Intuitive Eating

Intuitive eating and the anti diet movement.

I’m a bit torn by this.

On the one hand I want to support the idea of eating what you want, not feeling guilt for eating certain foods or certain amounts of food and listening to your own body.

But I also think if you want to make a change – specifically lose or put on weight – you need to know what you are eating.

Because really, if you don’t currently track what you eat you are kind of eating intuitively.  So if you aren’t where you want to be that intuition isn’t quite working right now.

I’m not saying track everything forever, but getting an idea of where you are at and learning what the right amount of calories feels like will allow you to eat with more freedom going forward.

I think of it a bit like learning to drive or staring a new job.  When you first start something new you really think; you are aware of what you are doing and when, maybe following notes or using reminders, you never do something without checking or on auto pilot.  Once you have been doing it for a while you gain confidence, you know how to do things and don’t need to constantly check, tasks are done instinctively and sometimes you ‘just know’.

When you see someone experienced do something well but making it look effortless you can normally bet they were not like that at the start.  They went through a learning process and what might now be done without thinking almost definitely took a lot of concentration to begin with.

So I think listening to your body and eating what it wants is a great concept, taking away some of the negative feelings that can be associated with diets, but if you also want to achieve a certain result the fact is you still need to effectively manipulate your calorie intake and that takes knowledge, of where you are at and where you need to be.

Intuitive eating can be a thing, but your intuition needs to be in the right place first.

I literally cannot be bothered

Yesterday I wrote about how education on weight management is needed, but beyond that people need motivation, in fact no… they need accountability.  I said I’d write more about that today and I wanted to keep this as a separate blog because I want to write about me.

Honestly, right now I’m my best example of this argument.  I know about calories, macro splits, supplements.  I know how to train, what I need to do to stay looking a certain way (I’m trying really hard not to say certain weight).   Not only do I know all this but to be honest normally I enjoy the training and the way I eat so it’s not even hard work.

But right now I’m nowhere near that.  I’m at least two clothes sizes bigger, nothing at all fits, I avoid looking at myself side ways in the mirror because I am extremely wide right now and I just do not feel good in myself.  I cannot be bothered to train, have lost all motivation (heat does not help, nor does not yet being back teaching) and whilst I eat pretty well still I’m eating a lot more chocolate whilst doing a lot less activity.

The fact is I am well educated on fitness and nutrition.  This is not a lack of knowledge or access to the right foods or access to places to train.  It’s not even a lack of goal or motivation.  I will be teaching again soon, I have purpose / reason to get going again I’m just struggling to pout it into effect.

Oddly I trained and ate well all through lockdown.  I used my training sessions as a away to structure my day and keep feeling positive.  I ate well and again used meal times as a way of keeping my day structured.  Ironically the opening up of things and my return to the office almost very day (thus getting back to reality and routine) caused me to lose that training and eating routine I’d built.  I’m finding myself tired at the end of the day so deciding not to train, busy during the day so skipping lunch when I would normally have trained and pretty much comfort eating chocolate.

Literally as I’m writing this I’m saying to myself but you know what to do about this.  There is nothing about education being needed here.  This is literally just about making myself do it.  Nobody else can make me feel better about myself, I have to get back to doing what I’ve always previously just done as habit.  Equally though it made me think about what I was saying yesterday.

I completely stand by my argument that what is needed to tackle obesity is education.  Not a list of lower calorie food options but genuine understanding of the energy balance that can help people, because then you could have that McDonalds and know it’s still OK and still work towards losing weight.

But still knowing doesn’t mean applying and sometimes what we also need is accountability and support.  How many people continue to go to a PT for years and years?  For many people it’s the accountability that is worth paying for those sessions, doesn’t matter that they may know they could go and train alone.

If you know what you should be doing and still aren’t that’s OK, most of us struggle with this at least some of the time.  Best thing to do is work out what will make you get started again.  Who can hold you accountable?  Who can offer support?  Maybe that’s a PT, maybe it’s booking onto a class to make you go, maybe it’s signing up for an event (hard right now).  Sometimes it’s just telling people of your intentions, like I am here.



The Contradiction of the Dine Out Scheme and a Fight Against Obesity

You know there are lots of different types of people in the world?  People who have different struggles, some people struggle to lose weight, others to put it on.  Some people watch what they eat whether they struggle with managing their weight or not and others find they don’t need to.  Away from our physical self we all work in different industries and have different personal situations.

