I’m Back!

This week, after a break over the summer due to personal reasons, I’ve come back to my full Group Exercise teaching schedule (around my day job so not actual full time teaching).

Immediately after my first class I remembered how much I love teaching and classes. Do I feel like I need to get fitter still- yes, did that matter much? Not at all. The connection with people and being able to coach and encourage people to feel like they worked hard and enjoyed it makes it one of the best jobs you can do. My favourite feedback was that was hard but I enjoyed it, because that’s exactly how it should be, we aren’t training for the Olympics so it should be enjoyable and make you feel good (even if at the time you’re swearing under your breath!).

What I also realised is I’m effectively starting back and with that need to take my own advice and ease myself in. I need to teach all my classes of course so I can’t just do a couple this wee and build up (or leave early) as members can. What I can do is plan my week accordingly. As such I made sure at the weekend that I’d done a food shop, meal prepped, got clothes ready for the week. I’ve kept my diary as clear as possible so in between work and classes I can chill and recover as I knew I’d be more tired than usual this week.

Sometimes you need to acknowledge how much you can reasonably take on and succeed with and whilst it’s good to challenge yourself, doing so to a degree where you’re likely to feel rubbish or like you’ve achieved nothing because you burnt yourself out is counter productive.

The Office Cakes

Office place snacking. It’s one of my downfalls.

I work in an office where there is always cakes, biscuits, snacks sitting on the side to take. I find it really hard to walk past a packet of Jaffa Cakes!

Pre Lockdown when I taught 14 odd classes a week this wasn’t so much of an issue as I was largely in enough of a calorie deficit anyway that the extra snacks weren’t the worst thing. Now though, having reduced my classes to get a bit more balance I’m finding the extra calories sneaking in here and there aren’t doing me many favours.

But how do you say no when everything makes you want to say YOLO. Work stress can make you want to snack on nice thigs, watching others grab something, seeing you favourite cakes, that 3pm energy slump, missing breakfast; office place cakes are always more appealing.

Of course I try to bring in my lunch and snacks for the day so I’m not hungry but that doesn’t stop me wanting the sweet stuff.

The way I see it there are two ways to approach this. I could just say no, even if it makes me sad at the time or I can plan my meals for the week allowing for a little leeway each day so that I can add in a few unplanned snacks without going over my calorie goal for the day. The second option is the way I’m trying to go at present, which will hopefully allow me to stick to my targets without feeling like I’m missing out.

Things like snacking in work can sometimes feel like obstacles to reaching your goals but there are almost always work arounds to these type of issues if you’re able to be a little flexible with yourself.

SAD

In recent months I’ve see more awareness of how hormones, mental health, nutrition and other such factors affect training.  There’s another thing that I know affects my mental health and therefore my training ad my diet – autumn!

I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) – often known as Winter Depression.  Well, that’s not strictly true, I take medication for depression and anxiety all year round but I find it’s always worse in the winter months.  In particular autumn is the hardest because there’s the change between longer summer days and light evenings and it getting dark not long after I leave work, at least by winter I guess I’ve got a bit used to it.

I find it more uplifting to wake up and leave to teach and it be light or finish an evening class and feel light.  Once I need to shut the curtains my brain starts to switch off and all I want to do is climb into my pyjamas and go to bed, so once it gets dark earlier getting things done in the evening just feels so much harder.

This of course has an impact on my training – going out in the dark to get to the gym feels so unappealing, in comparison to leaving the gym at 9pm and still feeling like it’s day time in summer.  I always start to want more comfort food come autumn too as the urge to hibernate kicks in.

Knowing that this is generally how I always feel come autumn I’ve learnt a few things to counteract this over the years: 

  • I invested in a light box – a box that gives out UV style rays which can help increase the amount of daylight you get a day which in turn can be beneficial to your mood.
  • Getting outside and walking during the day when it is light is also a key thing for me.  The less fresh air I get, the more likely I am to get run down and feel ill.
  • Taking not only my medication daily (which isn’t always as easy as it sounds) but also vitamins (multi vitamin, iron supplement, Vitamin D and a high dose of  Omega 3) helps
  • Trying to train earlier in the day so if motivation drops I’ve got it out the way already, plus once I do train often I will feel better come darkness time anyway.

Still, even though I know it’ll pass I can’t wait for spring to come again!

Beating yourself up

“I was good all week but then had a takeaway on Friday”

“I planned to exercise every day but only managed three times”

How often are you guilty of muttering a phrase like this?  I do it all the time.  We set ourselves up to have a great week and be really positive and good then berate ourselves for falling short.

What we forget though is that, in very broad terms, to stop gaining weight we need to consume less than we have been, to gte fitter we need to do more than we have been.

So if you’ve eaten less than normal on five days out of the week, then you’ve improved on the previous week, even if a couple of days didn’t go to plan.  If you’ve trained three times more than normal your workign to imporving your fitness.

Fitness and weight loss are not magic switches where a perfect week will suddenly make you drop three dress sizes and become an Olympic athlete.  Even a perfect week will not, in issolation, create dramatic results.  A consistent good but not perfect routine will over time create far superior results and make you feel far better, than one of two spot on perfect weeks then going back to normal will.

Aims are great and setting the bar high is commendable, but beating yourself up when you’ve not been perfect but have actually made progress is bonkers.

