Monday morning. New week. Here’s some reminders if you are looking to get fitter, slimmer, healthier.

  1. Aim to exercise 2-3 times. Block out 5 times in your diary, if you miss a couple no harm, if you make all 5 appointments with yourself you’ve over achieved.
  2. Try and add an extra 10 minutes walk into each day this week to increase your steps a little.
  3. Drink a glass of water once every hour.
  4. Track what you eat in MyFitnessPal, see where you are in comparison to your calorie goal.
  5. If you aren’t in a calorie deficit try and reduce your intake by 200-500 calories a day.
  6. Hit five portions of fruit and veg a day. Try to mix it up, eat a range of colours.
  7. Eat 1.5 x your body weight (in kg) in protein a day.
  8. Struggle to get to sleep? Try drinking your last coffee at midday.
  9. Stretch. For a few minutes day, when you’re watching TV or at the very least once this week.
  10. Identify one thing you struggle with and decide on one small change you can make to improve.

Therapy or Therapeutic?

Ask a lot of people who are into fitness why they train and you’ll get an answer that refers to mental health. There’s been a massive shift in recent years from people training purely for aesthetics to people training for how it makes them feel.

Exercise is a great stress relief, moving more literally releases endorphins, it can improve confidence, possibly get you outdoors and getting fresh air. So yes training can be incredibly beneficial to your mental health.

Viewing training as what your body can do and something that makes you feel better makes exercise a positive action rather than a form of punishment, where you train to eat more or change your appearance and size.

What exercise isn’t though, is therapy. It can be therapeutic of course it can. If I’m a bit stressed or anxious going to the gym or for a run can help alleviate the symptoms. If i don’t train for a few days I can feel the difference to my mood, largely because I actually enjoy the time I’m running or lifting, it makes me feel good, is a break from whatever is going on and a chance to blast some music and focus on me.

But exercise can’t replace therapy or solve actual problems. If training is literally the only thing keeping you sane or making you feel better it’s time to look at the issues exercise is acting as a sticking plaster for. The issue when you get to this point, is if you can’t train for whatever reason, you end up feeling terrible. When you feel like training through an injury because that would be better than how you’d feel if you took some time off, or rest days sound like a terrible idea because even though you’re knackered and burnt out a day off would make you feel guilty.

The benefits of training for mental health can’t be denied but we always need to remember that for it to be a benefit it needs to complement our life rather than dominate it, which means knowing when to rest even if you really want to train, when to pull back, when to take it easy and then appreciate what you are still able to do when you can train.

Hybrid AF

Are you Hybrid athlete?

Recently this phrase has become a full on trend on social media. So what is a Hybrid Athlete? Well officially someone who excels simultaneously in both strength and endurance activities, but essentially someone who trains for multiple disciplines or in multiple ways.

Is it really a new thing? Honestly, no. Lots of people have always done a mixture of heavy lifting and cardio, things like Crossfit where multi functional fitness is the aim, lifted and ran. It is however getting more attention now and with this new (not new but trending i guess) name gaining more recognition.

People who maybe once almost exclusively lifted might now consider running as a bigger part of their training or add in other types of exercise rather than being of the mindset ‘I do this and this is the best form of training and all other types of training are inferior’ mindset.

In this sense the growth of the Hybrid Athlete is a good thing. Multi functional programmes with variety and a mixture of cardio and resistance fitness can help people become more robust overall, not just leaner or stronger, but generally better equiped to live a healthy every day lfe.

When we talk about functional fitness or say a workout contains functional moves, we are essentially saying it will help up in every day life (carrying things, picking up kids and so on). Not focusing on one form of movement can help benefit you in the same sort of functional way as you are working on being more robust and fit overall rather than excelling in one particular way.

The other benefit i see from this type of training is the mindset benefits, in terms of confidence as you try new things, get used to stepping out of your comfort zone and expand you skill set. It also takes the idea of training away from being a means to an end to lose weight or achieve a certain physique and makes it a more feel good about yourself thing

The chances are you do already train Hybrid without really thinking about it, but you can use the new buzz word as a reminder to try new exercise trends, train outside the box, give new things a go and see where they take you.

Stress Head

How Stress can affect you health.

  1. Chronic stress affects your ability to regulate the stress hormone cortisol which can influence your metabolism and so affect your efforts to mange your weight
  2. Stress can make you crave sugary and fatty foods which can affect your weight management
  3. High stress levels can lower your immue system
  4. Stress can affect sleep which in turn can have an effect on your training, weight and general well being
  5. High stress levels are sometimes linked to retaining weight around the stomach area and making it harder to reduce body fat
  6. Stress can make you feel fatigue quicker, both mentally and physically, making training harder

But stress in itself isn’t a completely negative thing.

Mild occasional stress can motivate you. A slight increase in cortisol from moderate stress has been demonstrated to have a positive impact on sport performance (think of how you perform under pressure, pull things off at the last minute.