So I struggle to understand why so many people in the fitness industry keep comparing and contrasting the Governments intentions to tackle obesity and the Dine Out 50% Scheme.

The economy has been hit hard, in particular the hospitality sector.  The 50% scheme and the lower VAT rate are designed to stimulate an area of the economy that is on the edge of a disaster that will have far reaching effects on us all as jobs are lost and windows along high streets start getting boarded up (I mean we’ll just ignore the fact here that the Government found the money to fund this but it took a footballer campaigning to find the funds to feed kids who would otherwise go without during the school holidays).  Maybe it does encourage people to go and eat out more, but you know that when you go to a restaurant you don’t have to pick the fattiest, highest calorie thing on the menu right?  I mean – I don’t follow this rule when I go for a meal but… I could … I do have that autonomy of choice.

That’s the thing for me.  Those campaigns to stop BOGOFs and cheap deals on ‘junk’ food.  Why can I not pick for myself what I put in my mouth?  Does it take the Government making it more costly for me to eat less junk food to achieve that?  Will that work long term?  Or would me making informed decisions about what I eat be better in the long term.  I frequently get laughed at for how much I eat (and particular how much cake) but actually, most of the time (OK not so much in lockdown with no classes to teach) I’m actually easily within my TDEE even with all the cake, on occasions I am not I can say no to food if I think it’s right for me to do so, I don’t need Whitehall to tell me.

So the Government’s current scheme has a purpose and that purpose isn’t related to people’s health – it’s related to the economy, and as much as I don’t like this government (albeit I’ll admit to a  slight inappropriate crush on Rishi, although most people would look good if they’re almost always stood next to Boris) and think their messages are becoming increasingly confusing and contradictory, this policy is designed to get people going back to restaurants and pubs, to contrast it directly to issues of obesity is far to simplistic and takes away the ownership we need to take over our own bodies.

So onto the campaign against obesity.  I’ve not read too much about this as reading the news at the moment makes me incredibly aggy and to be honest I probably don’t need to be triggered any further.  From the Government website it seems to largely involve banning adverts for ‘naughty’ foods, reducing BOGOFs and GPs being able to prescribe weight loss programmes to people – this appears to be both via an NHS specific weight management plan but also being able to sign post them to Weight Watchers and Slimming World.

It’s the Slimming Clubs that seem to be the ultimate trigger to many fitness professionals here.  I’ve written previously that whilst I wouldn’t encourage someone to join one, I don’t think they are the devil incarnate that they get made out to be in our industry.  At the end of the day they promote a safe and healthy calorie deficit, they just do it in a sneaky way where the customer isn’t actually aware that’s what is happening and in a way that sadly doesn’t really promote moving as part of a healthy lifestyle.

To tackle obesity what is really needed is two tier.  Firstly education.  Banning adverts and offers doesn’t educate.  It’s taking the scissors away from someone rather than explaining that they are sharp so if they use them they need to be careful.  Sending them to a Slimming Club could help but not educate.  I would hope the NHS weight management plan would be the first port of call for most referrals and more educational however.

Secondly however, as I’ll write more about tomorrow, knowing and doing are just not the same thing.  It does’t matter what you know about calories or the benefit of exercise, most of us need accountability, reasons to make the effort.  For em the Governments shortsightedness comes not from Weight Watchers but not following through to this point.

Here is where we in the fitness industry can really come into a useful position, offering services that provide that accountability and support to people.  I’ve said so many times previously though, that means less talking down on other ways of losing weight (like slimming clubs) and understanding why they are popular options with many.  I’ll tell you know, because I’ve been overweight and I went to a slimming club before a gym, because sometime gyms and the people in them seem scary.  We need to show understanding of how people looking to lose weight feel and provide services that help rather than put people off.

The other issue here is cost.  It’s often said that one problem is it’s cheaper to live off junk than fresh food.  I think that is both true an untrue.  You can find very cheap fruit and veg if you know where to look, but often you need to go to certain chains of supermarkets to get the value products, these might be out of town superstores, now if you can’t drive then you are limited to the more expensive local shops.  Socio economic factors definitely come into play in everything going on right now.  How was lockdown or you?  Will have depended on where you lived, who with, access to gardens and parks.  What will have been an idyllic summer for some would have been months cooped up alone indoors for others.  Whilst we can argue that people coming to us as PTs or coaches would be more effective for them in terms of weight management and health, three sessions with a PT a week in going to cost at least £90 a week, a gym membership at least £20 a week.  A weight in at Weight Watchers costs around a fiver.

