How do you react to the ‘uncontrolable’?

I’m currently injured. Well I’m not injured as such, but due to burns on both my legs (don’t ask) which basically cover both my whole shins I can’t walk very far (progress, last week I could barely walk), do much training beyond a bit of upper body work, run or teach.

It’s super frustrating. Beyond those restrictions I also can’t have a bath or shower and am restricted to contorting myself to wash my hair and sink washes. Generally it’s made me feel rubbish.

I’m used to having quite a structured day and when you can’t do what you normally do and end up sat on the sofa more watching TV, with itchy legs and generally feeling rubbish it can make you feel a bit down. As it’s come as we start to come out of the seemingly never ending Lockdown period of he last 18 months it feels even more frustrating.

All I’ve been able to do is adjust my expectations of myself.

So I’ve aimed to walk around 5,000 steps a day, just about doable at the moment but way off my normal 20,000-30,000 steps a day.

I’ve trained a couple of times, focusing on upper body and using machines I can sit down on plus the reclining bike to move the legs.

I’ve increased my protein intake dramatically to assist the burn healing process. Focusing on eating a varied diet rather than restricting my calories even though I’m moving way less.

I’ve tried to get 8 hours sleep, hard because my god my legs itch, but I’ve slept as much as possible.

I’ve drank at least 3 litres of water a day, aiming for 4 litre. My body is dehyrated anyway and it’s been warm.

I’m not where I want to be and I don’t feel great but I’ve made the positive steps I need to in order to help myself feel a bit better and not go completely crazy.

Hoping next week the dressings can come off and then I can start to build up my movement and start to get myself back to where I’d like to be but in the mean time I’ll just focus on the small things I can do as I can’ do anything about the things I can’t do right now.

How short are those shorts?

This morning I saw a post on Facebook about someone concerned about stretch marks ad loose skin that could come with the weight loss they wanted to achieve.

This bought about a lot of comments about loving your body, accepting these things and learning to be OK with them, and there’s a lot of merit in this. We should all accept our bodies as is and if it’s not causing us actual harm then our bodies should be nobody else’s business.

But as much as the change in outlook that women should not be expected to meet a certain criteria and can be whatever shape / size they wish we still spend an awful lot of time judging women.

Look at the Olympics. There’s been news articles where female athletes have been told their shorts are too short and then others where they’ve been told they’re too long. Even alongside the body confidence / acceptance movement there are still judgements made on women based on appearance. Whilst we may have more choice now the choices are still judged.

So back to stretch marks. They are normal and yes part of life, we almost all have them. But if a person wants to look to reduce them why should they be judged for that or told they should just love their body as is?

Because if you are about to embark on a weight loss journey there are things you can do to reduce the chances of loose skin or stretch marks. Steady weight loss, keeping skin hydrated, incorporating strength training amongst other things can have an effect on how your skin shrinks with you. Nothing can be avoided completely of course, but if you want to try there are things you can do.

And why shouldn’t you? Just like if you have loose skin or stretch marks there are things you can do to make you feel better in yourself. Whilst it’s an ideal that we all feel confident in our bodies and embrace the changes as we go through life I think it’s really OK that alongside that we shouldn’t feel bad or vain for wanting to do things that make us feel good in ourselves.

Because it comes back to choice- we should not only be allowed to have that choice but also be allowed to not be judged for them. If you want to make changes for a purely cosmetic reason that’s ok, just as wanting t make changes for health reasons is.

And whilst we’re at it can we not just let women train in what they want to train in, whether that be at the gym or the Olympics.

LEJOG

I’m doing a running challenge this year.  Lands End to John O’Groats (virtually), that’s 874 miles between 1st January and 31st December.  I’m currently around the Yorkshire Peaks, just over 400 miles run.

The challenge is set up so you record your own miles on an onlien map, it allows you to decide how to do the challenge; you can record just runs, runs and long walks or to record all of your steps every day.  I have chosen to only record my runs because I wanted to use it as accountability to run more.  However, that is because I tend to walk a lot anyway so if I included my steps it would not be a genuine challenge. But for anyone who is quite sedentary who wanted to move more counting steps every day would be a great challenge.

