2020 Goals

It’s not unusual to review your life at the start of a new year and decide what you are happy with, what you want to change, what you would like to achieve within the coming year.

Often we want to lose weight, earn more money, travel more and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things being motivators.

It’s understood by most people who work in any kind of field where motivation is key (fitness is a great example) that people are more likely to meet those goals when they genuinely want them for a real reason that they feel some real passion or connection to.

So if you want to lose weight you’re more likely to achieve that when the reason is improved health or to be able to play with your children than because you think you probably should be a size 10.

Not only are you more likely to achieve a goal when there’s a purpose behind it, it’s also more likely to make you happy.

What about when one of your goals is to help other people?

As a society we are sceptical of anyone offering help, the saying you don’t get something for nothing springs to mind. When people offer things for free we tend to immediately assume there’s a catch.

But sometimes, some people’s purpose does involve, in part, just helping people.

Again fitness is a great example of this. It’s an area that many of us who work in it feel real passion about. We want to help people, bust misconceptions and encourage. Now of course we need to earn money too, so we have to charge for some things. But equally a lot of us want to help and will happily provide a lot more for free than you may get in other sectors. Hell, it’s a little selfish because the feeling you can get for knowing you made a difference is some people’s purpose in itself.

So today I wanted to highlight one fitness professional who does just that, and this year has (in my opinion) stepped it up even more.

Lauren McDowell is a Les Mills instructor, who has long been a Tribe Coach (a position where instructors volunteer time to mentor other instructors) and is well known on the instructor social media groups for providing technique videos and feedback.

This year she seems to have stepped it up a notch. After asking on Instagram what people wanted help with she has already produced videos on Body Combat kick technique which anyone can view (check it out here).

Lauren’s Video

But beyond that she has also started producing regular simple and practical tips aimed at people starting out or getting back into a fitness journey.

None of this makes Lauren any money, but she believes and is passionate about encouraging others to participate in fitness and doing it in a way that you enjoy and makes you feel good.

I have the pleasure of working with Lauren as part of Jump 4.2, which has a massive support network for instructors, all helping each other out, and she is also always available to support everyone in that group.

Lauren is of course one of many fit pros I know who provide so much help to others beyond the selling of their services, and they do this because part of their purpose is to help others. They can keep helping people even when they get nothing concrete out of it because it serves their purpose and they feel they get value from it regardless.

So back to my original point, there’s absolutely zero issue with your goals being money motivated or weight orientated but to achieve them you need to be motivated, and to stay motivated those goals need to mean something to you. Sometimes what you realise means something to you might not make sense to anyone else, sometimes the value you get out of a goal may not be physical but mental. Having a clear idea of your purpose will however help you make 2020 a year you get closer to your goals and those goals making you happier.

Equally, your goal really doesn’t have to be what you’d normally expect. Could it be to help more people or help specific people, rather than get a promotion or drop a dress size? Would that create a fire in your belly that pushed you to achieve your goal?

You can of course have a mixture of goals and I’m not suggesting becoming Mother Theresa here, but thinking beyond the norm of New Years Resolutions could help you find something your truly passionate about.

I’m pretty confident one of Lauren’s goals is helping more people this year (I’m sure she has others). You can help her teach more people by checking out her Instagram here, and if you do Combat do check out her technique videos!

Lauren’s Instagram

What Gym Kit Do I Need?

What should you wear to the gym? Simple answer.

Whatever you feel comfortable in.

And that answer is fine if you spend a lot of time training and know what does and doesn’t work for you.  This blog isn’t for you though.

Because that answer isn’t very helpful if you are thinking about starting some form of exercise in the New Year and really don’t know what to wear.  Then it’s just another obstacle to getting started.  I know because years ago when I was overweight and knew that I probably needed to do something not knowing what I should wear (and not feeling comfortable in a ton of lycra) was a good enough excuse to keep putting getting started off.

