Social Strategy

When you are trying to stick to a calorie deficit social occasions can be tough and you need to decide on a strategy to not let one day or night out derail your progress.

Below are some ideas of methods you could sue to exercise a bit of damage limitation and still enjoy yourself.

  • Check out the menu beforehand

Have a look online at the menu before your night out and plan what you will eat, that way when you are there you are less likely to over order or order things you haven’t accounted the calories for.

  • Fill up on salad / veg

Aim to include some salad / vegetable items with your meals to help fill you up whilst also keeping calories down.

  • Avoid the bread basket

Perhaps you really like bread, in which case knock yourself out and have some.  But if you’re only eating it because the bread basket it’s extra unnecessary calories.

  • Mix your drinks

Not in the way you think.  Mix water in between your alcoholic drinks to help limit calories through drinks.

  • Eat beforehand

If the social occasion isn’t specifically based around food you might want to eat beforehand so you can easier control how much you eat.

  • Save calories during the week

If you want to stay on track but still have a big calorie night out you could consider creating a bigger calorie deficit across the week so you have extra calories to use on your night out.

  • Eat something you really enjoy

If you going to eat more calories than normal you may as well pick something you are really going to enjoy, that way you are more likely to feel satisfied and less likely to overeat on other elements of your meal.

  • Pick an activity that doesn’t involve food and drink

When planning days or nights out try and plan activities that aren’t just based on eating and drinking.

Jump 4.2 – Week 5

You know when you have those weeks where you just feel a bit blah, where no matter who much you try and do and even manage to do you have a nagging sense of failure.

That’s been me this week!

I’ve actually been pretty productive and got quite a lot done, I’ve trained, and I’ve eaten reasonably well – hitting a small calorie deficit, if not the 20% I was aiming for. I’ve also hardscaped my garden (which felt like it burnt around four million calories as well as burning my back!).

But I’ve not felt brilliant. The tough thing about these weeks is what do you do if you know you’re basically on track but you still feel a bit rubbish – it’s not the same as knowing you feel crap because you’ve not trained or have eaten nothing but takeaways.

What I have done is follow module 5 of Jump, get the training in, modifying it a bit on the days I felt crap and lethargic so I still did it just at a slightly reduced intensity. I’ve done yoga everyday, noted down things I’m grateful for every day, for more fresh air and generally tried to keep myself plodding along without dwelling to much on the nagging anxiety.

When we sign up to programmes or plans or start new health kicks we want 100% perfection and the moment we slip up or don’t do every single workout or eat every single meal we think I’ve fucked that up, I need to go back to the beginning and start again doing it 100% this time. This is why so many people don’t complete fitness programmes however they are structured.

Life is rarely uniform, things crop up all the time and the most successful lifestyles are ones which allow you to ride the ups and downs, have good weeks and bad weeks but importantly not stop and start again after the bad weeks.

To be fair just writing this reminds me that what I’ve felt of as a bad week really wasn’t bad at all, I’ve just not felt very sprightly and have been a bit run down. That’s not a reason to call a week a failure because if anything getting to the end of weeks like that and being able to brush yourself down and be ready for a new week is part of creating a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

Jump 4.2 – Week 4

I’ve reached the half way point of Jump.

This week was a tough week – work, people, my period; you know those weeks where you aren’t feeling it- I’ve had one of those.

But the great thing I’m finding about this programme is that doesn’t matter. Life doesn’t need to be going perfectly to be able to work through it. Even though there’s been frustrations I’ve not felt down about it – I’ve used habits already practiced on weeks 1-3 such as writing down what I’m grateful for and what I have done well to stop myself getting down about what hasn’t worked and to stay upbeat and keep working to get things done nonetheless.

Training has been ok – I’ve not completed everything but I’ve had some good sessions. My food intake has been ok – I haven’t hit a calorie deficit this week – mainly because I’ve craved chocolate. Again what I’m pleased with here is how I feel about that. Sometimes these things would stress me out and make me feel like a failure because I haven’t done things perfectly. Right now I feel like perfect isn’t a necessity and although I’ve things I’d like to improve in week 5 I don’t feel like not being perfect so far has meant my experience on this programme hasn’t been useful so far.

This week’s message from my experience would definitely be that it’s worth changing your mindset towards yourself and your training / nutrition when want to improve how you feel and train.

Jump 4.2 – Week 2

Today I’m entering week 3 of Jump 4.2.