There is a Facebook group for people doingt he challenge and it’s a very supportive, nice group and people post their wins and also when they are struggling and everyone is always qick to cheer or offer moral support.  What these posts often raise however is how everyone is approaching the challenge differently in terms of what they include as mileage.  This often creatse confusion, with people askign am I doing this wrong?  Should I be counting that?  Of course people always reassure and remind the OP that the challenge is unique to them and tehre is no right or wrong.

This confusion is common not only in this group however but throughout the fitness industry.  How often do you see someone on Facebook or Instagram doing a certain plan that is polar opposite to the way you train, eating a certain diet, eating more than you, less than you, training 3 days a week when you train 5, training for a marathon in a different way to you, running 10km in the time it takes you to run 5km, training in body part splits when you don’t, spending 2 hours in the gym when your session takes 45 minutes.

It’s really easy to think you must be doing it wrong.  That if that person who looks fit is doing the opposite to you you should do that too.  We are all different however.  Our bodies, fitness levels, experience goals, time pressures, tastes, willingness to cut cake for breakfast out of our diet, likes and dislikes, mental health, shift patterns, hobbies – all these things will (or should) affect how you eat and train.  Therefore unless you find an absolute carbon copy of you out there, your training or nutrition won’t look like someone elses, and nor should it.

Yes, there is lots of generic advice that works for specific groups of people.  Group exercise instructors will face common obstacles so advice tailored to them as a group can work- but even then they will need to tweak that to sit their precise circumstances.  You sit at a desk all day, I could predict your pain points and suggest some advice that would probably help lots of people, again it would need a bit of tweaking by people and not every piece of advice would be releveant to every person who works in an office.

The key is taking in the advice, the suggestions, the tips and knowing what is and isn’t relevant to you, what will ad won’t work for you.  Then being able to look at other people doing different things and not get triggered by it, or feel bad, or superior or like you must be doing something wrong, because if it is working for you and Isn’t unsafe you do you.

Sir Gareth Southgate

I don’t know much about football but I like Gareth Southgate.

I remember watching him miss the penalty that knocked England out of Euro ’96.  The next time I ever really remember him coming to my attention was in the last World Cup, when it seemed like we may actually have a chance.  I liked his waistcoats.  I also liked him.  He came across as a decent man, a decent manager, someone with principles and dignity.  Then I don’t think he came to my attention at all until Euro 2020 (obviously in 2021 because Pandemic blah blah blah).

I can’t comment on his tactics (although for all the arm chair critics he has got to the semi finals with a clean sheet) but I know that whilst people has questioned his team selection he’s quietly got on with it, sticking to his guns and going with what he feels is right.

 He isn’t a manager with a glittering past and lots of past trophies to his name, but he seems to have quietly worked with his squad over the years to develop a group of players who actually seem to work well as a team.  There doesn’t seem to be the normal news stories of star players throwing a paddy because they aren’t being treated right or anything like that, generally it seems like a pretty contented team.

When there was debate about the team taking the knee and whether this was too political, Southgate stood by his team’s decision.  He’s treated them like adults and they in turn seem to respect him for it.

When asked about the Coca Cola / beer bottles that Ronalado moved in a press conference, Southgate merely suggested that the money the sponsorship from these companies bought to the game, particulary at junior levels, makes a difference.

He isn’t here for the drama it seems, he’s focused on the job in hand, more than that he seems to look at the wider picture. Things which might not benefit him but make sense for the game are, in his view, fair and a therefore a good thing. His interviews aren’t dramatic or about him, he’s balanced and to be honest he always seems to be thinking about the bigger picture when he talks.

So I don’t know much about football but in terms of how he presents himself and leads his team I like Southgate. He’s like a PT who doesn’t try and create waves with extreme advice, workouts or diets but simply teaches their clients the things they need to know to get steady results. He is hope for those who quietly and confidently get on with their jobs with integrity, that they can do well, even if they aren’t as headline grabbing as some of their peers.

