Did you gain weight in Lockdown?

Ten reasons you might have put weight on during the Pandemic

  1. Boredom – You eat because, what else is there to do? When you can barely leave the house 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. 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 is now 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 are closed meaning for many our normal way of training is not an option. We adapted but you may be missing aspects of your normal routine, be in variety, intensity, volume. This may mean you’re 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 is 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 now you stand 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 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.
  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 your 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 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.

But there is no shame in having put on a bit of weight, it’s hardly a shock, none of us knew how to react and it’s hard to handle your emotions when faced with uncertainty and the unknown. We do know that guilt over any weight gain won’t help you however. Understanding why you may have gained the weight can help you both feel more empathy for your self (why do we always judged ourselves much more harshly than others) and also work out what we need to make the right changes to start to get back to where you’d like to be.

Are You Ready?

How ready are you for things to go back to normal?

I don’t mean physically.  There are so many posts and articles about getting gym ready, summer body ready, lockdown lifting body ready.  I mean mentally.

In the aftermath of the first Lockdown, as much as I, like evryone else, was desperate for a return to normaity, found it harder than I thought to adjust to the canges in my Lockdown routine.  I wasan’t alone at the time and I said then that, whilst we all put a lot of thought into how we would cope with Lockdown as the prospect loomed ahead of us in March, none of us thought we’d need to try hard to get back to normal.  Actually though humans tend to adapt to circumstances quite quickly as a way of surviving and it wasn’t quite as easy a transition as many of us thought.

Since then we’ve had almost constant change.   Manchester went back into Lockdown in July last year and has never really left it (we went from Local Lockdown to Tier 2, Tier 3, Lockdown, new Tier 3, Tier 4, Lockdown).  We’ve gone from beign abl to go to the pub, get out haircut, go to the gym, to going to the gym but not classes, going to the pub but onl with a meal, to not beign able to go anywhere at all.  We’ve not really been allowed to travel apart from around 6 weeks last summer.

As much as everyone is desperate to leave this never ending barage of rules it isn’t wholey surprising that this brings an element of anxiety.  In recent days I’ve seen some emotional outbursts in reaction to Covid, heard people say ‘things are changing too quickly’.  I don’t think all these people are scared of Covid or a risk of the spread 9some are of course).  I think some people are just a wee bit anxious about the chnges to a routine, which whilst mind numbing, most of us have ended up settling into to stay sane.

Much in the same way almost every PT on Instagram has said it’s ok to go back to the gym having gained weight, not lifted, not trained much and to not feel bad for it, it’s also ok to really want this to end but still feel a bit apprehensive about going back to things that were once normal but have not been for some time now, be that the office, the gym, social settings and so on.

Is Calorie Counting Restrictive?

One of the most commonly quoted objections to calorie counting is the lack of freedom, the feeling that it is a restrictive way of eating.

Yet if you eat intuitively but find yourself saying I can’t eat ‘that’ I think that’s more restrictive than tracking how many calories are in ‘that’ as you eat it.

‘That’ might be bread or pasta or ‘bad’ carbs. ‘That’ might be chocolate or cake or crisps. ‘That’ might be a takeaway or other type of junk food.

We often put lots of rules in place with our own diet, have our own ideas of what constitutes a ‘good’ diet and what is ‘bad. If we find ourselves saying we mustn’t eat certain foods or eating them and then feeling guilty that is not a non restrictive diet. Whether you track or eat intuitively if you find yourself avoiding certain things you enjoy that is still a restrictive way of eating.

In fact, if you track your calories to work towards your goal and eat all the foods you enjoy whilst doing so I’d argue that that is much less restrictive than not tracking but having a list of avoid / bad foods.

Calorie counting for all it’s apparent simplicity causes a great deal of debate amongst some people, but I think sometimes it gets a bad rap for restrictive ways of eating when it can actually be a way of eating much more freely and removing some of the guilt from eating certain foods.

Calories Counting v Intuitive Eating

I’ve written previously about intuitive eating and how I feel like you cannot eat intuitively until you understand calorie tracking. Two ever so opposite end of the scale things but they kind of work together.

I get why people don’t necessarily want to track calories. I get that for some people it could get a bit obsessive. I get that you don’t just want to make food about numbers. I get that it’s time consuming and dull. I get that there’s so much more to life than how many calories you eat and constantly thinking about what you have left in your calorie bank.

But. But but but.

If you want to lose weight… or gain weight for that matter… you have to be eating the right amount of calories compared to how many calories you expend each day / each week.

Now you might be someone who is happy with their weight. If that’s the case you probably can just eat intuitively, because what you are eating right now is keeping you where you want to be. This post is not for you!

