- You don’t need to start heavy. I mean you want to use challenging weights for you to get the most from the class but that doesn’t mean matching regulars plate for plate in class one, it’s about lifting what you can and seeing how you progress, so don’t be put off by looking through the window and seeing lots of people lifting more than you think you can.
- If you can get to the class at least 10 minutes before you will have a more enjoyable experience as you will be able to get set up without rushing, including time for that last minute nervous wee!
- Say hi to the instructor. Tell us you are new to Pump and we will help you get set up and make sure you’re ok during the class.
- As a general rule you will need: a bar, clips, a variety of weight plates, a step and a mat every release. The only things you actually need to bring with you are some water and perhaps a towel.
- It’s ok to be confused at first. There’s lots of moves you may not have heard of or done before, the beat can be fast and we have pretty short changeovers between tracks. Your instructor won’t mind (or call you out) if you take a bit longer to grab some water and change your weights or don’t quite get things straight away – all of us have felt that first class confusion!
- There is a thing called Smart Start. If you get to the back track (track 4) and you have done as much as you can that’s ok – you can leave (no need to put equipment away the instructor will do it at the end of the class). Just give the instructor a nod or a wave so we know you are ok and then next time try and stay for one extra track until you feel ok doing the whole class.
- Alternatives are there for a reason. If we say you can drop the weight if you’re struggling we really mean it. Doing the moves well in a modified position will bring greater results than trying to do a move with a heavy weight but poor form.
- The music is a huge part of Body Pump. Not only does singing along help you power through a workout but the tempos we use allow us to work our muscles in different ways across the class, so when the instructor tells you to slow down or encourages you to follow their rhythm they aren’t just an OCD maniac – they’re trying to maximise your results!
- You will feel it the next day. You do a lot of reps in a Pump class so don’t worry if DOMs hit the next day – it does get easier over time.
- It’s a fun class. Don’t feel nervous about starting, turn up, smile, do what you can and enjoy the music whilst giving something challenging a go.
Group Cycle, often known as spin. There are other variations such as Les Millls RPM too. One of the most inclusive classes in a gym. Also the one that in my experience people are most scared to try. I can see why- it looks tough (for good reason – it is) and everyone looks like they know what they’re doing (they don’t, honest) and it looks technical (you have to set up a bike – this was my biggest fear at first).
So if you’ve ever wondered about trying a class but aren’t sure if it’s for you here’s the low down (from my perspective) for first timers on how to get the most out of the class.
- Everyone is welcome- all fitness levels. Yes it will be hard but you really can go at your own pace
- Every instructor’s class is different. So if you don’t like mine try someone elses – there will be a style you like / format you enjoy / class with music you love out there- shop around! I sometimes teach rides where we work along to the music other times I teach HIIT style tabatta, some people do races and competitions. I won’t be offended if you try my class then I see you at someone elses next week!
- One thing to note, trade marked classes such as Les Mills RPM will be similar in every gym / with every instructor. They are pre- choreographed and so you will always get the same format – even if you go to a class in a different country. This really suits some people, especially if you like routine.
- Get there 10 minutes early and say hi to the instructor. Tell them you are new, tell them you are nervous. They will be nice, they will look out for you and they will show you how to set up your bike.
- There will normally be modifications or different levels you can work at and the instructor will always offer these different options throughout the class- take the ones that suit you. Never tell yourself you are doing the easy option. They are just different and people take different options for all sorts of different reasons.
- Put some resistance on the bike – going too light sounds like a good idea (especially when you feel like you are going to die half way through!) but it will mean you bounce – this will hurt your bottom, believe me. After my first class I walked like a cowboy for a week.
- Always make sure your feet are strapped in – loose straps are dangerous. Dangerous is bad.
- There is normally a brake on the resistance button. Normally by pressing down on it you can stop the feet dead. It’s useful to remember just in case! The instructor will tell you about the bike if you introduce yourself at the start.
- Don’t be afraid to add resistance when asked to. If you add too much you can always take it off. You’re there to get fitter – challenging yourself is the way to do this. Noone will laugh if you get stuck!
- Take water – you will sweat, you will get thirsty.
- Maybe take a towel- I refer you back to the sweat!
- Taking recoveries is fine. You are meant to work hard- if you push so hard you need to take a moment then well done. The instructor won’t shout at you – just sit on the bike, keep the legs spinning and come back in when you are ready.
