What type of PT do you need?

If you follow a lot of fitness people on social media (and to be honest if you read this blog you probably do unless your one of my friends and I made you follow it!) you’ll notice they fall broadly into a couple of camps.

Camp one – people saying drink this, do this, take this and you’ll get results like me. These are the ones doing ‘what I eat in a day’ ‘How I train’ ‘I can’t live without this’ sort of posts

Camp two- people calling those in camp one out and saying ‘don’t fall into the trap of believing the hype, editing, filtering that these PTs post’ and ‘there are no quick fixes or magic formulas’.

I guess I fall into camp two as do most of the PTs I know, but I don’t want to over simplify things, because it’s not always a simple as that’s ridiculous don’t follow that advice.

So for instance, a PT or coaching programe that states that Intermittent Fasting is THE solution to weight loss, and if you sign up and follow our diet and training plan you’ll be 2 stone lighter in three months. The magic ingredient here is you are only going to eat between 11 am and 7 pm so you won’t be having breakfast, we’ll also make some small ‘tweaks’ to what you eat right now. I’d say this a camp one type PT – one method, one size fits all and will get you results. Now let’s be fair. If 10 people all signed up, all followed it completely to the letter they’d probably all lose weight, and to be fair they’d also do so quite safely. Why would that be the case though? Well because they all cut out breakfast, made a few small adjustments to lunch, dinner and snacks and so reduced the amount of calories they consumed. The magic ingredient here was an eating window which meant they ate less each day, a rule that stopped them eating more because they followed it. They could have achieved the same results eating at whatever time they wanted but just counting calories. Equally if they had stuck to the window but not cut out breakfast or made any tweaks they wouldn’t have lost weight, because the eating window wasn’t the magic ingredient their energy balance was. The camp one PT isn’t bad or dangerous here and they may well be getting their clients results, they just aren’t educating them, so if Intermittent Fasting doesn’t actually suit that person and they can’t sustain it long term they are more likely to end up back where they started. This is the same argument I’d make about Slimming Clubs.

Much the same can be said about other ‘tips and tricks’ people post to ‘help people get results’.

‘I drink hot water and lemon every morning upon rising and have abs because it curbs hunger and helps melt away fat as well as detoxing your body.’ – Now having water upon rising will help hydrate you after several hours asleep, it can help wake you up, adds a bit of natural flavour to the water and it has been said water and lemon can aid digestion. I like to start my day with this, but not because I think it will make me thinner, it’s a part of my morning routine that helps me start the day feeling relaxed an alert and means I’ve had at least a little water before I start on the coffee. The PT claiming doing this will help you get abs is bullshitting you and neglecting to tell yo about the very low calorie diet, genetics and training that also contribute to those abs. Again it isn’t a lie, I’m sure they incorporate this as part of their routine but it isn’t the truth either is it.

‘Here’s what I eat in a day’. Great. I mean nothing wrong with giving people food ideas, I might see that salad and think oooh that looks tasty I might try and make that. But what you eat in a day, no matter how great you look, does not help me. Are you the same height and weight as me, with the same activity levels? Nope? Then what you eat isn’t going to be appropriate to me because I need to eat differing amounts. It doesn’t harm me to see what you eat, but it doesn’t help me reach my goal. It could make me feel bad though!

You’d recommend these Supplements would you? Great, they could benefit you, I mean I certainly do take supplements myself and there are some supplements that selections of the population could generally benefit from. You know what the word supplement means though right? Extra. So yes you could buy that supplement and you might feel some benefits. he supplement will not get you the results though if the rest of your diet isn’t working for you.

My point here is, none of these posts or types of actions you see from some PTs are wrong or bad for you or from a bad place but they fail to acknowledge the overall function of a positive diet for weight loss or any other goal.

