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.

Vegan Chat

Something I’ve long thought would be useful to write about but have just not had the knowledge to is training whilst eating a vegan diet.  What are good meal ideas, energy boosters, what do you even eat at all to get enough calories when your training hard?  So I’ve teamed up with Les Mills instructor (and vegan) Ellie Radford to get some practical tips for and one who trains often and is either already vegan or considering the switch.

Ellie is a Human Biosciences student from Crosby, Liverpool studying in Manchester Metropolitan Uni. She’s also a part time fitness instructor and teach Les Mills Body Pump and Body Combat.

Here’s what she had to say:

How long have you been vegan?

I’ve been vegan for just under 4 years! I went vegan in May 2016

Were you vegetarian before or did you go straight to vegan?

I was veggie before yeah. I was vegetarian for 10 months before I went full vegan, and I think that slow transition made it so much easier.

What made you make the decision?

Lots of things contributed! I always wanted to be veggie when I was younger but my mum always said no because all I ate was bacon and chicken nuggets haha! I wanted to be veggie because I didn’t like the idea of eating animals, so generally for ethics, but as I’ve grown up I’ve started to become conscious of the environmental impact too. Lots of my friends are also veggie or vegan, and one day I went to a vegetarian cafe with them. I literally didn’t like any food on the menu (fussy eater to THE MAX) but I ordered something and it tasted sooooo good. That was my first ever fully vegetarian tea and after that meal I realised I could actually do the whole veggie thing. Crazy, right? So yeah it was a whole bunch of reasons – ethics, environment, I started to think about eating more healthy (being veggie has definitely helped me with this), and ease due to friends being veggie or vegan.

Do you ever miss any foods?

Yes! When I first went vegetarian, whenever I got drunk I always ordered McDonald’s chicken nuggets haha. That’s why it’s a good idea to slowly cut meat out if you ever transition. I missed bacon a lot at first too. Now if my family is cooking it I still really appreciate the smell, but it’s been so long that I don’t miss the taste anymore.

What do you love about the vegan diet?

I love how good it makes me feel. I definitely noticed a big energy shift when I cut out animal products, but by cutting out products it meant I ate more veg so this isn’t necessarily due to meat being bad! Just a solid fact that we could all eat more fruit and veg, no matter what your lifestyle. I also love how accessible veganism is nowadays. I can eat in most places and that’s great! There’s been a huge growth since when I went vegan 4 years ago.

Are there any downsides / struggles?

Although veganism is becoming a lot more accessible, there could be more done. Food on the go is a big factor, but this is massively improving. Another big struggle is feeling like I have to justify to people why I follow a vegan lifestyle, and the fact that vegans get a bad rep in the media.

How do you find hitting your TDEE each day- is it hard? In other words- is it hard to eat enough?

It can be, especially being so into fitness I expend a lot of calories! Vegan food is very dense but low in calories, so you can get full pretty quickly. My tip for this is to eat little and often – spread little meals throughout the day instead of tackling 3 big ones.

What about protein?

This is always a big concern when a lot of people are considering veganism. Protein goals can be hard to meet if you’re eating lots of whole foods. Getting all your protein from beans and lentils is a bad idea – all that fibre is going to cause mega bloats and a very full tum! Still use these kinds of foods, but not for your whole protein intake. I get lots of my protein from meat substitutes such as soy products (tofu) mycoprotein (quorn style things) and seitan. Seitan is the holy Grail for vegans, but not a lot of people know about it! It’s made from an ingredient called vital wheat gluten and has a rubbery, meat-like texture. And the best part about it is it’s super protein dense – about 75g protein per 100g!

How are your energy levels for training?

As far as I know my levels are great. But I’ve never been into fitness as a non-vegan, as I only started working out 2 and a half years ago. Vegan fitness is all I know! I consume caffeine everyday and I eat a lot of food so that’s always good for energy haha.

Do you have any tips for people looking to start with a Vegan diet?

Take it slow! Lots of people rush into veganism, but that’s going to make it a whole lot harder to keep away from all the animal products. Start with one vegan day or meal per week, and then build it up.

