After the Happy Ending

People thinking reaching their fitness goal is hard, and don’t get me wrong it is.  If you want to drop 2 or more dress sizes or lose several stone starting from nothing and doing that can be very hard indeed.  It involves making changes to your lifestyle, creating new habits and keeping doing those things week and week.

Getting to your goal feels brilliant. People will notice the change, you will feel brilliant.  But what happens after?

The challenge is that the motivation to keep to healthy habits can be strong when you keep seeing the scales go down or having to buy smaller trousers, but at some point you reach where you want to be and those visible motivators come to a halt.  Of course you still need to do all those things to maintain the goals you’ve reached but now you don’t have the initial goal to motivate you.

In my mind – the initial transformation is tough. What comes after can be tougher (it’s a bit like what happens after the Happy Ever After moment in films).  Now you don’t have the oh wow moments to give you that push.

Mentally, this can be challenging.  If you’ve ever lost a lot of weight you may have had the same (I admit not overly healthy) struggle to not just keep on going.  I got to my aim and just kept on pushing to lose more – it can almost become an addictive feeling.  Of course eventually I realised it was in no way sustainable to keep losing or stay the size I had reached and still eat cake (or well eat really) plus I had discovered weights.  But several years on i do sometimes feel in a bit of a limbo.  I don’t need to lose weight but I’m not as small as I once was and keeping yourself on track and motivated when you’re in that position isn’t always easy, in fact it takes a massive change in mindset and rethinking of your goals.

If you’ve reached your initial goal and now feel at a bit of a loose end, you’re not alone and it’s not unusual.  New goals can be formed but you also need to give yourself a break for not being sure how you feel once you have reached your goal because reaching a goal is really rarely the end of a story.

2019 So Far

Well that went quick.

Two months into 2019 already.

63 days since you set your 2019 resolutions (or better still goals). 302 days until you’ll probably set some more.

How are you getting on? Have you stuck to working towards them, reached some of them already even. Or do they seem further away than ever?

I’ve made progress. Not as quickly as I’d have liked… a failed exam, some frustrating news and a torn tendon in my knee have all set me back in one way or another in terms of where I wanted to be at the end of February, either fitness nor personal goal wise.

Yet I have made progress, I have made positive steps towards my goals, I’m nearer than I was to them two months ago and I’ve taken those set backs, gone back to the drawing board, adjusted my timescales a bit so they won’t be reasons I look back and feel like I failed.

If you don’t feel you started 2019 as you’d have liked, well we’ve only done 1/6 of the year. Plenty of time to turn things around. If it’s started well that’s 302 more opportunities to move closer to your aims. Whichever camp you fall into regularly reviewing your progress will increase your chances of ending 2019 happy with your progress.

I’m writing this on a flight to Edinburgh during some pretty windy weather so it’s a bit of a bumpy ride (excuse any typos it’s currently a bit like a ride at Alton Towers). Tomorrow I’ll spend the day reviewing my progress and working out my next steps with a group of fellow fitness professionals, as we do once a month to keep up focussed and striving for improvement.

I wrote a lot of blogs in December and January about making small changes to get closer to your fitness (or other) goal. Wherever your currently at pick one small thing to do in March and just do it.

P.s. We took off late because of a problem with paperwork at Manchester Airport- the captain just announced he took a shortcut and we made up the time and will still land early. If that’s not a metaphor for what I’ve just talked about I don’t know what is!

Things I’ve Learnt – Re-Blog

I wrote this six months ago- all still remarkably true and relevant.

  1. You aren’t perfect.

I think I’m like most people in that when I start something new I want to be 100% perfect or I feel like I’ve failed and need to start again.  But it’s impossible to never have slip ups on a long term plan.  Getting out of the cycle of deciding a whole week was a write off become of a bad day or bad meal was one of the biggest factors to starting to see results.

  1. Day 30 (or 60 or 100 or 200) is harder than day 1.

People always talk about Day 1- and in some ways Day 1 is tough, it’s the starting something new, the first step in making changes. But by the same token, Day 1 is exciting – it’s the start of something new, when you feel all positive and hopeful.  Sticking to something once the novelty wear off or once results start to slow is the real challenge.

  1. Consistency and steady progress is boring.

Everyone loves a Facebook status or Instagram post where they can show their before and after pictures demonstrating dramatic results.  Realistically though long lasting changes take time and progress isn’t always immediately apparent.

  1. The loudest people in the gym often don’t have a clue.

When I started venturing into the free weight section alone I used to feel so inferior.  All these people claiming space and equipment and confidently broadcasting their strengths and opinions on how things should be done.  I tend to assume that if someone is loud and forward with their opinion they must know their shit- and yeah, some do.  Get comfortable in the environment and take time to look and you will see however that many do not!  Go in, do your own thing with confidence and don’t worry about what anyone else is doing in terms of training or weights.

