10 Les Mills Myths

  • You need to write Follow or F in the comments to follow a post

Turning on notifcations doesn’t wrk in LM groups obviously.

  • The number for the office is the one piece of information not stored in Google

I see no other reason for the frequency of this question online.

  • If Reebok puts the words Les Mills on an item of clothing it immediately increases in value by around 25%.

At least that’s what Reebok believe according to their pricing structure.  Les Mills instrcutors also get a discount, except ironically, on the products most aimed at Les Mills instructors.

  • The Michael Jackson eating popcorn meme is a hillarious comment on any Facebook post

Obvs.  Who doesn’t laugh out loud every time it’s posted?

  • Bracing your abs is a vital coaching cue

Even though nobody has any idea how to do it really and no member has ever actually listened and responded to it.

  • You should follow the Master Class

It’s a ‘master class’ after all, except whenever you are being assessed, as if you do as they do when being assessed you will be told you need to talk less.  

  • You are not allowed to disagree with someone else on Facebook

Heaven forbid someone have a different opinion to you on a release or anything else.  You cannot just not agree with one another and carry on with your day, nor can you ignore it and scroll past.  You must tell them they are wrong, and more to the point being wrong makes them the worst human ever.

  • Body Pump becomes ineffective if you use dumbells

Or at least it did until Pandemic times, now it’s fine, because unprecendented times call for unprecedented changes in the science of Body Pump.  Or because it really never mattered to start with.  Whichever version floats your boat realy.

  • You should only teach from the last 10 releases because people don’t like the older stuff

Which is odd because even though my classes love the new stuff (and are a wide age range) they always get excited when we start to mix and they can request the old favourites.  A hard core sprawl based Combat track might get the heart rate up but no one works harder than in the old boxing tracks when the music is upbeat and the combo simple.  Also does any Combat instructor go a week without someone asking for Pirates?

  • A Smart Bar is better than a non smart bar

I mean I kind of get the convenience of the clipping another plate on with ease but apart from that they are very expensive for what they are, and I’m still slightly confused about what makes the smart step smarter.  I’ll give the CX bands their better status glory.

10 Nutrition Myths

  1. Muscle can turn into fat if you stop training

Muscle and fat are two different tissue systems, with different functions, so they do not convert into one another.  You can lose muscle mass or gain additional fat leading to composition change but one doesn’t convert into the other.

  • Muscle weights more than fat

1kg of muscle weights 1kg, 1kg of fat weighs 1kg.  The analogy that muscle weighs more than fat comes from the same weight of fat will take up more space than it’s equivilant in muscle.  So 10kg of muscle would take up less space than 10kg of fat but still weigh the same.  Likewise you could reduce body fat and increase msucle mass but not lose weight even though you may have dropped several dress sizes.  It’s a confusing myth but essentially the message is don’t rely on the scales.

  • High fat foods are unhealthy

Our bodies need fats so this is not strictly true.  Of course if you eat too much fat you may find you don’t like the results.  It’s worth remembering that 1g fat has approximately 9 calories, compared to 4 calories per 1g of carbs or protein.  Eating excessive amounts of fat isn’t ideal but they aren’t inherintly unhealthy.

  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

You might like to eat three meals a day, 5 meals a day, 2 meals a day, intermittent fast or eat every couple of hours.  When you at depends of your lifestyle and what makes you feel best.  There’s no massive reason to eat breakfast if you don’t feel like eating first thing, or avoid carbs after 6pm or any other food rule.  For many the benefits of any such rules are minimal.

  • You must drink protein shakes if your train

Supplements should be just that, a supplement to your diet- the thing that makes up the last 10%.  If you struggle to get enough protein or need a quick easy protein fix after a session a shake is a good option.  Ideally though, you’d eat most of your protein

  • Low calorie is the way forward

Reduce your calories to 1,200 a day to lose weight right?  To a degree this won’t hurt the majority of people.  Create a calorie deifict and you will lose weight.  The issue?  Many people could eat much more than this and still hit a calorie deficit, and by making the deficit too big and following some standard random calorie allowance they can end up lacking energy and always being hungry- cue ‘breaking’ the diet and binging.  Far better to work out how many calories you should be eating to still creat a deficit ad work to that with a slower steadier loss.