Lying on a bed of nails

I’ve been struggling to sleep recently. Many reasons but not helping is my back has been really really tight. Not painful as such, but the muscles are tight and whilst stretching helps it feel better I just can’t get comfortable come bedtime.

Then I stumbled across acupressure mats. Now these are either the best kept secret ever or I have majorly missed the boat on some fitness trend.

Because sod foam rolling, vibrating foam rollers or even small spikey balls. These mats are amazing.

If you aren’t familiar, they are a little bit like beds of nails. A small yoga mat, covered in little circles of sharp pointy plastic. You lay on them, or stand on them, with bare skin. Sounds horrific. It’s honestly amazing.

It’s a similar concept to acupuncture, although here it’s pressure as the points don’t break the skin. You place the pressure point evenly on the mat and allow your weight to ease onto the spikes. At first it’s a bit painful, (some people like to start with a thin layer of clothes until used to it) and you don’t want to wiggle about once in place, but as you get used to the sensation it stops feeling like pain and starts to feel like relaxation, it feels like your body eases it’s around the spikes and you stop feeling like you’re laying on anything.

I’ve been aiming for 20 minutes before bed each night for the last few nights and once I stand up it feels like I’ve just had a deep tissue massage on my back. I feel loose and not achy and it makes falling asleep feel much easier. Now it does list better sleep as a benefit, although it may be that I’m finding sleep a bit easier because I’m more comfortable lying as I go to sleep. Either way it’s a win.

I’ve yet to fully explore what else I can do with this mat. I did give standing on it a go, although I only lasted two minutes (smaller surface, more weight) so will need to build up my tolerance for that. I also want to try on my glutes and thighs as I think that may also benefit my back. I’ve also read that laying on your stomach may aid digestion so may give that a go too just to see how it feels after.

If you do suffer from aches and pains though so far I can highly recommend these little beauties. They can be expensive but I got one for £10 on Amazon and it’s great so you don’t need to spend loads to give it a try.

A slimming club spokesperson and 75 PTs

“I don’t trust them. I don’t think they want me to lose weight quickly. I realised, Oh, you’re paid by the hour. Of course you don’t want me to shift this quickly.”

This is a quote from James Corden, who is currently a spokesperson for Weight Watchers.

Now many fitness professionals doubtlessly found this slightly ironic. After all Weight Watchers entire business model would flounder if it actually educated people on how to lose weight rather than hiding behind points based systems.

But beyond the irony of him promoting one weight loss method for which the exact same thing could be said let’s look for a moment at the myth that it is not in the interest of a PT to help you reach your goal.

I suspect this may be something many people have though over the years, and on the face of it it makes sense as to why. Client wants to lose 2 stone, client sees PT, client loses 2 stone, client no longer needs PT, PT no longer gets paid. Why would the PT want to get the client results in 2 months if they could keep them as a client for a year or more?

Doctors don’t see healthy people, so when you go to the doctors they don’t try to make you better because if they did they’d be out of work. They give you medicine that might help a bit but won’t actually solve the problem.

Mechanics need cars to fix to earn money, so when you visit a mechanic they will always leave one thing not quite working so you have to go back to them again soon.

Now obviously those things don’t happen. If your doctor was continuously not providing patients with the best advice eventually there would be investigations due to complaints. If a mechanic gained a reputation as never fully fixing cars people would go elsewhere.

So why do people think it would be any different with a PT?

PTs gain clients by word of mouth, reputation, recommendation. If you do not show integrity and true care you may get some clients but you will struggle to maintain a healthy business. It’s quite the opposite of Corden’s statement – a successful PT wants to get people the results they desire. It will increase client demand and provide a satisfied customer, and most fitness professionals really do care about people – it’s a people person business.

Beyond this, there is the assumption that everyone who has a PT wants to lose weight. People see PTs for all manner of things. Some do have specific goals – be their weight loss, weight gain, training for an event. Once that goal is reached they will branch out alone. PTs are ok with that, getting that person to that goal shows they are good at their job and will help attract new customers. But beyond that there may be a time again that that person will again need assistance. Will they return to you if you got them great results last time – damn right, so why wouldn’t you want to get them results. Equally though, if we can provide enough knowledge that you can make it on your own and not need us, great, we’ve done our jobs. In this respect it is Weight Watchers not PTs that are guilty of what Corden is claiming.

