Return of the Gym

Back to the gym this week. Like many people I’ve been ridiculously glad to get back to training in a gym, with more than the couple of bits of home equipment and proper gym floors and real space to be able to move and just the hustle and bustle of a gym.

Because even if I’m doing a body weight workout or a workout with a set of dumbbells or band or studio barbell which I could technically do at home it just feels better in a gym. I feel like my workout intensity is higher, I’m more focused , I enjoy it more and leave feeling like I’ve just worked more.

Part of it is I just don’t have much space and don’t really have the flooring for high intensity workouts (the first lockdown well and truly knackered my living room carpet) but beyond that I find the act of leaving the house, walking to the gym, entering that different environment mentally prepares me for the workout. I find that I don’t have the distractions I have at home (Ohhh I really need to clean under the sofa or that lampshade is a bit dusty). There’s even a case of the strangers not paying you any attention around you providing some form of silent accountability to not give up when you start to feel tired.

For some people the convenience of working out from home have been a revelation. Classes or workouts on demand, no traveling to and from time, no having to wait for equipment. I get that but for me the atmosphere of the gym, beyond providing a wider range of equipment and possibilities, gives me a focus that I just don’t have at home.

Home workouts were a mean to an end for me personally but I’m so glad I can finally get back into an actual gym!

Being a bit unsure is normal

Bit of a random one today.

Last year I worked from home from Lockdown until around about May when we had to start opening buildings back up again, so I’m by now fully adjusted to the day to day ‘going to work’ as opposed to ‘wfh’ or furlough. For many today and the coming weeks however will be a period of readjustment as they go back into their places of work.

It sounds so straight forward and practically speaking it may well be but what I discovered upon my return to leaving the house daily last May was that several things freaked me out a bit that I didn’t really think would.

For one I forgot how tiring it can be. After sitting at the kitchen table for weeks hunched over a laptop or on my mobile phone but seeing very few people are moving only at times of planned exercise or the food shop the sudden travelling to and from work, being around people all day and interacting was much more draining than I recalled. It took a fair while to get back into a routine, for the days to feel normal and not so tiring.

I guess that’s obvious though, but there was another slightly less obvious thing I found upon my return.

Sensory Overload.

That is the overstimulation of one or more of the body’s senses (touch, sight, hearing, smell, taste).

I suffer from what you’d call generalised anxiety disorder and I often notice is that the more anxiety I am holding the more likely I am to feel some form of sensory overload. I think it’s linked to adrenaline and the flight or fight mode the body goes into, heightening senses to make you more alert to the danger it thinks is there. I tend to find noise and light the most common although I also struggle with panic in enclosed spaces, even if they’re not very enclosed at all which may be linked to touch.

So I’m not unfamiliar with sensory overload, but what I found upon returning to work after being at home alone for sometime was the unique feeling of sensory overload separate to anxiety.

After being indoors or outdoors but in limited locations travelling to work felt weird, the buildings felt huge, the lights felt blinding, people’s voices were louder and general chit chat that you get in a work environment was harder to hear as background noise and more distracting. I found the difference between my home and other places disconcerting and after interacting with so few people seeing lots of people all day overwhelming.

Sensory overload of course is tiring, therefore not shocking that the first few weeks back at work were more than a bit exhausting. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging these feelings. In fact being aware of how you feel and why can help you settle back into a routine quicker. We’re all looking forward to getting back to normal, it can therefore be confusing if as you start to get back to normal some things feel a bit odd or not great at first. Acknowledging that you need to readjust and that might take a few days can help you get back to normal quicker.

Gyms Reopen #3

Gyms open in England tomorrow.

You may be excited, nervous, feeling not quite ready. Here’s a few things to remember:

  1. Don’t expect to be where you were when you last hit the gym. For most of us you cannot replicate a gym workout at home and you’ll need to build back up your weights and what you can do.
  2. Don’t go mad. Following on from point one, resist the temptation to go crazy and push so hard you end up injured / burnt out. Remember when you first started training and how DOMS / recovery felt? You need to ease back in!
  3. You may have to be flexible. Maybe your gym has limited session times, reduced the amount of equipment to allow social distancing, requires booking. You might not be able to do everything you want, may have to switch out some exercises or equipment. Accept this might be the case, go with the flow and it’ll be less frustrating.
  4. It doesn’t matter if you’ve put weight on. Covid Handles someone referred to them as the other day. Training over Lockdowns has been tough, Lockdowns in general have been stressful. If you put weight on it doesn’t matter.
  5. Say hello to people. You know one of the things I love about gyms? They have people in them. Even training alone but surrounded by people can be motivating. A hello, a joke, a compliment from or to someone always make a training session nicer. Say hi to the staff, to the other regulars you’ve not seen in weeks, strangers.
  6. Remember beer gardens open tomorrow too so after your training sessions maybe have a beer, because a) life is all about balance and b) what’s more British than sitting in a beer garden in the sun whilst it’s also snowing!