Cut things out one step at a time, and don’t beat yourself up if you make mistakes. It’s hard at first, so making mistakes and tripping up is totally normal and human. It’s the fact that you’re trying at all which speaks volumes.

Be aware of the vitamins you’re going to be lacking. I take a daily multivitamin to take care of everything in one go, but B12 is the big one you need to watch for, as most of this vitamin is found in animal products. You can buy B12 vitamins from most supermarkets, and they’re included in most multivitamins, too.

Do you have any tips for maintaining energy levels when training?

“Quick snacks! When I’m training I go for snacks such as bananas, gelatine free jelly sweets, and donuts. Yes I said donuts. Vegan donuts!! Lots of supermarket donuts are accidentally vegan, such as Sainsbury’s and Co-op’s jam and custard donuts. These are an absolute lifesaver.”

Any secret amazing vegan foods?

I think my top two I’ve already mentioned in previous questions – seitan and donuts. Seitan for all your high protein needs, and donuts because when you’re vegan and finally realise you can eat basic supermarket donuts, it’s the best feeling in the world!

Some other things that are surprisingly vegan include hob nobs, Bourbons, lotus biscuits, Oreos, and peanut butter.

What are you Top hack / Tips

  1. Make sure you eat enough! It’s hard to not eat enough food when you’re vegan, so just try to keep on top of it.
  2. Be aware of any additional supplements you need to take. B12 is a biggie.
  3. One step at a time. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes and just take it slow! Feel free to message me if you need help with anything!

So I think what I took away from my chat with Ellie is that actually the issues she has to think about in regard to energy levels with a Vegan diet are really not much different to the issues we all need to consider.

Whether you eat meat or not we all tend to have a quite polarised opinion on the subject but actually if you manage it well there’s no reason to struggle for energy or protein whilst eating a vegan diet, and it might not be for you, but if it is there’s plenty of support out there from people who are educated and working within the fitness industry and also have knowledge of how to eat well without eating animal products.

I think whatever our views on the subject understanding and talking about it and being open to one another’s viewpoints on the topic is helpful all round.

You can follow Ellie on Instagram at @ellieroseradford

2020 Goals

It’s not unusual to review your life at the start of a new year and decide what you are happy with, what you want to change, what you would like to achieve within the coming year.

Often we want to lose weight, earn more money, travel more and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of those things being motivators.

It’s understood by most people who work in any kind of field where motivation is key (fitness is a great example) that people are more likely to meet those goals when they genuinely want them for a real reason that they feel some real passion or connection to.

So if you want to lose weight you’re more likely to achieve that when the reason is improved health or to be able to play with your children than because you think you probably should be a size 10.

Not only are you more likely to achieve a goal when there’s a purpose behind it, it’s also more likely to make you happy.

What about when one of your goals is to help other people?

As a society we are sceptical of anyone offering help, the saying you don’t get something for nothing springs to mind. When people offer things for free we tend to immediately assume there’s a catch.

But sometimes, some people’s purpose does involve, in part, just helping people.

Again fitness is a great example of this. It’s an area that many of us who work in it feel real passion about. We want to help people, bust misconceptions and encourage. Now of course we need to earn money too, so we have to charge for some things. But equally a lot of us want to help and will happily provide a lot more for free than you may get in other sectors. Hell, it’s a little selfish because the feeling you can get for knowing you made a difference is some people’s purpose in itself.

So today I wanted to highlight one fitness professional who does just that, and this year has (in my opinion) stepped it up even more.

Lauren McDowell is a Les Mills instructor, who has long been a Tribe Coach (a position where instructors volunteer time to mentor other instructors) and is well known on the instructor social media groups for providing technique videos and feedback.

This year she seems to have stepped it up a notch. After asking on Instagram what people wanted help with she has already produced videos on Body Combat kick technique which anyone can view (check it out here).

Lauren’s Video

But beyond that she has also started producing regular simple and practical tips aimed at people starting out or getting back into a fitness journey.

None of this makes Lauren any money, but she believes and is passionate about encouraging others to participate in fitness and doing it in a way that you enjoy and makes you feel good.

