Half Marathon Report

On Sunday I ran the Birmingham Half Marathon. I’ve not been able to train this year really due to an ongoing cough that has really affected my ability to do cardio, so I went into it really very under prepared. In reality, if it had been someone else I’d have suggested they drop out, but I counted on being able to depend on a little muscle memory from my past fitness and training to get me through.

It did, and I had a good first half, albeit by mile 10 I had mentally checked out. My breathing wasn’t controlled and my legs were tired. I’m used to tired legs by that point in a race but my heart rate normally feels steady so it’s fine. Unsteady breathing and tired legs combined is much harder to fight through mentally!

I’d gone out for a few drinks the night before and whilst normally I’d say that’s not the best preparation for an event it probably served me well because I relaxed and wasn’t thinking about how hard it was going to be all night and worrying and fell asleep pretty easily.

Recovery wise now I feel pretty fatigued. In reality though, do I feel worse than if I’d gone in more prepared? Probably not. I’m signed up for another half in two weeks. I am seriously considering whether that’s going to be doable right now. Getting round once underprepared is one thing, doing it twice might be a bit of a push and I might end up risking a injury. What I don’t want is to end up not able to train for parts of the rest of the year because I’ve not been smart about my own health.

For now though I’m just pretty proud of myself that i managed to get round in one piece and not give up!


How many times have you lamented yourself for having no willpower when it comes to your diet?

We tend to think that sticking to something comes down to willpower, how much that we are committed to wanting it.

Willpower is a bit like motivation though, in that it comes and goes. It isn’t something you can rely on always having consistently.

The thing is you really only need willpower when things are very strict or restrictive.  If something is very hard to follow, time wise, or in how hungry/tired/ miserable it’s going to make you then there will be times where mind over matter is the only thing that keeps you sticking to it.

A diet plan or workout plan that is flexible and not restrictive however, allows for life changes, surprises, days where you can’t do the ideal. It allows for days where you want to eat more or things different to what you originally planned, it has wiggle room.

In effect willpower, like motivation, on it’s own will only ever allow for short term results. For longer term results you need a fool proof plan that accounts for the days where nothing goes right.

Does this apply to you?

People are different. Even if you share a lot of similar circumstances with someone, you aren’t going to be exactly the same.

In fitness though things tend to get generalised.

Being overweight is unhealthy in one camp, being over weight is fine in another for instance. Now in reality some people who are overweight will be healthy and active and happy as they are which is fine. There will be others however, for whom their weight does affect their health and wellbeing.

BMI is pointless and potentially dangerous. To be fair, I don’t know that many people in the healthy range of BMI even when they are super lean and fit so I’d tend to agree. However, I get why doctors use it, in some situations and for some people monitoring a BMI will have its uses.

A workout that is designed for a specific type of person (the busy mum, a group fitness instructor) could work for a large percentage of that group but won’t absolutely suit everyone who falls under that umbrella.

We can say if you’re in a calorie deficit you will lose wight, but of course there will be a small percentage of people who do have medical issues that mean this isn’t true.

The fact is it’s really hard to talk about things and take into account every single potential caveat. PTs know that there will be exceptions, but when for the vast majority of people or a group of people something holds true it makes sense to talk to the majority rather than the exceptions.  People who are the exceptions tend to know they are and will know to follow their individual advice from their GP, PT and so on.

What isn’t helpful online is people refuting general facts because of specific anomalies.  This can make people question solid advice that could help them because someone’s aunty Pat who is on some medicine that causes weight gain couldn’t lose weight even on a low calorie diet.

It’s useful to remember that not everything in the world of fitness or nutrition will apply to you. That doesn’t make it wrong or bad, just not something that would be of benefit for you to consider or incorporate.  Sometimes you need to use your own knowledge or recruit the help of a PT you trust to work out what would be useful for you and what to disregard.   


Fad diets are bad. Everyone agrees on that right? What is a fad diet though?

Same with exercise. Everyone scoffs at people jumping on the latest trend. It’s a fad it won’t last. How do we decide what’s a fad type training method and what’s a ‘good’ training method.

The definition of fad is something that people have an intense enthusiasm for, short lived, a craze. Generally in terms of diets and training we think of fads as things that offer quick fixes, magic results, do xyz and all your problems will disappear in weeks, you can do really simple things like add in a drink and still eat everything you normally do and the magic drink will fix everything and so on. It might be the idea that you can do just one type of exercises and change nothing else and suddenly drop 5 dress sizes.

