What do you need from a PT?

What do you need from a PT?

In the past when face to face was really the only way people saw a PT you’d have one or more sessions a week, maybe get a plan to follow in sessions alone (or perhaps you only trained with your PT), you’d discuss nutrition perhaps with them, maybe they’d measure body fat.

Lockdown did a lot to speed up changes in the way PTs can work though, online coaching was already starting to develop but the need to communicate remotely sped up the process of people realising they didn’t need to physically see a PT in order to get results.

Of course there are still benefits of seeing a PT in person, improving forma and technique, not to mention motivation, but in reality what you can get with online training brings a whole new element into coaching.

You will have heard PTs say what you do outside your one hour of exercise a day matters more than what you do in that hour, what you eat across a week matters more than one ‘off plan’ meal and other such variations of the same. In other words, what you do consistently matters more than any on moment, however good or bad.

So here’s where online coaching can be beneficial. Unless you have a very specific goal, are very new or nervous in a gym or really really lack the motivation to go, you don’t necessarily need someone by your side as you workout. What can be more beneficial is having someone in your corner to give you the push when you can’t be bothered, aren’t quite sure, are having a wobble. To answer the random questions when they come to mind (before you forgot them by your next session), to keep you on track every day not just one hour a week.

Getting fitter, stronger, leaner, whatever goal you have, unless it’s incredibly specific. I’m telling you it’s more about your headspace and consistency than it is your rep range or workout split or exact macros.

That isn’t to say face to face PT isn’t great, but really in the current world your face to face PT should be offering the online support the rest of the week as part of your package because success comes from much more than that specific training session.

How Big Is Your Goal?

What does fitness success and progress look like to you?

Is it losing 2 stone? Running a marathon? Dropping 3 dress sizes?

Whatever it is one thing many of us are guilty of is not feeling like a success until we hit that goal. Goals are great motivators and having a strong reason why can be the difference between having a dream and making that dream a reality. What we need to remember though is to celebrate and feel good about all the other achievements along the way.

Because if you want to drop 2 stones in the process you’ll lose your first pound, first half a stone, a stone. When you are one pound lighter you might not be where you want to be yet but you’ve started and made a step towards that.

If you want to run a marathon at some point in training you’ll run 5km, 10km, a half marathon, Again these are all massive achievements in their on right and using them as reasons to celebrate can help keep you motivated towards reaching that ultimate goal.

I think the key is to keep in mind that your progress might not be perfect, instantaneous or linear but changes are all positive, whether they have a big or small impact. If for instance your doctor has said you need to lose weight for your health, they may well have an ideal weight in mind but as a starting point a reduction of any size is still better for your health than staying where you are. If you currently do no exercise three sessions a week may be the ideal but even if you only manage one you’ve still increased your activity 100%.

This goes beyond fitness too.

Having a chat with a fellow fitness professional the other day we touched upon the idea of success within our field. There’s the idea I think we all subconsciously have that there is one end point within our corner of the industry by which our success is measured, whereas in reality what we get value and a sense of purpose from is actually very different, and whilst it’s good to have things to aim for sometimes this can cause you to lose sight of achievements which actually mean a lot (even if there’s less public glory associated to them) and you can end up judging yourself harshly. The fact is there may be things we will never achieve but focusing on those suggests we’ve failed whereas in reality the impact we have made has made a difference.

For me the key is of course striving and setting the scary goals but also being kind enough to yourself to notice the small wins that happen along the way, because when you do reach that big goal that won’t be the end, you’ll find new goals or bigger goals so when you think about it, only ever looking forward can end up being tiring and leave you always feeling like you aren’t enough.

So it isn’t case of don’t aim big just don’t forget all the other wins in the mean time.

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.

Getting Started – An Update

Have you ever noticed how much how you feel about your body and how you feel about you diet / training are interlinked?

When you feel good in yourself training and eating feel good and easy and that tends to make you feel better about how you look at the same time. Equally when you feel a bit rubbish it’s so much more tempting to comfort eat and easier to feel self conscious in the gym and lack motivation. It’s almost like a vicious circle where because you don’t feel great it’s so much harder to stick to the habits which make you fee better.

I’ve really found this to be the case since Covid. After lockdown, changes in my teaching patterns, injuries, changes in my personal life, all coming as a kind of perfect storm, I’ve really struggled to regain strength and lose gained weight and this is largely because I’ve struggled with motivation and body image at the changes to my body shape which I perceive as negative (negative comments from some people haven’t helped here).

