Taking a Break

I’m currently 5 days into a week away. This is my first beach holiday since 2015 and has been exactly what I needed. I normally opt for city breaks over the beach (largely due to my lack of tanning ability!) but these can often leave you coming back more tired than refreshed. So this week was long overdue and has been a chance to completely relax, enjoy some sun, read, eat and drink at leisure.

Taking time for yourself doesn’t have to be reserved for holidays or spa breaks though there’s plenty of ways you can make time for you everyday and plenty of benefits for doing so. Just taking out 30 minutes a day to spend some time on yourself away from people and work makes all the difference to your mental health, you could:

  • Go for a walk on your lunch break
  • Read a book or watch your favourite film
  • Take a long bath
  • Go for a coffee
  • Sit and read the papers in peace
  • Exercise
  • Practice Yoga
  • Just sit and do nothing
  • Paint your nails or put on a face mask

Doing this can have numerous benefits;

  • Greater well being – doing something for you will make you feel happier, less stressed and more positive towards yourself
  • Improve work life balance – taking time away from work can reduce potential for burnout and make you happier within your work
  • Allow for self reflection – spending time alone can allow you time to reflect on your own thoughts and emotions
  • Improve concentration – taking a break allows you to come back more focused than you were before
  • Improve productivity – taking time out can actually mean you get more done after due to feeling rested, more focused and positive
  • Reduce stress and unwind – taking time out will almost always make you feel better, put things in perspective and leave you feeling more relaxed.

With that I’m off to enjoy the last couple of days of my holiday, and there will be less of a break between now and the next one this time!

How to Eat Well Whilst on Holiday

There are countless ways to cut calories during a holiday: Drink spirits instead sugary cocktails, balance out heavy foods with salads and vegetables, have a soft drink in between each alcoholic drink, avoid deserts, skip breakfast.

Just so you know – I’m on holiday and I’m not doing any of those things.

Food isn’t something you should have to think about all the time, and when you’ve saved for a well deserved holiday restriction on your diet shouldn’t be part of it.

If you don’t want to totally reverse your recent results that’s ok – you don’t have to go crazy and eat everything in sight, but equally you don’t need to feel guilty about enjoying all the amazing food and drink available whilst you are away.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post Marathon Blues

Today’s blog topic is a request (possibly my first ever topic request!) and is focused on the Post Marathon Blues.

This doesn’t just need to apply to marathons, it could equally apply to people who have trained for any big sporting even (half marathon, 10k, big swim or cycle, triathlon, a show, a tournament- anything where all your focus for several months has been working towards being in your peak physical form and at the top of your game for one specific event).

How we feel after an event is not something we tend to focus on.  We put lots of thought into preparing for things and on the day itself and even on the immediate recovery in the hours or days after a physical event.

But many people report feeling a bit down in the weeks after a marathon or other big event.  Words like lost, aimless, flat, down, void, lacking in motivation come up in conversations.  It’s a lot like that feeling you get when you come back from a holiday and the realities of normal life hit you and now because the holiday has been and gone you don’t have anything to look forward to.

This is due to both physical and psychological reasons.

Physically the day itself will probably have left you feeling extremely tired, a cumulative effect of weeks of training hard and the extra effort of the day itself and you may have picked up blisters, bruised toenails and niggles which don’t help make you feel great about yourself.  Your endorphins will have been high during the event and as you settle back into normality this can have an effect of how you feel as you struggle to replicate the high you felt in that moment again.

Mentally, you no longer have the event to focus on and that can leave you feeling like life has no meaning or focus after months of everything you do revolving around training (can’t go out Saturday have a long run on Sunday morning, can’t eat that as I’m in training and so on).  It can make it harder to you to motivate yourself to eat well or train as you no longer have that reason for doing so.  Many of us thrive on routine and having something meaningful to us to work towards and once you reach your goal where do you go from there?

Thankfully, these feelings tend to only last a few weeks and people normally spring back to their normal self but there are things you can do to help yourself feel better in this situation and feel the positivity you probably expected to feel after your big achievement.

Celebrate

Plan to do something nice to celebrate your achievement – a massage, spa break, celebration meal.  Take time to congratulate yourself for what you achieved so it doesn’t feel insignificant now.

Book something nice

Similar to above, you could consider booking a weekend break or holiday- something to focus on that is nice and not exercise.  This is bound to improve your mood

Reflect

Think about what you achieved, all the positives and even what you would have done differently in hindsight.  Think objectively about whether it’s something you would like to repeat or if once was enough.  That way if you choose to train for the same event in the future you know what pitfalls to avoid and if not you know you can confidently say once was enough.  Sometimes reflecting on your feelings can give you more ownership on how you feel and help you both make decisions and manage your emotional responses better.

Recover Properly

Get a sports massage, continue to eat nourishing food (and enough of it) to help the body recover, stretch, get some good quality sleep and take some time to just sit and chill.  Any sporting event which take a toll on your body requires some proper mindful recovery in the days after to help you feel better physically which in turn will help you feel better mentally.

