How to Keep Healthy for Less

Top tips on keeping in shape so you're ready for your next job, from Katie Elin-Salt and personal trainer Louise Ann Munro.

Are you sitting out this year's London Marathon? Never fear, not all hope is lost - you can still keep in shape without the intense marathon training! We have lots of information on great trainers, gyms and classes on Contacts. But for now, here is blogger and actress Katie Elin-Salt to give the low down on practical ways to keep fit, without breaking the bank...

The only workout I actually enjoy as an adult is working out when it is an appropriate point to crack open the sauvignon blanc during a Netflix binge.
Katie Elin-Salt

My name is Katie Elin-Salt and I hate exercise in all its forms. There, I said it. I always have and I always will. In secondary school I was afflicted with ‘that time of the month’ for 6 years solid in order to avoid getting the stuffing knocked out of me in hockey (again). The only workout I actually enjoy as an adult is working out when it is an appropriate point to crack open the sauvignon blanc during a Netflix binge. Unfortunately, due to the fact I want to lead a long and healthy life, I occasionally have no choice but to leave the sofa, move my limbs in whatever form of hysterical frenzy is on offer in the gym, and pretend to be all #thisgirlcan about it on Instagram (whilst in reality feeling like #thisgirlisabouttospontaneouslycombust). So when contacted by Spotlight and asked to write a blog on "keeping fit" I immediately cancelled all my gym classes (I need time to write, don't I?) and set about listing all the quick, easy and cost effective ways I have managed to keep in tip top nick whilst being a jobbing actor in London. This included: 

  • Being late for things (panic running - great for the thighs)
  • Being too poor to afford public transport and having to walk everywhere
  • Running away from awkward social encounters with exes/casting directors I have shamed myself in front of (top of the class in this one)
  • Wearing active wear. Not figured out what I'm supposed to DO in it but I figured getting the look right is half the battle…? 
  • Sometimes having a side salad

It was at this point I realised I may need some help. To my great relief/horror it appeared I was actually surrounded by a strange people who not only exercise on a regular basis but actually ENJOY it. One of the best of these people is my friend Lou. Lou is an actor/personal trainer with a whole host of credentials and qualifications but all you really need to know is that she is the only person in existence who can actually make me do an hour of cardio and not want to punch her in the face. Lou is really, really good. I had some questions for her. 

Lou, I can't get up the stairs for a casting at Spotlight without contemplating certain death. Where is a good place for me to start to improve my fitness levels? 

Well, you can improve your fitness levels in a variety of different ways - for instance, increasing your strength or flexibility - but when it comes to being out of breath after walking up the stairs, you are talking about wanting to increase your cardiovascular endurance. You can start to improve your cardiovascular endurance by beginning to include frequent cardio exercises into your lifestyle.

Contemplating starting to improve fitness can often be a daunting thing but actually it doesn't need to be that way. My first advice would be 'something is always better than nothing' and 'inch by inch'. At least 3 exercise sessions for 30 - 60 minutes per week is advised. But if that sounds daunting, start with a 15 - 20 minute power walk. After a few weeks maybe jog for a couple of minutes, then walk for a couple of minutes, then jog for a couple of mins, etc. Before you know it you'll be able to do a 30 min jog! Walking/running is just one example of cardio exercise. There are a variety of other cardio exercises to choose from including the cross-trainer in the gym, aerobics classes, swimming, cycling, etc. It doesn't need to be boring either - a dance class or martial arts class can be really fun!

I am very poor. Gyms are very expensive. How can I stay fit with very limited access to cash money? 

So, to stay fit it is recommended you do 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week per week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. It's also recommended that adults aged 19 - 64 should do resistance/strength exercises on at least 2 days a week that work the major muscles (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms).  The good news is you don't actually need a gym for any of these!

If you live relatively close to where you work you can get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity in by doing a 30 min cycle or fast walking in in the morning on the way to work! If not you might prefer to do 75 minutes of vigorous activity by taking a run around your local park  a few times a week or taking up a sport with a friend. A game of singles tennis can definitely give you a cardio workout. Or get a group of friends together to play football or netball at the weekend. If the weather is bad outside, you can often find free aerobic workouts online or you can create your own cardio circuit inside. There are lots of different exercises you can do to get your heart racing including star jumps, skipping, leg changes, burpees, etc.

