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.

Group Exercise Classes

My latest podcast delves into Group Fitness.

I talk about what group fitness really is, the negative spin it sometimes gets, wh I think people should give it a try, what the best group exercise for you is and some tips on how to make the most out of your group exercise experience.

Click Here To Listen

Training when ill

I’ve got a cold, I started to feel a bit run down Friday and Saturday morning my nose felt blocked up. I went out for a run Saturday lunchtime and by the time I got home I felt rough and spent the day on the sofa. Sunday I felt better but decided not to train instead going out for lunch but by the time I got home I knew it was man down, a full blown cold had hit. It’s not a total shock, I’ve had a bust and stressful few weeks and actually said a few times recently that I knew I was doing too much and was making myself sick. The fact of the matter is when we get stressed and over work ourselves we are more susceptible to picking up colds etc.

Once ill, people who train regularly often find it hard not to train when they are ill, even if rest may actually be more beneficial for them, I used to be the same, although now I’m a lot better at listening to my body and taking a break to recover.

So, should you train when ill?

It’s generally recommended that mild to moderate activity is usually OK if you have a cold (with no fever). In fact, exercise may even help you feel better in the short term, opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving congestion.

If your symptoms are all above the neck generally it’s considered safe to train. Symptoms above the neck include a runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing and sore throats. You may still want to think about reducing the intensity and length of your workout, so maybe going for a walk instead of a run for example, or if you do want to run reducing the distance and going at a slower pace.

If symptoms are below the neck (chest congestion, a hacking cough, an upset stomach, muscle ache) it is however recommended that you do not exercise and instead rest until the symptoms subside.

A Fever should make exercise a hard no, raising your body temperature further if you already have a fever, will not aid recovery and could make you feel worse, so if you show any signs of fever sit out of any exercise until your temperature is back to normal.

Of course you shouldn’t exercise with or around other people if you have any type of contagious illnesses, although if you feel OK you could always do a gentle home workout.

Exercise can help boost your body’s natural defenses against illness and infection, and regular moderate exercise 3-4 times a week (for around 30 minutes) has been shown to have numerous benefits to a person’s health.

It’s worth remembering though overtraining can actually lower immunity. That means if you are training intensely every day with no rest days, de load weeks or structure (i.e. you’re constantly trying to get a PB every session) you are not only at greater risk of injury but also may find yourself catching colds more often (group exercise instructors doing multiple classes a week you may also find yourself in the group!).

So ultimately, training when ill (as long as it not chest or fever based) won’t hurt if you feel well enough to do so, but resting and letting your body recover may well be more beneficial. For many of us exercise is as much for our mental health as physical and taking a break can make you feel a bit rubbish anyway, so when you already feel bad because you’re ill it’s even harder. Having said that, in order to be as healthy as we can we need to think, not only about actual training, but also how we look after our bodies overall, and sickness is in an indication that our body isn’t currently running at 100%, meaning taking time to look after it rather than trying to push through may actually be something to consider.

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.

Why do people do this?

There’s lots of things I think you can see both sides of in both life and fitness and plenty of things you see within gyms which you might do differently but are still perfectly valid and can work for that person.

What I will never get in gyms is why people think it’s ok to judge other people and make unsolicited comment to them on that opinion.

Generally speaking, most of us would be upset if someone commented that we looked a bit bigger or smaller or had lost a bit of definition. Even the most confident person in a gym can go through periods they feel a little out of shape and having someone highlight it to them doesn’t really help. Realistically, even people who thrive off dissatisfaction cues or challenge as motivation comments about weight, shape and size can be unhelpful.

It occurred to me whilst writing that this might conflict a little with my last post, but I’m not talking about genuine concern for clients or patients that may arise, more the general opinions we have of other gym goers that are simply nothing to do with us.

As a general rule, unless the person has started a discussion about their body or is seeing you in some form of professional capacity where their health / body is the topic, keeping you opinions in your head is generally the best thing to do. You might have great advice about how you think they could grow those glutes, flatten their stomach, tone their arms whatever, but the confidence you’ll give them with that advice is unlikely to outweigh how they will feel when you point out things they were already a bit paranoid about anyway!

Cookie Cutters

The absolute worst thing you can do if you feel  bit rubbish and want to lose weight / drop a dress size / get fitter / run a marathon is find someone on Instagram who has done the same and try and copy what they do / did.  It might be really tempting when you see someone who has reached a goal you aspire to, to think if you do exactly the same you’ll reach exactly the same outcome. There are two things to bear in mind here.

