Smear Test Talk

Earlier this week I went for a smear test.

I suspect I’m not alone in dreading this test, from the moment I get the letter reminding me it’s been three years and it’s time to book right up until the moment of climbing on the table.  I know they’re important and a few moments of discomfort are worth it to check I’m healthy but equally it just isn’t the nicest ting and nobody ever really wants to put themselves into situations of discomfort.

Smear tests are used to monitor any abnormal changes early on allowing them to monitor and treat these changes early thus helping to prevent the chance of those changes turning into cervical cancer.  They take roughly ten minutes from entering the room to leaving (the actual test is a couple of minutes if that) and for most women it really is a matter of mild discomfort over any form of painful experience.  However in 2018 it was reported that one in four women don’t book an appointment when they get their reminder letter due to embarrassment, body shape shame or fear of the unknown / pain.  This figure increased to one in three in the 25-29 age range and one in two in some of the most deprived areas of the UK.

Much like periods, I feel like smears are something quite common, all women should have them, if you talk to other women most will admit to disliking them or having anxiety around some part of them but which we often feel silly talking about.

But for someone who writes about health and fitness on a weekly basis, I also feel like it’s important to stress that physical fitness or strength or a balanced diet or calorie deficit is all kind of pointless if you don’t take care of yourself at a more fundamental level.  I admit I stated thinking about his when I got my smear test reminder and as a result as well as booking the smear test also booked in a dental check up and an eye test (fyi I over much needed new glasses and twelve years between eye tests is by far too long!).

If you are nervous about getting our smear here’s some tips I’ve found useful for reducing the stress of the situation and making it more comfortable:

  • Wear a long skirt – reduces the amount of undressing you need to do and can make you feel less exposed.
  • You’ll almost always get a female nurse but if you don’t you can request one.  You can also take someone with you if that helps.
  • Tell the nurse you are nervous – they are used to doing his test and will generally be good at putting you at ease, keeping you talking and more relaxed.
  • Ask for a smaller speculum.  I had a horrible couple of smears when I was younger that really made me dread going, and I read this tip on the internet.  I asked the nurse and she explained that they don’t always work and sometime it can mean them trying then having to use a bigger one anyway.  But they will try if you ask and for me the smaller one worked without issue and now I always ask and it always works fine, to the point I barely feel anything.  If you are really nervous this is an option worth discussing with the nurse beforehand.

So three messages for this blog.

  1. Male or female – be more holistically health conscious in 2020.  Don’t just eat well or exercise but make an effort to look after your body in all ways.  That means things like health check ups, resting when injured and not making a training session a priority over other aspects of your overall health.
  2. Help make 2020 a year to reduce stigma – feel less pressure to avoid conversations on periods, health checks like smear tests, prostate checks, checking your breasts (not much experience here but equally important) because these conversations can help others.
  3. If you haven’t had a smear test and are of an age where you should book an appointment with you GP.

Christmas JUMPer SHRED- Week 6

The final week of Shred saw us repeating the tests carried out in week 1 to check for progress over the last 6 weeks and an increase of calories to maintenance levels.

Despite having not done all training sessions over the last five weeks I’ve found my lifts increasing slightly across the board and despite probably (ok definitely) not being in a calorie deficit every week across the Christmas period I still discovered I’d lost almost 2kg in that time.  Not only that I feel like i look stronger (not leaner just a little more muscle definition)

To me this just goes to show that it isn’t hitting a gym plan as hard as you possibly can or measuring every morsel of food that passes your lips that gets you results.  Instead it’s just training consistently around your life and eating well without restricting yourself.  The fact I am going into Christmas Day having eaten practically every Christmas food going on a seeming loop for the last 23 days yet still feel fit, healthy and in decent shape shows what the power of just making positive choices as and when you can has.

Will I need to reign in the eating a bit in January?  Yes probably, I know I’ve eaten less homemade food and fewer vegetables the last few weeks and I won’t feel great if that continues for much longer, but that’s about as much of a change as I feel I need.

Are you going into January feeling like you need an overhaul or like you are already on track?  Hopefully it’s the later, but if it isn’t I would urge you to assess how you plan to approach your diet and training in the new year and to find something that allows you to feel in control regardless of how hectic life gets in 2020.