Who Hates Change

Have you found your exercise routine and diet has changed from pre lockdown?  Maybe in a positive way, maybe less positive for you.

Gyms are back ope now and most restrictions have been removed allowing things to relax a bit.  But for me personally I’ve found it really hard to bounce back to doing exactly what I did before.

For one I’m physically not in the same condition as I was eighteen months ago, I need to build back up to where I was.  But wth that come a required change in mindset.  Needing to adjust my expectations and work up from where I am to where I want to be, with it accepting that I can’t just do things that I could before.

That change in mindset is tough, it’s frustrating.  I feel like I should be better than I am and with that I am struggling to train as I need to because it doesn’t feel ‘right’ compared to what  did before.

This is bonkers really, as a coach I spend lots of time telling clients to train in accordance to where they are now, to not make themselvs feel bad if there’s things they can’t do right now.  So much easier to say that to others (and believe it) than it is to show the same kidn of understanding towards yourself.

I’m making a real effort now to accept that I need to rebuild the basic blocks both in terms of training and nutrition now and not be hard on myself for having changed physically overt the last year.

How do you react to the ‘uncontrolable’?

I’m currently injured. Well I’m not injured as such, but due to burns on both my legs (don’t ask) which basically cover both my whole shins I can’t walk very far (progress, last week I could barely walk), do much training beyond a bit of upper body work, run or teach.

It’s super frustrating. Beyond those restrictions I also can’t have a bath or shower and am restricted to contorting myself to wash my hair and sink washes. Generally it’s made me feel rubbish.

I’m used to having quite a structured day and when you can’t do what you normally do and end up sat on the sofa more watching TV, with itchy legs and generally feeling rubbish it can make you feel a bit down. As it’s come as we start to come out of the seemingly never ending Lockdown period of he last 18 months it feels even more frustrating.

All I’ve been able to do is adjust my expectations of myself.

So I’ve aimed to walk around 5,000 steps a day, just about doable at the moment but way off my normal 20,000-30,000 steps a day.

I’ve trained a couple of times, focusing on upper body and using machines I can sit down on plus the reclining bike to move the legs.

I’ve increased my protein intake dramatically to assist the burn healing process. Focusing on eating a varied diet rather than restricting my calories even though I’m moving way less.

I’ve tried to get 8 hours sleep, hard because my god my legs itch, but I’ve slept as much as possible.

I’ve drank at least 3 litres of water a day, aiming for 4 litre. My body is dehyrated anyway and it’s been warm.

I’m not where I want to be and I don’t feel great but I’ve made the positive steps I need to in order to help myself feel a bit better and not go completely crazy.

Hoping next week the dressings can come off and then I can start to build up my movement and start to get myself back to where I’d like to be but in the mean time I’ll just focus on the small things I can do as I can’ do anything about the things I can’t do right now.

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.

LEJOG

I’m doing a running challenge this year.  Lands End to John O’Groats (virtually), that’s 874 miles between 1st January and 31st December.  I’m currently around the Yorkshire Peaks, just over 400 miles run.

The challenge is set up so you record your own miles on an onlien map, it allows you to decide how to do the challenge; you can record just runs, runs and long walks or to record all of your steps every day.  I have chosen to only record my runs because I wanted to use it as accountability to run more.  However, that is because I tend to walk a lot anyway so if I included my steps it would not be a genuine challenge. But for anyone who is quite sedentary who wanted to move more counting steps every day would be a great challenge.

There is a Facebook group for people doingt he challenge and it’s a very supportive, nice group and people post their wins and also when they are struggling and everyone is always qick to cheer or offer moral support.  What these posts often raise however is how everyone is approaching the challenge differently in terms of what they include as mileage.  This often creatse confusion, with people askign am I doing this wrong?  Should I be counting that?  Of course people always reassure and remind the OP that the challenge is unique to them and tehre is no right or wrong.

This confusion is common not only in this group however but throughout the fitness industry.  How often do you see someone on Facebook or Instagram doing a certain plan that is polar opposite to the way you train, eating a certain diet, eating more than you, less than you, training 3 days a week when you train 5, training for a marathon in a different way to you, running 10km in the time it takes you to run 5km, training in body part splits when you don’t, spending 2 hours in the gym when your session takes 45 minutes.

It’s really easy to think you must be doing it wrong.  That if that person who looks fit is doing the opposite to you you should do that too.  We are all different however.  Our bodies, fitness levels, experience goals, time pressures, tastes, willingness to cut cake for breakfast out of our diet, likes and dislikes, mental health, shift patterns, hobbies – all these things will (or should) affect how you eat and train.  Therefore unless you find an absolute carbon copy of you out there, your training or nutrition won’t look like someone elses, and nor should it.

Yes, there is lots of generic advice that works for specific groups of people.  Group exercise instructors will face common obstacles so advice tailored to them as a group can work- but even then they will need to tweak that to sit their precise circumstances.  You sit at a desk all day, I could predict your pain points and suggest some advice that would probably help lots of people, again it would need a bit of tweaking by people and not every piece of advice would be releveant to every person who works in an office.

The key is taking in the advice, the suggestions, the tips and knowing what is and isn’t relevant to you, what will ad won’t work for you.  Then being able to look at other people doing different things and not get triggered by it, or feel bad, or superior or like you must be doing something wrong, because if it is working for you and Isn’t unsafe you do you.

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.