YouDon’t Need to be Crazy

What you see on social media in terms of fitness content is massively distorted.

Most people who post things about their training are fitness professionals, obviously they are doing it to try and help people.

But when they ae in the gym training every day, well it can create the impression that you need to be in the gym training everyday.

Now it’s not practical firstly, PTs who work in fitness free time are firstly going to have more ability to train every day. They are literally in gyms every day. Fitting something in is easier when that happens. Also if you teach classes, well you are going to do some exercise on those days and get paid for it, so.

For the clients of said PTs life is very different. You don’t have the same incentive to work out every day, probably less easy access to equipment and to be honest you probably don’t have the same desire to train that much, and to be honest, that’s ok.

I used to train every day, more than once most days, teach 14 classes a week minimum, run. Now to be honest I go to the gym maybe 4 times a week, run a couple of times (when I’m not laid up with the cough!) and teach twice. I couldn’t post hardcore videos of me training daily if I wanted to!

My routine now if far more realistic for someone who has an office job for 40 plus hours a week. I don’t want to kill myself trying to do everything anymore.  Want to go home, put my pyjamas on and watch Only Fools and Horses sometimes.

When you judging your own progress, how hard your working compared to other people you see online it’s useful to remember that most of those have an invested interest in training as much as they do- they get paid to do it in some form or another, it’s their passion, and that’s great.

You don’t need to be all in like that to get results though, to be fit and healthy or lose a few pounds.  You can make some changes and do a bit more and enjoy it but not be doing absolutely crazy shit every single day.

Does this apply to you?

People are different. Even if you share a lot of similar circumstances with someone, you aren’t going to be exactly the same.

In fitness though things tend to get generalised.

Being overweight is unhealthy in one camp, being over weight is fine in another for instance. Now in reality some people who are overweight will be healthy and active and happy as they are which is fine. There will be others however, for whom their weight does affect their health and wellbeing.

BMI is pointless and potentially dangerous. To be fair, I don’t know that many people in the healthy range of BMI even when they are super lean and fit so I’d tend to agree. However, I get why doctors use it, in some situations and for some people monitoring a BMI will have its uses.

A workout that is designed for a specific type of person (the busy mum, a group fitness instructor) could work for a large percentage of that group but won’t absolutely suit everyone who falls under that umbrella.

We can say if you’re in a calorie deficit you will lose wight, but of course there will be a small percentage of people who do have medical issues that mean this isn’t true.

The fact is it’s really hard to talk about things and take into account every single potential caveat. PTs know that there will be exceptions, but when for the vast majority of people or a group of people something holds true it makes sense to talk to the majority rather than the exceptions.  People who are the exceptions tend to know they are and will know to follow their individual advice from their GP, PT and so on.

What isn’t helpful online is people refuting general facts because of specific anomalies.  This can make people question solid advice that could help them because someone’s aunty Pat who is on some medicine that causes weight gain couldn’t lose weight even on a low calorie diet.

It’s useful to remember that not everything in the world of fitness or nutrition will apply to you. That doesn’t make it wrong or bad, just not something that would be of benefit for you to consider or incorporate.  Sometimes you need to use your own knowledge or recruit the help of a PT you trust to work out what would be useful for you and what to disregard.   

Diets Don’t Work

Diets don’t work.

How often have you heard people say that.

It isn’t technically true though.

Let’s assume the diet is to lose weight (diets can be for other reasons but this is the most common).

If you stay in a calorie deficit then you will lose weight and by definition your diet will have worked.

So what do people mean when they say diets don’t work?

Generally they mean that restrictive diets, that cut out food groups or require very low calorie levels are difficult to sustain for long periods of time.  This means that you might well see good results whilst you are sticking to it, but you inevitably won’t be able to stick to it for long and when you stop you will see the weight come back on.  This is generally what we mean when we talk about yo-yo dieting, a cycle of losing and regaining weight as we jump on a diet and then stop following it.

A diet in reality though is just a term for what you eat.  If you never think about your food intake and eat whatever you fancy, that is still your diet, and if you aren’t bothered about gaining or losing weight then this type of diet works.