  • Smoothies are good for you

I mean I like a smoothie, but they aren’t a weight loss magical superfood.  Think about it, how much fruit do you need for a smoothie?  Add milk or yoghurt, maybe peanut butter?  Now would you sit and eat all that in one go?  Maybe , but you wouldn’t consider it a small snack right?  Smoothies blend a lot of calories into a drink.  That’s fine if you are aware but little things like this that seem like a healthy, low calorie meal may be the reason you are consuming more than you think.

  • Healthy people eat ‘clean’

They wash their food before eating it?  What is clean eating?  Only eating green stuff, unprocessed stuff? Organic stuff?  What about the processed stuff that is marketed as ‘clean’?  Eating things that come from nature as a good proportion of your diet is a good aim, but don’t get too caught up in the clean is good trap.

  • Cheat Meals are a thing

Well they are a thing but they shouldn’t be!  Firstly, what are you cheating?  If you want pizza just have pizza, and more to the point make it fit into your week.  Calling it a cheat meal doesn’t make it calorie free but is more likely to lead you to go mad and derail your progress

Gravy goes on chips

If you’re southern you will know this isn’t true but for those north of the Watford Gap stop it.  It’s weird and wrong and has no logical benefits.

10 Fitness Myths

  1. You can target fat

Whilst you can train specific muscle groups you can’t lose fat from a specific area, you can however reduce body fat overall which will in turn help you reduce fat in that target area.

2. No pain, No gain

The idea that if you don’t have DOMs the next day you didn’t work hard enough can be detrimental.  DOMs will typcially be felt when the muscles are reacting to a new stimulus (so you’re doing something different or increasing intensity) so you shouldn’t really be feeling them every single time you train.  Moreover, as long as you are feeling good and a bit sweaty / fatigued at the end of a sesison you’re all good, don’t feel like every sessions needs to be a killer.

3. Never miss a Monday

The sentiment here is start your week well, but what if Monday isn’t convenient?  Does that mean the rest of your weorkouts will be ineffective and your week a write off?  Of course not.  This harks back to the idea that a diet should ‘start Monday’ and can be a negative way of thinking, restricting your outlook.  If Monday works for you – train, if not, it’s not a better day than any other so worry not.

4. Weights will make you bulky

I don’t want to lift heavy because I don’t want to gte bulky. Those of us who have been lifting for years WISH it was as easy as just lifting weights to get ‘bulky’.  What lifting will do is help you get the kind of definition that won’t make you look ‘big and bulky’ but will help you look leaner and feel good.  You’ll also feel strong as fuck. 

  • Body part splits are the best way to train

Tradionally if you are a serious ‘lifter’ you’ll train body parts- leg day, arm day, shoulder, back.   That’s fine if you want to go down that route, for many though focusing on compound lifts (deadlifts, sqauts, rows) and taking a more roudned approach to each session will allow for more results in less time.

  • You should never train when ill

If th symptoms are above the neck (a blocked up nose for instance) and you feel ok to train then do (just take it easy).  Ultimately you need to be sensible here and listen to your own body.

  • Sweating is a sign of being out of shape

Some people sweat more than others and often the fitter someone is the quicker they start to sweat into a workout so don’t worry sweating is not a sign of being unfit.

  • Sit ups will give you abs

Crunches will help strengthen your core (along with many other core based exercises) but ultimately your body fat needs to be low enough for your abs to be visible so sit ups alone with not give you a six pack.  What may be more beneficial in terms of your core is to think about strengthen it for functional reasons, to help you feel stronger, move better and reduce the risk of injuries.

  • Running beats walking

Running is more efficient in term sof covring distance and will increase your heart rate more but in terms of movement and muscles worked the two are very similar, so if you have the time and want to hike instead of run go for it.

  1. Options in classes are always easier / less effective

This perception can make people feel bad or like they are getting less of a workout, which is simply not true.  You may take an option because you can’t yet do a particular move sure, but maybe your injured or tired or maybe you want to work on a different focus.  A well performed option may be far more effective than a fatigued poorly performed rep of something else.  Equally sometimes an instructor will give advanced options to progress a move, or sometimes in class I’ll give various options depending on what you want to focus on that day (maybe speed or strength) – neither is easier it just depends on what you want.  The upshot is listen to the instructor and don’t assume one option is every superior to another. 

