How short are those shorts?

This morning I saw a post on Facebook about someone concerned about stretch marks ad loose skin that could come with the weight loss they wanted to achieve.

This bought about a lot of comments about loving your body, accepting these things and learning to be OK with them, and there’s a lot of merit in this. We should all accept our bodies as is and if it’s not causing us actual harm then our bodies should be nobody else’s business.

But as much as the change in outlook that women should not be expected to meet a certain criteria and can be whatever shape / size they wish we still spend an awful lot of time judging women.

Look at the Olympics. There’s been news articles where female athletes have been told their shorts are too short and then others where they’ve been told they’re too long. Even alongside the body confidence / acceptance movement there are still judgements made on women based on appearance. Whilst we may have more choice now the choices are still judged.

So back to stretch marks. They are normal and yes part of life, we almost all have them. But if a person wants to look to reduce them why should they be judged for that or told they should just love their body as is?

Because if you are about to embark on a weight loss journey there are things you can do to reduce the chances of loose skin or stretch marks. Steady weight loss, keeping skin hydrated, incorporating strength training amongst other things can have an effect on how your skin shrinks with you. Nothing can be avoided completely of course, but if you want to try there are things you can do.

And why shouldn’t you? Just like if you have loose skin or stretch marks there are things you can do to make you feel better in yourself. Whilst it’s an ideal that we all feel confident in our bodies and embrace the changes as we go through life I think it’s really OK that alongside that we shouldn’t feel bad or vain for wanting to do things that make us feel good in ourselves.

Because it comes back to choice- we should not only be allowed to have that choice but also be allowed to not be judged for them. If you want to make changes for a purely cosmetic reason that’s ok, just as wanting t make changes for health reasons is.

And whilst we’re at it can we not just let women train in what they want to train in, whether that be at the gym or the Olympics.

Why don’t you train legs?

Why don’t you train body parts is a common question I get from people when they ask what I did in the gym on any given day.  That I don’t train legs one day, back and biceps the other, chest and shoulders the next confuses some people.

The ‘Bro Split’ type of training is how most people start training in the gym, it’s probably the most accepted way of training, and works very well for certain people.  If you are very lean and looking for specific aesthetic goals for instance, or if you want to manage your energy levels around other training training body parts per session can suit you well.

I think it’s useful however for people to understand that it isn’t the only acceptable way to train.  Just like there are many ways to manage your diet and no one way is better, what works for some training wise will not suit others.

I teach group exercise, train PT clients and have a full time office job, I also like running, so I don’t really have time for four or five sessions all lasting an hour plus focusing on specific muscle groups.  More to the point I don’t really have any interest in doing so.  I’m not looking to get super lean with a six pack.  I like food too much for that and to be honest just want to be fit, healthy, strong and enjoy my training sessions.  For me a training session that leaves me feeling good and fatigued and is done within 30 to 40 minutes is the goal, and two, maybe three sessions is the max I can fit in – often training in my lunch hour.    

So sessions that involve big lifts that use multiple body parts are more effective for me.  Focusing on squats, deadlifts, rows, thrusters for example essentially give me more bang for my buck – maximum results in minimum time.

Of course for others, with different lifestyles and goals, that would not work best for them.  Here lies the most important thing t understand about fitness.  We are all different, what and how much we eat and what, when and how we train will be different for all of us.  If your friend has amazing results and you do their exact same thing it doesn’t mean you will also have amazing results. 

Get a coach, and follow their advice and ignore what everyone else is doing, as just because you’re doing something different to others doesn’t make you right or wrong.  More to the point if you are training with a coach that gets everyone to do the same thing, ask questions.  Because even if your coach specialises in a certain group or area and therefore advises generalised things specific to that group, your actual individual training will be slightly different to your peers.  For instance I work with other group fitness instructors – there are general areas of advice which apply to the all – the type of training we work well with, nutrition and energy level challenges we face etc. tend to be quite common.  However, we still al have different goals, different likes and dislikes, different starting points, so our actual training needs to be programmed differently and some pieces of advice may not apply to us specifically.