So here’s some tips to get started:

  • You don’t need to spend lots of new kit. If you want to and can afford it and it will make you feel more confident by all means go splurge in Victoria Secrets.  If you’re starting to dip your toe into the water you don’t need to though – go to Sports Direct or Primark and buy a couple of pairs of bottoms, a couple of tops and a couple of pairs of socks (and if youre female a couple of sports bras).  They don’t need to be any fancy materials to start, as long as you feel comfortable and can move about in them they will work to get you started.  As you get more into training and get to decide what you enjoy doing you can then invest in kit that works for that particular sport in time – right now those expensive compression running tops could be a waste of money if you find out that really you much prefer Zumba.
  • You don’t need super expensive trainers. Same as with clothes. Once you settle on a sport or area of training you may wish to invest in certain shoes (lifting shoes, dance shoes, running shoes, cycle shoes) but to start just buy a pair of trainers that are comfortable.  Think about what you are planning on doing.  If you are going to try classes out a trainer with a spin spot on the sole (a circle type mark on the sole will indicate this) can be useful as it allows you to turn on the spot (which you will do in most dance based classes but is also useful in classes such as Body Combat) – most trainers in the ‘studio’ section on a sports store website will have this.  These shoes will also work well if you plan on venturing into the gym.  If you are going to go running look for a trainer in the running section of the store / website- it doesn’t need to be expensive right now.  For cycling classes you may eventually want to be a cycle shoe you can use cleats with but until you know it’s the exercise for you just pick a trainer with a decent sole (very thin soles will make the class a little painful).
  • You don’t need to wear very fitted clothes. Of course you can if that’s what makes you feel good but don’t feel the pressure to go super skimpy lycra clad if that will make you feel self conscious. People wear all sorts of things to the gym from baggy tops to brightly coloured comic strip style leggings so whatever style will make you feel good is the style to pick and if that means covering up or wearing something loose go for it (just try and make sure it’s not so baggy it impedes safe movement / is something you risk tripping up on!)
  • You don’t need to expose lots of flesh. As above, wear what makes you feel good. Some people like wearing shorts or a crop top to train in, others people prefer to wear leggings and vest tops or long sleeve tops – it has nothing to do with how ‘fit’ people are or what their abs look like – it’s just personal preference as to what makes people feel comfortable whilst training so go as covered or uncovered as you wish.
  • Your basic kit shopping list might look something like this:

 

  • Gym bag (big enough to fit everything in)
  • A sports bra (females) and a comfortable pair of knickers / Boxers
  • Leggings or shorts
  • A comfortable, breathable top (t shirt, vest, crop top) – not something like a jumper because you’ll just be too hot
  • Socks
  • Trainers
  • Hair bobble if you have long hair
  • Water bottle
  • Small towel

Ten Things To Know Before Your First Class

  1. Nobody will be looking at you. You will find that everyone in classes will be focusing on themselves so you don’t need to be self conscious about what you are doing.
  2. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet. If you are moving you will burn calories even if you go in the wrong direction or use the wrong foot first.
  3. You don’t have to do the whole class first time. If you aren’t sure you can do the whole class straight away speak to the instructor – we will be happy for you to give it a try and leave after a few tracks if that feels right for you – you can keep building up how you long you stay for over a few weeks.  Some exercise programmes have specific plans in place for this (for instance Les Mills have SMART START where you can build up how much of a class you do over a few weeks / classes)
  4. Classes tend to look more intimidating than they really are. If you look in on a class it will look like everyone is super fit and coordinated which can put some people off giving them a go.  In reality everyone works to their own fitness levels, limitations and for their own reasons so there is no set standard of fitness or ability required.
  5. There are always options. You don’t have to jump or run or do any particular exercise that you are not comfortable doing – the instructor will always give you alternatives and they will not make the class any less effective or less of a workout if you take them.
  6. Try to arrive early. Just five or ten minutes will do. That gives you time to get set up and speak to the instructor without rushing or getting stressed – this is especially important if it’s a Group Cycle class or Body Pump class (or any other class which requires equipment) as having the equipment set up right here can make the class a lot more enjoyable.
  7. Tell the instructor you are new. We try and look out for new faces but we don’t always manage to pick out everyone new in a busy class. When we know you are new to the class we can make sure you are set up, know what to expect, check for anything we might need to know to make sure we offer particular options that might help you.
  8. Class goers tend to be friendly. Everyone remembers the first class they went to and you’ll find people will be happy to help you set up or give you a hand during class if you need one and the instructor isn’t close by (still go introduce yourself to us though!). If your nervous just give someone a smile or a hello and they will more than likely start chatting.
  9. Take water. You will need it!
  10. Have fun. My favourite thing about group exercise is that an hour moving to music goes so much quicker than an hour in the gym.  Don’t worry about how good you are at what you are doing, have fun a do what you can and hopefully you’ll find that you soon see results without feeling like exercise is a chore.