Motivation is a con

How often do you say I’ll start Monday or tomorrow and then just never quite get round to it?

I don’t just mean diets or exercise, anything really. Motivation to want something is easy but motivation to actually act upon that want is much harder to come by.

That’s because motivation is really a bit of a con. Often to get motivated you need to see some results and to see some results you need to get started with something.

So rather than waiting until you are motivated you need to find a way to get started with something even if you don’t feel motivated to do so.

The easiest way to do this is to get into the habit of doing things. Once something is habit it’s easy to do it almost on autopilot, without having to think too much about it.

Creating habits is however, again, hard.

Until that is you create systems.

You want to make drinking more water a habit. To do that you need to remember to drink water often across the day. Systems to do this could include buying a half gallon water bottle for your desk, setting an app that reminds you at regular intervals, having a pint of water as soon as you wake up.

You want to train more often. Systems to help could include booking a class or arranging to train with a friend so it’s an appointment you can’t skip, identifying all your training windows in a week so if you miss one you know when else you can train, working with a PT or signing up for a challenge so you have a reason not to skip training.

When we start a project at work it seems obvious to make a list of what needs to be done and break it down into tasks and work out the best way of doing each task. We can approach our fitness in much the same way and take away the element of needing to feel motivated from the equation.

Calories are fact

There’s been lots of content around calories and calorie tracking in the news and on social media recently (at least there has on my feed).  The announcement that restaurants will have to display the calorie content of dishes in an effort to tackle rising obesity levels in the UK has been met with a variety of reactions.  Notably anti dieters have argued it could have a negative effect on some people, those with or recovering from eating disorders for example.  Others have argued that, much like the super skinny waif super models of the 90s, the emphasis could have a negative impact on young people (mainly female it is generally assumed) perception of themselves.

I struggle with the anti calorie counting movement if I’m honest.  That’s a slightly against the trend thing to say but hear me out.

Of course there are people for whom calorie counting is not beneficial and if your doctor or any medical professional you are seeing advises against it you should follow their advice.  Nor do I advocate obsessively tracking every last morsal of food nor restricting youself in the amount of type of food you eat.  I don’t believe you need to be a certain size or weight to be happy and I think you should eat what you enjoy eating, and be a meat eater, vegtarian or vegan for whatever reasons you so choose.

The fact remains however that being aware of the energy values of what you consume daily is useful.

People who are at a happy healthy weight for them probably consume about what they expend on an average day, either without thinking or conciously.  People who want or need to lose or gain some weight for their health probably do not. Yes there are exceptions, but generally the majority of us are not genetic marvels, the majority of us who wish or need to change of current mass are simply eating either too much or too little.

Again, I’ll say that anyone with any form of disordered eating should seek professional advice and follow that, not what someone on the internet says, but if you are an average Joe, then being aware of the energy balance equation is likely all you need to make any changes you either need or desire.

I was flicking through some recipes the other day, there were purposefully no nutritional values given because the author wanted to promote a non diet culture.  I respect that, it goes with their ethos and fits in with their values (and the recipes look lush), but I couldn’t help thinking, man it would be easier if they were provided so I didn’t need to add each ingredient into MyFitnessPal.  Because for me, knowing what I’m eating is useful, it’s like knowing how much fuel is in your car rather than just driving with blind hope you’ve enough to get to your destination or paying for things without knowing how much cash is in your bank account.

I almost feel like being so against calorie counting is as much of a red flag as obsesively calorie counting.  If the idea of knowing how may calories is in your food on a menu really does trigger something and stop you eating it (as opposed to heping you making an informed decision) then perhaps that is also a sign you need to look at your view of food.  Because eating what the fuck you like because you enjoy food is great, but if the idea of knowing the energy number attributed to that freaks you out there’s still an issue.  The goal is surely to know that sometimes you’re eating higher calorie foods but you’re just aware of your overall energy balance so allowing yourself to mainatin your energy levels, feel good and remain nurourished and healthy.

For every person who has struggled with an eating disorder where calories are a trigger word there are plenty of people that just aren’t really sure how the energy balance works.  All the media coverage around diet clubs like Slimming World attest to this.  Fitness professionals argument against these clubs is that they don’t properly educate people, bringing the notion of calories more to the forefront of people’s conciousness could help change that.  There will be people for whom calorie counting is not beneficial, they can ignore those numbers.