Getting Ready For Work in Gym Changing Rooms- Tips and Hints

Most days I train / teach three times a day: before work, lunchtime and after work. This means twice a day I shower and get ready for work in a gym changing room. I normally have 10- 20 minutes to do this so I’m pretty used to getting dressed fast (and I’m probably at the low maintenance end of low maintenance to be honest – if you’ve met me you have probably seen me without make up on and almost definitely on a day when I haven’t brushed my hair).

So when someone said they couldn’t train at lunchtime because they wouldn’t have time to shower etc. afterwards it got me thinking who else is put off by this and I decided to list my tips for a quick no frills routine which might help anyone who wants to train around work but is put off by the post sweat grooming issue!

  • Pack your bag the night before so you know you won’t forget anything. When I forget my bra or one shoe it’s always because I’ve packed in a rush that morning.
  • Buy a camping towel- a) they are lightweight and fold up small b) They dry quickly and don’t retain water so don’t make your gym bag wet and heavy after use
  • Pack a wash bag with all the things you will need and it leave in your gym bag at all times – this is less than you think: shower gel (or not – some gyms have those little shower gel dispensers in the showers), shampoo, moisturiser, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste – anything else just adds unnecessary time
  • Minimise your routine as much as you can – quick shower, 2 in 1 shampoo and conditioner – if you have to wash your hair (I’m not so much of a tomboy that I’d go as far as suggesting combined body and hair wash but to be fair it is an option)
  • Baby oil is great as moisturiser – makes your skin super soft but much quicker than a lotion as you can put it on whilst your skin is still wet
  • Baby wipes and dry shower gel (it exists- try Boots) are great cheats if you didn’t do too much cardio – you will know if you can get away with this or not on any given day (more often than not the answer is no but they are useful for emergencies none the less)
  • Dry shampoo is also your friend. As are high pony tails/ the scraped back / Croydon Facelift pony tail.
  • You actually need to wash your hair less often than you think even after training. Give it twenty minutes and it will dry out and won’t actually smell – I wash my hair maybe 2/3 times a week max.
  • Don’t waste time doing the towel dance. All women know what the towel dance is and quite frankly it’s a waste of time. A) Nobody is looking at you and b) you normally end up being naked for longer whilst trying to put your knickers on balancing on one leg and holding a towel round you than if you just got dressed.
  • Whilst I’m at it – do not be one of those people who gets dressed in the shower- you will get your clothes wet and you are holding up the people waiting.
  • Pack clothes which don’t crease – I’m fond of lycra.
  • If you can get away with not wearing tights you will save at least five minutes- putting on tights when you’ve just exercised is almost as much exercise as taking your sports bra off after a session.
  • You don’t need to put on lots of makeup after a workout- keep it minimal and take advantage of the natural glow your skin will now have to speed up the process of putting on your make up
  • Get your eyebrows and eyelashes tinted if having a bare face isn’t an option – this will save valuable drawing on yourself time!
  • Work out what your gym has in the way of hairdryers – if they have them don’t pack one! I personally don’t blow dry my hair as it dries by itself in about 15 minutes but I’m led to believe that’s not usual.
  • Do you actually need to straighten your hair?

Getting ready for work is dull and should take as little time as possible anyway – don’t let it stop you from getting a workout in – life is too short.

Note: This is a bit of a blog for the girls really- I’m going to assume most men are pretty much wash and go anyway but if not please re-read the above!

Gym to Office- Gym Bag 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 it’s 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. Maybe 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 need 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!