Ten Things You Need To Know When Joining The Gym

  1. Nobody is judging you. We were all new once and only dicks take the piss out of new people in a gym- the rest of us take the piss out of those dicks (not new people).
  2. Most people in gyms are not experts so don’t assume what that person in the corner who looks like a pro is doing is ‘right’.
  3. There is no one way to train so don’t worry if people are doing different things to you.
  4. If you aren’t sure how to do something ask a member of gym staff. They are doing this job because they like helping people.
  5. Book in for an induction – gyms are a lot less scary when you know how the equipment works.
  6. Get a programme if your gym membership offers it- it will give you a good starting point.
  7. Try classes. They can be a great place to start if you aren’t really sure about the gym itself.
  8. Smile at people. Gym regulars tend to be a friendly bunch and we don’t think it’s weird talking to people we’ve never met in the changing rooms.
  9. If you aren’t keen on the first thing you try try something else – there will be something you enjoy and that will be the best way for you to get results.
  10. You don’t need to train every day. If you currently never exercise doing something once a week is a 100% improvement on your activity levels. You will still see results – it doesn’t have to be seven training sessions a week or nothing.

Fancy a Spin?

Group Cycle, often known as spin. There are other variations such as Les Millls RPM too.

One of the most inclusive classes in a gym.

Also the one that in my experience people are most scared to try.

I can see why- it looks tough (for good reason – it is) and everyone looks like they know what they’re doing (they don’t, honest) and it looks technical (you have to set up a bike – this was my biggest fear at first).

So if you’ve ever wondered about trying a class but aren’t sure if it’s for you here’s the low down (from my perspective) for first timers on how to get the most out of the class.

  • Everyone is welcome- all fitness levels. Yes it will be hard but you really can go at your own pace
  • Every instructor’s class is different. So if you don’t like mine try someone elses – there will be a style you like / format you enjoy / class with music you love out there- shop around! I sometimes teach rides where we work along to the music other times I teach HIIT style tabatta, some people do races and competitions. I won’t be offended if you try my class then I see you at someone elses next week!
  • One thing to note, trade marked classes such as Les Mills RPM will be similar in every gym / with every instructor. They are pre- choreographed and so you will always get the same format – even if you go to a class in a different country. This really suits some people, especially if you like routine.
  • Get there 10 minutes early and say hi to the instructor. Tell them you are new, tell them you are nervous. They will be nice, they will look out for you and they will show you how to set up your bike.
  • There will normally be modifications or different levels you can work at and the instructor will always offer these different options throughout the class- take the ones that suit you. Never tell yourself you are doing the easy option. They are just different and people take different options for all sorts of different reasons.
  • Put some resistance on the bike – going too light sounds like a good idea (especially when you feel like you are going to die half way through!) but it will mean you bounce – this will hurt your bottom, believe me. After my first class I walked like a cowboy for a week.
  • Always make sure your feet are strapped in – loose straps are dangerous. Dangerous is bad.
  • There is normally a brake on the resistance button. Normally by pressing down on it you can stop the feet dead. It’s useful to remember just in case! The instructor will tell you about the bike if you introduce yourself at the start.
  • Don’t be afraid to add resistance when asked to. If you add too much you can always take it off. You’re there to get fitter – challenging yourself is the way to do this. Noone will laugh if you get stuck!
  • Take water – you will sweat, you will get thirsty.
  • Maybe take a towel- I refer you back to the sweat!
  • Taking recoveries is fine. You are meant to work hard- if you push so hard you need to take a moment then well done. The instructor won’t shout at you – just sit on the bike, keep the legs spinning and come back in when you are ready.
  • When you are new it can seem like everyone else is faster and fitter than you. Remember they may have been doing this a long time and have conditioned themselves to last the full class. They will not have been like that in their first class so don’t beat yourself up. Try your best, try and enjoy it and just focus on giving your best effort. Nobody is there to compete with anyone else so just work at a level right for you. Nobody is going to judge you.
  • Cycle classes are meant to be hard- the great thing is as you get fitter you can go faster and heavier so it stays effective and never gets to the point it feels ‘easy’
  • Above all Group exercise is meant to be fun so relax and smile – the music and other people make it more interesting than just sitting on a bike in the gym!