Need a nudge getting ready to go back to the gym?

Last week my friend launched a short online course to help group exercise instructors and participants feel good about the lifting of lockdown and the return to the gym / classes.

He’s a coach and trainer who knows Group Exercise and it’s demands well.

The course is free!

What you’ll get:

  • Jump Pyramids of Priority
  • Jump 4.2 Method
  • Access to Jump Facebook Group

To get involved and start now head here:

https://www.rickylong.com/offers/LfGPYkW2/checkout

This is perfect for you if you need a bit of a nudge to get you ready for the gyms opening again in April.

Easter Eggs

Obligatory Easter post about eating at Easter.

Eat all the Ester Eggs, and don’t feel guilty etc. etc.

But what if you do feel guilty? Even if you know you shouldn’t, sometimes your emotions can over rule your brain on matters such as food.

If that is the case it can take a long time and a lot of work on your mindset to be able to eat freely and not feel the emotions that most of us attach to certain foods, a few posts of blogs or your PT telling you not to feel guilty for eating lots of chocolate at Easter won’t necessarily help.

So if you know that you want the Eggs but also know you’ll likely feel some guilt afterwards think about rationing the chocolate you may have amassed. It doesn’t all need to be eaten today or this weekend and you might find you feel mentally better if you eat it in more controlled amounts over a longer time.

That’s not to say you have to do that or should feel guilty if you don’t. But in the movement to remove guilt associated from food (all a good thing) it can be easy to forget that emotions and habits can be engrained and difficult to just shake off or change. If that is the case a strategy to allow you to enjoy your Easter Eggs without the feelings of guilt after might work better for you than just saying f**k it – even if that’s what you feel like you should be able to say.

Did you gain weight in Lockdown?

Ten reasons you might have put weight on during the Pandemic

  1. Boredom – You eat because, what else is there to do? When you can barely leave the house celebrations, treats, relaxation can all tend to be food based activities. When you’re bored, eating is something you can do, or cooking, and if you’ve cooked it you’ll eat it right? This has led to you eating more than before and more than you expend. That can lead to weight gain.
  2. You became the new Mary Berry – Tied in with number 1, I think I was the only person in the world not to bake banana bread in lockdown ‘the original’. If you managed to find some flour it was likely you baked. As above, the more you bake and then eat the more likely you are to find yourself in a calorie surplus.
  3. Comfort Eating / Stress – We’ve all been more stressed than normal this last year. For some you may eat less when stressed, but if you’re like me you’ll find yourself eating more, it’s a form of comfort eating. Eating lots of (normally) high calorie foods can be a way of trying to make yourself feel better but also a way of making it more likely you’ll be in a calorie surplus.
  4. More booze – Maybe you’re less about the food and more about the booze. Drinking from home is now the only way we can drink and another way to maybe settle the nerves and beat the boredom. But it’s cheaper than pubs and the measures are bigger so the calories can be deceptively high.
  5. Less gym / more Netflix – Gyms are closed meaning for many our normal way of training is not an option. We adapted but you may be missing aspects of your normal routine, be in variety, intensity, volume. This may mean you’re expending fewer calories. Equally, who hasn’t completed Netflix / Amazon Prime / More 4? Jesus I watched the whole series of MAFS in two weeks. With less options to go outside there is just more sitting in the day, again leaving us to burn fewer calories.
  6. Less NEAT – Which leads me to NEAT- the calories you burn when not specifically exercising. These make up the majority of your calories. Before Covid if you went to the gym there will have been the getting ready, packing a bag, walking there and back whereas now you stand up off the sofa and you’re ready to go. Before Covid you travelled to and from work, to the shops, to social occasions, you moved about without thinking about it. You may now be consciously going for a daily walk which is great, but you’re probably still moving less.
  7. WFH – No commute, no popping out for a coffee / lunch, no moving about the office / shop / restaurant. You might also find you snack more. You’re near your fridge- makes grazing so much easier. Working from home equates to moving less and possibly consuming more.
  8. Disrupted sleep patterns – Lack of sleep and weight gain tend to be a common couple. The stress of the last year and the change to our routines has affected many people’s sleep patterns. That may be affecting you’re weight.
  9. ‘The Third Lockdown Trap’ – Is it just me or did you maintain weight in the summer when you could run outside until late and the light evenings meant you wanted to train but come the winter Lockdowns you were tired by the evening and the dark made it feel later than it was and you just lost all motivation? By this time fatigue had also set in and in general I struggled so much more to want to eat well or train. The gym is a saviour in the winter because it provides the environment I need to keep me motivated. I missed that.
  10. Changes in shopping habit – You could no longer get an online shop maybe, going around a shop leads to more temptation to buy high calories foods to add to your normal diet which you may normally avoid with online shopping. The feeling that when you went shopping your should buy everything you could need for the week to avoid unessential trips so buying way too much and eating it anyway. These little changes to our habits could create a calorie surplus unwittingly.

