Sophie Paterson, a 21-year-old Design student, has been a part of the Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness family for over 10 years. We caught up with her to discuss dealing with injury and illness, setting goals, seeing results and finding balance.

How long have you been training with SUSF?

When I was eight I began swim training at the Sports & Aquatic Centre, then at 16, I began PT with Carmel who I was training with for over a year. I’ve had my membership for a long time!

Did you continue with PT or find new ways to train?

Well, I was a rower in high school but in Year 12 I developed a cyst which forced me to stop rowing. I was still swimming as I was doing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh but had lost a lot of motivation. Then in my first year of Uni, I became super sick and anaemic, and was diagnosed with celiac disease. I put on a lot of weight. From then, I struggled motivation and consistency-wise. I returned to rowing, had surgery on my cyst, took a year off, competed in three Uni games, but then my cyst started to re-grow. I decided to take a break as I didn’t want to have a second surgery. Then with study, work and obviously a lack of exercise, I gained more weight. I got to a point where I hit a wall and decided I needed to get back into it and here I am!

And how’s it been being back? Have you achieved any goals?

Something has clicked; I’ve been really enjoying it this time. I manage my diet now – taking out processed sugars and simple carbs. I’m down 9.5 kilos after four months of more intense training. I’ve also increased my incline on the treadmill, walking at 8 with a speed of 6.7. I did a the Triathlon Pink Ultra for Breast Cancer last year just after I’d started training again as well!

How do you approach training at SUSF?

I primarily gym and sometimes swim so individual fitness. My routine is pretty basic. I do about 40 minutes on the treadmill every day, and because I’m trying to lose fat, I aim to burn about 400 calories. I’ll then do TRX or do basic weights training like using the leg press. I normally do TRX training twice a day, depending on which one I’m doing and how sore I am!

And outside of the gym do you enjoy other types of exercise?

Yes, all sorts! I come from a super active family so I surf a lot. I do a stack of horse riding and mountain biking. I’m not a runner, but I love to go on big walks.

Other than the trainers, what has kept you here at SUSF?

The quality of the gym. I train at the Sports and Aquatic Centre where the weights are high-quality and the cardio equipment is up-to-date so I don’t have to spend time figuring out how it all works. Also, I’ve been spoilt training at the pool here at SUSAC since I was a kid, so the bar is set pretty high for swimming.

As a student, it must be tough to juggle study and achieve your fitness goals. How do you find balance?

I study full-time and work an internship on top of that so it’s taken a while to find a sweet spot. I’m lucky because I’m an early riser and wake up at about 5.45am each day and head straight to the gym, which works for me. On Sundays I let myself sleep a bit more and will sometimes go on a walk rather than the gym. I also go to bed between 10 and 10.30pm. Sleeping at a reasonable time allows me to get to the gym early following a good night’s sleep, which then allows me to get on with my day, be productive and not procrastinate.

Has there been anyone in particular that has helped motivate you to achieve these goals?

Trainers Lou Lou and Carmel! Diet-wise, fitness-wise, motivation-wise; the two of them have been so great. Carmel was there through my injury – surgery and post-surgery, so she’s really helps with my fitness, suggesting maybe I do this or try that. Lou Lou is great with food, lifestyle and personal motivation. As she says, if you don’t change your diet while doing weights you’re not going to gain the lean muscle you want. My mum is super motivating as well. She’s trains here too and is a chef so knows all about nutrition!