New to Body Pump? Tips!

New to Body Pump?

Classes with lots of equipment can seem scary, but Pump is a great way to introduce weights based training into your routine with the added benefit of having an instructor there to help you get the hang of the moves.

So this is my ‘what you need to know’ guide to taking your first Body Pump class:

  • Arrive at least 10 minutes early and introduce yourself to the instructor so they can help you set up and so they know that you are new. This can help them tailor their teaching, ensuring you have a good first class.
  • Stick with light weights for your first couple of classes and concentrate on getting the hang of the tempos and the moves. Body Pump works because you are doing large numbers of reps, so whilst you want to use a challenging weight eventually, it’s ok to start off light – 3.75kg each side might be a good starting point for most and allow you to work on technique as a priority.
  • The instructor will give you a guide of what to put on the bar at the start of each track (e.g. double the weight, take 1/3 off etc.). Listen carefully to this – they will normally give two options – one for regulars, one for new people but do not be afraid to stick with the same weight all the way through on your first class.
  • We will also tell you what else you need for the class – for instance you might need a separate weight plate not on your bar.  You’ll be tired in between tracks but try and listen and get the equipment advised close to hand – if you have to go hunting for a weight plate half way through a track you miss reps and will get stressed (not what anyone wants for your first class!)
  • The structure of every class will always be one of these – where ever you go, whoever teaches:

60 minutes

  1. Warm up
  2. Squats
  3. Chest
  4. Back
  5. Triceps
  6. Biceps
  7. Lunges
  8. Shoulders
  9. Core
  10. Cool down

45 minutes 

  1. Warm up
  2. Squats
  3. Chest
  4. Back
  5. Lunges OR Tricep / Bicep Combo
  6. Shoulders OR Lunges / Shoulders Combo
  7. Core
  8. Cool down

30 minutes

  • Warm up
  • Squats
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Core

So when the whole class looks like they know what is coming they do for a reason- and after a couple of classes you will too!

  • Talking of continuity – we get a ‘new release’ every 3 months. So at that point, every instructor will teach this new set of tracks for 4-6 weeks. That is why when you do your first class some people will look like they know what is coming – they have probably done the track lots of times before! After about 6 weeks, the instructor will probably start to ‘mix’. This means they will bring back some older tracks to keep things interesting and keep your body reacting well to the class.
  • As a new member, you can take advantage of something called Smart Start. This means that if you want to try a few tracks (we suggest up to the back track) and then leave you can do. Leave your stuff out and the instructor will put it away at the end of class. Then next week you can stay for a couple of extra tracks, and a few more the week after until you can do a whole class. This is optional and you can stay for the whole class if you want, but it does provide an option to try the class out and build up week by week if you are new to exercise or unsure about being able to do a whole hour.
  • With Body Pump your technique is more important than weight so don’t worry too much at first about what you are lifting – instead work on getting the moves. Doing them well will bring better results than just picking up a heavier bar!
  • The tempo is also really important in Body Pump. You will hear the instructor ask you to move at different tempos (3/1, 2/2, bottom half pulses). These aren’t just to make it more interesting. The different tempos help to work different muscle fibres and maximise your results so try to work with the instructors pace.
  • You aren’t moving or jumping (well occasionally you might be jumping but rarely!) but you will sweat and you will get out of breathe. Don’t worry about this or think it means you’re unfit.  Body Pump will burn calories as well as shaping your body.  You’ll notice the instructor will be sweaty and out of breath by the end of the class too!
  • Don’t be worried if you wake up the next day and climbing the stairs or tying your hair back hurts! This is your body reacting to new training and will pass in a few days. After a few classes your body will take less time to recover!
  • If you have done weights in the gym before you may be confused by a couple of the moves we do in Body Pump! Be aware that some moves (Deadlifts for instance) are modified for the studio environment. This is for safety reasons as a) we move at a fast tempo and b) the instructor needs to make sure a large group of people are all moving safely.  You can do both sorts of training, they both have their on benefits and it doesn’t need to be one way of the other.

