In the News

Two things in the news over the last week you may have read about.

The Fat Shaming PT and Instagram banning the advertising of content that “makes a miraculous claim about certain diet or weight loss products, and is linked to a commercial offer such as a discount code”.

Thankfully the general reaction from most people demonstrates the overriding belief withing the fitness industry that fat shaming isn’t ok.  Most fitness professionals are both welcoming and understanding to people from all walks of life, backgrounds and whatever their previous experience of fitness and nutrition may be.  You could argue this should be a given- let’s be real people who need help with exercise and food are the PTs ideal clients right?  Therefore it stands to reason that understanding the obstacles (be it medical, mindset or education based) involved when creating healthy habits and understanding their effect and how to overcome them should be a key skill for any fit pro.  Of course there are some people who fail to see this.  These people are known as dicks and the less airtime or exposure they are given the better in my opinion.

The banning of the advertising of diet ‘miracles’ is an undoubtedly positive thing.

As a fitness professional you can look at these paid ads by minor celebrities with no fitness qualifications and dismiss them as ridiculous.

But if you think you have wright to lose and see something that claims it will help you do this with minimal work or effort the chances are you’ll be tempted.  The fact they are advertised by people you may know add strength to the claim.

The cold truth is given the choice to listen to a semi famous person you’ve heard of tell you drinking this tea every morning will help you lose weight will often win out over that unknown PT on your instagram feed telling you that you’ll actually have to take some bog standard boring action and change your habits.  That costs less but will take longer and seems a bit like hard work and we are all pretty used to being able buy anything we want and get it the next day.

When these products are given less exposure people will have to go and look for them more actively – and if your willing to actively research a solution to your problem you’re more likely to be willing to  actually work to fix it, which means you’re more likely to actually find a healthy sustainable solution.

This week has shown there are many issues within the fitness industry but also that there are positive moves being made all the time to remove some of the bullshit.

 

 

Why I Run

Over recent years I’ve entered a lot of races.  10k, half marathons , even a marathon.  People always ask why.  There is one simple answer.

For the goodie bag.

That’s partly a joke – I like the support from the crowd and the variety in the route which makes running a long distance more palatable than just plodding down the same cycle route or park that I normally run in.

But essentially getting some food and a t shirt at the end is an incentive for me (want to be my friend- I’m very food motivated)!

I have a friend who literally runs for medals- she picks races based on what the medals are like!

I have another friend who does endurance events almost purely just to see how far they can push themselves.

In all our cases the event itself, location, the time we might get, our likely finishing place are almost irrelevant factors in our decision to take part.

Our motivation for doing incredibly challenging things doesn’t always have to be a story worthy of it’s own background music on a Britain’s Got Talent audition.

Do you struggle to set yourself a fitness goal?  Is that because you can’t think of that thing that sets your soul on fire and when people ask you about it you can give a long inspirational speech about how an angel came to you one night and told you that you were destined to do this thing?  Do you have something you’d quite like to try for whatever reason but that reason seems a bit superficial, silly even?

I run for goodie bags.  You can do literally anything you want for any reason you want!

Sleep Struggles

Recently I traveled to Scotland from Manchester twice in four days.  14 hours on trains in total with two 3am wake ups.  In between I was obviously in Scotland for specific events so was busy all day meaning I got very little rest across the week.  That week I didn’t train.  Now to be transparent I had also been ill in the run up to these trips and was still poorly during them so the travelling in itself wasn’t the only reason for my lack of training – one day I really could barely move so wouldn’t have been able to train regardless!  Had I been healthy however I can say with confidence that I probably still wouldn’t have trained because across the week these two journeys meant I didn’t get as much sleep as normal, my sleep patterns were disrupted and the travel made me more fatigued than normal.

Disrupted sleep patterns and lack of sleep over time can affect your training regime.

Chances are when you’re tired (to be differentiated with fatigued because you are ill) you will still manage to get through work and all the absolute essential tasks but training will often be one of the first things to be dropped.  If you do manage to get to the gym the chances of a positive training session are less likely.

Enough sleep and a regular sleep routine are essential to a strong training routine.

Studies with groups of athletes have found that when test subjects increased the amount of sleep they had over a three week period the subjects saw marked improvement in performance (speed for example), endurance levels, lower heartrates during exercise and a reported feeling of having had a better workout.

If you flip this study it is reasonable to conclude therefore that lack of, or poor quality seep could have the opposite effect.  If nothing else having less energy is likely to mean you have less to give when your train and so have a lower intensity workout.

In addition rest allows your body time to recover from workouts and aids muscle repair and growth.  A lack of sleep has also been found to be linked with increased cravings and increased appetite therefore your diet may be start to be affected by poor sleep patterns over a long period of time.

