LONDON — At only 24, Zanna van Dijk has Instagram largely to thank for her success.
The London-based fitness blogger and personal trainer, who has over 150,000 followers, started fitness events company Girl Gains with two friends she met through the image sharing app. Now, the company has ambassadors all over the world, and hosts events with the goal of empowering women in countries including the UK, Australia, Canada, and the US.
With her first book under her belt — released last year, titled “Strong” — van Dijk has managed to grace the covers of numerous fitness magazines, and was recently appointed as the UK’s first global ambassador for Adidas.
We spoke to her to find out her secrets to success at such a young age.
Scroll down to see a day in the life of the Instagram fitness star, including what she eats, how often she works out, how she stays healthy on the go, and her secret to standing out in the world of fitness blogging.
This is 24-year-old Zanna van Dijk, the London-based fitness blogger and personal trainer who has over 150,000 followers on Instagram.
She is also the co-founder of women’s fitness community event company Girl Gains.
She was born in Yorkshire, and started her fitness blog during her time at Sheffield University, where she did a four-year degree in Speech and Language Therapy.
‘I didn’t think anything would come of it until I actually left university,’ she told Business Insider. ‘I had 30,000 followers at that point. Cool opportunities started to come up, and I thought maybe I wouldn’t need to a work a nine to five job.’
?? I've graduated!! ?? I am now officially a bachelor of medical science with a first class degree!!! I'm pretty damn proud of myself – to say Uni was hard would be a massive understatement! I've worked my little socks off and I'm so pleased with the outcome ? I'll post loads of photos from today over on my other Instagram later (@zanzapan)? #graduation #uni #student #sheffield
She wasn’t interested in fitness until she went to university.
‘I gained the ‘Freshers 15’ and thought, ‘This isn’t cool, why has this happened?’ I took a moment and realised I was eating really bad food, never moving, and drinking a lot of alcohol. I took a bit of time to reflect and thought it was time to make some positive changes. It was a slow process, but over the course of a few years I found my balance.’
I am back in Sheffield for a week to do a placement in a hospital ☺ I have stocked up for the week, and here is what is in my fridge: ⭐ top shelf: kale, spinach, red onions, ginger and lemon. ⭐ Middle shelf : carrots, red peppers, apples, parsnips, courgettes, broccoli. ⭐ lower shelf: more carrots, salmon, prawns, strawberries, red peppers, cherries, and chicken ⭐ bottom drawer: 24 eggs (I am an egg addict ?)! I am off to the gym then let the meal prep begin! #fridge #whatsinmyfridge #mealprep #food #foodstagram #vegetables #nutrition #foodporn #wholefoods #health #healthy #eatarainbow #fitness #fitgirls #gymgirls #girlswholift #fitfam #eatclean #cleaneats #cleaneating
After graduating, she took a personal training course and moved to London, where she was a full-time trainer.
But the success of her blog kept growing, and she found herself launching a YouTube channel and being offered some exciting opportunities.
‘It spiralled and snowballed,’ she said. ‘By the end of the first year (in London) I had done some really exciting things.’
Now, she is a fitness blogger ‘almost full time,’ but occasionally personal trains ‘because I love it.’
Fitness blogging as a career ? Please leave a comment below with any questions you have about my job! I'm going to film a Q&A answering them very soon! ? To clarify what I actually do: I am a full time fitness blogger and vlogger. I have my own business/company and I also co-own the @thegirlgains. I am a personal trainer and train groups at @un1t_fulham. Not forgetting that I am an adidas global ambassador and an author as I recently released my own book Strong! ☺️ I think that's a good basic summary ? I understand that it's a weird job! Its certainly not what I expected I would be doing, as I actually qualified as a speech and language therapist in the past. It has been an interesting journey. I want to give you guys an insight into what I do, how I made this my career and what fitness blogging really entails. So please do leave a comment letting me know what you are interested in finding out! ?? Photo: @jonpaynephoto ? #girlgains #girlgainers #zannavandijk #strongsquad #strongzvd #fitnessblogger #qanda
It was thanks to her Instagram following that Girl Gains came about.