Yesterday I finished two weeks of eating a Paleo based diet and having spent last week reviewing my TDEE I am about to embark on a week where I track my calorie intake to help me see where I am food intake wise and hat I need to change to stay on track.

I do feel quite comfortable on a Paleo based diet and have in the past done 4 days on / 3 days off for long periods of time, so for me fourteen days wasn’t too tough, although weekends are still tough when you are used to being able to relax your diet a bit and social occasions require thought and planning if you want to stay on track.

The reward for sticking to it however was worth it.  Yes I’ve lost  little weight (around 4kg but my weight fluctuates a lot anyway so this number doesn’t mean lots) and my body fat went down whilst muscle mass increased (according to my scales I would add so again take that as you will depending on how you feel about scales).

More importantly for me I feel better- less bloated, more energetic and like I’m fully back in the habit of eating homemade, fresh food over processed foods.  I think you can see a difference around my waist and I feel like my skin looks brighter.

Today I’ve had toast with my breakfast (which also contained plenty of protein and veg) and a really nice slice of homemade coffee and walnut cake courtesy of a colleague, my lunch has still essentially been chicken and veg.  Mentally I’ve noticed how much I’ve enjoyed adding foods back into my diet without feeling guilt, instead focusing on how much I’ve enjoyed what I’ve eaten today.

Training wise I’ve largely stuck to my normal training routine, although where I’ve had time I have tried out some of the sessions (I’ve done three so far), and these have been challenging but fun.  I like the fact they have all taken less than an hour to complete and that each one has a clear focus and is easily adaptable to your own current fitness levels and equipment availability.

There is also a strong mindset focus each week and this week the focus has been on morning routines.  I have long felt I need to work more on my morning routine as I often feel rushed in the morning.  This week has made me realise that in order to get my shit together in the mornings I need to get a better night time routine to help me get to bed earlier ad get a good night sleep so I’m less desperate to snooze come morning.

A week with a trip to Edinburgh and being away from home over the weekend wasn’t the best week to get into regular night and morning routines but this week I am making it my one goal to really develop a more positive morning routine.

The thing I like most about this programme so far is being able to read through the downloads and listen to the audios and videos when it suits me rather than having to be in a particular place at a set time.

All in all I’ve enjoyed the first fortnight and am looking forward to week 3, and to keep me accountable I will update you again next week!

I’m Talking About Periods Again I’m Afraid

We pretty much accept that our hair, skin, bowel movements, mood, mental health, headaches, sex life and more can be affected by our periods.  It isn’t just our period itself that affect us however, how we feel can be massively affected by all the various stages of the menstrual cycle, and as our cycles are continuous we essentially go through a never ending series of physical and emotional changes for a large part of our adult life.

Whilst we all know this we often tend to try and eat and train in pretty much the same way throughout all stages of our cycle and expect the same level of performance from ourselves.  Now I’m not suggesting that we should adjust what we do on a daily basis, none of us have time to do that; but an awareness of how your own cycle affects your mood and body will allow you to approach your nutrition and training with more awareness that sometimes those feelings of being fat or weak are not what they seem.

Most cycles last between 24 and 38 days (my cycle is roughly 25 days) and the cycle starts as your period begins.  Effectively your cycle has two stages 1) preparing for an egg to be released from the ovary and the re-building of the lining of the uterus and 2) preparing the uterus and body to either accept a fertilised egg or start a new cycle if you are not pregnant.

Stages of your cycle (these overlap so it’s not always clear cut)

Menstruation 

Shedding the uterine lining.  This lasts on average 5-8 days but with dramatic variation.  During this time oestrogen and progesterone levels are low and you may find your tolerance to pain increases and also that muscle recovery times improve.  Due to feeling like your womb is being tortured you may find it mentally tough to generate the motivation to workout, however whilst gentle exercise is often recommended there is no reason you cannot carry on your normal training if you can motivate yourself to do so and you may find your body actually reacts well to it.  This is the time when you crave comfort foods so it may be beneficial to give yourself some leeway with your diet and eat more to make yourself feel better (chocolate in moderation won’t hurt) although eating iron rich foods may also be beneficial to how you feel.

I teach classes so have no choice but to continue to exercise pretty much as normal in this period.  It doesn’t always feel great at the time but does tend to make me feel better afterwards so I also make the effort to train as often as normal during my period, albeit I try to go a bit easier on myself depending on how heavy my flow is that day.  Equally I now purposefully let myself have chocolate every day whilst I’m on.  I’ve realised that I’m going to crave chocolate more this week so I’m better off telling myself in advance I will have some as that way I’m less likely to binge and eat 5kg of  Dairy Milk in half an hour.

