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.

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.

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.

What Day Is It?

The bit between Christmas and New Year. The bit where days merge into one, nobody really knows what day it is, what time the shops shut and the fridge is still full of Christmas food meaning the food coma kind of just rumbles on.

This is the week you might well feel a bit rubbish, fat, unfit and generally feel the urge to commit to a month long detox in January where you consume only lemon and water.

Of course in actual reality your body does a pretty good job of ‘detoxing’ itself and actually just eating and training in moderation will make you feel better pretty quickly and be far more enjoyable.

People tend to like extremes. A diet doesn’t work unless we go from whatever size we are to emaciated stick in three days, a training programme doesn’t work if you can’t go from couch to marathon in three sessions. If it doesn’t have a label on it that says natural, vegan friendly and detox on it it isn’t goo to be effective.

These things don’t last though. When was the last time you made a drastic New Years resolution and actually stuck to it?

You know what does last? Finding a nice little routine that works for you.

I love food. I eat a lot. No point in being restrictive – I just ricochet the other way. I also enjoy moving. Running, lifting, classes – movement makes me feel good. So I move.

I’m writing this on an exercise bike in the gym – some people here are clearly working off their Christmas. Me – I felt stiff after a few days of largely sitting and wanted to move. I didn’t need to guilt myself to coming here – I wanted to, I woke up looking forward to it.

This January find yourself something for your body and mind that will make you feel good. Doesn’t matter if there is something my else that would be more ‘effective’ for fat loss or fitness. You’ll stick to the thing you look forward to doing, the thing that you feel great after doing. You won’t stick to the thing you ‘should’ do.

Then next year when Christmas is over (and we are in tier 784) you’ll be heading off to do that thing that makes you feel good for moving and not thinking about what you can do in January to feel less like baby elephant.

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.

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.

Working as a team when your self employed

A few weeks ago a friend (a fellow instructor) said of me and another instructor (a mutual friend) “it’s nice you work together”.  This was in response to us arranging coffee mornings at the gym where we both teach the majority of our classes.

To be honest, doing this as a team was never in question when we had the idea- we’ve always worked as a team with ideas (technique sessions, communicating with the gym etc.) because at the end of the day, we both want the same results, want to do the best for our class members and the gym and know that working together makes that more achievable.  In fact, the same is said for all of the class instructors at the gym in question – we support each others Social Media posts, communicate and look to work as one where we can.  It’s beneficial to us, in a job that can be quite isolating we have support.  It’s beneficial to our members, who know we are all working towards one goal of providing the best experience we can.

I know, from stories and from Facebook groups, this isn’t the case everywhere.  For every team that works as a team there seems to be people that sometimes seem to go out of their way to outdo others.  You hear bonkers stories of instructors encouraging people to not turn up to the cover instructors class when they’re on holiday, or to complain about another instructor or that get upset when a member says they also like the classes of someone else too.

I’m thankful that they are stories for me, in my time teaching I’ve met amazing instructors who helped me, advised me, taught me things and haven’t ever been like that.  I’ve never turned up to cover and found a hostile class, those I’ve covered for are more likely to have told the class to be nice or that they’ll enjoy my class.  I always big up cover that the class might not have met before, I’ve left aux leads and batteries and stereo instructions stashed away for people attending the studio for the first time as my cover.  It’s in my interest for my class to like the cover and them to enjoy teaching the class – it makes finding cover easier!

Let’s face it-  we all get it wrong sometimes and it’s hard to never feel competitive or compare ourselves to others, but generally, and especially as I have gained experience, I’ve realised more and more, the benefit of us fitness professionals working with each other rather than against each other.

I would class myself as a decent instructor.  I’m comfortable enough to know there are some things that the instructors I work with are better at that I am, I know there are things I’m strong at and things I’m less strong at.  We all have strengths and weaknesses, and beyond that we all have different approaches and styles of teaching.  By working as a unit we provide variety (if you don’t like my teaching style they’ll be other instructors who’s classes suit you better and vice versa, what we care about is you find the classes you do enjoy – in reality most people come to all our classes and like the fact that we offer a different experience which keeps things interesting), we can plug each others gaps – refer people to one another if we think someone else would be able to answer a question more effectively.

Will there be fewer classes when we return? We really don’t know at this stage.  The industry as a whole will take time to build back to full capacity.  We don’t yet know whether the timetable for us will be as before straight away or gradually built up over time.  We don’t know whether we will get all our classes back yet.  What we haven’t done is decide to look out for ourselves in a bid to make sure we are the one to get our classes back if some do need to be dropped.

We’ve agreed this is an opportunity.  We’ve stayed connected with class members throughout in different ways.  We have ideas of how we can help the gym promote classes when we return, we’ve been fortunate in that the gym has stayed in touch (and furloughed us) even if they can’t provide certainty on classes right now, and we know there’s an opportunity to build on connections built in lockdown and be an asset to the gym (another thing we sometimes forget when trying to argue or worth – we need to be able to show the gym why we are worth what we’re asking for, be that in monetary terms or what classes we get).  There are no certainties right now of course, but it feels like this is a much better approach than competing with one another for classes.

And in fitness overall this perhaps the attitude we need to take in general. Of course we are technically competing with others for clients, for classes, but we are equally all different and offering different services, so some clients will be suited to us, others better suited for someone else.  Away from the gym I teach most of my classes at I am also involved with lots of other group fitness instructors as part of Jump 4.2 and with a group of other fit pros on a Business Mastermind.  Again these are environments where even though the majority of the group (or all the group in the case of the Mastermind) are fitness instructors competition is replaced by support, being able to ask questions or put forward ideas and get honest feedback without worrying about sounding silly.  In recent months I’ve seen so many fitness professionals do amazing things with the encouragement of their peers, which shows why working with rather than against each other could give the self employed fitness professionals a bigger chance to flourish than just focusing on outdoing our closest ‘rivals’ for classes ever will.

Things all Les Mills Instructors Know – Covid -19 Special

Being a fitness instructor has changed.  Here’s a brief guide to being a Les Mills instructor in the new Covid-19 world.

  1. How do I work Zoom has replaced what is the number for the office as the most commonly asked question on all instructor pages.
  2. Nobody knows what release we are now on for any programme.  Some instructors opted to skip a release, some did not and Les Mills United will be a release in between the numbers we don’t know anyway anymore.  Nobody has asked if we will have to pay for it.  I’m quite surprised by that.
  3. Launches and what to launch are still a hot topic even though we quite clearly won’t be able to do a traditional launch for a while yet.
  4. I’m still slightly surprised nobody has asked what the best trainers for training on carpet are yet.
  5. If instructor led Zoom classes prove anything it’s that virtual is not yet ready to replace live classes.
  6. Either all instructors have very tidy homes or people did a lot of cleaning at the start of Lockdown.
  7. We are willing to pay A LOT for barbells.
  8. Could you teach in a facemask has replaced dumbbells in Body Pump as the most controversial debate.
  9. Largely because it’s ok to use Dumbbells in Body Pump now… Glen said… only took a worldwide pandemic to sort that out.
  10. We are all thinking about teaching in the rain, because we live in the UK and it’s summer time, so obviously it’s going to rain every time we teach outside.