Definition: The quality of feeling of being grateful or thankful.
A few years ago, whilst hitting a bit of a crossroads in my life I purchased a happiness planner on Amazon. Within this planner you had to document a number of things each day for 100 days. This included a daily intention in the morning, to do list and also a small section at the end to write what you were grateful for that day. I have to admit at first it all felt a little bit flowery and quite forced trying to sit down at the end of a long, hard working day and get some thoughts down on paper, but overtime I recall actually taking note of things that happened in the day that I could write about when I got home and it was a really nice feeling.
Skip forward however many years up to present day …. I was taking a beautifully long walk through the woods yesterday when I turned to my boyfriend and said “I am so grateful for just feeling completely relaxed and carefree today”. We carried on our walk and I didn’t think much else of it until I got home that evening and was deciding what to write for my blog post this week. You see sometimes it takes a little moment of complete calm to realise how grateful we could be for even the smallest things in life. Yesterday I was grateful for the crisp autumn weather, the beautiful smell of the woods around me, the delicious hot chocolate I got for my walk (Ruby Cocoa Hot Choc from Costa for those wondering), having a laugh with my boyfriend, seeing loads of cute dogs and being able to be completely in the present moment. And want to hear the best bit about all of this… bar the hot chocolate it was all absolutely free!! It can be extremely easy in this mad world we live in to get swept up in the chaotic wave of the everyday…. but if you take a little step back each day, I am sure you could find one small thing you were grateful for that day. Now I am a firm believer that the more positive energy you radiate the more positive energy you get back…. Or in other words the more you are grateful of things the more things you are going to have to be grateful for (that 100% made more sense in my head!!!). Therefore, my mission to you is to take 5 minutes each day to think about all of the things you are thankful for that day. You don’t have to necessarily write them down, but just take a moment to have a think… (it could even be while you are on the toilet!)… and remember it can be as simple as a nice cup of tea in the morning, or the fact it didn’t rain, for the beautiful blue sky, that you managed to finish work 5 minutes early perhaps, or that your favourite TV programme was on. Try it for the next 3-4 weeks and see how you feel. Going to bed thankful for all these amazing little things will guarantee you a peaceful night’s sleep… and hopefully a positive mindset when you wake!
First of all, I will apologise for going totally off radar. There has been a couple of reasons for this, firstly because I have not known how to explain how I am feeling myself, secondly, I wasn’t sure what help it would be to others!
Today I had some time alone to sit and reflect and it gave me enough breathing space to actually think of what it is I wanted to write about…. And that is how this year we’ve totally lost our heads (and understandably so).
I went back to work in July and was absolutely balls to the wall for the next couple of months simply trying to rebuild my business back after the COVID hit. I promised myself during lockdown that when life got back to ‘normal’ (or the ‘new normal’ as they like to call it now), I would continue the good habits I was doing for myself and my mindset in lockdown including blogging, walking, enjoying nature, eating well, switching off and just looking after myself! Within less than 2 months I had more or less dropped all of that instantly and gone back to the exhausted and stressed person I knew so well from before. Which begs the question… why do we not look after ourselves first?! …. This is something I tell my clients all the time, that in order to perform at our best and be the best version of ourselves we must look after our own wellbeing and be our own top priority, but it is so much easier said than done right! So, we keep pushing on and on until naturally we end up bottled full of anxiety and feeling completely overwhelmed. This is before we then add the global pandemic into the equation which makes us question and challenge so many things in our lives!
Every single person has had a totally different experience during this pandemic but some underlying things I know I have massively felt along with many loved ones around me is that feeling of uncertainty and inability to change things which are totally out of our control. Anyone out there with the same nature as me that is to be in charge and in control of things will feel quite lost in these times… and that is how I would describe myself. The lockdown for me made me question so much about myself, life, work and priorities to name just a few and I am still trying to detangle all of the webs I have weaved in my mind… but what happens if we just let go of control and let things be? …. When we begin to accept the things that are out of our control and just focus on the things that we can, you start to see some sky amongst the trees. This will look and feel different to everyone but for me this is writing down everything that’s inside my head on a page and then quite literally highlighting the things that I can actually change to those that I can’t… and this is my way of getting control back! If you are feeling the same give it a go, I promise it helps.
How else can we help with our anxious thoughts?… there are so many ways people find relief from anxiety and so I can only speak from my own experience but for me my yoga, meditation and mindful breathing has been a huge comfort blanket through all of this. Some of you out there may find this kind of stuff a bit ‘flowery’ but I encourage everyone to give it a go! Meditation in particular is an interesting one…. The idea being to sit and stay in the present without letting your mind wander. I can honestly say I think mine was under 10 seconds the first time which is terrifying really! … Our minds are constantly just in a million places at once that we actually now have to train it to just shut up! How on earth do we expect to feel relaxed and calm when we are trying to mentally do everything at once, it’s actually crazy. There are some fantastic apps, podcasts and playlists out there you can use for this, or simply just take yourself to a quiet place and just sit for a few minutes observing the present space around you. Each time you feel your mind wandering just acknowledge this and bring it back to that moment you are in. The first few times your mind will wander a LOT… but over time you will be able to channel into the present, clearing your mind of all the noise.
Anyway, I didn’t want this to be a long COVID rampage or a preaching positivity lecture because let’s be honest, we have all seen, read and heard enough of both of those. I guess I just wanted this to be a small help for anyone out there who is feeling a little lost like me during this difficult and unsettling time. Fundamentally none of us have a clue what is around the corner or have the answers to everything, but all we can do is ensure we are armed both mentally and physically for whatever comes next. I certainly from today will be taking more time for myself again.
Take care, look after yourselves and don’t forget to talk!
I am a CONSTANT worry worm when it comes to money and what I should be spending it on. Don’t get me wrong I seem to be very good at spending it on food, drink and sports gear, but when it comes to actual investment in myself for some reason I run for the hills!
I spent a lot of time in lockdown re-evaluating where I am in my life, where I want to go in the future and how I see myself and my business going forward. I sat down with a massive sheet of paper and did a ‘ME’ plan and a ‘WORK’ plan to get all of the million different thoughts whizzing around my head onto paper. It made a huge difference! I soon saw that there was a lot of running themes between both what I wanted to do/achieve for myself and what I also wanted to achieve from a work perspective. It also helped me narrow down my search into CPD courses and other areas of teaching I have always wanted to get into. So, my first suggestion is that if anyone else is feeling a bit lost/all over the place in their own mind is to do this!
One thing that I found myself really focussing on was yoga. I have done yoga classes in the past but during lockdown took the time to do a lot online and invest more time in connecting with myself and the environment around me. Mindfulness & being in the present really helped me overcome a lot of anxiety in lockdown and my daily morning yoga routines made a big difference to setting my daily intentions. I therefore decided to look into a yoga teacher training course and found that there is a huge array of courses and prices for that matter! Now this isn’t so much about my yoga course specifically (I am sure I’ll do a full post on this) so I won’t go into the finer details, but basically, I kept sitting on the fence being totally indecisive on whether I should invest that much money in a course. When you think about it how mad is that…. Questioning if you are worth the investment of your own money into your own education and business?! Of course, I didn’t see it like this… all I saw was that I am trying to save as much money as physically possible at the moment and this just didn’t flow with that. It actually took a little nugget of wisdom from my boyfriend to realise I was being silly. His exact words were “you can never waste money on knowledge”. What a fantastic way of putting it right!
So as of this week I am now officially training to become a yoga instructor. It is a lengthy course which is going to take me a few months to complete but I am super excited for a new challenge and also to grow as a person. In hindsight if I had been a bit bolder sooner, I could have tackled it all during lockdown and got it done a lot quicker… but hind sight is always a cruel mistress.
When I reflect back on my career, I did the same with personal training. For years I thought about becoming a PT but I was too scared to take the risk of leaving my high paid job in the city and lose my independence moving back home. I kept letting that inner demon tell me it wasn’t a good idea and to not bother risking it. It felt like the biggest decision in the world at the time but now I look back I am totally kicking myself for not doing it sooner. I think my job is the best thing since slice bread and to think I was debating never doing it now seems mad to me! …. Another quote I love which relates to this is ‘you will only regret the chances you didn’t take’
A short but sweet post from me today to encourage you to really see the investment in yourself. Being about to learn and improve our knowledge is an incredible gift and one we should see in a positive and exciting light. I will continue to share with you my journey on this course but for now just to say … don’t be scared of spending a little more money on yourself if you can, see it as ‘adding another string to your bow’… and let’s be honest we all want the best bows
“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest” – Benjamin Franklin
Let’s start with what is a goal? A goal is ‘something that you hope to achieve, especially when much time and effort will be needed’ (Collins Dictionary) and across our lifetimes we will set ourselves hundreds of these. They enable us to add structure into our lives by helping us focus on what it is we really want to achieve. This can be applied to all areas of our life including our social life, career, relationships, personal improvement and health and can vary in size a difficulty depending on what we are looking to achieve. It is also important to understand that goals are not the same as a vision. Our vision is where we want to be in our lives and how we see ourselves in our very best state. However, in order to achieve our vision, we have to break it down into smaller goals. This provides us with the stepping stones to get to that ultimate place and enable us to really focus on what it is we want to achieve, put simply goals are the building blocks to creating something beautiful. If you imagine the pyramids of Egypt being the vision, every brick represents the goals to getting there! And completing those goals (or laying those bricks) may not be pretty but it gives you the driving force behind the finished article.
Why should we set them?
We have already alluded to a number of these when talking about what a goal is in the first place however it is important to realise that there are so many good reasons to ensure you are setting goals in your life, no matter how big or small these may be. Firstly, by setting goals you give yourself a sense of direction and empower yourself to take control of your life and where you want it to go. Sometimes if we feel we have no direction in our lives we can lose our sense of worth as a person so this is extremely important. Furthermore, we are giving ourselves accountability. By setting our goals we are now accountable to ourselves to ensure we make them happen, and no one likes letting people down, even if it is just letting yourself down. We have already mentioned focus and motivation but this is another crucial element to the question of why we set them. Generally, in life many of us feel we don’t have enough time when usually its because we are not using our time effectively. Having goals enables us to channel our energy into the things we really want to change and gives us a much clearer focus on our day to day and what we want to work on. Finally, they enable us to get maximum results and achieve our best potential, as what gets measured gets managed! In order to know we are improving we have to measure this in the form of our goals. This in turn enables us to be the very best we can be and over time allows us to live to our overall vision!
How do we set them?
Right this is where we hit the detail. When we set goals, we have to be ‘SMART’. This means it has to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound. Let’s break these down individually:
Specific – What is it that you really want to achieve? Your goal must be really clear and specific otherwise you won’t be able to manage it effectively. Some of the top things you should be thinking about when setting a specific goal is what is it you want to achieve? Why is it important? What would you need to do to get there?
Measurable – We said it before, if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. This links in to that accountability factor, enabling us to track our progress and stay motivated. This is often where people go wrong or something they don’t consider when planning their goals. Things you should thing about are how will I know when I have achieved this goal? What evidence is there I am achieving my goal?
Achievable – Your goal has to be attainable for it to be a goal. You have to be able to reasonably accomplish your goal within the given time frame you provide yourself. A great example of this you see often is weight loss with people setting unattainable goals like losing a stone in a week. Questions to ask yourself for this one is; how realistic is the goal I am setting myself? What time am I giving myself to do it in? How can I accomplish this goal? Is it in the realm of the possible? What limitations are there currently for me achieving this goal (e.g. finance, time etc)?
Relevant – This relates to whether your goals align to your longer-term objectives and values. Does the goal also lend itself to other relevant goals you have set? Other things you may consider when thinking about the relevance of your goal is your time and whether this goal is worthwhile compared to other areas you may want to focus on. Is it the right time to be focussing on this goal? And does this contribute to my broader vision? Finally, it is crucial to think about how important achieving this goal is to you?
Time Bound – When thinking about setting a time to complete your goals in I always like to use the analogy of the to do list that keeps writing itself. Ever done that where you never get some things done and so you just re-write them for the next day and the next etc. This is because we haven’t really held ourselves to ransom on the deadline. If, however you forced yourself to complete the task by a specific time that day you generally will find you complete it. This is the same for our goals. We have to set ourselves deadlines in order to stay focussed. It also enables us to prioritize the things we really need to get done and thus pushes us to keep working towards that end goal. With this we do also have to be realistic on what is achievable in our given timeframe. Things I have found useful is to work back from the end result setting clear mini goals (e.g in 6 months I will have done X, in 3 months I will have done Y). Understand that you will come across some barriers and ensure you consider this when setting your timeframe. Think about what you can do each day to work towards the bigger picture and finally take the time to continuously review where you are vs your time frame set.
So hopefully that gives you a really clear insight into setting goals and sticking to them…and here are a few top tips to help along the way:
Write it all down – It is all well and good following all of the process above but you need something to reflect back on each time. I would also go as far as to say to write these down somewhere obvious you will look every day for example a whiteboard, pinned to the fridge, written in the front of your dairy. This will ensure that your goals are always at the forefront of your mind when planning your day.
Celebrate success – It is really important to celebrate all the small successes you may have along the way to achieving your goals, acknowledge and feel proud of the milestones and continue to reflect on how far you have come along the way.
Share your goals with others – This can sometimes help from an accountability perspective. If you have another watchful eye over you the changes are you are even more likely to ensure you get it done… because if you don’t kick yourself up the bum the other person will.
Don’t be afraid to fail – Not every goal is a linear process. There will always be barriers and speed bumps along the journey but it is how we manage these that is the most important. Each time you find yourself reaching a bump take the time to reflect, regroup and reset your goal and time scales etc.
Don’t fill your plate – I am sure all of us have a million goals, visions and desires all whizzing round our head on a daily basis, but when it comes to setting your goals do not set too many and overwhelm yourself! It is better to focus on 1 or 2 and do them properly than it is to set about 10 and scrabble around trying to achieve them all in one go. Remember once you have completed one journey you can then always start another.
Would love to hear from you if this helps you with setting your goals!
So…the pubs are re-open!! After over 3 months of lockdown due to COVID-19 we can now all head back to our local boozers or favourite restaurants and enjoy a good night out. I therefore thought there would be no better time to write a post about alcohol and its effect on the body. But before I start, I want to make something really clear…. I am not here to sit and preach about all of the negatives of alcohol and make people feel like utter poo for drinking it. Anyone who knows me will know that I absolutely LOVE smashing a bottle of wine at the weekends… but this post is more to increase the awareness of the effects of alcohol on the body, to highlight when perhaps it can become detrimental to drink, and to provide a balanced argument for including alcohol in a healthy balanced diet if its something you enjoy.
Right where to start? Perhaps the basics…. What is alcohol? Alcoholic drinks contain a chemical called ethanol. This is a by product of the fermentation process which is a reaction of yeast and sugar. These sugars can be sourced from foods such as wheat, barley and potatoes. From a nutrition perspective alcohol contains 7 calories per gram, which is almost as much as fat which is 9 calories per gram. The calories we consume from alcohol are also ‘empty calories’ in the sense that they provide no nutritional value. Another fact many people are unaware of is that we cannot store the calories from alcohol, therefore our bodies have to prioritise burning this energy before we can begin to burn other sources. Put simply if I go and drink a bottle of wine and then smash a Big Mac Meal (example just sprung to mind somehow …cough me… cough) then my body has to burn all of the wine first before it can even begin to burn the Big Mac so what ends up happening is this just gets stored in the body as fat.
So that leads me nicely onto my main chunk of this post. How alcohol affects our diet, our mind and our body.
I have already touched on the nutritional profile on alcohol. I am going to use an example of someone who is looking to lose weight. We know already that to lose weight we have to be in a calorie deficit (burning more than we are consuming) so let’s say my example client is aiming for a total of 1700kcal a day. They hit this target throughout the whole working week, even sometimes hitting under to bank a few calories for the weekend. However, if my client then goes out for dinner with friends on a Saturday, consumes a bottle of wine (500-700kcal or just under half her daily allowance) there is a considerable number of calories gone even before any food is added! And this is where many go wrong. They think because they hit target all week and perhaps saved a couple of hundred calories, they can then go wild at the weekend of have a couple of ‘cheat days’ as many call it. Generally, most people following this will end up either hitting a surplus of calories over the week or break even which will see no weight loss or gain.
So that covers alcohol from a calorie and weight loss perspective but now let’s talk about those hangover days. The day after drinking lets me honest, we barely move from the sofa. Our energy expenditure and movement drops to practically zero (I think I set a record once of 200 steps because I was bed bound!). You may also want to eat like an absolute pig! There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, alcohol is a diuretic which causes dehydration and an imbalance in our electrolytes. When we feel dehydrated, we start to crave salt as our body’s way of encouraging us to drink and eat more. Secondly, I will go in to further detail later about alcohols effect on our mood but in terms of our diet we generally will tend to comfort eat on a hangover to make ourselves feel better. Usually this is stodgy, high calorie foods with little nutritional value. Finally, alcohol can cause false hunger you probably already slammed down a burger and chips at 2am but have woken up feeling like you haven’t eaten in years and then shove even more food down!
This is a huge topic so I am going to just provide the basics. Let’s begin with the positives of alcohol and why we perhaps drink. Alcohol can lower our inhibitions, give us more of a sense of confidence and relax us. You often find that people will drink alcohol for these reasons, examples include a first date and needing some ‘Dutch courage’ or perhaps winding down after a stressful week with a glass of vino and a movie (this is one of my favourites). I am a firm believer that in moderation this is totally acceptable and can also provide us with something to look forward to during the week. Of course, there is a flip side to the coin… and it is quite a big flip side. Alcohol is a depressant; this means that it can slow down our central nervous system. It can affect the part of our brain which hinders our judgement and decision making and can also affect our co-ordination and response time. Furthermore, people sometimes use alcohol as a numbing agent as it can dampen the pain signals in the brain.
One of the biggest effects of alcohol is that it can cause feelings of anxiety and depression (especially in those who are more susceptible to these types of emotions). Some may experience this more than others but I am sure many of us can relate to the ‘Beer Fear’ the next day. A lot of this is caused by the realisation of a loss of control over our bodies and what we are doing, as well as potential loss in memory leading to stress and worry the next day and the ‘what have I done’ feelings of dread. This level of increased stress and worry can continue for a good few days after a night out and can impact your day to day mood and mindset.
There are multiple short and long term effects of alcohol on the body. When we initially consume alcohol our heart rate increases and blood vessels expand which gives us that warm fuzzy feeling. Our liver is the organ which filters alcohol and as we continue to drink more units it becomes unable to remove all of the alcohol overnight which thus in turn causes us to get hangovers. Our body tries to dispel the alcohol through our urine leading to dehydration and as a side effect headache. Around 10-12 units of alcohol is when we begin to reach a toxic level. When we consume an excessive amount of booze, we also irritate our digestive system which leads to the nausea, vomiting etc. If you consider that it usually takes the liver around 1 hour to remove 1 unit, you can imagine how much of an impact excessive drinking can cause. When we reach our critical limit, in extreme cases alcohol poisoning can occur. This is extremely serious and our bodies functions such as our breathing and heart rate can be affected which ultimately can lead to a coma and death.
Of course, it is also important for me to mention the effects alcohol can have on our exercise and fitness. The main way alcohol affects our performance is through dehydration. Exercising shortly after drinking alcohol can increase dehydration further due to the elevated levels of sweating. Therefore, it is essential to ensure we are well hydrated when we exercise …. Something which doesn’t go hand in hand with a hangover! Alcohol also has an effect on our body’s metabolism. As we mentioned earlier, we have to breakdown and utilise alcohol as we cannot store it in the body, therefore our liver is too busy doing this so it can’t produce as much glucose which in turns means lower levels of blood sugar. We need sugar to give us energy and so if we are low on this our performance is naturally not going to be at its best. To conclude on this point, although a lot of people go with the principle of ‘sweat out a hangover’ realistically it is not the best time to be smashing a gym session. My advice would be to hydrate as much as physically possible on a hangover day and if you are feeling up to it try some light to moderate exercise such as a walk or a light jog rather than slamming a 1 rep max on the bench or deadlift… it wont end well.
Before I finish this post, I wanted to reiterate that I didn’t want this to be entirely damming on booze. I am a glass half full kind of girl (pardon the pun) and so I think it is important I finish on some positive pointers. Firstly, I am a strong advocate for drinking in moderation. If a glass of wine or a pint is something you enjoy, then I don’t believe we should spend our lives depriving ourselves. With everything I think it’s about being human and finding a balance, understanding the impact and effects and making educated decisions. It can be really positive to have a night out or dinner with friends to look forward to at the weekend. It can be good to wind down on an evening after a particularly stressful day. It can also be good to celebrate a birthday or special occasion with family and friends. So hopefully with all of the information you have read today you can find that happy balance😊
First things first I want you to remember two things as you read this post:
Everyone has to start somewhere
Don’t run before you can walk
I want to pull these things out first because it’s very easy to look at other people who are perhaps avid gym goers or generally just super sporty and think I will never be like them, or that they are a different breed of person! But everyone starts their fitness journey somewhere. Yes, some may be younger than others when they start and thus are more experienced but all of them once had to step foot in a gym for the first time, or try a new class, or attempt a home workout and I am sure they probably all felt the same anxiety and uncertainty. Many of us fear the unknown and that’s totally ok, but we shouldn’t let it stop us. I also wanted to add the second point before we begin because I think it is really important. So many times, I hear that people have thrown themselves into the deep end, had an utterly horrendous experience and are then put off for life! I mean you aren’t going to take Joe Bloggs for example who has never exercised in his life and throw him into a high intensity circuit class with 40 people he has never met and expect him to enjoy himself are you?!
Writing this blog enabled me to reflect on my own fitness experience, how I started compared to where I am now and the things I have learnt along the way. My initial journey began when I was around 16, influenced by the media and the opinion of others my goal was just skinny skinny skinny. My ‘fitness routine’ basically involved loads running and sit ups (obviously I was also disillusioned that this would make me lose belly fat faster). Fast forward to university and I stepped foot in my first gym. I mainly joined because everyone else did and spent most of the time on the running machine because that’s the only bit of kit I was confident I knew how to work! I generally went to the gym with others which helped me feel more comfortable in that environment and also attended some classes with my best friend such as boxercise and some yoga which I really enjoyed (I wouldn’t have dreamt of going by myself at that time!). Fast forward again and I am joining the gym at my office job in London. Now this felt a little more out of my depth as I was alone and had to work out how to use all the scary kit myself. I did have an induction, but after nearly falling off the running machine in front of the PT who took it, I was too busy dying of shame to take on board all the information I was getting. With a bit more disposable income in my pocket I took up personal training. This certainly helped me to become gym confident, I was trying new things, expanding my exercise repertoire and also honing in on the things I really enjoyed. My PT was great at putting up with me hungover most Fridays for my session … but also for understanding the things that really made me work hard, the competitive challenges and the circuit style workouts that left me absolutely dead. Before I knew it, I was signing up to a personal training course to become one myself!
Now, going back to my point of not running before you can walk. Normally the first thing lots of people ask is what type of exercise should I be doing to lose weight and how can I generally just get a bit fitter? Physical fitness can be defined as a state of physiological wellbeing that is achieved through a combination of good diet, regular physical exercise, and other practices that promote good health (medical dictionary). Thus, encompassing a whole host of different exercise types. Further still when it comes to losing weight the primary focus is always calories in vs calories out and ensuring you are expending more than consuming, which again can include all types of exercise. Of course, some people may have different goals such as becoming stronger, building more muscle etc which would mean a different exercise prescription, but the majority of people I initially meet are mainly looking for a general improvement in fitness and weight. With this in mind I always think its important to start with doing things you really enjoy! Try lots of different types of exercise and see what you like the most! Swimming, dancing, circuits, cycling, gym… there is a world of activities to choose from! I would also suggest you start small and often, for example including some daily walks into your routine and trying to make a simple schedule for the week of your activity.
