Why I Run

Over recent years I’ve entered a lot of races.  10k, half marathons , even a marathon.  People always ask why.  There is one simple answer.

For the goodie bag.

That’s partly a joke – I like the support from the crowd and the variety in the route which makes running a long distance more palatable than just plodding down the same cycle route or park that I normally run in.

But essentially getting some food and a t shirt at the end is an incentive for me (want to be my friend- I’m very food motivated)!

I have a friend who literally runs for medals- she picks races based on what the medals are like!

I have another friend who does endurance events almost purely just to see how far they can push themselves.

In all our cases the event itself, location, the time we might get, our likely finishing place are almost irrelevant factors in our decision to take part.

Our motivation for doing incredibly challenging things doesn’t always have to be a story worthy of it’s own background music on a Britain’s Got Talent audition.

Do you struggle to set yourself a fitness goal?  Is that because you can’t think of that thing that sets your soul on fire and when people ask you about it you can give a long inspirational speech about how an angel came to you one night and told you that you were destined to do this thing?  Do you have something you’d quite like to try for whatever reason but that reason seems a bit superficial, silly even?

I run for goodie bags.  You can do literally anything you want for any reason you want!

Sleep Struggles

Recently I traveled to Scotland from Manchester twice in four days.  14 hours on trains in total with two 3am wake ups.  In between I was obviously in Scotland for specific events so was busy all day meaning I got very little rest across the week.  That week I didn’t train.  Now to be transparent I had also been ill in the run up to these trips and was still poorly during them so the travelling in itself wasn’t the only reason for my lack of training – one day I really could barely move so wouldn’t have been able to train regardless!  Had I been healthy however I can say with confidence that I probably still wouldn’t have trained because across the week these two journeys meant I didn’t get as much sleep as normal, my sleep patterns were disrupted and the travel made me more fatigued than normal.

Disrupted sleep patterns and lack of sleep over time can affect your training regime.

Chances are when you’re tired (to be differentiated with fatigued because you are ill) you will still manage to get through work and all the absolute essential tasks but training will often be one of the first things to be dropped.  If you do manage to get to the gym the chances of a positive training session are less likely.

Enough sleep and a regular sleep routine are essential to a strong training routine.

Studies with groups of athletes have found that when test subjects increased the amount of sleep they had over a three week period the subjects saw marked improvement in performance (speed for example), endurance levels, lower heartrates during exercise and a reported feeling of having had a better workout.

If you flip this study it is reasonable to conclude therefore that lack of, or poor quality seep could have the opposite effect.  If nothing else having less energy is likely to mean you have less to give when your train and so have a lower intensity workout.

In addition rest allows your body time to recover from workouts and aids muscle repair and growth.  A lack of sleep has also been found to be linked with increased cravings and increased appetite therefore your diet may be start to be affected by poor sleep patterns over a long period of time.

Some weeks a disrupted sleep pattern can’t be helped and short term a week of less sleep will have limited impact on you and your training but it’s useful to be have good habits most of the time  surrounding your sleep (Doctors call this sleep hygiene).

Try to go to bed around the same time every night / wake up at the same time each morning

Studies suggest that having a regular bed time ad wake up time assist in a good night sleep.

Have a night time routine

A set routine sends signals to your brain that it’s time to start switching off ready for sleep, meaning you may find it easier to get to sleep once you get into bed.

Turn off electronic devices

Not looking at the bright lights of your phone / the TV for about an hour before bed will help your brain wind down ready for sleep.

Track your sleep

There are free apps which will monitor your sleep cycles and help you wake up at the best time within a sleep cycle as close to when you need to get up as possible.  This can make you feel much better rested than a sharp alarm first thing does.

Track your habits

Keeping a track of when you last had coffee before bed, exercised before bed, your mood and then how you slept can help you identify patterns and establish whether a specific action negatively affects your sleep, allowing you to make adjustments to improve your sleep.

Don’t make up for lost sleep

It’s tempting to have a lie in to make up for some short night sleep in the week but this has been shown to make you feel worse longer term.  A nap in the day may be more beneficial than having a long lie in.

How Strict Do I Need To Be?