I have the pleasure of working with Lauren as part of Jump 4.2, which has a massive support network for instructors, all helping each other out, and she is also always available to support everyone in that group.

Lauren is of course one of many fit pros I know who provide so much help to others beyond the selling of their services, and they do this because part of their purpose is to help others. They can keep helping people even when they get nothing concrete out of it because it serves their purpose and they feel they get value from it regardless.

So back to my original point, there’s absolutely zero issue with your goals being money motivated or weight orientated but to achieve them you need to be motivated, and to stay motivated those goals need to mean something to you. Sometimes what you realise means something to you might not make sense to anyone else, sometimes the value you get out of a goal may not be physical but mental. Having a clear idea of your purpose will however help you make 2020 a year you get closer to your goals and those goals making you happier.

Equally, your goal really doesn’t have to be what you’d normally expect. Could it be to help more people or help specific people, rather than get a promotion or drop a dress size? Would that create a fire in your belly that pushed you to achieve your goal?

You can of course have a mixture of goals and I’m not suggesting becoming Mother Theresa here, but thinking beyond the norm of New Years Resolutions could help you find something your truly passionate about.

I’m pretty confident one of Lauren’s goals is helping more people this year (I’m sure she has others). You can help her teach more people by checking out her Instagram here, and if you do Combat do check out her technique videos!

Lauren’s Instagram

Christmas JUMPer SHRED- Week 6

The final week of Shred saw us repeating the tests carried out in week 1 to check for progress over the last 6 weeks and an increase of calories to maintenance levels.

Despite having not done all training sessions over the last five weeks I’ve found my lifts increasing slightly across the board and despite probably (ok definitely) not being in a calorie deficit every week across the Christmas period I still discovered I’d lost almost 2kg in that time.  Not only that I feel like i look stronger (not leaner just a little more muscle definition)

To me this just goes to show that it isn’t hitting a gym plan as hard as you possibly can or measuring every morsel of food that passes your lips that gets you results.  Instead it’s just training consistently around your life and eating well without restricting yourself.  The fact I am going into Christmas Day having eaten practically every Christmas food going on a seeming loop for the last 23 days yet still feel fit, healthy and in decent shape shows what the power of just making positive choices as and when you can has.

Will I need to reign in the eating a bit in January?  Yes probably, I know I’ve eaten less homemade food and fewer vegetables the last few weeks and I won’t feel great if that continues for much longer, but that’s about as much of a change as I feel I need.

Are you going into January feeling like you need an overhaul or like you are already on track?  Hopefully it’s the later, but if it isn’t I would urge you to assess how you plan to approach your diet and training in the new year and to find something that allows you to feel in control regardless of how hectic life gets in 2020.

Christmas JUMPer Shred – Week 4

Week 4 contained two main challenges- wave training and increasing my NEAT.  Week 4 didn’t happen.

I’ve actually been working on increasing my NEAT anyway recently, but the way my week fell meant I not only did way fewer steps than normal (as opposed to actually increasing them) and didn’t fit a single one of the training sessions in.

On Monday night I headed to Edinburgh, which meant I wasn’t able to train Monday or Tuesday, Wednesday I had a PT session in the one hour slot I could have trained in and I drank far too much on Thursday meaning that there was no way I was going to be able to train Friday!  Essentially the break from my routine and increase in long distance travel meant I didn’t train as much as normal and definitely walked less.  It also meant I ate more fast food and ended up in a calorie surplus.

That’s not to say I had a terrible week.  I did still get four short training sessions in.  Knowing that I would not have the time to fit in the five shred workouts which all require around an hour, I instead did four short sessions designed by Ricky (between 15-30 minutes each), so I still moved and felt good about those sessions.  I also enjoyed my food, even if there was a lot more of the Christmas stuff and takeaways than intended, just being mindful of what I was eating probably meant that I still ate less than i would have otherwise.

