Privilege and Fitness

Thin Privilege. I get the concept but I’m not totally sure I really get it.

Yes of course it’s potentially easier for a PT or fitness who is ‘thin’ and has been training for years to advise a client to do x y and z because their body and people’s reaction to them make it easier. Yes, maybe it’s easier for them to say love your body and embrace the process than it is someone starting from a different position.

But actually do we need to start referencing posts or advice with an acknowledgement that we may be different from the people the advice is aimed at? Maybe it is good to acknowledge and some readers may appreciate the self awareness but really, should only PTs themselves following a calorie deficit coach people to hit one? Should all fitness professionals only work with clients who are like them so they are not preaching to people ‘less privileged’ than they? I’d of course say not, people educate themselves, gain knowledge and experience to allow them to impart advice. If we were all limited to only things we had direct experience with that would be a loss to the industry in general.

But beyond that, fact is we are all privileged in some way or another. Things about our body, genetics, health, background, birth place, parents, education and more will naturally make us more privileged than someone else in many given situations (and of course disadvantaged in others). There will be situations in which we could say well do this that and the other and it be far easier than it would be for someone else. Case in point over the last year. Stay at home Save Lives is a far easier prospect for someone of Furlough, knowing their job is safe or able to work from home, living with family members they have a good relationship with in a nice house with a garden than someone who has lost their income, qualified for not support a lives in a flat with no outdoor space. Should people reference their social media posts with #economicprivilige?

I’m not saying that awareness is a bad thing but I that being aware and that awareness impacting your actions is a far more powerful thing than referencing awareness of something alone. Almost a case of walking the walk rather than talking the talk.

Me: The Running Edition

I miss the gym. For me the gym is what makes training. I know there are people that always loved home training and many more have found they love it too during the last twelve months but for me there is nothing that makes me work as hard as doing my workout in a different environment.

When I go to the gym I go though the process of getting gym kit on, putting trainers on, walking to the gym, putting my stuff in a locker. That process mentally puts me in the mindset that I’m about to train and helps me get moving. It’s an environment where training is the only option whilst there. When I’m at home I get distracted, I see where I need to dust or hover and my workouts are never as intense. I think that’s why I like running outdoors, it again requires leaving the house and being outside with a purpose, to move, to get from A to B.

That’s why I’ve struggled with training in lockdown. The not feeling the same as I would training in a gym means I don’t feel the same motivation. The training because I feel I need to when I don’t really want to is not something I want. But, as I said previously, I want to get moving more again, for my own fitness, some weight loss and because quite frankly I’m stiff as a board. So I’ve been running lots more. As running is one of the only forms of exercise I really enjoy I can still easily do that seemed the best bet.

This month so far I’ve run around 47 miles. I only need to do another 9 to hit my February virtual running challenge and I’m making a decent dent into the Land End to John O Groats challenge too. One of the best things about running outdoors means I can also run with someone and Hollie has been my running buddie. A bundle on energy and knowing that I haven’t been feeling great about my fitness she’s been a great motivator and encouragement and really made me feel better about my running. That I think is the key at the moment, finding the thing that you want to do and having the accountability, be it to a challenge or a person (or both) to keep you going.

Here’s a little video of our 9 mile run this week which shows why I’ve enjoyed my runs!

Hollie’s video of our 9 mile run (that I thought was 6 miles!)

Which Camp Do You Sit In?

Recently my consumption of social media has got me back to thinking about something I touched upon in a podcast back in January.

Possibly because I follow a lot of fitness based accounts and pages I feel like there are lots of different messages out there at the moment. I mean they’ve always been out there but Lockdown and the impact of the fitness industry feels like it has made more noticeable- perhaps I’ve just got more time to notice, perhaps people are putting their messages out there more forcibly.

There are accounts pushing weight loss, accounts pushing detoxes, accounts pushing fitness transformations and the ideas around obesity and it’s connection with Covid (even Boris has said he struggled to fight it because he was fat). At the other end of the spectrum there are accounts promoting body positivity, health over size, intuitive eating. Between these two camps (if you like) some overlap in moderation between the two whilst others are firmly in one camp and critical of the other. Trigger Warning is something I’ve recently started to see on posts more frequently, with the notion that someone posting about food or training or body image in a way that disagrees with the reader in any way may trigger some terrible emotional response.

Is it any wonder people get confused about diet and fitness. When there are so many conflicting and emotive messages on a topic someone is already a little confused about anyway they muddy the water.

Personally I tend to agree with both sides of this coin. I don’t believe you should be made to feel like you need to look a certain way or be a certain size or eat a certain way. Equally however, whether you are overweight or not, if you are not happy with something and want to change it in a healthy way then you shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about that and like you are betraying a body positivity movement. Much like feminism shouldn’t mean women who chose to stay at home over becoming a CEO shouldn’t be made to feel like they are betraying women kind, people who want to work towards a physical goal shouldn’t be made to feel bad.