Follicular phase

Lasting between 10 and 22 days this is the time between the first day of your period and ovulation.  Oestrogen levels rise as your body prepare for egg release.  During this time the uterine lining is also rebuilt following your period (the Proliferative phase). In this stage there is evidence that women are at greater risk from musculoskeletal injuries but may also find their strength increases due to the increase in oestrogen meaning you may find you are able to lift more during this phase of your cycle.  Therefore this is a good time to focus on your lifting and enjoy it.  This stage ends with Ovulation.

Whilst some women will feel good about training in this phase because you can feel pretty strong this isn’t always the case.  For me the week after my period is often my worst week for training and nutrition.  I put this down to a less documented stage of some women’s cycle (not everyone will experience this) – Post Menstrual Tension.  Pre Menstrual Tension is widely accepted but some women often find they experience similar symptoms (moodiness, feeling flat, feeling teary, feeling useless and clumsy) in the days immediately after their period as well.  This can make training and eating well difficult during this period as you feel much the same as just before / during your period.  This is possibly due to a surge of Oestrogen and there is some suggestions that a Magnesium supplement may help ease this.  Much like during your period there is no reason to not train but motivation may be something you struggle with so go easy on yourself.

I actually struggle to train more during this week than when I’m on my period.  I think I accept that I will feel crap during my period so I’m more accommodating of my own feelings whereas the emotions the week after always catch me unaware (and someone has to actually remind me that this is that week of the month where I always freak out about being fat and unfit – like, every month without fail, it’s probably getting boring for them now but I always need that reminder that it’s my hormones and my world is not actually falling apart, and because I’m a moody cow this week I will also always tell them they are wrong even thought they aren’t).  I rarely feel like training this week, not because I have any physical symptoms just because I’m a bit of an emotional wreck, however not training is the worst thing I can do as I beat myself up for being lazy.  I therefore have to force myself to go do something just to not fall to pieces, because quite frankly if I do during this period I know I can stay in a slump that goes straight into PMS.

Ovulation

The release of an egg (mid cycle).  Oestrogen peaks just before ovulation and then drops (this tends to be 13 to 15 days before your next period).  As oestrogen peaks you may find this is the best time to work on a PB, however good form is vital as you are still at greater risk of injury.

Luteal phase

The time between ovulation and your period (lasts around 9 to 16 days), this is where the body prepares for pregnancy and Progesterone is produced, peaks and then drops.  The Secretory Phase also means the uterine lining produces chemicals that will support a pregnancy or, if there is no pregnancy, break down and shed.  It is this shedding that can cause the cramping feeling as the muscles contract to allow the shedding (this is where exercise or movement can help).

During this time you will potentially (probably) experience PMS.  Mood changes, breast tenderness, bloating, headaches and so on.  This gets stronger the closer to your period you get.  For many this is the ‘I could kill everybody’ phase.  Try not to actually kill anyone of course because that is frowned upon.  Here you might want to move your training away from performance based sessions and do things you enjoy and which improve your mood.  A rise in body temperature may mean you feel a drop in endurance levels so being aware you might not hit max lifts or feel as good training is worth being mindful of.  Water retention can make you feel heavier and sluggish so weighing yourself or measuring your progress in this time window may be counterproductive to your mindset.

Whilst the above is a basic outline of the different stages of a cycle all women know that your cycle is a very individual things and not only are our cycles of various lengths we are all also affected differently by the various stages with some feeling the impact more acutely than others, not only that but our own cycles can change over time.

Something which helps me is tracking my cycle.  I use the Fitbit App (which I believe you can still use even without a Fitbit).  You can log when you are on your period along with the more common symptoms you may feel or notice.  As time goes on the app allows you to predict when your period will be allowing you a greater understanding of what stages of your cycle you are in, as well as allowing you to record and therefore potentially see a pattern in your mood and behaviour.  Once you are aware of the pattern of your own cycle it makes handling the changes easier and can help you feel like you are training and eating better rather than reacting to your hormones.

Quick disclaimer to finish – I am not a scientist – I literally just about passed my GCSE.  The above is based purely on my own experience and how I understand my cycle so I’m at no point saying this is gospel as there are definitely people out there with greater knowledge on this topic than me.

Jump 4.2 – Week 1

This week I started two weeks of Paleo based eating.  I’m currently on day 5 and feel like I’m starting to get into a rhythm with it.  The first couple of days I find hunger always hits a little no matter how much I eat and I often feel a bit of a drop in energy as my body adjusts to not having some of the things it’s used to.