Again here, much like Slimming World from my last pos, what PTs have issue with, is not always that specific fad in isolation. It’s the idea it is a magi fix.

There are fads that we out and out despise of course. Any magic slimming pill or skinny tea for intense. Literally a way to steal people’s money.

But some ‘fads’ could be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle and could have some benefits. Certain supplements incorporated into a good routine will add benefit. Our issue is that on their own they’ll do f’ all, and you need to understand that.

I happen to think that Herbal Life’s protein powder is actually one of the tastier ones out there (expensive though so I’ll stick with My Protein thanks), but it doesn’t do anything more than any other protein powder will. If you think it will it’s a fad. I’m partial to a hot water with lemon when I wake up, but that’s because it’s part of my morning routine which sets me up for the day, 5 minutes first thing sat and drinking it is calming and means I start the day not rushing around. It doesn’t act as a magic detox or anything. If I thought it did that would be a fad. Pilates, a current trend, is an excellent addition to anyone’s week. Is it the only form of exercise we should ever do? No. If you think it is we are entering fad territory.

What I’m saying is the reason I think we (PTs) dislike these fads is not always that the thing itself is bad. It’s the lack of understanding of why you might decide to do it. If you do something that could be seen as ‘faddy’ for a reason that benefits you and you understand it, it isn’t a fad. If you do something because you think it will fix a problem without any real knowledge of how it might do that it is. It always comes back to education, understanding and knowledge.

Let’s think about running. I like (well after the event anyway, rarely during) running. Some people think running is terrible for you. Now if I ran because I believed it was the only way to lose weight and so I should run for 20 minutes every day, that’s a pretty unhealthy mindset surrounding running, it’s factually incorrect, I’m unlikely to stick to it and you could argue it’s a bit faddy. Actually I run a couple of times a week because I like being outside, it’s my time to switch off and maybe listen to an audio book or music, I always feel better afterwards. Sometimes I run for a long time, sometimes 10 minutes. I often stop for a coffee and cake during a long run, because I like coffee and cake and runs should be enjoyable. It’s not a magic fix but it has benefits for me personally that I value. Same exercise, two different viewpoints of it, the exercise is the same for both outlooks – what is different is how it is perceived, in terms of purposes and perceived outcomes.

What people selling a specific product or brand want you to believe is their product will change everything. A PT wants to you to understand that sustainable progress comes from a mixture of things, forming habits, understanding how your body works and what it needs, working out what works for you around your lifestyle. It doesn’t require buying into any specific concept or product and if one thing doesn’t work for a client, a PT will look at what else might instead.

We need to keep coming back to the point that no one way of doing things is better than another, the key is making an informed decision on what you do and why.


I post my blog posts in full on Instagram.

In truth it probably hurts my blog, because I could refer people to the blog link and get more traffic, but actually the point of this blog was always to try and provide useful content, and if I post the full posts on social media more people will see it. If a few more people see it that is better than me just having better metrics on a blog.

But anyway, when you post on Instagram you obviously have to use a picture. I don’t really pay much attention to the picture, the post is what i focus on, sometimes I don’t even put anything vaguely related.

Yesterday though I posted a blog about Slimming World so I used an old photo of me back in the Slimming World sort of time, when my relationship with food wasn’t really that healthy. I was thin though. Arguably too thin, it wasn’t healthy or good for me and it was hard work to stay around 9 1/2 stone at almost 6 foot. I sit much more comfortably around 13/14 stone, I am much healthier with more fat on my body. My relationship with food is much healthier now days. I do think I need to lose a bit of weight these days (knees and running dislike my post lockdown weight) but even pre lockdown when I was fit and healthy and really quite happy with my body I was much bigger than I was in the photo I used.

I got more likes on this post than normal. I got 80% more traffic and views according to my insight page than any post this year.

Now maybe the blog post was just so well written it got a lot more traction, would be nice to think, but I know I’m not much of a writer. I think it was a picture of a much thinner me that did it.

We are conditioned to just see thinner bodies more positively, internet algorithms prefer thinner bodies, we look at people that have lost weight and think wow that’s great, it doesn’t occur to us they could actually be really ill and that’s why. Our brains are conditioned to equate thin with healthy.