Again, I’d say many fitness professionals would agree – it’s a balancing act. We don’t go up to people in the street and tell them they must work with us to lose weight. People come to us, they have seen our services advertised and they want the service offered. Equally, whilst many PTs these days specialise in the type of work they do, not all our clients are the same. Some may be looking to lose weight, find motivation, need encouragement to stick to workout schedules. Other clients may be the opposite and need help training sensibly or gaining weight. Advice that works for one person could potentially be damaging for another.

Of course that’s where the internet and posting about fitness gets tricky. Generally a post will have a target audience. If it’s about losing weight for instance, the writer really wants to get across the importance of reducing calories. Could someone with a potential eating disorder latch onto that advice? Maybe, in the same way that people who need to lose weight could latch onto something about intuitive eating which could be very useful to someone who needs to move away from calorie counting because it sounds appealing but in actual fact is unlikely to help them lose the weight. We always tend to manage to seek out the information that fits our agenda lets face it.

But this is the point, not everything written on social media will be for you or relate to you or be relevant to you. If you are recovering from something and know certain things could be triggering, removing those types of accounts from your feed until you are in a position to be able to read without feeling a reaction is surely a better move than the writer not writing the post (assuming here it’s a responsible, factual post). If you don’t agree with calorie counting and you are happy with your diet then don’t do it, if you find it useful, do it. Lose weight if you want to, if you don’t, don’t. I do believe that obesity is an underlying health condition that predisposes you to be more adversely affected by certain illnesses. So does smoking and drinking. Whilst I’d always encourage people to look after their health whether they want to exercise or eat a balanced diet is no more of my business as how much they drink or whether they smoke is, unless that is, they make it my business by coming to me as a client.

I also believe education is important. It is everyone’s choice to decide what to do with their body, but I’d like it to be an educated choice and there are many basic blocks of health and fitness and diet that people often do not understand, and in place have a series of myths and misconceptions about food. When people say you should eat and do what you enjoy that’s right, but what if you you enjoy is the food and lack of movement that is causing you health issues, at that point a message which is inspiring to already active people who maybe put too much pressure on themselves and need to be reminded they are enough could be damaging to someone who really does need to make changes and maybe needs more structure.

I think judgement is negative, from both sides of the coin. We need to remember that our message normally has a desired audience, an avatar, yet anyone can see it. Therefore it could potentially affect someone in a way we didn’t mean it to. I don’t think there is much we can do about that but that’s why I prefer a more measured message- a message which gets your point across without dismissing the other side. There is never one right way with diet or fitness, when people in fitness struggle with that notion it’s not hard to see how confusing that would be for consumers.

Understanding points of view other than your own and seeing their merit even if you disagree it’s automatically a bad thing or something that weakens your own standpoint.

Me. The Update

So I planned my week out, what I wanted to eat and what training I wanted to do.

Then I got sick and Thursday / Friday were a write off, where I just about managed to get through work . That put my plans out of sync a bit – meant missing a couple runs and having a couple of evenings where I couldn’t be bothered to cook and so got food in which meant my calories were higher across the week than I planned.

But I woke up today feeling better and so went for a 10km run and plan to run the same distance tomorrow. That will keep me on track for my running challenge (both 52 miles in Feb and the 2021 Lands End to John On Groats challenge). If I manage that I’ll view that as a positive end to the week.

I think the best way to get back into your training when you’ve lost your way a bit is to make small changes. I’ve trained when I could this week so that’s a good start. I haven’t hit a calorie deficit but nor did I end up in a surplus.

My main focuses for the coming week are to drink more water – as this is a habit I used to have ingrained in me but have been poor at recently and trying to hit 20k steps per day, again something I used to do daily without thinking but Lockdown has made harder.

Me.

Almost everyone I’ve spoken to recently feels similar to me. Lockdown one, possibly because of the novelty, possibly out of panic, I, like many, trained daily and felt like I’d maintained my fitness to a reasonable degree without the gym.

The mixture of Lockdown fatigue and darker evenings have made it both practically harder to train and harder to get motivated. For me, and I’m sure I’m not alone, I’ve also felt more like comfort eating. The result is my clothes are tight, I don’t feel great, I feel quite stiff and generally not where I want to be.

I’m telling you this because I have decided to document my journey from where I am now to where I want to be (which is nothing super impressive just where I was before Lockdown 1… some four hundred years ago).