Some weeks a disrupted sleep pattern can’t be helped and short term a week of less sleep will have limited impact on you and your training but it’s useful to be have good habits most of the time  surrounding your sleep (Doctors call this sleep hygiene).

Try to go to bed around the same time every night / wake up at the same time each morning

Studies suggest that having a regular bed time ad wake up time assist in a good night sleep.

Have a night time routine

A set routine sends signals to your brain that it’s time to start switching off ready for sleep, meaning you may find it easier to get to sleep once you get into bed.

Turn off electronic devices

Not looking at the bright lights of your phone / the TV for about an hour before bed will help your brain wind down ready for sleep.

Track your sleep

There are free apps which will monitor your sleep cycles and help you wake up at the best time within a sleep cycle as close to when you need to get up as possible.  This can make you feel much better rested than a sharp alarm first thing does.

Track your habits

Keeping a track of when you last had coffee before bed, exercised before bed, your mood and then how you slept can help you identify patterns and establish whether a specific action negatively affects your sleep, allowing you to make adjustments to improve your sleep.

Don’t make up for lost sleep

It’s tempting to have a lie in to make up for some short night sleep in the week but this has been shown to make you feel worse longer term.  A nap in the day may be more beneficial than having a long lie in.

How Strict Do I Need To Be?

I’m a fan of a relaxed Paleo diet- if calorie tracking doesn’t work for you a four day on three day off ‘paleoish’ diet can be a good way of managing calories without counting.

When people start Paleo for the first time the most common question asked is …

Can I … [insert hack here]

Can I have almond milk in coffee?

Can I have nut butters?

Can I have fruit and nut based bars?

My answer is always well technically if you were to follow Paleo strictly no, but as we are looking at a Paleo based way of eating then yes if it makes you happy and enjoy your food.

Essentially you have two choices when you elect to do a method of eating such as this.

Either do it as it is prescribed.

Or roughly follow it but add in a few of your own rules.

Neither is the right or wrong way (and there are so many variations in between).

The choice on how you approach it depends on what you want from your diet.

If you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to kick start a bit of fat loss, well to be honest the more strict you are with the bigger results you’ll see.  And yes, you might really crave pancakes for breakfast for two weeks, but it is just two weeks so just abstaining for fourteen days won’t kill you.

On the other hand if you’re doing two weeks of Paleo to just re-set some habits or if you’re planning on doing Paleo as a longer term way of eating then having a few ‘adjustments’ to the rules might well serve you better.

Equally if you know you won’t last two weeks without a few tweaks there is not point setting yourself up for failure by not making those tweaks.  80% is always going to be more effective than 100% saint for ten minutes before giving up will be!

Hopefully by now you know there’s no right or wrong way of eating – the way that suits you won’t suit everyone else, so it stands to reason that the decision of how closely you stick to something also needs to be personal to you.

Social media is awash these days with judgement over food.  I’m in one particular group where people defend their way of eating (Keto, IM Fasting, plant based) with zeal and lament anyone who doesn’t do the same as them or doesn’t follow that particular diet in exactly the same way as them (who doesn’t love a they’re doing it wrong post).  Don’t get me wrong there are times when I see things and think OK- perhaps you’re over complicating this or hmmm, I think you’re looking in the wrong place for the problem here; but actually if it suits them and makes them happy and isn’t a diet of cyanide that is going to kill them then it’s none of my business.  You can offer educated advice but you have no out and out right to be heard.

I digress – how strict you follow a food plan should depend on your goals and how you feel.

My general rule of how to decide what’s right for you.  Think about making those little adjustments – does the idea of adding a bit of flour to some pancakes for breakfast make you smile and really look forward to that meal when you wake up tomorrow or are you already feeling guilty about ‘breaking the rules’ before you’ve even done it?  That normally gives you a decent idea of which way will work best for you, because if what you eat makes you feel guilty after eating it that’s not going to lead anywhere pleasant.

This outlook can be expanded beyond Paleo to any way of eating, way of training, in fact way of living.

Does what you are doing make you happy.  Yes – keep doing it then.  No – maybe you need to make some adjustments to change that.

Will adjusting the training plan you’ve been given make you feel like you’ve ruined your workout or will swapping those sprints out for a row make you feel 100% more successful.  Depending on your answer to those questions you have your answer as to whether you should follow the ‘rules’ to the letter or not.

What kind of person are you?  If you feel guilty when you bend a rule then stick to them and don’t make yourself feel guilty.

What result do you want?  If you are looking to get very specific results then following a plan very precisely matters, if you are looking to feel better but have more relaxed goals then you can equally follow guidelines in a more relaxed manner.

The key is knowing yourself and knowing your goals then being honest about what you need to do, sacrifice or change and for how long to get to those goals.

Because if you want transformational results on a fitness plan but are only wanting to follow the plan 50% of the time you’re going to be disappointed, but if you know what you want isn’t as dramatic then the changes don’t have to be so dramatic either.  Neither of those extremes are wrong, they are entirely personal and in reality the only person you need to be able to justify yourself to is you.

