body. “I alter between bent knee and straight leg deadlifts”.
Lunges – Walking, alternating, reverse or static – add in some dumbbells to up the workload and work the arms at the same time.
The Hundreds – A traditional pilates exercise that seriously targets the core but also works the arms and legs.
Skipping – An often overlooked and highly underestimated exercise! Skipping raises your heart rate, challenges your coordination and has you working up a sweat like nothing else.
And when she’s done with her workout, Leah ensures she stretches it out. “Stretching is so important! I love stretching on the foam roller – it’s my absolute must-have piece of equipment,” says Leah. “It’s like giving yourself a deep tissue massage”.
Leah wears: Hybrid Check Crop & Centre Pass Legging
“I also love the cobra. Lying on your tummy, place your hands directly underneath your shoulders and push your chest up off the ground. Then, straighten out your arms as much as you can without straining them and leave your legs in contact with the floor. This stretches out your abs, chest and shoulders. And if you tilt your head up towards the ceiling, you can even add in a throat stretch! Heaven!”
More than all of this, Leah says the greatest thing about working in the health industry at current is the awareness that in now brewing in this space. Instead of health and fitness being a luxury, it’s a necessity and people are legitimately interested in looking after themselves – not just physically but mentally and spiritually too. Where ‘fitness’ used to be seen as a real chore, it’s not just about achieving the so-called perfect body, it’s about feeling good, outwardly but even more importantly inwardly too. “I feel like the world is collectively starting to wake up,” says Leah. “People are looking further afield than what’s conventional. Since spending a great deal of my time in Bali, I have worked with incredible people across fields of mindset, awareness and conscious engineering and I understand wellness, mindfulness and fitness not to be separate things. They all contribute to a bigger picture”.
With that in mind, Leah is set to launch a revolutionary fitness program that not only strengthens and sustains the body but the mind and soul too. And there’s no better person to do so, when we asked Leah what strength means to her, she said: “Strength is authenticity. Integrity. No judgement and being able to radically forgive”. If there’s one person who can change your body whilst also supporting your mindset, Leah Simmons-Reed is your girl.
SHOP THE LOOK: Hybrid Check Crop & Centre Pass Legging
Photographer: Vanessa Natoli
Shot at the UFC Gym Sydney