Running and Snow

It may have escaped your attention but in many parts of the UK currently it’s pretty snowy.

Snow and ice is all well and good but if you’ve got running goals to work towards it can be a right pain in the bum. I personally have 50km left to complete before 31st December as part of a running challenge so not being able to run for multiple days is not ideal.

But the good news is you can run in snow and ice with a few adaptions and some preparation:

  1. Be prepared to adjust your route. Think about staying closer to home so if conditions change you can get back easily. Also consider finding a park or some roads that have been cleared and completing loops – boring yes but you’ll get a clearer run and if you complete laps you’ll get used to where is safe and where is slippy pretty quickly. If you lie near a gold course these are often used for sledging on snowy days (no golf) and can be good run routes too – less likely to slip on grass!
  2. Forget a PB. You’ll need to take it a bit slower, shorter stride, keep and eye out for ice patches. Focus on getting a run in instead of stats, and maybe consider reducing the mileage a bit. It might be slower but it can actually feel like hard work running in icy conditions so think of it as a different type of run, you might find you ache in different places to normal.
  3. If the snow is deep you’re less likely to slip but you’ll need to think about lifting the knees higher. It will slow you down and might make your running feel less efficient but think of it as a different type of workout. Bit like running on sand.
  4. Dress for the weather. Layers, long sleeve running tops, hats, gloves. Especially as you might be going a bit slower make sure you are warm. Of course you’ll warm up once you start moving but don’t go out in shorts and a vest! Pick the most appropriate shoes you have. Running spikes / grippers if you’ve got them would be ideal as would fell running shoes but in this country many of us won’t have spikes to hand and unless you’re a running buff likely you won’t have specific fell shoes, so trail shoes might be the next best option – something with a bit of grip! Oh, and good socks – believe me, they make the difference.
  5. Be prepared. Have your phone and cash / cards. If you slip and hurt yourself in bad weather or it suddenly worsens you’ll thank yourself. Oh and take a bloody headtorch if you’re out in the afternoon. Me and a friend went for a run the other afternoon and it went from day to pitch black in minutes- hard enough running when you can’t see normally, add in ice and ouch!
  6. Walk when you find icy patches. Turn your route into a walk / run if need be. Much better than being out for months with a broken leg.
  7. Accept you might fall over though – just don’t go hell for leather across ice and make it inevitable!
  8. Enjoy the view. Things are prettier in the snow, take time to look instead of just bombing round. It can make a run feel so much more pleasant and counteract the I hate running in these conditions feelings.
  9. If outdoor running in this weather really isn’t for you switch to a treadmill. If like me you hate treadmills with a passion try a spin class or the rower and think of it as a bit of enforced cross training.

Black Friday

Black Friday deals. A bit like the January sales, it’s only a bargain if you actually needed (or wanted it) it anyway.

Your fitness and diet regieme is a bit like that too.

A transformational plan is only transformational if it is aligned with your goals. Your goals are only really attainable if they genuinely suit your lifestyle and personality. By that I mean if you’re trying to lose weight because you think you should be a size 10, but really are pretty happy being a size 14 other than that nagging thing in your brain that tells you there’s such a thing as your ideal weight; then you’re likely to keep tripping at every hurdle, because not sticking to your plan is always going to become more appealing whenever your tempted.

A great offer on a training plan, a magical supplement, a plan everyone else is raving about is all well and good. But if it doesn’t actually suit you. If it doesn’t fit your lifestyle, or isn’t designed to get the results you actually want, it’s still not worth the money.

That doesn’t mean that plan, trainer, product is rubbish. There are lots of really great products out there that just wouldn’t suit me but I’d happily recommend to others.

Just like buying a dress that really doesn’t suit you in the sale because it’s 75% off isn’t a good deal, signing up for a diet or training plan when it’s cheap isn’t going to be successful unless it actually aligns with your life, goals and is designed to do what you actually want.

Just a little something to think about as the Black Friday / January sales start to hit the inboxes.

Scales

In the last 10 years:

I’ve weighed 15 stone and been a size 20.

I’ve weighed 15 stone and been a size 14.

I’ve weighed 14 stone and been a size 12.

I’ve weighed 13 stone and been a size 12.

I’ve weighed 11 stone and been a size 12.

I’ve weighed 10 stone ad been a size 12.

Tracking your weight on the scales on a weight loss journey is one of the most frustrating things. So many factors affect how much you weigh, and your size or inches coming off won’t always be reflected in that number. It can be disheartening and doesn’t truly reflect progress.

Ways to track your progress that aren’t scales.

  1. Clothes – how your clothes are fitting is a great indication of progress.
  2. Measure yourself- Keep track on inches lost around the waist, hips, chest, arms and thighs.
  3. Take photos- to compare where you were to where you are.
  4. Track your performance in the gym – are you lifting more or running further or faster than before.