Body-weight exercises are the cheapest form of strength training, as you don't need any equipment or gym at all. You'll be using your own body weight as your resistance. Sit ups for the abdomen, press ups for triceps and chest, lunges for legs and squats for your butt - all are extremely effective! You can also buy free weights and resistance bands for a reasonable price in a variety of sports shops for your own workouts at home.

Ok. Got it. But I only have 30 minutes in between temping jobs and a Holiday Inn casting. How do I work around my schedule?

I understand that lots of people have busy schedules. If you really find it hard to fit a regular exercise programme into your working week, I would suggest fitting in your aerobic exercise in between jobs. Perhaps you could cycle to work or get the train/bus, and get off a couple of stops early so you can power walk for 20-30 mins in the morning. At tube stations, make sure you walk up the escalators! Not only will you get to your destination quicker, you'll be burning calories and increasing your fitness levels too. Then you can use those spare 30 mins you do have to do your resistance training, which I would highly recommend. Regular resistance training can help prevent diseases like osteoporosis.

How about nutrition - does eating on a budget have to involve Super Noodles on toast? 

Definitely not! In fact I saw a food test on television this morning in which food experts were given three brands of food and asked which tasted the best. The smoked salmon they chose was from Lidl! Which just proves the most expensive brands aren't always the best.

In terms of eating healthy the first thing I would say is try cutting down on sugar and processed foods. Always opt for low GI foods when you can. These include wholemeal rice and bread instead of white rice or bread. Also aim to eat at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. It's more about your choice of food. You can probably buy 6 eggs for the price of noodles. That way you can have a poached egg on wholemeal toast instead. Then you have your protein and carbs in one meal and still have 5 eggs left. The next day instead of the noodles you could buy some salad and have an egg salad for lunch.

When I was a child, my parents had no money at all. They had to live on a tight budget, especially when my dad decided to set up his own business. My mum used to cut up loads of vegetables and we could live on minestrone soup for weeks. Think of all the healthy vegetables we were getting! In hindsight, I'd now recommend protein, carbs and healthy fats too, but that's just an example that cheap food doesn't need to be unhealthy food. 

What do you think are the benefits of staying fit and healthy as a performer? 

...Exercising regularly can literally help you deal with the uncertainty of the audition process and actually feel more confident in the casting room.
Louise Ann Munro
Personal Trainer & Actor

Firstly, cardio exercise increases the amount of endorphins your body produces - this helps you feel more positive about life! So, exercising regularly can literally help you deal with the uncertainty of the audition process and actually feel more confident in the casting room.

Once you're actually working in theatre, TV or film, being fit and healthy is invaluable. For a start you'll have the stamina to get through a long theatre run or hectic television schedule. You'll also look better, and what performer doesn't want to look great on screen!


I told you she was good. In fact, she is so good that after hearing her advice, I got up at an unholy hour, dusted off my trainers and went and did some actual proper exercise with her in Brockwell Park. A very small part of me may have actually enjoyed it and felt like Superwoman afterwards. Please see photo for evidence. If anyone is casting for a ‘boiled plum tomato lady,’ feel free to contact my agent. #thisgirlcan!!!

Katie Elin-Salt is an actor, singer and musician from Bridgend in South Wales, now living in London. She trained at Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and has done some nice bits of work over the last few years that she's chuffed with. Aside from this, she's most commonly known as Princess Elsa on weekends, and has also starred as Peppa Pig and Supergirl in various children's parties across the UK. You may also recognise Katie from working in the returns section of Ann Summers Cardiff during Christmas 2010. Series regular of Judge Judy (playing 'person watching it on the sofa whilst once again not in the gym'). 

Louise Ann Munro is a trained actor and personal trainer. She graduated from ALRA in 2007 and then trained as a freelance Personal Trainer in 2012 to support her acting career. Louise has 5 years experience working with clients both in gyms and freelance in their homes and parks. Her qualifications include: Personal Trainer Level 3 (CYQ), Nutrition (YMCAfit), Outdoor Fitness Level 3 (CYQ), Sports Conditioning & Padwork (YMCAfit), Ante and Postnatal Exercise (YMCAfit), and she is also a karate coach.