Do some low impact exercise

Don’t feel like you need to be back training he day after.  A week or two off could be exactly what your body needs.  If you feel the urge to exercise though try and stick to low impact options which place less strain on your CNS.  You may want to try some yoga or similar during this time.

Don’t run for a couple of weeks

Similar to above, a couple of weeks not doing the exercise you have just trained hard for can be beneficial, both in allow you to physically recover but also give you that little bit of excitement when you do go back out for that first run after a couple of weeks.

Find a new challenge

After a couple of weeks when your rested and refreshed this could be the time to think about what comes next.  Another run of the same distance, a step up to the next distance (Ultra anyone), maybe looking at trying something new instead.  Setting your next goal will give you a renewed sense of focus.

Above all, don’t stress about feeling a bit blue after a big event.  It’s human nature and being sensible and kind to yourself is the key to letting it subside.

Equally, if you suffer from depression anyway, don’t let the idea of post event blues put you off training for an event.  Research has shown that having something to aim for and the training and self care associated with that training can be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms of depression and as long as you are mindful that you might feel a bit down immediately after the event and have your coping strategies in place this should have a generally positive impact on your mental health.

What’s the hardest thing in the land of fitness?

What’s the hardest thing in the land of fitness?

Working out how to train?

Working out what to eat?

I don’t think so.

For me it’s accepting that you will never be perfect.

You decide to start something – training for an event, looking to drop a dress size, whatever it may be.  You have your plan in place and you’re committed to doing it.  Day one does well, so does day two, then day three something comes up and you can’t eat what you planned or miss a training session and suddenly it all feels like it’s unravelling.  Fast forward a week later and you’ve completely dropped your plan and feel like you need to start again.

It’s so easy to fall into this trap.

It’s why so many people don’t reach the goals they set themselves.

A lot of us are very bad at accepting that one slip up doesn’t really matter.

I’ll admit this is something I’ve always been bad for.  I’d start the week ready to have a totally perfect week and get to Friday upset with myself that it hadn’t happened.

Then I learnt (OK I had drummed into me) that PERFECT DOES NOT EXIST.

BUT.

A couple of not perfect things in an otherwise positive week won’t derail my progress.

Now, I get if you are on show prep or similar and a few days out then a slip up could make a massive difference.  But if you want to feel good on the beach in a couple of month times and go over your calorie goal one day in a week it really isn’t going to matter that much.

As people we tend to focus on the negative over the positive.  So there could be 9 great things about our week and one bad thing and you can almost bet your life we will spend more time thinking about that one negative.

So how do you get the results you want?

You accept that things don’t have to always go to plan for progress to happen.  If in a week you miss one training session but have two really good ones, those two good ones haven’t been cancelled out by missing the third.  If you’ve eaten everything you planned most days but on Tuesday had a cake, that cake hasn’t cancelled out all the nutritious stuff you’ve also fed your body.  If the last month felt really really positive but this week you’ve felt a bit off that doesn’t cancel out last month.

In the same way people say one healthy meal won’t make you slimmer or one exercise session won’t make you fit.  Well nor will the cake make you fat or missing that gym session and going to the pub mean you’re back to square one.

Find your goal. Make your plan. Then stick to it?

Nope.

How about:

Find your goal. Make your plan. Do it as best you can and when life gets in the way don’t start again just keep going and do what you can.

Not as catchy so probably won’t catch on but might mean you’re a little more likely to hit those aims.

Fitness Professionals – A Reaction to the Last 24 Hours in my World

If you aren’t a Les Mills instructor you will not be aware of the changes made to the way payments are taken for the materials and education that allow you to teach Les Mills programmes.  To bring you up to speed quickly, in a nutshell people aren’t happy about having the autonomy to pay for what they want when they want taken away from them.  People who teach multiple programmes are not happy that they are now paying more than they used to.  The details of this change affect me but are not really what I want to write about today.

When these sort issues arise in general people take to Facebook to debate them.  I say debate but quite often there is little real debate.  I will normally have an opinion, and I’m happy to express it.  It may be different to the opinion of others, even those I’m close to – I will still express it.  However I also am happy to consider different views, and sometimes my initial view will change based on what other people have expressed as I consider things from angles that I hadn’t originally considered (this is debate).  Sometimes it feels like what actually happens is everyone expresses their view and simply insists anyone who disagrees with them is wrong.  When both the customer and provider do this it creates a situation that becomes harder and harder to resolve.  I sometimes think that people think that listening and acknowledging the validity in an opposing view weakens their own position so they instead aggressively defend their standpoint generating a greater negative response from people (whereas I have also seen some brilliant examples of the opposite over the last 24 hours where listening to people’s concerns has generated much more positive reactions from people who are upset – none of this is black and white).  When we are passionate about something and think it is a good thing we can sometimes be blindsided to the negatives that others may see.  I also believe, by the way, that there is a view that a debate such as the ones over the last 24 hours is always a negative thing unless everyone is pro the change being discussed.  Actually if we viewed not agreeing with each other in a less negative way debates can be extremely healthy, as can being allowed to express your standpoint.  Within my close circle I’ll frequently discuss opposing opinions on topics and we manage to do so without falling out and labeling each other as  negative.