If you want to change your weight, up or down, that indicates that what you currently eat right now either provides you with too many (if you want to lose) or not enough (if you want to gain) calories. Before you say it, yes maybe you are that rare person who is struggling because of a condition and the reason is far more complex, but harsh truth – the majority of us are not that person, the majority of us just aren’t eating the right amount for our goals.

So if you aren’t eating the right number of calories right now you can’t eat intuitively. Because to do something intuitively requires knowledge of how to do it in the first place. At work, do you do tasks you’ve done many times before instinctively, without thought- looking at a problem and knowing the issue and solution before you’ve really even thought about it? Can you answer the question before it’s even been asked because you know what they’ll ask because it’s what everyone always asks? Could you do that on your first week of the job? Of course not. You learnt your job and over time through doing your actions became more instinctive, more confident.

Same with calories. You need to understand how much of the type of foods you eat is right for you to reach your goal. To do this you need to track. The more you learn about this as you track the less you need to rely on tracking, because you can learn to start reading you own body and hunger and getting used to the right kind of portion sizes for you and your goals.

So over time you can track less, maybe just checking in occasionally to check your still in the right zone, or using it as a refocus if you’ve found yourself going a bit off track. You don’t have to commit to a lifetime of strict tracking everything that passes your lips. But to get a handle on where you are at and work out where you need to be you do need to be aware of what you are really eating, and tracking is really the only way.

If you don’t want to track you don’t have to of course, but if you’re frustrated you aren’t reaching you goals and aren’t tracking you may want to reconsider because whether you track or eat intuitively calories do count.

Cheat Meal Time

Cheat Meals. Two very emotive words that muttered on Facebook always tend to create debate and bring out two very polarised camps of people.

Generally as a PT I would fall into the don’t think on meals or days as ‘cheats’. You can manage your calories and how much you eat across a week to be able to have what society would generally deem a ‘cheat meal’ and still stay within your calorie goals and reach whatever goal you may have.

More than this, classing a meal as a ‘cheat’ can lead to you thinking of foods as good and bad can be damaging to your feelings around food. Guilt about eating a certain type of food does nothing for your mental health, how you view yourself or your eating habits in general.

Equally however it’s actually really hard not to fall in the habit of referring to foods as ‘treats’ or ‘cheats’. Personally, I know a takeaway isn’t an automatic bad thing and that actually some days I could end up eating fewer calories after a fast food meal than I would have had I made a ‘healthy’ meal. Some people do not know this. Some people might know but not be quite willing to accept it, so throw away comments about cheat meals, whilst not a big deal for me could create a bigger barrier in someone else’s mindset.

For me there are two issues relating to the idea of cheat meals. Teaching people that foods do not need to be grouped into good and bad and working on our own language and how we absent mindedly refer to food.

But there’s one more issue to add to this mix. We’ve noted a lot during the Pandemic that obesity is an issue in the UK and that it causes health issues. We’ve largely noted beyond that (unless your Boris who prefers the less educated approach) that education on nutrition and the energy balance is key to this.

Now here, at a very basic level, the good / bad food list can be useful. If you want to educate someone about the benefits of a balanced diet and the benefits of eating fresh foods then there is going to be a little bit of a good / bad rhetoric. Cheat meals are essentially the idea of people who have a relative understanding and interest in health and nutrition and would benefit from understanding the restrictions this mentality can place on you. For someone with a very limited knowledge of the energy balance equation we are essentially going back to the food pyramid which does promote an element of good / bad foods.

We need to acknowledge that yes essentially weight loss can be incredibly simple, that does not mean there are not lots of obstacles we can nee help with at various points. Sometimes the simplest things can be quite tricky.

Sleepy Head

Am I only person struggling to sleep more than normal right now?

I know not being in routine has now gone on for so long it’s basically routine but the lack of my old structure has really affected my ability to fall asleep. Sleep is vital though, for recovery, health in general and also just not being a moody cow all day so it’s something I’m really keen to get to grips with. I know if I don’t get to sleep at a decent time I will snooze the alarm, my morning will be a rush and that will be stressful. So I’m trying to work on my bedtime routine, your doctor might refer to this a sleep hygiene which always makes me chuckle (I don’t know why).

I’m keeping it simple with my plan of action:

  • Phone down an hour before bed
  • Herbal tea to relax (not a massive fan of them but warm is comforting and need to avoid caffeine at bed time)
  • Clean my teeth
  • Pillow spray to see if that helps (makes the pillows smell nice anyway)
  • Some back stretches in bed (because my back has been feeling really tight lately which also makes getting to sleep hard as I can’t get comfy)
  • Sleep

Currently this is about as successful as the Government’s handling on the Pandemic but I am working on the basis that I need to train my brain to start seeing these habits as signals to get to sleep and it will start to make a difference.