I’m not saying join a programme and don’t do it here!  What I’m saying is very few of us can do everything 100% perfectly for even a short period of time (well I say very few of us , perhaps others can and I’m just trying to make myself feel better!) so knowing your own expectations of yourself, what will feel like success to you and then working to that level is the key to success.

If you have high expectations cool- but know you’re going to have to be stricter on yourself to reach them, in that case looking for the hacks and quick cheats won’t serve you.  The opposite applies just as much.

Pick your stance, work to that stance and don’t be swayed by what others are or aren’t doing.

The Point Here Is Right At The End

The number of views and amount of feedback I’ve had from recent blogs has made me smile.  What started as a personal blog, which I pretty much assumed nobody would ever read 18 months ago has turned into a blog that has over 250 regular followers and has been viewed almost 6,000 times.  Those figures might not be impressive in comparison to many blogs, but from my initial goal of just writing stuff for me to that is a big personal leap.  My more recent personal venture is a spin of podcast.  On episode 2 I’ve so far had a total of 36 listens from 18 people (for those who listens in installments it’s true I’m best in small doses!).  Those numbers again, aren’t going to break any records, but I’m really happy with them.

I was talking with a friend about a specific comment form I’d received on my blog last night which had been rather positive, and they said this.

“That comment wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t written the 50 odd blog posts before that one.”

I read a similar comment from the online PT James Smith recently about his daily emails – which for a long time didn’t generate him one single sale, but he persisted with the regardless (and I bet he’s glad he did now).

And that’s what today’s post is about.

My first couple of blog posts were read by nobody, unless you count the handful of people I’d made follow me and read.

The next handful of blogs were read by nobody again.

Eventually after a few more posts someone outside the group of people I forced to read them read one.

The numbers stayed at the audience of one for a while.  Then it became two, then three.

For months and months and months I wrote blog after blog for an audience that didn’t make double digits.

But I carried on writing.  They make me no money.  It’s purely a labour of love.  I actually enjoyed writing them and I was happy if one person read and found it useful or read and enjoyed.  The focus of the blogs changed from online diary to aiming to provide some use to the handful of readers I had.  I probably got better at writing and better at picking topics, the first few times you do anything are normally a bit rubbish.

One day I looked and I had close to a hundred followers.  From there growth sped up.  From there people started to interact.  What the blog is now is more than I aspired for it to be.

But if I had stopped writing after the first few posts because nobody ever read them it wouldn’t now be the project it is.  I had to keep writing to an imaginary audience in order to get a real audience.  That’s why I will persist with the podcast, as that audience of 18 may not put me on the apple top ten list, but if I stop because of that I’ve no chance of growing my audience, if I continue, it will take time but if I work hard it could well grow.

Of course it helps that I’m passionate about my topic.  Sticking with something you care about is a hell of a lot easier that grafting at something you don’t feel a fire for.

Your fitness goals are like this.  Well in fact all your goals are like this, but this I a fitness based blog so let’s focus on this.  When you start going to the gym will you be able to lift well, will you be able to lift heavy?  On day one – nope, day two- nope, day three- sorry still nope.

Now if you give up because you’re clearly just crap at this you will remain as you are forever.

But, if you keep going eventually you will see improvement.  That may take days, it may take weeks, it may take months.  The improvement will probably hit you in the face out of the blue- you won’t have seen it coming, but at that point you can look back at all the gym sessions where you felt no progress was being made and know that those sessions were the foundation your success is built on.

But it’s like I said about my blog.  The time it took to grow didn’t matter because I liked writing anyway- people actually reading them is a really nice bonus.

So you want to find something that you enjoy.  If lifting fills you with dread try a class, if you hate running but love swimming why would you buy those running trainers?  Because if you can embrace the times when you start out and aren’t amazing you will improve without even noticing it because you’re just enjoying what your doing.

I think James Smith called it “Falling in Love with the Process”.  If you can do that it makes personal growth a fair bit easier.

And if you can’t do that, well then simply don’t give up when things don’t happen for you straight away, because you aren’t a toddler and throwing a tantrum won’t get you results, consistency and sticking to something may well do.

Jump 4.2 – Week 8

I’ve been AWOL for the last week, rather busy between a mixture of work and personal stuff, and I started writing this blog last Thursday but then never got round to finishing it.  I could have finished it if I’m honest, it’s just that in the grand scheme of things a few other things were more urgent.

So I guess that’s the lesson for me on week 8 of Jump 4.2; time management, priorities and allowing things to slide occasionally.

As a PA / administrator I would like to say I am pretty organised and hitting deadlines is vital for me to be good at my job, this blog would suggest otherwise perhaps, BUT another thing that is vital is knowing how to prioritise your work and getting the most important things done first.