  1. You need to eat more.

I used to try and keep my calorie intake low – the bigger the calorie deficit the better.  Really, this makes you tired, makes training harder and will eventually stop you getting results.  Stick to a sensible calorie deficit and results will come and will be easier to maintain.

  1. There is no such thing as an ideal diet.

And by ideal I mean those diets you see advertised in magazines- ‘Eat all the cake and still lose weight’ ‘Drink all the Gin and still lose weight’.  We would all like that magic diet which would allow us to eat as much of our favourite foods as often as we like and still loose 10lbs per week.  Essentially, though, if you look at them, all these diets still involve some form of restriction – eat low calorie meals through the day and allow yourself cake everyday in moderation (i.e. a small slice).  You therefore have to accept that you can eat what you want within reason but if you also want to stay within a calorie allowance and hit your Macros you will need to balance that out with sensible options for other meals. I have 4 pretty strict days to allow me the freedom to have 3 pretty relaxed days and stay within my goals.  That means for 4 days a week I sometimes have to say no to things I want in return for that relaxed weekend.

  1. Some days will be shit.

Not all training sessions will be fun, not all will bring PBs, sometimes you will feel like you have made no progress.  If every session was a great session they would just be your normal sessions.  Accept that even a tough session will bring benefits to you and don’t sweat it.

  1. Rest is important

When you start it feels like you will get more results if you keep on going and do as much as you can.  Rest allows your body to recover and prevents over training though and in the long term will improve your results.

  1. You can’t do everything.

It’s tempting to try and master as many things as possible.  Realistically though unless you are naturally talented at something the chances are you will need to devote time to things to master them.  Therefore trying to win a Strongman competition whilst also training for a marathon is probably not going to work.  Pick your thing and focus on that.  I wanted to run a second marathon but with teaching classes around my full time job I had to accept that finding time to fit the training in would not be possible and as I didn’t want to take a break from teaching I put that aim on the back burner.

  1. Weight is a bad indicator of progress.

Muscle weighs more than fat, your body is full of water blah blah blah.  At first you may be able to monitor your weight- eventually you will need to go off clothes size or pictures if you don’t want to feel completely demotivated.

Gym to Office: A Packing Guide

What To Pack:

  • Gym bag – Small gym bags are cute. They are also impractical for the gym to office routine and will end up frustrating you.  Pick something big enough to allow you to carry a winter outfit and boots as its better for it to be a bit roomier in summer than too small in winter.  It’s a plus if they have a section for trainers / wet towels.
  • Towel: Ideally a microfiber one as they take up less room, are light weight and quick drying (can also be used multiple mornings before they need washing). Most common thing to be forgotten – emergency tip: use your gym kit as a makeshift towel when this happens!
  • Shower gel, Shampoo (2 in 1 with conditioner if you can) and deodorant. miniatures are expensive and don’t last long so just take full size ones. Keep them in a toiletries bag though because a leaking shampoo bottle is never fun.
  • Other toiletries – These will depend on what’s a non negotiable in your morning routine. I’m pretty minimal which helps from both a packing and getting ready with speed point of view but you may need moisturiser, hair spray etc.  Remember though, the less you use the less you need to carry.
  • Hair brush. Mine is foldable to save space.
  • Hairdryer / straighteners. Now I don’t dry or straighten my hair as it’s naturally straight so I don’t need to.  You may have a gym that has these in the changing room anyway.  If you ned to use these products and the gym doesn’t have them consider getting travel sized versions to assist with packing.
  • Underwear. Second most common thing to be forgotten.  It’s never fun going commando to work or wearing a sweaty sports bra (ladies) so just try not to!
  • Work clothes. You may or may not have a choice what you wear to work.  If you can choose go for things that don’t easily crease.
  • Make up – Pack what you need for that day and no more. It helps save time getting ready and space.
  • Shoes – Third most common thing to forget. Some pro packers I know keep a spare pair in work for such occasions!

Feel the Fear and Do It Anway – Reblog

On Sunday I travelled down to London to do my Aim 1 (Advanced Instructor Module) in Sh’bam.

Now I can’t dance. I closely resemble a plank of wood attempting to move to the beat (I can hear what I’m supposed to be doing and when, I just struggle to make my body do it when it comes to dancing). So whilst I’ve done the equivalent courses already in Body Pump, Body Combat, CX Worx and GRIT and also my Aim 2 in Body Pump so knew what was coming, I was really really (really really really) nervous about this one.

Added to this, for personal reasons, I wasn’t in the best head space when Sunday arrived and my confidence and concentration was at an all time low.

I won’t go into the ins and outs of what you do on an Aim but in addition to teaching and getting feedback on this particular course you also learn about (and try) various different types of dance, which- in my case- meant spending the whole day trying things I’d never tried before (ballet, contemporary, Jazz…).