Now I think for almost all of us this is the first Pandemic we’ve ever lived through (and going from the hording of last March most of us probably imagined living through a Pandemic would be slightly more dramatic with looting, soldiers and check points than the daily walks, Banana Bread and home workouts that it was), it’s not a shock therefore if at some point over the three lockdowns, 4 tiers and all the rules in between you’ve found the change in your daily life had led to some weight gain.

Is it a bad thing? No, there are many bigger problems of course. That being said weight change can make you feel less comfortable in your skin, less confident and if there’s one thing we do know about Covid- being fit and healthy helps reduce the chances of getting seriously ill. So you might well want to lose a bit of weight, get back into feeling fit again and that’s ok, we’re all allowed to feel our best at a certain shape / size and want to maintain that.

But there is no shame in having put on a bit of weight, it’s hardly a shock, none of us knew how to react and it’s hard to handle your emotions when faced with uncertainty and the unknown. We do know that guilt over any weight gain won’t help you however. Understanding why you may have gained the weight can help you both feel more empathy for your self (why do we always judged ourselves much more harshly than others) and also work out what we need to make the right changes to start to get back to where you’d like to be.

Are You Ready?

How ready are you for things to go back to normal?

I don’t mean physically.  There are so many posts and articles about getting gym ready, summer body ready, lockdown lifting body ready.  I mean mentally.

In the aftermath of the first Lockdown, as much as I, like evryone else, was desperate for a return to normaity, found it harder than I thought to adjust to the canges in my Lockdown routine.  I wasan’t alone at the time and I said then that, whilst we all put a lot of thought into how we would cope with Lockdown as the prospect loomed ahead of us in March, none of us thought we’d need to try hard to get back to normal.  Actually though humans tend to adapt to circumstances quite quickly as a way of surviving and it wasn’t quite as easy a transition as many of us thought.

Since then we’ve had almost constant change.   Manchester went back into Lockdown in July last year and has never really left it (we went from Local Lockdown to Tier 2, Tier 3, Lockdown, new Tier 3, Tier 4, Lockdown).  We’ve gone from beign abl to go to the pub, get out haircut, go to the gym, to going to the gym but not classes, going to the pub but onl with a meal, to not beign able to go anywhere at all.  We’ve not really been allowed to travel apart from around 6 weeks last summer.

As much as everyone is desperate to leave this never ending barage of rules it isn’t wholey surprising that this brings an element of anxiety.  In recent days I’ve seen some emotional outbursts in reaction to Covid, heard people say ‘things are changing too quickly’.  I don’t think all these people are scared of Covid or a risk of the spread 9some are of course).  I think some people are just a wee bit anxious about the chnges to a routine, which whilst mind numbing, most of us have ended up settling into to stay sane.

Much in the same way almost every PT on Instagram has said it’s ok to go back to the gym having gained weight, not lifted, not trained much and to not feel bad for it, it’s also ok to really want this to end but still feel a bit apprehensive about going back to things that were once normal but have not been for some time now, be that the office, the gym, social settings and so on.

Is Calorie Counting Restrictive?

One of the most commonly quoted objections to calorie counting is the lack of freedom, the feeling that it is a restrictive way of eating.

Yet if you eat intuitively but find yourself saying I can’t eat ‘that’ I think that’s more restrictive than tracking how many calories are in ‘that’ as you eat it.

‘That’ might be bread or pasta or ‘bad’ carbs. ‘That’ might be chocolate or cake or crisps. ‘That’ might be a takeaway or other type of junk food.

We often put lots of rules in place with our own diet, have our own ideas of what constitutes a ‘good’ diet and what is ‘bad. If we find ourselves saying we mustn’t eat certain foods or eating them and then feeling guilty that is not a non restrictive diet. Whether you track or eat intuitively if you find yourself avoiding certain things you enjoy that is still a restrictive way of eating.

In fact, if you track your calories to work towards your goal and eat all the foods you enjoy whilst doing so I’d argue that that is much less restrictive than not tracking but having a list of avoid / bad foods.