So if you decided to modify your habits and food intake in a sensible and manageable way, that felt easy enough and not restrictive. If you accepted that sometimes you would eat more but in general you just started sticking to a few new habits. If you had a calorie target based on your TDEE that kept you in a small calorie deficit, looked at eating more protein, more vegetables, drinking more water, moving just a little bit more. That, is a diet.  The difference is, it’s a sustainable diet. You might see slower steadier results but you would find it easier to keep it up, like, forever.

So diets can work, that’s a simple fact.

But for them to be effective long terms they need to suit your lifestyle, they need to work around your life rather than dictating how your live. That allows them to be maintained long term.

What people mean is fad diets or restrictive diets don’t work and we shouldn’t let click bait headlines put us off from following sensible advice to work towards our goals.

Not Losing Weight?

You’re tracking calories but not losing weight. Why?

  1. You aren’t logging everything. Sauces, the odd biscuit, left overs, these all have calories too.
  2. You’re underestimating your portion sizes. Apps like MyFitnessPal will bring up various portion sizes when you search and what you’re eating may be more than this amount.
  3. You’re free pouring things. Again this comes back to portion size, you could be roughly working out your portion but underestimating it. That one bowl of cereal your tracking could in reality be more like 2.5 bowls to MyFitnessPal
  4. You don’t log your drinks. Alcohol, coffee shop coffees, these can have more calories than a full on meal at times so if you aren’t logging them your stats aren’t acurate.
  5. You have cheat meals. Calling something a cheat mean doesn’t mean it’s calorie free, it does mean you’re more likely to go over board and consume way more calories than you think.
  6. Your eating your ‘exercise’ calories. Your watch is telling you you’ve burnt 500 calories so you’re adding an extra 500 calories to your daily allowance.
  7. Your picking the ‘best’ version of a food in MyFitnessPal. Be honest, when you search a food on MFP you will see some questionable entries. As tempting as it might be to go with that really low one to make your data look better the food doesn’t have fewer calories in real life because you’ve done this.
  8. You track daily rather than across a week and scrap a day if it’s ‘bad’. It’s what we do over time that matters not one really good or really bad day. If you stop tracking on days where you know you’re going to end up ‘over’ calories and then start again the next day you won’t see you’re true picture of how you did over the week.
  9. Food on other people’s plate doesn’t count. In my head I live by this rule but it is of course bollocks
  10. Your calorie goal isn’t right for you. Maybe it’s too low and restrictive so you keep ending up ‘binging’. Maybe it was right for you but you’ve lost weight and now it’s just a bit too high or you’ve changed your activity level and it needs adjusting.

The thing to remember is that if you are eating less than you are burning on a regular basis your weight will reduce. Regardless of what you track, if this isn’t happening you are going wrong somewhere with tracking. We all under or over estimate our food intake at times but if you are serious about creating change you need to have an honest look at your habits and see where you are cutting corners and look to rectify those little habits.

The Easter Hangover

Have you left the Easter weekend feeing like you over did it? Be it too much chocolate of the Egg variety or too much alcohol or maybe a bit of both (I’ll be honest, unlike normal me, I’ve had little chocolate this weekend but did wake up Sunday swearing to never drink again).

There can be a real temptation the day after a heavy weekend, or even just night, when you feel like you’ve over indulged and ruined your diet, to go all out healthy the next day. You know the one. i will eat nothing but leaves and drink nothing but water and run 50 miles each morning and meditate and lift heavy things and sleep for 12 hours a day and I will do this for the rest of my life to atone for the 500 extra calories I’ve convinced ruined my life over the weekend.

This in itself makes us feel worse in reality. We won’t stick to it for more than 23 minutes and then come 10 am when we’ve succumbed to a biscuit with a cup of tea we are kicking ourselves again at our obvious lack of willpower.

The fact of the matter is if you ate chocolate until you were sick or stayed up until 5am and spent yesterday in bed you might not feel very smug today. Smug is a bit of a dull feeling though and in actual fact if you just get back to normal today and eat your normal amount of food, drink plenty of fluids, train as you normally would, get some steps in you’ll actually feel pretty much back to normal by the time you go to bed. Maybe a little bit of extra fresh air would be beneficial if you do feel particularly rubbish.