One method of eating isn’t intrinsically better than all others, one supplement or habit won’t change your life in isolation. What Bob down the road or Sam on the internet did won’t automatically work for you in the same way it did for them. When you see dramatic testimonials from people remember that, yes they probably did do that plan, but they also probably found themselves in the right mindset with the determination to work really hard to get results at that point. In other words had they joined a different plan at that time they may well have also got the same results, because that was the time they were ready to commit to making a change. That’s not knocking any coaches. The coaching and support and tools need to be there for people to use and get the results, I’m just saying the chances are the people who went from the love handles before pic to the six pack after pic probably weren’t reluctantly dragged onto the program, did the bare minimum and still saw those results, they were probably the ones who’d decided it was time to make a commitment to see change and went all in.

Camp one PTs always appeal to people because they make things look simple, make one small change and that’s it and I’ll get you the body you want. What if I told you you could eat whatever you want but take this shake as well and you’ll be three sizes smaller by Christmas. I mean if it were true we’d all be up for that. Camp two PTs are a bit duller, honesty is much less of a big seller and the idea that actually you will need to create a few new habits, lose a few old ones, change your eating habits and exercise is just not as appealing as drinking a glass of lemon and hot water first thing each day.

Generally though, whatever a camp one PT says on their posts online if you sign up to their program you’ll probably find a fair few hidden changes you need to make that a camp two PT will just upfront honestly tell you to make, in fact the type of changes they’ll probably tell you to make in free content online. The value from a camp two type PT comes from the support to make those changes, the education to help you understand those changes and the overall understanding that there is no one size fits all solution and whilst Intermittent fasting might work really well for Gary it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Susan so she’s going to be using MyFitnessPal whereas Jane isn’t looking to lose weight at all so she’s not even looking at calories or eating windows but we are looking at how much fruit and veg she eats in a day.

That’s where the two camps differ really in my opinion. A good PT should be able to help YOU. If they promote one type of way of training, eating or living they are helping one type of person, probably someone like them and if you aren’t like them will they be able to help you reach your potential? The type of PT that can listen to you, your goals and your needs and work out what will work best for you and help you set realistic goals and timeframes is much more likely to help you be successful and enjoy the process.

Weekends and Weight Loss

Happy Friday. As we’re heading into the weekend you’ll no doubt see a lot of posts on Instagram about how a weekend binge will ruin any progress with your diet.

Now at face value this is true. Let’s say you need to eat 2,000 calories a day to be in a 20% calorie deficit and you have stuck to this every day so far this week. Then tomorrow you go out for brunch, then have a takeaway and a few (well maybe more than a few) drinks, including some hefty on the calorie cocktails and eat 4,000 calories and then Sunday feeling a bit worse for wear you have a Fry Up and lots of stodge to soak it up and manage to consume another let’s say 3,500 calories. All those Instagram posts are correct. You’ve eaten 3,500 calories more than your goal. Your deficit goal for the week was 3,500 calories (20% of 2,500 leaves you eating 2,000 calories a day). You’ve just eaten that deficit over the weekend, so yes instead of losing weight that week you’re likely to maintain your current status quo. Not ideal if you are wanting to lose weight.

Yes, to combat this you could just not eat and drink like an utter dick all weekend. You manage to eat homecooked meals that contain the odd vegetable Monday- Friday and not five Espresso Martinis in two hours and you an stick to a nice bowl of yoghurt and fruit for breakfast instead of a stack of pancakes. You could, theoretically do this Saturday and Sunday too right. I mean if you really want results it will be worth it right? And you an decide this works for you. Maybe routine and having the same sorts of food food every day of the week and not eating more one day and less the next suits you, in which case crack on.

But let’s be honest, for those of us who work Monday to Friday it’s easier to reign in the urge to eat like a five year old let loose in a sweet shop because for large amounts of the time we are busy and so sticking to ‘better choices’ is naturally easier. The weekend is when we want to see friends and family, socialise, eat, drink and live. We don’t want to restrict ourselves and so that’s why it’s always ‘do the weekends ruin our diet’ articles you see as opposed to ‘are hump day Wednesdays making you fat’. If we are honest and realistic is just telling people to eat better on the weekend going to stop them eating more? Is suggesting that they substitute rice from broccoli rice so they can feel like they’re joining in or putting their burger between two slices of lettuce instead of a bun going to help (I have such an issue with foods masquerading as other foods but that’s by the by)?