I’m a fan of a relaxed Paleo diet- if calorie tracking doesn’t work for you a four day on three day off ‘paleoish’ diet can be a good way of managing calories without counting.

When people start Paleo for the first time the most common question asked is …

Can I … [insert hack here]

Can I have almond milk in coffee?

Can I have nut butters?

Can I have fruit and nut based bars?

My answer is always well technically if you were to follow Paleo strictly no, but as we are looking at a Paleo based way of eating then yes if it makes you happy and enjoy your food.

Essentially you have two choices when you elect to do a method of eating such as this.

Either do it as it is prescribed.

Or roughly follow it but add in a few of your own rules.

Neither is the right or wrong way (and there are so many variations in between).

The choice on how you approach it depends on what you want from your diet.

If you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to kick start a bit of fat loss, well to be honest the more strict you are with the bigger results you’ll see.  And yes, you might really crave pancakes for breakfast for two weeks, but it is just two weeks so just abstaining for fourteen days won’t kill you.

On the other hand if you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to just re-set some habits or if you’re planning on doing Paleo as a longer term way of eating then having a few ‘adjustments’ to the rules might well serve you better.

Equally if you know you won’t last two weeks without a few tweaks there is not point setting yourself up for failure by not making those tweaks.  80% is always going to be more effective than 100% saint for ten minutes before giving up will be!

Hopefully by now you know there’s no right or wrong way of eating – the way that suits you won’t suit everyone else, so it stands to reason that the decision of how closely you stick to something also needs to be personal to you.

Social media is awash these days with judgement over food.  I’m in one particular group where people defend their way of eating (Keto, IM Fasting, plant based) with zeal and lament anyone who doesn’t do the same as them or doesn’t follow that particular diet in exactly the same way as them (who doesn’t love a they’re doing it wrong post).  Don’t get me wrong there are times when I see things and think OK- perhaps you’re over complicating this or hmmm, I think you’re looking in the wrong place for the problem here; but actually if it suits them and makes them happy and isn’t a diet of cyanide that is going to kill them then it’s none of my business.  You can offer educated advice but you have no out and out right to be heard.

I digress – how strict you follow a food plan should depend on your goals and how you feel.

My general rule of how to decide what’s right for you.  Think about making those little adjustments – does the idea of adding a bit of flour to some pancakes for breakfast make you smile and really look forward to that meal when you wake up tomorrow or are you already feeling guilty about ‘breaking the rules’ before you’ve even done it?  That normally gives you a decent idea of which way will work best for you, because if what you eat makes you feel guilty after eating it that’s not going to lead anywhere pleasant.

This outlook can be expanded beyond Paleo to any way of eating, way of training, in fact way of living.

Does what you are doing make you happy.  Yes – keep doing it then.  No – maybe you need to make some adjustments to change that.

Will adjusting the training plan you’ve been given make you feel like you’ve ruined your workout or will swapping those sprints out for a row make you feel 100% more successful.  Depending on your answer to those questions you have your answer as to whether you should follow the ‘rules’ to the letter or not.

What kind of person are you?  If you feel guilty when you bend a rule then stick to them and don’t make yourself feel guilty.

What result do you want?  If you are looking to get very specific results then following a plan very precisely matters, if you are looking to feel better but have more relaxed goals then you can equally follow guidelines in a more relaxed manner.

The key is knowing yourself and knowing your goals then being honest about what you need to do, sacrifice or change and for how long to get to those goals.

Because if you want transformational results on a fitness plan but are only wanting to follow the plan 50% of the time you’re going to be disappointed, but if you know what you want isn’t as dramatic then the changes don’t have to be so dramatic either.  Neither of those extremes are wrong, they are entirely personal and in reality the only person you need to be able to justify yourself to is you.

I’m not saying join a programme and don’t do it here!  What I’m saying is very few of us can do everything 100% perfectly for even a short period of time (well I say very few of us , perhaps others can and I’m just trying to make myself feel better!) so knowing your own expectations of yourself, what will feel like success to you and then working to that level is the key to success.

If you have high expectations cool- but know you’re going to have to be stricter on yourself to reach them, in that case looking for the hacks and quick cheats won’t serve you.  The opposite applies just as much.

