“Failure Is Actually Okay”: What Erin Holland Learned From Her Time on SAS Australia

Instagram @erinvholland

If you’ve been glued to the TV watching the latest season of SAS Australia, you would have seen the unfortunate exit of Erin Holland. The TV presenter, singer and former Miss World Australia put her best foot forward while undertaking the gruelling tasks but wasn’t able to overcome the physical challenges.

“I’m pretty disappointed that I had to leave when I did because there were so many amazing things that I would have loved to do,” Holland told POPSUGAR Australia of her experience on SAS Australia. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I love doing a good job at the things that I do, I really hate falling short.”

While Holland might not have been able to finish her experience on the series as she would have liked to, her involvement in the series was a positive one and she walked away having learned more about herself and what she’s capable of.

“Failure is actually okay, and it probably was the biggest lesson for me in this entire thing was learning how to fail and how to be okay with it and to realise the limits and for me, it was a 91-kilo man on my back,” Holland said with a laugh.

We were lucky enough to speak with Holland about how she prepared for SAS Australia — both physically and mentally — as well as how she stays motivated in lockdown and the snack she always has in her handbag for a quick pick-me-up.

POPSUGAR Australia: We recently saw a photo of you on Instagram (below) covered in bruises after your appearance on SAS. It looked brutal! Can you tell us a little bit about how you prepared yourself physically for SAS?

Erin Holland: I had about eight weeks by the time I found that I was doing it and then I had about a week until my wedding. I thought just in case I end up looking like that photo before my wedding, I would start my intense training schedule after that.

So I had about eight weeks to really up the amount of exercise that I was doing and, to start incorporating movements into my training that would probably come up on SAS, so all like upper body movements, being able to hold your own body weight, and hangs because we’re hanging out of the helicopters or hanging off ropes.

Instagram @erinvholland

I also started to run. I really hate running, it’s my least favourite thing to do in the world and all of a sudden I’m having to run but also run with weight. I was throwing weights in a backpack and trekking around the hills of Coogee and the trails near Maroubra to try and get that cardio fitness up.

I worked with my trainer Ben Lucas, from Flow Athletic, who is amazing as well as the SAS PT Matt Gurney, who helped me find exercises that were going to target those areas of the body which we don’t usually train. I don’t usually train for endurance, I train to look good, feel good, to get my body moving every day but not as an athlete [laughs].

It was a massive change. I go to the gym every day, or I get moving every day, but you know, for 45 minutes or an hour max and now I’m having to do like three or four hours a day and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is epic’. It was all about trying to find exercises that could best imitate things I could expect in the course and then just the volume because, as I said, I like to keep fit and healthy but fit is not what I thought fit was, after doing that [laughs].

PS: Can you tell us a little bit about what your normal exercise routine looks like when you’re not training for something like SAS? How do you stay motivated, especially when in lockdown?

EH: I try to move my body every day but what I’ve learnt is not to beat myself up about the days where life just gets too busy and it’s not possible. Sleeping and eating well is just as important as training when it comes to looking after your body.

If I’ve got a really early morning shoot that goes all day, I’m not going to get up at four o’clock and say goodbye to an extra couple of hours late just in order to get it in, I’d rather that just be a rest day. Every day I can move my body, I do and the days I can’t, I don’t worry about because I’ve usually already probably gone [to the gym] five times that week.

I’m pretty good at making sure that I’m always keeping moving and it’s actually probably the pandemic that made me realise just how important daily movement was for my mental health, not even just my body, but mentally getting my head around having some sort of routine as well, which is not something that I usually have my life.

Instagram @erinvholland

I really like to train in the morning, first thing, mostly because that’s when I can fit it into my day, but I’m most motivated when I wake up. I’d say to people that are struggling to get moving every day or on a regular basis, is to try a routine where it just becomes the thing that you get up and do first thing in the morning.

If I don’t even have time to think about it, I just do it and then it’s done for the day. That’s my preferred way but I think it’s probably when lockdown started and my work was completely obliterated that I had time. But despite having the time, I was the least motivated I’d ever been.

I’m actually better when I’m busy, so structuring my days with my workouts like ‘Okay, get up, walk the dog, workout, snack, breakfast, do something else’. Planning out my day like that was the best way to stay sane and motivated, which in hindsight was amazing, because who knew I’d be signing myself up for this? [laughs].

PS: SAS is also incredibly tough mentally, as well as physically. Did you do anything to prepare mentally for the show?

EH: Luckily, I’m one of these people that doesn’t have a lot of fear and I think that’s why the story that I shared about the home invasion and break-in at Christmas time last year affected me so much because I’m such an independent person.