I’ve tried to keep my meals varied with eggs, chicken, pork, salmon, different vegetables, salad and fruits as well as nuts and so far haven’t missed chocolate too much- although all the nice cakes and biscuits people keep leaving in the kitchen at work don’t make this easy!  Thankfully I normally drink black coffee so the lack of milk isn’t too much of an issue.

The reason I’m doing this is that I’ve decided to work through the 8 week Jump 4.2 Programme with Ricky Long.

I’ve trained with Ricky for a couple of years and his coaching has always extended beyond simply giving you a training plan, so he has encouraged the formation of numerous habits and mindset shifts for me in that time.

This has allowed me to be in a position where I am able to be involved in helping support those who are going through (and have previously gone through) Jump.

I realised however that what I haven’t yet done however is actually fully work through the full 8 weeks from start to finish in the format and order the programme lays them out in myself.  This is something I felt would be both useful in allowing a greater understanding of the challenges within the programme so I can provide more support whilst also continuing to work on my own mindset, habits and fitness.

I haven’t started the workouts or mindset work as yet but plan to get going with that this weekend.

I’m committing this down on my blog to hold myself accountable to you for the next 8 weeks and plan to keep a regular diary of my progress on here over the coming weeks.

If you have any questions about what I’m doing please contact me and I’ll be happy to answer anything you may want to know.

Les Mills Launches Are Coming

For the Les Mills Instructors among us launches are coming!

One thing that keeps cropping up in conversation this week is how hard it is to keep on top of your training, nutrition and positive habits whilst also learning new choreography.

Here’s my ideas for getting through the next 10 days of cramming and still feel good about YOU:

1. If you can, meal prep once a week, that’s going to mean you have good choices ready to grab and stick in the microwave and reduce the chances of getting a takeaway when you are tired and busy cramming.

2. Same with snacks – have lots of good snacks to hand because learning chorey always makes you want to snack – FACT!

3. Another option for these two weeks each quarter is order a week or two of meal prep to completely avoid the stress of thinking about food yet stay on track!  If you’re prone to buying food rather than planning when you are busy leaning the new stuff this could actually end up more cost efficient anyway.

4. If you’re short of time drop out the cardio element in your training sessions and use your physical practice sessions as your cardio. Added bonus is that going all out at least once when practicing the new releases means you’ll be prepared for how it’s going to feel on launch day!

5. Don’t be an all or nothing person…

Do you know what positive habits you practice daily?  Perhaps you have a great morning or evening routine or drink a pint of water upon waking, maybe you always pack your bag the night before.  ALL those little things help add up to a positive mindset and approach to your health. IF you don’t train for a week or end up going over your calorie goal a few times you haven’t gone off the rails and lost all progress / fitness levels – keep up with those little daily habits and everything will still be in place for you post launch!

6. You are in control – one of the best ways to make lifestyle changes is to create systems. One systems could be to take some time to plan in appointments for when you will learn chorey and stick to those appointments. Feeling more in control of how you use your time can help reduce stress levels even if you’re still crazy busy!

7. Don’t create undue stress for yourself- you’ve got new stuff to learn. So the week or two before launch I like to go back to my go to tracks, the ones I know in my sleep- you haven’t got to add extra pressure to yourself by learning members requests or extra tracks for your current mix if you’re already feeling pressure (be honest the ones you know in your sleep are actually probably the members favourites anyway, hence why you know them so well!)

8. Sleep. Sleep helps you retain information – being tired doesn’t, so no matter what you need to let slide for a few days don’t make it sleep!

9. That being said don’t beat yourself up about letting the not important stuff slide.  You will know what is a non negotiable in your life.  Yes, you will need to keep balancing those plates, but everything else, well it will still be there on 7th July.

10. The week after launch can also be a tough week physically – all the adrenaline from learning and then teaching for the first time is draining and I often feel more tired and emotional the week after. So if that happens don’t beat yourself up, a few days off training can be beneficial in cases like that.

I hope some of the above ideas help, and if you aren’t a Les Mills instructor many of these ideas would also work for other stressful situations not just launches!

This blog is based on some of the principles we work on developing in Jump 4.2 – an 8 week online fitness, nutrition and mindset programmes designed specifically with group ex instructors and enthusiast in mind. If you want to find out more click the link below to get details for the next intake on July 1st.

Jump Priority List

Should you Train on Holiday?