I’ve been working on the basis that just getting started helps with motivation and trying to make myself do things regardless of how I feel with the hope that this will start to manifest itself in feeling better. It hasn’t helped that works been stressful but I’ve tried to keep doing small things regardless. It’s been frustrating because I’ve still felt bloated and I’ve had an outbreak of spots. Then this morning I woke up and thought urgh I feel bluegh but then realised I’d started my period, I suppose that explains the bloating and spots! So there’s another thing to remember about motivation and body image, your hormones are going to influence these things as much as your habits so sometimes you can do everything right and still need to accept you’ll have bad patches you need to ride out.

Right now I do feel fat and weak and slow and unfit, I have to accept that whilst I keep rebuilding habits that will help me turn that feel around because the changes won’t happen without me keeping going regardless of how I feel at the time.

Motivation Monday

Motivation Monday posts. Posts where people either:

a) Post a motivational quote telling you to just go and do something

b) Post what they’ve done that morning

Both of these can be motivating. That little kick in the form of a meme, seeing what others have done pushing you to getting up and going to do something themselves.

They can also be a bit pointless though. If your posting them to motivate yourself fair enough, and if it does the job super, but if it’s to motivate the reader I think they sometimes backfire.

I mean I’ve posted them before too, but in reality, for every person they do motivate there are people who will look and go so what, you’ve done that doesn’t mean I can, or even look at it and just feel bad that you’re doing amazing things whilst they can’t find the motivation.

Here’s what I think is a more motivating Monday Motivation type of post.

What do you need to do when you feel unmotivated?

You need to do something, any one thing to get started. Book a class, order a pair of trainers, go for a walk on your lunch break, go to the gym after work and do ANYTHING it doesn’t matter what, buy some fruit and veg on the way home from work, cook a simple nutritious dinner with enough left over for lunch tomorrow.

Doing that one thing, whatever it is, will make you feel a bit better, in control, organised. It will provide momentum to do another small thing and then another and there you have it, you start to see results or feel a bit better in yourself and before you even realise, you have your motivation.

Training in Heat

It’s been quite hot the last week and this week it’s set to get hotter with weather warmings and the like. So let’s talk training in heat.

Now schools are being advised to consider letting kids run about in the sun, closing early and so on, but children are more susceptible to struggling in the heat so as adults we really don’t need to avoid training during hot weather. If you’re fit and healthy enough to train anyway the heat, whilst uncomfortable, isn’t going to suddenly make training ridiculously dangerous.

There are of course things you can do to be sensible and look after yourself, ensure you don’t overheat, avoid heat stroke, don’t get dehydrated and quite frankly make training more pleasant.

You might like to train earlier or later in the day when it’s cooler or even switch outdoor sessions to indoor where you can enjoy air conditioning making things a bit cooler. If you are outdoors running or cycling wearing lighter colours, kit with tech that helps absorb sweat might help, and of course make sure you’ve plenty of suncream on.

Hydration is key at anytime but particularly when it’s hot making sure you drink plenty of water is going to be key when exercising (and not exercising folks) to counteract any increased risk of dehydration.

You may want to moderate your expectations for sessions – if the heat affects your energy levels, accepting that you may need to reduce intensity a bit or take a few more or longer breaks will help you complete a session without being annoyed with yourself. To be fair, nows a great time to start learning this lesson if it’s something you struggle with. Our bodies will at various times just have a little less to give, and on those days, whether you be tired, hot, run down or stressed, adjusting your effort levels and intensity and accepting that some days feel better than others can be a key step to training without being yourself up.

But beyond being mindful that it might be wise to take a few precautions when you aren’t used to the heat we don’t need to avoid training or going to the gym.

In fact, for generally healthy people, it’s been shown that training in hot conditions can actually be beneficial to your fitness.

Whilst it might feel harder to train in heat training in the warm weather encourages your body to sweat more (keeping you cool), increases your blood-plasma volume (benefiting cardiovascular fitness), and lowers your core body temperature. These things are all beneficial to helping you perform better in any weather.

When you add heat to exercise, you increases the stress load on your body. This stress can play a role in current and future performance. For example, as a runner you might find you have an easier time at a race if your body is already used to adapting to and training through different conditions. More than that there can be mental benefits to training in heat, from an increased sense of achievement of getting through a tough session and also feeling more capable of getting through future challenging workouts.