Pick your stance, work to that stance and don’t be swayed by what others are or aren’t doing.

The Point Here Is Right At The End

The number of views and amount of feedback I’ve had from recent blogs has made me smile.  What started as a personal blog, which I pretty much assumed nobody would ever read 18 months ago has turned into a blog that has over 250 regular followers and has been viewed almost 6,000 times.  Those figures might not be impressive in comparison to many blogs, but from my initial goal of just writing stuff for me to that is a big personal leap.  My more recent personal venture is a spin of podcast.  On episode 2 I’ve so far had a total of 36 listens from 18 people (for those who listens in installments it’s true I’m best in small doses!).  Those numbers again, aren’t going to break any records, but I’m really happy with them.

I was talking with a friend about a specific comment form I’d received on my blog last night which had been rather positive, and they said this.

“That comment wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t written the 50 odd blog posts before that one.”

I read a similar comment from the online PT James Smith recently about his daily emails – which for a long time didn’t generate him one single sale, but he persisted with the regardless (and I bet he’s glad he did now).

And that’s what today’s post is about.

My first couple of blog posts were read by nobody, unless you count the handful of people I’d made follow me and read.

The next handful of blogs were read by nobody again.

Eventually after a few more posts someone outside the group of people I forced to read them read one.

The numbers stayed at the audience of one for a while.  Then it became two, then three.

For months and months and months I wrote blog after blog for an audience that didn’t make double digits.

But I carried on writing.  They make me no money.  It’s purely a labour of love.  I actually enjoyed writing them and I was happy if one person read and found it useful or read and enjoyed.  The focus of the blogs changed from online diary to aiming to provide some use to the handful of readers I had.  I probably got better at writing and better at picking topics, the first few times you do anything are normally a bit rubbish.

One day I looked and I had close to a hundred followers.  From there growth sped up.  From there people started to interact.  What the blog is now is more than I aspired for it to be.

But if I had stopped writing after the first few posts because nobody ever read them it wouldn’t now be the project it is.  I had to keep writing to an imaginary audience in order to get a real audience.  That’s why I will persist with the podcast, as that audience of 18 may not put me on the apple top ten list, but if I stop because of that I’ve no chance of growing my audience, if I continue, it will take time but if I work hard it could well grow.

Of course it helps that I’m passionate about my topic.  Sticking with something you care about is a hell of a lot easier that grafting at something you don’t feel a fire for.

Your fitness goals are like this.  Well in fact all your goals are like this, but this I a fitness based blog so let’s focus on this.  When you start going to the gym will you be able to lift well, will you be able to lift heavy?  On day one – nope, day two- nope, day three- sorry still nope.

Now if you give up because you’re clearly just crap at this you will remain as you are forever.

But, if you keep going eventually you will see improvement.  That may take days, it may take weeks, it may take months.  The improvement will probably hit you in the face out of the blue- you won’t have seen it coming, but at that point you can look back at all the gym sessions where you felt no progress was being made and know that those sessions were the foundation your success is built on.

But it’s like I said about my blog.  The time it took to grow didn’t matter because I liked writing anyway- people actually reading them is a really nice bonus.

So you want to find something that you enjoy.  If lifting fills you with dread try a class, if you hate running but love swimming why would you buy those running trainers?  Because if you can embrace the times when you start out and aren’t amazing you will improve without even noticing it because you’re just enjoying what your doing.

I think James Smith called it “Falling in Love with the Process”.  If you can do that it makes personal growth a fair bit easier.

And if you can’t do that, well then simply don’t give up when things don’t happen for you straight away, because you aren’t a toddler and throwing a tantrum won’t get you results, consistency and sticking to something may well do.

5 Reasons Group Ex Instructors should consider signing up to Jump 4.2

Hello!

So today’s blog is actually a video. If you follow my blog you know I’ve been blogging about my progress on the fitness nutrition and mindset programme Jump 4.2. This is a bit of a follow up to that where I explain 5 reasons why any group ex instructors or regular participants who train a lot but aren’t getting the results they want should consider doing Jump.

