How To Get Fit

How do you get started with a fitness regime? How do I get back into a routine when I’ve fallen out of mine? Lockdown one and two (at what point did we start numbering them because it’s a standard thing now isn’t it?) have, for a lot of us, thrown our training and nutrition into a bit of a tailspin.

So what do you do if this is the case? Whether you are looking to get started or a seasoned gym goer in a funk there’s one key strategy to get going.

Do one thing.

Whilst we often state our lack of doing things is down to a lack of motivation, in actual fact motivation is more a case of momentum. We tend to find motivation from doing something and using that as a stepping stone to do more. The more we do the more motivated we feel.

So when we want to get started with improving our fitness or nutrition making one small change is the best way of getting started.

This could mean doing one short workout (10 minutes), going for a walk, starting to track our calories, committing to drinking more water each day. Once we start to feel the benefits of this it becomes easier to consider adding additional things into our routine.

On top of create an increased sense of motivation, doing one small thing at a time can also make building a fitness regime feel more achievable.

This goes against most of our natural instincts. We tend to have a desire to be perfect, the idea that if we don’t do everything perfectly is there any point of doing it at all is prevalent (hence why so many diets start on Monday, and when people have one slip they wait to start again the following Monday). We aren’t perfect though. Not even those people that really seem to have it all together (you know those people who seem to know how to adult), so we are far more likely to feel successful if we work on our goals in small chunks.

So as you start this week, if you are wanting to make a change to your fitness or nutrition, think about trying to improve one small thing and nothing more than that.

Don’t be a Fitness Jack of All Trades

If you follow a lot of fitness type accounts on Instagram / Facebook and scroll at any one time you’ll see posts telling you to eat clean, eat intuitively, eat in moderation, have that chocolate, fast, cut out carbs, eat a high protein diet, count calories, don’t count calories, train hard, train in a way you enjoy, only do classes, never do classes, do CrossFit, don’t do CrossFit, lift heavy, lift for reps, run, walk as the absolute key to reaching your goals. You’ll be encouraged to love your body as it is, lose weight, gain muscle, work on your butt, train for a PB, train for fun, never skip a Monday, not over train. You’ll see posts telling you to reach out to someone if you need support alongside positive vibe only quotes.

My point is that there are so many, often contradictory messages out there. That can make knowing what your goal is and how to get there confusing. It can make knowing when to push and when to rest hard. It can make dealing with your own mental health effectively difficult.

Let’s take exercise intensity as an example. Messages about there being no such thing as a bad workout and the sessions you really don’t want to do being the ones you should do are potentially useful for someone who is struggling to motivate themselves to train, hasn’t trained for a while and needs a bit of accountability. Yet if you are someone who trains religiously every day (or more than once a day), ae showing signs of injury and fatigue and really should dial back your training to avoid burnout, those same messages are not useful. For those people an exercise philosophy that encourages listening to your body and resting when you feel you need to works better. Of course if you flip it that message wouldn’t be useful to someone who often tells themselves excuses not to train as it won’t get them moving.

Of course your social media viewing is largely a prism of your own ideology- we choose who we follow but still not every post you see will be applicable to you, that can make knowing how to approach your fitness difficult. That’s where bringing in a fitness professional can be beneficial.

Most PTs have their preferred methods- things they believe will work best in terms of training and nutrition, however they will also have the knowledge to adapt plans to work for you. That means what your PT prescribes for you won’t be the same as every other client they have, because we are all different and what motivates you effectively won’t motivate every other person to the same level.

Social media is a great tool for ideas and inspiration but as much as we often hear about being careful not to fall into the comparison trap, also remember to not fall into the trap of trying to do every single thing in a quest for the ultimate level of fitness. The most successful people at most things are not successful at everything – they specialise, and in the same way the most effective way for you to get results is to focus on they key things that will most benefit you.

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.

Cheat Meals are a Myth

Cheat meals don’t work.

