What should you look for in a PT?

What should you look for in a PT?

There’s lots of ways you can work with a PT now: one on one, small group, online programming, apps. Beyond cost, what do you look for when deciding who to go to?

Maybe it’s location, if you want to train in person that will be a big factor; but it could also be their specialisms, experience, how fit they look, how comfortable they make you feel, the recommendation from people you trust or their client testimonials.

All of these things are valid reasons, ultimately you’re picking someone to work with based on things that are important and relevant to you is key, and here’s where I think the most important factor in looking for someone to work with comes in.

Do they get ‘you’. Specifically can they understand your pain points, identify how they affect your fitness and help you work around them?

We all have some sort of pain points, whether you think it or not, Some may be more obvious than others.

If you deal with depression or anxiety, that’s going to have an effect on how you train. Shift worker, busy mum, student; all these things can affect your training and diet.

Whether your issue is with fitting in gym sessions in the first place, struggling to focus during sessions, struggling to pluck up the courage to go to the gym or anything else in between; what you want is a PT who can understand that issue and help you with that.

Because in reality getting a gym plan is useful. Having someone tell you what to do in the gym gives you focus. A good PT will programme your sessions to incorporate progression and work specifically towards your goals.

All of that is useless though if it doesn’t work around your pain points. A good coach doesn’t just give you the right exercises for you, they understand the obstacles you face and look at how you can overcome them. That has an effect on what they have you do.

That doesn’t mean they have to have lived your experience, of course that can help but it’s not essential, but they need to be willing to listen, pin point the issues their clients faced and think about how to incorporate solutions into workouts.

If you struggle to stick to workouts or get results, a plan and a coach who can help you work around yourself and the things that keep tripping you up might make a difference. It might not make fitness feel easy but it might make a difference to your results.

Training when ill

I’ve got a cold, I started to feel a bit run down Friday and Saturday morning my nose felt blocked up. I went out for a run Saturday lunchtime and by the time I got home I felt rough and spent the day on the sofa. Sunday I felt better but decided not to train instead going out for lunch but by the time I got home I knew it was man down, a full blown cold had hit. It’s not a total shock, I’ve had a bust and stressful few weeks and actually said a few times recently that I knew I was doing too much and was making myself sick. The fact of the matter is when we get stressed and over work ourselves we are more susceptible to picking up colds etc.

Once ill, people who train regularly often find it hard not to train when they are ill, even if rest may actually be more beneficial for them, I used to be the same, although now I’m a lot better at listening to my body and taking a break to recover.

So, should you train when ill?

It’s generally recommended that mild to moderate activity is usually OK if you have a cold (with no fever). In fact, exercise may even help you feel better in the short term, opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving congestion.

If your symptoms are all above the neck generally it’s considered safe to train. Symptoms above the neck include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and sore throats. You may still want to think about reducing the intensity and length of your workout, so maybe going for a walk instead of a run for example, or if you do want to run reducing the distance and going at a slower pace.

If symptoms are below the neck (chest congestion, a hacking cough, an upset stomach, muscle ache) it is however recommended that you do not exercise and instead rest until the symptoms subside.

A Fever should make exercise a hard no, raising your body temperature further if you already have a fever, will not aid recovery and could make you feel worse, so if you show any signs of fever sit out of any exercise until your temperature is back to normal.

Of course you shouldn’t exercise with or around other people if you have any type of contagious illnesses, although if you feel OK you could always do a gentle home workout.

Exercise can help boost your body’s natural defenses against illness and infection, and regular moderate exercise 3-4 times a week (for around 30 minutes) has been shown to have numerous benefits to a person’s health.

It’s worth remembering though overtraining can actually lower immunity. That means if you are training intensely every day with no rest days, de load weeks or structure (i.e. you’re constantly trying to get a PB every session) you are not only at greater risk of injury but also may find yourself catching colds more often (group exercise instructors doing multiple classes a week you may also find yourself in the group!).

So ultimately, training when ill (as long as it not chest or fever based) won’t hurt if you feel well enough to do so, but resting and letting your body recover may well be more beneficial. For many of us exercise is as much for our mental health as physical and taking a break can make you feel a bit rubbish anyway, so when you already feel bad because you’re ill it’s even harder. Having said that, in order to be as healthy as we can we need to think, not only about actual training, but also how we look after our bodies overall, and sickness is in an indication that our body isn’t currently running at 100%, meaning taking time to look after it rather than trying to push through may actually be something to consider.

Hardest parts of the job

People think the hardest things about being a group exercise instructor is learning choreography or talking at the same time as moving or always thinking one step ahead so you can cue what is coming next.