Ultimately we need to stop over simplifying complex issues, try and look beyond our own point of view and accept that in a very complex world right now where there are economic, social and health issues vying for attention with a still ongoing pandemic that not every decision or policy is always going to sit well or make sense against another.  We need to think more on a micro scale of what we can do to improve the situation rather than getting bogged down in what Boris is cocking up this week.

Lost Momentum

I’ve not written a blog since 20th July when I took some time out due to an injury.

I rested for about a week and a half then intended to get to the gym as they reopened in England, but just didn’t.  The rest combined with not teaching for such a long time now (and not yet having classes to go back to) meant I found it really hard to motivate myself to get back into the gym.

So here’s the thing.  Exercise is an anchor for me.  Something which grounds me when I’m feeling a bit rubbish.  It’s not something I feel I have to do, I enjoy it and it makes me feel good and quite frankly sane, it’s also a great stress reliever and when I’m busy a quick run or workout can help you come back refreshed and refocused.  But it’s also really easy to lose momentum, even with something that you know is beneficial to you.  In turn this makes me feel a bit down about things in general, so it’s something that I’ve struggled with a bit.

Right now in the world most of us have probably lost some momentum.  Life changed over night (I went from teaching 10-15 classes a week and being out an about almost all the time to working from home to now working in an office but not yet back to teaching) and even as it changes back it’s different to what it was, and it’s continuously changing.  Getting back to things you know are good to you and enjoy sounds like it should be easy but it really isn’t.

For me I’m just getting myself back into the gym as often as I can, I’ve reduced the duration / intensity of my workouts so i can build back up (both from the injury and extended break) and I’m not kicking myself if I have a long day and have to miss a training session.  I know overtime I’ll get back into that habit and hopefully by the time I start teaching again (in a few weeks hopefully) I’ll feel much more in the swing of things, but I can’t expect myself to just bounce back to where I was in March.

If you need a bit of motivation to get yourself back into the swing of things, firstly, that’s ok- I think most of us are in the same boat.  Secondly, I have designed a two week gym plan to help ease yourself back in which you can download here.


Man Down!

I’ve picked up an injury.  Well of sorts, I think its more over use as I have been doing a lot more running / cardio classes with gyms closed and my knee (which isn’t without issue at the best of time) and hip are feeling it.

Here’s the weird thing though. I can rest.

Do I want to rest? No.  I’ve not trained since Tuesday and I’m itching, training is as mcuh something I do for my mental health as physical health.

But because I am not teaching I can rest.  Under normal circumstances resting for me would be only teaching classes which would still equate to around nine hours exercise a week.  Looking at it you can see why instructors struggle to get rid of persistent niggles!

There have been many negatives about gyms being closed but the one positive it has bought me is the importance of rest, and not my weird instructor concept of rest but actual proper recovery, the sort I would advise others take.

This is something I want to take with me when I’m back to training in gyms when they reopen.  I’m curious if anyone else has learnt anything fitness wise they want to remember?


Have you ever tried a gratitude challenge / journal?

I like the idea of practicing gratitude.  I think as new age as it can sound at first it’s actually a very practical and CBT based way of managing your own mental health.

The reality is it is very easy to see a negative and focus on it and feel bad because of it.  When you make the effort to try and look beyond that to positives, however small, it can start to transform how you feel in that moment.  The more you intentionally work to transform negative thoughts to positive ones the more naturally it comes and the more naturally it comes the easier it is to focus on the positives of a situation over the negatives.  So the act of practicing gratitude daily is a good way of training your brain and thus feeling better in yourself.

What isn’t so easy however is actually getting started.  At first completing a gratitude journal can feel somewhat ridiculous and getting started when you may not feel in a positive space is actually pretty hard.

I had CBT sessions back in 2016 when I was struggling with depression and anxiety.  At the time I thought the techniques I was shown in these sessions didn’t work – I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be able to turn situations around in my head or look beyond my situation as it was at that point.  Now, in a much better place, I see how useful the techniques actually are and use them frequently, but I continue to believe there is an irony in the fact that I actually needed to feel better to begin to practice the tools that could have made me feel better at the time.

Learning to manage your own mindset is a skill to be learnt and developed.  That is why social media posts telling people to just feel ‘positive vibes only’ and other such slogans irk me so much, gratitude isn’t something that is easy to just suddenly feel- particularly in challenging times.