  1. Just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean it’s right for you.  That person is highly unlikely to have started from the same point as you, have the same job, family life, outlook on life, taste in foods as you, enjoy the same exercise as you, have the same fitness level.  There are so many variables that affect our ability to stick with a plan when it comes to training and food, no wonder results will vary from person to person. This is why following a cookie cutter plan will generally only works for a handful of people – you end up trying to fit your life into someone else’s template, instead of fitting your fitness plan around your actual life, likes and dislikes.
  2. Someone who posts or offers advice with no fitness training or qualifications is literally offering you advice based on their own experience (see point one as to why that is problematic). What you also need to remember about this is you are very possibly only seeing part of their story. Example, someone posts a before and after of themselves and you think wow, I want to see that transformation and they did it by eating in a 20% deficit and strength training three times a week in a year so I’ll do that and get the same results. Often what happens is they don’t see the same results and beat themselves up. What that person might not have disclosed though, is that before they started to eating in a sensible deficit and training in a sensible structured way they actually went through a period of drastic calorie cutting, massively over training and other unhealthy habits.  Whilst it’s great that they are now in a much healthier place, their physique will be a result of both the healthy and unhealthy habits, makes sense then, that in doing the same you might not get the same results?

Ultimately, any PT will tell you there isn’t one way of doing anything and that is why when you’re stuck working with a PT instead of listening to that bloke in the gym or that influencer on social media will result in a far more realistic and sustainable action plan for you and help you get the best results for you.

Can cutting out coffee help you lose weight?

Can Intermittent Fasting help you lose weight?

Sure, if you eat during a shorter time window every day but don’t eat dramatically more than you usually would at each meal or eat extra meals in that time period (i.e. you don’t just eat breakfast later) you will possibly lose weight. Why?  Because you’re eating fewer calories. You may also find other health benefits to eating in this way and it can really suit some people’s lifestyles and mindsets.  But is it a magic formula in itself? No, if it’s not for you the fact is you’re really not missing out on some great health cheat.

Can cutting out coffee help you lose weight?

Maybe, if you normally drink it with milk and (or) sugar and cut back you’ll reduce your calorie intake naturally and you may see an effect on your weight. Equally, even with black coffee you may find you sleep a bit better and as getting enough sleep is helpful when it comes to both weight loss and training you might see a small benefit there. Having said that coffee can sometimes act as an appetite suppressant so cutting back may affect your appetite a bit at first, if you’re also adding in pre workouts to replace a pre gym black coffee you might even end up consuming slightly more calories.  Essentially, whilst there may be benefits they might well be minimal.

Can using an acupressure mat help you lose weight?

It is reported that Acupressure mats provide many benefits, including weight loss.  The idea being the pressure points relieve stress due to the release of endorphins, lowering cortisol and this reduction in stress helps weight management.  I have an acupressure mat and try to use it every night, I certainly feel I sleep better and feel more relaxed after 20 minutes laying on it, for me, whether there is much scientific research or not it makes me feel good. Does it help with weight management though?  If it does it’s probably minimal and only in conjunction with eating the appropriate amount of calories.  Would laying on this mat alone reduce weight? No.

Will meditation / mindfulness help you lose weight?

Mindfulness, practiced often, can be an effective method for helping change habits and ways of thinking and as such could help you lose weight by helping you adjust your habits. Again, on it’s own it will not help you lose weight, it’s a tool which can help you adjust your behaviours and the change in behaviour is what will lead to weight loss.

There are many habits, actions and behaviour changes which, can when incorporated into your life, make you feel better and assist with weight loss. Ultimately though, weight loss comes from consuming fewer calories than you burn over a consistent period of time.  Sometimes on a weight loss journey, the habits we adopt across the way can feel like the magic ingredient that actually made the difference in losing weight. Perhaps they are, in the respect if they make us feel better and more positive and help us stick to a calorie deficit then they are positive weight loss tools that can also bring other benefits at the same time.  It’s important to recognise that in terms of weight loss however, these things alone do not create a calorie deficit and understanding this will allow long lasting changes to occur.

Goals

If we want to be good at something we have to do that thing often, repeatedly, until it becomes a habit, second nature.

If you wanted to be good at ballet you’d go to ballet lessons every week and practice ballet often. You wouldn’t join a Jazz class and spend your free time practicing the Waltz and then turn up to your ballet recital expecting to be great.

Often with our training though we set ourselves goals and then do completely different things before getting frustrated with ourselves that we haven’t met our goals.

Or, we set ourselves so many goals all at once that there just isn’t any way we could train for all of them in any effective, meaningful way.

Of course if you’re starting out and just wanting to move more then doing different things every week is completely fine and will keep things interesting.

But if you are looking to run a half marathon, building up to longer runs and strengthening your legs and core need to be your focus. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do any upper body work too, but if upper body workouts take up 80% of your workouts you aren’t working to your goal.

If you want to improve your squat though, running every day isn’t going to help you, you’ll want to be doing variations of squats and mobility work. Again, you’ll want to add in some upper body workouts but they won’t be your focus.

Growing your glutes? Again if you keep finding your bench press is the lift you work on the most your sessions are not aligned with your goals.