These things are tough at first but I think there are harder things we face, here’s a few:

  1. Morning classes – Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching morning classes, they set you up for the day. But if something goes wrong first thing you’re stuck! Wake up ill, train cancelled, anything like that and there’s nothing you can do to avoid cancelling the class. The centre often won’t be open for you to let them know far enough in advance to warn members and you’ll be unlikely to find cover awake and ready to go that early on.
  2. Getting sick – In my day job a little cold is something I can work through, much harder to teach when you feel ill though, and I think fitness instructors are more prone to catching things.  One, we are physically moving at high intensity more often than, say, a PT on the gym floor is, so our immune system is likely to be lower, plus we spend a lot of time in close proximity to a lot of people sweating away (think of the close proximity of bikes in a spin studio and how sweaty the room gets), is it any wonder we seem to catch everything going?
  3. Cover- I personally have been pretty lucky when covering and never had any terrible experiences with members, although it’s a nightmare when you go somewhere new and nobody seems to be able to show you how the stereo system works! Finding cover however can be a nightmare, especially post Pandemic.  I get it, I am pretty much at my perfect balance of classes so not really looking to take on cover and tend to only do it as a favour now, but it does make trying to take time off hard.
  4. Lack of equipment – Those times when classes are full but some bikes are broken, or there’s not enough weights / steps to go around. Trying to find solutions to allow everyone to participate when members who’ve booked on are, quite rightly, annoyed by these challenges is tough at times ad it feels awful when there is no option but to disappoint someone.
  5. No air con –  Nobody enjoys this, members or instructor, and it’s tough to stay positive and keep people moving knowing that everyone is struggling in the heat.

Day 1

There’s always so much hype about ‘Day 1’.

You start a diet or a gym regime and people praise the ‘Day 1’ posts. Of course Day 1 is tough, starting anything can be daunting and finding the motivation to start is a positive which should be cheered.

Day 1 is also shiny, new and novel enough to actually be easy though. Those first few meals, gym sessions, days of change have a novelty to them that can help you stick to it.

It gets tougher as the days go by. As people perhaps stop asking how it’s going, as you have long days or challenging days and want to revert back to comfortable habits to make yourself feel better, it becomes harder to stick to your new habits and actions.

It’s not just that. In the early days and weeks results will likely come quick and fast. Depending on how much weight you have to lose you might find the pounds drop off quickly at first. If you are just starting lifting or running you might find the PBs come thick and fast for a while.

As the weeks and months go on and you establish your new habits, those results will slow. This is natural, but it’s also challenging for your motivation, as it gets harder to see progress it also becomes harder to stick to things when times get tough.

Day 1 is tough, starting is tough, but I think staying with it and never having another ‘Day 1’ again is far more challenging and yet also the ultimate goal. Fitness will always be a rollercoaster of ups and downs, peaks and being less at your peak, we don’t need to have a ‘day 1’ every time we have a down though, we just need to keep going with a healthy habits.

Back to Basics

As I’ve written recently I’m looking at going back to basics to get back into a routine.

Over the last week my training has been more consistent, my NEAT has been decent and I’m drinking plenty of water and nailing a few other habits. There’s two things I’ve struggled with though have been my nutrition and getting up in the morning.

I’ve not eaten terribly but I’ve not eaten what I’ve planned and as such have ended up going over my calorie goal. The reason? Stress.

It’s been a stressful week, work and personal stuff combined has meant I’ve been anxious at times and just generally strung out at others, feeling a bit like I was never going to fit everything into each day.

I wish I was one of those people who lost their appetite under stress. I am however a person who turns to sugar instead. Between snacking on sweet stuff and then opting to not eat the nice balanced meals I’d prepared and instead eat more carb based high calorie meals has meant that my nutrition just hasn’t gone to plan.

In reaction to this though I’m not going to do anything drastic. I’ve got food planned for the coming week and I’m hoping for a quieter week so I won’t be as tempted to reach for a high sugar stress release.

The key here I think is to not beat yourself out when the week doesn’t quite go to plan, not react by going on some drastic campaign to make up for it and just focus on starting again the next day.

So I’m taking the same approach to my mornings too. Last week I snoozed my alarm a lot, this week I’m reverting back to a cheap old school alarm in the next room so I have to get up to turn it off. A few bad mornings last week don’t need to define the coming week and other than trying to make a few small adjustments to improve my morning routine I don’t need to do anything crazy.

Do the Basics Well

Successful people do the basics well and consistently

Sometimes it’s easy to look at things and think- they’re too simple there must be more to it than that. The reason I’m not getting the results I want isn’t that I’m eating too little or too much it must be how my body responds to certain foods… and so on.

Now the truth is there are lots of variables to our health and fitness. But, you can take account of all these things and yet if you don’t nail the basics it won’t be effective.

Think of your fitness and nutrition like levels in a game- to get to level two you must master level one. Each level acts as a foundation for the next level. You’ll often hear of things like the nutrition pyramid – that’s the same concept, you need to establish a solid base (in nutrition that’s getting your energy balance right as we discussed yesterday) before looking at macro and micro nutrients, meal timings or supplements will be useful- you basically don’t want to build on a shoddy base!

It’s human nature for us to want to look into the specifics, the idea that little tweaks will be the things that makes everything fall into place for us is tempting. But it’s the little tweaks at the basic level that will first make the difference. Once you’ve cracked those then feel free to move onto looking at the specifics of what and when you eat if you still want to- although you might find that you feel less of a need to.

How to get started with Les Mills Body Pump

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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!
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
  9. 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.
  10. 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.

Your First Group Cycle Class

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!

Toxic Diet Culture?

Today I saw a post referring to calorie counting / losing weight (dieting) as toxic.

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.

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.