Understanding that you don’t need to follow every trend and can (in fact probably should) let some things pass us by and focus on the things that actually serve us, is probably the best fitness lesson out there.

10 Les Mills Myths

  • You need to write Follow or F in the comments to follow a post

Turning on notifcations doesn’t wrk in LM groups obviously.

  • The number for the office is the one piece of information not stored in Google

I see no other reason for the frequency of this question online.

  • If Reebok puts the words Les Mills on an item of clothing it immediately increases in value by around 25%.

At least that’s what Reebok believe according to their pricing structure.  Les Mills instrcutors also get a discount, except ironically, on the products most aimed at Les Mills instructors.

  • The Michael Jackson eating popcorn meme is a hillarious comment on any Facebook post

Obvs.  Who doesn’t laugh out loud every time it’s posted?

  • Bracing your abs is a vital coaching cue

Even though nobody has any idea how to do it really and no member has ever actually listened and responded to it.

  • You should follow the Master Class

It’s a ‘master class’ after all, except whenever you are being assessed, as if you do as they do when being assessed you will be told you need to talk less.  

  • You are not allowed to disagree with someone else on Facebook

Heaven forbid someone have a different opinion to you on a release or anything else.  You cannot just not agree with one another and carry on with your day, nor can you ignore it and scroll past.  You must tell them they are wrong, and more to the point being wrong makes them the worst human ever.

  • Body Pump becomes ineffective if you use dumbells

Or at least it did until Pandemic times, now it’s fine, because unprecendented times call for unprecedented changes in the science of Body Pump.  Or because it really never mattered to start with.  Whichever version floats your boat realy.

  • You should only teach from the last 10 releases because people don’t like the older stuff

Which is odd because even though my classes love the new stuff (and are a wide age range) they always get excited when we start to mix and they can request the old favourites.  A hard core sprawl based Combat track might get the heart rate up but no one works harder than in the old boxing tracks when the music is upbeat and the combo simple.  Also does any Combat instructor go a week without someone asking for Pirates?

  • A Smart Bar is better than a non smart bar

I mean I kind of get the convenience of the clipping another plate on with ease but apart from that they are very expensive for what they are, and I’m still slightly confused about what makes the smart step smarter.  I’ll give the CX bands their better status glory.

We Are Back

Today we head back to indoor classes. That means more than just doing classes again, it means a change to routine, sleep patterns, activity levels, how I plan my week.

I think we have all wondered over the last few weeks about our fitness levels, how we would feel in the first few classes back. We’ve all looked forward to seeing people again after such a long time.

Remember this week however, if you are back in the gym doing classes, whether as an instructor or participant, that fitness levels will improve. It is however bound to feel a bit tough at first, but that’s ok, because it will feel like that for all of us.

What I think we need to focus on this week, instead of ‘getting back to where we were before’, is making sure we don’t over do it and making time to recover as well.

There is bound to be a bit of an urge to go for it, and for instructors, you’ve no choice but to teach all your classes. I think it’s worth remembering however that when we fist started doing classes we probably built up to the levels we were at when Lockdown hit. Since then there’s been over a year of upheaval and it will take a bit of time to ease back in to feeling ok with our previous levels of activity. You might have noticed if you’ve gone from working from home to back into the office, just that change to your day can actually be pretty knackering.

Enjoy your classes this week, but rest and recover too.

What Day Is It?

The bit between Christmas and New Year. The bit where days merge into one, nobody really knows what day it is, what time the shops shut and the fridge is still full of Christmas food meaning the food coma kind of just rumbles on.

This is the week you might well feel a bit rubbish, fat, unfit and generally feel the urge to commit to a month long detox in January where you consume only lemon and water.

Of course in actual reality your body does a pretty good job of ‘detoxing’ itself and actually just eating and training in moderation will make you feel better pretty quickly and be far more enjoyable.