This is why I particularly liked an Ebook that I recently downloaded that teaches you how to start approaching gratitude.  Rather than a book to record your own lists of what you are grateful for (I really like these too, I always think you’re far more likely to stick to things when you like the tools you are working with) this actually approaches how to do it.

It was produced by a small business called LSW London.  The company’s main product is actually a really pretty set of 45 cards with tasks to carry out to help you improve your mood (the idea is you take one out at random and complete it, almost teaching you habits that can help anchor you).  However they also have this Ebook (only £3.95) and several mindfulness based recordings to listen to (£2.99 each).

If you are unsure about how to get starting with the practice of gratitude I would highly recommend this ebook as a starting point to get you going.

Check out the LSW Website


Has Lockdown Changed Your Periods?

Are your periods normally regular, but then over the last few months during lockdown you have found them become less regular?  A few of my friends have mentioned this, perplexed as to why their cycle has suddenly changed.

Changes in your body’s level of the hormones (estrogen and  progesterone) can disrupt the normal pattern of your period (hence why young girls going through puberty and women approaching the menopause often have irregular periods).  There are also lots of other things that can affect your cycle however, and some of these relate to our environment / lifestyle, so for me, it’s not that shocking that the change to our lives and emotions that lockdown bought about might have affected how regular our periods are.

Some common causes of irregular periods include:

  • Having an IUD fitted
  • Changing birth control method or using certain medications
  • Too much exercise
  • PCOS
  • Pregnancy
  • Breastfeeding
  • Stress
  • Dramatic weight gain or weight loss
  • Overactive thyroid
  • Underactive thyroid
  • Thickening of the uterine lining

Some of these reasons are medical and obviously require seeing a doctor to get the correct treatment.  Equally if you find your birth control has started to negatively affect your cycle it’s always worth speaking to the nurse or doctor about this as there might be a better alternative for you.  But some of these changes, specifically over exercising, dramatic weight changes and stress are lifestyle related.

For instance some women find they have changes in their periods because they exercise too much.  They may need to make workouts less intense, or exercise less often to combat this.

If stress is the problem, learning how to manage stress levels or remove the stressful situations from your life can help.

Extreme changes in your weight can affect your periods with weight gain making it harder for your body to ovulate whilst extreme, sudden weight loss can also lead to infrequent or irregular periods.  It’s important to stress here that losing weight sensibly or gaining a few pounds is not likely to have a dramatic effect to your periods (hence using the word extreme!).

Beyond these well accepted reasons that our cycles can change there are other factors that have been recognised as affecting our cycle, syncing with other women we spend a lot of time with, changes to our alcohol intake / patterns, changes to our diet, inconsistent work schedules (working late / changes in pattern) and changes to our sleep pattern (getting less sleep, going to bed later for example).

When you think about how our lives have changed in lockdown it isn’t overly surprising that some of us have found our cycles a little disrupted – our normal routines have gone out the window.  And with that you may have found your periods have change slightly as a result.

Because when you think about lockdown so many of the factors mentioned above will possibly have come into play for you.

Yes, gyms have been shut, but with many people either working from home or being on furlough / unable to go to work lots of people have had more time to exercise an so changes and potential dramatic increases to training will have been seen by many.  Conversely some people (me included) will have found their activity levels dramatically drop (even with training every day) and that change itself could also affect your period regularity.

I don’t know many people who haven’t reported feeling stress and anxiety about the pandemic at some point, whether your worries centered around Covid itself or the economy or both I think we’ve all felt a greater degree of stress.

Many people will have seen a dietary change- some for the better, some maybe not.  We are eating at home more but being indoors all day means we are more tempted by the fridge more often, therefore changes in diet and potential weight gain will not have been uncommon for many people in recent months.

Many people will also have increased their alcohol intake in lockdown, a mixture of it being cheaper to drink at home, having more time to drink etc. means that alcohol intake patterns will have changed (and increased) for some.

For the majority of people their working environment has changed, working from home, changes to hours and due to the challenges many businesses have faced many people are finding they are needing to work longer hours.  Suddenly not bein able to work is equally a sudden dramatic change to routine.

If you live with other females, you have possibly spent more time with them over lockdown so may have found your cycle sync with them.

