I’m Back!

This week, after a break over the summer due to personal reasons, I’ve come back to my full Group Exercise teaching schedule (around my day job so not actual full time teaching).

Immediately after my first class I remembered how much I love teaching and classes. Do I feel like I need to get fitter still- yes, did that matter much? Not at all. The connection with people and being able to coach and encourage people to feel like they worked hard and enjoyed it makes it one of the best jobs you can do. My favourite feedback was that was hard but I enjoyed it, because that’s exactly how it should be, we aren’t training for the Olympics so it should be enjoyable and make you feel good (even if at the time you’re swearing under your breath!).

What I also realised is I’m effectively starting back and with that need to take my own advice and ease myself in. I need to teach all my classes of course so I can’t just do a couple this wee and build up (or leave early) as members can. What I can do is plan my week accordingly. As such I made sure at the weekend that I’d done a food shop, meal prepped, got clothes ready for the week. I’ve kept my diary as clear as possible so in between work and classes I can chill and recover as I knew I’d be more tired than usual this week.

Sometimes you need to acknowledge how much you can reasonably take on and succeed with and whilst it’s good to challenge yourself, doing so to a degree where you’re likely to feel rubbish or like you’ve achieved nothing because you burnt yourself out is counter productive.

Five Truths I Think All Women Should Know

  1. It’s normal to poo more when you’re on your period- prostaglandins are chemicals which simulate the muscle in your uterus to help it contract and shed it’s lining (hello cramps) – the increase of prostaglandins can have a similar effect of other muscles such as your bowel, hence the need to poo more often during your time of the month.
  2. Period stigma is still a thing.  As much as we live in a much more open society these days (at least in the UK) it’s normal for people to refer to periods by euphemisms, hide taking a tampon or towel to the toilet and keep the symptoms to themselves, largely because we’ve all had the ‘time of the month’ or ‘too much information’ comments and generally people can still feel uncomfortable talking about them.
  3. When you have your smear test you can ask for them to use a smaller speculum, which may be more comfortable (especially if you get tense during smears due to nerves).  The option isn’t normally offered in my experience, but the nurse is normally fine with it if you ask.
  4. Detoxing isn’t a thing.  Your liver does a pretty good job at helping your body detoxing and beats any juice, pill or fast out there.  Of course not over eating, smoking or drinking too much can help the body maintain it’s best condition.
  5. Loose skin and stretch marks are normal.  Whilst most of us know that having a baby or dramatic weight loss can cause stretch marks and loose skin, in actual fact most of us have stretch marks and as we get older and skin loses a bit of elasticity looser skin is also quite common, even though most of us feel like we’re the only one when we look at others (we always tend to judge ourselves more harshly).

The Office Cakes

Office place snacking. It’s one of my downfalls.

I work in an office where there is always cakes, biscuits, snacks sitting on the side to take. I find it really hard to walk past a packet of Jaffa Cakes!

Pre Lockdown when I taught 14 odd classes a week this wasn’t so much of an issue as I was largely in enough of a calorie deficit anyway that the extra snacks weren’t the worst thing. Now though, having reduced my classes to get a bit more balance I’m finding the extra calories sneaking in here and there aren’t doing me many favours.

But how do you say no when everything makes you want to say YOLO. Work stress can make you want to snack on nice thigs, watching others grab something, seeing you favourite cakes, that 3pm energy slump, missing breakfast; office place cakes are always more appealing.

Of course I try to bring in my lunch and snacks for the day so I’m not hungry but that doesn’t stop me wanting the sweet stuff.

The way I see it there are two ways to approach this. I could just say no, even if it makes me sad at the time or I can plan my meals for the week allowing for a little leeway each day so that I can add in a few unplanned snacks without going over my calorie goal for the day. The second option is the way I’m trying to go at present, which will hopefully allow me to stick to my targets without feeling like I’m missing out.

Things like snacking in work can sometimes feel like obstacles to reaching your goals but there are almost always work arounds to these type of issues if you’re able to be a little flexible with yourself.

SAD

In recent months I’ve see more awareness of how hormones, mental health, nutrition and other such factors affect training.  There’s another thing that I know affects my mental health and therefore my training ad my diet – autumn!

I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – often known as Winter Depression.  Well, that’s not strictly true, I take medication for depression and anxiety all year round but I find it’s always worse in the winter months.  In particular autumn is the hardest because there’s the change between longer summer days and light evenings and it getting dark not long after I leave work, at least by winter I guess I’ve got a bit used to it.

I find it more uplifting to wake up and leave to teach and it be light or finish an evening class and feel light.  Once I need to shut the curtains my brain starts to switch off and all I want to do is climb into my pyjamas and go to bed, so once it gets dark earlier getting things done in the evening just feels so much harder.

This of course has an impact on my training – going out in the dark to get to the gym feels so unappealing, in comparison to leaving the gym at 9pm and still feeling like it’s day time in summer.  I always start to want more comfort food come autumn too as the urge to hibernate kicks in.

Knowing that this is generally how I always feel come autumn I’ve learnt a few things to counteract this over the years: 

  • I invested in a light box – a box that gives out UV style rays which can help increase the amount of daylight you get a day which in turn can be beneficial to your mood.
  • Getting outside and walking during the day when it is light is also a key thing for me.  The less fresh air I get, the more likely I am to get run down and feel ill.
  • Taking not only my medication daily (which isn’t always as easy as it sounds) but also vitamins (multi vitamin, iron supplement, Vitamin D and a high dose of  Omega 3) helps
  • Trying to train earlier in the day so if motivation drops I’ve got it out the way already, plus once I do train often I will feel better come darkness time anyway.