Theoretically cheat meals are a great idea- you stick to your diet knowing that on Saturday you will be able to have the mother of all cheat meals right? Every time you feel like giving in and eating that chocolate bar you resist with the thought of that massive pizza, wedges, garlic bread, chicken wings, Ben and Jerrys, milkshake and beer that you will devour on on the weekend. You’ve been good all week and PTs are always saying that one bad meal won’t derail your diet.

Here’s the thing. One bad meal isn’t the end of the world. But. That mother of all cheat meals ends up being, because you deprived yourself all week, more than a normal days calories in one sitting. Because of that fact, the calorie deficit you’ve built up all week suddenly is a calorie deficit no more.

Think of your calories like a bank balance. You have £700 to spend this week (I mean I wish)- £100 for each day of the week. To adequately ‘save’ (lose weight) you want to not spend £140 each week, that’s around £20 a day. Now you might need to spend more some days and less other days, it isn’t necessary to spend exactly £80 each day. You might spend £150 one day and only £70 another. As long as you have that £140 still in your account at the end of the Week you’ve hit your saving goal.

So you can have that takeaway on Saturday night, you have saved during the week and have the calories to spend on your favourite foods. But here’s the deal. You have to track those calories too. If you treat it like a ‘free pass’ you’ll eat way more calories than you expect and end up eating away at your calorie deficit.

Go back to your bank balance. Say you got to the end of the week and you’d saved and you had £500 still – your goal was to save £140 so you’ve got £360 to play with. Now you could go and buy a ridiculously over priced handbag for £360 guilt free. But if you didn’t check your bank balance. Say you just thought, I know I’ve saved money this week and can afford to go shopping, but didn’t actually check what you had left in the bank. You go shopping and spend spend spend. When you check your bank the next day you actually spent £550. Now you’ve not only not saved your £140 but you’re in your overdraft.

If you factor your’ cheat meal’ into your calories it does two things – one it takes away that guilt eating mentality – it stops foods being ‘naughty’. It also ensures that you can have those meals you love whilst still being able to achieve your goals. Above all it stops you self sabotaging your own diet unwittingly.

Should I Join a Slimming Club?

Should I join a Slimming Club?

I’ve written many times before about why I don’t think Slimming Clubs work. Ultimately I think that they take a really simple concept- the calorie deficit- and make it into a complex set of rules that you can only really follow if you pay to attend and keep up to date with their literature or have access to their point counting apps. If you stop keeping to that calorie deficit is hard because they haven’t actually taught the basics.

Yet recently I’ve spoken to plenty of people who have joined various Slimming Clubs, and to be honest fair play- I hope they get success with them. If they follow their rules they will because they will hit a calorie deficit, and whether they do so understanding that or not they will still get the results.

We assume we must learn things then put them into practice, but sometimes we wind up doing things and then accidently learning from the results. If you attend a Slimming Club, get used to being in a calorie deficit, get the results you want and then later down the line understand why exactly you lost that weight (and that it’s nothing to do with speed foods, syns or healthy extras) what have you lost? Maybe a few quid you could have saved by not going to groups- but, you know what, that accountability could have been just what you needed to stay on track, and if you get the results that money would be deemed worth it anyway.

I think ultimately we can sometimes be too judgmental of how people get to where they want to be. At no point would I ever advise someone to go to a Slimming Club, but nor would I discourage someone from making changes in a way they felt comfortable.

There are idea ways of doing most things, but that doesn’t mean you can’t ever get to the same destination by a slightly different route, so whilst I’d encourage anyone wanting to change their diet to speak to a fitness professional for advice over a Slimming Club I also don’t prescribe to painting them as the worst thing since BOOMBOD

Going Back To The Gym

Tomorrow I teach my first class since 18th March.