In fact that’s the issue isn’t it.  Almost every policy in the world will not benefit some people, but will benefit others.  We need to know how to ignore things that don’t help us, to learn how to not get affected by things that we may see as opposed to be outraged that something that could benefit someone else but doesn’t benefit us is visible to us, even if it upsets us.

That isn’t saying not tracking calores is wrong or that you should track every day.  It’s saying that for some people who want or need to make a change undertsanding and being aware of their consumption is vital and clouding a realtively simple process of tracking with intuitive eating, mindful eating, anti diet ideas doesn’t help them.  Those concepts all work, they are all valid but if you are eating intuitively and not happy with the direction you are going in you need to retrain your intuition.  When you learn something new you follow rules and methods and don’t follow intuition, eating isn’t much different in this case.  If you are happy and feel your energy levels are great you can crack on with what you are doing.

The crux of the matter is calorie counting isn’t the thing that causes disordered eating.  Deciding you wat to lose some weight because you’d like to or because you’ve been advised I would help isn’t the sign of disordered eating.  Caloires in v. calories out is a simple fact, like gravity.  The issue isn’t that it’s all the stuff we have constructed around it. 

We Are Back

Today we head back to indoor classes. That means more than just doing classes again, it means a change to routine, sleep patterns, activity levels, how I plan my week.

I think we have all wondered over the last few weeks about our fitness levels, how we would feel in the first few classes back. We’ve all looked forward to seeing people again after such a long time.

Remember this week however, if you are back in the gym doing classes, whether as an instructor or participant, that fitness levels will improve. It is however bound to feel a bit tough at first, but that’s ok, because it will feel like that for all of us.

What I think we need to focus on this week, instead of ‘getting back to where we were before’, is making sure we don’t over do it and making time to recover as well.

There is bound to be a bit of an urge to go for it, and for instructors, you’ve no choice but to teach all your classes. I think it’s worth remembering however that when we fist started doing classes we probably built up to the levels we were at when Lockdown hit. Since then there’s been over a year of upheaval and it will take a bit of time to ease back in to feeling ok with our previous levels of activity. You might have noticed if you’ve gone from working from home to back into the office, just that change to your day can actually be pretty knackering.

Enjoy your classes this week, but rest and recover too.

The Cycle

You know when people say exercise is good for your mental health, and can help with conditions such as anixety and depression.

The kicker is that often, when you are feeling particularly anxious or low, exercising can be one of the hardest things to actually make yourself do.

And there begins the cycle of knowing something will make you feel better and yet not feeling able to actually do it, that in itself can make you feel bad for not doing it which adds to the feelings you already had.

Whilst it might feel like you are the only person who ever feels like that it’s actually pretty common, I think particularly over the last year or so when gyms have been largely closed and classes not accessible, because let’s face it, the gym environment or the instructor make a difference in getting yourself motivated to move. Training at home- even with Zoom classes- takes a lot more self start, and self start isn’t always something you have if you are feeling depressed.

The good news is of course that gyms and classes are reopening and that structure that can be so helpful to our routine will soon be back in place. Classes can act as appointments, so even if you’re not ‘feeling it’ you turn up and someone basically gets you moving. Even just the act of going to a gym and being surrounded by strangers can make you more motivated to move. You’re in ‘that’ environment, free of distractions, it makes it just that bit easier to get started.

In the mean time however, if you do find yourself not really wanting to train, even if you know you’d feel better, think about going for a walk or doing whatever form of exercise you enjoy the most, even just for twenty minutes and allow yourself to ease back into it rather than feeling guilty and forcing yourself to commit to punishing schedules you know you won’t stick to and then you’ll feel bad about failing at. This will hopefully allow you to break that cycle and start to feel more motivated to train again over time.

Are you ready for classes?

Who’s slightly nervous to get back to classes?

I’m really excited to get back to teaching and to see everyone again and move to music (I find it so much more motivating than working out alone) but I’m also a bit apprehensive about how hard it’s going to feel in those first few classes.

The truth is, no matter how much I prepare in the gym I know that doing a full on group cycle class for 45 minutes or a HIIT class is going to feel really tough. I remember after the first lockdown when I taught my first class I was beetroot after. Like redder and more sweaty and out of breath than I think I’ve ever been. Sitting on a bike had never felt so uncomfortable (three classes in 24 hours when you haven’t sat on a bike for a while is an experience let me tell you).

