What Gym Kit Do I Need?

What should you wear to the gym? Simple answer.

Whatever you feel comfortable in.

And that answer is fine if you spend a lot of time training and know what does and doesn’t work for you.  This blog isn’t for you though.

Because that answer isn’t very helpful if you are thinking about starting some form of exercise in the New Year and really don’t know what to wear.  Then it’s just another obstacle to getting started.  I know because years ago when I was overweight and knew that I probably needed to do something not knowing what I should wear (and not feeling comfortable in a ton of lycra) was a good enough excuse to keep putting getting started off.

So here’s some tips to get started:

  • You don’t need to spend lots of new kit. If you want to and can afford it and it will make you feel more confident by all means go splurge in Victoria Secrets.  If you’re starting to dip your toe into the water you don’t need to though – go to Sports Direct or Primark and buy a couple of pairs of bottoms, a couple of tops and a couple of pairs of socks (and if youre female a couple of sports bras).  They don’t need to be any fancy materials to start, as long as you feel comfortable and can move about in them they will work to get you started.  As you get more into training and get to decide what you enjoy doing you can then invest in kit that works for that particular sport in time – right now those expensive compression running tops could be a waste of money if you find out that really you much prefer Zumba.
  • You don’t need super expensive trainers. Same as with clothes. Once you settle on a sport or area of training you may wish to invest in certain shoes (lifting shoes, dance shoes, running shoes, cycle shoes) but to start just buy a pair of trainers that are comfortable.  Think about what you are planning on doing.  If you are going to try classes out a trainer with a spin spot on the sole (a circle type mark on the sole will indicate this) can be useful as it allows you to turn on the spot (which you will do in most dance based classes but is also useful in classes such as Body Combat) – most trainers in the ‘studio’ section on a sports store website will have this.  These shoes will also work well if you plan on venturing into the gym.  If you are going to go running look for a trainer in the running section of the store / website- it doesn’t need to be expensive right now.  For cycling classes you may eventually want to be a cycle shoe you can use cleats with but until you know it’s the exercise for you just pick a trainer with a decent sole (very thin soles will make the class a little painful).
  • You don’t need to wear very fitted clothes. Of course you can if that’s what makes you feel good but don’t feel the pressure to go super skimpy lycra clad if that will make you feel self conscious. People wear all sorts of things to the gym from baggy tops to brightly coloured comic strip style leggings so whatever style will make you feel good is the style to pick and if that means covering up or wearing something loose go for it (just try and make sure it’s not so baggy it impedes safe movement / is something you risk tripping up on!)
  • You don’t need to expose lots of flesh. As above, wear what makes you feel good. Some people like wearing shorts or a crop top to train in, others people prefer to wear leggings and vest tops or long sleeve tops – it has nothing to do with how ‘fit’ people are or what their abs look like – it’s just personal preference as to what makes people feel comfortable whilst training so go as covered or uncovered as you wish.
  • Your basic kit shopping list might look something like this:

 

  • Gym bag (big enough to fit everything in)
  • A sports bra (females) and a comfortable pair of knickers / Boxers
  • Leggings or shorts
  • A comfortable, breathable top (t shirt, vest, crop top) – not something like a jumper because you’ll just be too hot
  • Socks
  • Trainers
  • Hair bobble if you have long hair
  • Water bottle
  • Small towel

Getting Ready For Work in Gym Changing Rooms- Tips and Hints

Most days I train / teach three times a day: before work, lunchtime and after work. This means twice a day I shower and get ready for work in a gym changing room. I normally have 10- 20 minutes to do this so I’m pretty used to getting dressed fast (and I’m probably at the low maintenance end of low maintenance to be honest – if you’ve met me you have probably seen me without make up on and almost definitely on a day when I haven’t brushed my hair).

So when someone said they couldn’t train at lunchtime because they wouldn’t have time to shower etc. afterwards it got me thinking who else is put off by this and I decided to list my tips for a quick no frills routine which might help anyone who wants to train around work but is put off by the post sweat grooming issue!

