Shannon Hutchinson is a pilot with Caribbean Airlines who loves nature
hikes and a touch a body building. We caught up with this free spirit for some of her secrets on health and a "BEST BODY".Stephen: Your carnival photos are phenomenal. We are curious to know what special preparation you did for the week of carnival?
My lifestyle isn’t just carnival focused, it’s a healthy one year-round. I do not “train for carnival,” I train to be healthy. Vanessa Gilkes (my beautiful Barbadian friend and fellow HARTS CARNIVAL Section Leader), and I have similar views in this regard. This is a more than just a lifestyle , we live in our bodies 100% of the time, we need to take care of it --all of the time!
Socrates said it best: “No man has the right to be an amateur in the matter of physical training. It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable."
My preparation for carnival involves a little more attention to controlling inflammation, that includes getting more sleep, taking care of my body post-workout (sports massage, Epsom salts baths, sauna), eating anti-inflammatory foods, and managing my stress level. I continue my workouts with a high protein diet, and focus on maintaining healthy muscle mass, (more muscle means more calories burned at rest).
While I have a 365-day approach to health and wellness, I only make minor adjustments as we approach carnival, it’s not about training harder or going on heavily restrictive diets. I am 34, not 24, and my goal is not to look like a noodle and feel drained on the road because I have deprived my body of nutrients it needs the weeks leading up to carnival. In fact, doing those carnival starvation diets, can also affect brain function, skin elasticity (saggy skin, stretch marks and cellulite) and can make your hair fall out.
My focus is to maintain healthy, toned muscle so that I can feel amazing when I cross the stage. Every year I get better at this and the idea is simple -- do not torture yourself into feeling the need to be extreme for the sake of “looking good” and fitting into that costume. It takes a lot of confidence to feel comfortable in your own skin, especially knowing that the cameras are waiting and people are watching. If you maintain a healthy lifestyle all year you will have no problem feeling and looking great when you hit the road in your costume. Stephen: We see in your profile that hiking is on your activity list, is that party of your training?
Shannon: While I enjoy adventure travel, exploring and experiencing new places, but this is more for my enjoyment and personal development than fitness. Climbing 15-20,000’ to see glaciers that will not be around for the next generation to enjoy is not for the faint of heart. I hike and explore to experience our world in new ways, it is part of my life journey (not my fitness journey). Trips like those challenge your body and are as mentally demanding as they are physical. One returns home with a new sense of self, and feet that look and feel like they’ve hiked the mountains you climbed and the many miles you walked, in other words-- this is definitely not part of my carnival prep.
Stephen: What does a training week work out look like?
I train most days that my flying roster allows (I am an airline pilot), that usually means 4-6 days a week.
An ideal training week will look like this:
● Run/ ride for 20 mins before traditional weight training.
● I alternate upper and lower body workouts so that I hit every muscle twice a week.
● I alternate 5 heavy sets of 8-10 reps, with 3 light sets of 15-20 reps to keep the body and muscles guessing. I mix things up so that my body doesn’t have a chance to plateau. Stephen: What are common foods that are on your weekly menu?Shannon:
Common foods on my weekly menu include chicken, lots of veggies, sweet potato, and eggs. I keep my diet simple when I am home and cooking for myself. I try to keep my protein intake high and I watch my macros and try to aim for a diet that is about 40% protein, (which is high, especially when compared to the average Trini diet), but I do not weigh my food anymore, (I used to when I was competing in the Sports World Classic, and the Junior and Senior National Bodybuilding championships back in 2014).
I use an 80/20 rule: 80% clean, 20% everything else. I believe in satisfying cravings, so if I want something sweet I will have it. I do not believe in restricting my diet and I do not believe in “dieting.” I put sugar in my coffee and I eat things like bread, ice cream and chocolate when I feel for it (including the week before carnival). I also have some clever sweet treats that I make to satisfy my sweet tooth such as protein mug-cakes and protein popcorn to keep my protein intake up while snacking.
My journey has been a lifelong one and my ability to eat well and be healthy all year is easy. I’ve been an athlete since my primary school days and my parents are the healthiest sixty-something year olds I know.
Stephen: Do you use vitamins and supplements and if so what do you think the average person needs?Shannon:
I absolutely do. We do not get everything we need from our diets, and our bodies and muscles need to be fed well to be strong and healthy, for proper cell turnover and optimum energy level so that you can go about your days looking and feeling your absolute best!
Here’s my list of must-haves:
● Branch Chain Amino Acids (muscle recovery, improved muscle density)
● Fish oil (anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system, great for skin)
● Magnesium (energy, helps digestion, relieves muscle pain, sleep aid)
● L-Glutamine (preserves muscle tissue)
Bone broth (great for joints, GI health, immune system, skin)
Creatine (I cycle on and off creatine, this boosts lean muscle mass)
Cinnamon, ginger, turmeric (these all have anti-inflammatory properties, I add these to all of my food. Cinnamon goes on my salads, and turmeric makes a delicious and potent tea).
Stephen: You have a busy schedule and a disruptive one, how do you keep consistent in your training?Shannon:
It’s simple, I can’t! My schedule is tough so I must be creative when it comes to fitting in training time. I go to the gym, run the stadium stairs, I work out at home or have a run around the savannah or my neighborhood when the gym is closed. I listen to my body and tailor my workouts based on my energy level. Not every workout needs to be tough, the main goal is to get moving. I embrace my hectic schedule and along with working out I make sure to get in my 8 hours sleep, drink lots of water and eat well.
We all have the same number of hours in the day and there is no excuse for one to not take care of their body and live a healthy lifestyle. There is nothing more stressful (and expensive) than being unhealthy. The most common chronic diseases these days are preventable ones, imagine that. Stephen: Bonus question, how does sleep impact your ultimate performance?Shannon:
Sleep is very important for optimum health. I make sure I get 8-9 hours every day. It improves cell turnover, performance, brain function just to name a few benefits. Deprivation of sleep not only affects alertness but is also linked to higher risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke. Just one night without enough sleep elevates blood pressure the following day.. This is why pilots are required by law to have 10 hours rest, which is to include 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, anything less and your body is not functioning at its best.
When people ask me about health and fitness I give them two things they must do before even stepping into a gym, drink a gallon of water every day (just try it!), and get 8 hours sleep every night. If you make these two changes alone you will see changes in your body within the first few weeks. Sleep is at the top of my “healthy list.”
Stephen Choo Quan