- Work out how many calories you burn a day on average and eat this many (to maintain weight) or 20% less (to reduce weight)
- Swap one of your sugary snacks with a healthier replacement (e.g. a piece of fruit) each day. And yes I know fruit has some sugar in it but a banana over a Mars Bar will help you cut calories and provide less of a post sugar slump.
- Stop having cheat meals. Cheat meals create a restriction / binge / food as a reward mindset. Eat whatever you want whenever you want within reason without viewing food as good and bad.
- Eat protein. Aim to eat 1 to 1.5g of protein per kg of body weight. Will help you feel satisfied without overeating.
- Drink at least 0.033 litres water per kg of your body weight each day (so if you weight 60kg drink two litres a day). Fat loss, performance, whatever your goal- hydration is so important to your health.
- Don’t exercise at all at the moment? Aim to complete a 30 minute session every week for a month, two 30 minutes sessions a week the next month and three 30 minutes sessions the following month. Boom = Exercise habit created.
- Increase your NEAT. However much you exercise aim to increase your non exercise movement by at least 10% each day over the next few months (i.e. walk more)
- Get more sleep. Enough sleep every night will help with weight loss, stress, energy levels. Seven hours is goals.
- Learn something new. Want to learn to do a handstand, swim, play netball? Working towards mastering a skill will get you moving without exercise being the main goal itself.
- Set yourself a challenge. Run a race, do a Tough Mudder, compete in a swimathon. Setting a challenge can give you the incentive to get to your training sessions and maintain focus.
Do you make New Year’s Resolutions?
Up until a few years ago I did – I’ve made many New Year’s Resolutions over the years, in fact honestly I’d make the same resolutions year after year which I never kept.
These days I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions as such. Here’s why:
January is a shit time to make drastic changes
It’s cold, dark and everyone is depressed and skint after Christmas. It’s a rubbish time to decide to suddenly make drastic and often restrictive changes to your life. Result is you feel miserable two days in and give up. Planning to give up chocolate on January 1st when you probably have a shed load of left over chocolate in your cupboards is practically setting yourself up for failure. Deciding not to drink in the most miserable month of the year so you’re left sitting on the sofa instead of going out to catch up with friends is going to become unappealing quickly.
Resolutions tend to be negative
Generally we say things like I’m going to give up… sugar, wine, chocolate, smoking. It’s something we are NOT going to do anymore. This means we feel like we are depriving ourselves. Depriving yourself is rarely a long-term plan for success.
Resolutions tend to be vague
I want to lose weight, I want to get fit, I want to earn more money. They are goals / outcomes we’d like to reach yes, but they aren’t very specific and how and when they will be achieved isn’t always clear. How often do you make vague plans with a friend to ‘catch up soon’ only for that catch up to not happen? It’s not because we don’t want to catch up it’s just because we’ve been too vague for anything to actually happen. Resolutions can be a lot like that.
Resolutions end up leaving you feeling worse about yourself
If you don’t succeed then you feel like a failure. Yet if you set something too restrictive and ambitious you’re unlikely to stick to it and so you’re essentially setting yourself up to feel shit.
Negatives out the way – I fully believe in improving things – here’s what I think is better than making New Year’s Resolutions and why:
Change when you are ready
There’s a popular saying that if you’ve thought about it you’re ready. Right now, 2 days before New Year Day – if you’re thinking about stopping drinking fizzy drinks – stop. Right now. Why wait until Wednesday? If you want to start running start running – these things aren’t banned until January 1st.
If on January 1￼ you don’t feel ready to make a change but do a couple of weeks into the year start then, or in February or August or October, you haven’t got to wait until 2021 if you miss 1st January this year.
New Year’s Resolutions have the idea of starting at midnight on 1￼ January – change can however happen at any time. How often do you think I’ll start my diet on Monday and eat a weeks worth of food over the weekend knowing restriction is coming- you ‘could’ start a diet on Thursday (well we ‘could’ not call it a diet at all but that’s another blog altogether). Generally change that happens when you’re ready as opposed to an imposed time tends to be more effective.
Choosing to make positive changes
Positive changes are easier to put in place than ‘I won’t’ type changes. I will drink more water, I will eat vegetables with every meal, I will walk 10,000 steps a day. These are things you are going to do – so you do them and you’ve created a change. You might have also eaten ten chocolate bars but you’ve still eaten vegetables with every meal, the change has still happened. Positive changes make us feel better and so we are more likely to stick to them.
Goal setting over resolutions
I don’t make resolutions any more but I have sat down and done some goal setting for 2020. I have decided what I want to achieve, these are specific goals so they aren’t things like ‘I want to get fitter’ they are set things I’d like to get done, some will be quick and relatively easy others less so. Along with these goals I have made detailed plans of what I have to do to reach these specific goals and planned out realistic timescales for taking these actions. I’ve asked for feedback from people more experienced than me on these plans and discussed goals that include other people with them so we are on the same page. I know what I need to do personally and professionally in 2020 and how I plan to do it. I’ve got more chance of reaching these goals than if I left I chance.
