If you’re a reality TV fan, you know Morgan Willett. She rose to fame in 2016 as the winner of Big Brother: Over The Top, and then joined the casts of MTV’s Ex on the Beach and The Challenge.
After her time on reality TV, Willett knew she wanted to do something positive with her platform.
“I knew obviously it would be easy to go into social media influencing and all that stuff, but I wanted to give back to people,” she said on Ten Minute Talks with Meagan Lynn. “That’s how I started posting my workouts.”
As a former cheerleader and cycling instructor, fitness is Willett’s lifelong passion. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing gyms to close, Willett decided to pursue her passion full time with the launch of her own at-home personal training business, Move Like Morgan.
“I caught what I call the sweat high,” she said. “And then from there I was like, all right, I love working out. It makes me feel good. I want to now give my audience something that they can do to make them feel good.”
As any good fitness instructor will tell you, getting into a workout routine always starts with motivation, but Willett says many people get caught up in the allure of getting their “dream body,” which isn’t always a sustainable motivator.
“What bothers me about fitness is people have this idea of, ‘I’m going to work out just to be skinny,’ or ‘I’m going to work out just to get abs or a nice butt,’” she said. “You’re allowed to have those aesthetic goals and I’m not saying that you’re not, but there’s so many more important reasons to work out.”
While Willett works out daily as part of her job, she also is motivated to support her mental health.
“I struggle pretty badly with anxiety, so I take medication for it. But I have found that working out is such a cure for that,” she said, noting that the endorphins your body releases when working out also contribute to a boost in mood. “It’s a way for me to get all my emotions out and kind of be calm and ready to take on the day.”
Establishing a routine
For a true beginner who’s hoping to establish a workout routine in 2021, Willett says the first step is to get a support system.
“I would find some kind of guidance, whether it is an accountability buddy, which I think is very helpful to have someone to do it with you, or an online coach or a program,” she said. “I think the hardest thing for people with fitness is just starting, knowing what to do and having the confidence to just do it. A lot of people go to the gym and they get overwhelmed and then they quit.”
Having the right guidance is important, too. Willett says that many people get overwhelmed with the idea of working out because of myths about the level of work required to achieve your goals.
“I think that’s what fools a lot of people–girls especially–is they think ‘If I want to be skinny and I want to have this great butt and these great abs, I have to do two hours of cardio every day. I have to eat a thousand calories, I have to starve myself,’” she shared. “I want to scream to everyone and be like, ‘No, that’s so opposite!’”
Willett says instead of excessive cardio, you should put more focus on resistance training.
“If you want that toned body and that toned look, you have to pick up weights. That is my number one tip,” she shared. “Strength training is equally as important as cardio, so I’d say having a good balance of both.”
Willett says whether your workouts consist of split days where certain days are focused on the upper body and others lower body, or if you practice total-body high intensity interval training (HIIT), it’s important to incorporate resistance work.
“If you’re just going to run 10 miles a day, yeah, you’re going to probably lose some weight and get thin, but you’re not going to gain any muscle,” she said. “And muscle, believe it or not, is not going to make you bulky. You’re not going to be a bodybuilder, but that is what you need to achieve the look that you’re probably wanting.”
When establishing a weekly routine, Willett recommends getting out a planner and filling out ahead of time what you will do on each day.
“You can look at it and kind of have a general plan versus being like, ‘I don’t know, I’m going to go to the gym,’ getting overwhelmed and just sticking to doing the elliptical.”
Working out doesn’t just mean a commitment to getting in shape; it’s a commitment to taking care of yourself, which means putting in the prep work ahead of time.
“It’s not just about the workout. It is about what goes in before and after,” Willett said. “If you’re not fueling your body before you obviously can hurt yourself, and you’re not going to get the results you want because your muscles and body won’t have the nutrients they need. If you aren’t stretching before you can easily injure yourself.”