I will start by confirming that, as anyone who has ever met me would expect, I did not excel in any of the movements tried. I also managed to completely forget the choreography for my track about 10 seconds in the second time I taught and pretty much fell to pieces.

I spent much of the day feeling really quite uncomfortable.

But I’m glad I did it.

We all like doing things we are good at. We never mind trying things when we are confident they are going to go really well. That’s fine because even if you’re good at something, going on courses such as these and getting feedback can still improve you.

But although I was by far the least able person in the room on this occasion it was probably one of the most valuable Aims I’ve done. Regular readers will know I hate cheesey phrases like ‘step out of your comfort zone’ but on this occasion, this is what I was forced to do. Not just occasionally but for 9 hours straight! I gave so many things a go that just didn’t feel natural or comfortable or easy- and when my attempts went wrong I tried my best to laugh it off.

I will never be a ballerina but learning how to do things that scare you is a skill that can help you in all aspects of your life, not just the gym.

So if you think your rubbish at squats and so fear approaching the squat rack just go and do it. You might still be a bit rubbish afterwards but you’ll be giving yourself a chance to improve at the same time as reducing the mental block surrounding it.

If you want to learn to do a handstand, sod what people think and just start practicing – the worry about what you will look like is normally a lot worse than any kind of response you might actually receive.

I’ll sign off by saying a massive thank you to Laura Turner for putting up with me the whole day and not laughing at my attempts to dance and also all the other Sh’bammers for their encouragement and advice!

10 Things I Wish Someone Else Would Write a Blog About

Because I have zero idea!

  1. How to not to eat EVERY.SINGLE.PIECE.OF.CHOCOLATE.I.SEE.EVER (I’ve just stolen someone elses advent calender chocolate. True story!).
  2. How do people get up on their first alarm? I mean if it’s possible why was the snooze function invented?
  3. How do you put eyeliner on without looking like you’re a member the living dead?
  4. How do Les Mills Instructors learn their releases weeks before launch date? #lastminute.com.
  5. How to stop your laundry basket from overflowing. Seriously as soon as I almost get it empty it’s full again!
  6. Gardening for idiots.
  7. How to flirt without looking like you’re having some kind of fit.
  8. What to do with protein powder you really don’t like the taste of but have purchased 4 million kilos of.
  9. How to get bendier when you are built out of the least bendiest thing you can think of.
  10. How to use the toasters when you go down to breakfast in a hotel (they scare me).

If you have written a blog about any of these please point me to it!

How to pick the gym for you

Are you looking to join a gym for 2019?  Do you know you want to get fitter, train more, train for an event but aren’t sure how to pick a gym?

Some things to consider to help you make the best choice for you:

  1. Location

When do you plan on going to the gym?  Before or after work, on you lunch break?  Pick a gym that is going to help you fit training into your schedule.  Will it help if the gym is on the journey home from work, in your office building or closer to home.  Once you’ve decided this you can look at the options in that area.

  1. Facilities

What do you want to do in the gym?  Without sounding patronising you will need the equipment to do those things.  You don’t need anything else.  Unless a Watt bike is essential to the training plan you wish to follow it doesn’t matter whether the gym has one or not.  It’s easy to get swayed by gyms which have lots of fancy facilities but unless you know you will use them they don’t need to be part of the gym picking process.  On the other hand if you know the reward of a sauna and steam after a training session will make you go to the gym then look for ones that provide those faclities.  If you’re trying to create a calorie deficit is the gym with the café that does amazing looking cakes the best option for you?

  1. Additional Services

Do you want to do classes rather than train on the gym floor?  If that’s your plan look at the timetables and pick the gym with the timetable that suits you.  Will you want a PT?  If you do look at their offers and specialisms so you pick a gym which can best accommodate your needs.

  1. Atmosphere

Visit the gyms you are considering and ask people you know who are already members what they think (if you don’t know anyone have a look at the reviews on their Facebook pages).  Different gyms have different atmospheres and there is no good or bad it’s just different gyms suit different people.  I train at very corporate style gyms where everything is sleek, friendly and professional but my favourite gym is a local leisure centre which can sometimes be a bit chaotic but has a diverse customer base (in ages, professions, nationalities) and a more relaxed feel to it.  On the other hand I also like the gym in my office (which is a more functional , weight based space) because everyone is very much in and out, minding their own business as we all have a limited time slot to get things done- at lunch time that suits me.  Pick somewhere you will feel comfortable.

  1. Price

How much are you willing to spend?  This may naturally cut down your options depending on realistic budget.  Remember value is based on how much you get out of a service as opposed to whichever is the cheapest.  Paying a lot for a gym that has many great services which you never use isn’t necessarily the best value though so make sure you can afford the membership before you commit but work on how much value you will get form the gym rather than the actual cost per month.  You are far more likely to use something you value over something that is expensive and you feel you should use.