People tend to like extremes. A diet doesn’t work unless we go from whatever size we are to emaciated stick in three days, a training programme doesn’t work if you can’t go from couch to marathon in three sessions. If it doesn’t have a label on it that says natural, vegan friendly and detox on it it isn’t goo to be effective.

These things don’t last though. When was the last time you made a drastic New Years resolution and actually stuck to it?

You know what does last? Finding a nice little routine that works for you.

I love food. I eat a lot. No point in being restrictive – I just ricochet the other way. I also enjoy moving. Running, lifting, classes – movement makes me feel good. So I move.

I’m writing this on an exercise bike in the gym – some people here are clearly working off their Christmas. Me – I felt stiff after a few days of largely sitting and wanted to move. I didn’t need to guilt myself to coming here – I wanted to, I woke up looking forward to it.

This January find yourself something for your body and mind that will make you feel good. Doesn’t matter if there is something my else that would be more ‘effective’ for fat loss or fitness. You’ll stick to the thing you look forward to doing, the thing that you feel great after doing. You won’t stick to the thing you ‘should’ do.

Then next year when Christmas is over (and we are in tier 784) you’ll be heading off to do that thing that makes you feel good for moving and not thinking about what you can do in January to feel less like baby elephant.

Am I Fat?

Do I think I’m fat? Short answer no. Longer answer, no but it’s complicated.

Have I ever been fat? Yes. Do I weigh more today than I did when I was fat? Also yes. Are my clothes smaller though. Again yes. Are they bigger than they were a couple of years ago? Yes again. Have i put weight on since Lockdown? Hell yes!

I started the year teaching around 14 classes a week and training 3-5 times, maybe with a run or two thrown in. I could basically eat as i wished and not put weight on, if I wanted to lean down I’d need to track and eat more with more thought but could still eat a hell of a lot (in fact I needed to eat a lot to maintain energy). Then gyms closed and I ended up doing a bit of training at home and running more. Yes I was doing a fair bit of cardio, but obviously much less in terms of weights. This had an effect on my body. I went back to teaching in September but had to stop again in November and being in Tier 3 has meant I’m not going to get back to teaching until at least the new year. Even still training I’m doing less, but added to that I’ve found a real lack in motivation since the end of Lockdown 1. Works been busy and all I want to do is eat and not move. Doesn’t help that it’s basically dark all the time at the moment!

Result is I’m a bit more rounded. Not fat but bigger than I was. Heavier too, which makes running harder. Because moving feels harder I feel less inclined to want to do it. I bet plenty of you recognise that vicious cycle right there.

Anyway, as I said I know I’m not fat but I’ve also decided I need to reignite my passion for training so I can start to get back to where I feel comfortable (my fighting weight if you will). I hate restricting my food too much so whilst I do need to think more about my nutrition I know my movement is where I need to make the big changes personally.

Here’s the awkward thing for a PT. We want to help people feel good about their fitness, not encourage negative thoughts about weight or their body, not obsess over calories, develop negative food associations with food groups, over train, train as punishment, the list goes on. We want people to train for strength, for confidence. It would be disingenuous to suggest however, that when we feel unfit, out of shape we don’t feel as good or confident as we could. Part of our job is helping people navigate that fine line between working hard to feel good and taking things too far and it starting to have a negative impact. When the person whose fitness we are looking at in question is our own it can feel either more awkward. Do we tell people we want to work on ourselves or withhold it because we don’t want to suggest that size or weight does or should matter? Do we ignore things that do matter to us and effect our confidence in an effort to show they shouldn’t matter much?

I wrote yesterday about moderation, not taking things to extreme and I think most things in fitness can benefit from this philosophy. Let your training complement rather than take over your life, let it make you feel good about yourself. This can include feeling good with how you look, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s also entirely possible to know you’re fit and healthy and not fat but still want to work on your own body. Saying you want to drop some weight doesn’t have to mean you think your fat or are being harsh on yourself or one of those people who says they are fat trying to pinch the non existent fat around their belly.

We all know where we are and where we want to be. If there is a gap between the two we are allowed to work to reduce that gap, so if you have things you would like to change you are allowed to – even if you know that what you want to change is someone else goal or ideal.

Eating Over Christmas

We often get stressed about what to eat over Christmas. Parties, drinks, meals out, mince pies and the seemingly never ending stream of food on Christmas Day itself can create a feeling of guilt and overindulgence which makes us feel fat and wretched.

When you think about it, Christmas is one day, three if you count Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. Yet we often spend the whole of December muttering about how much we’ve eaten and how much we are going to need to go on a diet come January. There are various ways you can approach food over the festive season, whether you give up all pretense of eating anything that resembles a vegetable on the day you open the first door of your advent calendar or continue to strictly count every calorie berating yourself for the mince pie you accidently ate last Tuesday.

Now either of these might work for you and if you want to do them you are free to do so, we all suit different ways of eating. But there is such a thing as the middle ground.

Do you want to abstain everything you would enjoy over the month of December? Probably not, but equally even the most level headed person would probably feel some guilt over eating like an unsupervised child in a sweetshop for four weeks straight. But what about picking certain days to forget the tracking (the three big days, those days when you’ve events planned) and during the rest of the time eating normally.

Now I get to the idea of eating normally – because when I say eating as normal, that doesn’t mean not having those Christmas treats- because those treats can be part of your normal diet. Whether it be Christmas or any other time of the year having flexibility in your eating is the way you will most likely see success and find you working towards your goals.

That’s not to deny that Christmas can be a more challenging than other points of the year. Maybe you need to put some extra strategies in place to help you eat normally and not go mad. Perhaps you have a big brunch before that last minute shopping trip to avoid the need to stop and grab high calorie fast food options, perhaps you decide what days you’ll have that creamy Christmas coffee instead of your normal black coffee rather than replacing every coffee with a Christmas alternative. If you have lots of celebrations planned (less likely this year lets face it) maybe you pick some to not drink to reduce your alcohol calories of hangover food feasts. These type of tactics to help you stick to your goals can help at any point of the year though, so shouldn’t be thought of as specifically Christmas related.

So my diet message for Christmas is, think of this time of the year as no different from any other. Some days you will want to relax your focus and eat ALLL THE FOOD, but if you eat normally all the days around that you can still reach your goals. A few days a month of not eating within your calorie range will not undo everything – at any time of the year.

If you try and take away the mental association we tend to have of overeating and Christmas going hand in hand we can enjoy the festive period without feeling like we need to repent in January.

When what you eat does matter

I wrote earlier this week about how calories matter most when it comes to weight. That how you make up those calories is not as important.

Today I want to almost contradict that and talk about what types of food you eat does make a difference.

I’m not changing my message. The calories you consume still matter the most. But, if you are going to stick within a calorie goal, how you get those calories will define the quantity of food you get to eat.

Because you could have some quite high calorie foods that in terms of density don’t equate to very much. Equally you could eat foods that are much more dense for their calories, eat the same amount of calories but far more food.

Of course you wouldn’t want to never eat the high calories foods (they tend to be the foods we crave more) but you equally if you are trying to stay within a calorie goal, you want to eat foods that you will find filling and satisfying. Plus, as much as it upsets me, if you only eat chocolate and cake for a few meals you do eventually start to crave a vegetable!

So if you stay within your calorie goal you will be able to see results and on a base level how you get those calories doesn’t matter, but once you have the foundations of your calories in place you can start to think about what type of foods allow you to eat in quantities that satisfy you and make you feel good whilst staying on track.

Ever wanted to try a class?

Have you ever wanted to try an exercise class but been too nervous? Maybe you think you’re not fit enough or the opposite and it will be too easy. Will you be coordinated enough? Will you be able to keep up? What if everyone else knows what to do?

Classes are how I started exercising and I remember the nerves I felt going to my first class. A few classes later I loved it, over time I tried more and more different types of classes and found a confidence to train that led to me becoming a group exercise instructor myself.

What people don’t realise about classes is that they can be pretty much whatever you want them to be. Yes, you are training in a group and doing the same thing as everyone else, but you also always have the opportunity to approach the class as best suits you. If you want to go as hard as possible and push yourself you can do, equally if you want to train for the mood boost, enjoyment, to feel good or even just take a break from life you can use the class for that. As instructors we are there to push people of course, but we know that people train for many different reasons and can tailor how we teach you to that effect. We know that because we also train for lots of different reasons, depending on the day, our mood, our energy levels.

The other thing to know about classes is they are a great chance to meet new people. You won’t be made to talk to people, you can keep yourself to yourself, but you will over time get to recognise people and get to know them. Classes are friendly environments where we all tend to chat before and after and you can get to know people from a wide range of backgrounds, and make some really great friends too. Above all, they are a lot more welcoming than you might at first imagine.

Finally, you can be super fit or brand new to exercise and you will be able to do a class. You can make them part of an existing training regime or just do classes, you can take things at your own pace and build up and there are always alternatives to exercises available for whatever reason you need.

I literally cannot be bothered

Yesterday I wrote about how education on weight management is needed, but beyond that people need motivation, in fact no… they need accountability.  I said I’d write more about that today and I wanted to keep this as a separate blog because I want to write about me.

Honestly, right now I’m my best example of this argument.  I know about calories, macro splits, supplements.  I know how to train, what I need to do to stay looking a certain way (I’m trying really hard not to say certain weight).   Not only do I know all this but to be honest normally I enjoy the training and the way I eat so it’s not even hard work.

But right now I’m nowhere near that.  I’m at least two clothes sizes bigger, nothing at all fits, I avoid looking at myself side ways in the mirror because I am extremely wide right now and I just do not feel good in myself.  I cannot be bothered to train, have lost all motivation (heat does not help, nor does not yet being back teaching) and whilst I eat pretty well still I’m eating a lot more chocolate whilst doing a lot less activity.

The fact is I am well educated on fitness and nutrition.  This is not a lack of knowledge or access to the right foods or access to places to train.  It’s not even a lack of goal or motivation.  I will be teaching again soon, I have purpose / reason to get going again I’m just struggling to pout it into effect.

Oddly I trained and ate well all through lockdown.  I used my training sessions as a away to structure my day and keep feeling positive.  I ate well and again used meal times as a way of keeping my day structured.  Ironically the opening up of things and my return to the office almost very day (thus getting back to reality and routine) caused me to lose that training and eating routine I’d built.  I’m finding myself tired at the end of the day so deciding not to train, busy during the day so skipping lunch when I would normally have trained and pretty much comfort eating chocolate.

Literally as I’m writing this I’m saying to myself but you know what to do about this.  There is nothing about education being needed here.  This is literally just about making myself do it.  Nobody else can make me feel better about myself, I have to get back to doing what I’ve always previously just done as habit.  Equally though it made me think about what I was saying yesterday.

I completely stand by my argument that what is needed to tackle obesity is education.  Not a list of lower calorie food options but genuine understanding of the energy balance that can help people, because then you could have that McDonalds and know it’s still OK and still work towards losing weight.

But still knowing doesn’t mean applying and sometimes what we also need is accountability and support.  How many people continue to go to a PT for years and years?  For many people it’s the accountability that is worth paying for those sessions, doesn’t matter that they may know they could go and train alone.

If you know what you should be doing and still aren’t that’s OK, most of us struggle with this at least some of the time.  Best thing to do is work out what will make you get started again.  Who can hold you accountable?  Who can offer support?  Maybe that’s a PT, maybe it’s booking onto a class to make you go, maybe it’s signing up for an event (hard right now).  Sometimes it’s just telling people of your intentions, like I am here.