Everything you need to know before you try Les Mills Body Combat

One of the classes I’m qualified to teach is Les Mills Body Combat. This was the class that made me want to become an instructor so I really enjoy teaching it and always encourage gym members to give it a go when it’s on the timetable.

I do get that it can be a bit intimidating for new people the first time they come to class. The moves are fast and the terminology can be confusing! But it’s also great fun and punching a kicking the days frustrations away can be incredibly satisfying!

If you are thinking about trying a class for the first time but are nervous and unsure of what to expect here’s a few things that I hope will help ease those uncertainties and allow you to have a great first experience:

  • It might sound obvious but tell the instructor you are new at the start- it will help you feel relaxed and they will be able to make sure you’re ok throughout the class and will make sure you have a good first experience.
  • There are three formats of the class- an hour class (all 10 tracks so sometimes it will be shorter as the length of a track can vary depending on intensity), a 45 minute class and a 30 minute class. The tracks in the shorter (express) versions are selected to still ensure you get maximum benefits from the class despite the shorter time frame (but are the same tracks as the hour class).
  • Body Combat is mixed martial arts inspired. You will experience tracks based on a variety of martial arts throughout the class as well as incorporating some MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) training.
  • Don’t worry it’s non – contact. You will be punching and kicking an imaginary opponent or bag (so the air really!)
  • You don’t need any equipment – just you, your gym kit and trainers (and some water!)
  • The moves are choreographed to the music but don’t worry if you aren’t great at following a beat at first- you will still be getting your heart rate up even if you don’t get every combination of moves straight away. Following the music and combinations will get easier and when you do nail that combo to the beat you feel amazing!
  • You are mirroring the instructor’s movements. If they say right foot forward, they will put their left foot forward so if you imagine they are your reflection in a mirror and mirror their moves you will find you are soon putting your right foot forward without even having to think about it! Don’t worry if you new to group exercise we know this takes time to get used to!
  • Once they press play the instructor will generally not pause the music unless you need time to grab a mat. This is to keep the heart rate and intensity of the workout high. That doesn’t mean you can’t take a break if you need one- listen to your own body – the instructor won’t mind, just come back in when you are ready.
  • It is a tough cardio workout. You are going to burn calories. You will get out of breath- that’s ok it’s why you are there. If you need to take a break take one, grab some water and come back in when you are ready.
  • There are always opportunities to work within your own personal limits. The instructor will give different options throughout the workout to either dial the intensity up or down. So if you don’t want to jump there will always be a move you can do instead that doesn’t involve jumping but still provides lots of benefit. Equally the instructor will be able to guide you in how to improve a move to increase the intensity if you are ready to challenge yourself a bit more.
  • If you are new there is something called Smart Start. Effectively it means you are allowed to stay for a few tracks. When you feel like you have done enough you can leave (make sure you stretch before you leave the gym!) then each time you try the class, see if you can stay for one extra track until you can do the whole class. New exercise classes can be tough, we know that, but you don’t need to be put off from trying them because you aren’t sure you are ready for a full class yet.
  • There is a lot of terminology that may be unfamiliar – jab cross, uppercut, hook, roundhouse kick etc. It might take a while to remember what each move is but don’t worry you can watch the instructor throughout and over time you will start to take on board what each strike is so you can react quickly to cues.
  • When you strike imagine your opponent is your height! The instructor will tell you which body part to aim for with each strike – if you imagine the opponent is your height you will get the most effective workout possible.
  • It doesn’t matter if you can’t get your leg to head height when you kick (I certainly can’t!)! You will probably find as you attend more often your kicks will get higher, but the range of your kick will have a lot to do with your flexibility so don’t worry if you can’t kick as high as the person next to you – work within your own range of movement and just challenge yourself to kick a bit higher as time goes on.
  • If you have done martial arts training some of the moves may feel ‘wrong’. Some of the moves in Body Combat are modified to ensure they are safe and effective for a group exercise environment. It’s a martial arts inspired class – not a martial arts class.
  • Combat is an amazing core class. All the moves involve massive work through your core and your instructor will coach you how to effectively work the core throughout the class. So as well as burning lots of calories and increasing your CV fitness you will also find the workout does great things for your waist.
  • If you have a question about a move, go and chat to the instructor at the end of the class. We generally love talking to people and want you to get the most out of the class. If you aren’t sure if you are feeling a move ‘in the right place’ ask and we can spend a few minutes on your technique to ensure the following week you are confident you are getting the most out of that move / track / strike / kick.
  • Instructors get a new track list every three months- at which point they will teach this in it’s entirety for around 6 weeks. After that they will ‘mix’ older tracks into a playlist to keep it interesting for you and keep challenging your fitness levels until they get their next playlist. In other words – you won’t ever get bored.
  • Finally- it’s an exercise class and it’s meant to be fun. Don’t worry if you struggle with a move or aren’t great at certain kick- ultimately it’s all about moving and having fun whilst doing it so try not to take yourself too seriously.