Some weeks you will not be able to get everything you want done, some weeks you will eat more than you intended.  The key for me is not letting one week that didn’t go to plan throw me off track.  I could look at last week as a failure, a week I didn’t complete of the Shred (in fact I’ve been maybe 60% on this 6 week Shred so far, which is what I planned), I could say fuck it and decide to just start again in January.

Or I could do what I’m actually doing.  Look at this week as an OK week, a week where despite not training as planned or eating well I still did get some exercise in, I made the best of the time and opportunities I had and I didn’t let it throw me completely off kilter.

December is not the month to decide to do some kind of strict, I will be perfect plan. Equally December doesn’t need to be the month where you just let everything go and never train and eat and drink every single thing you see.  Throughout the year I’d encourage the use of moderation in training and eating and in December this becomes all the more important (and harder to do due to the amount of temptations out there).

So week 4- outstanding success?  No.  Did it keep me accountable enough to not feel like I’ve ruined all the progress I’ve made this year/  Also no.  That’s why I would always encourage taking part in programmes like the Shred- the accountability to yourself and others that it brings.

 

 

Jump Shred – Week 2

Week 2 focused on getting on with some training, focusing on our protein intake and practicing gratitude.

As I had some training sessions already that I wanted to do I knew I’d struggle to plan in an extra five visits t the gym (there are five sessions a week, with the aim of doing at least three).  I therefore decided to do some of the body weight workouts, meaning I could slot them in at home when I had a spare half an hour.

This is one of my key learnings over the last couple of years.  I’ve always been a little all or nothing, so if I don’t complete exactly what I planned I viewed it as a failed week.  This week I viewed my additional three body weight workouts on top of my existing training as an added bonus.  I did more than I normally do, so even if it wasn’t what I’d ideally wanted it was a win.  This is a great mindset tool for keeping yourself on track and not letting perceived failures lead you to quitting.

In addition I also carried on increasing my protein to 2 x each kg of my body weight.  Now I’ll tell you straight off, that’s a lot of protein – I was aiming for around 170g per day.  I actually ended up averaging around 180g a day.  I felt full and satisfied and found myself eating a lot less processed food throughout the week, leaving me feeling good.

I’ve been practicing the gratitude challenge for a while now- recording every day what I’m grateful for, what went well and who I complimented.  It’s a quick and easy way to encourage yourself to look towards the positives and overtime it starts to become a more automatic reaction to situations.

Overall this week kept me focused on the positives, got me to move a little more and eat food that made me feel good.  A great week from making just a few tiny adjustments, demonstrating small changes done consistently can make a big difference.

JUMPer Shred – Week 1

I’ve written previously about the fitness programme for group exercise instructors and enthusiasts which I’m involved in and have also completed myself, Jump 4.2.  For six weeks across November and December Jump 4.2 is holding  shorter 6 week Christmas Shred (the Christmas JUMPer shred- get it?).  So given that I think it’s always tough to stay on track with your training and nutrition at this time of year (I work in an office with never ending mince pies, chocolate and meals out over Christmas I thought it would be great to try and do the Shred alongside everyone taking part.

We started last week (well we technically started on 11th November when everyone got access to their learning platforms and lots of videos to watch introducing the Shred, how everything would work and covering some basics on training, nutrition and goals.

Week 1 then commenced with some ‘testing’ exercises to do (in other words some key exercises to do and record where we currently are with them) which I mixed in with my normal training for that week, calculating how many calories I should be aiming for (now I normally use an online calorie counter so calculating using the traditional calculation method was an eye opener as I came out with a lower amount than the calculators provide) and adjusting how many calories I was eating to fit in with this new target.  There was also some mindset videos to work through focusing on being productive with your time.  That’s going to come in useful over the next few weeks as I try and fit up to five workouts into my week at what is (as I suspect it is for most of us) one of the most hectic periods of the year.

Already after one week I feel good.  It’s always rejuvenating to refocus and I’m looking forward to getting some tough training sessions in, seeing if I improve with any of my weights (I’m not that competitive so this is something I struggle with normally) and hopefully using the accountability of the group to keep my mince pie consumption to normal person levels (note to self a whole box of mince pies and a family sized yule log is not a small daily snack even if it is Christmas!).

