Jessica Sicoly, 28, is our gorgeous November 2014 cover model. Here, she reveals all about becoming a fitness model.

On career
I always wanted a full-time career where I could apply my love for biology and natural sciences. My passion for health and fitness, however, has lead me to also obtain a part-time career as a fitness instructor and personal trainer. I am now a certified Les Mills BodyPump and RPM instructor and certified personal trainer, which allows me to share my love for health and fitness while inspiring others to push their limits and achieve their fitness goals.

On fitting workouts around work
I’m a morning person, so I always work out in the morning before work (6am). If I don’t have time to get to the gym, I will go for a run outside (usually five km if I’m strapped for time) and then add some high-intensity plyometrics or sprints at the end to really get the blood pumping. I also love going to the local track and running sprints, or running stairs. I would way rather be outside than in a gym!

On fit tricks
When I do HIIT (high-intensity interval training) I often wear a heart rate monitor – not to track calories burned, but to monitor my heart rate and rest time. I always make sure I keep my heart rate up and keep my rest time minimal when I’m into the meat of my workout. My favourite workout music is hard rock when lifting weights (Avenged Sevenfold, Shinedown, Metallica) and any of DJ Bl3nds Freakshow mixes for cardio.

On self-image
When I look in the mirror I see a strong, healthy woman! I train hard and eat healthy to be strong and athletic, not to obtain a physical aesthetic or to be skinny.  How many athletes do you know who train to round out their delts or really define their glute/ham tie-in? The fitness industry has become predominantly based on aesthetics and really pushing the limits on people’s health, and I don’t necessarily think that’s what exercising and eating healthy is about!

On workout motivation
I work out to better myself. When I can run a little further than I did yesterday, when I can push heavier weight, sprint one more lap, or inspire one of my class members to push themselves a little harder, I am motivated to work even harder. I always change up my workout routine so that I never get bored. Teaching fitness classes has helped me to keep things interesting – I’m always incorporating compound movements into my training to help keep my heart rate up while incorporating supersets, drop sets and burnouts to really stimulate muscle fatigue.

On eating well
I concentrate on eating whole, unprocessed, real foods. My diet staples are fresh berries (I love blueberries and raspberries), large flake oats, eggs, chicken, quinoa, and loads and loads of fresh vegies of all kinds, shapes and sizes (I love squash and pumpkin). I stay disciplined with my nutrition and fitness by cooking! I love trying new recipes and creating things my fiancé and I enjoy. When you enjoy the food you eat, you don’t have the desire to ‘stray’ and binge on terrible food. As soon as you label food as a ‘diet’ food, I feel that sense of ‘cheating’ becomes automatic.

On treat meals
I definitely do allow myself to enjoy some time off from training, taking adequate rest when needed and allowing myself to enjoy foods that aren’t ‘clean’. I don’t like being super restrictive with my diet, because then I’m more prone to crave those sugary salty foods. I find that making sure my meals consist of healthy proteins (meat, eggs, legumes), healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates (including fruit, veggies and whole grains) usually does the trick to get me back on plan. My favourite treat food is ice cream!

On wisdom
The key lesson I’ve learned is ‘never sacrifice your health’. The women we often see on the covers of fitness magazines have been training for months on a restrictive diet, and often with additional supplements to attain that look; they often schedule their big cover shoots around competitions for that reason. It’s not healthy to maintain that sort of physique year round and it shouldn’t be something that all women strive to achieve. That doesn’t mean that every woman shouldn’t strive to be healthy, exercise regularly and supplement her diet (within reason). It’s about being driven, but being able to draw the line somewhere. Life passes by so fast – I’m trying my best to make the most of every moment, but I wish I realised it sooner.

On fitness myths
I often see competitors smothering low-calorie foods in fat-free, sugar-free, calorie-free syrups and sauces and ranting about it being a ‘healthy alternative’. You read the first three ingredients on the back of some of these products and tell me they’re healthy. Instead, make smart choices when it comes to the food you eat; if you want syrup on your pancakes, have syrup – just not six tablespoons – instead of a concoction of chemicals and artificial flavours and colours. Another misconception is that you can do what the person next to you is doing, eat what they’re eating and get the same results! It takes time, it is a learning process, and everyone’s body responds to various training and nutrition differently.

On balance
My favourite way to unwind after a stressful day or week is painting – I love painting a piece for my home, for a gift, or to sell! I also love getting outside – whether it’s going for a walk with a friend, checking out a local event, or spending time with my family at our cottage.

I ensure that I enjoy everything that I do – as soon as something becomes a chore, or unpleasant, then we despise doing it. One of the ways I make sure I maintain a passion for health and fitness is to not allow myself to obsess over it. When it gets to the point where you’re obsessing over how many calories you’ve burned, or how much your weight went up overnight, or that piece of cake you ate, you’re adding more stress into your life. This in turn will affect your cortisol levels, along with other hormones, and ultimately impact any weight loss efforts and your ability to perform in the gym. Make sure you take time to de-stress – wind down, and enjoy life.

On dreams
If I could spend a day in the life of anyone, alive or dead, it would be Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (my favourite band), when they were in their prime. I would love to be a rock star for a day, and sing on a stage for thousands of people!