The key here is balance, few people will lead stress free lives and occasional short periods of very high stress are inevitable and not going to have a lasting effect on most people. If you are finding yourself highly stressed most weeks however looking at ways of mitigating this could help you see dramatic benefits in your training and how you feel in yourself.

5 Fitness Facts

  1. If you don’t train at all at the moment exercising once a week is a 100% improvement, start there and build up.
  2. To get stronger you need to progressively overload the muscles and that doesn’t just have to be by adding weight. You can increase reps, number of sets, length of workout, adjust tempos, reduce rest periods (increase intensity) or change training frequency.
  3. What you do outside the gym matters more. Walking, moving about and your general daily activity will burn more calories than the most intense hour in the gym.
  4. To lose weight you need to be in a calorie deficit. If you aren’t no amount of supplements, protein shakes or specific meal timings will help. They are tools to fine tune a diet, having tools but no base material to work with is pointless.
  5. Chocolate, crisps and takeaways aren’t bad for you. Whilst less nutritionally valuable, if you are within your calorie target, eating them won’t affect your progress and mentally will probably help you stay on track.

Plan B

Where do you stand on Plan B? Do you have one?

When you plan to do certain workouts one week and then something happens on Tuesday that stops you getting one done how do you react. Do you get disheartened and feel like you’ve failed or  do you go to Plan B?  Plan B could be you squeeze a walk in instead or a 10 minute run instead of your gym session .  Not what you wanted and maybe not ideal but it’s still moving.

If you were going to cook super healthy meals this week but then Thursday at work is awful and you are late home and haven’t had time to go shopping do you just order a takeaway and be done with it and berate how your life stops you from ever being healthy, or do you Plan B it? Maybe that means you take a high protein ready meal you keep in the freezer for such occasions and have that instead. Not what you planned but still it’s lower calorie than a Chinese (and cheaper).

The reality is you will never have a clear run on fitness or weight loss. Unless your life is highly dull you won’t have a training period for a race without Saturday night plans hindering Sunday’s long runs or birthdays and catch ups where you will not want to eat salad and drink mineral water. You will always have bad days at work where the idea of a run followed by chicken and veg post 5pm will make you want to scratch someone’s eyes out. When this happens you have a couple of options, you can think sod it and just go all out with a pizza and a night on the sofa or you can have little Pan B options in place that whilst not perfect are not the same as just giving up.

Sometimes Plan B’s are mental, they require you to change how you view and react to a situation and adjust your own expectations. Sometimes Plan B’s are having back up things in place for when things don’t happen as you meant, like having some emergency meals in the freezer, some healthy snacks in the cupboard, some go to options you can grab from local shops on the go.  It’s taking the view that consistency will always beat short bursts of perfection so when things don’t go perfectly looking to mitigate things and find a middle ground rather than saying well I didn’t do my plan A so I may as well just give up.  For instance I’ve recently started keeping some of Iceland’s new My Protein range in the freezer because they’re pretty decent size wise and high protein. I’ve also been buying some of Aldi’s Protein desert range (Protein Puddings, Granola yoghurt and Mousse), some of these taste better than others but in terms of getting protein in when I’ve fallen sort they’ve been useful.     


It’s a new month. January both managed to go by really fast and also have 493 days in it. I don’t know how that works!

You may be one of the few that has had a flying start with resolutions, in which case well done! If you aren’t and January has ended and you feel like you haven’t quite started the things you wanted to, seen results you hoped for, or things just haven’t gone perfectly to plan, that’s ok.

A new month can be quite like a new year, a fresh page (if you are the type of person that needs that fresh start, new week type of feeling you may as well acknowledge that and work with it). Try taking some time to decide what you want from the month and setting some small goals that you can work towards. I’m not talking, losing a stone or massive things like that. I’m talking about goals that you can hit and track which will help you work towards those more wide sweeping weight loss or training goals.

Perhaps you will hit 10,000 steps a day and drink 2 litres of water every day, maybe you will make 10 minutes free each day to write down what your grateful for, get outside for fresh air every day, get 8 hours sleep a day, arrange a catch up phone call or coffee catch up with a friend once a week. Little things like this add up to bigger results but also feel more achievable to start with and also at the end of the month when you look back you feel like you’ve hit your goals.

Things don’t need to be perfect in February, you can miss runs or training sessions, you can eat Pizza on a Monday and you can have the odd day where lunch ends up being a McFlurry (to be honest i recommend you do this at least once a month anyway). Consistency will always beat perfection because you will never be able to maintain perfect for any length of time.

Anxiety and the Gym

When people think about anxiety and the gym we normally think about how anxiety can make it hard for people to get started, go to the gym or a class for the first time or start something new. That’s a valid topic to discuss because the unknown and uncertainty can be anxiety inducing to many of us at the best of times.