Of course that makes me a little nervous, but I keep reminding myself that everyone else is coming back from the same break. If I struggle a little during a class I’m likely to be feeling the same as many of the class members and together we will all get used to training again and gradually rebuild our endurance levels.

Ultimately I know none of that will really matter because as soon as we start and the music starts playing it will feel so good to get back to it any tiredness will be totally worth it.

So if you’re nervous about your fitness or whether you’ll be able to get through a class when we re-start, don’t be, fitness is a never ending journey and we will always have periods where our fitness peaks and troughs and at least this time many of us will all be in the same boat and the same time.

Listening v. Learning

Listening to your body / eating intuitively / being kind to yourself. All buzz words and phrases in recent years. And as I’ve written many times before, a perfectly valid way to eat if in doing so you are in a position where you are happy with your body and your energy levels.

I can eat and stay on track without tracking quite easily. I do track, largely as a habit that I don’t find particular cumbersome or triggering, but I could not track and still roughly know how my week’s food intake was likely to affect me. I maintain, as I have written previously, that is largely because I have mastered tracking, got an idea of what I need in terms of food.

But to move beyond the arguing what works best to lose body weight thing for a moment, you know what I personally could not do via intuitive eating. Listen to what type of food my body wants.

Because the idea of feeling like I need xyz so that’s what I’ll give my body allows me too much freedom to eat things that will derail my goals and in portions that at no point would my body actually intuitively be asking for. All I’m saying is my body rarely screams at me in needs vegetables.

Perhaps I need to be more in tune with myself. Maybe I could teach myself to think hmmm I feel fatigued my body is craving carrots instead of god I’m knackered I really need a tub of ice cream. Point is though I do know what my body needs. Over the years I’ve learnt what my body needs, what works, when, what actually makes me feel sluggish even though I think it won’t, what times of day I prefer exercising on an empty stomach and when I need to be fed first and so on. That was by trial and error and planning and tracking rather than eating when my body told me and what it old me. I mean apart from anything else I think with my brain how would I even plan my shopping eating intuitively! I’m flexible of course I am, sometimes I don’t feel like whatever I’ve planned, sometimes I need extra food than what I planned, or more sugar or more carbs.

The fact remains I think by understanding my body by seeing what works and then sticking to the systems that have worked and suit me and my taste buds and make me feel good when I train, I mat not be listening to my body but my body is probably more grateful that I’m doing that over eating what it thinks it want (it seriously only ever think it wants cake I tell you now). Is what I do more onerous that intuitive eating? I really don’t think it is.

Ultimately I don’t think we need to get caught up in the idea that tracking and planning and eating mindfully is bad. It may not suit some, there may be some it isn’t a good option, that’s the case for most things though. Like anything intuitive eating might not be the solution to all diet problems.

Building Back Slowly

Back at the gym this week. I’m incredibly glad about this, I feel like I’ve trained harder this week than the last year out together. It’s also ironically made running feel better, partly I think because I’ve run slightly less so my legs have felt a bit fresher on the days I have.

What is going to be a challenge however is fitting the gym (and soon teaching) back into my normal life. I think over the last year I’ve got so used to not being able to go to the gym and just getting up, going to work then training at home or running that adding the gym back in is going to feel a bit weird. Even if I use the gym at work at lunch time which I used to do I’m out of this habit so it’s going to take some effort to get used to doing this again.

Part will be fitting everything back in and getting sued to a change in tempo (as well as going out and about again now that we can kind of see people again). Part of it will be getting back the stamina to do everything I used to do and not feel totally shattered.

I think this is something I will need to mindful of over the coming weeks, as I’m sure many more of us will also. When someone first starts training and looking to add exercise into their routine we always say ‘build up slowly’ ‘don’t expect to be able to train every day or you’ll be setting yourself up for a fall’. Wise words of course and incredibly correct.

We are all kind of starting from scratch at the moment though, so I think it wise for us all to remember, whether we are new to exercise or regular gym goers or even gym / class instructors or PTs, that we need to build ourselves back up- not only to the amount of weight we can lift in the gym, but also to the actual intensity of our every day lives pre Lockdown.