  • Pack your bag the night before so you know you won’t forget anything. When I forget my bra or one shoe it’s always because I’ve packed in a rush that morning.
  • Buy a camping towel- a) they are lightweight and fold up small b) They dry quickly and don’t retain water so don’t make your gym bag wet and heavy after use
  • Pack a wash bag with all the things you will need and it leave in your gym bag at all times – this is less than you think: shower gel (or not – some gyms have those little shower gel dispensers in the showers), shampoo, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste – anything else just adds unnecessary time
  • Minimise your routine as much as you can – quick shower, 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner – if you have to wash your hair (I’m not so much of a tomboy that I’d go as far as suggesting combined body and hair wash but to be fair it is an option)
  • Baby oil is great as moisturiser – makes your skin super soft but much quicker than a lotion as you can put it on whilst your skin is still wet
  • Baby wipes and dry shower gel (it exists- try Boots) are great cheats if you didn’t do too much cardio – you will know if you can get away with this or not on any given day (more often than not the answer is no but they are useful for emergencies none the less)
  • Dry shampoo is also your friend. As are high pony tails/ the scraped back / Croydon Facelift pony tail.
  • You actually need to wash your hair less often than you think even after training. Give it twenty minutes and it will dry out and won’t actually smell – I wash my hair maybe 2/3 times a week max.
  • Don’t waste time doing the towel dance. All women know what the towel dance is and quite frankly it’s a waste of time. A) Nobody is looking at you and b) you normally end up being naked for longer whilst trying to put your knickers on balancing on one leg and holding a towel round you than if you just got dressed.
  • Whilst I’m at it – do not be one of those people who gets dressed in the shower- you will get your clothes wet and you are holding up the people waiting.
  • Pack clothes which don’t crease – I’m fond of lycra.
  • If you can get away with not wearing tights you will save at least five minutes- putting on tights when you’ve just exercised is almost as much exercise as taking your sports bra off after a session.
  • You don’t need to put on lots of makeup after a workout- keep it minimal and take advantage of the natural glow your skin will now have to speed up the process of putting on your make up
  • Get your eyebrows and eyelashes tinted if having a bare face isn’t an option – this will save valuable drawing on yourself time!
  • Work out what your gym has in the way of hairdryers – if they have them don’t pack one! I personally don’t blow dry my hair as it dries by itself in about 15 minutes but I’m led to believe that’s not usual.
  • Do you actually need to straighten your hair?

Getting ready for work is dull and should take as little time as possible anyway – don’t let it stop you from getting a workout in – life is too short.

Note: This is a bit of a blog for the girls really- I’m going to assume most men are pretty much wash and go anyway but if not please re-read the above!

Why Hire a PT?

Do you need a PT?

Given the number of  expenses we all have these days this is a fair question and if you are going to part with a chunk of cash each month you are more than entitled to ask and understand why having a PT might benefit you, so I thought a brief summary of why you might find hiring a PT useful.

1.You are new to the gym

New to exercise and not sure where to start.  Even just a one off block of sessions with a PT could give you a solid starting point, an idea of how to use equipment, execute moves safely and help you feel confident in the environment.

2. You have been going to the gym for a while with limited results / are bored

You’ve used the gym for years, kind of know what you’re doing but your workouts feel stale and like they are no longer challenging you and results have halted.  A PT can help reinvent your training patterns to make your workouts feel fresh again as well as effective.

3.You have set yourself a goal

Just set a goal (running a marathon, entering a triathlon, joined a football team, want to be able to do a set of 5 pull ups unaided) a PT will be able to design sessions specifically tailored towards that goal.

4.You want to lose (or gain) weight / mass

Much like point 3, a PT can guide you so your nutrition and sessions are tailored to this goal.

5.You are lacking motivation / accountability

Sometimes it isn’t the knowledge that you are lacking it’s having someone there to keep you going, ensuring you get the sessions in, help you enjoy them and just generally keep you on track.

6.You want to improve your technique

Maybe you just want to focus on one of two lifts – a PT can work with you on those specifics, so even if you wanted to train mostly on your own and just have weekly or monthly technique focused sessions that could benefit you in terms of results that could always be an option.

7.You lack confidence in the gym

Maybe this links in with being new to training or maybe you do lots of classes but would like to add more variety to your week and aren’t sure where to start or how to use some of the equipment.  Working with someone can increase your confidence and in turn help you enjoy training more.

 

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.

Christmas JUMPer Shred – Week 3

I started week 3 feeling good- I had lost a few pounds and generally felt good from being a bit more active than normal and a bit more aware of what I was eating.

Week 3 was a bit harder in terms in fitting in workouts.  Certain jobs that needed doing such as my tax return meant that I didn’t train as much as I wanted and I relaxed how much I ate over the week, increasing my calories.

Could I have done more?  Yes.  But to be fair watching the videos and doing the workouts when I could, has kept me accountable going into December.  For me that is going to be the key this month.  I don’t want to miss out on the food  and drink that’s going to be everywhere but also don’t want to completely let go of my routine.  Therefore having an aim each week for training sessions and calories will keep me in check, even if I miss those goals slightly, trying to work towards those will keep me close to where I want to be.

That would be my key piece of advice for anyone looking to start a plan in the New Year.   What you get out of anything depends on what you are willing to put in and there is no right or wrong way of defining success.  Going into something knowing what you want out of it and how much you need to put in to get there means you’re more likely to succeed as your expectations will be realistic to your lifestyle.

