She’s been personal trainer to Nicole Scherzinger and a host of other celebrities. Now the woman behind the Icelandic fitness programme, The Viking Method is coming to Dublin. Rebecca Horan puts her regime to the test.
The Vikings are coming to Ireland – though loud screams and neon spandex have replaced shields and spears.
Many fitness fanatics from across the world have already signed up to Svava Sigbertsdottir’s high intensity online workout programmes, aptly titled the Viking Method, due to the brutish and ruthless behaviours associated with the Norse seafarers, but also because 35-year-old Svava, who set up the e-business, hails from Iceland herself.
The Viking Method has also attracted an army of celebrities including Suki Waterhouse and Nicole Scherzinger, not too shabby by anybody’s standards.
Scherzinger is a huge fan. The popstar says she does a ‘combination of the functional training, martial arts and ballet isolation exercises’ and she says in all of her years of training, ‘the Viking Method is unlike anything else’.
Sigbertsdottir who herself is a lean, mean, training machine, does not advocate skinny – “strong is the goal when it comes to exercise,” says Svava.
Much like her fitness method Svava’s is a story of endurance and perseverance.
She brought her daughter, now 17, to London over a decade ago where she studied a degree in Musical Theatre before becoming a personal trainer in gyms across London, specialising in yoga and kickboxing.
Anxious to branch out and go out alone she worked tirelessly on creating a unique business model to empower and energise and to change the way exercise classes had become ‘boring’ and ‘repetitive’.
And after three hectic years she is now taking the fitness industry by storm.
I got the opportunity to speak to Svava before she sails her longship to Dun Laoghaire in Dublin for a weekend of workshops at the end of the month.
The first thing that strikes me about her is her joie de vivre, she frequently uses the words ‘motivation’, ‘sacrifice’, ‘energetic’ throughout our 40 minute conversation.
I, however say thing like ‘bad back’ ‘sounds dangerous’ and ‘very sweaty’.
She is warm, frank and chats easily about balancing her training with being a mother.
When I ask about body image and our obsession she becomes particularly irate.
“We are consumed with looks, and validations,” she says.
“It is a losing battle, we are wasting time and energy on this.”
It’s for this reason she doesn’t believe in ‘before and after’ pictures or weighing oneself.
She says the act of exercise itself should be about relieving stress and becoming more powerful, confident, quick, strong and agile.
So it’s not just about getting a bigger butt then, something which she says she’ll never have.
“Spending your life trying to change your body type is pointless, I’m straight up, so I’ll never have a tiny waist and big bum but I’m OK with that.”
We also touched on the cultural differences between Ireland and Iceland.
One of the most popular sayings in her homeland is ‘Áfram me smjöri’ – ‘on with the butter’ meaning move your butt and keep doing what you’re supposed to be doing.
I told her ours may be ‘pass the butter’.
She says she loves coming to Ireland.
“Icelanders don’t speak for the sake of speaking, they only speak when it is absolutely necessary, but in Ireland you chat easily and make conversation with strangers,” she says.
We love a fitness fad, I tell her, and although we have an obesity epidemic on our hands a Euro barometer on behalf of the European Commission also shows that out of the 30,000 surveyed 16% of Irish people exercise or play sport regularly, the highest in the EU.
We have endured yogilates, crossfit, spinning, TRX and P90X (not sure what it is but I could use some for my creaky door) all in the hope of looking good in our bikini, but Svava says that we are missing the point.
“We shouldn’t be working out to look good on a beach for one week in July,” she insists.
Instead, she takes a more holistic approach.
“I think the biggest mistake is when people change everything too quickly, when they haven’t been to the gym for a long time and all of a sudden they go to the gym every day.
"This can only be managed short term and then people explode because it is all too much. Slow, gradual changes are much more manageable and make for lasting result,” she says.
The process starts with the fuel and dispelling myths like to eat a banana before a workout.
“It’s sugar and so your insulin shoots up to take the sugar, which activates a fat-storing hormone and deactivates the fat-burning ones,” she says.
However her philosophy is, “if you’re going to have it, have it after you train, this is the window”.
Now, back to the method itself. She calls it a no gimmicks functional training method, with very specific exercises done in a certain way, with the use of your body weight.
It claims to shock our metabolism into chewing through fat, but be warned – you’ll have to work like a Nordic Maurader if you want to see and feel the benefits.
The good news is that you won’t have to spend an hour a day doing it – Svava recommends three or four sessions of 45 minutes a week.
The bad news is not only will it shock your fat into submission but you might have to have a lie-down and a cuddle afterwards too.
If you are interested, like I was, you can sign up online and pay a fee, there are two options — six weeks for around €50 and 12 weeks for €88.
Svava talks you through the regime. But an advisory — it is best not to do it when the neighbours are having a gawk through the living room window as some of the movements can leave you feeling quite exposed and vulnerable.
But if you like a challenge and want to feel every happy hormone doing the rumba all at once, then this is for you. Kick-boxing, crawling and leap frogs are the order of the day.
Toned legs can be created by doing 10 cross lunges on each leg, you can get a flat stomach by doing the walking crawl up to 10 times, work your bum by doing cross squat jumps, arms get some definition from the weight throw squat jump and for core, the arm and leg jump will finish you.
Svava also says hormones play a key role.
“It’s all about your hormones and balancing your insulin levels, optimum hormonal balance is crucial for a healthy person and for weight loss.”
We come to the end of our chat. I ask her when she is happiest.
She says without hesitation it’s when she spends time with her daughter, but also when she is bringing joy to others with her method.
Her bark is definitely bigger than her bite.
Want to join the invasion?
Svava will be hosting a number of Viking Method workshops in Dublin on the 28th and the 29th of May, including a workshop on Sunday 29 May specially dedicated to brides to be
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