I hope that the above tips have made the idea of trying a class less daunting! If you do decide to give the class a go, I would love to hear your thoughts!

New to Body Pump? 10 Things You Need To Know…

1. You don’t need to start heavy. I mean you want to use challenging weights for you to get the most from the class but that doesn’t mean matching regulars plate for plate in class one, it’s about lifting what you can and seeing how you progress, so don’t be put off by looking through the window and seeing lots of people lifting more than you think you can.

2. If you can get to the class at least 10 minutes before you will have a more enjoyable experience as you will be able to get set up without rushing, including time for that last minute nervous wee!

3. Say hi to the instructor. Tell us you are new to Pump and we will help you get set up and make sure you’re ok during the class.

4. As a general rule you will need: a bar, clips, a variety of weight plates, a step and a mat every release. The only things you actually need to bring with you are some water and perhaps a towel.

5. It’s ok to be confused at first. There’s lots of moves you may not have heard of or done before, the beat can be fast and we have pretty short changeovers between tracks. Your instructor won’t mind (or call you out) if you take a bit longer to grab some water and change your weights or don’t quite get things straight away – all of us have felt that first class confusion!

6. There is a thing called Smart Start. If you get to the back track (track 4) and you have done as much as you can that’s ok – you can leave (no need to put equipment away the instructor will do it at the end of the class). Just give the instructor a nod or a wave so we know you are ok and then next time try and stay for one extra track until you feel ok doing the whole class.

7. Alternatives are there for a reason. If we say you can drop the weight if you’re struggling we really mean it. Doing the moves well in a modified position will bring greater results than trying to do a move with a heavy weight but poor form.

8. The music is a huge part of Body Pump. Not only does singing along help you power through a workout but the tempos we use allow us to work our muscles in different ways across the class, so when the instructor tells you to slow down or encourages you to follow their rhythm they are just an OCD maniac – they’re trying to maximise your results!

9. You will feel it the next day. You do a lot of reps in a Pump class so don’t worry if DOMs hit the next day – it does get easier over time.

10. It’s a fun class. Don’t feel nervous about starting, turn up, smile, do what you can and enjoy the music whilst giving something challenging a go.

Why I Love Group Exercise

I’m a fan of Group Exercise, it was how I first ‘got into’ the gym and I now teach 8+ classes myself a week.  I think Group Exercise actually works really well, and I don’t just mean classes – team sports, running clubs – I believe all the ways that people can train with others can have a beneficial effect on people.

  1. It can help you get started – Going into the gym alone at first can be daunting when you have no idea where to start.  A class or a running programme like Couch to 5k provides structure and allows you to get moving in a way you can be confident is safe and effective.
  2. It keeps you committed –  Signing up to a class or joining a team or club where there are set days and times to attend means you are less likely to decide you’d rather go home and veg in front of the TV at the end of a long day.
  3. It can make you work harder – A team sport encourages you to perform you best for your team mates, running as part of a club can encourage you to keep to a set pace, the music, instructor and people around you in a class can make you try as hard as you can for the whole length of the class.  For many there is something about a group that makes you try harder than when you are left to your own devices in the gym.
  4. You have a ready made exercise support network – Especially relevant when you are starting to create new habits.  Your family and friends might not get your commitment to picking a spin class over a Netflix binge at first, the other people in that class will, making all the difference in you not feeling like some kind of freak!  And if you ever aren’t sure about something there’s a whole group of people who might be able to help, in particular, you will also have an instructor or coach who has the knowledge to help you improve at whatever you have chosen to do.
  5. It’s social – You will make friends at a club or in a class.  You get to meet people from different backgrounds and get to know people outside of your normal work / social circle.  This in itself will make sticking to your exercise plans easier.
  6. It can increase your confidence – The group environment and having an instructor or coach to hand can give you the confidence to try new tings, maybe adding a new type of class to your week or running a longer distance.  All the things above can help create an environment where your confidence can grow.

