Water

We are almost all guilty of it.  We obsess over our training plans, diet, cheat meals, how many coffees we drink a day, how many units of alcohol we drink yet we frequently ignore our hydration levels.

I used to do this – I could tell you how many calories I’d consumed and burnt but it barely registered that not even a sip of water had passed my lips all day (unless you count 400 coffees and several glass of wine). 

But water is important for so many reasons:

  1. Helping increase energy and relieve fatigue
  2. Helping you think, focus and concentrate better, helping you be more alert
  3. Assisting with achieving your body goals
  4. Helping improve your complexion
  5. Aiding digestion
  6. Looking after your immune system / helping you get over colds etc.
  7. Reducing the likelihood of some types of headaches (where commonly caused by dehydration)
  8. Preventing / reducing the likeliness of cramps & sprains
  9. Improving your mood / general feeling of well being
  10. It saves you money – it’s the cheapest drink there is!

I found that, whilst I didn’t really notice many differences when I started to drink enough water, I DID notice that when I then drank less water I felt it!  If I’ve had a day where I drink less I feel lethargic, grumpy and hungry for salty foods.

So how much should you drink?

Ideally between 30-35 ml per kg of body weight

PLUS and additional 500 ml for every hour of exercise you do.

Example – I weigh 95kg and do on average 1 hours of training a day at present so I try and drink 3,350 ml – 3,825 ml (3.4-3.9 litres) a day, I normally average around 3.5 litres  

One word of warning:  You will go to the toilet A LOT when you first start drinking more water – maybe not something to coincide with a long road trip!

Training when ill

I’ve got a cold, I started to feel a bit run down Friday and Saturday morning my nose felt blocked up. I went out for a run Saturday lunchtime and by the time I got home I felt rough and spent the day on the sofa. Sunday I felt better but decided not to train instead going out for lunch but by the time I got home I knew it was man down, a full blown cold had hit. It’s not a total shock, I’ve had a bust and stressful few weeks and actually said a few times recently that I knew I was doing too much and was making myself sick. The fact of the matter is when we get stressed and over work ourselves we are more susceptible to picking up colds etc.

Once ill, people who train regularly often find it hard not to train when they are ill, even if rest may actually be more beneficial for them, I used to be the same, although now I’m a lot better at listening to my body and taking a break to recover.

So, should you train when ill?

It’s generally recommended that mild to moderate activity is usually OK if you have a cold (with no fever). In fact, exercise may even help you feel better in the short term, opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving congestion.

If your symptoms are all above the neck generally it’s considered safe to train. Symptoms above the neck include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and sore throats. You may still want to think about reducing the intensity and length of your workout, so maybe going for a walk instead of a run for example, or if you do want to run reducing the distance and going at a slower pace.

If symptoms are below the neck (chest congestion, a hacking cough, an upset stomach, muscle ache) it is however recommended that you do not exercise and instead rest until the symptoms subside.

A Fever should make exercise a hard no, raising your body temperature further if you already have a fever, will not aid recovery and could make you feel worse, so if you show any signs of fever sit out of any exercise until your temperature is back to normal.

Of course you shouldn’t exercise with or around other people if you have any type of contagious illnesses, although if you feel OK you could always do a gentle home workout.

Exercise can help boost your body’s natural defenses against illness and infection, and regular moderate exercise 3-4 times a week (for around 30 minutes) has been shown to have numerous benefits to a person’s health.

It’s worth remembering though overtraining can actually lower immunity. That means if you are training intensely every day with no rest days, de load weeks or structure (i.e. you’re constantly trying to get a PB every session) you are not only at greater risk of injury but also may find yourself catching colds more often (group exercise instructors doing multiple classes a week you may also find yourself in the group!).

So ultimately, training when ill (as long as it not chest or fever based) won’t hurt if you feel well enough to do so, but resting and letting your body recover may well be more beneficial. For many of us exercise is as much for our mental health as physical and taking a break can make you feel a bit rubbish anyway, so when you already feel bad because you’re ill it’s even harder. Having said that, in order to be as healthy as we can we need to think, not only about actual training, but also how we look after our bodies overall, and sickness is in an indication that our body isn’t currently running at 100%, meaning taking time to look after it rather than trying to push through may actually be something to consider.

Training in the Heat – Part Two

Yesterday I wrote about working out in the heat and how, for the majority, it’s going to be perfectly safe. Here’s the other side of the coin.

If you don’t want to workout today or tomorrow that’s ok.

Whilst there’s no reason you can’t make time to train today if you want we need to remember that training should complement your life.

