Glasgow to Manchester (Kind Of)

Over the weekend I traveled to Glasgow where I was working on a fitness seminar called Jump Live, it was all about training, nutrition and mindset.  On Sunday myself and two other attendees (Ellen and Ellie) traveled back during Storm Ciara.

When we left the hotel we were a bit apprehensive about the weather but we’d checked and everything looked ok for travel so we went for lunch before our 3 pm train.  When we got to the station at 1.30 pm it became apparent everything was not ok.

After being told we’d probably need to find a hotel for the night we were then advised to try and travel around the flooded areas to get back to Manchester.

So off we set to Edinburgh, to catch a train to York.  Once on this train we discovered it was going to take around 5 hours (speed limits), however when we reached Newcastle the train was cancelled and we had to alight and catch another train to York.  At York our train to Manchester was cancelled as it pulled into the station so we made our way to Leeds where we finally managed to get a train going to Manchester. Ten hours after we set off we arrived in Manchester and turned to Uber to get home!

We went through a lot of emotions over those ten hours of travel and on reflection learnt a lot of things which related right back to the seminar we’d been at on Saturday.  Here’s my reflections on the longest train journey I think I’ve ever done (and I’ve inter railed round Europe).

  • Having a support network makes things easier

We said several times over the journey that if any of us had been in this situation alone we’d have probably just sat and cried.  What actually happened is we all kept pretty positive in the face of so many twists and turns and obstructions and stressful situations, because we had the support of each other and could keep each others spirits up and we knew that we weren’t alone.  We actually made a good team and I know that in the future we could call on each other for support.

  • Sometimes you have to rely on your gut and take risks

We had minutes at times to decide what to do- give up travelling here and look for a hotel, get this train to Leeds or wait for the next train to Manchester, go to this platform or that, stop to use the loo or hope there’s one on the next train.  We worked on the basis of general consensus and gut feeling and made choices that went against what people messaging us were advising at times.  In the end it worked out but at every choice we agreed if it didn’t we knew we’d made the best choice for us at the time so were fine with the consequences,

  • You can plan all your like but you need to be able to be flexible     

Every train we got on we had a plan of our next move, but delays and cancellations meant those goal posts moved constantly.  We realised that whilst having that plan was important, being able to react to the changes and not get stressed when we had to change those plans was vital if we were to remain sane.

  • There’s no need to rush things

Every time we reached a station we rushed to get to the next platform – and you know what, every train was late.  We could have walked, could have gone to the loo or the shop and made our next journey more comfortable.  Really we knew this at the time.  We rushed because we were worried we’d miss the trains but in hindsight we realised we were rushing against our own self imposed time limits that we actually knew weren’t real.

  • Be kind

The staff must have had a horrible day.  It was not their fault but they had to deal with so many stressed out people.  We encountered conductors and drivers and station staff who had done ridiculously long shifts in conditions just as tough (probably tougher) than ours.  None of them snapped or complained, some of them thanked customers for their patience, all of them went out of their way to help each customer get to where they needed to.  Passengers offered each other food and passed on information they knew.  I didn’t see anybody shout or shove at anyone in an attempt to get on a train or anyone complain about standing for hours.  People messaged saying if the roads had been safer (they really weren’t) that they’d come and pick us up.  Being kind to one another makes things easier.

  • Say thank you

On that note, I made an effort to say thank you.  I tweeted the train companies we had interacted with and praised their staff, i randomly managed to thank one conductor who happened to be in a Facebook group I’m in.  When people help you, appreciation can mean a lot to them and takes very little effort to show.

  • Laughing makes things better

At times we wanted to cry- instead we laughed.  In fact I’ve not laughed so much in ages.  It made things better, just seeing the funny side of the situation.

  • Your mum will always worry

I probably don’t need to explain this universal truth – they can’t help it and it’s nice!

  • You can use stress to your advantage

We noticed we were full of energy right up until we got on the last train.  As soon as we realised we would make it home our bodies just relaxed and we realised how tired we were.  A little bit of stress can keep you moving and help you be decisive in your decision making- it’s not always a bad thing.

  • Work with what you have

We had gin.  That was it.  A sandwich or other type of meal would have been more nutritious but we didn’t have any so we consumed what we did have and didn’t stress too much about that.  There will always be ideals- ideally I will train, ideally I’ll eat this but when that can’t happen worrying that it can’t won’t help.  Look at what you can do and work the best you can in the parameters available.

  • Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react 

This was said on Saturday and when we were sat on a train to Edinburgh immediately came to mind.  It’s so true.  Sunday on paper was so stressful.  Sunday in reality was tiring but quite funny, a story to tell, a great opportunity to get to know two people better, we were safe, we got home eventually and how we approached it mattered more than what actually happened,

  • Gin fixes quite a few problems

Like really, it just does.