Ultimately this has got me thinking about how we work together as fitness professionals.  It’s a weird situation.  Other fitness professionals are our colleagues in some senses but not in other senses.  I have an office job by day and the people I work with are colleagues, it’s very clear cut – we all work for the same company and have to follow the same rules etc.  If something changes it tends to affect most people in a similar way.  Fitness professionals are self employed / contractors / their own businesses (how we define ourselves if a personal choice).  We may work at the same gyms but we all negotiate our own terms, potentially compete for classes, have different degrees of reliance on different fitness roles (main source of income could be PT, classes, other jobs entirely) so how we view changes will be very different for everyone.  It makes an already quite competitive market feel more competitive.

It seems an odd idea expecting people who in some ways compete to also work together at the same time.  For me it’s become the most positive way to progress your fitness career however.

I work in various ways with a number of different fitness professionals, some in my local eco system (where there is more argument you are competing for the same customers), others in different parts of the country all together.  I also talk regularly with instructors from all over the UK, who I sometimes have different opinions to but am able to discuss them without falling out!  This has made the fitness world so much nicer for me.  Some things are still frustrating of course, but there is a support network, places where you can ask questions or vent about annoyances without being attacked by people who do not agree.  I’ve found new work opportunities through networking and looking at how I can work with people rather than compete against them.  I’ve learnt things because I’ve opened myself up to different people and they’ve helped me with things they are good at rather than guarding their knowledge and I’ve tried to do the same.

A few years ago there was a movement for a fitness union to fight stagnant pay, which struggled because essentially, as was pointed out at the time, if you don’t teach for the current rate there will always be someone else who will – basically the same argument that as we are all self employed we cannot work together at the same time.  This isn’t true.  Of course any partnerships need to be beneficial to both parties (and I mean that as individuals and our partnerships with providers such as Les Mill and gyms) and we need to be aware of what we offer against what we take (again both sides too- including gyms and providers).  In a busy market however, with every changing trends, I think we need to reconsider how we work with other fitness professionals, possibly gyms and providers also need to consider how they work with non staff member fitness professionals also.

For me personally, I’m happy where I am currently at.  My professional connections within the fitness sector are growing stronger and are all positive relationships where I don’t feel I am competing and I feel I can make a difference.  The changes in fees, well it’s not ideal as it makes keeping three programmes I don’t physically have classes in financially no longer viable – but there you go, a potentially difficult head over heart choice made for me so good in a way!  Perhaps Les Mills will listen to the feedback and adapt the new system to assist those with multiple programmes, if they don’t then instructors have the same choice as me and Les Mills can equally make the choice on how to work with those instructors.  What I do know is knee jerk reactions are normal and to be expected and debates are hard not to be drawn into but a) debates don’t need to be seen as a bad thing and b) we will get more done if we try and hep each other.

 

Why I Love Group Exercise

I’m a fan of Group Exercise, it was how I first ‘got into’ the gym and I now teach 8+ classes myself a week.  I think Group Exercise actually works really well, and I don’t just mean classes – team sports, running clubs – I believe all the ways that people can train with others can have a beneficial effect on people.

  1. It can help you get started – Going into the gym alone at first can be daunting when you have no idea where to start.  A class or a running programme like Couch to 5k provides structure and allows you to get moving in a way you can be confident is safe and effective.
  2. It keeps you committed –  Signing up to a class or joining a team or club where there are set days and times to attend means you are less likely to decide you’d rather go home and veg in front of the TV at the end of a long day.
  3. It can make you work harder – A team sport encourages you to perform you best for your team mates, running as part of a club can encourage you to keep to a set pace, the music, instructor and people around you in a class can make you try as hard as you can for the whole length of the class.  For many there is something about a group that makes you try harder than when you are left to your own devices in the gym.
  4. You have a ready made exercise support network – Especially relevant when you are starting to create new habits.  Your family and friends might not get your commitment to picking a spin class over a Netflix binge at first, the other people in that class will, making all the difference in you not feeling like some kind of freak!  And if you ever aren’t sure about something there’s a whole group of people who might be able to help, in particular, you will also have an instructor or coach who has the knowledge to help you improve at whatever you have chosen to do.
  5. It’s social – You will make friends at a club or in a class.  You get to meet people from different backgrounds and get to know people outside of your normal work / social circle.  This in itself will make sticking to your exercise plans easier.
  6. It can increase your confidence – The group environment and having an instructor or coach to hand can give you the confidence to try new tings, maybe adding a new type of class to your week or running a longer distance.  All the things above can help create an environment where your confidence can grow.

I do like training in the gym by myself too but for pure enjoyment I would always pick a group exercise class as my training of choice that day.

Do you prefer to train alone or as part of a group?