New to Body Pump? 10 Things You Need To Know…

1. You don’t need to start heavy. I mean you want to use challenging weights for you to get the most from the class but that doesn’t mean matching regulars plate for plate in class one, it’s about lifting what you can and seeing how you progress, so don’t be put off by looking through the window and seeing lots of people lifting more than you think you can.

2. If you can get to the class at least 10 minutes before you will have a more enjoyable experience as you will be able to get set up without rushing, including time for that last minute nervous wee!

3. Say hi to the instructor. Tell us you are new to Pump and we will help you get set up and make sure you’re ok during the class.

4. As a general rule you will need: a bar, clips, a variety of weight plates, a step and a mat every release. The only things you actually need to bring with you are some water and perhaps a towel.

5. It’s ok to be confused at first. There’s lots of moves you may not have heard of or done before, the beat can be fast and we have pretty short changeovers between tracks. Your instructor won’t mind (or call you out) if you take a bit longer to grab some water and change your weights or don’t quite get things straight away – all of us have felt that first class confusion!

6. There is a thing called Smart Start. If you get to the back track (track 4) and you have done as much as you can that’s ok – you can leave (no need to put equipment away the instructor will do it at the end of the class). Just give the instructor a nod or a wave so we know you are ok and then next time try and stay for one extra track until you feel ok doing the whole class.

7. Alternatives are there for a reason. If we say you can drop the weight if you’re struggling we really mean it. Doing the moves well in a modified position will bring greater results than trying to do a move with a heavy weight but poor form.

8. The music is a huge part of Body Pump. Not only does singing along help you power through a workout but the tempos we use allow us to work our muscles in different ways across the class, so when the instructor tells you to slow down or encourages you to follow their rhythm they are just an OCD maniac – they’re trying to maximise your results!

9. You will feel it the next day. You do a lot of reps in a Pump class so don’t worry if DOMs hit the next day – it does get easier over time.

10. It’s a fun class. Don’t feel nervous about starting, turn up, smile, do what you can and enjoy the music whilst giving something challenging a go.

This Person Can

Due to a new partnership with Les Mills I’ve seen lots about the ‘THIS GIRL CAN’ campaign this week.

Encouraging more people to take part in sport / exercise, encouraging people to exercise regardless of their hang ups and celebrating the fact that a variety of body shapes and sizes can be fit and healthy  – all a tick for me.

Using the word girl as opposed to woman – issue for me, somehow I can’t ever see a This Boy Can campaign being conceived in any boardroom out there.

That being said there are lots of PEOPLE who for various reasons don’t exercise, who could benefit from the encouragement of such a campaign.

Below are my tips for anyone looking to start exercising.

Let’s call it my THIS PERSON CAN Tips:

  1. Pick something you enjoy doing – Don’t enjoy running? Try swimming, dancing, cycling, yoga, classes, netball, football, rugby.  If you enjoy doing it you are more likely to stick to it.
  2. Wear something comfy – You don’t need to spend lots on new gym gear or trainers.  Just wear something you feel comfortable in and allows you to move.  If you need to buy some gym kit to get started Primark and Sports Direct are great places to look for cost effective kit.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for / accept help- Join a team or class there will be a coach or instructor to guide you, join a gym and you will probably be entitled to an induction / plan as part of your membership.  Instructors and coaches are there to help (and want to) so accept the help offered to help you as you get started.
  4. You don’t need to be an expert – If you lift enough to challenge you it doesn’t matter if it isn’t what you consider ‘heavy’, if you sweat in a class it doesn’t matter if you’re a bit off the beat, if you walk for bits during a run that’s alright, if you join a team and aren’t brilliant that’s fine.  You don’t have to be brilliant at something to enjoy it or keep doing it.
  5. Females can lift / Males can do Zumba- There is no such things as gender suitable training so move as you see fit and do not worry about how this is perceived.  Generally the fitness world is less judgmental than people tend to imagine, everyone started somewhere so you will find most people to be supportive of others efforts.

2019 So Far

Well that went quick.

Two months into 2019 already.

63 days since you set your 2019 resolutions (or better still goals). 302 days until you’ll probably set some more.

How are you getting on? Have you stuck to working towards them, reached some of them already even. Or do they seem further away than ever?

I’ve made progress. Not as quickly as I’d have liked… a failed exam, some frustrating news and a torn tendon in my knee have all set me back in one way or another in terms of where I wanted to be at the end of February, either fitness nor personal goal wise.

Yet I have made progress, I have made positive steps towards my goals, I’m nearer than I was to them two months ago and I’ve taken those set backs, gone back to the drawing board, adjusted my timescales a bit so they won’t be reasons I look back and feel like I failed.

If you don’t feel you started 2019 as you’d have liked, well we’ve only done 1/6 of the year. Plenty of time to turn things around. If it’s started well that’s 302 more opportunities to move closer to your aims. Whichever camp you fall into regularly reviewing your progress will increase your chances of ending 2019 happy with your progress.