But your body doesn’t start at zero every day. You know how people say one bad day of food won’t make you fat or one salad won’t make you lose 6 stone, our body responds to what we do over a period of time. So your 2,000 calories doesn’t have to reset every morning. So say you actually look at it as 2,000 x 7 = 14,000 calories a week. You naturally easily eat less Monday- Friday so say you eat 1,700 calories each day, except for Friday when you had a couple of biscuits at work and had 1,800. You’ve had 8,600 calories, that leaves you 5,400 for the next two days. Now that still isn’t a fuck it I can go crazy here amount of calories. But that’s say a relaxed 3,000 on Saturday for a big Saturday meal (with maybe some swaps on the booze swapping cocktails for Prosecco to lower the calories- a swap i can get behind!) and 2,400 on Sunday for a decent amount of stodge t clear up the hangover.

That’s a solution that is both not letting your weekend ruin your diet but also not letting your diet ruin your weekend. It isn’t saying sod it and throwing calories counting out the window but it is allowing your diet to fit around your lifestyle. So yes, a crazy cheat weekend will ruin your dieting progress but a plan that allows you to fit those weekends into it can certainly exist.

A Fitness Blog – Where’s the Exercise Posts?

This is a fitness blog and I’m a PT and group exercise instructor so my main job is very much training focused / related. Yet this blog and a vast majority of the online coaching I do is very much nutrition and mindset based.

Here’s why.

You know when you think about getting fit you think the actual exercises you do, how many reps, training splits, the amount of weight lifted, the ratio or cardio to strength training – all that jazz – is going to be the most important part of getting results? Well, it’s not that it isn’t important it’s just not as important as you think it is.

If you are already very fit and active and you want to improve in one specific area or you have a very specific goal to train for then the details of your training will matter much more, if you want to work on doing a pull up, doing legs every day won’t help much.

If you’re starting to get more active, want to drop weight, improve your health, feel better in yourself, then the actual specifics of what you do are going to be more based what you enjoy and what you feel comfortable doing right now. In my mind, what’s the point of trying to force people to do an ‘ideal’ training plan if they hate it, are too nervous to go into that area of the gym yet, haven’t quite got to grips with the movement patterns? Would some modified moves and a more simplified program that helps them gain confidence be a better starting point? of course. If someone prefers classes or using resistance machines over free weights and incorporating those things mean they train then why wouldn’t we incorporate them?

If you’re meant to do a legs session, a push session and a pull session a week and one day you really cannot face doing legs but you’d be up for a second push session then, you know what, the world won’t end and you won’t end up some weird uneven specimen for it.

Basically training has so many benefits and it’s an important element of our fitness and health but it doesn’t need to be over thought or cause dramatic stress. Whilst I think it’s useful to encourage people to do it via blogs, detail adds only so much value.

Secondly with training most people is simple. If it’s a live PT you do what the PT says (with various levels of moaning), away from sessions when given a training plan (or if it’s online training) people tend to follow the plan as given. You say do squats, they’ll squat.

Nutrition advice, not so much. For the majority of us, food is so much more emotive. Whilst training certainly acts as an anchor and stress reliever for many it doesn’t tend to have the same emotional pull as food does. So when you say to someone here’s a training plan it’s generally not questioned. Talking about calorie deficits, not needing to cut out food groups, the importance of actually eating carbs, why it’s ok to have chocolate, why ‘clean foods’ don’t really exist. These are concepts so intricately engrained into our culture that push back is much more likely with the nutrition side of things.

Same with mindset, even if someone accepts what you say about food or say the importance of resting when injured rather than pushing through, it’s much harder to act on it and go against ingrained instincts.