With Lockdown and not seeing people as much it’s very easy to think you are the only person in a situation, so I partly want to document my diet and training over the next few weeks to show anyone else feeling a bit like this they are not alone. Equally, I know there is often an instinct when you feel a bit unfit or heavy, to want to do something drastic, or to expect yourself to be where you were previously fitness wise within days. That mindset is demotivating and can make you feel rubbish about yourself and your progress. I hope in documenting where I am it shows that it’s ok to work at the level you are currently at.

Captain Tom

This week saw the passing of Captain Sir Tom Moore, aged 100. For those not from the UK and therefore perhaps unfamiliar, Captain Tom as he affectionally became known last year, was a British Army officer who in the run up to his 100th birthday at the start of the Covid 19 Pandemic raised £32 million for the NHS by walking 100 lengths of his garden. He was later knighted for his efforts.

Now in terms of fitness and health, which this blog essentially is about, that’s a feat in itself. Walking can of course be an excellent form of exercise and to be able to achieve such a feat at 100 and using a walking frame after a hip replacement is a remarkable testament to his health. Of course it will have been challenging and his determination to complete this for a cause he cared about is similar to the people who push themselves through marathon and the like to raise money for causes which they care dearly about.

He, however, played down his achievement, it always seemed to me he had just wanted to help, in whatever way he could, an institution he saw the value in. There was plenty of discourse about this at the time. Whilst I don’t think there was anyone who did not admire the man, there were questions about why we needed a 100 year old man to do laps of his garden to fund the NHS and the moral compass of a government that used his achievement as a moral booster when they themselves had so frequently failed the NHS themselves. The one thing nobody ever questioned was his reason for doing it in the first place, his belief in the value of the NHS.

Now most of us really know the value of the NHS. We’ve heard of the cost of health insurance and health care in other countries. Captain Tom was probably more aware of this than most though. He and his generation are probably now the only British people to fully understand the value of the NHS. To me and you the concept of not being able to phone the doctor because we cannot afford it is a dystopian film plot, an abstract idea. In fact to anyone under the age of 72 it is.

The NHS was founded on 5th July 1948. Captain Tom was born in 1920, for most of his young life he did not have automatic access to free health care. He was born towards the end of another Pandemic, The Spanish Flu, a flu which could not be managed in the same way because, amongst other things, the lack of centralisation the NHS brings did not exist. At this time if you were ill the care you received depended on you wealth, your geographical location and often on access to local charitable organisations and your local community.

I can’t just assume that had an impact on how he valued the NHS, but I think it must be easier to truly value something when you’ve known the alternative. When we don’t know any different it’s harder to really appreciate what we actually do have access to, harder not to just assume that will always be the case or that everyone has access to what we have. For me I think that’s one of the best things to take from Captain Tom’s achievement because it can apply to all aspects of life. We can use our experiences to learn what matters to us and what we really value and what we know we want to work to keep / maintain.

To draw this back to fitness and health. Right now I know a lot of people struggling, be it weight gain, loss of fitness or strength because of lockdown. It feels harder that you can’t go to the gym or a class or participate in races because you know different- you’re aware of what was and how this is different. It’s kind of the situation in reverse to the NHS because it’s from positive experience to negative, but you appreciate the gyms and the classes and the opportunities to move so much more now than you ever did at the time because you’ve experienced the alternative. We cannot control this right now (to the extent we factually cannot go to a gym) but we can fight for the industry, help campaign to get fitness recognised as an important component to the heath of the nation and commit to supporting the industry when it can fully reopen. If Captain Tom taught us anything it’s if something is important to you taken action, even if it’s a tiny gesture, as small actions can have a massive impact.

Did you think it would last this long?

Last year when all this started did any of us really think that almost a year later we’d still be in lockdown.

When gyms closed in March didn’t most of us assume that we wouldn’t be able to train in the gym for a few weeks then we’d all just go back to our normal training regimes. People worried that they’d lose fitness in those few weeks.

Of course what then followed was that we have all got used to sometimes having access to a gym, but mainly not having access to a gym. Sometimes being able to teach or attend classes but more often than not not being able to.

Some people have have learnt to love home workouts. Others have not. Most of us do now accept that we are unlikely to be able to go back to how we used to train for some time yet. So what does that mean for those of us that do not really enjoy working out at home? I think it means trying new things, trying a variety of different things until we find some kind of routine that we do enjoy.

It perhaps also means accepting that our body, our fitness might be different for a while. Because above all, your training should be enjoyable, and making yourself do something because you should rarely is that. So potentially for a while you won’t be where you were at the start of 2020. Of course I’m not saying just don’t train, it has been proven that being healthy can be beneficial if you get Covid, not to mention the many other benefits training and eating well bring. But you can also not beat yourself up for things being different and doing what you can do right now.

Motivational BS

So January hasn’t started with a bang let’s face it. Another Lockdown being announced on day 4 of the new year didn’t exactly set me up mentally, and to be honest in terms of fitness and nutrition I hadn’t really finished the previous year well as it was.