The last time I taught I kind of knew I probably wouldn’t teach again for a while, or that if I did then those classes would probably be the last for a few weeks. At the time though that was what I thought, I’ll not be able to teach for a few weeks then we’ll all be back. I thought I’d see students who still had a few more months in Manchester back in classes, people would be back in their offices within weeks and coming to morning classes and that realistically I’d still remember all the choreography as you do when you’ve just been on holiday for a couple of weeks.

Almost 6 months later obviously that wasn’t the case.

Lots changed and lots has stayed the same in those 6 months. My job is both the same and different and in the same way coming back to the gym is familiar yet equally alien, not least because some of the classes I’m now teaching are different to before as gyms adapt to the financial restraints of being closed for so long.

I feel a mixture of nerves and excitement about the coming week. How will I manage all my class? Do I actually remember how to teach? How is it going to feel teaching and working again- I’ve done it before but not for 6 months?

I’ve written previously about how we quickly get used to things we never thought we could so I know that even if the first week or so feels a bit tough I will get back into the swing of things. This is an important thing to remember, no matter how far you might feel of your pre- lockdown fitness right now you will be quickly able to get back to a place you feel comfortable in by easing yourself back in kindly to your exercise regime.

If you need an idea of how to sensibly ease back into your training you can download this two week ‘back to the gym’ plan for ideas.

Back to Gym Training Plan

Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating and the anti diet movement.

I’m a bit torn by this.

On the one hand I want to support the idea of eating what you want, not feeling guilt for eating certain foods or certain amounts of food and listening to your own body.

But I also think if you want to make a change – specifically lose or put on weight – you need to know what you are eating.

Because really, if you don’t currently track what you eat you are kind of eating intuitively.  So if you aren’t where you want to be that intuition isn’t quite working right now.

I’m not saying track everything forever, but getting an idea of where you are at and learning what the right amount of calories feels like will allow you to eat with more freedom going forward.

I think of it a bit like learning to drive or staring a new job.  When you first start something new you really think; you are aware of what you are doing and when, maybe following notes or using reminders, you never do something without checking or on auto pilot.  Once you have been doing it for a while you gain confidence, you know how to do things and don’t need to constantly check, tasks are done instinctively and sometimes you ‘just know’.

When you see someone experienced do something well but making it look effortless you can normally bet they were not like that at the start.  They went through a learning process and what might now be done without thinking almost definitely took a lot of concentration to begin with.

So I think listening to your body and eating what it wants is a great concept, taking away some of the negative feelings that can be associated with diets, but if you also want to achieve a certain result the fact is you still need to effectively manipulate your calorie intake and that takes knowledge, of where you are at and where you need to be.

Intuitive eating can be a thing, but your intuition needs to be in the right place first.

The Contradiction of the Dine Out Scheme and a Fight Against Obesity

You know there are lots of different types of people in the world?  People who have different struggles, some people struggle to lose weight, others to put it on.  Some people watch what they eat whether they struggle with managing their weight or not and others find they don’t need to.  Away from our physical self we all work in different industries and have different personal situations.

So I struggle to understand why so many people in the fitness industry keep comparing and contrasting the Governments intentions to tackle obesity and the Dine Out 50% Scheme.

The economy has been hit hard, in particular the hospitality sector.  The 50% scheme and the lower VAT rate are designed to stimulate an area of the economy that is on the edge of a disaster that will have far reaching effects on us all as jobs are lost and windows along high streets start getting boarded up (I mean we’ll just ignore the fact here that the Government found the money to fund this but it took a footballer campaigning to find the funds to feed kids who would otherwise go without during the school holidays).  Maybe it does encourage people to go and eat out more, but you know that when you go to a restaurant you don’t have to pick the fattiest, highest calorie thing on the menu right?  I mean – I don’t follow this rule when I go for a meal but… I could … I do have that autonomy of choice.