So it’s not that training is easy to do or not important, it’s that once you get started doing something – anything – it’s often the most straightforward unemotive part of health and fitness. You soon start to see benefits beyond the physical and form habits. It’s that diet and motivation and mindset around health is a much more challenging area for the majority of people, whether that be people new to fitness or very experience people (PTs have to convince people not to train some days a lot more than you might think).

For this reason the topics I choose to write about are often diet and mindset based because they are the areas where I think people often need reminders and support and clear information to help make informed decision with regards to their fitness. When I do write about training I try to keep it to posts that will be useful to people, what to expect from classes, at the gym, what to pack in a gym bag and so on – practical things that might help someone train, because if they’re already training and don’t want to pay for a PT or coach they’re probably happy enough with what they’re doing and I’m not sure how useful a bunch of generic training sessions would be.

Run Forest Run

I used to run a lot, I’ve only done one marathon but I’ve done a lot of half marathons and 10Ks in recent years.  Now I was never massively fast (I’d definitely describe myself as the tortoise rather than the hare) but I could complete 5km within 25 minutes, 10km within an hour and so on so was comfortable signing up for runs and knowing I’d get around in one piece.

During the initial Lockdown when gyms were closed I ran most days and so was in a pretty good place running wise.  Repeated Lockdowns, back and forth changes, injuries and personal issues just made me stop running for a while.  Added to not being able to train at all, weight gain and general not feeling 100% my running ability is not where it was.  I hadn’t run as much as 5km unbroken for a long time and the addition of more than 10kg of bodyweight in a short period of time made running for ten minutes plus really hard work.

I’ve signed up for a half marathon in May so now is the time that I need to get myself back to a point where it’s doable to run 13.1 miles.  I’ve started running short periods (like 15/20 minutes) unbroken and last weekend ran 5km without walking.  It took me about 38 minutes, but this weekend I got that down to 36 minutes.  I’ve been meaning to try Park Run to help keep up a routine of running but my times have been putting me off.  Realistically I know they’ll be other people running at my pace but my brain keeps telling me I’ll be last and so I keep chickening out.

The  thing is if I was talking to a client I’d be reassuring them that they can do it, they won’t find themselves last and even if they did it wouldn’t matter and I’d mean it, but we’re always harsher towards ourselves aren’t we.

So this weekend I’m going to make myself go and give Park Run a go with the aim of doing it in less than 36 minutes.  At no point am I under any illusion that this half marathon is going to be easy but I’m determined to get myself to the point where I can do it and run the whole thing.  Zero ego, I might be slow and the next month or so will not be pretty but I know I’ll feel good if I get myself to this point.

Patience

One of the hardest things about starting out on a new goal is not seeing immediate results.

Due to a mixture of lockdowns, personal events, medication and injuries I’ve put on a lot of weight in the last two years, more than that my body has changed shape with it.  You know that point when you look at old photos you took as ‘before’ photos and you think wow I’d be happy with that now?  That.

But I’ve made positive changes recently, I’m training and eating better.  The thing is that at the moment it’s not showing much difference when I look in the mirror.  The truth is I know I need to be consistent for a few more weeks before it will.  It’s hard to be consistent though, when you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.  It’s that age old catch 22, where if I saw changes I’d feel more motivated to keep it up but I won’t until I have kept it up for a while. 

I guess this is why some coaches and plans start people off with a bit of a crash diet.  That way you see a quick loss and feel motivated to continue.  Starting steady means visible results take a bit longer and that means keeping faith for a while.  If you can however it will invariably bring much better and more sustainable results.

Remember that with fitness and nutrition, genuine results are not immediate.  If you put weight on over the weekend, that’s not true weight, it’s a fluctuation.  In the same way if you want to lose weight it’s not going to happen overnight or with one super good week.  Start thinking longer term and be patient.   