Ten Things To Know Before Your First Class

  1. Nobody will be looking at you. You will find that everyone in classes will be focusing on themselves so you don’t need to be self conscious about what you are doing.
  2. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet. If you are moving you will burn calories even if you go in the wrong direction or use the wrong foot first.
  3. You don’t have to do the whole class first time. If you aren’t sure you can do the whole class straight away speak to the instructor – we will be happy for you to give it a try and leave after a few tracks if that feels right for you – you can keep building up how you long you stay for over a few weeks.  Some exercise programmes have specific plans in place for this (for instance Les Mills have SMART START where you can build up how much of a class you do over a few weeks / classes)
  4. Classes tend to look more intimidating than they really are. If you look in on a class it will look like everyone is super fit and coordinated which can put some people off giving them a go.  In reality everyone works to their own fitness levels, limitations and for their own reasons so there is no set standard of fitness or ability required.
  5. There are always options. You don’t have to jump or run or do any particular exercise that you are not comfortable doing – the instructor will always give you alternatives and they will not make the class any less effective or less of a workout if you take them.
  6. Try to arrive early. Just five or ten minutes will do. That gives you time to get set up and speak to the instructor without rushing or getting stressed – this is especially important if it’s a Group Cycle class or Body Pump class (or any other class which requires equipment) as having the equipment set up right here can make the class a lot more enjoyable.
  7. Tell the instructor you are new. We try and look out for new faces but we don’t always manage to pick out everyone new in a busy class. When we know you are new to the class we can make sure you are set up, know what to expect, check for anything we might need to know to make sure we offer particular options that might help you.
  8. Class goers tend to be friendly. Everyone remembers the first class they went to and you’ll find people will be happy to help you set up or give you a hand during class if you need one and the instructor isn’t close by (still go introduce yourself to us though!). If your nervous just give someone a smile or a hello and they will more than likely start chatting.
  9. Take water. You will need it!
  10. Have fun. My favourite thing about group exercise is that an hour moving to music goes so much quicker than an hour in the gym.  Don’t worry about how good you are at what you are doing, have fun a do what you can and hopefully you’ll find that you soon see results without feeling like exercise is a chore.

Christmas JUMPer Shred Week 5

Week Five saw a massive physical challenge in the form of an Iron Man across the week.

In case you are unfamiliar this is 180km cycle, 42 km run and 4km swim (or a 20km row as a sub).  That, I probably don’t need to clarify, is a lot of cardio.

I knew at the start of the week it would be a challenge, I had a full week of work and classes plus two Christmas events which would take up time I could potentially train in but I decided to give it a go.

Day 1 I did a few KM and on day 2 after work spent over an hour on a stationary bike followed by a row.  However on day 3 I made a decision that I wouldn’t be able to complete it, for one simple reason. Sleep.

I had skipped an early night on Tuesday to fit in a cycle and was feeling the effects from that.  I know I already don’t get as much sleep as would be considered healthy and to complete the challenge I would need to reduce that amount further.

I decided that it wasn’t worth it to complete a challenge- what is the point of being able to push your body but not looking after it in other ways?

So what did this week teach me?  It taught me I know how to listen to my body and look after my health in more ways than just train and that I do actually practice what I preach in terms of holding myself accountable to the same things I would say to clients and class members.  It also taught me I really do need more sleep!

So did I succeed on week 5?  Do I mind? Nope, not at all!

Why Hire a PT?

Do you need a PT?

Given the number of  expenses we all have these days this is a fair question and if you are going to part with a chunk of cash each month you are more than entitled to ask and understand why having a PT might benefit you, so I thought a brief summary of why you might find hiring a PT useful.

1.You are new to the gym

New to exercise and not sure where to start.  Even just a one off block of sessions with a PT could give you a solid starting point, an idea of how to use equipment, execute moves safely and help you feel confident in the environment.

2. You have been going to the gym for a while with limited results / are bored

You’ve used the gym for years, kind of know what you’re doing but your workouts feel stale and like they are no longer challenging you and results have halted.  A PT can help reinvent your training patterns to make your workouts feel fresh again as well as effective.

3.You have set yourself a goal

Just set a goal (running a marathon, entering a triathlon, joined a football team, want to be able to do a set of 5 pull ups unaided) a PT will be able to design sessions specifically tailored towards that goal.

4.You want to lose (or gain) weight / mass

Much like point 3, a PT can guide you so your nutrition and sessions are tailored to this goal.

5.You are lacking motivation / accountability

Sometimes it isn’t the knowledge that you are lacking it’s having someone there to keep you going, ensuring you get the sessions in, help you enjoy them and just generally keep you on track.

6.You want to improve your technique

Maybe you just want to focus on one of two lifts – a PT can work with you on those specifics, so even if you wanted to train mostly on your own and just have weekly or monthly technique focused sessions that could benefit you in terms of results that could always be an option.

7.You lack confidence in the gym

Maybe this links in with being new to training or maybe you do lots of classes but would like to add more variety to your week and aren’t sure where to start or how to use some of the equipment.  Working with someone can increase your confidence and in turn help you enjoy training more.