Extremes rarely work. You have to have a very particular mindset to be comfortable sticking to very strict regimes for long periods of time and even if you are able to, it will often be at the cost of doing things you’ll enjoy. Balance, as so many PTs will say, is key. The problem is when we feel rubbish about ourselves our brains tell us that really strict will probably bring quicker results and when we feel rubbish that’s appealing. It actually takes quite a lot of willpower to override that little voice in your brain and just try and get back on with trying to be a bit sensible when you feel like that.

If you can today though, just try to be normal and not beat yourself up about any over indulgences.

Monday

Monday morning. New week. Here’s some reminders if you are looking to get fitter, slimmer, healthier.

  1. Aim to exercise 2-3 times. Block out 5 times in your diary, if you miss a couple no harm, if you make all 5 appointments with yourself you’ve over achieved.
  2. Try and add an extra 10 minutes walk into each day this week to increase your steps a little.
  3. Drink a glass of water once every hour.
  4. Track what you eat in MyFitnessPal, see where you are in comparison to your calorie goal.
  5. If you aren’t in a calorie deficit try and reduce your intake by 200-500 calories a day.
  6. Hit five portions of fruit and veg a day. Try to mix it up, eat a range of colours.
  7. Eat 1.5 x your body weight (in kg) in protein a day.
  8. Struggle to get to sleep? Try drinking your last coffee at midday.
  9. Stretch. For a few minutes day, when you’re watching TV or at the very least once this week.
  10. Identify one thing you struggle with and decide on one small change you can make to improve.

Motivation, Consistency and Habits

Motivation as a concept really is rubbish.

The idea that people manage to do amazing things or get impressive results because of amazing motivation is ridiculous. Even when someone is really fired up to do something there will be times when the desire wanes and they just don’t feel like doing whatever they need to do.

Motivation is also pretty hard to get in the first place. The desire to want something is easy to find but the actual need to do something about it is a lot harder to find.

What does get results is creating actions that become habits, to the point where you just do those things regardless of what you feel like. You don’t only go to work when you can be bothered, or clean your teeth when the mood strikes you. These things are habits, you just do them almost on auto pilot, and that’s how you need to be with the things you need to do to achieve your goals.

If you want to run a marathon you need to make running several times a week such a habit that you get up and go for that training run regardless of the weather, what’s on TV, how heavy your legs feel. If you want to go to the gym three times a week you need to make it such a habit that you get there and get changed and get on the gym floor without even thinking about it.

The process of getting started with things, making them such an integral part of your routine you will barely even think, will allow you to start. Normally once you start something you will find you can get into it enough to get it done. That’s where the motion of ‘Just Start’ comes from. Motivation will always be up and down, yet just doing one little thing again and again and again will bring the consistency required for results (and ironically the motivation we all think we need)

February

It’s a new month. January both managed to go by really fast and also have 493 days in it. I don’t know how that works!

You may be one of the few that has had a flying start with resolutions, in which case well done! If you aren’t and January has ended and you feel like you haven’t quite started the things you wanted to, seen results you hoped for, or things just haven’t gone perfectly to plan, that’s ok.

A new month can be quite like a new year, a fresh page (if you are the type of person that needs that fresh start, new week type of feeling you may as well acknowledge that and work with it). Try taking some time to decide what you want from the month and setting some small goals that you can work towards. I’m not talking, losing a stone or massive things like that. I’m talking about goals that you can hit and track which will help you work towards those more wide sweeping weight loss or training goals.

Perhaps you will hit 10,000 steps a day and drink 2 litres of water every day, maybe you will make 10 minutes free each day to write down what your grateful for, get outside for fresh air every day, get 8 hours sleep a day, arrange a catch up phone call or coffee catch up with a friend once a week. Little things like this add up to bigger results but also feel more achievable to start with and also at the end of the month when you look back you feel like you’ve hit your goals.

Things don’t need to be perfect in February, you can miss runs or training sessions, you can eat Pizza on a Monday and you can have the odd day where lunch ends up being a McFlurry (to be honest i recommend you do this at least once a month anyway). Consistency will always beat perfection because you will never be able to maintain perfect for any length of time.

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.