I’m not a massive body positive movement supporter. Like most things I think it’s too complicated to simply look at it as black and white, and much like super thin doesn’t mean healthy, nor is being overweight always ok.

I think it highlights how we need to think beyond weight and scales and size in terms of health more than ever though. Are your habits healthy, are you fit and well, are you always tired, and you always stressed or sad, do you feel confident and good, are you doing exercise you actually enjoy? Fitness and health is more than one body type as much as it’s more than one way of training or one way of eating.

Slimming World and Us

Why do people hate on Slimming World and the like so much? Obviously I can’t talk for other PTs but here’s my take on the matter.

Now if you’ve followed this blog or my podcast for a while you’ll have heard me go into detail about my thoughts on Slimming World. I was a member, I lost weight on it and then I ran into some problems once I lost weight in terms of the Slimming World outlook and my increasing knowledge of nutrition and fitness.

I wouldn’t recommend joining to people, but equally I wouldn’t discourage someone who decided it was good for them.

Ultimately, it’s not unsafe. Done right, it encourages cooking from scratch, eating dense filling foods and limiting pre package items. It can create good habits.

So why do so many PTs have an issue with it? Education in a nutshell.

Essentially, Slimming World followed sensibly creates a calorie deficit, so you’ll lose weight. But it dresses the calorie deficit up in a cloak of free foods, syns, speed foods and HEXA /HEX B foods. You have to follow the diet book and the app and keep going to the meetings to stay on track. Whereas in reality to hit a calorie deficit you don’t need to do any of those things. You just need to stick within a certain number of calories. That can be tracked for free. You just have to understand what you are tracking. A good PT will teach you this to the point you do not need them to track. Slimming World doesn’t.

That makes sense- if you stopped needing Slimming World after a point where would they make money? A good PT holds more value than simply helping you see a drop in the scale, so we see no fear in simplifying concepts so they don’t seem mysterious.

The big issue I found with Slimming World was they discouraged exercise (or my group did). I was actively advised that if i trained less i might see a bigger drop on the scales. Horrible advice from someone with no qualifications in nutrition or training and potentially damaging to a persons body image and relationship with their weight. Now as a PT I know how important it is to stress how many ways there are to measure progress beyond the scales. Not to mention the health benefits of being more active beyond weight. It also saddens me how many women in these groups decided to wait until they lost weight to exercise because they didn’t feel confident and how this mindset was effectively rubber stamped by Slimming World. When I think how starting to exercise when I was at my biggest and the confidence and sense of achievement I gained from that spurred me on more to lose weight that a brand could actively discourage this is quite sad.

Again, this comes down to knowledge and education. Dressing up NEAT as a magic formula and creating myths surrounding exercise makes people more dependent on a formula which requires continued membership to a brand, instead of educating people and empowering them to eventually not need you anymore.

I get why people decide to join these groups. When I think about some areas of fitness from a new person’s perspective it looks intimidating. Slimming World and the like in contrast seem quite inclusive. The group I joined was full of lovely people and really quite welcoming. That’s why I very much think it’s our job as fitness professionals to not consistently bash these brands but understand what they offer and we do not, how can we make gyms as welcoming as a slimming club? It isn’t enough for us to just know why Slimming World doesn’t work anymore it’s about making our own services as accessible and welcoming.

And if you follow Slimming World or similar. There’s genuinely nothing wrong with that and they way you eat now on that plan can be largely kept in place if you decided to start moving away from Slimming World. As I say, There isn’t anything terribly bad about the concept, it would just be a massive benefit if you understand how and why so you are no longer beholden to a membership.

Diets Don’t Work

Diets don’t work.

How often have you heard people say that.

It isn’t technically true though.

Let’s assume the diet is to lose weight (diets can be for other reasons but this is the most common).

If you stay in a calorie deficit then you will lose weight and by definition your diet will have worked.

So what do people mean when they say diets don’t work?

Generally they mean that restrictive diets, that cut out food groups or require very low calorie levels are difficult to sustain for long periods of time.  This means that you might well see good results whilst you are sticking to it, but you inevitably won’t be able to stick to it for long and when you stop you will see the weight come back on.  This is generally what we mean when we talk about yo-yo dieting, a cycle of losing and regaining weight as we jump on a diet and then stop following it.

