Instagram, @plant_bae1 - photo by Alexander Store
Hi! Tell us about yourself and your training
Hi! My name is Aleksi Paju, I’m 33 years old and I live in Helsinki, Finland, with my girlfriend and our Chinese Crested dog called, Leo.
I’m a certified personal trainer and I’ve been doing that full time for past four years in one of the biggest fitness companies in Scandinavia called, Elixia (part of SATS Group). Before that I was a lifeguard for several years.
I have been lifting weights actively about 14 years now, and I started when I was in the Finnish army. There was this “army wrestling” competition coming between army bases so I wanted to get stronger but other than that I didn’t have any specific goal in my mind.
My goals have varied a lot from just basic lifting and strength training to calisthenics and nowadays, I mostly do functional training with free weights. I workout purely for my own pleasure and also to maintain my physique and, of course, I want to be stronger today than I was yesterday.
My biggest accomplishments would be in weightlifting my DL PR 225 kg, snatch PR 95 kg and C&J PR 120 kg from 2019. In calisthenics, I was able to do human flag and back lever, which was cool but I don’t actively train that kind of stuff anymore.
The best thing about weightlifting and strength training is to see the gains and to get stronger and better day by day, year by year.
Describe a typical day of training
I try to fit my own workouts in the middle of my sessions with clients. I usually have a two-hour window where I do my workout and eat and then get back to work, so I approximately use 1.5 hour per session including warm-up.
I don’t follow any strict workout schedule. I have three to five workouts a week, and I usually split my training to pushing (quads, chest and shoulders) and pulling (hammies, glutes and back). I include at least one Olympic lifting session there once per week or then I mix it up with the pulling.
I workout almost every time by myself at my home gym where I work because it’s just so convenient. We have really good equipment and basically everything I need to get my workout done. It saves my time to not needing to use time to travel between places.
For supplements I use vegan protein powder (Vegan blend from MyProtein) every now and then and creatine and B12. For post workout I eat a banana.
My favorite exercise is the king of all exercises, deadlift. It’s just so complex move that affects the whole body. I do it approximately one to two times per week because it just addresses so much stress for your whole body.
How do you keep going and push harder?
I have always been a really active guy from a young age. In my teens, I did a lot of team sports such as floorball and basketball. Also I’m pretty competitive so that’s probably the main reason that has been pushing me do a bit harder every time, and I want to be a little better tomorrow than I am today.
I try to have simple goals to pursue, just as lifting 250 kg in DL before summer. Then I plan my workouts to achieve my goal. It probably won’t be 250 but I’ll settle to 245 kg. 😉 As long I’m making progress no matter how small, I’m happy and I’ll keep working out.
When my motivation is low, sometimes I just take it a bit easier. I might do only one or two workouts that week and not beat myself up about it because I know I’ll be grinding again next week or the week after that.
Of course, it’s a bit different for me to work at the gym but when I was younger I usually did workout with a friend. When you have a gym buddy, it’s easier to go to the gym when you have scheduled the workout or when you feel not doing it your buddy can motivate you and drag you to the gym anyways!
I have had some issues with my knees but nothing that have required surgery. It has taken the best edge out of my squatting. Not able to hit the legs as frequently and as hard as I would like to but at the moment I just need to cope with it.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Future looks bright at the moment. I’m really happy with my job and with my relationship. There’s a new family member coming in June so that’s really exciting.
At the moment, I have a really good situation at work. A lot of permanent clients so I can focus more on coaching than actively getting new ones. I have myself covered till summer but of course in my job there’s always busy and quiet months once in a while.
I’ll probably gonna do coaching for at least a couple next years because I really like the job. I try to educate myself always to be able to offer a little more and extra for my clients. That’s also how the job stays interesting.
Instagram, @plant_bae1 - photo by Mikko Uosukainen
How do you recover, rest and handle injuries?
I do a proper warm up before every workout to prevent injuries. I use a machine like rowing, treadmill, etc. for five to 10 minutes and then I do active stretching for five minutes, holding the stretch no longer than three seconds to activate the muscles and nerves. The muscle response is better when your body is warmed up and ready for a workout.
I try to sleep at least seven hours per night. I have found that that’s enough for me per night. I feel rested when I wake up. The less you wake up at night the better. Some people find it hard to fall asleep so you should avoid drinking caffeine at least six hours before you go to bed.
Also, doing a workout really late might interfere with your ability to fall asleep because you’re probably gonna feel really energetic at least two hours after the workout.
If I get injured for some reason, I try to avoid causing too much stress for the problem area. I won’t stop working out completely and I try to train the part of my body that I can normally, and try to rehabilitate the injured part.
Depending on the degree of the injury the small ones I try to rehabilitate myself and if there’s some major problem I’ll go to see a doctor or a physiotherapist.
How is your diet and what supplements do you use?
I’ve been on a plant-based diet for over four years now so it means that I don’t eat any animal products like meat, dairy, eggs, etc. I became vegan purely for ethical reasons, for the environment and animals. It was also an experiment that could I maintain my current physique and further most, improve it.
And I can happily say that I have. I’m stronger now than I have ever been. All my PRs are going up steadily. There’re always minor setbacks sometimes but they have never been because of my diet.
I use creatine and protein powder like Vegan Blend by MyProtein as a supplement but not in a daily basis. It’s more like I take a scoop every now and then when I remember. I don’t track my macros or micros, never have, because I don’t compete and I don’t feel it’s necessary. As long my results are going up I’m happy.
I try to keep ripped 24/7/365 so I don’t do any cuts or bulks. Sometimes I eat more and sometimes less. It’s nice to be in a good shape during the summer but it’s purely for my own pleasure.
What has inspired and motivated you?
Tony Horton has been one of my greatest inspirations. I had been going to the gym several years before I got introduced to P90X in 2011, but it kind of opened a whole new way of working out for me. It got me interested about functional training and gave my own workouts a new kind of inspiration too.
Currently, I get motivated by plant-based athletes on Instagram (Nimai Delgado, Jon Venus, Torre Washington, Derek Simnett, Kendrik Farris, Novak Djokovic, Louis Hamilton, Patrik Baboumian, etc.) and on social media. There’s so many of them and in so many aspects of sports.
The new documentary “The Game Changer” has been a real eye opener for me and many others. It kind of showed that actually there might be real benefits with a plant-based diet that doesn’t only improve your health but your performance too.
Advice for other people who want to improve themselves?
You should always have a goal that you’re aiming for. It doesn’t matter how small or big. It’s actually better to have checkpoints in your goal, for example, “I want to lift 250 kg in deadlift before summer. My PR is now 225 kg so by the end of each month I try to get 5kg more into my PR. 5kg doesn’t sound as much as 30kg does.”
Have a friend that you workout with. When I was younger, I almost every time had a friend with me. It’s always good to have someone who gives you that extra push or when you don’t feel like going to the gym.
Too many people who are new to lifting, especially young, take too have weights from the start and usually with bad form. You should never ego lift. That’s how you most certainly get yourself injured. Don’t feel embarrassed to ask someone more experienced if you’re doing the lift correctly, how the machine works or is your form good. We have all started from zero.
Don’t get too comfortable with what you’re doing or have always done. Some people do the same thing year after year and wonder how they don’t see any progress.
Comfort zone is a nice place but nothing grows there. Mix up your workouts, do cardio, lift heavy, do calisthenics, go to yoga. The moment you stop learning is the moment you stop growing.
Are you taking on clients right now?
I live in Finland, Helsinki, and I work at Elixia so all my clients needs to be a member in our gym.
Where can we learn more about you?
You can find me on Instagram @plant_bae1