How’s your sleep been recently? Do you have any great tips for a good nights sleep?

Have you met Jeff?

Are you someone who’d like to run more but always feel like you have to stop after a while so have given up? The Jeff Galloway Walk Run method could be game changer for you.

Jeff was training non runners to start running back in the 1970s and through initial training sessions and courses where he took non runners to 5k distances and more he concluded that a mix of running and walking could both improve times and reduce injury.

Now it’s generally accepted that when someone first starts running a mixture of walking for a bit running for a bit is a great starting point. Most people have the mind set however that as you progress the goal should be to run all distances continuously without walking breaks. and that to get a PB you must just run faster and never walk

The Galloway Run Walk method argues that by walking and running in set ratios you can speed up your half marathon time by around 7 minutes on average. The method is quite specific and advises set run to walk ratios (and consists of paid plans to advise you), but even if you wanted to just use the principle of planning some walks into your runs to strategically improve your times I believe you can see the benefits.

The idea is that Run Walk Run as a method is essentially a form of interval training (think Fartlek training but with planning) and building in walks reduces fatigue by allowing better conservation of energy, reducing stress on the body and reducing body temperature during the walks. By planning a walk in at a set point as opposed to running until you have to stop and walk it can allow you to run further and faster once you go back into a running segment because you have spent some time recovering before the point of absolute exhaustion. It can mean you are less sore after a run which allows you to carry on with every day life and can make motivating yourself to start easier and you are able to enjoy runs more (especially if you hate the pushing through the pain idea). It is argued it can dramatically reduce the risk of injury.

So how can you use this idea in your runs to see if it makes a difference? Instead of running until you can no longer run then walking for a bit and then starting back up as soon as you feel able think about planning your walks ahead of time. For instance I will run for 15 minutes then walk for 5 minutes then repeat until i reach my distance. Think about how long you can normally run until you start to struggle. If that is 25 minutes, plan you walk in around 20 minutes so you are not yet needing the walk when you stop. If that’s 10 minutes plan you walk at 5 minutes. The idea is to take that active recovery before you really need it, allowing you to recharge and then run at a faster pace in your next running segment. You are still covering distance whilst you are walking and you are covering the distance quicker in the run sections and therefore may well find you shave time off your normal ‘just run’ run.

Of course sometimes you may want to run a whole distance to see where you are at but you don’t need to feel like you must only ever run to be a runner. A bit of walking could actually ultimately make you a faster runner!

Men should have a 6pm curfew

“mmm so hot nearly broke my dick looking at u xx”.

Just a random message from a stranger on Facebook Messenger the other day. I mean at least he put a couple of kisses at the end of it right? At least he didn’t actually send me a photo of his dick. But you know what if women kept every unsolicited photo of a stranger’s penis they had ever sent many of us would look like we had some kind of porn addiction to anyone who viewed our camera albums.

These kind of messages and photos get received so often most of the time women just delete them without comment. We haven’t engaged in conversation with the sender or indicated we enjoy receiving such messages, yet some men feel that it is their right to be able to expose themselves or send lewd messages to women they don’t know.

This attitude has been seen in multiple stories in the news, on Social Media and in discussions between friends in the last week. Women are used to be shouted at or commented at on busy streets, in the day, with other people around. The fact that men can do this and know that they are unlikely to be called out by those around them allows them to do it again and again with confidence and means that most women learn, at an early age, to brush these comments and incidents aside as if they are nothing.

All women know the dangers of walking at home alone at night, I only run at night with my friends and on well lit streets, we all text one another when we get home at night to confirm we are safe. We get taught at an early age about sticking to busy roads, staying alert, not leaving drinks unattended in bars. Women grow up essentially being conditioned to avoid attack yet at the same time are expected to brush off unwanted comments or attention because it’s just ‘a bit of fun’. The fact that men (strangers) have exposed themselves to me in a busy street whilst I was on my way to work, slapped my bum as they walked past, felt it ok to make comments about what they’d like to do to me or blatantly look down my top telling me they are doing so, and the fact that a couple of hours after the event they’d slipped my mind as they seem so normal shows that there are plenty of men out there that think that treating women like this is ok and that are confident they won’t suffer any consequences.

Suggesting that Sarah should not have walked home alone at night, when women routinely and obviously get harassed every day in plain sight with bystanders saying nothing, is insulting (to her, her family, women in general). Women face potential harassment and worse at all points of the day, whatever they are wearing, whether they do ‘all the right things’. Sarah did ‘all the right things’, she stuck to busy roads, phoned her partner, was wearing bright clothes. But again the people saying she shouldn’t have walked home at night are doing what so often happens when women get attacked or accosted. Blaming the woman for doing the wrong thing (i.e. not going out of their way to avoid getting attacked) rather than the attacker for attacking them. We should not dare live our life freely, unless we accept that in doing so we may be attacked.