Willett recommends doing a dynamic warmup where you get your full body moving and get your heart rate up before working out, followed by static stretching after working out.
“Yes, I know you’re in a hurry and you want to get that workout done as quickly as possible. But if you don’t take that five minutes to do a dynamic warmup, you’re going to pull a muscle and then you’re out two months,” Willett said. “So what would you rather do: spend five minutes preparing or spend two months in bed not being able to move?”
In addition to taking the time to warm up, Willett says it’s important to fuel your body with the right foods it needs to perform well, which is something she teaches her clients.
“If there’s anything I wish people could realize, it’s that food is not your enemy. You actually need it, and it’s actually good for you,” she said. “A lot of my clients, they start out and they start tracking their food and they’re like, ‘I was eating a thousand calories a day,’ and they’re supposed to be eating over 2000 calories a day.”
Willett is no stranger to bad eating habits, and says she’s struggled with being overly restrictive, too.
“I would say up until the past couple of years, I had some disordered eating habits where I would restrict myself,” she shared. “I’d eat super healthy during the week, and then I would get to the weekend and I would just go insane.”
Now, Willett practices intuitive eating, eating when she’s hungry and listening to what her body needs rather than restricting.
“I always tell people if you’re craving something, have it. Everything is okay in moderation,” she continued. “If you want some chocolate, have a little bit. And guess what? By eating that, then you’re not going to go eat the whole entire cookie cake that weekend, because your body has gotten what it needs.”
Staying on track
When you do get off track in your fitness or nutrition plan, Willet says shame is never helpful.
“A lot of people that I’ve seen with fitness feel this guilt whenever they eat something bad and they punish themselves for it, and that’s the worst mindset to have because then you’re just going to get stuck on that,” she said. “You’re not going to be able to break that cycle. So my rule of thumb is, drink the wine. Move on then; it’s a new day.”
Something that helps Willett to stay on track and move on from a slipup in her plan is journaling.
“I’m a big to-do list person, so if I’m stressed out and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I did so bad today. I met none of my goals. I didn’t eat healthy. What am I going to do?’, the second I write out my plan for tomorrow, I feel an instant sense of relief because I kind of have my thoughts organized,” she said. “I know, ‘Hey, I didn’t do that good today, but that’s okay because I know my plan of attack for tomorrow.’”
Willett says it all comes back to her first tip when starting a workout routine: finding guidance in a coach or accountability partner.
“I’m a big advocate for Facebook groups because I love my Move Like Morgan group,” she said. “People go in there and will just be like, ‘Yo, I’m struggling,’ and you’d be so surprised. There’s so many people that are like, ‘Oh my God, I’m in the same boat as you.’ And then you guys can realize you’re not alone, and the second I feel like you’re not alone is when it gets so much easier to let those thoughts go.”
Be kind to yourself
For someone who’s made a fitness plan before and fallen off of it, Willett offers a word of encouragement.
“The quote that I always repeat to myself and to my people is, ‘It’s never too late,’” she said. “It could be December 30th of 2021, and you still have two more days. You have two more days to make that the best year ever. Just because it’s the end of the year, you don’t have to give up.”
While Willett advocates for setting goals, she said she doesn’t believe the only time you can do that is in January. She says not only can you start anytime, you can also restart anytime.
“Give yourself some grace; if you take a month off, you probably needed that. Give yourself a break and understand that sometimes you need a break to come back stronger,” she said. “A lot of times I’ll get burnt out at the gym. I’ll be working out every single day and I just feel like crap, and then I’ll take a week off. And instead of feeling guilty, I’ll come back and I feel so much better. My muscles are healed. I feel a new sense of confidence. I just feel better.”
“We’re trained as humans that that’s not okay, but it’s not that we’re giving up or not trying. Sometimes you just need a break, and then you can pick up where you left off.”
If you’re interested in training with Willett, you can head to movelikemorgan.com and follow her at @morganleighwillett on Instagram for more fitness inspiration.