And finally sleep.  We should theoretically have been able to sleep more – take away commuting, or work or social plans out of the house and early nights / lie ins should have been possible.  In reality, I found, and most people I’ve spoken to have said similar, sleep has been disrupted.  I’ve struggled to get to sleep until the early hours most nights and woken up frequently, which I put down to a mixture of worry and stress and also not being as active during the day meaning I find it harder to get ready to sleep.  This has meant I’ve probably had a lower quality of sleep in lockdown!

So when you think about it, given the amount of changes to our lifestyle that could potentially affect how regular our periods are that we have found ourselves facing in recent months, it’s not shocking at all that many women have found their once regular cycle has maybe become less regular.

Is this something to worry about?  Probably not, I track my cycle on the Fitbit app an have found that although I’ve had some changes, those changes appear to have settled me into a ‘new regular’ cycle.  I anticipate that as things continue to change as lockdown lifts I might see some more changes as my routine changes (and stress levels will probably continue to remain quite high) but again I will keep an eye on those via tracking and I expect they will settle.

But I’d always encourage you to speak to a doctor if you are concerned.  If the changes to your cycle are affecting your life, you continue to remain very irregular or anything seems out of the ordinary it’s always best to get yourself checked out.

If you have any of these symptoms it is generally advised you consult a doctor:

  • You miss three or more periods a year.
  • You get your period more often than every 21 days.
  • You get your period less often than every 35 days.
  • You are bleeding more heavily than usual during your period.
  • You bleed for more than 7 days (I know this is not unusual for many women but if you have a sudden change in period length it is worth getting it checked out)
  • You have more pain than usual during a period

All in all being aware of your cycle and changes to it is always a positive thing, as knowing your own body is the best way of being able to spot early on if something is wrong and understanding changes you might face can be helpful in that understanding of yourself.

Uni to Graduate, Participant to Instructor: Ellen Swann

At the start of the year before Covid happened one of the things I really wanted to do with my blog was write about people’s experiences. 

I’ve long believed that often we feel like our concerns and thoughts are so unique to us and as such for fear of seeming silly we hold them back and worry about them rather than discuss them.  When you realise others have the same sort of worries as you it can make things seem less scary.  When we know the things we are anxious about are shared by others it can have the effect of reducing that anxiety a little.  It literally can be a problem shared is a problem halved.  For the past couple of years I’ve written about my own experiences and thoughts for this very reason but I can only write about what I know.  My goal in sharing other people’s stories was opening up discussion on a wider range of topics.

The past few months left this a little on the back burner, we all had other things on our mind, but as the UK starts to open up to some kind of new normal I wanted to share another story.  I know a lot of people who read these posts are into fitness.  Many are already instructors or have considered becoming one, a lot of you are also students or have recently graduated.

Today’s blog is an interview with Ellen Swann.  Ellen is a group exercise instructor and recent graduate.  Her journey to instructor is tied in with her experiences at University and beyond and this will be useful to new instructors, new graduates, those due to graduate this year and people who are considering training to teach around a day job.  It’s about finding something you love and makes you happy and learning to balance your passions with responsibilities. 

I’ve kept this blog to an interview style so you can hear Ellen’s words as intended without my interpretation.  It’s of course worth noting that this discussion took place in the pre Covid world and so is based on gyms as we knew them.  We don’t know how the new procedures will change any of this when we finally get a gym reopen date or how instructor life will change (or student life for that matter),  My guess though, whilst things will be different and the landscape of classes / university may change the sentiments expressed here will probably remain true!     


H: Tell me a bit about you 

E: I’m Ellen, originally from a small town called Chesterfield but moved to Manchester in 2014 to start university and have lived here ever since! I actually work at The University of Manchester now and have since I graduated, I’ve done a variety of roles but currently I’m working in student support. I’m also a group exercise instructor, I started this in 2018 and have been teaching classes weekly for just over 1 year. I mainly teach Les Mills Body Pump, Body Combat and Body Attack but I’m also certified in Body Balance and RPM as well as Zumba and freestyle group cycle.

H: You recently graduated – what did you study and what job did you move into / do you do now? 

E: I studied Music at The University of Manchester and graduated in 2017. I honestly had no idea what I really wanted to do after university but I knew I wanted to say in Manchester so I signed up to the University’s graduate intern scheme and secured my first full-time job as an employability intern in Chemistry, where I promoted careers opportunities to chemistry students and helped students on the Industrial Experience course apply for and secure their sandwich year placements – bit of a change from music, I know! After my intern year I moved to a permanent position as an Undergraduate Admissions Assistant in Mathematics (another very different department!) where I mainly read and processed UCAS forms, making offers to applicants and inviting them in for interviews and dealing with the fallout of A-level results day and Clearing (yes I dealt with 18 year olds and their parents crying and complaining at me down the phone, it was tough!) Then in January 2020 I moved to my current post in the Student Support team in Social Sciences (more change!). I now, with my new colleagues, try to put in place support sessions and events to help students be more successful during the course of their studies and ensure they have a positive student experience and feel they can access help when they need it (not as easy as it sounds!). 