I’m not your traditional advert for a fitness programme. I haven’t had a massive physical transformation in 8 weeks – I haven’t developed a six-pack. What I have gained from working with Ricky is a healthy relationship with food, my training and my own head. I can have weeks where I eat too much and don’t train of course, but now I can deal with them – they don’t derail my progress or make me feel like I need to start again. I know what I can achieve if I want to get super lean, equally I know where my happy place is where I’m fit, healthy and able to enjoy life.

I think that’s what most of us really want. Most of us don’t want to give up cake and cocktails or spend hours in the gym in exchange for abs- we just want to feel good whilst still enjoying our favourite indulgences. If that’s you then I’m the proof that Jump 4.2 works – I’m the most boring yet honest advertisement going!

The last intake in 2019 opens on 1st September. If you are interested and have any questions you can contact me on instagram DM @heather.sherwood or Ricky Long @rickylong42 or @jump4.2.

I have a couple of discount codes for 15% off – if you would like to sign up with a discount drop me a message.

Anyway – here’s my video!

Jump 4.2 Video

New to Body Pump? Tips!

New to Body Pump?

Classes with lots of equipment can seem scary, but Pump is a great way to introduce weights based training into your routine with the added benefit of having an instructor there to help you get the hang of the moves.

So this is my ‘what you need to know’ guide to taking your first Body Pump class:

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes early and introduce yourself to the instructor so they can help you set up and so they know that you are new. This can help them tailor their teaching, ensuring you have a good first class.
  • Stick with light weights for your first couple of classes and concentrate on getting the hang of the tempos and the moves. Body Pump works because you are doing large numbers of reps, so whilst you want to use a challenging weight eventually, it’s ok to start off light – 3.75kg each side might be a good starting point for most and allow you to work on technique as a priority.
  • The instructor will give you a guide of what to put on the bar at the start of each track (e.g. double the weight, take 1/3 off etc.). Listen carefully to this – they will normally give two options – one for regulars, one for new people but do not be afraid to stick with the same weight all the way through on your first class.
  • We will also tell you what else you need for the class – for instance you might need a separate weight plate not on your bar.  You’ll be tired in between tracks but try and listen and get the equipment advised close to hand – if you have to go hunting for a weight plate half way through a track you miss reps and will get stressed (not what anyone wants for your first class!)
  • The structure of every class will always be one of these – where ever you go, whoever teaches:

60 minutes

  1. Warm up
  2. Squats
  3. Chest
  4. Back
  5. Triceps
  6. Biceps
  7. Lunges
  8. Shoulders
  9. Core
  10. Cool down

45 minutes 

  1. Warm up
  2. Squats
  3. Chest
  4. Back
  5. Lunges OR Tricep / Bicep Combo
  6. Shoulders OR Lunges / Shoulders Combo
  7. Core
  8. Cool down

30 minutes

  • Warm up
  • Squats
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Core

So when the whole class looks like they know what is coming they do for a reason- and after a couple of classes you will too!

  • Talking of continuity – we get a ‘new release’ every 3 months. So at that point, every instructor will teach this new set of tracks for 4-6 weeks. That is why when you do your first class some people will look like they know what is coming – they have probably done the track lots of times before! After about 6 weeks, the instructor will probably start to ‘mix’. This means they will bring back some older tracks to keep things interesting and keep your body reacting well to the class.
  • As a new member, you can take advantage of something called Smart Start. This means that if you want to try a few tracks (we suggest up to the back track) and then leave you can do. Leave your stuff out and the instructor will put it away at the end of class. Then next week you can stay for a couple of extra tracks, and a few more the week after until you can do a whole class. This is optional and you can stay for the whole class if you want, but it does provide an option to try the class out and build up week by week if you are new to exercise or unsure about being able to do a whole hour.
  • With Body Pump your technique is more important than weight so don’t worry too much at first about what you are lifting – instead work on getting the moves. Doing them well will bring better results than just picking up a heavier bar!
  • The tempo is also really important in Body Pump. You will hear the instructor ask you to move at different tempos (3/1, 2/2, bottom half pulses). These aren’t just to make it more interesting. The different tempos help to work different muscle fibres and maximise your results so try to work with the instructors pace.
  • You aren’t moving or jumping (well occasionally you might be jumping but rarely!) but you will sweat and you will get out of breathe. Don’t worry about this or think it means you’re unfit.  Body Pump will burn calories as well as shaping your body.  You’ll notice the instructor will be sweaty and out of breath by the end of the class too!
  • Don’t be worried if you wake up the next day and climbing the stairs or tying your hair back hurts! This is your body reacting to new training and will pass in a few days. After a few classes your body will take less time to recover!
  • If you have done weights in the gym before you may be confused by a couple of the moves we do in Body Pump! Be aware that some moves (Deadlifts for instance) are modified for the studio environment. This is for safety reasons as a) we move at a fast tempo and b) the instructor needs to make sure a large group of people are all moving safely.  You can do both sorts of training, they both have their on benefits and it doesn’t need to be one way of the other.

