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.

10 Fitness Myths

  1. You can target fat

Whilst you can train specific muscle groups you can’t lose fat from a specific area, you can however reduce body fat overall which will in turn help you reduce fat in that target area.

2. No pain, No gain

The idea that if you don’t have DOMs the next day you didn’t work hard enough can be detrimental.  DOMs will typcially be felt when the muscles are reacting to a new stimulus (so you’re doing something different or increasing intensity) so you shouldn’t really be feeling them every single time you train.  Moreover, as long as you are feeling good and a bit sweaty / fatigued at the end of a sesison you’re all good, don’t feel like every sessions needs to be a killer.

3. Never miss a Monday

The sentiment here is start your week well, but what if Monday isn’t convenient?  Does that mean the rest of your weorkouts will be ineffective and your week a write off?  Of course not.  This harks back to the idea that a diet should ‘start Monday’ and can be a negative way of thinking, restricting your outlook.  If Monday works for you – train, if not, it’s not a better day than any other so worry not.

4. Weights will make you bulky

I don’t want to lift heavy because I don’t want to gte bulky. Those of us who have been lifting for years WISH it was as easy as just lifting weights to get ‘bulky’.  What lifting will do is help you get the kind of definition that won’t make you look ‘big and bulky’ but will help you look leaner and feel good.  You’ll also feel strong as fuck. 

  • Body part splits are the best way to train

Tradionally if you are a serious ‘lifter’ you’ll train body parts- leg day, arm day, shoulder, back.   That’s fine if you want to go down that route, for many though focusing on compound lifts (deadlifts, sqauts, rows) and taking a more roudned approach to each session will allow for more results in less time.

  • You should never train when ill

If th symptoms are above the neck (a blocked up nose for instance) and you feel ok to train then do (just take it easy).  Ultimately you need to be sensible here and listen to your own body.

  • Sweating is a sign of being out of shape

Some people sweat more than others and often the fitter someone is the quicker they start to sweat into a workout so don’t worry sweating is not a sign of being unfit.

  • Sit ups will give you abs

Crunches will help strengthen your core (along with many other core based exercises) but ultimately your body fat needs to be low enough for your abs to be visible so sit ups alone with not give you a six pack.  What may be more beneficial in terms of your core is to think about strengthen it for functional reasons, to help you feel stronger, move better and reduce the risk of injuries.

  • Running beats walking

Running is more efficient in term sof covring distance and will increase your heart rate more but in terms of movement and muscles worked the two are very similar, so if you have the time and want to hike instead of run go for it.

  1. Options in classes are always easier / less effective

This perception can make people feel bad or like they are getting less of a workout, which is simply not true.  You may take an option because you can’t yet do a particular move sure, but maybe your injured or tired or maybe you want to work on a different focus.  A well performed option may be far more effective than a fatigued poorly performed rep of something else.  Equally sometimes an instructor will give advanced options to progress a move, or sometimes in class I’ll give various options depending on what you want to focus on that day (maybe speed or strength) – neither is easier it just depends on what you want.  The upshot is listen to the instructor and don’t assume one option is every superior to another. 

Motivation is a con

How often do you say I’ll start Monday or tomorrow and then just never quite get round to it?

I don’t just mean diets or exercise, anything really. Motivation to want something is easy but motivation to actually act upon that want is much harder to come by.

That’s because motivation is really a bit of a con. Often to get motivated you need to see some results and to see some results you need to get started with something.

So rather than waiting until you are motivated you need to find a way to get started with something even if you don’t feel motivated to do so.

The easiest way to do this is to get into the habit of doing things. Once something is habit it’s easy to do it almost on autopilot, without having to think too much about it.

Creating habits is however, again, hard.

Until that is you create systems.

You want to make drinking more water a habit. To do that you need to remember to drink water often across the day. Systems to do this could include buying a half gallon water bottle for your desk, setting an app that reminds you at regular intervals, having a pint of water as soon as you wake up.

You want to train more often. Systems to help could include booking a class or arranging to train with a friend so it’s an appointment you can’t skip, identifying all your training windows in a week so if you miss one you know when else you can train, working with a PT or signing up for a challenge so you have a reason not to skip training.

When we start a project at work it seems obvious to make a list of what needs to be done and break it down into tasks and work out the best way of doing each task. We can approach our fitness in much the same way and take away the element of needing to feel motivated from the equation.

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.

Are you ready for classes?

Who’s slightly nervous to get back to classes?

I’m really excited to get back to teaching and to see everyone again and move to music (I find it so much more motivating than working out alone) but I’m also a bit apprehensive about how hard it’s going to feel in those first few classes.

The truth is, no matter how much I prepare in the gym I know that doing a full on group cycle class for 45 minutes or a HIIT class is going to feel really tough. I remember after the first lockdown when I taught my first class I was beetroot after. Like redder and more sweaty and out of breath than I think I’ve ever been. Sitting on a bike had never felt so uncomfortable (three classes in 24 hours when you haven’t sat on a bike for a while is an experience let me tell you).

Of course that makes me a little nervous, but I keep reminding myself that everyone else is coming back from the same break. If I struggle a little during a class I’m likely to be feeling the same as many of the class members and together we will all get used to training again and gradually rebuild our endurance levels.

Ultimately I know none of that will really matter because as soon as we start and the music starts playing it will feel so good to get back to it any tiredness will be totally worth it.

So if you’re nervous about your fitness or whether you’ll be able to get through a class when we re-start, don’t be, fitness is a never ending journey and we will always have periods where our fitness peaks and troughs and at least this time many of us will all be in the same boat and the same time.

Building Back Slowly

Back at the gym this week. I’m incredibly glad about this, I feel like I’ve trained harder this week than the last year out together. It’s also ironically made running feel better, partly I think because I’ve run slightly less so my legs have felt a bit fresher on the days I have.

What is going to be a challenge however is fitting the gym (and soon teaching) back into my normal life. I think over the last year I’ve got so used to not being able to go to the gym and just getting up, going to work then training at home or running that adding the gym back in is going to feel a bit weird. Even if I use the gym at work at lunch time which I used to do I’m out of this habit so it’s going to take some effort to get used to doing this again.

Part will be fitting everything back in and getting sued to a change in tempo (as well as going out and about again now that we can kind of see people again). Part of it will be getting back the stamina to do everything I used to do and not feel totally shattered.

I think this is something I will need to mindful of over the coming weeks, as I’m sure many more of us will also. When someone first starts training and looking to add exercise into their routine we always say ‘build up slowly’ ‘don’t expect to be able to train every day or you’ll be setting yourself up for a fall’. Wise words of course and incredibly correct.

We are all kind of starting from scratch at the moment though, so I think it wise for us all to remember, whether we are new to exercise or regular gym goers or even gym / class instructors or PTs, that we need to build ourselves back up- not only to the amount of weight we can lift in the gym, but also to the actual intensity of our every day lives pre Lockdown.