What the PT Ordered

Like most PTs I’ve done a few gym inductions this week, set people up with a plans to get started and so on. Those plans have varied depending on people’s goals, experience and health / injuries. Everything I programmed has it’s purpose and reason. There could be other ways they could train of course, but what I have suggested will help them gain confidence in the gym, get comfortable with movement patterns and key lifts (with modified moves to start with for some). I could have given them more flashy sexy looking programmes but that where I haven’t it’s because I think that would have been confusing, overwhelming and just not what they need at this particular time. I’m not a PT to show people how much I know, I’m there to help others learn to enjoy moving.

Some of these clients however have had people they know say to them ‘oh you need to lift more / go deeper / use a bar or weight.’ As well meaning as that will have been all it’s done is knock their confidence and confuse them when what they were doing was already effectively getting them started on a fitness journey. Keeping things simple isn’t always a bad thing and it might not be for you but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for someone else. There’s so many was to train, the best way for one individual isn’t the only way.

Similarly, whilst someone trying to (with good intention) correct the form of someone who is just learning a movement pattern and is moving perfectly safely but just not perfectly isn’t always helpful. Remember when you first started lifting and were trying to remember multiple things? You won’t have had great technique let’s face it. Sometime moving safely and getting used to that pattern then working on improving technique week by week, point by point is going to be more confidence boosting and motivating than feeling rubbish because they can’t get everything right straight away.

My adice.

If you want to get started in the gym and are new, get a plan (most gyms will do one when you sign up as part of your membership) and if your family of friends say ‘oh no don’t do that do this’ remember the gym instructor is trained to plan something specific to you, and whilst your mate might be a regular gym goer it doesn’t mean they have the skill set to safely help you get the most out of getting started. Accept their support and encouragement but know that there is more than one way to skin a cat so doing something differently to others doesn’t make it wrong.

If you have a friend or relative starting at the gym this year and they are working with a PT, encourage them and support them and letting the PT provide the training advice is the best way you can support them.

Lean into Discomfort

If you’ve made some changes in the new year now is when it’s about to get tough.

Typically the first couple of days into something new aren’t too bad, any discomfort is balanced out by some optimism for the new. After that shine starts to wear off but it’s not yet a habit and no results can yet be seen, that is when it starts to get hard.

Because new breeds motivation but doesn’t last.

Results breed motivation but you need to do the habit for a while to see them.

Habits don’t require motivation but you’ve got to purposefully do the thing consistently first to create the habit.

So here is where it might feel difficult. Here is where you have to lean into a bit of discomfort and do things when you don’t want to, or say no to things when you want to say yes, or work when you would rather rest.

The thing is if nothing changes then nothing changes. So if every time you try and make a change you give up as soon as it gets hard noting will change. So if you do really want to make a change in 2022 and it starts to feel tough in the next few days / weeks, know it will get easier if you keep going but you have to lean into discomfort for a little while.

New Year New You

How’s your new year going?

It’s always really tempting to start your new year changes as of 1st, because it feels like a clear slate.

In reality though, chances are you haven’t yet started and that’s ok.  Being real, 1st is generally still Christmas for a lot of us and this week will be the reality of going back into work and emails and to do lists and urgent jobs, which after a week or so sitting on the sofa is likely to feel knackering.

Remember it’s ok to start a new habit, hobby, training plan, calorie counting, whatever your new goal may be at any point in the year.

It doesn’t have to be 1st January, it doesn’t even need to be a Monday.

Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t started yet.  Don’t beat yourself up if you started and have slipped up.  In fact this year don’t beat yourself up at all, if something doesn’t go to plan just brush yourself down and get back on it.

Fitness Business Tips

Bit of a different blog today – I send out emails occasionally regarding running a fitness business – here’s today’s email about planning for the next 12 months and some things to think about …

I think for plenty of people in fitness, 2020 and 2021 have been a bit all over the place business wise.  Gym closures and changes to capacity, people’s training habits and general uncertainty have led to changes for almost all of us, some dramatic, some less so, some positive, some maybe not.