Calorie counting for all it’s apparent simplicity causes a great deal of debate amongst some people, but I think sometimes it gets a bad rap for restrictive ways of eating when it can actually be a way of eating much more freely and removing some of the guilt from eating certain foods.

Calories Counting v Intuitive Eating

I’ve written previously about intuitive eating and how I feel like you cannot eat intuitively until you understand calorie tracking. Two ever so opposite end of the scale things but they kind of work together.

I get why people don’t necessarily want to track calories. I get that for some people it could get a bit obsessive. I get that you don’t just want to make food about numbers. I get that it’s time consuming and dull. I get that there’s so much more to life than how many calories you eat and constantly thinking about what you have left in your calorie bank.

But. But but but.

If you want to lose weight… or gain weight for that matter… you have to be eating the right amount of calories compared to how many calories you expend each day / each week.

Now you might be someone who is happy with their weight. If that’s the case you probably can just eat intuitively, because what you are eating right now is keeping you where you want to be. This post is not for you!

If you want to change your weight, up or down, that indicates that what you currently eat right now either provides you with too many (if you want to lose) or not enough (if you want to gain) calories. Before you say it, yes maybe you are that rare person who is struggling because of a condition and the reason is far more complex, but harsh truth – the majority of us are not that person, the majority of us just aren’t eating the right amount for our goals.

So if you aren’t eating the right number of calories right now you can’t eat intuitively. Because to do something intuitively requires knowledge of how to do it in the first place. At work, do you do tasks you’ve done many times before instinctively, without thought- looking at a problem and knowing the issue and solution before you’ve really even thought about it? Can you answer the question before it’s even been asked because you know what they’ll ask because it’s what everyone always asks? Could you do that on your first week of the job? Of course not. You learnt your job and over time through doing your actions became more instinctive, more confident.

Same with calories. You need to understand how much of the type of foods you eat is right for you to reach your goal. To do this you need to track. The more you learn about this as you track the less you need to rely on tracking, because you can learn to start reading you own body and hunger and getting used to the right kind of portion sizes for you and your goals.

So over time you can track less, maybe just checking in occasionally to check your still in the right zone, or using it as a refocus if you’ve found yourself going a bit off track. You don’t have to commit to a lifetime of strict tracking everything that passes your lips. But to get a handle on where you are at and work out where you need to be you do need to be aware of what you are really eating, and tracking is really the only way.

If you don’t want to track you don’t have to of course, but if you’re frustrated you aren’t reaching you goals and aren’t tracking you may want to reconsider because whether you track or eat intuitively calories do count.

Cheat Meal Time

Cheat Meals. Two very emotive words that muttered on Facebook always tend to create debate and bring out two very polarised camps of people.

Generally as a PT I would fall into the don’t think on meals or days as ‘cheats’. You can manage your calories and how much you eat across a week to be able to have what society would generally deem a ‘cheat meal’ and still stay within your calorie goals and reach whatever goal you may have.

More than this, classing a meal as a ‘cheat’ can lead to you thinking of foods as good and bad can be damaging to your feelings around food. Guilt about eating a certain type of food does nothing for your mental health, how you view yourself or your eating habits in general.

Equally however it’s actually really hard not to fall in the habit of referring to foods as ‘treats’ or ‘cheats’. Personally, I know a takeaway isn’t an automatic bad thing and that actually some days I could end up eating fewer calories after a fast food meal than I would have had I made a ‘healthy’ meal. Some people do not know this. Some people might know but not be quite willing to accept it, so throw away comments about cheat meals, whilst not a big deal for me could create a bigger barrier in someone else’s mindset.

For me there are two issues relating to the idea of cheat meals. Teaching people that foods do not need to be grouped into good and bad and working on our own language and how we absent mindedly refer to food.

But there’s one more issue to add to this mix. We’ve noted a lot during the Pandemic that obesity is an issue in the UK and that it causes health issues. We’ve largely noted beyond that (unless your Boris who prefers the less educated approach) that education on nutrition and the energy balance is key to this.

Now here, at a very basic level, the good / bad food list can be useful. If you want to educate someone about the benefits of a balanced diet and the benefits of eating fresh foods then there is going to be a little bit of a good / bad rhetoric. Cheat meals are essentially the idea of people who have a relative understanding and interest in health and nutrition and would benefit from understanding the restrictions this mentality can place on you. For someone with a very limited knowledge of the energy balance equation we are essentially going back to the food pyramid which does promote an element of good / bad foods.

We need to acknowledge that yes essentially weight loss can be incredibly simple, that does not mean there are not lots of obstacles we can nee help with at various points. Sometimes the simplest things can be quite tricky.