The current obsession with wellness doesn’t appear to be slowing down, and as a result we’ve seen a steady rise in websites and blogs promoting healthy lifestyles. One of our favourites is the award-winning Fitness on Toast, written by personal trainer, Faya Nilsson. Faya started blogging in 2013, as a way to help her clients with common fitness questions, and now advises a global audience that slips into the hundreds of thousands.
So how did she turn a creative side project into a thriving online business? Here Faya shares the inspiring story behind her 9 to 5…
When did you first develop an interest in health and fitness and how did you get your start in the industry?
I’ve always been super sporty! I grew up in Sweden, where exercise is a big part of life. It’s a very outdoorsy country, because there’s so much space, so at school I played basketball and did long-distance running, long jump and a lot of horse riding. We also grew vegetables in the garden, so I was eating a healthy diet without ever thinking about it.
I studied nutrition at London Metropolitan University, and after I graduated I decided to take a course in personal training, because it sounded really fun. I absolutely loved it, and spent a few years working for various gyms in London and Sweden. But after a while spending every day in the gym started to become tedious, so I started running my own personal training business, where I could see clients outdoors or in their homes.
What inspired you to start your blog, Fitness on Toast?
I started blogging as a way to communicate with my clients. I found I kept getting asked the same questions from them all the time, and with personal training you’re so limited on time. You literally have an hour to deliver an awesome session, so it’s hard to answer questions and tackle general misconceptions. Fitness on Toast was a way to provide that information, but I never thought anyone would actually read it. I even doubted that my clients would look at it!
When did the blog become less of a side project and turn into your day job?
It was a really gradual process. The first surprise was the traffic, and that people were actually reading Fitness on Toast. I didn’t even understand how anyone found the blog. For me it was very much an education process, figuring out how everything works and slowly getting better at understanding the technical side of blogging. It didn’t even dawn on me that it could be a business until I’d been going for six months. I was still personal training full-time, but blogging was demanding more attention, so I reduced my training commitments and then everything started to fall into place. I’m really lucky that lifestyle and fitness became so popular at the exact moment I started blogging.
What does your typical workday look like?
I get up at 5am on weekdays. And I’m not a morning person. I hate it! But my husband gets up at 5am too, which makes it a little bit easier. Then, three to four days a week, I’ll go straight to the gym and do a power walk and a weight training session, before returning home for a healthy breakfast. I find it boring to eat the same thing all the time, so I like to mix it up every morning. I might have some quinoa granola, chia porridge, muesli or a poached egg on homemade toast with salmon. I try to always have a healthy source of carbohydrates, protein and fat.
After breakfast I’ll see 2-3 clients, most of the time outdoors but if the weather doesn’t allow for that we’ll go to a studio that I rent. Then I’ll have lunch and start working on the blog – planning and researching upcoming posts, replying to emails, pulling looks together for shoots, going to a meeting or practising a recipe I want to feature. My husband acts as my photographer, so I’m really lucky in that sense. But he has a full time job, so we can only shoot on the weekends. That’s fine in the summer, because the sun is out longer, but it can become a struggle during the winter months.
I usually reply to emails until about 6pm, and then it’s sleep time. I don’t know whether to mention this, because it’s quite embarrassing, but I go to bed between 9-10pm. I’m not really a party girl.
SHOP FAYA’S STYLE:
What are the biggest challenges you face working in the blogosphere and fitness industry?
Well, blogging is not like having a regular 9 to 5 job. You have to be willing to change things around all the time, every day is different and you need to be super organised and keep motivating yourself. There’s no one else in my team, so it’s up to me to keep the momentum going and stay productive.
It is becoming competitive as more and more fitness blogs pop up, but I think it’s healthy competition. It just means the bar is being raised higher, so you need to stay on top of your game. I try not to follow other fitness blogs, purely because there are so many great ones out there and I don’t want to be too influenced by what they’re doing. I think it’s important to stay true to your own ethos.
What’s the coolest thing about your job?
I feel so incredibly lucky, because aside from fitness and healthy eating I love, love, love travelling, and that’s something I’ve been able to pursue more through the blog. Being invited to try out fitness retreats and that sort of thing is always like, “Ah! Pinch me!”
And it’s also so rewarding to have a creative outlet that you’re completely in charge of. I think there’s something so satisfying in having a vision in your head of what you want to create and then seeing it come together. In lots of jobs you don’t really have that experience, because you’ve got a boss saying, “No, do it differently.”
How to you unwind after a tough day at work?
I love going to spas – especially for a steam and sauna. One of my favourite spas ever is at the Grand Hôtel in Stockholm. You sit in the sauna forever – until you’re absolutely boiling – and then you jump into this ice cold little pool. It sounds horrific, but it’s like the most amazing feeling. But if I’m not going to a spa I like to create my own little spa experience at home, lying in a bath with a cup of tea and nice oils. That’s my favourite kind of relaxation.
Which other women working in the industry inspire you?
I’ve followed The Blonde Salad for years, and I think Chiara is amazing. She really inspires me in terms of blogging. Harvard University did a study on her blog this year, which just goes to show how successful she’s been! And I love that she’s so quirky – I’ve never met her, so I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but she just comes across as such a playful, energetic, fun person.
And I recently interviewed Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic medal winning track cyclist, and I think she’s incredibly inspiring. Almost super human! Her achievements are so inspiring. It’s truly remarkable to see what the human body is capable of.
And, finally, what’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever been given?
This is quite clichéd, but my dad used to always tell me, “Just be yourself and do something that makes you happy.” And I do think that’s so true. I know so many people who are super-successful but miserable in their jobs. They’ve maybe just pursued a certain career thinking this is what I should do rather than this is what I want to do. So figure out where your strengths and weaknesses lie and focus on what makes you happy. Don’t question things so much. If something is working well for you and you’re happy then just go with the flow. You never know where experiences can take you. So many amazing things have happened with Fitness on Toast that I never would have thought were possible!
And you can catch up on the previous My 9 to 5 interviews here >>