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.

Virtual Reality

Last month I went to visit my friend who has always been into technology and she had recently bought a Virtual Reality headset and one of the things you can do on the headset is a virtual Les Mills Body Combat and I gave it a go.

Now it’s not doing Body Combat in the normal sense, you don’t do a full class and it’s not to the music in the traditional way and of course is largely punching as virtual reality kicking isn’t quite yet a thing.

What it is however is actually pretty addictive, once you have the headset on it feels very real and you can feel the objects coming towards you as if they were real. The classes are pretty short, the beginner / practice ones are as short as 5 -10 minutes, also the headset means your movement can feel a little clunky and you can’t really jump about. However you can really get into it and get a bit of a sweat on just because of how immersive it can feel.

Overall, with the technology as it is, it is still probably more of a novelty activity rather than a full on exercise regime, however if you aren’t currently doing that much exercise it can get you moving and is motivating enough that you might actually want to do it every day.

It is of course expensive, I’m not sure how many people at the moment could afford the headset, remotes and subscription but as the technology progresses I’m sure it will become more affordable.

In terms of Les Mills it’s clear Body Combat lends itself to the new technology although to make it more fitness and less experience both the headset would need to be lighter and they would need to work out how to incorporate more lower body into the workouts. What I’m not sure of is how they could lend the technology to the other programmes – Body Step potentially if they developed a Virtual Reality Step but that would add to people’s cost but beyond that I’m not sure. Whether that will affect Les Mills decision to continue to invest in the technology will be interesting as there is certainly potential and it would potentially encourage a whole other demographic of people to move more. That being said they have invested a lot in the Trip, which also requires a big investment by gyms so they may well decide to stay in for the long run with it.

Abs, a good PT does not make.

I saw a comment on a friends Facebook post the other day that went along the lines of that person would not pick a PT who was not thin because if they weren’t thin how could they advise their clients on how to lose weight / why didn’t they follow their own advice. I get it and I think most PTs will have had the thought at some point as to why would someone hire me if i don’t look super fit?

The thing is knowledge and application are two different things.

I can know how to help someone get leaner, fitter, stronger without being as lean, as fit, as strong. Deciding that I prefer my diet and life the way it is over looking like a poster girl PT doesn’t make me any less good at my ability to coach people to reach a physical peak.

Having life events happen that take you away from your own training or taking medication that affects your body shape don’t stop you knowing how to help someone else lose weight.

Having a specific training goal that means you’ve spent less time on certain elements of your own training doesn’t mean you can’t coach someone else in those.

If you think about a sport like tennis. If we followed the notion that you can’t train someone to success unless you’ve had the exact same success, how do we explain the coaches of all the Wimbledon champions not coached by former Wimbledon champions? In actual fact those coaches may not have had the talent to become Wimbledon champion themselves but they are obviously exceptional at coaching others and bringing out the potential of others.

In football, most top tier club managers are former players but are all the big names, the ones with success after success, best known for their exceptional managerial skills, were they always the Ronaldo level players? They were good, top tier players for sure, but their success as managers came from their knowledge of tactics, man management, their ability to strategise.

Being skilled or talented at something doesn’t mean you will be good at teaching others to do it, coaching and motivating is a skill in itself. Moreover, not being or looking a certain way doesn’t mean you couldn’t do something if you wanted to. I could be thinner (i have been) and faster (I have been) but I do not at this moment want to make the changes that I’d have to in order to go back there. I could help you make those changes if you wanted to, I just don’t want to myself and wouldn’t make you if you didn’t want to. Fitness and body shape is a choice, the essence of the body positivity movement in a nut shell, there’s no one ‘type’ of fit, that should mean PTs should also feel able to chose a weight and fitness level that they are happy with without fear of judgement, be it from clients or other fitness professionals.

Knowledge doesn’t equal application, application doesn’t equal the ability to impart knowledge and abs, a good PT does not make.