Van Dijk co-launched the company, which aims to ‘educate, empower, and inspire women into fitness,’ with her two best friends, who she met through the social media channel.
‘We thought we’d try and make a community online, so we started the hash tag Girl Gains,’ she said. ‘Before we knew it, we had 50,000 posts on it.’
PLEASE READ! Did you know that our hashtag #GirlGains now has over 525,000 + posts?!? That is CRAZY!! But how many of those people using our hashtag actually know the reasoning behind it? Where it came from? It's true meaning?! Well, it came about because myself, Zanna & Vicky met after following each other on Instagram. We soon became very close & spent a summer hanging out, training together, eating lots of fave food. We finally met girls who got this whole health & fitness thing. It was amazing! So we wanted to create a hashtag so other girls could find like minded ladies in their area so that they too had a solid group of friends who supported their lifestyle, ambitions & dreams. Our hashtag was never just about physical 'gains'. We believed #GirlGains represented health gains, happiness gains & life gains. It was about being your happiest & best self and supporting and building up other women around you so that they could reach their potential. When I look at the most popular #GirlGains posts, I think our message has been diluted and isn't truly represented how we envisioned. ➡️ SO I ask you to please LIKE this post, TAG a friend who wants to know what this is all about and COMMENT with your #GirlGains story so we can be at the top of the popular post page!! We want women to be empowered & inspired so please help us do that! Thank you so much in advance xxx Tally xx
The trio made social media accounts and a website for the company, and started running events in London. Now, the company has global ambassadors and runs events in other countries including Australia, Canada, and the US
‘It’s incredible what social media can do,’ she said.
Last year, she released her first book, titled ‘Strong.’
She said the book is full of mental and physical tips on how to be strong, including how to lift weights, how to find balance, and recipes.
‘I’ve ready every book in the industry, and I felt like there wasn’t one which spoke about balance,’ she said. ‘Nobody is actually telling you how to live your life.’
? BOOK GIVEAWAY! ? EDIT: A winner has been contacted! ? Happy Friday you beautiful bunch. To perk you up after a long week I'm giving away a signed copy of my book! All you have to do to win is 1️⃣ Follow me! 2️⃣ Like this photo! 3️⃣ Comment down below tagging a friend you think should enter and telling me content you like seeing from me! This will help me give you more of what you enjoy! ? I'll choose a winner TONIGHT and contact them directly ? If you just want to order it anyways, the book is only £5.99 on Amazon! ?? #strongzvd #girlgains #strongsquad #zannavandijk #zvdstrong
Van Dijk has graced the covers of fitness magazines…
The Sunday Times Style magazine, Women’s Fitness, and Healthy have all hosted her.
The best birthday present EVER! ? Today is my 24th birthday and today the new @womensfitnessuk comes out and I'M ONLY ON THE FRICKIN COVER!!! ? Thank you for all the love you've been sending on Twitter and Snapchat this morning! You're making my day! I'll be documenting my birthday antics on my Snapchat story so come and follow the fun: @zanzapan ?? #girlgains
…And is even a global ambassador for Adidas.
FREE STRONG SESSIONS ? [UPDATE: the spots sold out in minutes, sorry guys! I'll try and do more events soon!] I've teamed up with @adidasuk to bring you a series of FREE workouts and cooking workshops at their new Studio on Brick Lane, London. I'll be hosting events on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening next week. Thursday + Friday are weighted workouts with a energy ball making class afterwards to refuel. Saturday is just the sweaty weights session with a chance to hang out and grab a smoothie afterwards! Full info is on the link on my profile. This takes you to the adidas women's Facebook messenger which you can book in through. Be sure to grab a ticket NOW before they sell out. Spaces are super limited. Go go go!!! ?? #girlgains #strongzvd #adidas #zannavandijk #heretocreate
She’s also headlining the Balance Festival in May.
‘I’ve been working with them for over 18 months on photoshoots and events, and the relationship evolved and grew,’ she said. ‘A few months ago they signed me at the first UK ambassador.
She has also worked with Fitness First, Tommy Hilfiger, and a number of food brands.