H: How did you find the transition between uni and work? 

E: I actually quite enjoyed the transition from student to (kind-of) adult. As I mentioned earlier I didn’t hugely enjoy my time as a student, I found the pressure of it all a bit much and that I was constantly worried about something or felt that I had to be working all the time and making progress or getting involved with music department/society events. Plus you know all the money that I (and my parents, mostly my parents…) were putting in to this I didn’t want to let them down and didn’t want to come out of it without that holy grail that is a 2:1 degree (I did get my 2:1 by the way, by 0.2%!) So, I found that when I started my full-time job that I did work at work 9-5 and then the rest of my time was mine! No essays to write, no books to read or pieces of music to practice, no concert rehearsals, the list goes on… I absolutely relished those first 6 months of feeling really free and just adulting! I tried cleaning hacks I found on YouTube, cooked new recipes, did some baking, bought clothes I would only wear at work, finally got round to some Netflix shows I’d been meaning to watch and I actually started reading books because I wanted to read them not because a chapter was on a reading list somewhere! 

H: What were the hardest things? 

E: For me the hardest thing was letting go of music, more specifically letting go of playing my instrument (the cello aka the big violin). I haven’t touched it since my final recital which was 4.30pm on 31st May 2017 (the date is forever ingrained in my brain). I still have my cello, I see it sat in its case every day. Every day I still feel guilty for not playing anymore, for “giving up,” for it being “such as shame” to be wasting all the time and money (my parents’ money…) that was put into it. It took me a whole year to really get over it to be honest, like a break up effectively. I cried about it several times. But the relationship I had with my cello was unhealthy, I never felt good about myself when I played, I never truly found joy through playing it was always constant effort and sacrifice and eventually unsustainable. Preparing for that final recital nearly broke me (well it kind of did along with other things but that’s a whole other story I won’t go into now) so I had to move on. I’m much better for it but it’s still hard and a lot of people don’t really understand why I don’t just play anymore – I actually feel a bit sick just thinking of having to sit with my cello again and play, it takes me right back to being a failure of a music student and not being good enough no matter what I did and that’s no way to live a life!

H: During that transition you also trained to be an instructor – why did you decide to do that? 

E: Once I’d started my first full-time job, I decided I needed to do some exercise. Anyone who has ever been a student will know that taking care of your body isn’t really the number one priority so now I had some time to do something about it. I joined the nearest gym to my work so I could go there first before heading home and decided that I should do a class to get me started as someone would tell me what I needed to do. I decided to go for Body Pump as lifting weights would be fine right?! It was the best and hardest 45 minutes ever but I loved it and haven’t looked back since. I fell in love with Les Mills classes and in August 2018 signed up for my ETM, Body Pump and Body Combat modules and in October 2018 I was fully certified and covering multiple classes every week and in December 2018 went on my Body Attack module! Actually writing that down has made me laugh, it sounds ridiculous to have crammed so much into 4 months (all whilst working full time) but I just found my passion, it made me feel amazing – that’s the reason why I committed to the classes in the first place, they lifted me out of my weird student haze and made everything seem clear and normal and I just couldn’t wait to get to my next class to get that feeling of pure joy (something I still have and hope to never lose). I was actually good at teaching classes, was quick at picking up choreography and putting it to music and felt confident at the front, an absolute revelation to me after 3 years of being the worst as a student. Of course, I had help along the way from the instructor who first suggested I sign up for the courses and I’m really grateful to the instructors who let me team teach and gave me technique and coaching tips during those early days.

H: How was it learning a new job and training to teach at the same time? 

E: Really hard lol! I had to adjust again to not having all my time as my own and figuring out how to prioritise what needed to get done when. I just cared about becoming an instructor so much and passing my assessments and teaching really good classes. I put so much more work into my Level 2 Exercise To Music in those 6 weeks than I ever did over the course of my 3 year degree and cried many tears over the tiny boxes in my assessment booklet and making sure my routine was the best it could be by doing grapevines and step curls at any given opportunity! 

