Interview: The very sassy Project Hot Bitch

This week I had a lovely breakfast date with the wonderful Carly Wilko AKA Project Hot Bitch. She is a health & fitness blogger and influencer, a body-positive feminist and advocate for realistic health and fitness for women. She’s even a fledgling public speaker.

Carly moved to Bristol in 2016, after 10 years in London, and qualified as a fitness instructor in 2017. Recently named as one of four “Badass fit women on Instagram right now” by online magazine Dose she is a veritable tour de force who is keeping it real (and sassy) in the sometimes crazy world of fitness. Here’s what she had to say:

Tell us a bit about you and how Project Hot Bitch began?

Project HB started in 2013 but it wasn’t Project HB when it started, it was just me going to the gym and going to classes because I hated where I lived. I had been online dating for 6 or 7 years and was constantly looking for the one and it was really eroding my confidence and I just wanted to get out of myself.

I thought, if I go to the gym or a class every night then I’m moving my body and I’m switching off my brain. So that’s what I did for about 5 weeks and then after that I realised I was feeling more energised and more confident. I started talking about it and writing the blog, people got in touch and were interested and it kind of went from there really.

Did you find that lots of people could identify with you?

Yes, as time went on, but in the beginning it was more me identifying with other people and asking them what they had done and how they had done it. Then after about 9 months, people started to get in touch with me, and I thought “maybe I’ve created something here”. I was quite uncomfortable with that though because even to this day I’m quite an introvert and very shy. When people got in touch I would think “surely you don’t mean me!”

In your classes you are definitely not shy!

Yes, for me the classes are a way to be who I wish I was. So for an hour I’m up there and I get to be the person I’m too scared to be most of the time. This has actually helped me in my real life. I’ve realised I can try and be a bit more brave and confident when I’m not teaching too.

As I began to do the blog, younger women in particular were looking at what I was doing and getting inspired. I feel like I owe it to those 19 year old girls who are also unconfident to say “do you know what, I’m just the same and you can do this”.

When you started out, did you think that you might be a qualified PT one day?

Not at all. I started in March (2013) and I went to a talk in October about how to run your own yoga studio and I sat there for the whole day feeling so inspired and excited. I just felt like I really wanted to do something. Fast forward 3 years and I’d been to so many classes that I started to think how classes could be improved if they did this or that. Then I thought, if I teach them myself I can do it how I like!

How would you describe yourself?

I’m quite a shy person. Full of self doubt and anxiousness all the time. I have anxiety which comes in bouts but the older I get the more I am comfortable in my own skin.

I think I’m a loyal, friendly, quiet person. I can definitely adapt to what the situation needs to be but inside my heart is thumping really loudly if I have to be loud or brave.

You are quite different to a lot of the fitness bloggers out there in that you aren’t all about having perfect abs.

Definitely, I started out punishing myself thinking “how can I look like that”? But then I began to feel healthy and happy and got to a place where my fitness should be and came out the other side.

What do you love about your job?

So, the other day a lady said in class “I can’t wait till next week because I’m stuck at home all week. This is the highlight of my week.” I nearly burst into tears because I just thought I’m responsible for making that hour really good. That feels absolutely amazing.

Yesterday I taught a class and a girl at the back in the corner just had a smile on her face the whole time. It’s not that I’m looking for positive reinforcement as it’s about everyone who is there (in the class) but just knowing that I’m having a positive impact and making someone move in a way that makes them feel good about themselves just makes my heart explode. I’m so happy to be able to bring that to people.

What’s your favourite place to go out for brunch/lunch in Bristol?

I have brought you here! Spicer+Cole is brilliant. It’s a really lovely place and such friendly people. It was the first place me and my husband came to when we were looking around Bristol and we just thought, yeah we love it here! I have been here in Bristol for almost a year and because I am so shy I go about 500 m from my house in any direction!

Apart from your classes?

Yes apart from my classes which really stresses me out as they are REALLY far away! I’m not very good with directions. I always get lost.

Do you go everywhere on your bike?

Yes everywhere!

Spicer+Cole, Queen Square

What’s your fitness routine?

It’s completely changed in the last two months because now I’m teaching. After I’ve taught all my own classes I’m absolutely exhausted and I’ve barely got any time for anything else.

I try to get my own exercise in on a Monday lunch time and a Thursday afternoon. I teach on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and I take part in about 75% of the classes.

Yes you really do get involved!

Yes I do with Jumpfit definitely and then with my Saturday morning class (Sweat, Stretch and Glow at Sweaty Betty’s). It’s such a small space I kind of have to and also the words don’t come out fast enough so I find it easier just to show people! But it’s nice because I teach such a mixture of things so I do get that variety.

It’s important to get some yoga in as well. My body says “why don’t you do this more” when I do it.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to get back into fitness but feels lacking in confidence and motivation?

A few things. If you pay for a class before you have time to think about it and you know that you’ll lose that money if you don’t turn up, that’s quite a good motivator. This really worked for me when I was in London because you pay £20 for a class, so if you don’t get up and go that’s a lot of money to lose. So, book expensive classes and you will damn well turn up! That’s my advice!

If you can, take a friend. Find someone who is going to motivate you as well.

Book into a course so you have to go more than once and do it when you’re feeling like “I really should do this” and just do it.

Like you did when you started out with your fitness in London?

Yes I booked into a 10 class course which I think was about £150 and then after about 3 or 4 classes I realised wow I really need this.

What would your perfect day in Bristol look like?

I love napping so it would definitely involve a nap! My hubby is really active so we spend a lot of time doing a thousand things. But actually sitting in the park, with him, the paper, a really nice coffee and a piece of cake, just enjoying chatting and watching the world go by and laughing at the seagulls. I used to have a problem with the pigeons in London but now they seem so cute and small compared to the seagulls in Bristol!

Maybe I might have started the day with some exercise but actually just a day of rest and napping in the sunshine is lovely. Properly relaxing and getting that balance back.

I really recommend Project HB’s classes. She is so enthusiastic and encouraging. The fitness industry can sometimes seem really focussed on achieving the perfect body at whatever cost. Project HB is a breath of fresh air. She is proof that regular exercise should be fun and it can really boost your self esteem.

You can find out more about Project HB and the classes she runs here: