Goals

If we want to be good at something we have to do that thing often, repeatedly, until it becomes a habit, second nature.

If you wanted to be good at ballet you’d go to ballet lessons every week and practice ballet often. You wouldn’t join a Jazz class and spend your free time practicing the Waltz and then turn up to your ballet recital expecting to be great.

Often with our training though we set ourselves goals and then do completely different things before getting frustrated with ourselves that we haven’t met our goals.

Or, we set ourselves so many goals all at once that there just isn’t any way we could train for all of them in any effective, meaningful way.

Of course if you’re starting out and just wanting to move more then doing different things every week is completely fine and will keep things interesting.

But if you are looking to run a half marathon, building up to longer runs and strengthening your legs and core need to be your focus. That’s not to say you shouldn’t do any upper body work too, but if upper body workouts take up 80% of your workouts you aren’t working to your goal.

If you want to improve your squat though, running every day isn’t going to help you, you’ll want to be doing variations of squats and mobility work. Again, you’ll want to add in some upper body workouts but they won’t be your focus.

Growing your glutes? Again if you keep finding your bench press is the lift you work on the most your sessions are not aligned with your goals.

If you have set yourself the goals of doing a pull up, getting your deadlift to 100kg, running a marathon, learning how to do a headstand, the splits all whilst losing 10kg and committing to do yoga every day, you’ve probably set yourself too many goals to actually achieve any of them. How on earth would you fit everything you need to do to work towards those goals into one week? If this is you maybe pick the goal that’s most important and work towards that, saving the rest for after you’ve completed that first one.

Ultimately if we want to be good at something we need to do things that will help us get good at that thing. That’s not to say you can’t also do things in the gym you enjoy or that your week shouldn’t be balanced, but your focus should remain on exercises that help you work towards that goal.

Gym sayings that should be scrapped

Not all calories are equal

Different foods have different nutritional values, some can offer more more nutritional benefits than others, may be more or less filling, may affect your energy levels in different ways. Fundamentally though a calorie is a unit used to measure the food we eat, a unit of energy if you like and the calories in a 200 calorie salad are the same number of calories in a 200 calorie chocolate bar. In terms of energy in v energy out all calories are equal.

No carbs after 6pm (and other timing rules)

Whether it be this rule, Intermittent fasting, the 5:2 diet or any other rule that suggests when you eat will be the magic ingredient to weight loss. Whilst setting yourself eating windows may help you eat less and therefore lose weight you don’t suddenly store more fat by eating after 6pm or having breakfast.

Muscle weighs more than fat

Whilst it’s true the same volume of fat will take up more space than an equal volume of muscle (hence you can drop a dress size but remain the same weight as your body composition changes, a useful thing to remember) a pound of fat and a pound of muscle of course both weigh a pound.

Never miss a Monday

If you want to train 3 times a week why would it matter that one of those in on Monday? Whilst the concept of starting the week positively makes sense if Monday is inconvenient for you it really doesn’t matter.

Go hard or go home

Yes you want to work hard during your workouts, but life happens. Some days we are tired, have little niggles, we might be recovering from a cold. Some days we might be fatigued from previous sessions. On those days going hard could be more detrimental than positive. Listening to your body and resting, stretching or taking a de-load week when needed can help improve results more than simply pushing through.

‘Baby Weights’

No matter what you lift to someone out there it will be ‘so heavy’ and to someone else ‘their warm up weight’. Judging your weights in comparison to others won’t help you progress or make you feel good about yourself in the gym. Others might be lifting more of less than you but sticking to weights we personally find challenging for the rep ranges we are doing and working on progressive overload in relation to that weight range is the best way to progress.

Have you tried eating less food?

Have you seen the latest suggestions from various Government Ministers for how people could survive the current cost of living crisis that people across the UK have been facing.

People could work more hours perhaps (because if you already work two jobs or 40 hour plus a week you have lots of extra hours to spare).

Maybe you could look for a better paid job (because we all normally try to work in the lowest possible job we can find of course).

Perhaps people could swap to supermarket’s basic brands to reduce the cost of their weekly shop (because no person on a budget has ever thought of doing that already).

The most perplexing was Bois’s flex that he was responsible for free bus travel for pensioners (because riding the bus all day means you don’t need to switch the heating on at home).

My point here isn’t that the current Government is so out of touch it’s not even funny, it’s that sometimes, even though advice may be factually correct it’s not actually very helpful to the average person. The average person who is stretched financially now is very likely to already be working as many hours at the highest pay rate as they can and probably shopping in the most economical way possible. It’s not these efforts that are the issue it’s that costs are rising higher that wages and people are feeling the squeeze on their money after bills.

The same can be said for some diet advice out there.

Think about your average magazine headline or ‘lose weight without trying’ fitness post on Instagram.

Swap sugar out for sweetener in your coffee, take the stairs instead of lift each day, increase your daily step count by 20%. Little changes like that can make a difference and help you lose weight almost without noticing, but only if you don’t already do them.

If you currently have 3 sugars in your tea that small change is going to reduce your daily calories, so is swapping from a milky coffee to a black coffee. If you don’t do much exercise upping your NEAT will help you see results. What about those people though, that already drink black coffee sans sugar, train 3-5 time a week and walk around 20,000 steps a day. It has to be acknowledged that sometimes there aren’t little easy wins out there for everyone and sometimes the changes needed to help someone see some results are a bit more complicated than anything the Tories have thus far managed to come up with for our finances.

That’s not to say that once you reach a certain point you can’t get further results of course, just that the idea of making little cut backs here and there in calories or adding in a little bit of extra exercise isn’t going to be appropriate for everyone. If you are already training every day and your NEAT is high trying to do more is possibly going to be detrimental in terms of overtraining, stress and impacting your life. If you are already in a calorie deficit very day reducing your calorie intake further is likely to be both impractical and misery inducing. At this point you need to speak with a PT or nutritionist and get an action plan that’s specific to you.

There’s lots of generic advice out there that assumes a starting point of nothing, and if you are just starting out it can be helpful, but you need to remember that not every tip and piece of advice will be beneficial or right for you. Have you tried eating less food is not going to be the advice every person looking to lose weight needs.

I did it…

I did it! 2 hours 34 mins and 52 seconds officially (one second faster than my Garmin said). Not only was that about an hour quicker than I expected (and to be fair it was only 15-25 minutes slower than my previous seven half matahon times) I also didn’t even need to complete it by ‘wogging’, I ran unbroken until the 16km mark and only walked a couple of times in the last 5km.  My first 5km and 10km were actually my fastest 5km and 10km post Pandemic.

I’ve honestly never been so nervous beforehand, I didn’t sleep much and must have had about 25 nervous wees before the race even started (oh and one portaloo stop on the way round – if I hadn’t maybe I’d have been under 2 hours 30!). Once I started running though I felt suprisingly good and relaxed.  In fact for the  first 10km I felt like I was almost coasting and it really wasn’t until I was closer to 15km that I felt my legs start to feel heavy. I always find with longer distances that it isn’t my breathing that I struggle with, it’s the legs feeling tired and as I’d been ill during the last few weeks my energy levels didn’t feel great to begin with. I also felt my knee start to twinge around 7km, which concerned me at the time, but it held out quite well.

Here’s my thoughts post run:

  1. Splitting the run down into sections helps me mentally tackle a long run.  I broke it down into 4 5km runs with a 1km finisher and focused on that one 5km at a time.  Each section I told myself I could walk for a bit if I ran that 5km section, it pushed me to keep moving with something to aim for and in the end for most of it I didn’t need to walk and just kept going.
  2. I started this run faster than I meant to – I was thinking of aiming for 13-14 minutes miles at least to start with and my first three miles all came in under 11 minutes each. I purposefully had to slow myself down because I knew I’d gass myself out if I kept that up but in the end I averaged an 11.4 minute mile. Normally I’m really careful to pace myself early on and speed up if I can rather than go out too quick, but this time I was nervous and that made me go hard early on, in the end that start meant I felt like I had wiggle room in the second half of the run which calmed me down so it worked out ok but isn’t the ideal race tactic.
  3. Strategic walking can actually help your time, I find it better to plan when and how far to walk if needed though to avoid getting into that stop start pattern.  If you do needto stop running though keep moving, stopping to stretch or breath half way through a half does nothing for your legs. 
  4. Manchester has some nice sites to run past but a lot of dull industrial parts too, the atmosphere is great but it isn’t always the most scenic.
  5. Strategic energy gels are useful. Not waiting until you feel like your flagging but taking at pre -planned times keeps you feeling steady throughout.  I’m also always pretty careful on water intake, a few sips at each station otherwise I find I often get a stitch.
  6. Airpod battery life is not sufficient for the slower runner.

All in all I was actually really chuffed with my finishing time and also the actual run itself, which was probably stronger than the time suggests. I’m looking a the next Manchester Half in October now, with perhaps the aim to get back to a 2 hour 10 minute finishing time.

Virtual Reality

Last month I went to visit my friend who has always been into technology and she had recently bought a Virtual Reality headset and one of the things you can do on the headset is a virtual Les Mills Body Combat and I gave it a go.

Now it’s not doing Body Combat in the normal sense, you don’t do a full class and it’s not to the music in the traditional way and of course is largely punching as virtual reality kicking isn’t quite yet a thing.

What it is however is actually pretty addictive, once you have the headset on it feels very real and you can feel the objects coming towards you as if they were real. The classes are pretty short, the beginner / practice ones are as short as 5 -10 minutes, also the headset means your movement can feel a little clunky and you can’t really jump about. However you can really get into it and get a bit of a sweat on just because of how immersive it can feel.

Overall, with the technology as it is, it is still probably more of a novelty activity rather than a full on exercise regime, however if you aren’t currently doing that much exercise it can get you moving and is motivating enough that you might actually want to do it every day.

It is of course expensive, I’m not sure how many people at the moment could afford the headset, remotes and subscription but as the technology progresses I’m sure it will become more affordable.

In terms of Les Mills it’s clear Body Combat lends itself to the new technology although to make it more fitness and less experience both the headset would need to be lighter and they would need to work out how to incorporate more lower body into the workouts. What I’m not sure of is how they could lend the technology to the other programmes – Body Step potentially if they developed a Virtual Reality Step but that would add to people’s cost but beyond that I’m not sure. Whether that will affect Les Mills decision to continue to invest in the technology will be interesting as there is certainly potential and it would potentially encourage a whole other demographic of people to move more. That being said they have invested a lot in the Trip, which also requires a big investment by gyms so they may well decide to stay in for the long run with it.

Tomorrow

Tomorrow I’m running the Manchester Half Marathon.

Well I say run, to be honest i think it will be more of a ‘wog’.

That’s a bit of running / jogging and a bit of walking in case you didn’t already know.

I really don’t feel prepared. I’m fine with endurance but I’ve seriously met snails that move faster than me and my build up has been affected by being poorly and my knee injuries playing up. As it stands today my knee is actually quite painful to run on at all, let alone for 13 miles.

I considered dropping down to run 10km, which in itself would be tough, largely because I didn’t want to be the person who took four hours to finish or come last, but then someone said to just do it for myself and forget what anyone else does it in or thinks of me and so that’s what I’m going to do.

Full report to follow next week.

Abs, a good PT does not make.

I saw a comment on a friends Facebook post the other day that went along the lines of that person would not pick a PT who was not thin because if they weren’t thin how could they advise their clients on how to lose weight / why didn’t they follow their own advice. I get it and I think most PTs will have had the thought at some point as to why would someone hire me if i don’t look super fit?

The thing is knowledge and application are two different things.

I can know how to help someone get leaner, fitter, stronger without being as lean, as fit, as strong. Deciding that I prefer my diet and life the way it is over looking like a poster girl PT doesn’t make me any less good at my ability to coach people to reach a physical peak.

Having life events happen that take you away from your own training or taking medication that affects your body shape don’t stop you knowing how to help someone else lose weight.

Having a specific training goal that means you’ve spent less time on certain elements of your own training doesn’t mean you can’t coach someone else in those.

If you think about a sport like tennis. If we followed the notion that you can’t train someone to success unless you’ve had the exact same success, how do we explain the coaches of all the Wimbledon champions not coached by former Wimbledon champions? In actual fact those coaches may not have had the talent to become Wimbledon champion themselves but they are obviously exceptional at coaching others and bringing out the potential of others.

In football, most top tier club managers are former players but are all the big names, the ones with success after success, best known for their exceptional managerial skills, were they always the Ronaldo level players? They were good, top tier players for sure, but their success as managers came from their knowledge of tactics, man management, their ability to strategise.

Being skilled or talented at something doesn’t mean you will be good at teaching others to do it, coaching and motivating is a skill in itself. Moreover, not being or looking a certain way doesn’t mean you couldn’t do something if you wanted to. I could be thinner (i have been) and faster (I have been) but I do not at this moment want to make the changes that I’d have to in order to go back there. I could help you make those changes if you wanted to, I just don’t want to myself and wouldn’t make you if you didn’t want to. Fitness and body shape is a choice, the essence of the body positivity movement in a nut shell, there’s no one ‘type’ of fit, that should mean PTs should also feel able to chose a weight and fitness level that they are happy with without fear of judgement, be it from clients or other fitness professionals.

Knowledge doesn’t equal application, application doesn’t equal the ability to impart knowledge and abs, a good PT does not make.

What type of PT do you need?

If you follow a lot of fitness people on social media (and to be honest if you read this blog you probably do unless your one of my friends and I made you follow it!) you’ll notice they fall broadly into a couple of camps.

Camp one – people saying drink this, do this, take this and you’ll get results like me. These are the ones doing ‘what I eat in a day’ ‘How I train’ ‘I can’t live without this’ sort of posts

Camp two- people calling those in camp one out and saying ‘don’t fall into the trap of believing the hype, editing, filtering that these PTs post’ and ‘there are no quick fixes or magic formulas’.

I guess I fall into camp two as do most of the PTs I know, but I don’t want to over simplify things, because it’s not always a simple as that’s ridiculous don’t follow that advice.

So for instance, a PT or coaching programe that states that Intermittent Fasting is THE solution to weight loss, and if you sign up and follow our diet and training plan you’ll be 2 stone lighter in three months. The magic ingredient here is you are only going to eat between 11 am and 7 pm so you won’t be having breakfast, we’ll also make some small ‘tweaks’ to what you eat right now. I’d say this a camp one type PT – one method, one size fits all and will get you results. Now let’s be fair. If 10 people all signed up, all followed it completely to the letter they’d probably all lose weight, and to be fair they’d also do so quite safely. Why would that be the case though? Well because they all cut out breakfast, made a few small adjustments to lunch, dinner and snacks and so reduced the amount of calories they consumed. The magic ingredient here was an eating window which meant they ate less each day, a rule that stopped them eating more because they followed it. They could have achieved the same results eating at whatever time they wanted but just counting calories. Equally if they had stuck to the window but not cut out breakfast or made any tweaks they wouldn’t have lost weight, because the eating window wasn’t the magic ingredient their energy balance was. The camp one PT isn’t bad or dangerous here and they may well be getting their clients results, they just aren’t educating them, so if Intermittent Fasting doesn’t actually suit that person and they can’t sustain it long term they are more likely to end up back where they started. This is the same argument I’d make about Slimming Clubs.

Much the same can be said about other ‘tips and tricks’ people post to ‘help people get results’.

‘I drink hot water and lemon every morning upon rising and have abs because it curbs hunger and helps melt away fat as well as detoxing your body.’ – Now having water upon rising will help hydrate you after several hours asleep, it can help wake you up, adds a bit of natural flavour to the water and it has been said water and lemon can aid digestion. I like to start my day with this, but not because I think it will make me thinner, it’s a part of my morning routine that helps me start the day feeling relaxed an alert and means I’ve had at least a little water before I start on the coffee. The PT claiming doing this will help you get abs is bullshitting you and neglecting to tell yo about the very low calorie diet, genetics and training that also contribute to those abs. Again it isn’t a lie, I’m sure they incorporate this as part of their routine but it isn’t the truth either is it.

‘Here’s what I eat in a day’. Great. I mean nothing wrong with giving people food ideas, I might see that salad and think oooh that looks tasty I might try and make that. But what you eat in a day, no matter how great you look, does not help me. Are you the same height and weight as me, with the same activity levels? Nope? Then what you eat isn’t going to be appropriate to me because I need to eat differing amounts. It doesn’t harm me to see what you eat, but it doesn’t help me reach my goal. It could make me feel bad though!

You’d recommend these Supplements would you? Great, they could benefit you, I mean I certainly do take supplements myself and there are some supplements that selections of the population could generally benefit from. You know what the word supplement means though right? Extra. So yes you could buy that supplement and you might feel some benefits. he supplement will not get you the results though if the rest of your diet isn’t working for you.

My point here is, none of these posts or types of actions you see from some PTs are wrong or bad for you or from a bad place but they fail to acknowledge the overall function of a positive diet for weight loss or any other goal.

One method of eating isn’t intrinsically better than all others, one supplement or habit won’t change your life in isolation. What Bob down the road or Sam on the internet did won’t automatically work for you in the same way it did for them. When you see dramatic testimonials from people remember that, yes they probably did do that plan, but they also probably found themselves in the right mindset with the determination to work really hard to get results at that point. In other words had they joined a different plan at that time they may well have also got the same results, because that was the time they were ready to commit to making a change. That’s not knocking any coaches. The coaching and support and tools need to be there for people to use and get the results, I’m just saying the chances are the people who went from the love handles before pic to the six pack after pic probably weren’t reluctantly dragged onto the program, did the bare minimum and still saw those results, they were probably the ones who’d decided it was time to make a commitment to see change and went all in.

Camp one PTs always appeal to people because they make things look simple, make one small change and that’s it and I’ll get you the body you want. What if I told you you could eat whatever you want but take this shake as well and you’ll be three sizes smaller by Christmas. I mean if it were true we’d all be up for that. Camp two PTs are a bit duller, honesty is much less of a big seller and the idea that actually you will need to create a few new habits, lose a few old ones, change your eating habits and exercise is just not as appealing as drinking a glass of lemon and hot water first thing each day.

Generally though, whatever a camp one PT says on their posts online if you sign up to their program you’ll probably find a fair few hidden changes you need to make that a camp two PT will just upfront honestly tell you to make, in fact the type of changes they’ll probably tell you to make in free content online. The value from a camp two type PT comes from the support to make those changes, the education to help you understand those changes and the overall understanding that there is no one size fits all solution and whilst Intermittent fasting might work really well for Gary it sure as hell isn’t going to work for Susan so she’s going to be using MyFitnessPal whereas Jane isn’t looking to lose weight at all so she’s not even looking at calories or eating windows but we are looking at how much fruit and veg she eats in a day.

That’s where the two camps differ really in my opinion. A good PT should be able to help YOU. If they promote one type of way of training, eating or living they are helping one type of person, probably someone like them and if you aren’t like them will they be able to help you reach your potential? The type of PT that can listen to you, your goals and your needs and work out what will work best for you and help you set realistic goals and timeframes is much more likely to help you be successful and enjoy the process.

Weekends and Weight Loss

Happy Friday. As we’re heading into the weekend you’ll no doubt see a lot of posts on Instagram about how a weekend binge will ruin any progress with your diet.

Now at face value this is true. Let’s say you need to eat 2,000 calories a day to be in a 20% calorie deficit and you have stuck to this every day so far this week. Then tomorrow you go out for brunch, then have a takeaway and a few (well maybe more than a few) drinks, including some hefty on the calorie cocktails and eat 4,000 calories and then Sunday feeling a bit worse for wear you have a Fry Up and lots of stodge to soak it up and manage to consume another let’s say 3,500 calories. All those Instagram posts are correct. You’ve eaten 3,500 calories more than your goal. Your deficit goal for the week was 3,500 calories (20% of 2,500 leaves you eating 2,000 calories a day). You’ve just eaten that deficit over the weekend, so yes instead of losing weight that week you’re likely to maintain your current status quo. Not ideal if you are wanting to lose weight.

Yes, to combat this you could just not eat and drink like an utter dick all weekend. You manage to eat homecooked meals that contain the odd vegetable Monday- Friday and not five Espresso Martinis in two hours and you an stick to a nice bowl of yoghurt and fruit for breakfast instead of a stack of pancakes. You could, theoretically do this Saturday and Sunday too right. I mean if you really want results it will be worth it right? And you an decide this works for you. Maybe routine and having the same sorts of food food every day of the week and not eating more one day and less the next suits you, in which case crack on.

But let’s be honest, for those of us who work Monday to Friday it’s easier to reign in the urge to eat like a five year old let loose in a sweet shop because for large amounts of the time we are busy and so sticking to ‘better choices’ is naturally easier. The weekend is when we want to see friends and family, socialise, eat, drink and live. We don’t want to restrict ourselves and so that’s why it’s always ‘do the weekends ruin our diet’ articles you see as opposed to ‘are hump day Wednesdays making you fat’. If we are honest and realistic is just telling people to eat better on the weekend going to stop them eating more? Is suggesting that they substitute rice from broccoli rice so they can feel like they’re joining in or putting their burger between two slices of lettuce instead of a bun going to help (I have such an issue with foods masquerading as other foods but that’s by the by)?

But your body doesn’t start at zero every day. You know how people say one bad day of food won’t make you fat or one salad won’t make you lose 6 stone, our body responds to what we do over a period of time. So your 2,000 calories doesn’t have to reset every morning. So say you actually look at it as 2,000 x 7 = 14,000 calories a week. You naturally easily eat less Monday- Friday so say you eat 1,700 calories each day, except for Friday when you had a couple of biscuits at work and had 1,800. You’ve had 8,600 calories, that leaves you 5,400 for the next two days. Now that still isn’t a fuck it I can go crazy here amount of calories. But that’s say a relaxed 3,000 on Saturday for a big Saturday meal (with maybe some swaps on the booze swapping cocktails for Prosecco to lower the calories- a swap i can get behind!) and 2,400 on Sunday for a decent amount of stodge t clear up the hangover.

That’s a solution that is both not letting your weekend ruin your diet but also not letting your diet ruin your weekend. It isn’t saying sod it and throwing calories counting out the window but it is allowing your diet to fit around your lifestyle. So yes, a crazy cheat weekend will ruin your dieting progress but a plan that allows you to fit those weekends into it can certainly exist.