I do like training in the gym by myself too but for pure enjoyment I would always pick a group exercise class as my training of choice that day.

Do you prefer to train alone or as part of a group?

DOMs

For some reason over the last two days I’ve had really bad DOMs.

I almost never gets DOMs normally. Context: I teach most days and then train 4 times a week plus run sometimes so it’s rare I go more than a day without training in some form so my body is pretty used to what it has to do.

Last week I was in Edinburgh for two days and Wolverhampton over the weekend.  This plus work and an exam meant that I only taught 4 classes (I’d normally do 8+) and got one chance to train.

Result of this was when I taught a spin and a Body Pump on Saturday morning my body apparently felt it!

On Saturday night I went to a Paranormal evening at Wolverhampton Airport (I’ll come back to that in my next blog) and woke up on Sunday with quads that cried every time I got in and out of a chair! My spin class this morning was interesting – largely because I’m just not used to training with sore muscles!

So if you’re new to exercise and experiencing DOMS for the first time here’s what I think you need to know:

  1. DOMS are temporary — depending on how intense you will feel OK again in about two to four days without having to do anything (if you don’t feel better by then it might be an injury).
  2. Make sure you warm-up and cool-down.  Making sure your muscles are prepared for exercise and safely recover from physical stress can help reduce the likelihood of DOMs (they won’t guarantee you won’t get them though).
  3. Build up the intensity of your training slowly. If you’re brand new to any type of training and don’t build up your weights / distance etc. your body will react more dramatically to the stress (plus you increase the risk of injury).
  4. If you’re suffering from DOMs try gently massaging the area affected (tip getting a deep tissue massage will not make you feel less sore!).  Likewise using a foam roller to gently roll out your sore muscles may help.
  5. Keep moving whilst you have DOMs.  Not really intense exercise allow your muscles to recover – but getting the blood flowing and muscles moving (walking, easy biking, swimming) can help you feel better.
  6. Drink lots of water – drinking water makes everything feel better!

 

Twenty Things You’ll Know if your a Les Mills Instructor

 

  1. You can make reference to Dan, Rachel, Glen, Lisa and Diana to any fellow instructor confident they will know exactly who you are talking about- we have no need for surnames here.
  2. Except for Kylie Gates- for some reason, you will always full name Kylie Gates.
  3. You have at least one friend on Facebook you know only through the LM Facebook page.
  4. You probably like spamming Facebook posts with pictures of cats…
  5. You can actually hold a debate about the use of dumbbells for at least an hour, even though you don’t really care because essentially a 5kg dumbbell weighs the same as a 5kg plate and is just easier to hold than most plates.
  6. Reading the comments section is often more entertaining than [insert programme you find entertaining here]
  7. People who put an F in the comment section haven’t yet realised that you can follow a post by turning on notifications.
  8. You are keeping an eye out for a No Time For Average vest on the Vintage Emporium page.
  9. You probably have an opinion on the best trainers to wear for Body Attack.
  10. Body Jammers have to sign a secret agreement that they will wear a checked shirt around their waist at all times on Initial Module Training.
  11. All Combaters secretly wish they’d bring gloves back because gloves make you feel badass.
  12. You will either download the little recommended launch schedule at the start of the year or you will ask for it on Facebook every quarter – even though it’s saved in the File Section.
  13. At some point you will have mimed out choreography in a bar. And your non Les Mills friends thought it was H.I.L.A.R.I.O.U.S. … Honest…
  14. This is where fellow instructor friends come into their own – because they WILL think it’s hilarious – and join in.
  15. Turning up to events in the same outfit as others is less of a fashion faux pas in Les Mills land compared to the rest of the world – in fact it’s expected.
  16. You will always find us in Nandos pre or post events.
  17. You can practice an entire release of Pump choreography with your little finger.
  18. You must be able to whoop and clap in tandem in order to pass Body Attack.
  19. Body Combat instructors would be great to have around in the event of a fight as long as that fight was carried out to a eight-count beat with modified martial arts moves.
  20. Can someone cover my Body Step class. TIA? I’m not going to say when or where the class is because that would be too easy…