The event, which will take place at London’s Truman Brewery, will be a multi-floor fitness expo with workouts, talks, and a cookery stage. ‘It will be all about food, fitness, wellness, and travel,’ van Dijk said.
The first release of our Live Cooking Theatre has landed! (link in bio) Don't miss out on Zanna's fitness feast with @thefoodmedic, @clean_eating_alice and @healthychefsteph and a plethora of no nonsense cooking demos with the amazing #peopleofbalance – check out the full programme on the Balance Festival website #findyourbalance #balancefestival #health #wellness
So what does a typical day look like for this 24-year-old star?
Well, it usually starts with a 6 a.m. weight-lifting session. She trains for an hour first thing in the morning. A post-workout shake looks something like this.
Chocolate for breakfast? YAASS ? Today I made my ultimate favourite post workout shake! I used @alpro Almond Unsweetened drink blended up with a frozen banana, cocoa powder, chocolate protein powder, a dollop of peanut butter and a handful of ice ? It was chocolatey peanuty heaven ? #alpronista #ad #girlgains #strongzvd #strongsquad #zannavandijk
After her workout, she’ll make breakfast at home. She’s usually fed and showered by 8 a.m.
One of her favourite breakfasts is ‘zoats’ — oats with grated courgette, protein powder, peanut butter, fruit, and chocolate chips.
Post workout brunch at @greenlightcafebarsamui ? Today I went for the smoothie bowl and shared the omelette with @steph182x who also got the cinnamon porridge ?? We are literally addicted to this place!! ? See what else we got up to today on my Instagram story and my Snapchat: @zanzapan ? #girlgains #strongzvd #strongsquad #newhorizonescapes
She starts working after that, but what the day holds always changes.
‘Every single day is different,’ she said. ‘It’s usually pretty mad. I might be out on a photoshoot, at home working on blog posts, or travelling.’
Did you know our Balance Festival headliner @zannavandijk has been blogging for over 8 years? If you've ever thought about starting a blog, head to the Balance Journal now to learn tips and tricks for success from one of the best. . . #blogging #blogger #fitnessblogger #healthblogger #personaltrainer #entrepreneur #digitalnomad #fitnessmodel
She mixes it up with her lunches.
‘I might have an omelette with eggs, veggies, feta, a piece of toast — I like polish bread, which is a combo of rye and sourdough,’ she said.
Lunch today is this plate of goodies ? Falafel, beetroot and mint dip, steamed broccoli, pesto coated butternut squash spaghetti, feta, and a wheatberry/quinoa/rice mix ?This meal packs in well over 20g of plant based protein ?? Plus of course complex carbs and healthy fats! Winner winner! ?? #girlgains #strongzvd #strongsquad
She snacks throughout the day.
‘I have three main meals, and am constantly snacking,’ she said. Snacks include fruit, rice cakes, and yogurt, most of which she eats with peanut butter.
Sunday baking ? White chocolate pecan blondies from my book Strong ? Thanks for sharing @bournemoutheats ?There is nothing I love more than being tagged in posts of you guys using my book! Honestly it makes me so excited, and it's a pretty surreal feeling to see you with it! ? Please do keep hash tagging #strongzvd so I can see what workouts you're trying or recipes you're cooking ☺️ If you haven't got your copy yet it's only £5.99 using the link in my profile. A ridiculous price for such a thick book!!! ? #strongzvd #strongsquad #zannavandijk #girlgainers #girlgains
Nut butters are her obsession.
She loves almond and cashew.
Some people go to #bodypowerexpo to buy supplements… I buy nut butters ? I am such an addict ? I got the @buffbake cranberry coconut, @pipandnut coconut almond, @pipandnut peanut, @barneybutteruk cocoa coconut and @proteinpickandmix cookie cake… Can you tell I like coconut!? And nut butters!? And food in general!? ?? #girlgains
She does two to three weightlifting sessions a week, two sessions of cardio, and a gymnastics lesson.
Her cardio usually takes place at a fitness class at Unit 1 or F45.
‘That would be an ambitious week,’ she added.