Still, even though I know it’ll pass I can’t wait for spring to come again!

Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Someone in class asked last night about losing weight for a wedding in a couple of months time, they wanted to lose way more than you could without going on a crash diet. I get it of course, I too always dream of quick fixes for things I want and there is so much on social media about transformation challenges where abs are popping after 90 days an the like.

Realistically though, beyond the fact that you really aren’t very likely to actually stick to anything that strict for that long without giving up (because it will likely be misery inducing), where do you go after that? If you managed to achieve drastic results with drastic measures how do you maintain those results without maintaining those measures too? And the fact is if you’ve forced yourself to train regardless every day for weeks on end chances are you’re going to want a break at the end of the ‘challenge), making maintenance doubly hard.

This is why most PTs and coaches favour the long game, the steady, the small changes and small habits. The turning no training a week into two sessions, the five takeaways a week to two takeaways a week. Slower change? Yes. Will it feel like your still not a super fitness clean living guru? Yes. But small changes are sustainable and will allow you to still have fun whilst getting results. Those results are more likely to be sustained as you will be creating lifestyle changes that actually fit in with your lifestyle as opposed to changes where you need to change your lifestyle to fit the plan. More to the point, training can be something you enjoy and feel good about rather than a hinderance to your day.

If you had the choice right now between the training genie promising they would make you magically training every day for the next three months or three times a week for the next 12 months which would you choose? The three month thing might be tempting because it would get to your goal quicker, but what about after? Whereas a year of solid regular training would really create lasting habits and results.

It can feel amazing to feel like you’ve got training nailed and you’re eating really well, but the goal of perfect leaves so much chance for slip ups which can then make you feel bad. Fitting things in around what you already do can create a much nicer mindset where stopping for a coffee and cake with a friend doesn’t equate to beating yourself up for breaking a diet.

That is a much more amazing feeling to have.

Beating yourself up

“I was good all week but then had a takeaway on Friday”

“I planned to exercise every day but only managed three times”

How often are you guilty of muttering a phrase like this?  I do it all the time.  We set ourselves up to have a great week and be really positive and good then berate ourselves for falling short.

What we forget though is that, in very broad terms, to stop gaining weight we need to consume less than we have been, to gte fitter we need to do more than we have been.

So if you’ve eaten less than normal on five days out of the week, then you’ve improved on the previous week, even if a couple of days didn’t go to plan.  If you’ve trained three times more than normal your workign to imporving your fitness.

Fitness and weight loss are not magic switches where a perfect week will suddenly make you drop three dress sizes and become an Olympic athlete.  Even a perfect week will not, in issolation, create dramatic results.  A consistent good but not perfect routine will over time create far superior results and make you feel far better, than one of two spot on perfect weeks then going back to normal will.

Aims are great and setting the bar high is commendable, but beating yourself up when you’ve not been perfect but have actually made progress is bonkers.

Who Hates Change

Have you found your exercise routine and diet has changed from pre lockdown?  Maybe in a positive way, maybe less positive for you.

Gyms are back ope now and most restrictions have been removed allowing things to relax a bit.  But for me personally I’ve found it really hard to bounce back to doing exactly what I did before.

For one I’m physically not in the same condition as I was eighteen months ago, I need to build back up to where I was.  But wth that come a required change in mindset.  Needing to adjust my expectations and work up from where I am to where I want to be, with it accepting that I can’t just do things that I could before.

That change in mindset is tough, it’s frustrating.  I feel like I should be better than I am and with that I am struggling to train as I need to because it doesn’t feel ‘right’ compared to what  did before.

This is bonkers really, as a coach I spend lots of time telling clients to train in accordance to where they are now, to not make themselvs feel bad if there’s things they can’t do right now.  So much easier to say that to others (and believe it) than it is to show the same kidn of understanding towards yourself.

I’m making a real effort now to accept that I need to rebuild the basic blocks both in terms of training and nutrition now and not be hard on myself for having changed physically overt the last year.

Lockdown Weight Gain

Covid went on for longer than we expected in March 2020 right?

Ten reasons you might have put weight in the last eighteen months.

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

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

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

Habits

What’s easier: Creating a new habit or getting rid of an old habit?

I saw this question the other day and thought it was really thought provoking. 

My automatic reaction was creating a new one is harder but when I thought about it, I changed my mind.  Stopping old habits is actually pretty tough, if you’re used to always having a cigarette when you have a drink or having a coke and chocolate break at 3pm every day for example, it’s hard to break the link in your brain between the two.

What makes it easier to break an old habit is replacing it with a new habit.  So replacing the coke and chocolate with water and fruit would be easier than just stopping having a snack at 3pm, because that way you’re still doing something at 3 pm just making it something different.

The other reason I think creating new habits can seem a bit daunting is that we tend to think too big.  Wanting to lose weight so we say I need to create the habit of training 5 times a week- that’s a big habit to create.  But really to make enough of a change to see results we only need to make a few small changes at a time.  Therefore if we break creating habits up into smaller more easily achievable thinks, like drinking 2 litres of water a day, getting more sleep, hitting a step count each day; creating new habits is far easier than you’d think.

Reaching a goal is largely about being successful at creating habits that are aligned with that goal, but often we can overthink how big those changes need to be.  A few small changes and new habits every few weeks can all add up to big changes.  Then as we create new habits it might well become easier to get rid of our old habits as we gradually change the way we do things day to day.

Which do you think is easier? 

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.