I don’t know about you but I’m finding it quite hard to get motivated without access to a gym, dark mornings and nights and nothing planned to look forward to. I’ve signed up to a virtual year long running challenge but although that’s got me outside doing my weekend runs it’s not doing much for making me want to train in other ways through the week.

I’ve also been comfort eating. Now to be fair I’m not eating more than I used to but I am moving a lot less so it’s meant my clothes have bee getting tighter and tighter.

Here’s the thing. You may or may not have signed up to a fitness programme already, you may be considering it or you may just be thinking about putting your trainers on and taking up running or some other type of fitness type thing. Maybe you’ve got a nutrition plan that you should / will be following. Signing up, buying the trainers, knowing what you need to do doesn’t mean you’ll actually take action. You might expect the next line to read ‘Motivation is what you need’, but it’s not because that’s (excuse my French) bollocks.

I mean yes technically you do need t feel motivated to make the changes to see the change, but essentially we do not fall into two camps of people- the motivated and the unmotivated. That would imply those people who do things to work towards their goals are always motivated and never lose it or those that don’t are just lazy. In truth we all switch between feeling motivated and unmotivated all the time. This time last year or the year before that when I trained as habitually as I brushed my teeth it clearly wasn’t that I felt motivated to do so every day. Some days I really could not be arsed, yet I trained anyway. Some days I was knackered but I cooked a decent meal instead of turning to Uber Eats and MaccyDs. Motivation alone clearly isn’t the key to getting the results you want.

What you need are habits. I mentioned brushing my teeth just now. Do you brush your teeth every day? I’m going to assume the answers yes (if not please do). Is that because you are motivated to have nice teeth? Of course not, it’s just a habit, something you do, part of your day no matter how busy or tired you may be, lets face it – even when you stumble in drunk at 3 am you probably still brush your teeth before you fall into bed.

Doing the things you need to do often enough to see results requires consistency and to do something consistently you need to make the components of that a habit. So if you want to eat better that means making planning your meals a weekly habit, going shopping a weekly habit, prepping your lunch a weekly habit. If you want to train three times a week you need to make doing whatever you plan on doing a habit. As rubbish as I have been the last few months I’ve run at the weekends consistently. It’s a habit- I wake up, have breakfast and put on my kit and leave the house, don’t even think about it beyond what direction I’m going to aim for.

Creating habits isn’t easy, it can take time, you see relapses, it can take ages to get a habit in place. Habits however create results and seeing results come creates momentum to continue to continue to see results.

If like me you’re struggling to kick start yourself in 2021 break what you want into the small practical things you need to do (wake up earlier, go to bed earlier, set aside an hour three times a week) then try and make those tasks habitual and see how motivated you feel come the end of the month.

2021 has begun

For any 2020 fans who thought the spin off 2021 might be more uplifting series one has quickly dispelled the idea.

Like the kid that copies the other kids homework returning character BoJo announced a third National Lockdown in England hours after Nicola announced her Lockdown. Nick Hancock (masquerading as his less competent twin Matt Hancock) has continued to waffle on incoherently, yet to be honest, we all much prefer it when he does the daily briefings because even the current government wouldn’t risk leaving the really drastic announcements to him.

Despite lots of evidence that being healthy helps massively in recovering if you do catch Corona authorities appear to be actively discouraging people from doing that thing that aids good health – you know, that exercise thing. This is yet another anomaly in the messages the Government provided throughout the 2020 series and the writers seem intent on continuing throughout 2021.

Vaccines continue to be hailed as the saviour of this series, although many avid watchers have questioned whether the ambitious mass vaccination plans announced can be Implemented without a hitch. Given the reputation for bumbling their way through pandemics many fans will not be surprised if there is mass chaos in coming series.

Meanwhile across the pond in the country formerly known as Trump Land white people stormed the Capitol and weren’t shot. Whereas the the outgoing president condemned the BLM protests as riots, he praised these people as protestors and he finally got banned from Twitter for inciting violence as leaders across the land condemned him.

We are all just hoping that series 1 of 2021 picks up a bit and becomes a little less doom and gloom, because quite frankly, none of us can stand the breaking news phone beeps anymore, our nerves are shot.

2021 you have begun

Happy New Year. What will your goals for 2021 include?

Amongst other things I wanted to have something I could continue to work on regardless of what Boris and Covid did to gyms and classes, as it seems that for the first month at least we are unlikely to have either.

So I’ve signed up to a running challenge to keep me committed to running every week. So I’m running 874 miles (that’s around 1,407 km) in 2021.

What challenge have you set yourself for the year? Is there something you can commit to now that will help you stay motivated and committed to completing that challenge?