So if the idea of training when you’re hot and sweaty just standing still gives you the ick and sounds like the worst idea since someone suggested to Boris he should run for PM, don’t train.

Two days off from the gym will not derail your progress, make you put on weight or send you back today square one. By all means train if you want, Government warnings aside you’ll probably be ok, but if you don’t fancy it don’t make yourself feel bad.

Training in Heat

It’s been quite hot the last week and this week it’s set to get hotter with weather warmings and the like. So let’s talk training in heat.

Now schools are being advised to consider letting kids run about in the sun, closing early and so on, but children are more susceptible to struggling in the heat so as adults we really don’t need to avoid training during hot weather. If you’re fit and healthy enough to train anyway the heat, whilst uncomfortable, isn’t going to suddenly make training ridiculously dangerous.

There are of course things you can do to be sensible and look after yourself, ensure you don’t overheat, avoid heat stroke, don’t get dehydrated and quite frankly make training more pleasant.

You might like to train earlier or later in the day when it’s cooler or even switch outdoor sessions to indoor where you can enjoy air conditioning making things a bit cooler. If you are outdoors running or cycling wearing lighter colours, kit with tech that helps absorb sweat might help, and of course make sure you’ve plenty of suncream on.

Hydration is key at anytime but particularly when it’s hot making sure you drink plenty of water is going to be key when exercising (and not exercising folks) to counteract any increased risk of dehydration.

You may want to moderate your expectations for sessions – if the heat affects your energy levels, accepting that you may need to reduce intensity a bit or take a few more or longer breaks will help you complete a session without being annoyed with yourself. To be fair, nows a great time to start learning this lesson if it’s something you struggle with. Our bodies will at various times just have a little less to give, and on those days, whether you be tired, hot, run down or stressed, adjusting your effort levels and intensity and accepting that some days feel better than others can be a key step to training without being yourself up.

But beyond being mindful that it might be wise to take a few precautions when you aren’t used to the heat we don’t need to avoid training or going to the gym.

In fact, for generally healthy people, it’s been shown that training in hot conditions can actually be beneficial to your fitness.

Whilst it might feel harder to train in heat training in the warm weather encourages your body to sweat more (keeping you cool), increases your blood-plasma volume (benefiting cardiovascular fitness), and lowers your core body temperature. These things are all beneficial to helping you perform better in any weather.

When you add heat to exercise, you increases the stress load on your body. This stress can play a role in current and future performance. For example, as a runner you might find you have an easier time at a race if your body is already used to adapting to and training through different conditions. More than that there can be mental benefits to training in heat, from an increased sense of achievement of getting through a tough session and also feeling more capable of getting through future challenging workouts.

So the upshot is if you would normally train don’t let the upcoming weather put you off, just take some precautions to look after yourself and stay safe.

Why do people do this?

There’s lots of things I think you can see both sides of in both life and fitness and plenty of things you see within gyms which you might do differently but are still perfectly valid and can work for that person.

What I will never get in gyms is why people think it’s ok to judge other people and make unsolicited comment to them on that opinion.

Generally speaking, most of us would be upset if someone commented that we looked a bit bigger or smaller or had lost a bit of definition. Even the most confident person in a gym can go through periods they feel a little out of shape and having someone highlight it to them doesn’t really help. Realistically, even people who thrive off dissatisfaction cues or challenge as motivation comments about weight, shape and size can be unhelpful.

It occurred to me whilst writing that this might conflict a little with my last post, but I’m not talking about genuine concern for clients or patients that may arise, more the general opinions we have of other gym goers that are simply nothing to do with us.

As a general rule, unless the person has started a discussion about their body or is seeing you in some form of professional capacity where their health / body is the topic, keeping you opinions in your head is generally the best thing to do. You might have great advice about how you think they could grow those glutes, flatten their stomach, tone their arms whatever, but the confidence you’ll give them with that advice is unlikely to outweigh how they will feel when you point out things they were already a bit paranoid about anyway!

Weight Loss v Body Positivity

You read so much now about the pressures of social media on people’s perception of themselves. Photo editing, air brushing and the never ending perfectness of the lives and bodies of instagram influencers is blamed for people’s insecurities about their own bodies.

On the other side of the coin, a new wave of body positivity has started to prevail online, celebrating all body shapes and sizes and embracing people as they are.

The thing that sits awkwardly between these two polar sides of these internet discourses is being healthy, because obviously striving to get to a body size and shape which is very thin and requires excessive training, undereating and unhealthy eating habits is bad, but is encouraging people who are dangerously overweight to remain the same in the name of body inclusivity responsible?