I moved away from home when I was 17, from Cairns to Sydney and even that in itself, you could say ‘Oh, but weren’t you scared?’ and I’m like, ‘No’. I am just a pretty fearless person in that way and resilient in that even still knowing what everyone has gone through on the show, I don’t think there’s anything that would have shaken me mentally, that I wouldn’t have been able to have attempted, it was just physically whether or not my body could keep up or finish the task.

I’m pretty disappointed that I had to leave when I did because there were so many amazing things that I would have loved to do and further challenge that idea, but in terms of mental strength, I think the number one bit of preparation I did was starting to listen to all the DS’s audiobooks because these guys have had the most incredible careers and even just getting your head around what the SA is, and what they do, what they’re expected to do, which is obviously a completely alien lifestyle to how the rest of us live.

Instagram @erinvholland

I was really disappointed when I left. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I love doing a good job at the things that I do, I really hate falling short so I think that was the hardest thing for me to deal with. My mental sort of issues, I suppose, have come actually post the course just trying to be okay with what ended up happening and just sort of accepting that.

Failure is actually okay, and it probably was the biggest lesson for me in this entire thing was learning how to fail and how to be okay with it and to realise the limits and for me, it was a 91-kilo man on my back [laughs].

PS: Going back to how you stay motivated and looking after yourself, what does your approach to food look like? How do you manage lockdown cravings?

EH: I live between Brisbane and Sydney. Last year it didn’t work out so well for me because I got locked away from my husband for five months because I was in New South Wales and he was in Queensland, but this time I actually managed to be in Queensland when, unfortunately, Sydney did go into lockdown.

Even though I haven’t been with you all for the last three months that everyone’s been locked up, the things that I learnt during all the previous lockdowns that I’d gone through that having a little a bit of a routine really helped because otherwise I just want to sit around and snack all day.

You get bored and you reach for the cupboard so I started trying to find better versions of the things that I was craving. I did a lot of cooking in the kitchen and I was trying to find healthier ways to make that brownie that I really felt like eating or that donut that I really felt like eating, healthier recipes and versions of that.

Because I am such a snacker and I always have stuff in my handbag, I fell in love with these new Krave Bars. You have to try them, they’re absolutely amazing and they’re good because they’re only like 110 calories or less in a bar so it’s a really good way to treat yourself without breaking the bank because they’re made with no artificial colours and sweeteners and flavours.

They’re made from ancient grains and whole grains so there’s some goodness in there as well as the fact that they taste like they’re an actual proper treat. I love Go Nuts For Donuts ($5) one. They hadn’t launched yet when I got to try them and I had one of each flavour and I was like ‘I’ll just have a bite of each’ and I ate all three in one sitting.

It’s just a really great snack to have when you’re at home all day or now that I am back living my best life on the outside — I’m currently up doing the cricket in Mackay at the moment for Channel 7 and they are really long days and you definitely need a pick-me-up throughout the day as the energy levels drop and you need to be really switched on and feeling good on-air so I’ve got a little stash that I keep in my bag with me all the time.

It’s a really great way to grab a sweet treat when you really feel like it but you’re still getting some goodness and something that tastes good but also feels good as well. The fudge one — Nudge to Fudge Mixed Grain Snack Bars ($5) — literally tastes like a chocolate bar and the caramel popcorn one — Caramel Pop’n Choc ($5) is amazing but the donut one I could eat all day, every day [laughs].

PS: What’s your go-to meal that you always make when you’re stuck for inspiration?

EH: I love a good stir fry. I think there are so many things that you can do with a stir fry using some sort of protein and a brown rice base or Hokkien egg noodle base. It’s so easy to make, it only takes like 10 to 15 minutes. I think the thing is when we can’t be bothered cooking and it feels like I don’t have the energy to tackle cooking and let’s order in instead, a stir fry will actually get to you quicker than any UberEats ever could.

It’s a really nice healthy way of cooking, with lots of green veggies, some sort of protein, a bit of capsicum and a bed of brown rice or some noodles. I live alone a lot of the time and Ben, my hubby, is away again for a couple of months overseas playing cricket so that’s about six months of the year that I spend by myself and cooking for one isn’t easy, but I found with stir fry, I can cook a big batch and then it’s kind of like meal prep as well so you can box it up, shove it in the freezer.

Then the next night that you don’t feel like cooking, it’s like ‘Oh there’s something in the freezer I can have’. That’s my go-to and even though I am married, I do spend a lot of time by myself so it’s nice to have those quick, easy recipes that you can knock up and then have a Krave Bar for dessert, happy days!

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