Specific, measureable, achievable, realistic and time specific. If you goal ticks all these things you’re more likely to be able to reach it.
Commit to creating habits / systems instead
If you want lose weight you could think of it as working towards creating habits that in turn help work towards weight loss. Make drinking more water, creating a calorie deficit and training three times a week a habit and you will achieve your goal but you also find it is something that starts to fit into your everyday life as opposed to something you have to work towards constantly. The benefit of this is you can pick one small thing to work on then once that has become a habit work on something else, building change gradually.
Re-framing how you think
Take a non fitness resolution (because it isn’t always about weight!) ‘I want to get over my ex and for them to see me looking happy.’
You could re-frame this thought process to what would make you happy? Seeing your friends more perhaps? So instead of I want to get over my ex you could say I want to go out and do something fun with my friends once a week / fortnight / month (commitment depending here). Instead of focusing on becoming happy or getting over someone you could just commit to doing something that has the potential to make you happy and allow feeling happy and getting over them to happen naturally – all the time your still succeeding in your actual goal of getting out and socialising. It sounds very self help book but when you start to habitually re-frame your thoughts, you start to find it easier to make changes.
I’ve made lots of changes to the way I approach things in recent years– old habits die hard admittedly but by looking at making changes in a more positive light you can create a you that you are happier with without setting a single resolution on New Years Day!
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!
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.
Yesterday I set out to prep my meals for the week in 30 minutes.
It ended up taking an hour because I set all the fire alarms in my building off!
But still, 5 lunches, 4 dinners and a couple of snacks plus a fight with a smoke alarm in 60 minutes – that’s not bad going.
They aren’t the most impressive meals – I’m not being invited onto Masterchef anytime soon, but they will all taste good, are nutritious, are made up of real foods – carbs, proteins, fats – the lot.
It’s not that you don’t need to cut foods out of live off kale and air to be healthy (that wouldn’t be a bad point to be fair).
It’s not that if you’re busy through the week a bit of meal prep once a week is an amazing tool to keep you on track to your nutrition goals (again pretty good point).
It’s to manage your own expectations of yourself and your week.
Typically Sunday is my only day ‘off’. I know I need to prepare food for the week but if that took up my whole Sunday how often would I end up sacking it off?
So I accept that my food is a bit simple, nothing fancy, in exchange for only needing an hour to get it all done.
If cooking was a relaxing pleasure for me I’d possibly spend longer on it, but that’s not the case.
I try and apply this logic to my fitness as a whole – what would be ideal? How would the ideal affect my life? If it would make me stressed or resentful sod the ideal and find something more realistic to stick to.
One of the classes I teach is Les Mills Body Combat. This was the class that made me want to become an instructor so I really enjoy teaching it and always encourage gym members to give it a go.
I do get that it can be a bit intimidating for new people the first time they come to class. The moves are fast and the terminology can be confusing! But it’s also great fun and punching a kicking the days frustrations away can be incredibly satisfying!
If you are thinking about trying a class for the first time but are nervous and unsure of what to expect here’s a few things that I hope will help ease those uncertainties and allow you to have a great first experience:
- It might sound obvious but tell the instructor you are new at the start- it will help you feel relaxed and they will be able to make sure you’re ok throughout the class and will make sure you have a good first experience.
- There are three formats of the class- an hour class (10 tracks so sometimes it will be shorter as the length of a track can vary depending on intensity), a 45 minute class and a 30 minute class. The tracks in the shorter (express) versions are selected to still ensure you get maximum benefits from the class despite the shorter time frame.
- Body Combat is mixed martial arts inspired. You will experience tracks based on a variety of martial arts throughout the class as well as incorporating some MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) training.
- Don’t worry it’s non – contact. You will be punching and kicking an imaginary opponent or bag (so the air really!)
- You don’t need any equipment – just you, your gym kit and trainers (and some water!)
- The moves are choreographed to the music but don’t worry if you aren’t great at following a beat at first- you will still be getting your heart rate up even if you don’t get every combination of moves straight away. Following the music and combinations will get easier and when you do nail that combo to the beat you feel amazing!
- You are mirroring the instructor’s movements. If they say right foot forward, they will put their left foot forward so if you imagine they are your reflection in a mirror and mirror their moves you will find you are soon putting your right foot forward without even having to think about it! Don’t worry if you new to group exercise we know this takes time to get used to!
- Once they press play the instructor will generally not pause the music unless you need time to grab a mat. This is to keep the heart rate and intensity of the workout high. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a break if you need one- listen to your own body – the instructor won’t mind, just come back in when you are ready.