Nutrition 101

This is a cut and paste from an email I received today from a PT (Ricky Long – check him out on Instagram @rickylong42) …


17 ways to lose body fat

– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend
– Eat less calories than you expend

You can create this calorie deficit in 2 ways.
– Food intake decreasing. Eat less mate.
– Exercise activity increase. Move more mate.

There are 1000’s of different training methods and dietary choices you can use to follow the above two principles.

The principle will not change

Calorie Deficit

How you achieve the deficit is where you have choice for your lifestyle.

Make it achievable

Make it safe. One method I champion to keep within calorie goals:

The original Handjob diet, by Ricky Long. 

I get emails regularly around the counting of macros.
– You do not need to count macros
– It’s a very accurate way of measuring your food
– It’s also time consuming and could potentially ruin your enjoyment of food.
– You can instead use the Hand Job Method measurement scale. Something I made up 5 years ago and named 6 months ago.
– Eat 1 handful protein
– Eat 2 handfuls veg
– Make the veg have 2 colours.
– Do this 3 times day
– One of those times add in a big carb, like rice, pasta, bread. Again just one handful
– If you feel tired you’ve eaten too much
– If you feel hungry you haven’t eaten enough
– Hand Job Diet established 2018, creator and author Ricky Long WTG – Weeker Trainer Guy


I have a lot of conversations with people about food.

So often people over concern themselves with macro splits, shakes and supplements, meal timings, how certain combinations of foods might affect the metabolism or hormones.  They often suspect the reason they can’t change their body composition is that they haven’t quite nailed one or more of these.

What they haven’t sorted is the bottom of the nutrition pyramid – Energy in v Energy out and they are either eating too much or too little in comparison to what they expend.

If you are an elite athlete, training for a comp or have very specific nutrition needs you may well need to concern yourself with more very precise details relating to your nutrition.

In actual reality for the majority of us who just want to be a bit smaller or even a bit bigger than we are you really just need to focus on the amount of calories you eat and that will largely do the job.

If you feel rubbish when you eat more carbs and less fat adjust that, if you feel good on a higher amount of protein do that, if you stay within your calorie goal the reality is for the vast majority of us the actual split isn’t too important (well eating enough protein is important – aim for 1-2g per kg of weight, the more active you are the closer to 2g you want to get, but not hitting this number in itself will not affect weight loss or gain).  If some protein shakes help you hit you calorie goal have them, if being Vegan, vegetarian, Intermittent fasting suit your life and help you hit your calorie goal then do them.

Essentially I’m saying as humans we have a tendency to assume our pain points (in this case nutrition and weight wise) must require very complicated solutions, when often the issue is we don’t do the basics very well and instead focus on the things that don’t really matter.

I’m not saying you will never want to look at the finer details in your diet.  I am saying that until you master the basics there just isn’t much point.  I’m also saying that unless you really want to spend your whole time calculating macro splits you really probably don’t need to.

Today

Today I am sticking to one of my 2020 goals and doing nothing.

It may sound odd to say that but at the start of the year I had a Saturday when my classes hadn’t started back yet and my plans were cancelled last minute so I had a random day off with nothing planned.  As in I didn’t need to set an alarm, get out of my pajamas unless I actually wanted to, where I could sit and watch TV aimlessly all day.  I realised I needed it.  I have a lot of roles and as such am on the go a lot, I start early and finish late most days.  I look after myself and generally feel fine for the business – but taking a day off made me realise how beneficial that rest was.  I made a commitment at that point to take one full day off a month, to guard that day with my life against anything.

I’ve had a stupidly busy January, to the point where the last week or so I’ve felt exhausted and actually achy and crap.  My February is even busier, I’ve lots of exciting things coming up but that also means it will be non stop.  I need today.

Goals can be personal to you and won’t always be what people expect.  Going hard is good but knowing when to take a pit stop is equally as important.

My 2020 Campaign

I’ve said a lot recently how talking about the topics that are often’unspoken’ about for whatever reason can be hugely beneficial.

Not only does speaking about such things provide an outlet that can make the person feel better, people sharing their experiences can also help others.  There are numerous life experiences which create a variety of struggles and stresses that are common yet ignored and people often feel like they should just put up with them in silence because nobody else mentions it, or they might worry they are not normal because they must be the only one struggling as nobody else seems to be.

For all these reasons I think opening up about topics that are for a word ‘taboo’ could be helpful to us all.  A few years ago this was so much harder- we had fewer outlets, but now social media gives us an opportunity to be really open.

I’ve dipped my toe in the water with this with a few blogs in 2019 (we looked at periods, smear tests and coming back to teaching post pregnancy) but I want to take this further in 2020 and make open discussions about often unspoken topics a personal campaign.

To do this I need help.  I can only talk about hings I personally have experience about but I want to open the discussions wider than this.  I’ve already enlisted the help of some people who have agreed to talk about issues that have affected them, but I want to cast this net wide.  If there is a topic you think deserves more open discussion that has affected you and would be willing to talk to me about it I’d love you to get in touch (either via this blog or a DM).

