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.

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.

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.

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.

DOMs

I’m going to bet that after everyone in England’s first week back at the gym a few people will currently have DOMs!

Getting back to training that your body perhaps hasn’t done for a while, with weights heavier than you have been using at home is likely to leave your muscles feeling sore and recovery times feeling longer than you were previously used to.

So today a little reminder about DOMs as we ease ourselves back into our gym routines:

  1. 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).
  2. 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).
  3. 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) and even if you’re experienced, we’ve had an extended break from lifting and the likes and need to build back up to where we were pre Lockdowns.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Drink lots of water – drinking water makes everything feel better!

Return of the Gym

Back to the gym this week. Like many people I’ve been ridiculously glad to get back to training in a gym, with more than the couple of bits of home equipment and proper gym floors and real space to be able to move and just the hustle and bustle of a gym.

Because even if I’m doing a body weight workout or a workout with a set of dumbbells or band or studio barbell which I could technically do at home it just feels better in a gym. I feel like my workout intensity is higher, I’m more focused , I enjoy it more and leave feeling like I’ve just worked more.

Part of it is I just don’t have much space and don’t really have the flooring for high intensity workouts (the first lockdown well and truly knackered my living room carpet) but beyond that I find the act of leaving the house, walking to the gym, entering that different environment mentally prepares me for the workout. I find that I don’t have the distractions I have at home (Ohhh I really need to clean under the sofa or that lampshade is a bit dusty). There’s even a case of the strangers not paying you any attention around you providing some form of silent accountability to not give up when you start to feel tired.

For some people the convenience of working out from home have been a revelation. Classes or workouts on demand, no traveling to and from time, no having to wait for equipment. I get that but for me the atmosphere of the gym, beyond providing a wider range of equipment and possibilities, gives me a focus that I just don’t have at home.

Home workouts were a mean to an end for me personally but I’m so glad I can finally get back into an actual gym!

Gyms Reopen #3

Gyms open in England tomorrow.

You may be excited, nervous, feeling not quite ready. Here’s a few things to remember:

  1. Don’t expect to be where you were when you last hit the gym. For most of us you cannot replicate a gym workout at home and you’ll need to build back up your weights and what you can do.
  2. Don’t go mad. Following on from point one, resist the temptation to go crazy and push so hard you end up injured / burnt out. Remember when you first started training and how DOMS / recovery felt? You need to ease back in!
  3. You may have to be flexible. Maybe your gym has limited session times, reduced the amount of equipment to allow social distancing, requires booking. You might not be able to do everything you want, may have to switch out some exercises or equipment. Accept this might be the case, go with the flow and it’ll be less frustrating.
  4. It doesn’t matter if you’ve put weight on. Covid Handles someone referred to them as the other day. Training over Lockdowns has been tough, Lockdowns in general have been stressful. If you put weight on it doesn’t matter.
  5. Say hello to people. You know one of the things I love about gyms? They have people in them. Even training alone but surrounded by people can be motivating. A hello, a joke, a compliment from or to someone always make a training session nicer. Say hi to the staff, to the other regulars you’ve not seen in weeks, strangers.
  6. Remember beer gardens open tomorrow too so after your training sessions maybe have a beer, because a) life is all about balance and b) what’s more British than sitting in a beer garden in the sun whilst it’s also snowing!

Need a nudge getting ready to go back to the gym?

Last week my friend launched a short online course to help group exercise instructors and participants feel good about the lifting of lockdown and the return to the gym / classes.

He’s a coach and trainer who knows Group Exercise and it’s demands well.

The course is free!

What you’ll get:

  • Jump Pyramids of Priority
  • Jump 4.2 Method
  • Access to Jump Facebook Group

To get involved and start now head here:

https://www.rickylong.com/offers/LfGPYkW2/checkout

This is perfect for you if you need a bit of a nudge to get you ready for the gyms opening again in April.

Are You Ready?

How ready are you for things to go back to normal?

I don’t mean physically.  There are so many posts and articles about getting gym ready, summer body ready, lockdown lifting body ready.  I mean mentally.

In the aftermath of the first Lockdown, as much as I, like evryone else, was desperate for a return to normaity, found it harder than I thought to adjust to the canges in my Lockdown routine.  I wasan’t alone at the time and I said then that, whilst we all put a lot of thought into how we would cope with Lockdown as the prospect loomed ahead of us in March, none of us thought we’d need to try hard to get back to normal.  Actually though humans tend to adapt to circumstances quite quickly as a way of surviving and it wasn’t quite as easy a transition as many of us thought.

Since then we’ve had almost constant change.   Manchester went back into Lockdown in July last year and has never really left it (we went from Local Lockdown to Tier 2, Tier 3, Lockdown, new Tier 3, Tier 4, Lockdown).  We’ve gone from beign abl to go to the pub, get out haircut, go to the gym, to going to the gym but not classes, going to the pub but onl with a meal, to not beign able to go anywhere at all.  We’ve not really been allowed to travel apart from around 6 weeks last summer.

As much as everyone is desperate to leave this never ending barage of rules it isn’t wholey surprising that this brings an element of anxiety.  In recent days I’ve seen some emotional outbursts in reaction to Covid, heard people say ‘things are changing too quickly’.  I don’t think all these people are scared of Covid or a risk of the spread 9some are of course).  I think some people are just a wee bit anxious about the chnges to a routine, which whilst mind numbing, most of us have ended up settling into to stay sane.

Much in the same way almost every PT on Instagram has said it’s ok to go back to the gym having gained weight, not lifted, not trained much and to not feel bad for it, it’s also ok to really want this to end but still feel a bit apprehensive about going back to things that were once normal but have not been for some time now, be that the office, the gym, social settings and so on.

How ae you prepping for the big gym reopening?

Gyms in England reopen on 12th April (hopefully), classes can start back from 17th May (hopefully). There is hope restrictions will be largely lifted around 21st June. The rest of the UK is likely to be around about the same I’d guess. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard I need to lose my Lockdown weight before June or I need to get my fitness back ready for when gyms reopen.

To be fair many people have covered the first of those statements. Very quickly, you don’t need to be any size or shape come June. Come June you can enjoy seeing people and going places and generally not being stuck indoors whether you have stayed the same weight, put on half a stone or five stone during Lockdown. If you want to lose weight go for it, but it doesn’t need to be by the specified time.

Getting fit to return to a place where you go to get fit baffles me. Will you need to build back up to pre Lockdown weights or endurance levels if the access to equipment you have had has been limited these last few months? Of course. Does that matter? Not really, you’ll still be allowed in the gym, there are no pre requisites before you’re allowed access. Of course what we are really worried about is being judged. Turning up and being the only one feeling less fit or more out of shape than this time last year. It won’t be the case, I can almost guarantee 90% of people feel the same as you.

When I think back to last summer when I went back to teaching after several months in Lockdown. Was it tough? Hell yes. Weights felt heavy, sitting on a spin bike was less comfortable than it was, I was beetroot red at the end of classes. So was everyone else. As the instructor I had to ease back into it, all my regular class members did too. There was no judgement, either of each other or of me as an instructor. We all laughed about it, shared tips and compared progress as the weeks went on and we got into our routine again.

I’m all for building yourself back up now, I kind of don’t want to feel completely dead after my first class back when I need to teach a few hours later, so I want to start to increase my activity levels now. It’s still going to be a shock when I get back to the gym though and that is fine.

We haven’t had a choice about this enforced absence from the gym so we don’t need to make ourselves feel bad about it or put so much pressure on ourselves. Instead I’m looking forward to seeing people again, and being with them in finding it a bit tough to start with but getting through it together with my classes.