That’s the thing for me.  Those campaigns to stop BOGOFs and cheap deals on ‘junk’ food.  Why can I not pick for myself what I put in my mouth?  Does it take the Government making it more costly for me to eat less junk food to achieve that?  Will that work long term?  Or would me making informed decisions about what I eat be better in the long term.  I frequently get laughed at for how much I eat (and particular how much cake) but actually, most of the time (OK not so much in lockdown with no classes to teach) I’m actually easily within my TDEE even with all the cake, on occasions I am not I can say no to food if I think it’s right for me to do so, I don’t need Whitehall to tell me.

So the Government’s current scheme has a purpose and that purpose isn’t related to people’s health – it’s related to the economy, and as much as I don’t like this government (albeit I’ll admit to a  slight inappropriate crush on Rishi, although most people would look good if they’re almost always stood next to Boris) and think their messages are becoming increasingly confusing and contradictory, this policy is designed to get people going back to restaurants and pubs, to contrast it directly to issues of obesity is far to simplistic and takes away the ownership we need to take over our own bodies.

So onto the campaign against obesity.  I’ve not read too much about this as reading the news at the moment makes me incredibly aggy and to be honest I probably don’t need to be triggered any further.  From the Government website it seems to largely involve banning adverts for ‘naughty’ foods, reducing BOGOFs and GPs being able to prescribe weight loss programmes to people – this appears to be both via an NHS specific weight management plan but also being able to sign post them to Weight Watchers and Slimming World.

It’s the Slimming Clubs that seem to be the ultimate trigger to many fitness professionals here.  I’ve written previously that whilst I wouldn’t encourage someone to join one, I don’t think they are the devil incarnate that they get made out to be in our industry.  At the end of the day they promote a safe and healthy calorie deficit, they just do it in a sneaky way where the customer isn’t actually aware that’s what is happening and in a way that sadly doesn’t really promote moving as part of a healthy lifestyle.

To tackle obesity what is really needed is two tier.  Firstly education.  Banning adverts and offers doesn’t educate.  It’s taking the scissors away from someone rather than explaining that they are sharp so if they use them they need to be careful.  Sending them to a Slimming Club could help but not educate.  I would hope the NHS weight management plan would be the first port of call for most referrals and more educational however.

Secondly however, as I’ll write more about tomorrow, knowing and doing are just not the same thing.  It does’t matter what you know about calories or the benefit of exercise, most of us need accountability, reasons to make the effort.  For em the Governments shortsightedness comes not from Weight Watchers but not following through to this point.

Here is where we in the fitness industry can really come into a useful position, offering services that provide that accountability and support to people.  I’ve said so many times previously though, that means less talking down on other ways of losing weight (like slimming clubs) and understanding why they are popular options with many.  I’ll tell you know, because I’ve been overweight and I went to a slimming club before a gym, because sometime gyms and the people in them seem scary.  We need to show understanding of how people looking to lose weight feel and provide services that help rather than put people off.

The other issue here is cost.  It’s often said that one problem is it’s cheaper to live off junk than fresh food.  I think that is both true an untrue.  You can find very cheap fruit and veg if you know where to look, but often you need to go to certain chains of supermarkets to get the value products, these might be out of town superstores, now if you can’t drive then you are limited to the more expensive local shops.  Socio economic factors definitely come into play in everything going on right now.  How was lockdown or you?  Will have depended on where you lived, who with, access to gardens and parks.  What will have been an idyllic summer for some would have been months cooped up alone indoors for others.  Whilst we can argue that people coming to us as PTs or coaches would be more effective for them in terms of weight management and health, three sessions with a PT a week in going to cost at least £90 a week, a gym membership at least £20 a week.  A weight in at Weight Watchers costs around a fiver.

Ultimately we need to stop over simplifying complex issues, try and look beyond our own point of view and accept that in a very complex world right now where there are economic, social and health issues vying for attention with a still ongoing pandemic that not every decision or policy is always going to sit well or make sense against another.  We need to think more on a micro scale of what we can do to improve the situation rather than getting bogged down in what Boris is cocking up this week.

Lost Momentum

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.

http://eepurl.com/g4PLOz