H: What did you do to help you get through doing both at the same time? 

E: Made sure I was still doing things for myself that I enjoyed such as making sure I saw my PT for training sessions regularly, treating myself to a shopping day, having chilled weekends so my body could recover from the hectic weekdays and generally not sweating the small stuff so I could focus on getting all the work done and teaching as much as possible so I was ready to film for my certification videos.

H: What struggles did it bring about? 

E: I’m sure my colleagues at the time noticed I wasn’t giving as much to my day job as I could. I’d usually have a headphone in listening to Body Pump (again and again and again…) and was tapping out my ETM choreography under my desk to make sure I knew it all off by heart! It did also make things a bit stressful with my flat mate who essentially went through all of the emotions of becoming an instructor with me and consoled me when I was still filling in my assessment booklet the night before my exam!

H: How did you overcome them? 

E: I just approached everything as best as I could. I did my work very quickly and tried to keep on top of things in the morning during my day job so I could spend the afternoon looking at fitness stuff. With my flatmate, he saw how happy all the fitness classes made me so knew it would be ok in the end which I am forever grateful for, we support each other which is super important. Find the people who will pick you up even when you are lower than low – people need support from other people, period.

H: How do you find balancing a full-time job and teaching? 

E: Hahahahahaha! Don’t think I can ever say I have a balance! I definitely have a favourite and prioritise that over everything else. I’m not ashamed to say that I listen to my music (through headphones!) and read the choreography notes at my desk, make playlists on the app (yes I use it to teach, come at me…), plan my training and complete coursework at work. I just have to ensure it doesn’t impact on anyone I work with so if work emails need answering or spreadsheets need updating etc. that has to get done in a timely manner. Some weeks it’s really hard especially around new release time, trying to fit in learning new tracks, mixing old ones, attending workshops and still doing my normal life but it keeps me busy and keeps me excited about teaching because I love the challenge of doing it all.

H: Best tips and hacks for keeping a balance with two jobs and still having a life? 

E: Talk to people. Face to face, on the phone, on social media, whatever method you use make sure you do it every day. Just sharing your little stresses with others is really helpful and makes you feel less alone as it can be quite lonely when you are doing 14 hour days (train in the morning 7-8, work 9-5 then teach in the evening 5-8) and only coming home to eat, shower, unpack and repack your bag for the next day and sleep. Also planning in advance and being really strict with yourself about it, sometimes I end up with back to back weekends where I am away for various things so I make sure I have one weekend where I am home, scheduling rest and downtime is actually more important and difficult than doing the 14 hour days during the week!

H: Plans for the future? 

E: I am currently working towards my Level 3 Personal Trainer qualification and have big (scary!) plans to establish my fitness business and offer personal training. I’m nervous to put myself out there as it’s literally my name and face on everything but I feel really passionate about this and want to make a difference by helping people to feel good like I do when I exercise or move to music. If people even feel a shred of what I do then I’ve done something right and that’s all I want.

H: If there is one thing you could tell other people looking to train to teach / just graduating?

E: I just want to reassure any students out there reading this who may not be having “the time of their life”, are experiencing uncertainty over their future and questioning whether this whole university thing was worth it. Life may not look anything like what your teachers, parents etc promised or how you imagined it would be at this point but you’ve gained so much valuable experience that you don’t even realise you have yet and you can use it to do whatever it is you feel passionate about. So what if you don’t get on that grad scheme or earn the big money straight after graduation, there are no grade boundaries now or marking criteria to work against – no one is going to grade your life progress so just do whatever feels right for you and if you enjoy the process the results will come, promise!

If you want to hear more about Ellen’s experiences as a Group Exercise Instructor specifically you can listen to this podcast, taken from a series which also looks at instructor experiences with the notion that looking at one person’s experiences can help others too: Ricky Long Podcast: Ellen Swann

You can also listen to my podcast from the same series: Ricky Long Podcast: Heather Sherwood

Coming out of Lockdown? Do you have a Plan?

How weird is the world right now?

I spoke in a private Facebook coaching group yesterday about how I have genuinely found coming out of lockdown harder than going into it.

That surprised me because I was genuinely worried about my mental health prior to lockdown.  But in hindsight although the build up, uncertainty and speculation was anxiety inducing at the time it also meant I mentally prepared myself for the absolute worst, and because of that it was nowhere near as hard as I’d expected.  The rules weren’t as strict, I wasn’t arrested for buying non essentials with my shopping and I found a routine of sorts.  There were bad days of course but I coped.

