One of Malta’s leading fitness instructors and personal trainers Leanne Bartolo has held numerous free online workouts during the Covid pandemic so far and has been nominated for the Lovin Malta social media awards, yet another achievement in her fabulous career so far.  We were lucky enough to do a Q&A with the inspirational trainer!

Hi Leanne, congratulations on your nomination for the Lovin Malta social media awards! Can you give us a quick intro to get our readers to know you?

I couldn’t believe it – I’ve never been nominated for anything of the sort! I found out that several clients and some of my closest friends were behind this.

Ever since I was young, I’ve loved sport. I come from a large and loud family. I am one of five siblings, and there was always something going on at home. I was a tomboy, getting up to mischief and always keeping active. My background is in gymnastics and running, disciplines I both love and have practiced.

I took an interest in coaching at the age of 18, when I did a couple of courses to start giving classes at different gyms in Malta. Over the years I’ve continued developing my knowledge through different courses. At the same time, I continued my university studies, where I graduated as a psychologist and a teacher.

As an instructor and personal trainer, you usually work out at your Warehouse Fitness Studio. Please talk us through the journey that got you there.

After over 10 years of giving classes in different gyms I felt it was time for me to find a place I could call my own, which led to the birth of “Warehouse”. As I was preparing to open my doors, I wanted to get a couple of photos of myself for the promotional campaign, and my nutritional advisor convinced me to take part in the local bodybuilding championships. To my astonishment I won!

I went on to represent Malta in the world championships in 2018, where I placed third amongst 32 countries, and later that year I won the European championships. This cemented my place with the greatest athletes of the world, and I was promoted to the Professional division. The following year in Manchester I managed to win the European Professional Crown. I must say it’s been quite a roller coaster, but I love every second of it.

You launched an online platform offering free workouts to keep your friends and followers fit during quarantine. What was your main reason to do such a generous thing?

My first broadcast was in the second week of March, when we had a couple of cases of COVID-19 in Malta. You could sense there was an atmosphere of unease. A lot of my friends and clients were starting to feel uncomfortable about leaving the house. So that’s when I took the initiative to stream my 6.30 free live class through Instagram, for those that preferred staying home.

At the time I didn’t realise that the situation would drag on for so many weeks. On the other hand, I had no idea I would be reaching so many people and impacting them in such a positive way. The free online classes are my way of helping our community in the best way I can, by keeping active and fit. So, wherever you are, you can take a one-hour break from whatever you are doing and focus on yourself and your wellbeing.

How has the feedback been?

To tell you the truth, the feedback has been amazing. The messages of gratitude I receive after a class and post-workout selfies are what keeps me motivated and committed to this ever-growing online community!

Your Beach Body Challenge Lockdown Edition programme has also recently been launched. What are the major differences between training in ‘real life’ and training virtually? Are you happy about how it’s working out?

The biggest difference is the lack of direct human contact. Given the circumstances we have managed to shift everything online and are using different platforms such as Facebook and Zoom to communicate, although I still prefer face to face meetings.

This situation has enabled us to reach people that would have otherwise been more difficult to reach, such as people working abroad or living in Gozo. Overall, I’m incredibly happy with how it’s working out. Once again, the positive feedback I receive from the BBC participants is very motivating.

2020 is turning out differently than we had expected. How does COVID-19 affect your personal and professional goals, and how are you dealing with that?

I guess we all had different plans for 2020. My professional bodybuilding competitions and all our OCR races have been cancelled for the foreseeable future. On a personal note I was meant to be planning a wedding, which has now become a bit more challenging!

However, I believe we should all take this time to settle down and realign ourselves. I strongly believe that the lifestyle we were living pre-COVID was a bit too fast and stressful. This is our chance to re-evaluate what’s important in our life! I’m finally getting my eight hours of sleep and catching up with my paperwork that I’ve been putting off for months.

What I love the most is that I’m getting to have lunch and dinner with my loved ones and we’re actually spending time together which we otherwise would not have managed to. So, my advice is, make the most of it!

Back to the Lovin Malta social media awards. What was the first thing to cross your mind when you realised you had been nominated?

‘Who nominated me?’ As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been nominated for anything of the sort, so it came as quite a surprise. After a few days I sussed it out and found out that a group of friends of mine were behind the nomination.

On Instagram you said you’ve received messages from people who nominated you. What stood out most to you?

The fact that I have managed to connect with so many different people through Instagram, and that the individuals who follow me and join in the workouts are so grateful.

If you were to win the awards, what would you do to celebrate?

I would try finding a way to celebrate with all the people that follow my live workouts and have supported in some way or another 

What would you say to people in quarantine to get them through this period?

 First, I would thank them because through their sacrifice we are managing to keep the numbers down. I would then suggest trying to do something that they may have been putting off doing, be it clearing that one drawer or that spare room. What also worked well for me was to give my day some structure. Obviously, finally, get movin’ and groovin’ with one of my free online workouts! The mental and physical boost after a good workout is unreal.