If you have set yourself the goals of doing a pull up, getting your deadlift to 100kg, running a marathon, learning how to do a headstand, the splits all whilst losing 10kg and committing to do yoga every day, you’ve probably set yourself too many goals to actually achieve any of them. How on earth would you fit everything you need to do to work towards those goals into one week? If this is you maybe pick the goal that’s most important and work towards that, saving the rest for after you’ve completed that first one.

Ultimately if we want to be good at something we need to do things that will help us get good at that thing. That’s not to say you can’t also do things in the gym you enjoy or that your week shouldn’t be balanced, but your focus should remain on exercises that help you work towards that goal.

Gym sayings that should be scrapped

Not all calories are equal

Different foods have different nutritional values, some can offer more more nutritional benefits than others, may be more or less filling, may affect your energy levels in different ways. Fundamentally though a calorie is a unit used to measure the food we eat, a unit of energy if you like and the calories in a 200 calorie salad are the same number of calories in a 200 calorie chocolate bar. In terms of energy in v energy out all calories are equal.

No carbs after 6pm (and other timing rules)

Whether it be this rule, Intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet or any other rule that suggests when you eat will be the magic ingredient to weight loss. Whilst setting yourself eating windows may help you eat less and therefore lose weight you don’t suddenly store more fat by eating after 6pm or having breakfast.

Muscle weighs more than fat

Whilst it’s true the same volume of fat will take up more space than an equal volume of muscle (hence you can drop a dress size but remain the same weight as your body composition changes, a useful thing to remember) a pound of fat and a pound of muscle of course both weigh a pound.

Never miss a Monday

If you want to train 3 times a week why would it matter that one of those in on Monday? Whilst the concept of starting the week positively makes sense if Monday is inconvenient for you it really doesn’t matter.

Go hard or go home

Yes you want to work hard during your workouts, but life happens. Some days we are tired, have little niggles, we might be recovering from a cold. Some days we might be fatigued from previous sessions. On those days going hard could be more detrimental than positive. Listening to your body and resting, stretching or taking a de-load week when needed can help improve results more than simply pushing through.

‘Baby Weights’

No matter what you lift to someone out there it will be ‘so heavy’ and to someone else ‘their warm up weight’. Judging your weights in comparison to others won’t help you progress or make you feel good about yourself in the gym. Others might be lifting more of less than you but sticking to weights we personally find challenging for the rep ranges we are doing and working on progressive overload in relation to that weight range is the best way to progress.

Have you tried eating less food?

Have you seen the latest suggestions from various Government Ministers for how people could survive the current cost of living crisis that people across the UK have been facing.

People could work more hours perhaps (because if you already work two jobs or 40 hour plus a week you have lots of extra hours to spare).

Maybe you could look for a better paid job (because we all normally try to work in the lowest possible job we can find of course).

Perhaps people could swap to supermarket’s basic brands to reduce the cost of their weekly shop (because no person on a budget has ever thought of doing that already).

The most perplexing was Bois’s flex that he was responsible for free bus travel for pensioners (because riding the bus all day means you don’t need to switch the heating on at home).

My point here isn’t that the current Government is so out of touch it’s not even funny, it’s that sometimes, even though advice may be factually correct it’s not actually very helpful to the average person. The average person who is stretched financially now is very likely to already be working as many hours at the highest pay rate as they can and probably shopping in the most economical way possible. It’s not these efforts that are the issue it’s that costs are rising higher that wages and people are feeling the squeeze on their money after bills.

The same can be said for some diet advice out there.

Think about your average magazine headline or ‘lose weight without trying’ fitness post on Instagram.

Swap sugar out for sweetener in your coffee, take the stairs instead of lift each day, increase your daily step count by 20%. Little changes like that can make a difference and help you lose weight almost without noticing, but only if you don’t already do them.

If you currently have 3 sugars in your tea that small change is going to reduce your daily calories, so is swapping from a milky coffee to a black coffee. If you don’t do much exercise upping your NEAT will help you see results. What about those people though, that already drink black coffee sans sugar, train 3-5 time a week and walk around 20,000 steps a day. It has to be acknowledged that sometimes there aren’t little easy wins out there for everyone and sometimes the changes needed to help someone see some results are a bit more complicated than anything the Tories have thus far managed to come up with for our finances.

That’s not to say that once you reach a certain point you can’t get further results of course, just that the idea of making little cut backs here and there in calories or adding in a little bit of extra exercise isn’t going to be appropriate for everyone. If you are already training every day and your NEAT is high trying to do more is possibly going to be detrimental in terms of overtraining, stress and impacting your life. If you are already in a calorie deficit very day reducing your calorie intake further is likely to be both impractical and misery inducing. At this point you need to speak with a PT or nutritionist and get an action plan that’s specific to you.

There’s lots of generic advice out there that assumes a starting point of nothing, and if you are just starting out it can be helpful, but you need to remember that not every tip and piece of advice will be beneficial or right for you. Have you tried eating less food is not going to be the advice every person looking to lose weight needs.