Trying Group Exercise

Have you ever wanted to try an exercise class but been too nervous? Maybe you think you’re not fit enough or the opposite and it will be too easy. Will you be coordinated enough? Will you be able to keep up? What if everyone else knows what to do?

Classes are how I started exercising and I remember the nerves I felt going to my first class. A few classes later I loved it, over time I tried more and more different types of classes and found a confidence to train that led to me becoming a group exercise instructor myself.

What people don’t realise about classes is that they can be pretty much whatever you want them to be. Yes, you are training in a group and doing the same thing as everyone else, but you also always have the opportunity to approach the class as best suits you. If you want to go as hard as possible and push yourself you can do, equally if you want to train for the mood boost, enjoyment, to feel good or even just take a break from life you can use the class for that. As instructors we are there to push people of course, but we know that people train for many different reasons and can tailor how we teach you to that effect. We know that because we also train for lots of different reasons, depending on the day, our mood, our energy levels.

The other thing to know about classes is they are a great chance to meet new people. You won’t be made to talk to people, you can keep yourself to yourself, but you will over time get to recognise people and get to know them. Classes are friendly environments where we all tend to chat before and after and you can get to know people from a wide range of backgrounds, and make some really great friends too. Above all, they are a lot more welcoming than you might at first imagine.

You can be super fit or brand new to exercise and you will be able to do a class. You can make them part of an existing training regime or just do classes, you can take things at your own pace and build up and there are always alternatives to exercises available for whatever reason you need.

Finally, I think it’s also good to recognise that there are lots of different ways to train. Some will tell you that you shouldn’t be doing classes, they are a waste of time, weights only would be better and so on. The truth is though that each individual will find the best results with different types of training, different combinations, routines, amount of training. Doing what works for someone else won’t necessarily get you the results. So if you think classes might motivate you, if the style of training or working in a group or to music does motivate you then ignore those people and do what you can and will stick with. Like me you may find that other time you mix other training in with classes or you may find you don’t, if you’re moving and happy with what you’re doing that doesn’t really matter.

Back to Basics

As I’ve written recently I’m looking at going back to basics to get back into a routine.

Over the last week my training has been more consistent, my NEAT has been decent and I’m drinking plenty of water and nailing a few other habits. There’s two things I’ve struggled with though have been my nutrition and getting up in the morning.

I’ve not eaten terribly but I’ve not eaten what I’ve planned and as such have ended up going over my calorie goal. The reason? Stress.

It’s been a stressful week, work and personal stuff combined has meant I’ve been anxious at times and just generally strung out at others, feeling a bit like I was never going to fit everything into each day.

I wish I was one of those people who lost their appetite under stress. I am however a person who turns to sugar instead. Between snacking on sweet stuff and then opting to not eat the nice balanced meals I’d prepared and instead eat more carb based high calorie meals has meant that my nutrition just hasn’t gone to plan.

In reaction to this though I’m not going to do anything drastic. I’ve got food planned for the coming week and I’m hoping for a quieter week so I won’t be as tempted to reach for a high sugar stress release.

The key here I think is to not beat yourself out when the week doesn’t quite go to plan, not react by going on some drastic campaign to make up for it and just focus on starting again the next day.

So I’m taking the same approach to my mornings too. Last week I snoozed my alarm a lot, this week I’m reverting back to a cheap old school alarm in the next room so I have to get up to turn it off. A few bad mornings last week don’t need to define the coming week and other than trying to make a few small adjustments to improve my morning routine I don’t need to do anything crazy.

Nutrition Pyramid – Macros

Yesterdays blog talked about the foundation of the nutrition pyramid, the next element of the nutrition pyramid once you’ve mastered the energy balance is macros. In particular if you master one thing here, master your protein intake.

You want to eat protein, carbs and fat every day even on a high protein diet such as Paleo for instance you would not be looking to cut out carbs.

But aiming for a certain macro split can be tedious and mean always thinking about what to eat and trying to balance hings out.

However, a good hack is to know that if you aim to eat enough protein each day and don’t go into a calorie surplus you will generally find that your carb and fat splits take care of themselves. .

With your Protein intake we want to aim for between 1.5 and 2g protein per kg of body weight. So if you weigh 80kg you will want between 120 -160g protein per day.

There’s 4 calories per g of protein so 120-160g would make up between 480 and 640 calories per day (there is 4 calories per g of carbohydrate and 9 calories per g fat).