I’m going to keep you up to date over the next six weeks, partly to keep my self accountable and partly to hopefully inspire some of you to stay focused whilst still enjoying Christmas.

If you have any questions about what I’m doing or think you might be interested in taking part in Jump 4.2 in January let me know and we can have a chat about it.

How Much Is Enough?

Yesterday I set out to prep my meals for the week in 30 minutes.

It ended up taking an hour because I set all the fire alarms in my building off!

But still, 5 lunches, 4 dinners and a couple of snacks plus a fight with a smoke alarm in 60 minutes – that’s not bad going.

They aren’t the most impressive meals – I’m not being invited onto Masterchef anytime soon, but they will all taste good, are nutritious, are made up of real foods – carbs, proteins, fats – the lot.

My point?

It’s not that you don’t need to cut foods out of live off kale and air to be healthy (that wouldn’t be a bad point to be fair).

It’s not that if you’re busy through the week a bit of meal prep once a week is an amazing tool to keep you on track to your nutrition goals (again pretty good point).

It’s to manage your own expectations of yourself and your week.

Typically Sunday is my only day ‘off’. I know I need to prepare food for the week but if that took up my whole Sunday how often would I end up sacking it off?

So I accept that my food is a bit simple, nothing fancy, in exchange for only needing an hour to get it all done.

If cooking was a relaxing pleasure for me I’d possibly spend longer on it, but that’s not the case.

I try and apply this logic to my fitness as a whole – what would be ideal? How would the ideal affect my life? If it would make me stressed or resentful sod the ideal and find something more realistic to stick to.

Scoring an Own Goal?

I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend about goals.

Goals are great for keeping you motivated and on track with your training and nutrition, and people who are quite consistent with their eating and training are often very good at setting and then working towards goals.  This is a good thing obviously, but equally it can cause us to put unnecessary stress on ourselves.

See when we are very motivated to achieve XYZ it can become easy to start comparing yourself to others, to start picking holes in our own progress and under valuing our own results.  It can also become difficult to recognise that as your goals differ from other people’s what their success looks like and what your success looks like will also be different.  Even more so as your goals change what you measure results on might change at the same time at which point it can become even harder to accept the subsequent changes to our body or strength.

Added to this, most of us generally take on board what other people say and think about our bodies with minimal questioning.  So if those around us comment on say our weight when we have been training to increase our strength (as opposed to trying to lose weight) it can be difficult to remind ourselves that our weight isn’t important to us because that isn’t our goal.

What I’m trying to articulate here is that at a really basic level setting goals is a great start to a fitness journey but for people where fitness is already part of everyday life we can sometimes get confused about what our goals are and what they mean by paying too much attention to other people’s opinions and other people’s goals.

For me, previously my goals have been running orientated and next year I’d like to pick that up again, at which point my training and nutrition will need to reflect that.  Right now though, if I am totally honest I need a break from a specific goal.  I’ve spent the last few years chasing one goal and qualification after another and need a bit of a break.  I actually just want to train and eat to feel good.

I often say I’d like to be leaner, but if I’m honest right now I’m no willing to stop eating cake in the quantity I do or train more often or for longer that I currently do, so I’m not likely to get leaner than I currently am as I don’t want to change my current lifestyle.

That will change- probably next year I will reset everything and work towards a running based goal.  But until then if I see someone smashing out some PBs, running marathons or looking stage ready and feel that sense of failure that I’m not in that condition right now I need to remember I’m not in that condition because I haven’t trained to be in that condition and I haven’t trained to be in that condition because that is not my goal.

Set a goal by all means. Set one that means something to you. Then work to that goal and don’t be swayed by what other people think, say or are doing.  And if you change your mind and change your goal that’s fine, you can always readjust your own goal posts.

 

 

 

How Strict Do I Need To Be?

I’m a fan of a relaxed Paleo diet- if calorie tracking doesn’t work for you a four day on three day off ‘paleoish’ diet can be a good way of managing calories without counting.

