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

Covid-19 Observations of a Les Mills Fitness Instructor

  • Doing a class at home is a hundred times harder than teaching a class in a gym.
  • It’s also really hard to not just stop half way through a session at home and start doing random household tasks… like dusting your lightshades!
  • You may find yourself randomly looking around the room and randomly smiling at nobody as you do a class at home.
  • You’re probably already wondering if you’ll remember how to teach when gyms reopen.
  • When gyms closed you thought to yourself I’m going to have all this time to learn the new releases, I may even script.
  • Two weeks in you haven’t touched them and have realised you’ll still probably leave it until the week before to learn them.
  • Logging into a quarterly webinar and not being able to talk or be seen on camera seems weird now we are all Zoom experts.
  • You’ve listened to so many different explanations of why we can’t use the music to teach classes online you should be a PPL PRS music licencing expert but actually you still don’t really understand because Zumba don’t seem to be having the same problem.
  • You have however strangely enjoyed doing a bit of freestyle teaching or body weight training.
  • You’ve probably taken up running.
  • And if you were already a runner you’re now shocked by the number of runners you now see out each day.  Like really, I used to be able to run in my park without passing a soul now it’s like the Great Manchester Run out there!
  • You are now coming to the realisation that you can’t eat like you normally do because now you’re not always on the move.  You miss classes and members of course but secretly this is why you really want to gt back to teaching as soon as possible.
  • You’re worried your chocolate consumption may mean you won’t be able to jump when we return.
  • You’ve actually wondered if Smart Start also applies to the instructor.
  • You’re already starting to dread the DOMs you will feel after that first class back.
  • And the saddle soreness!
  • You don’t need to wear gym kit every day now but you still do. Because that’s all you own.
  • You still randomly instinctively put batteries in your basket at the supermarket and you will have a battery stockpile by the time you return to teaching.
  • Listening to other music is a revelation.
  • You miss you class members and realise that teaching is really only about the people, the rest of it is all just pointless stress if you take a step back and look logically.  In the last week before gyms closed and we knew every class could be the last for a while nobody cared if you got things wrong or your coaching wasn’t perfect, we all jut moved and enjoyed it and went for it because it served a benefit to all of us at a stressful time.  We stress far too much about silly things normally and when we return we should all remember this.

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

Ten Things You Need To Know When Joining The Gym

  1. Nobody is judging you. We were all new once and only dicks take the piss out of new people in a gym- the rest of us take the piss out of those dicks (not new people).
  2. Most people in gyms are not experts so don’t assume what that person in the corner who looks like a pro is doing is ‘right’.
  3. There is no one way to train so don’t worry if people are doing different things to you.
  4. If you aren’t sure how to do something ask a member of gym staff. They are doing this job because they like helping people.
  5. Book in for an induction – gyms are a lot less scary when you know how the equipment works.
  6. Get a programme if your gym membership offers it- it will give you a good starting point.
  7. Try classes. They can be a great place to start if you aren’t really sure about the gym itself.
  8. Smile at people. Gym regulars tend to be a friendly bunch and we don’t think it’s weird talking to people we’ve never met in the changing rooms.
  9. If you aren’t keen on the first thing you try try something else – there will be something you enjoy and that will be the best way for you to get results.
  10. You don’t need to train every day. If you currently never exercise doing something once a week is a 100% improvement on your activity levels. You will still see results – it doesn’t have to be seven training sessions a week or nothing.

Tribal Gathering and Nerves

This time last week I went to Les Mills Tribal Gathering in Twickenham (London).

I’d ummed and ahhed about going, booking a space but not booking travel until the week before.  I like going and trying the new releases and meeting people (and to be fair now unlimited CPD is now included in the price of your music I kind of think why not go to as much as possible, I’m quite keen on self development and learning).  Equally however I always feel a bit apprehensive going to these things alone.

It was interesting to read on some social media forums this week that I’m not alone in feeling this way.  Logically you know it isn’t the case that everyone has gone with a massive group of people and knows everyone, but when you walk into a room of chattering noise alone it can feel that way.

I’m fortunate I know quite a few Les Mills instructors around the country and have spoken to so many people via social media over the last couple of years that there’s always people I know pretty well without having ever met who I can catch up with, and it’s brilliant to put real faces to names (this is another reason I love travelling a bit further to these events – getting to meet those people).  Equally, I’m naturally quite a shy anxious person so, even with all those absolute positives, there can be moments in the day when it feels a bit overwhelming and you just want to see a familiar face.

I was planning to write a blog on the topic and then saw the posts bringing the topic up and I think it’s really positive that people feel they can have these conversations and highlight those feelings, because sometimes there’s an urge to hide them away for fear of looking weak or like a billy no mates.  In highlighting that it’s common for people to feel a bit nervous and alone at these events it encourages you to make the effort to speak to strangers, go up to people on there own and say hi and generally make a brilliant event even better. 

I know, even though I get a bit nervous at these things, I can make conversations with people I’ve not met so it’s manageable for me, but for some people perhaps we need to be the one to go and break the ice and that’s a great reminder for us all.  Equally, some people may look quite confident (I will go and chat to people I don’t know which may make me appear more outgoing than I feel) but be anxious behind that, so just smiling and saying hi to everyone is a great way to go.

It also made me remember how our new participants feel when they first walk into class.  That feeling that everyone seems to know everyone and what they are doing and perhaps they don’t really belong here.  It’s a great reminder of the care we need to take to make them feel welcome. 

It is also worth while remembering what we would say to that participant and applying that to ourselves in a situation like this.

Ultimately, I know that it’s ok to feel uncomfortable sometimes, it’s good to make yourself do those things you’re a bit scared of sometimes even.  I also know by going and enjoying the day, even if there were times I was a bit lost or nervous I overcame those feelings a bit.  I had a great day, met some brilliant people in real life who I’ve known via Facebook for a while and next time I go to a Tribal Gathering alone I have a couple of positive experiences of doing so behind me to help me reduce the nerves (I also travelled to Glasgow alone).

What can I suggest you do if you’re nervous about going to the next Tribal Gathering alone or if you want to try a class at your gym but are anxious about making that first step?

  1.  We all get nervous about stepping out our comfort zones (hopefully the above demonstrates that) – knowing these feelings are not exclusive to you can reduce their impact.

2. Find out whose going who you do know and arrange to meet before hand so you have someone to walk in with – those first few moments are normally the ones that are the hardest and once you’re moving it’s not so bad.

3. Take some time out if you need to during the event. Grab a coffee and a quiet spot and regroup (but Tribal specific that one!)

4. If you’re new to a class let the instructor know you’re a bit nervous – they’ll help ease those nerves and make sure you have a good first class… now if you’re at Tribal you might not be able to speak to the presenter beforehand but you can chat to those around you – let’s face it they too are all instructors!

5. Remember it’s always ok to leave. I can almost guarantee once you’re there you’ll have fun and decide not to, but knowing that at the start of the day / the class can help get you through the door.

Sometimes doing things you actually want to do is still hard because our brains get in the way of us – there’s ways to get over that though!

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.

Fancy a Spin?

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 heavier 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!