What I didn’t think about was how to manage leaving lockdown.  I kind of assumed it would be easy- going back to normal.  That would be a positive not difficult.  Except it hasn’t been.  It’s been more stressful and emotional and overwhelming and anxiety inducing than I ever expected.

There’s two things I’ve since realised.

Firstly, we get used to things much quicker than we think we will.  So although I anticipated lockdown / work from home routine would be tough to adjust to, I had adjusted.  So going back into the office, things being more open has been another period of readjustment, and it’s continually changing.  Going into lockdown was very quick and a big change in one go, now things are evolving so every time I feel like I’ve got on an even footing things change a bit again.  Of course gyms are not open yet so I know that things will change again as they open and classes are integrated back into my week too.  The thing that threw me most about this is that I hadn’t really thought about how the change would impact me.  I thought as it was going back to normal it wouldn’t affect me at all and that lack of preparation on my part I think probably contributed to the feeling of overwhelm.  I’ve loved seeing real people again and getting back to a sense of reality but just because something is good in one sense doesn’t mean it isn’t also hard.

That brings me onto the second thing I’ve realised.

In March I expected a few weeks of lockdown then back to normal.  But we are not going back to normal.  Things are different, so you are going back to work and most things will be the same but some things won’t be.  That’s going to be the same for going back to the gym, going on a night out, to the pub, to the shops.  It isn’t bad or scary but it’s different and at first that is unsettling, because change is hard and takes adjustment.

So if I could give one piece of advice to people who are still essentially in lockdown and about to start easing that and going back out to work etc. be prepared.  The thought you put into how lockdown would affect you, put that same amount of thought into how you feel about this change.  being mentally prepared can help.  Give yourself time to adjust.  If you don’t train for the first week or so after you go back to work that’s ok, it’s likely to feel mentally and physically draining adjusting to the change so give yourself a break.  Finally know that it’s normal to feel unsettled by this, it’s the unknown and that sort of change makes most of us feel anxious, so you aren’t bad at coping if you are struggling a bit, you are normal so allow yourself time.




Dream Big; Reach for the Sky; Dream, Believe, Achieve; You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To and Other Pointless Quotes


They are important right?  I mean if you are on Facebook or Instagram you get the idea of working towards your goals, knowing what your goal is, never losing sight of your goals thrust in your face daily.

I include me in that by the way.

I really do believe that having a goal that you really care about drastically increases your chances of adhering to your plans.  A goal is good, but it has to be one you are passionate about and that holds a genuine meaning for you so that it acts as your motivation.

Equally, saying to people don’t aim high, don’t set big goals would be limiting.  It’s cheesy to say if a goal doesn’t scare you it isn’t big enough but there’s something to be said for aiming higher than you currently think you can reach, thinking big if you like to encourage you to progress.

But we need to be entirely honest.  Not all goals are achievable.

So whilst you should aim big, you should also be realistic.

Let’s say you want a BMI under 25.  According to the NHS 25 or above is overweight.  So perhaps that’s your goal.  On paper that sounds reasonable, a healthy goal.  Is it realistic?  For me, not massively.

I’m 5 foot 11.  To have a BMI of a healthy range I should apparently weigh 140-170lbs (10 stone to 12 stone 1lb).  I actually weigh 13 stone 7lbs at present.  I’m not overweight, I’m not fat.  But to reach what at first sounds like a very reasonable goal I’d need to lose a minimum of 1 1/2 stone, that’s a lot given i’m not actually unhealthy or overweight at the moment.  I weighed 10 stone a few years ago for a while.  I sort of had had that lolipop look and could only maintain it by eating very little and exercising a lot.  It wasn’t in any way enjoyable or sustainable.

So for me a BMI of 25 or less might sounds reasonable but it isn’t really realistic.  To do what I do for a job, to train a I enjoy training and to keep as busy as I do I need fuel.  Naturally i sit around my current weight, happily, without restriction, with chocolate and alcohol.  So that reasonable sounding goal isn’t actually realistic.

You need to make a goal work for you. So it needs to be personal yes, it’s good for it to be big sometimes, but it also needs to be achievable or it serves about as much benefit as not having  goal – in fact probably less because it could have a negative effect on you if it makes you feel like you’ve failed.

Sometimes we can ignore the Social Media motivational quotes and be safe, boring and sensible with our goals and still get results.