So the upshot is if you would normally train don’t let the upcoming weather put you off, just take some precautions to look after yourself and stay safe.

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.

Fitness v Fat

Since Lockdown and gaining weight I’ve not felt great about my appearance or fitness. Confidence wise I guess the two are linked, I don’t feel great about training because I don’t feel great in my body.

The way I’ve been trying to rectify this is losing weight, to feel better in my body, as if that will then make me feel better training, because I feel better in myself.

Recently though I remembered when I’ve felt like this in the past and tried changing my thinking. Instead of worrying about appearance I’ve just thought about training and more than just focusing on training, hitting specific goals.

One of those was run a half marathon, another is to get my deadlift to 120kg, I also want to get closer to an unassisted pull up.

By focusing on those specific metrics and doing what I need to in order to reach those, I have in turn lost some weight and feel a bit better in myself. Instead of feeling bad that I’m not where I want to be I can see I am making progress and that is much more motivating than just being unhappy until I hit my ‘perfect’. Instead of being upset about what I can’t do, I’m focused on what I can do to get better at those things, and with that I feel more confident and happier about my health and fitness.

I think it’s easy when you feel like you’re not where you should be to get bogged down in the negatives and the assumption that you can’t feel good until you’re at your goal destination. Ultimately though it doesn’t really benefit you to do that, whereas making small changes and working towards specific, performance related goals, allows you to shift your focus a bit and actually make progress and feel better. Ultimately it’s unlikely we’ll ever be totally happy with our body and fitness, even if we get to what we think is our goal, by the time we reach there we normally manage to change the goal posts for ourselves.  So I think it’s important to remind ourselves sometimes that fitness isn’t one static moment in time and we are ever changing and as such we kind of need to roll with it a little bit.

Abs, a good PT does not make.

I saw a comment on a friends Facebook post the other day that went along the lines of that person would not pick a PT who was not thin because if they weren’t thin how could they advise their clients on how to lose weight / why didn’t they follow their own advice. I get it and I think most PTs will have had the thought at some point as to why would someone hire me if i don’t look super fit?

The thing is knowledge and application are two different things.

I can know how to help someone get leaner, fitter, stronger without being as lean, as fit, as strong. Deciding that I prefer my diet and life the way it is over looking like a poster girl PT doesn’t make me any less good at my ability to coach people to reach a physical peak.

Having life events happen that take you away from your own training or taking medication that affects your body shape don’t stop you knowing how to help someone else lose weight.

Having a specific training goal that means you’ve spent less time on certain elements of your own training doesn’t mean you can’t coach someone else in those.

If you think about a sport like tennis. If we followed the notion that you can’t train someone to success unless you’ve had the exact same success, how do we explain the coaches of all the Wimbledon champions not coached by former Wimbledon champions? In actual fact those coaches may not have had the talent to become Wimbledon champion themselves but they are obviously exceptional at coaching others and bringing out the potential of others.

In football, most top tier club managers are former players but are all the big names, the ones with success after success, best known for their exceptional managerial skills, were they always the Ronaldo level players? They were good, top tier players for sure, but their success as managers came from their knowledge of tactics, man management, their ability to strategise.

Being skilled or talented at something doesn’t mean you will be good at teaching others to do it, coaching and motivating is a skill in itself. Moreover, not being or looking a certain way doesn’t mean you couldn’t do something if you wanted to. I could be thinner (i have been) and faster (I have been) but I do not at this moment want to make the changes that I’d have to in order to go back there. I could help you make those changes if you wanted to, I just don’t want to myself and wouldn’t make you if you didn’t want to. Fitness and body shape is a choice, the essence of the body positivity movement in a nut shell, there’s no one ‘type’ of fit, that should mean PTs should also feel able to chose a weight and fitness level that they are happy with without fear of judgement, be it from clients or other fitness professionals.

Knowledge doesn’t equal application, application doesn’t equal the ability to impart knowledge and abs, a good PT does not make.

Help I’m running a half in 6 weeks!

Have you realised you’re just a few weeks out from your run and you haven’t really started training?

In my latest podcast I talk about my current situation, factors to help you decide what to do and how to approach the situation if you decide you’re still going to run.

You can listen here: