It may be a pretty new phenomenon for Sharni Layton to be recognised on the street, but stardom for this Australian sports star is way overdue.
The professional netball player, who played goal defence in the team that recently nabbed the gold medal at the 2015 World Netball Championships in Sydney, is one of the game’s most popular stars. She’s vivacious, funny, warm, incredibly tall and almost unwaveringly committed to fitness and her health (although she admits to falling off the wagon in off-season because she’s “completely human!”).
Little wonder top Australian Australian sports supplement brand Pure Warrior powered by SwisseTM has recruited the Melbourne-born athlete and wellness coach, who now calls Sydney’s trendy inner western suburb of Rozelle home with her personal trainer partner, Nick. She’s the kind of lady you want to train next to for extra motivation, then coffee with afterwards for laughs.
“My motto in general is just to be strong, out on the netball court, and in life. All the netball girls now really push themselves hard physically.”
We spoke to Sharni at her fave ‘local’, Egg of the Universe – Sydney’s only integrated wholefoods café and yoga studio (she does regular classes there to balance out the rest of her hard core training) – about what moves her, fuels her, motivates her and how she wants to inspire other women to embrace their inner ‘strong chick’. (Confession: we’re now total fan girls of this strong girl too.)
Q: How long have you been playing netball?
“I started when I was five. My mum was a coach and my sister played in an older team. We just did it for exercise and socials. I was really tall growing up – when I was in Year 8 at school, I was already 5’9. I tried basketball for a bit, but I couldn’t get the coordination of running and bouncing at the same time. I was so un-co! I tripped over and grazed my elbows and things a lot playing netball until well into my 20s.”
Q: How tall are you now?
“I’m 187cm (that’s in between 6’1 and 6’2). One of the girls I play against is 197cm and New Zealand have just picked up someone who’s 204cm, so I have to be strong to match it with them and so I can jump and stand my ground without being hit to the floor.”
Q: What’s a typical week’s training in the on-season?
“At the moment I’m doing two court work sessions, two weights sessions and two or three cardio sessions a week. Then I do Pilates and yoga on my own in my free time – Pilates for back issues, and yoga for flexibility. I’d much rather just go to the gym and work out every day than have to go for a run or something. Hence why I play goal keeper, which is more of a power position.”
Q: Why does being strong mean so much to you?
“I’ve always just loved women with muscles! I love Sam Stosur’s arms – I have a real appreciation for those tennis girls. It used to be with netball that you’d look at us and never know we were athletes, but now we work our arses off and we’re elite athletes. I’ve always wanted to be physically strong so I could beat my opponents.”
Q: What do you do to ward off injury?
“Injury is super frustrating – so it’s all about pre-hab to keep my body in best condition possible, which is where yoga and Pilates come in. I regularly take fish oils and magnesium, and always have Pure Warrior Powered by Swisse™ protein post exercise, because if you’re training a lot, you have to repair your muscles with the right fuel.”
Q: Do you follow a particular diet?
“I see food as fuel. I think about what I have coming up in my day and plan my food around it. So, if I have a running session for fitness, I’ll probably have a big meal beforehand. But if I’m running because I’ve had a big off-season and need to ‘cut up’ a bit, then I don’t need as much before I train. If I’m about to do court work, I’ll need to use my brain more, so I eat carbs beforehand. If I’m going to the gym, I know I need my protein.”
Q: You mentioned ‘cutting up’ [losing fat] after the off-season. How do you do it?
“I just up my training and cut out all the crap. I do try to eat as clean as possible, but in the off-season I let my hair down. I’m a pretty carefree person, so to have that structure all the time does my head in. But for the on-season, I don’t want to be heavy on the netball court – I need to be agile.”
Q: Do you have a signature dish?
“I’m not the best cook, but I have a pretty good bolognaise. And I love smoothies – my favourite’s nothing too fancy, whatever’s in the fridge; maybe berries, banana, maybe bit of wheatgrass powder, protein powder and usually just water, but occasionally milk if I’m hungry.”
Q: Speaking of protein, how did you come to be an ambassador for the recent Pure Warrior Powered by Swisse™ launch?
“I work really hard in the gym, but I’m pretty easy going and I love the little things in life, so between my yoga and meditation, I have a really healthy balance as an athlete. That aligns really well with Swisse and its ‘Celebrate Life Every Day’ motto. They’re such a happy company!
“Plus, Pure Warrior’s so good – definitely the best tasting protein range I’ve ever tasted. The last thing you want to be drinking is something that’s good for you but tastes terrible, especially after training.”
Q: What’s your biggest off-season indulgence?
“BBQ chicken pizza! I love Grainwaves, and I’m a massive chocolate fiend too – brownies, block of chocolate, they all make me happy. I’m completely human. I’m strict when I’m in full season training, but you have to be – I don’t want to get to a game and lose and know there’s something I could have done better to prepare.”
Q: You travel a lot with the team. What’s your best healthy travel food tip?
“It’s all about preparation. I love making my own protein balls to take with me. Last year when we flew to Glasgow, I was sitting next to [Australian netball player] Bianca Chatfield and took so much stuff we sat there having a little picnic on the plane! I love rice crackers, nuts, carrot sticks – you can even take your own dip. It’s the same when you go on a long road trip – plan ahead, prep and don’t just stop and buy chips and lollies from the service station.”
Q: Where would we find you on a typical Sat night?
“These days probably home on the couch, unfortunately. But out of season, I love going out for dinner. I love, love music, whether it’s listening to a band or even going to a pub to hear a pub band. I love being social – I’m a much happier person if I’m around other people.”
Q: Congrats on the huge world championships win recently. What impact has it had on the team?
“Thanks! It’s so exciting netball is on the radar now. I’d never normally get noticed walking down the street, but recently I have been – people know my name and that I play. For me having 16,800 people there watching the final was amazing – I’m an energy person, and to feel all that collective energy there was the best thing ever. The physicality is so good, even the boys love watching it now.”
Follow Sharni on social media at @strong_chicks.
TIP: Pure Warrior Powered by Swisse™ is a new, premium and clean protein powder range developed by leading sports nutritionists and made of 100 per cent grass fed whey. It comes in five different formulations, each in chocolate or vanilla flavours: 100% WPI, Extreme Whey, Extreme Bulk, Extreme Burn, and Extreme Shape. Each formulation has just five to nine ingredients. You can find them exclusively in Chemist Warehouse stores Australia-wide.