When people start Paleo for the first time the most common question asked is …

Can I … [insert hack here]

Can I have almond milk in coffee?

Can I have nut butters?

Can I have fruit and nut based bars?

My answer is always well technically if you were to follow Paleo strictly no, but as we are looking at a Paleo based way of eating then yes if it makes you happy and enjoy your food.

Essentially you have two choices when you elect to do a method of eating such as this.

Either do it as it is prescribed.

Or roughly follow it but add in a few of your own rules.

Neither is the right or wrong way (and there are so many variations in between).

The choice on how you approach it depends on what you want from your diet.

If you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to kick start a bit of fat loss, well to be honest the more strict you are with the bigger results you’ll see.  And yes, you might really crave pancakes for breakfast for two weeks, but it is just two weeks so just abstaining for fourteen days won’t kill you.

On the other hand if you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to just re-set some habits or if you’re planning on doing Paleo as a longer term way of eating then having a few ‘adjustments’ to the rules might well serve you better.

Equally if you know you won’t last two weeks without a few tweaks there is not point setting yourself up for failure by not making those tweaks.  80% is always going to be more effective than 100% saint for ten minutes before giving up will be!

Hopefully by now you know there’s no right or wrong way of eating – the way that suits you won’t suit everyone else, so it stands to reason that the decision of how closely you stick to something also needs to be personal to you.

Social media is awash these days with judgement over food.  I’m in one particular group where people defend their way of eating (Keto, IM Fasting, plant based) with zeal and lament anyone who doesn’t do the same as them or doesn’t follow that particular diet in exactly the same way as them (who doesn’t love a they’re doing it wrong post).  Don’t get me wrong there are times when I see things and think OK- perhaps you’re over complicating this or hmmm, I think you’re looking in the wrong place for the problem here; but actually if it suits them and makes them happy and isn’t a diet of cyanide that is going to kill them then it’s none of my business.  You can offer educated advice but you have no out and out right to be heard.

I digress – how strict you follow a food plan should depend on your goals and how you feel.

My general rule of how to decide what’s right for you.  Think about making those little adjustments – does the idea of adding a bit of flour to some pancakes for breakfast make you smile and really look forward to that meal when you wake up tomorrow or are you already feeling guilty about ‘breaking the rules’ before you’ve even done it?  That normally gives you a decent idea of which way will work best for you, because if what you eat makes you feel guilty after eating it that’s not going to lead anywhere pleasant.

This outlook can be expanded beyond Paleo to any way of eating, way of training, in fact way of living.

Does what you are doing make you happy.  Yes – keep doing it then.  No – maybe you need to make some adjustments to change that.

Will adjusting the training plan you’ve been given make you feel like you’ve ruined your workout or will swapping those sprints out for a row make you feel 100% more successful.  Depending on your answer to those questions you have your answer as to whether you should follow the ‘rules’ to the letter or not.

What kind of person are you?  If you feel guilty when you bend a rule then stick to them and don’t make yourself feel guilty.

What result do you want?  If you are looking to get very specific results then following a plan very precisely matters, if you are looking to feel better but have more relaxed goals then you can equally follow guidelines in a more relaxed manner.

The key is knowing yourself and knowing your goals then being honest about what you need to do, sacrifice or change and for how long to get to those goals.

Because if you want transformational results on a fitness plan but are only wanting to follow the plan 50% of the time you’re going to be disappointed, but if you know what you want isn’t as dramatic then the changes don’t have to be so dramatic either.  Neither of those extremes are wrong, they are entirely personal and in reality the only person you need to be able to justify yourself to is you.

I’m not saying join a programme and don’t do it here!  What I’m saying is very few of us can do everything 100% perfectly for even a short period of time (well I say very few of us , perhaps others can and I’m just trying to make myself feel better!) so knowing your own expectations of yourself, what will feel like success to you and then working to that level is the key to success.

If you have high expectations cool- but know you’re going to have to be stricter on yourself to reach them, in that case looking for the hacks and quick cheats won’t serve you.  The opposite applies just as much.

Pick your stance, work to that stance and don’t be swayed by what others are or aren’t doing.