Another impact anxiety can have on your training that maybe gets overlooked though is how it affects your concentration. Now it can be argued that people with anxiety are incredibly good at concentrating, it’s just it tends to be on whatever is causing anxiety which isn’t a great thing to be hyper concentrated on.

This has two effects, firstly, it reduces the ability to concentrate on what you actually want to concentrate on at that moment. For instance in the gym, whilst some people might find working out a good distraction from whatever is causing anxiety, others might find that they are too affected by the anxiety to fully focus on their workout.

This might often be the case when the second effect of anxiety comes in play, the physical effects; a racing heart, increase in body temperature, headaches for instance. These symptoms can make it very difficult to focus on what you should be focused on or to settle down into your training.

I often find that if I’m doing something such as teaching a class, exercise can reduce my anxiety, probably because I’m having to think about what I’m doing. If I’m just training in the gym for me though, and I’m anxious about something, particularly if it’s just happened or is ongoing, I often find it much harder to fully get into a workout and my intensity reduces. Of course there’s an argument that just getting into the gym and doing something, even if it wasn’t exactly what you wanted, is still a positive and probably still has many benefits.  If you find yourself thinking this sounds familiar to you though, maybe consider having little strategies to work around this up your sleeve, attending a class, training with a friend, a play list that always calms you down perhaps.

Ultimately, we are never going to be able to avoid having bad days, so understanding how your own mind and emotions work and how you can best work with them rather than against them is the best way of managing your training when these things hit.

Why is it harder to for smaller people to lose weight?

Why is it harder to for smaller people to lose weight?

The number of calories your body uses at rest will broadly depend on your size (weight and height), so if you are shorter, you will probably find that your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) will be lower than your taller friends.

That means that the number of calories you need to eat in a day to maintain your weight will be lower, lower still if you want to create a calorie deficit to lose weight. If you are quite inactive that number could be around the 1500 calories a day range just to maintain weight (whereas for me I’m looking at around 2,500-3,000 calories to maintain).

So why does that make it harder? Well think about your average dinner, you’re probably looking at 500 calories, with perhaps 400 calories for lunch and 300 calories for breakfast.  Now if you’re tall and need to eat 2,000 calories to be in a deficit you would still have around 800 calories for snacks.  That’s enough food to feel easily full, have a high calorie treat or whatever.

What if your target to hit a calorie deficit is 1400? You have 200 calories spare, maybe enough for a couple of pieces of fruit. You essentially have less leeway to play with, battle cravings with, enjoy the foods you love with than your taller counterpart does. It’s a bit like giving two people the same shopping list but one person £100 and the other person £50 and asking them to both buy everything on the list.  The person with less money will find it a bit harder and have to be more careful.

This means smaller people might then find it more restrictive to diet, and when things become restrictive or you feel like you’re hungry all the time then you’re less likely to stick with a calorie deficit and see results.

So how do you tackle that? Well in part there are things you can do surrounding food.  Looking to fill up on more dense, low calorie foods (lots of vegetables) at main meals can help keep you full but lower the calories used, which would free up more calories to snack with.  You might find methods such as intermittent fasting which limit your window of eating help, meaning you have less time to eat the allotted number of calories (this might help mentally), even just switching breakfast for a protein shake could free up some calories for the rest of the day. 

It’s also a good idea to look at your activity levels.  You may be able to increase your NEAT and therefore increase your TDEE to allow you to increase the number of calories you need to eat each day.

If you are looking to lose weight and you have used a TDEE calculator and it suggests a super low target, it’s worth chatting to a PT or fitness professional and thinking about what tactics you can utilise to maximise your chance of hitting your goal.

Project 40- Week 11

January is actually pretty well underway, it feels like we’ve only just come back after Christmas but it’s already 16th. It just goes to show that January is a funny month and I do wonder why we think it’s the best idea to start all the ‘new’ stuff in a month where it’s mostly dark, we have financial and literal hangovers from Christmas and every other day someone tells you it’s meant to snow next week.

Nonetheless, I feel like I’ve got some stuff done already this year. I’ve shift a few Christmas pounds, am in a routine training wise (albeit, I do need to ramp this up if I want to do the fitness goals I’ve set myself this year) and I’ve done one thing that scared me already with my other not fitness thing that scares me hopefully sorted for when it’s a bit warmer.

What I know I need to do on pay day is book in some runs. Right now the goals are a bit too abstract for my brain to kick into gear and make me push myself harder in training sessions, once they’re booked I’ll have the fear factor to help me a bit. I, you see, know that I need a deadline to get stuff done. I’ll quite happily amble along thinking ahh yeah I’ll get to that if I don’t have something concrete to focus on.

I think the best piece of fitness advice I could give anyone this year who has set a fitness goal, whether you be new to the gym or a regular who’s set themselves some big ‘thing’ is select your event or milestone and do something to set it in stone (i.e. book the run, the swim, the competition spot) and use the fear that generates to garner a bit of motivation.