Overall, loosing some inches or getting fitter won’t necessarily seethe number on the scale go down, but it will see you feeling more confident and energetic.

I train with the goal of still being able to move about and be active when I’m older, rather than the goal of being skinny now- a number on a plastic scale doesn’t help towards that goal at the end of the day.

Good v. Evil

Good food versus bad food is a concept fully ingrained into general diet culture. The idea that eating ‘superfoods’ ‘clean foods’ ‘good foods’ like avacados, nuts, nut butters, healthy bars are good for managing your weight whereas chocolate, burgers and pizza are going to derail your diet completely.

Yet in reality for he vast majority of us calorie consumption matters more than where those calories come from.

Yes, if you eat nothing but pizza and crisps your body composition is going to differ from someone who eats the same amount of calories but in only chicken and veg, but on the basis most of us aren’t so polar in our diet that we only eat one type of food or the other, mixing the foods you like in is going to have minimal impact.

Equally though, the calories in some of these ‘good’ foods are pretty high in comparison to the calories in ‘bad foods’. That’s particularly the case with snack type foods, where say a smoothie might seem a healthier option to a fizzy drink but is going to take up far more of your daily energy intake than a zero calorie drink will.

The key here is balance and moderation, being aware that certain foods do provide your body with more nutritional benefits but equally foods which simply taste good and you like are not going to suddenly drastically change your bodies composition.

Eating a mixture of foods you like and foods that make you feel good and energetic is going to make you feel so much better and feel much more sustainable than trying to spend you whole time attaining to a holy grail of clean eating, and actually probably have a lot less impact on your physique than you think.

Fat?

Since Lockdown I have gained about 10kg, Actually, that’s a lie, since the end of the first Lockdown I’ve gained about 10kg.

There’s lots of reasons, gym closures, changes to routine, changes to work patterns, personal things going on this year, anxiety medication changes, injuries. All in all it’s created a perfect storm where my once fluctuating but generally sitting in a quite comfortable range for me body is bigger and heavier.

In itself that doesn’t bother me. What bothers me are the changes to me shape (like around my mid section), a few new stretch marks and the fact it’s just so much harder to run when you’re carrying an extra 10kg.

I want to be body positive about this and say it’s all ok. Because if I was happy with it then it really would be. I’m by no means overweight and even though I’m not as fit as I was I’m actually still fit, healthy and strong.

But I’m not happy with where I am and admitting that doesn’t make me a feminist traitor, slave to diet culture, hypocrite or anything else. Because I believe people should be able to strive to be what they want to (within the realms of it being safe and not harmful), so if that means losing weight, then so be it, because telling people to love and accept their bodies when they aren’t happy isn’t any more liberating than feeding people diet culture.

I’m on a commitment to myself now to lose some of the weight- not all of it, I think I’d be happy a bit bigger than I was, but enough that running doesn’t feel like I’m carrying a weight vest. It isn’t all weight based though – I’m not actually bothered by the scales, I want to look in the mirror and think ‘yeah’ again rather than ‘noooo’. I also want to be able to lift what I could lift before and enter a half marathon without training knowing it will be painful but I’ll get round. Really what I’m saying is I want to feel more like me again.

I think when people talk about gaining weight or other changes and how they want to reverse that we so often prescribe the idea of it being a bit shallow to the thought, actually most of the time we’re just trying to get ourselves back after tough times and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Try Something New

Well, I managed to not write a blog post for over a month! Completely unintended, I kept thinking ‘oh I should write soemthing’ but a mixture of being ill, tired, busy and having no idea what to write all conspired to stop me! So today I decided to follow the idea that you should juts write about what’s happened in your day.

Yesterday I taught two HIIT classes.  I really like HIIT.  It’s my own class so I can play around with the format to keep it interesting and make the focus whatever I want.  I tend to keep 80% of the class weight based with a  little cardio  and core added in. 

The thing I like about teaching HIIT the most is that, for a class that sounds and looks scary at first glance, it can actually be really inclusive.  You’re working to your maximum effort, with weights challenging to you, you want to get to that point where you need a rest- that’s not a failure.  Understanding these points as a participant can be freeing and allow you to just go for it the best you can, without fearing comparison judgement.   

There’s also something liberating and great for people’s confidence when they complete a tough class where they felt challenged.  Over the weeks I love watching people improve in technique, start to push their weight selection and best of all look so much more confident in their own ability, enjoying the feeling of being challenged and not shying away from it because they’ve gained that confidence that they can do more than they first thought.

I also love how with these classes I can go round and coach people and give them advice personal to them, making the workout suit their needs.  Classes where everything is strictly coordinated are great but sometimes that limits the time you can spend really connecting with the peole in frnt of you.