The new year is a great time to look forward with your business though, make changes, fine tune things, start new projects.

So here’s my practical tips for 2022 which I hope might help some of you as you hopefully take some time to review your plans for the next 12 months:

  • The goal of business is not to make a loss just to not pay tax.  Buying things for your business you need will of course reduce your profit thus your tax bill, but buying things for your business for the specific sake of reducing your tax bill (as many people often seem to do) is a false economy as all you’re doing is recuing your profits by buying things you don’t actually need.
  • Instead look for ways to increase your actual profits so you’re happy with your income after paying tax.  This of course is done by selling more of your product but you can also do this by reducing outgoings smartly.  For instance,  are you a group ex instructor or PT as a second job?  See if you can volunteer to be a first aider for your workplace meaning you don’t have to pay for your own First Aid training.
  • In terms of increasing your business do you have lead generators set up?  If not this is the year to sort that.  Do you have a mailing list to keep in touch with people (if they leave your gym, can’t come to class and so on)?  Do you advertise on Instagram but only to your current contacts without thinking about reaching out to your potential customers via paid or unpaid options?  Have you established enough of a brand that potential customers feel you are the fitness professional they want to trust?  Do you need advice on how to do these things?  If you do maybe this is the year to look into this, because being a great coach is only part of running a self employed business.
  • On that point though, are you still being a great coach or instructor?   Especially over the last couple of years as client’s needs and situations have changed it’s important to check that we are still offering the best service for clients.  Lead generating is important but ultimately retaining clients and getting referrals is the best way to make a decent profit, so now is a great time to check that you’re still offering what your current clients need.  Refine your products, check they are clear in what they offer and that you are delivering it.  If your clients are getting what they are paying for they will a) stay b) recommend you.
  • Develop a plan for growth.  Do you want to scale your business in the next few years?  Use 2022 to start planning how.  In the meantime though coach your clients with the model you currently have with 100% commitment.  Ambition is important but so is staying focussed on the present at the same time because we can’t build on our current foundations of clients if we provide a poor service whilst developing bigger plans in the background.
  • If you’re working and developing a business in the background accept you’re going to have to be tired for a while and put in a lot of hours to get to where you want to be.  Your ambition may be to reach that perfect work life balance but the hard truth is that whilst you work to get your business to the point where you can work the 4 day week or work anywhere in the world you will actually have less ‘you’ time.  Take care of yourself to avoid burn out but if you start providing a rubbish service because your tired after work you won’t retain clients and struggle to build up the business. For now make sure what you offer to clients is realistic for what you can do with the time you have.  A smaller client base or smaller product offered really well is going to be better for your business than an all ‘singing all dancing but never quite reaches the standards you sell it as’ one.  That way you are less likely to be miserable and more likely to grow.  

I hope these are useful when you sit down and think about your plans for the next 12 months.  I know they are all things I’m considering as I do this personally.

You can sign up to receive more tips in 2022 here… MAILING LIST SIGN UP

Best Christmas Fitness Tip

What’s the best fitness tip I can offer for the Christmas period?  If you were to think about nothing else related to your diet or training across December.  Something hat would make you feel better.

Hydrate!

Staying hydrated all year is important but as December festivities commence we often drink more alcohol, more Christmas Coffees and as a result end up drinking less water.

Yet because of the increase in alcohol very often more water is exactly what we need.

So if your training goes out the window.

If everything you eat is Christmas food related.

Still try and drink plenty of water each day.

It will make you feel better if you have a hangover, be it foor or alcohol related. 

How much water – aim for around your weight in kg x 0.033.

So if you weigh 80kg that’s 80x 0.033 = 2.64 litre.  So between 2.5-3 litres a day.

If you exercise for an hour try and an extra 0.5 litre.  If you’re hungover maybe try and increase a bit too.

1 pint glass of water is about 0.5 litre.

Keep things simple whilst your busy over Christmas and aim for small wins.