Now I didn’t want to write this post as a sales pitch for everyone to join the gym, far from! But I am sure the majority of people reading are perhaps considering joining a gym or are already a member and do not make the most of it. Gyms can be a fantastic place, offering lots of classes, personal training, swimming etc. I also know that they can feel quite intimidating for many! The main thing you generally tend to hear from people who have recently joined the gym is that they are worried everyone is looking at them, they lack confidence in their own abilities, feel unsure on how to use the kit and have a general fear of the unknown. So, let me dispel some of these myths. Firstly, I can guarantee you that almost everyone in the gym is looking at themselves! Most of the time people are so in their own world that they barely even notice the person next to them! Secondly, I can completely relate to the kit as some of it does look like its just fallen off a space ship and I was the same myself! As far as I am aware the majority of gyms offer a free induction to those who join where you will be shown how to use the equipment and can get your bearings around the gym floor. Confidence always comes with time and consistency… the more you go the more confident you will get! Finally (and again no shameless plugging here) there are some brilliant personal trainers out there who can provide you with 121 coaching to super boost that confidence. This changed the game for me and my gym experience as I previously mentioned. I could write a whole blog post on what makes a good PT (and I probably will at some point) but number 1 for me is ensuring you really get on with them! Your PT should be able to encourage, motivate and challenge you, they should know when you are feeling uncomfortable or nervous and ensure they are adapting your sessions accordingly so you get the best experience every time you go! It may be worth having a look at what your gym (or potential gym) provides in terms of any PT introductory offers to allow you to get to know your trainer better and their style of training, but please don’t rule personal training out …I promise we are not all terrifying, six pack modelling, judgemental slave drivers!
My final point: Please don’t put it off. Things I hear every single day “I’ve blown it today, I will start tomorrow”, “I am going to start next week…this week is a write off”, “I’ve got loads on this month I will do more next month”, “I will make it a new year’s resolution”. NO. JUST NO. Your health and fitness are number 1 priority and therefore there is no better time to start than today! Even if after reading this post you try 1 new type of new exercise or even just go for a 30-minute walk then I have already added a small amount of value. If you then repeat this a couple of times a week then I will have added even more… and so on.
And always remember…. You’ve got to be a beginner before you can be anything else…
So here is a statement which makes every PT want to curl up in a ball and jump around the floor in tears….. “can we do loads of core work please as I want to lose fat around my stomach”. How many of you can relate to either thinking, asking or researching this? How many of you have spent hours at home doing hundreds of sit ups only to be horrendously disappointed when you get up without a six pack? If this is you, its really not your fault! The media for years have disillusioned people to believe that they can ‘blast their core’ with belly fat reducing workouts, products such as waist trainers and ab tensors and belly fat targeting diets & shakes…. what else are you supposed to believe!
So, I am here to break your heart folks…. It’s just not true!