As an instructor this is one of the most rewarding parts of the job for me, seeing people feel good during and at the end of a workout, setting up frot he class with confidence because they know what they’re doing when they were really nervous the first time they attended.  This is what exercise should be about, doing things that leave you feeling positive even if they’re challneging at the time.

If you’d like to try a class but you’re worried it looks to advanced or you couldn’t keep up just go and give it a go.  There are always multiple options and modifications in any class and instructors are there to help you adapt things as needed to enjoy the class.  Often the class might look intimidating because of the loud music, fast pace and regulars knowing the normal format so looking like they know what’s coming (which is intimidating when you’re not sure) but if you relax and go with the flow you’ll find it’s nowhere near as scary as it first seemed.

TW

I’m in a Facebook group that in essence styles itself on being a supportive and non judgmental space. A lot of the posts start with TW (Trigger Warning).

Personally I always found this a little off, I mean I get why people do it and it obviously comes from a good place, and god knows there are subjects out there that trigger me. I equally feel however that we can’t completely avoid things in real life, you are going to come across things that can unsettle you. Whilst being to walk away from things that trigger a trauma response in you is always an option (and therefore I do see the value of someone saying something could be a trigger for others), even that could trigger a response, therefore being able to handle and process that feeling is important. This is especially the case because in reality you can’t always avoid certain things, people who don’t know your background will say things unaware, you will come into contact with strangers etc.

Anyway beyond that what happened this week is someone posted something and someone else said you should have put a TW on that and that person said no why should I and it essentially escalated into a sh**t storm of people saying how terrible she was and others saying how ridiculous it was that people couldn’t accept that some things on the internet might trigger them and they needed to work on internal responses and not rely on others to keep them safe.

Essentially what it showed me was what I’d kind of thought about this page for a long time. People like being in a supportive, non judgmental group when everyone has the same opinion as them and they get backed up by an echo chamber of support. That non judgmental stance becomes a lot harder when people don’t agree with you.

For instance, one person had posted they had put weight on over lockdown and it had knocked their confidence so they wanted to lose it but were struggling to get back into the gym (I thought god that sounds familiar lol). The first four of five responses were all along the lines of ‘don’t focus on your weight, think about fitness benefits not your size or shape.’

Now to be fair this page is big on anti diet culture, fitness for feeling good and strong, not being thin or fitting societal norms and being allowed to decide what you look like and what feels good for yourself.

Absolutely cracking- I am all about that. But excuse me one moment, this person said they currently DO NOT FEEL GOOD IN THEMSELVES. So hang on, if you aren’t stick thin and don’t want to be and want to stay as you are you are all about empowerment and should be celebrated because everyone has the right to feel good in whatever way they want to (no disagreement here by the way) BUT if you want to change your shape and lose a bit of weight to feel good in yourself suddenly you don’t have that right to decide what feels good for you?

It’s like we just can’t get the balance right. Of course for so many years women in particular have been told what they should look like, sound like, act like, hence the movements for women to be accepted for how they re and not judged or shamed into being, acting or looking a certain way. In doing so though, it feels like sometimes we’ve gone to far the other way, so now if a women does actually want to do something that previously would have been deemed a norm for women (lose weight being the big one here) they are now classed as some form of traitor to the cause and instead should change their wants and desires to fit more in with a new narrative.

Isn’t that just doing the same thing to people though? Telling them they should now think and feel a certain way instead of the previous way, but still imposing ideals on them? I feel like the idea of a non judgmental space is you have your view, someone else has theirs, and unless they are racists, sexist, violent, oppressive or dangerous views you just accept that they re different to yours.

I guess I feel like this week has shown me that as much as we all think we are progressive and open minded, in reality we tend to surround ourselves with like minded people so that ideal of no judgment rarely gets the chance to be challenged but actually confronting views that drastically differ from our own and learning how to disagree without throwing a hissy fit, telling the other person exactly why they are wrong or getting upset because they unwittingly said something that triggers you.

All we really need to know is it is true that you should not do anything because you feel like you have to. That includes losing weight, but that equally means if you want to lose weight you can. If you want to count calories you can, whatever the anti calorie tracking movement says!

How much damage did you do this weekend?

It’s generally accepted now that to lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit, but how often do your weekends derail your progress?

The thing is that you could be in a deficit all week but if you go too big on the weekend that will all go to waste.

If you eat a salad one day you aren’t going to immediately lose a stone or if you eat a massive cake one day you aren’t immediately going to gain weight.  Your body doesn’t reset every day and bank a deficit or surplus, your energy levels are a continuous thing.  This is why coaches will often suggest clients track across a week rather than day by day.  Not only does it allow for flexibility, as some days your plans may mean you’re going to eat more and others less, it also helps adjust your mindset to avoid panicking after a big calorie day or going mad after a low calorie day because you need to ‘reset’ or because ‘you deserve it’.