Morning @un1t_fulham class done ?? Today was Regiment – a challenging cardio class based around bodyweight and resistance exercises for 30 seconds work, 15 seconds rest. The twist? When the coach blows the whistle, you have to go hell for leather until the end of the interval. The result? You're destroyed. But satisfied ? I tucked into a chocolate banana and peanut butter shake post-workout and now I'm heading home before a full day of tourist activities with my parents! I'll be sharing what we get up to on my Snapchat: @zanzapan and my instagram stories ? #girlgains #wetrainasone #strongzvd #strongsquad
Needless to say, she has a lot of workout clothing.
She even released an activewear collection with Sports Philosophy last summer, which sold out.
One of her favourite dinners involves black beans with veggies, paprika, and rice.
Vegetables… HEAL ME ??? This is the first proper meal I've had in 48 hours and it feels amazing to be able to stomach food! Right here I've got: pesto coated peppers and onions, garlic mushrooms, thyme lentils topped with feta, and steamed broccoli ? Packing in those micronutrients I so desperately need??? #girlgains #strongzvd #strongsquad #zannavandijk #healthyeats #ukfitfam
She also loves baked eggs.
Dinner tonight is the shakshuka recipe from my book ? I made it even more delicious by adding eggs from my parents chickens – my favourite! ? You can really taste the difference and I feel happy knowing the chickens have an amazing life! ? If you haven't got a copy of my book it's £5.99 using the link on my profile ?? #girlgains #strongzvd #strongsquad #zannavandijk #shakshuka #bakedeggs #healthydinner
She tries to give herself one day a week off.
She’s often spotted travelling, or spending time with her boyfriend, Antony — or both.
This = Happiness ☺️ What a weekend in Norway! It's time to head back to London and back to reality ✈️ It has been such an adventure! But don't you worry, I'll be doing a blog post all about my trip, filled with tips and recommendations for you ? And I need a favour from you guys! Tomorrow I'm doing a Facebook live with @lookmagazine and they want to ask me YOUR questions! Please can you leave me some in the comments? I'll be tweeting and snap chatting what time I'm going live so you can tune in! ?? Thank you in advance! ? #visitbergen #visitnorway #strongzvd #strongsquad #zannavandijk #happiness #thefjords #girlgains
She treats herself with chocolate…
‘This morning I had a Galaxy Cookie Crumble chocolate bar,’ she said. ‘My favourite is Doisy & Dam Poppyseed White Chocolate.’ She’ll also indulge in ‘mountains of granola.
…And occasionally digs into pizza and wine.
However, if she knows she’s eating out, she’ll be more careful with what she eats the rest of the day.
‘I consider the day as a whole,’ she said. ‘If I’m going out for a huge brunch and going to be eating poached eggs, avocados, toast, and pancakes, I make sure for the rest of the day, the meals are more balanced — loads of veggies and greens — and that whatever else I’m eating is nutritious, so I get a balance of macros throughout the day.’
Brunching at @cafe_fleur ? Oh my goodness this spot is an absolute gem in the heart of Wandsworth ?? The portions are BLOODY MASSIVE. It's safe to say we had a good feed ? I had the brunch salad with extra avocado while @antonymaule had poached eggs and avocado on toast. We of course shared the date and banana French toast too ? The perfect refuel after @un1t_fulham that left me super stuffed ?? Time to have a lazy Saturday mooching around London with my favourite man ☺️ Follow our day on my instagram story or my Snapchat: @zanzapan ? #girlgainers #girlgains #zannavandijk #strongzvd #strongsquad
And her favourite spots for a healthy bite in London?
‘Beany Green is a great spot for brunch and dinner, or Redemption for a healthy dinner and cocktails,’ she said. ‘I’m also obsessed with brunch — I love Friends of Ours in Shoreditch.’
She also stops by Raw Press for juice.
While countless people try to make it in the fitness blogging industry, van Dijk said that consistency is what has made her successful.
‘I’ve been quite savvy the whole way through,’ she said. ‘I’ve made wise decisions.’
‘I’m very lucky in that I was early to the game, but I’ve been doing it for 4.5 years and I’ve been consistently right from the beginning,’ she added. ‘I’ve always had a positive message — self love, and a balanced lifestyle. It’s never been about weight loss or restriction.'”
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