Is it education that we need? I don’t know. Because it isn’t all men, of course it isn’t. Maybe men could do more at calling their mates out if they see them acting inappropriately, but actually, I know an awful lot of men that do call out inappropriate behaviour, who don’t just stand by. Stopping shaming or blaming women would help though, in the media, and in general perceptions throughout society. Women should be able to go places and wear what they want without being accused of making themselves open to attack. I really don’t like the socks and sliders look – does that mean I can use this as an excuse for attacking someone? Extreme? Not when you think how many people think a women in a revealing outfit was asking to be raped. Instead we need to focus on the people who attack women, not give them excuses but treat them for what they are , criminals. Beyond that we should take the every day harassment women just accept as ‘nothing’ more seriously, because if we take this more seriously it might be a start to changing people’s perceptions of how people think women should be treated.

And for the record, the woman in the news suggesting men should have a 6 pm curfew. I didn’t actually pay much attention to this story so don’t really know the background, but maybe, just maybe, she was making the point that women have a kind of curfew. Once it gets dark we need to be careful about going out alone, where we go, what we wear. It’s not a legal curfew or an official one, but one which we get taught to observe as soon as we are old enough to go out alone.

Tired Legs

As I’ve mentioned I’m doing a challenge of 874 miles in 2021- that’s around an average of 120km a month across the year. A combination of my fitness, the weather and the dark nights meant I didn’t hit that in January and was a bit under in February. I’m also aware I could get injured or have to take time off at some point if I am ill later in the year so my plan is to increase my mileage in the months where I’m feeling fitter and the weather is nicer to allow myself an emergency buffer. As such I’m aiming for 200km in March – I’m currently on 64km eleven days in. What this means is running on tired legs some days. I always do a long run with my friend Hollie on a Wednesday night. She is faster than me so it is always a run that pushes me and I normally feel it in the legs the next day so often don’t run on a Thursday, but this month I need to to reach my goal so today I did 5km (3 miles) after last nights 13km (8 mile run).

Running on tired legs is a challenge but it’s also something you can teach yourself to do and if you re training for a marathon or endurance event it’s a good idea to consider doing some training on tired legs. Obviously it’s a balancing act of not over doing it (you want to increase mileage by no more than 10/20% a week), risking injury or making yourself run down by affecting your sleep, recovery etc. and building your endurance. Below are some tips I find useful to run on tired legs.

  • Fuel well, don’t try and massively cut calories at the same time as increasing miles- this will make runs even harder. Carbs 30 minutes before a run always gives me a boost on tired days.
  • Stretch- often. Legs may still feel tired but stiff tired legs are even less fun to run on.
  • On long runs hydrate or take a gel before you feel like you need to. Waiting until you feel like you need it can make it much harder to keep going.
  • Slow your pace on tired leg days. If you aim is endurance and getting the legs used to doing the miles you do not have to hit your best pace on every single run.
  • Listen to your body, if you are tired, go slower. Running on tired legs can help you on race day as when you know you can run even tired it gives you the confidence to push past any fatigue on race day. The speed you run at in training on those tired days is irrelevant.
  • Control your pace and don’t print down hills – a steady pace is much easier to maintain when tired than stop / start sprint / slow is.
  • When your legs start to feel heavy think about lifting your foot a little higher, landing slightly softer with a heel to toe motion, this can help boost circulation and reduce impact making your legs feel better.
  • Think about something else. I like to listen to audio books- mainly murder mysteries as I run, whatever distracts you from the fatigue.
  • Of course if you start running and the legs feel pain instead of fatigue- stop. Learning your body and the difference between when you need to rest and when you ca challenge yourself is key to building up your own endurance when running.

Female Fitness on International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day, so I thought a post focusing on female fitness would be appropriate.

With periods and child birth and the menopause amongst other things affecting a woman’s body over her lifetime, women face different challenges to men when it comes to training, fitness and weight gain / loss. Thankfully more fitness professionals are starting to use their knowledge on these factors to help women achieve better results. By tailoring training and diet around a female’s menstrual cycle for instance a PT can not only help their client improve their results but also feel better in themselves, more energetic and less like they are failing during those weeks where they just don’t have the energy to hit the big lifts.

One such coach and nutritionist is Chris Ward. I’ve known Chris for around four year now, and in that time he’s qualified as a nutrition coach and delved deep into female fitness. The podcast below discuses some of the struggles females can go through on a monthly basis, including the menstrual cycle, hormones and PCOS and is a great listen for any female looking to greater understand how these things can affect our training.

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/the-chris-ward-podcast/id1441709658?i=1000499610871