You Really Do Need To Change.

A couple of weeks ago I recorded a podcast about needing to change things in order to create the change you desire.  This week I was a guest on another Podcast where this came up again.

The question was – what’s your biggest frustration within your business.  My response was people’s reluctance to change.  As in, I often have conversations where people present their goals, what they see as their problems / pain points.  The stumbling block for many however is that when potential solutions are presented they are quickly rejected because they don’t fit in with that person’s current lifestyle and what they really want is a solution that allows them to create that change without actually changing anything they actually do.

This is why things like skinny tea attract so many people.  You mean I can carry on with my current exercise routine (or lack of), eat exactly the same foods but drink a cup of tea a day and lose weight (or take a pill and lose weight, same concept)- if you have the choice between that and making efforts to change your lifestyle which one would you choose?  I get it.

Of course the problem is these things don’t work (or they’d be given out on the NHS to reduce the cost of obesity right?), but it’s so boring and unsexy, the idea you’ve really got to make some form of practical changes to get results.

From the point of view of a PT though.  We want to help, a good PT will offer you the best option for you, not their pocket.  There’s no gain in suggesting something that will not work, PTs want success stories not dissatisfied customers so when we suggest those practical changes over pills and potions we really are doing it with the clients best interest in mind.

We also understand change is hard.  The actual gym sessions are not the hard work, the changes to mindset to get those gym sessions and new dietary habits into your life – that is the hard part.

Why do so many people pay for gym membership and gym plans / programmes then never go / get started?  Because actually stumping up cash is easy in terms of effort.  What we’d all like is that £100 per month direct debit to mean we will get results.  It’s slightly annoying that on top of that we actually have to commit some time and effort.

But you could have the best PT in the world, buy the best programme, join the best gym.  All of those are great first steps.  If you don’t then accept you will need to make some changes once you’ve taken the plunge, they are pointless.

I’m not talking ridiculous changes here, let me be clear.  I’m not saying never eat chocolate again or sell your home and move into the gym.  I’m talking small achievable changes – things that can become habits overtime.

I’d love if you could listen to my podcast to hear my thoughts on making lifestyle changes.  Next podcast coming soon and will continue this theme, discussing whether you should do things that do not make you happy in order to reach your goals.

Listen Here

 

 

Why a spin class is a lot like life

One of the hardest things as a fitness professional is trying to get a message across about the mindset of ‘fitness’ but knowing that some parts of that message will sound completely contradictory to people.  I know that that’s because everyone is different and different people will face different mental challenges when working towards their goals.  Yet I also know it may mean sometimes what i write or discuss on podcasts has potential to confuse.

For instance I did a podcast last week where I said in a nutshell – you can do whatever suits you to work towards your goals, there’s no set right or wrong BUT if you want to change where you’re at you do have to make changes.  If your head says but I am doing what makes me happy that’s fine but also means you need to accept you probably won’t see the changes you’d like.

Now that rule applies across the board but the message is probably more relevant to those who want change but haven’t yet accepted wanting isn’t enough you also have to apply.  For many who listen to my podcast / read this you are already active, have made or are in the process of making changes.  The thing I observe most about people who are already actively trying to make improvements is they undervalue what they are already doing and when they hear messages such as that feel bad and like they need to do more.  Then you get to an opposite problem, where everything gets overwhelming and you almost feel like a failure for not doing more.

Fitness is like life.  It’s a balancing act of ambition and having the drive to work towards your goals and actively do things that will assist that and knowing when you need to rest, go easy on yourself, allow yourself to drop a few of the less important balls.

I teach a lot of spin (sorry group cycle).  I rarely teach to a beat or specific resistance and coach using the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale.  I encourage people to go heavy – for them, or fast – for them.  I say that by the end their legs should feel heavy, their breathing laboured, they should finish feeling they have worked as hard as they can.  They could be going slower than someone else in the class but giving their all.  That faster person could be giving 75%- in which case the slower person will see greater results over a period of time.  What I try and teach my regulars is that they have to self regulate their efforts – when it starts to feel easy they need to recognise that and adjust an element of their ride to increase the intensity, equally if it starts to feel like they can’t carry on they again have the autonomy to adjust.  They also understand that day to day their energy levels will be different, sometimes a class feels harder or better- that is’t they’ve lost fitness, it’s how their week has been, if they’ve been ill, perhaps they are hungry or slept badly.  As the instructor I can look and say ‘you can put more resistance on ‘you can go faster’ but I’m not riding their bike and only they know if i’m right or wrong in my assertion.

I think a group cycle class is a great analogy for your fitness routine as a whole.  Learn to recognise when you are pulling back a bit and need to make changes if you want to reach a goal, but also learn to recognise when you’re being hard on yourself.  Take advice, but don’t just do it without question – understand why and how coaches suggests you make changes so as time goes on you find it easier to manage your mindset to your health.  Be kind to yourself but honest with it.

 

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.