So say you calculate your TDEE IS 2,500 a day so you want to eat 2,000 a day to be in a 20% deficit.  That’s creating a deficit of 3,500 calories across the week.

You do really well Monday to Friday and actually only eat 1,800 each day so you’ve built that deficit of 3,500 calories already.

But then on Saturday and Sunday you eat 4,000 calories each day,  you did well all week and deserve it right?  Only thing is that’s 3,000 calories more than your TDEE across two days, 4,000 calories more than your goal to remain in a deficit. 

And there we have it- your surplus over the weekend has suddenly cancelled out your deficit from the week.  Do that every week and you might not put weight on because you’re pretty much coming out even but you’ll struggle to lose weight.

So the solution?  Well you don’t need to not eat more at the weekend, I think naturally we all do (or at least all of us who work Monday to Friday tend to).  What you can do is be more mindful.  Keep track of the calories, make sensible choices where you can to avoid unnecessary calories (do you really need a full fat mixer when a no calorie one is available?)  By not letting the weekend be a crazy ‘time off from tracking’ you will probably find you end up consuming less just by being more aware. 

So now if you’re back in that same situation above and you’ve hit a deficit of 3,500 Monday to Friday you still have an extra 1,000 calories to play with at the weekend whilst remaining in a deficit, so you could actually have 2,500 calories each day and still hit your target.

Or you could even reduce your deficit target to 10% for those two days, then you’d have 2,750 calories each day to play with.

Or you could even aim for 10% deficit across the whole week.  Now the same Monday to Friday would leave you a whopping 6,750 calories for your weekend to remain in a (smaller) deficit.  Slower progress but you would still see progress.  

The point being whilst YOLO is a tempting attitude for your weekends or any time off if you really do want to make changes to your body you need to understand how being really good in the week doesn’t automatically counteract a crazy weekend.  It can certainly be used as a tool to help balance out your energy deficit, but if complete abandon is applied and you find you frequently aren’t getting the results you want a little more awareness could be your first step in changing that.

I’m Back!

This week, after a break over the summer due to personal reasons, I’ve come back to my full Group Exercise teaching schedule (around my day job so not actual full time teaching).

Immediately after my first class I remembered how much I love teaching and classes. Do I feel like I need to get fitter still- yes, did that matter much? Not at all. The connection with people and being able to coach and encourage people to feel like they worked hard and enjoyed it makes it one of the best jobs you can do. My favourite feedback was that was hard but I enjoyed it, because that’s exactly how it should be, we aren’t training for the Olympics so it should be enjoyable and make you feel good (even if at the time you’re swearing under your breath!).

What I also realised is I’m effectively starting back and with that need to take my own advice and ease myself in. I need to teach all my classes of course so I can’t just do a couple this wee and build up (or leave early) as members can. What I can do is plan my week accordingly. As such I made sure at the weekend that I’d done a food shop, meal prepped, got clothes ready for the week. I’ve kept my diary as clear as possible so in between work and classes I can chill and recover as I knew I’d be more tired than usual this week.

Sometimes you need to acknowledge how much you can reasonably take on and succeed with and whilst it’s good to challenge yourself, doing so to a degree where you’re likely to feel rubbish or like you’ve achieved nothing because you burnt yourself out is counter productive.

Five Truths I Think All Women Should Know

  1. It’s normal to poo more when you’re on your period- prostaglandins are chemicals which simulate the muscle in your uterus to help it contract and shed it’s lining (hello cramps) – the increase of prostaglandins can have a similar effect of other muscles such as your bowel, hence the need to poo more often during your time of the month.
  2. Period stigma is still a thing.  As much as we live in a much more open society these days (at least in the UK) it’s normal for people to refer to periods by euphemisms, hide taking a tampon or towel to the toilet and keep the symptoms to themselves, largely because we’ve all had the ‘time of the month’ or ‘too much information’ comments and generally people can still feel uncomfortable talking about them.
  3. When you have your smear test you can ask for them to use a smaller speculum, which may be more comfortable (especially if you get tense during smears due to nerves).  The option isn’t normally offered in my experience, but the nurse is normally fine with it if you ask.
  4. Detoxing isn’t a thing.  Your liver does a pretty good job at helping your body detoxing and beats any juice, pill or fast out there.  Of course not over eating, smoking or drinking too much can help the body maintain it’s best condition.
  5. Loose skin and stretch marks are normal.  Whilst most of us know that having a baby or dramatic weight loss can cause stretch marks and loose skin, in actual fact most of us have stretch marks and as we get older and skin loses a bit of elasticity looser skin is also quite common, even though most of us feel like we’re the only one when we look at others (we always tend to judge ourselves more harshly).