A diet in reality though is just a term for what you eat.  If you never think about your food intake and eat whatever you fancy, that is still your diet, and if you aren’t bothered about gaining or losing weight then this type of diet works.

So if you decided to modify your habits and food intake in a sensible and manageable way, that felt easy enough and not restrictive. If you accepted that sometimes you would eat more but in general you just started sticking to a few new habits. If you had a calorie target based on your TDEE that kept you in a small calorie deficit, looked at eating more protein, more vegetables, drinking more water, moving just a little bit more. That, is a diet.  The difference is, it’s a sustainable diet. You might see slower steadier results but you would find it easier to keep it up, like, forever.

So diets can work, that’s a simple fact.

But for them to be effective long terms they need to suit your lifestyle, they need to work around your life rather than dictating how your live. That allows them to be maintained long term.

What people mean is fad diets or restrictive diets don’t work and we shouldn’t let click bait headlines put us off from following sensible advice to work towards our goals.

Not Losing Weight?

You’re tracking calories but not losing weight. Why?

  1. You aren’t logging everything. Sauces, the odd biscuit, left overs, these all have calories too.
  2. You’re underestimating your portion sizes. Apps like MyFitnessPal will bring up various portion sizes when you search and what you’re eating may be more than this amount.
  3. You’re free pouring things. Again this comes back to portion size, you could be roughly working out your portion but underestimating it. That one bowl of cereal your tracking could in reality be more like 2.5 bowls to MyFitnessPal
  4. You don’t log your drinks. Alcohol, coffee shop coffees, these can have more calories than a full on meal at times so if you aren’t logging them your stats aren’t acurate.
  5. You have cheat meals. Calling something a cheat mean doesn’t mean it’s calorie free, it does mean you’re more likely to go over board and consume way more calories than you think.
  6. Your eating your ‘exercise’ calories. Your watch is telling you you’ve burnt 500 calories so you’re adding an extra 500 calories to your daily allowance.
  7. Your picking the ‘best’ version of a food in MyFitnessPal. Be honest, when you search a food on MFP you will see some questionable entries. As tempting as it might be to go with that really low one to make your data look better the food doesn’t have fewer calories in real life because you’ve done this.
  8. You track daily rather than across a week and scrap a day if it’s ‘bad’. It’s what we do over time that matters not one really good or really bad day. If you stop tracking on days where you know you’re going to end up ‘over’ calories and then start again the next day you won’t see you’re true picture of how you did over the week.
  9. Food on other people’s plate doesn’t count. In my head I live by this rule but it is of course bollocks
  10. Your calorie goal isn’t right for you. Maybe it’s too low and restrictive so you keep ending up ‘binging’. Maybe it was right for you but you’ve lost weight and now it’s just a bit too high or you’ve changed your activity level and it needs adjusting.

The thing to remember is that if you are eating less than you are burning on a regular basis your weight will reduce. Regardless of what you track, if this isn’t happening you are going wrong somewhere with tracking. We all under or over estimate our food intake at times but if you are serious about creating change you need to have an honest look at your habits and see where you are cutting corners and look to rectify those little habits.

Project 40- Week 24

Honestly, I started 2023 with a number of goals quite clear in my head, and I knew exactly what I needed to do to get them done.

What I didn’t account for is that I would end up being ill almost constantly over the last 3 months. Now don’t get me wrong I’m in the grand scheme of things pretty healthy, there’s nothing terrible or life threatening wrong and I feel a bit of a drama queen at times. Nonetheless I’ve really struggled to get things done. A mixture of not being able to do much cardio due to breathing problems and generally not feeling up to training because of feeling ill and just generally, particularly in the last couple of weeks, just wanting to sleep all the time, has meant that I haven’t been able to train as I planned. Obviously that means I haven’t reached the goals I wanted to by this point in the year.

I’ve had to adjust my expectations on some goals which are related to time specific events and I’ve had to accept that some other goals will just take longer. It’s really frustrating though when you aren’t where you planned to be. I think more so because I know that this is genuinely beyond my control. Had I not done things because I just hadn’t I’d be less annoyed I think, but I feel stuck in a place where I really want to do things and my body is literally saying a very loud no.

Patience is not a virtue of mine but I’m currently trying to be reasonable with myself as to how I view my body and fitness at this moment.