I hope that the above tips have made the idea of trying a class less daunting! If you do decide to give the class a go, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Jump 4.2 – Week 8

I’ve been AWOL for the last week, rather busy between a mixture of work and personal stuff, and I started writing this blog last Thursday but then never got round to finishing it.  I could have finished it if I’m honest, it’s just that in the grand scheme of things a few other things were more urgent.

So I guess that’s the lesson for me on week 8 of Jump 4.2; time management, priorities and allowing things to slide occasionally.

As a PA / administrator I would like to say I am pretty organised and hitting deadlines is vital for me to be good at my job, this blog would suggest otherwise perhaps, BUT another thing that is vital is knowing how to prioritise your work and getting the most important things done first.

A heavy workload last week, along with a spa afternoon booked in and mum mum visiting for the weekend meant I was a bit limited on time to do things I enjoy but aren’t money earners (like this blog) or non negotiable appointments (my mum, the spa).  So I accepted that some things I wanted to get done but which weren’t essential needed to be put on the back burner.

The thing is (and we all do it) it is easy to get caught up in the tasks we enjoy or feel comfortable with, but sometimes we need to be strict with our own time management to be more productive and serve our self the best we can.  Your priorities will constantly evolve so just being aware of what you need to do compared to what you’d do in a ideal world is the best thing you can do to stay organised.

By organised I actually mean sane.  When you don’t feel on top of your to do list (at work or at home) it’s difficult to feel good within yourself as stress levels rise and self care may begin to slip.  Can you always be on top of your to do list though?  Unless your superwoman/man probably not.  So as much as planning and sticking to your plan is important, part of time management in itself is knowing when to put something on the back burner for a bit, so you can get the important stuff done and feel positive rather than like a failure.

So what did I do in week 8 of Jump?  Well I stayed aware of my calorie intake even though I wasn’t actively aiming for a deficit, I stuck to lots of positive habits most days, I barely trained but decided around Wednesday that I’d accept that because I was actually a bit tired and felt like I needed a rest.  Oh and I had a massage!  That’s not sticking to Jump 100% but it’s not a bad week either.

What I’ve learnt over the eight weeks is more important than what I’ve done this last week.  What I have learnt is to be a bit more pragmatic about my diet and training.  Accept I’m in control of it, but it will still never be perfect because I’m an average person who will have social occasions to go to and days when I want ice cream for breakfast.  The key is to acknowledge that for every few ‘good’ days there might be some ‘bad’ days, yet one bad day doesn’t ruin a week that has otherwise been positive.  In training your mind to accept this you allow yourself the freedom to improve your training and nutrition rather than staying trapped in a never ending cycle of assuming you need perfection to achieve results.

So your training and nutrition is much like your to do list, sometimes you need to adjust your expectations and be flexible with timescales and actions to keep yourself sane, it doesn’t mean you’re doing badly just that your managing your time and your priorities appropriately.

Two things to finish:

  1. If you are a group exercise instructor or do a lot of group exercise classes as a a participant and would like to know more about Jump 4.2 drop me a message, I can answer any queries and maybe even help with a discount….
  2. Because I think it ties in well below is a link to my productivity planner which I designed to help you stay focused when you feel like things are getting on top of you.  If you are struggling to stay focused try using his for a few days to keep you on track (p.s. this is a day organiser not a fitness organsier).

Link To Productivity Planner