A heavy workload last week, along with a spa afternoon booked in and mum mum visiting for the weekend meant I was a bit limited on time to do things I enjoy but aren’t money earners (like this blog) or non negotiable appointments (my mum, the spa).  So I accepted that some things I wanted to get done but which weren’t essential needed to be put on the back burner.

The thing is (and we all do it) it is easy to get caught up in the tasks we enjoy or feel comfortable with, but sometimes we need to be strict with our own time management to be more productive and serve our self the best we can.  Your priorities will constantly evolve so just being aware of what you need to do compared to what you’d do in a ideal world is the best thing you can do to stay organised.

By organised I actually mean sane.  When you don’t feel on top of your to do list (at work or at home) it’s difficult to feel good within yourself as stress levels rise and self care may begin to slip.  Can you always be on top of your to do list though?  Unless your superwoman/man probably not.  So as much as planning and sticking to your plan is important, part of time management in itself is knowing when to put something on the back burner for a bit, so you can get the important stuff done and feel positive rather than like a failure.

So what did I do in week 8 of Jump?  Well I stayed aware of my calorie intake even though I wasn’t actively aiming for a deficit, I stuck to lots of positive habits most days, I barely trained but decided around Wednesday that I’d accept that because I was actually a bit tired and felt like I needed a rest.  Oh and I had a massage!  That’s not sticking to Jump 100% but it’s not a bad week either.

What I’ve learnt over the eight weeks is more important than what I’ve done this last week.  What I have learnt is to be a bit more pragmatic about my diet and training.  Accept I’m in control of it, but it will still never be perfect because I’m an average person who will have social occasions to go to and days when I want ice cream for breakfast.  The key is to acknowledge that for every few ‘good’ days there might be some ‘bad’ days, yet one bad day doesn’t ruin a week that has otherwise been positive.  In training your mind to accept this you allow yourself the freedom to improve your training and nutrition rather than staying trapped in a never ending cycle of assuming you need perfection to achieve results.

So your training and nutrition is much like your to do list, sometimes you need to adjust your expectations and be flexible with timescales and actions to keep yourself sane, it doesn’t mean you’re doing badly just that your managing your time and your priorities appropriately.

Two things to finish:

  1. If you are a group exercise instructor or do a lot of group exercise classes as a a participant and would like to know more about Jump 4.2 drop me a message, I can answer any queries and maybe even help with a discount….
  2. Because I think it ties in well below is a link to my productivity planner which I designed to help you stay focused when you feel like things are getting on top of you.  If you are struggling to stay focused try using his for a few days to keep you on track (p.s. this is a day organiser not a fitness organsier).

Link To Productivity Planner

 

Jump 4.2 – Week 7

Week 7 and I want to talk about having a training goal.

Previously I’ve always been mindful to think of this as things like run a marathon or reach a certain weight, and they are goals and if they are things you want to do then perfect.

My issue recently has been that I’ve been really busy and adding an extra unnecessary stressor into my life (in my case I was determined to run more races this year) ended up just causing me to get over stressed, injured and not enjoy or even want to train.  What used to be a good focus generating goal for me- running- became a stress that made me feel bad about myself and not want to train.

Same with my weight, instead of the goal of trying to drop a bit of fat motivating me it stressed me out and I probably put weight on, I definitely binge ate and had a guilt based relationship with cake.

The problem here is that training daily is vital for my mental health, it’s an anchor and doing something most days helps keep me happy.  What I eat does also affect my mood- not in the form of only ever wanting to eat salad, but in the way that if I don’t get regular fairly balanced meals

The last seven weeks have forced me to think about what I realistically want.

I don’t mean what I want, because what I want is to be super lean, have super defined muscles, be able to run fast and lift ridiculously heavy weights.

What I realistically want though is to fit training into my day comfortably and enjoy it and eat plenty with variety and some sugary treats because I have a sweet tooth.

Because actually to train for hours a day I would need to let go of another commitment, to create the muscle definition that would be ideal I’d have to cut out a lot of the foods I love.  Really, when I’m honest what I want isn’t some amazing achievement- I’ve got business goals to work on that require my focus – what I really want is a nice routine that makes me feel good, keeps me healthy, keeps me in decent shape and fits nicely into my current week.

So having a goal is important, but the goal doesn’t have to be training for xyz or aiming to be a certain size or weight.  It could be to fit in two training sessions a week or eat x number of calories a day or even work towards improving lift in the gym.

Being a bit more flexible with your thinking surrounding training and eating can allow you to find a focus and goal that is more manageable and enduring than simply picking one of the more traditional goals.

Jump has made me think about my goals and changed my thought process to lead me to a place where I feel happier with my training routine.  I know in the future when things change and I’ve more time I can adjust my goals again but for now I’m exactly where suits me.