More than that, some people start with a PT to reach a specific goal and then get new goals on the way, they realise they like having the accountability or need the accountability and so keep training with us beyond reaching that initial goal. Again, helping someone get what they want is not automatically stopping them from being your client. The mindset that it is is the mindset of someone with a greedy, non customer based business model and it is interesting that a spokesperson for a slimming club might have that cynical view.

Finally, apparently Corden “burned through” 75 PTs before trying Weight Watchers. now I’m not saying there are no bad PTs, of course there are. But I’m guessing that if that is not an exaggeration that the PTs were not the problem here. If 75 people have all acted roughly the same way, said the same sort of things, maybe it’s you not liking what you are hearing, rather than them being in the wrong. Maybe those 75 PTs were encouraging slow and steady weight loss, not because they wanted more of your money, but because that would be more sustainable and better for you in the long run. Maybe instead of a slimming company which tends to trade on hooking people in with big first week losses, they were trying to get you to alter your mindset and take into account improvements to health, strength, fitness, body shape changes and not simply the number on the scale (if you’ve ever been to a slimming club you’ll know it’s standard to try and have a big poo before weigh in).

“I don’t trust them. I don’t think they want me to lose weight quickly. I realised, Oh, you’re paid by the hour. Of course you don’t want me to shift this quickly.” Said the Weight Watchers spokeperson.

Weight Watchers. The company which takes money off people weekly to be weighed in front of people and only makes money until you reach your target weight.

I love irony.

Why don’t you train legs?

Why don’t you train body parts is a common question I get from people when they ask what I did in the gym on any given day.  That I don’t train legs one day, back and biceps the other, chest and shoulders the next confuses some people.

The ‘Bro Split’ type of training is how most people start training in the gym, it’s probably the most accepted way of training, and works very well for certain people.  If you are very lean and looking for specific aesthetic goals for instance, or if you want to manage your energy levels around other training training body parts per session can suit you well.

I think it’s useful however for people to understand that it isn’t the only acceptable way to train.  Just like there are many ways to manage your diet and no one way is better, what works for some training wise will not suit others.

I teach group exercise, train PT clients and have a full time office job, I also like running, so I don’t really have time for four or five sessions all lasting an hour plus focusing on specific muscle groups.  More to the point I don’t really have any interest in doing so.  I’m not looking to get super lean with a six pack.  I like food too much for that and to be honest just want to be fit, healthy, strong and enjoy my training sessions.  For me a training session that leaves me feeling good and fatigued and is done within 30 to 40 minutes is the goal, and two, maybe three sessions is the max I can fit in – often training in my lunch hour.    

So sessions that involve big lifts that use multiple body parts are more effective for me.  Focusing on squats, deadlifts, rows, thrusters for example essentially give me more bang for my buck – maximum results in minimum time.

Of course for others, with different lifestyles and goals, that would not work best for them.  Here lies the most important thing t understand about fitness.  We are all different, what and how much we eat and what, when and how we train will be different for all of us.  If your friend has amazing results and you do their exact same thing it doesn’t mean you will also have amazing results. 

Get a coach, and follow their advice and ignore what everyone else is doing, as just because you’re doing something different to others doesn’t make you right or wrong.  More to the point if you are training with a coach that gets everyone to do the same thing, ask questions.  Because even if your coach specialises in a certain group or area and therefore advises generalised things specific to that group, your actual individual training will be slightly different to your peers.  For instance I work with other group fitness instructors – there are general areas of advice which apply to the all – the type of training we work well with, nutrition and energy level challenges we face etc. tend to be quite common.  However, we still al have different goals, different likes and dislikes, different starting points, so our actual training needs to be programmed differently and some pieces of advice may not apply to us specifically.

Understanding that you don’t need to follow every trend and can (in fact probably should) let some things pass us by and focus on the things that actually serve us, is probably the best fitness lesson out there.

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.