I’ve trained on holiday- not everyday, but I’ve got a couple of short workouts in and a couple of 20 minute yoga practices. As a fitness instructor I am used to training most days and often multiple times a day so for me this is still a massive break for the body.

Should you train on holiday though? And if you do what should you do?

Well to start the most obvious answer is it’s completely up to you. If you train regularly and are going on holiday taking a break from your everyday routine is exactly the point so there’s nothing wrong with deciding that you aren’t packing gym kit.

Some people enjoy their training however and will feel better for a quick gym session some days (or you may be training for an event and still want to get some sessions in whilst away) and if that’s you don’t feel guilty about recognising and acknowledging this, although it’s worthwhile remembering there is a difference between wanting to go and do a little bit in the gym a few times and feeling guilty about not sticking to your normal busy training schedule – a holiday is about finding more time to relax after all.

So if you’re going to train what should you do? Again this is entirely up to you. You might want to go with some form of plan but try and be flexible – there could be activities there you’d enjoy trying instead of your planned routine or you could arrive to find a less than well equipped hotel gym. I would try, however, to keep sessions quick so you’ve more time to go enjoy the sun, and also keep them fun – things your enjoy rather than things that are going to kill your legs and leave you aching for days!

Some ideas of things you could do:

  • Hotel Gyms – worth remembering they will vary dramatically in quality so you may need to be flexible with what you do
  • Swimming
  • Running – you may need to do this early or late depending on the heat. Running on sand is hard!
  • Classes – many hotels now put on classes you could try
  • Water aerobics – a staple of most hotels activities and suitable for all levels of fitness
  • Sports – there is often organised volleyball or football you could get involved in, many hotels have tennis courts if you can rope someone in for a game
  • Body weight workouts – if there’s no gym you could still get a little body weight workout in either outside of in your room
  • On demand workouts – if you have space in your room and the internet there’s a host of streamed website services such as Les Mills on Demand (currently doing a 21 day free trial for women as part of the This Girl Can campaign) and Beach Body
  • Yoga – a great way to both workout and relax and could be done outside or in your room
  • Walking- getting out and exploring is still a great form of exercise

Above all if you train you want it to enhance your mood whilst away not feel like a chore or a penance for all the food you’re enjoying so make the choice that suits you best and enjoy!

Taking a Break

I’m currently 5 days into a week away. This is my first beach holiday since 2015 and has been exactly what I needed. I normally opt for city breaks over the beach (largely due to my lack of tanning ability!) but these can often leave you coming back more tired than refreshed. So this week was long overdue and has been a chance to completely relax, enjoy some sun, read, eat and drink at leisure.

Taking time for yourself doesn’t have to be reserved for holidays or spa breaks though there’s plenty of ways you can make time for you everyday and plenty of benefits for doing so. Just taking out 30 minutes a day to spend some time on yourself away from people and work makes all the difference to your mental health, you could:

  • Go for a walk on your lunch break
  • Read a book or watch your favourite film
  • Take a long bath
  • Go for a coffee
  • Sit and read the papers in peace
  • Exercise
  • Practice Yoga
  • Just sit and do nothing
  • Paint your nails or put on a face mask

Doing this can have numerous benefits;

  • Greater well being – doing something for you will make you feel happier, less stressed and more positive towards yourself
  • Improve work life balance – taking time away from work can reduce potential for burnout and make you happier within your work
  • Allow for self reflection – spending time alone can allow you time to reflect on your own thoughts and emotions
  • Improve concentration – taking a break allows you to come back more focused than you were before
  • Improve productivity – taking time out can actually mean you get more done after due to feeling rested, more focused and positive
  • Reduce stress and unwind – taking time out will almost always make you feel better, put things in perspective and leave you feeling more relaxed.

With that I’m off to enjoy the last couple of days of my holiday, and there will be less of a break between now and the next one this time!

How to Eat Well Whilst on Holiday

There are countless ways to cut calories during a holiday: Drink spirits instead sugary cocktails, balance out heavy foods with salads and vegetables, have a soft drink in between each alcoholic drink, avoid deserts, skip breakfast.

Just so you know – I’m on holiday and I’m not doing any of those things.

Food isn’t something you should have to think about all the time, and when you’ve saved for a well deserved holiday restriction on your diet shouldn’t be part of it.

If you don’t want to totally reverse your recent results that’s ok – you don’t have to go crazy and eat everything in sight, but equally you don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying all the amazing food and drink available whilst you are away.