Ultimately to achieve fat loss you need to be in a calorie deficit – regardless of how you split your macros

And one more thing, should you have protein shakes? Ideally we want to get as much protein as possible from food but shakes are good for topping up your protein especially when you are on the go. Best brand? The one you like the taste of as they do vary.

Finally, a hack to hit your protein intake: Try to eat 50% of your protein goal before lunch.

Christmas Eve Eve

Christmas Eve Eve.

Officially now the time when all food consumed, bar a bit of a roast on Christmas Day, is chocolate based.

Train if you want to train, eat a vegetable or two if you fancy. Or don’t.

There will be lots of posts from people like me after Christmas about how to get your fitness goals on track but let’s face it, after the last twelve months, we all deserve to celebrate as we see fit.

And if anyone tells you otherwise just make sure there’s some wine and cheese to and and tell them you’re in a business meeting.

Should you train over Christmas?

Should you train over Christmas?

It’s really up to you. One the one hand if you want to take a break, relax and do nothing that’s perfectly fine. Equally if sticking to your training exactly makes you feel better there’s absolutely no reason you should feel bad about still training on Christmas. You just don’t want to get to the point where you are running a half marathon on Christmas Day because you feel like you should.

This is the thing about training on holiday / over Christmas / during celebrations. There’s a difference between doing it because moving makes you feel good and doing it because not doing it will make you feel guilty. I personally will do something over Christmas, I genuinely enjoy a little 20 minute run on Christmas morning, it sets me up for the day and the fresh air and movement just makes me feel good. I’ll probably go to the gym on Boxing Day or the day after, again because it’s my favourite time to train, I’m not in a rush to get somewhere else so can really focus.

I think that’s the sign that you train in a way you like. If the thing you normally so in the gym feel like a punishment that you deserve a holiday from maybe it is time to try some new things and do something that makes you feel good, you enjoy, you actually kind of want to do, even if you occasionally have to drag yourself to it initially.

Even then if you want to take a break over the holidays do it. See training as a complimentary thing in your life.

Why don’t you train legs?

Why don’t you train body parts is a common question I get from people when they ask what I did in the gym on any given day.  That I don’t train legs one day, back and biceps the other, chest and shoulders the next confuses some people.

The ‘Bro Split’ type of training is how most people start training in the gym, it’s probably the most accepted way of training, and works very well for certain people.  If you are very lean and looking for specific aesthetic goals for instance, or if you want to manage your energy levels around other training training body parts per session can suit you well.

I think it’s useful however for people to understand that it isn’t the only acceptable way to train.  Just like there are many ways to manage your diet and no one way is better, what works for some training wise will not suit others.

I teach group exercise, train PT clients and have a full time office job, I also like running, so I don’t really have time for four or five sessions all lasting an hour plus focusing on specific muscle groups.  More to the point I don’t really have any interest in doing so.  I’m not looking to get super lean with a six pack.  I like food too much for that and to be honest just want to be fit, healthy, strong and enjoy my training sessions.  For me a training session that leaves me feeling good and fatigued and is done within 30 to 40 minutes is the goal, and two, maybe three sessions is the max I can fit in – often training in my lunch hour.    

So sessions that involve big lifts that use multiple body parts are more effective for me.  Focusing on squats, deadlifts, rows, thrusters for example essentially give me more bang for my buck – maximum results in minimum time.

Of course for others, with different lifestyles and goals, that would not work best for them.  Here lies the most important thing t understand about fitness.  We are all different, what and how much we eat and what, when and how we train will be different for all of us.  If your friend has amazing results and you do their exact same thing it doesn’t mean you will also have amazing results. 

Get a coach, and follow their advice and ignore what everyone else is doing, as just because you’re doing something different to others doesn’t make you right or wrong.  More to the point if you are training with a coach that gets everyone to do the same thing, ask questions.  Because even if your coach specialises in a certain group or area and therefore advises generalised things specific to that group, your actual individual training will be slightly different to your peers.  For instance I work with other group fitness instructors – there are general areas of advice which apply to the all – the type of training we work well with, nutrition and energy level challenges we face etc. tend to be quite common.  However, we still al have different goals, different likes and dislikes, different starting points, so our actual training needs to be programmed differently and some pieces of advice may not apply to us specifically.

Understanding that you don’t need to follow every trend and can (in fact probably should) let some things pass us by and focus on the things that actually serve us, is probably the best fitness lesson out there.