I’m writing this on a flight to Edinburgh during some pretty windy weather so it’s a bit of a bumpy ride (excuse any typos it’s currently a bit like a ride at Alton Towers). Tomorrow I’ll spend the day reviewing my progress and working out my next steps with a group of fellow fitness professionals, as we do once a month to keep up focussed and striving for improvement.

I wrote a lot of blogs in December and January about making small changes to get closer to your fitness (or other) goal. Wherever your currently at pick one small thing to do in March and just do it.

P.s. We took off late because of a problem with paperwork at Manchester Airport- the captain just announced he took a shortcut and we made up the time and will still land early. If that’s not a metaphor for what I’ve just talked about I don’t know what is!

Ways to Measure Fitness Success … That Aren’t Connected To Your Weight

Because the scales don’t tell the full story.  If you only judge success by that number going up or down you could end up unmotivated and losing momentum.  I’ve been 10 stone and a size 12, now I’m 13.5 stone and a size 12 , proof that your weight doesn’t tell the full story…

  1. Progress Photos – Take monthly photos of yourself in the same clothes to compare / track changes in your body shape and size.
  2. Take Measurements – Take measurements of your waist, chest, arms and legs every month to keep track of inches lost.
  3. Body composition – Rather than weight and depending on what facilities you have available you could track body fat / muscle composition. Remember these machines are a lot like scales and the method they use for calculating data is not accurate but they could illustrate trends of body fat reducing / muscle increasing which indicate progress.
  4. The Jeans Test – Find a pair of jeans (or any trousers) that currently just about fit. Try them on at regular intervals and note the changes in how they fit – as you reduce body fat they should become looser (note this doesn’t always work as you may find you get leaner but your body shape changes and jeans fitting in general becomes a problem!)
  5. Testings / Tracking Data – So far I’ve focussed on the physical appearance and getting smaller. How about getting FITTER?  Record your current scores on a few key exercises (make them ones you do so if you weight train your scores for 5×5 deadlift / 5×5 squat / 5 x 5 overhead press, if you’re a runner your time for a 2km run and so on- make them relevant).  Every 6-8 weeks do these tests again and look for improvements – have you got faster, can you lift heavier, did it feel easier?
  6. Train for an Event – Pick something that you couldn’t currently do (or it would be a massive challenge) e.g. Run a 10k race. Sign up for that event and train towards it.  You complete it then you know you’ve improved your fitness levels.
  7. Have a Health MOT – If you’re a member of a gym like Nuffield (others offer similar too) you may have access to free health checks. Here they will check and record various health indicators.  You can normally get one once every few months and they can be a good indicator of improvement are a few visits.
  8. Keep a Habit Diary – Log what you’ve done for your fitness has your nutrition been good, did you train, what other positive health choices have you made? This is a great indication over time of the habits you have created and positive changes made. Fitness isn’t merely fat loss and PBs, it’s about creating a positive, happy and sustainably healthy you.
  9. Take note of everyday activity levels – How hard is it to currently climb the stairs at work instead of taking the lift? Or run for the bus?  Or walk to the shops?  Make a note and then compare how those tasks feel after a month of two of training, then in 6 months, again in twelve.  If every day activities get easier you know you’re getting fitter.
  10. Listen to compliments – Have people started commenting on how good you look or how well you’re doing in class? These compliments are a good indication that changes are happening!

Three Reasons to Ditch the Scales

1) Your weight fluctuates. A lot.

The time of day, time of the month, how much water you have drunk, how much alcohol you have drunk, when you last had a poo, your hormones.  They will all affect the number on the scale so it’s not the most effective way to track your progress and using weighing yourself alone can be inaccurate and disheartening.

2) A number on the scales won’t make you happy.

Being comfortable in your body won’t automatically happen when you hit a certain number on the scales.  Everybody has some body hand ups regardless of their weight or size. Focusing on feeling strong and healthy will help you feel more positive about yourself in a way a number can’t and help prevent an all or nothing kind of outlook on your fitness journey, where how well you week went depends on one number.

3) Your weight isn’t an indication of your health or fitness level.

Have you ever seen one of those line ups of several women who all weight 60kg.  You could weight the same as someone else and have a totally different body shape.  Someone who is a size 10 could weigh the same as someone who wears a size 14.  Height, muscle, body type – how we ‘wear’ a certain weight is different from person to person, and, unless you are medically obese, how fit or healthy you are has little to do with the number on the scale.

Just a note – muscle doesn’t weight more than fat.  A pound of muscle weights a pound and a pound of fat weighs a pound.  However muscle is less dense, so if you reduce body fat and build muscle you might not weigh less but you will look leaner.