- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 aren’t just an OCD maniac – they’re trying to maximise your results!
- 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.
- 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.
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 at a heavier resistance 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!
If you’re new to training and have just joined a gym you might be experiencing a little muscle soreness after your workouts right now. We call this Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS and it’s nothing to worry about, it’s your bodies reaction o doing something new. Here’s a few things to remember:
- DOMS are temporary — depending on how intense they are 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).
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Drink lots of water – drinking water makes everything feel better!
Should you train over Christmas?
It’s really up to you. One the one hand if you want to take a break, relax and do nothing that’s perfectly fine. Equally if sticking to your training exactly makes you feel better there’s absolutely no reason you should feel bad about still training on Christmas. You just don’t want to get to the point where you are running a half marathon on Christmas Day because you feel like you should.
This is the thing about training on holiday / over Christmas / during celebrations. There’s a difference between doing it because moving makes you feel good and doing it because not doing it will make you feel guilty. I personally will do something over Christmas, I genuinely enjoy a little 20 minute run on Christmas morning, it sets me up for the day and the fresh air and movement just makes me feel good. I’ll probably go to the gym on Boxing Day or the day after, again because it’s my favourite time to train, I’m not in a rush to get somewhere else so can really focus.
I think that’s the sign that you train in a way you like. If the thing you normally so in the gym feel like a punishment that you deserve a holiday from maybe it is time to try some new things and do something that makes you feel good, you enjoy, you actually kind of want to do, even if you occasionally have to drag yourself to it initially.
Even then if you want to take a break over the holidays do it. See training as a complimentary thing in your life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve not written a blog since 20th July when I took some time out due to an injury.
I rested for about a week and a half then intended to get to the gym as they reopened in England, but just didn’t. The rest combined with not teaching for such a long time now (and not yet having classes to go back to) meant I found it really hard to motivate myself to get back into the gym.
So here’s the thing. Exercise is an anchor for me. Something which grounds me when I’m feeling a bit rubbish. It’s not something I feel I have to do, I enjoy it and it makes me feel good and quite frankly sane, it’s also a great stress reliever and when I’m busy a quick run or workout can help you come back refreshed and refocused. But it’s also really easy to lose momentum, even with something that you know is beneficial to you. In turn this makes me feel a bit down about things in general, so it’s something that I’ve struggled with a bit.
Right now in the world most of us have probably lost some momentum. Life changed over night (I went from teaching 10-15 classes a week and being out an about almost all the time to working from home to now working in an office but not yet back to teaching) and even as it changes back it’s different to what it was, and it’s continuously changing. Getting back to things you know are good to you and enjoy sounds like it should be easy but it really isn’t.
For me I’m just getting myself back into the gym as often as I can, I’ve reduced the duration / intensity of my workouts so i can build back up (both from the injury and extended break) and I’m not kicking myself if I have a long day and have to miss a training session. I know overtime I’ll get back into that habit and hopefully by the time I start teaching again (in a few weeks hopefully) I’ll feel much more in the swing of things, but I can’t expect myself to just bounce back to where I was in March.
If you need a bit of motivation to get yourself back into the swing of things, firstly, that’s ok- I think most of us are in the same boat. Secondly, I have designed a two week gym plan to help ease yourself back in which you can download here.