- It is a tough cardio workout. You are going to burn calories. You will get out of breath- that’s ok it’s why you are there. If you need to take a break take one, grab some water and come back in when you are ready.
- There are always opportunities to work within your own personal limits. The instructor will give different options throughout the workout to either dial the intensity up or down. So if you don’t want to jump there will always be a move you can do instead that doesn’t involve jumping but still provides lots of benefit. Equally the instructor will be able to guide you in how to improve a move to increase the intensity if you are ready to challenge yourself a bit more.
- If you are new there is something called Smart Start. Effectively it means you are allowed to stay for a few tracks. When you feel like you have done enough you can leave (make sure you stretch before you leave the gym!) then each time you try the class, see if you can stay for one extra track until you can do the whole class. New exercise classes can be tough, we know that, but you don’t need to be put off from trying them because you aren’t sure you are ready for a full class yet.
- There is a lot of terminology that may be unfamiliar – jab cross, uppercut, hook, roundhouse kick etc. It might take a while to remember what each move is but don’t worry you can watch the instructor throughout and over time you will start to take on board what each strike is so you can react quickly to cues.
- When you strike imagine your opponent is your height! The instructor will tell you which body part to aim for with each strike – if you imagine the opponent is your height you will get the most effective workout. Possible.
- It doesn’t matter if you can’t get your leg to head height when you kick (I certainly can’t!)! You will probably find as you attend more often your kicks will get higher, but the range of your kick will have a lot to do with your flexibility so don’t worry if you can’t kick as high as the person next to you – work within your own range of movement and just challenge yourself to kick a bit higher as time goes on.
- If you have done martial arts training some of the moves may feel ‘wrong’. Some of the moves in Body Combat are modified to ensure they are safe and effective for a group exercise environment. It’s a martial arts inspired class – not a martial arts class.
- Combat is an amazing core class. All the moves involve massive work through your core and your instructor will coach you how to effectively work the core throughout the class. So as well as burning lots of calories and increasing your CV fitness you will also find the workout does great things for your waist.
- If you have a question about a move, go and chat to the instructor at the end of the class. We generally love talking to people and want you to get the most out of the class. If you aren’t sure if you are feeling a move ‘in the right place’ ask and we can spend a few minutes on your technique to ensure the following week you are confident you are getting the most out of that move / track / strike / kick.
- Instructors get a new track list every three months- at which point they will teach this in it’s entirety for around 6 weeks. After that they will ‘mix’ older tracks into a playlist to keep it interesting for you and keep challenging your fitness levels until they get their next playlist. In other words – you won’t ever get bored.
- Finally- it’s an exercise class and it’s meant to be fun. Don’t worry if you struggle with a move or aren’t great at certain kick- ultimately it’s all about moving and having fun whilst doing it so try not to take yourself too seriously.
I had a conversation with a friend over the weekend about goals.
Goals are great for keeping you motivated and on track with your training and nutrition, and people who are quite consistent with their eating and training are often very good at setting and then working towards goals. This is a good thing obviously, but equally it can cause us to put unnecessary stress on ourselves.
See when we are very motivated to achieve XYZ it can become easy to start comparing yourself to others, to start picking holes in our own progress and under valuing our own results. It can also become difficult to recognise that as your goals differ from other people’s what their success looks like and what your success looks like will also be different. Even more so as your goals change what you measure results on might change at the same time at which point it can become even harder to accept the subsequent changes to our body or strength.
Added to this, most of us generally take on board what other people say and think about our bodies with minimal questioning. So if those around us comment on say our weight when we have been training to increase our strength (as opposed to trying to lose weight) it can be difficult to remind ourselves that our weight isn’t important to us because that isn’t our goal.
What I’m trying to articulate here is that at a really basic level setting goals is a great start to a fitness journey but for people where fitness is already part of everyday life we can sometimes get confused about what our goals are and what they mean by paying too much attention to other people’s opinions and other people’s goals.
For me, previously my goals have been running orientated and next year I’d like to pick that up again, at which point my training and nutrition will need to reflect that. Right now though, if I am totally honest I need a break from a specific goal. I’ve spent the last few years chasing one goal and qualification after another and need a bit of a break. I actually just want to train and eat to feel good.
I often say I’d like to be leaner, but if I’m honest right now I’m no willing to stop eating cake in the quantity I do or train more often or for longer that I currently do, so I’m not likely to get leaner than I currently am as I don’t want to change my current lifestyle.
That will change- probably next year I will reset everything and work towards a running based goal. But until then if I see someone smashing out some PBs, running marathons or looking stage ready and feel that sense of failure that I’m not in that condition right now I need to remember I’m not in that condition because I haven’t trained to be in that condition and I haven’t trained to be in that condition because that is not my goal.
Set a goal by all means. Set one that means something to you. Then work to that goal and don’t be swayed by what other people think, say or are doing. And if you change your mind and change your goal that’s fine, you can always readjust your own goal posts.