Nobody would argue that people who are a size 12/14 feeling fat because we have generally always been conditions to think that anything over a size 10 is ‘big’ is alright, and the more positive discourse around size and shape and what’s normal is clearly a step in the right direction, people who are not super slim can of course be fit, healthy and strong. More women looking to lift in gyms has aided this change in mindset as strong is now often more desirable than skinny and more women want muscles and a bum (remember this has not been the case until pretty recently, I grew up in the 90s when a flat bum was the goal!).

All of that is great, but within this movement there is also the argument that nobody should be told to lose weight no mater what their size. Is that right though? Of course BMI is rubbish, I’m obese according to that yet I teach group exercise classes with ease, lift, and have recently run a half marathon. Last time i went to the doctor and got my blood pressure tested they commented ho healthy I was physically. Lots of people are bigger but strong, fit, in good health, size alone shouldn’t be the only thing to define a person’s attractiveness or health. Should body positivity stop people who are overweight and unhealthy from being encouraged to get help though? If someone is finding their size is affecting their health or their ability to do things, surely this should not be part of the everyone is entitled to be the size they want?

As ever, we seem to be unable to look at the grey areas between the black and white of two different camps. If you’re happy does it matter what size you are? Personally I think no, but if your size or lifestyle if affecting your health and ability to do things I think we should be able to advise them that they could benefit from making changes. Weight loss doesn’t have to be the be all and end all of a positive lifestyle change, but it also shouldn’t be a dirty word. Encouraging a client to lose weight if it’s part of their goal shouldn’t make them some kind of enemy to the body positivity movement.

What are your thoughts?

Hardest parts of the job

People think the hardest things about being a group exercise instructor is learning choreography or talking at the same time as moving or always thinking one step ahead so you can cue what is coming next.

These things are tough at first but I think there are harder things we face, here’s a few:

  1. Morning classes – Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching morning classes, they set you up for the day. But if something goes wrong first thing you’re stuck! Wake up ill, train cancelled, anything like that and there’s nothing you can do to avoid cancelling the class. The centre often won’t be open for you to let them know far enough in advance to warn members and you’ll be unlikely to find cover awake and ready to go that early on.
  2. Getting sick – In my day job a little cold is something I can work through, much harder to teach when you feel ill though, and I think fitness instructors are more prone to catching things.  One, we are physically moving at high intensity more often than, say, a PT on the gym floor is, so our immune system is likely to be lower, plus we spend a lot of time in close proximity to a lot of people sweating away (think of the close proximity of bikes in a spin studio and how sweaty the room gets), is it any wonder we seem to catch everything going?
  3. Cover- I personally have been pretty lucky when covering and never had any terrible experiences with members, although it’s a nightmare when you go somewhere new and nobody seems to be able to show you how the stereo system works! Finding cover however can be a nightmare, especially post Pandemic.  I get it, I am pretty much at my perfect balance of classes so not really looking to take on cover and tend to only do it as a favour now, but it does make trying to take time off hard.
  4. Lack of equipment – Those times when classes are full but some bikes are broken, or there’s not enough weights / steps to go around. Trying to find solutions to allow everyone to participate when members who’ve booked on are, quite rightly, annoyed by these challenges is tough at times ad it feels awful when there is no option but to disappoint someone.
  5. No air con –  Nobody enjoys this, members or instructor, and it’s tough to stay positive and keep people moving knowing that everyone is struggling in the heat.

Day 1

There’s always so much hype about ‘Day 1’.

You start a diet or a gym regime and people praise the ‘Day 1’ posts. Of course Day 1 is tough, starting anything can be daunting and finding the motivation to start is a positive which should be cheered.

Day 1 is also shiny, new and novel enough to actually be easy though. Those first few meals, gym sessions, days of change have a novelty to them that can help you stick to it.

It gets tougher as the days go by. As people perhaps stop asking how it’s going, as you have long days or challenging days and want to revert back to comfortable habits to make yourself feel better, it becomes harder to stick to your new habits and actions.

It’s not just that. In the early days and weeks results will likely come quick and fast. Depending on how much weight you have to lose you might find the pounds drop off quickly at first. If you are just starting lifting or running you might find the PBs come thick and fast for a while.

As the weeks and months go on and you establish your new habits, those results will slow. This is natural, but it’s also challenging for your motivation, as it gets harder to see progress it also becomes harder to stick to things when times get tough.

Day 1 is tough, starting is tough, but I think staying with it and never having another ‘Day 1’ again is far more challenging and yet also the ultimate goal. Fitness will always be a rollercoaster of ups and downs, peaks and being less at your peak, we don’t need to have a ‘day 1’ every time we have a down though, we just need to keep going with a healthy habits.