- When you are new it can seem like everyone else is faster and fitter than you. Remember they may have been doing this a long time and have conditioned themselves to last the full class. They will not have been like that in their first class so don’t beat yourself up. Try your best, try and enjoy it and just focus on giving your best effort. Nobody is there to compete with anyone else so just work at a level right for you. Nobody is going to judge you.
- Cycle classes are meant to be hard- the great thing is as you get fitter you can go faster and at a heavier resistance so it stays effective and never gets to the point it feels ‘easy’
- Above all Group exercise is meant to be fun so relax and smile – the music and other people make it more interesting than just sitting on a bike in the gym!
Like most PTs I’ve done a few gym inductions this week, set people up with a plans to get started and so on. Those plans have varied depending on people’s goals, experience and health / injuries. Everything I programmed has it’s purpose and reason. There could be other ways they could train of course, but what I have suggested will help them gain confidence in the gym, get comfortable with movement patterns and key lifts (with modified moves to start with for some). I could have given them more flashy sexy looking programmes but that where I haven’t it’s because I think that would have been confusing, overwhelming and just not what they need at this particular time. I’m not a PT to show people how much I know, I’m there to help others learn to enjoy moving.
Some of these clients however have had people they know say to them ‘oh you need to lift more / go deeper / use a bar or weight.’ As well meaning as that will have been all it’s done is knock their confidence and confuse them when what they were doing was already effectively getting them started on a fitness journey. Keeping things simple isn’t always a bad thing and it might not be for you but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for someone else. There’s so many was to train, the best way for one individual isn’t the only way.
Similarly, whilst someone trying to (with good intention) correct the form of someone who is just learning a movement pattern and is moving perfectly safely but just not perfectly isn’t always helpful. Remember when you first started lifting and were trying to remember multiple things? You won’t have had great technique let’s face it. Sometime moving safely and getting used to that pattern then working on improving technique week by week, point by point is going to be more confidence boosting and motivating than feeling rubbish because they can’t get everything right straight away.
If you want to get started in the gym and are new, get a plan (most gyms will do one when you sign up as part of your membership) and if your family of friends say ‘oh no don’t do that do this’ remember the gym instructor is trained to plan something specific to you, and whilst your mate might be a regular gym goer it doesn’t mean they have the skill set to safely help you get the most out of getting started. Accept their support and encouragement but know that there is more than one way to skin a cat so doing something differently to others doesn’t make it wrong.
If you have a friend or relative starting at the gym this year and they are working with a PT, encourage them and support them and letting the PT provide the training advice is the best way you can support them.
Today I saw a post referring to calorie counting / losing weight (dieting) as toxic.
In 2022 can we please stop referring to anything we don’t personally like as toxic? Because whilst calorie counting may not be right for everyone that doesn’t mean it’s toxic. same with weight loss.
Now, quick caveat, there are people for whom calorie counting isn’t a good idea, it can indeed for some become obsessive and be damaging. For those people yes calorie counting is not to be encouraged.
But for many calorie counting is the most simple straight forward, cost effective and practical way of creating a calorie deficit – which if you want to lose weight – is what you need to achieve.
So let’s reframe the notion that calorie counting is toxic. Calorie counting is simply a method of tracking energy intake which for some people will work well but whom for some may not be beneficial.
Swimming is a very good way to exercise. Except not for me, because I can’t swim. Does that mean swimming is toxic and a bad way to train, because it doesn’t suit me? Pretty sure everyone reading said no in their head just then.
Very few things in life are in themselves toxic, our relationship with something may well be toxic, that doesn’t mean it is also toxic for everyone else.
Diets get a bad rap, because traditionally they’ve been seen as restrictive and not sustainable. That’s really not the case these days. Most coaches will encourage sensible calorie deficits and won’t suggest you cut out food groups or stop eating your favourite foods.
Diets are just using a bit more energy than you consume each day to create a physical change in your body. Unless you’re doing that to please someone other than you it is not toxic.
Certain things might be a bit triggering to us personally, that doesn’t mean they’re automatically toxic, I think it’s a bit unhelpful to ourselves not to recognise that, as it puts all the responsibility for our reactions onto society, when in reality we can’t control what other people say or do so we have to instead look to control how we chose to react to it.
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.
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 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.
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.
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:
- 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).
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Drink lots of water – drinking water makes everything feel better!
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!