Let me start first with an analogy that I read somewhere and absolutely loved. Trying to spot reduce where you lose fat from is like trying to take a cup of water from just one quarter of a swimming pool, impossible. When we exercise specific areas of our body, we do not then take the fat from the nearest part of the body to burn to complete this exercise. Our body will use stores all over. The next question I then hear you asking is “when I exercise, I always lose weight off my hips first, or arms first or face first” as an example. Naturally there are many factors which influence our ability to burn fat. Firstly, our genetics. From an evolutionary perspective we have been designed to lose weight from our midriff last because this is the area that protects our vital organs; therefore, this fat is always the one that seems to linger round the longest and people always complain that they just cant get rid of. Our gender will also influence this, men will generally find that they hold weight more around their stomachs whereas woman naturally take more of an hour glass shape holding fat more around their hips and thighs. On top of this there are 3 basic somatotypes (body types) which people generally fall into. These are: Ectomorphs who are naturally narrow, thin faced with little fat or muscle, Mesomorphs who are more wide shoulders, narrow hips and muscular and finally endomorphs who are naturally pear shaped, wide hips and shoulders and can have a lot of day on the body. Rarely is anyone completely one or the other but we all sit on a spectrum of the three. Now some people out there would argue that your body type is absolutely 100% the be all and end all to fat loss, I disagree with this principle, but it does help to understand that naturally we are also working against our genetics, gender and body types on the battle for fat loss. But it doesn’t just stop there. Hormones also play a role in fat storage and loss, now this is quite a meaty area so I am going to save the gritty details of this for another blog but its important to note that they have an impact, along with our body composition and fitness levels. Muscle cells require more energy to maintain than our fat cells and thus people who have more muscle tend to have a faster metabolism. This is why weight training can hugely contribute to the loss of weight alongside a calorie controlled diet and other activity. Furthermore, unfortunately time is not on our side! As we get older, we tend to lose muscle and gain fat which causes our metabolism to slow down. Finally, our diet of course plays a role in fat loss. I again will be doing a blog post in the future on the question ‘does fat make you fat?’ however for an overview weight gain is caused by an imbalance of energy expenditure where our calories in are exceeding our calories out. Not specifically the fat we are consuming, but the overall total of consumption.
The media has a huge role to play in people’s belief in this theory. Just the other day I had a YouTube advert pop up on my phone with a ‘fat blasting ab workout’ and you will see this all across social media. I am sure you could name a load of workouts which include the title burn your belly fat, best exercises for burning belly fat, love handle and skinny waist workout, how to lose your stomach fast etc. What is worse is that I have also heard of people doing these workouts 2 or 3 times a day every day in the belief that this alone will make them lose their stomach fat and get that summer body fast! What this unfortunately then leads to is muscular imbalances, extreme muscle soreness in the targeted area and also means that most other muscles groups have been left unused or worked. This can also be the case in training in the gym. Take for example the ‘bingo wing’ scenario. You will see woman spending ages doing a load of isolated tricep & bicep exercises, which although will work those specific muscles in targeted training wouldn’t be the most effective exercise for total fat loss. Remember when we exercise a muscle our body doesn’t just pull on the fat stores which are nearest (the water out of the pool analogy). The more a person follows this kind of training of focussing just on the target bits the more likely they are to get disheartened and lose interest in training (although they will have some seriously strong arms in the process!). A more effective training session would include a range of compound movements (exercises which involve multiple muscle groups) to promote a greater calorie burn as well as many other benefits. I haven’t even then got started on the plethora of shameless marketing products that are out there! I am sure you have all seen the abdominal muscle stimulator kits you can buy where you can voluntarily shock the life out of your muscles whilst sitting on the sofa having a few beers and large bag of crisps…. Or the female favourite ‘waist trainer’ which basically crushes the life out of your internal organs for a nice hour glass shaping effect. It is honestly scary what you can find out there and I could rant on this for hours but to surmise you do not need these to achieve results!
The answer to lose weight therefore is… (drum roll please….):
Create a calorie deficit and ensure you are burning more calories than you are consuming
Ensure your training programme is a whole body, rounded programme which you are able to consistently follow
Move more every day. Even taking the stairs instead of escalators, walking more or parking the car a little further away from the shops each time. The more you move the more calories you burn in a day, thus adding towards the calorie deficit you are looking to create
Trust the process and don’t keep looking for quick fixes, you will certainly save some money on those gimmick products which always end up collecting dust in the loft when they inevitably do not give you the results you want
Understand that everyone is unique and everyone’s journey will be different. Weight loss is all about consistency & dedication so focus on yourself and your own goals!
And always remember if it was as easy as a few sit ups here and there everyone would do it!
If someone had told me 3 months ago, I would be smashing a load of burpees in my living room, embracing the home workout life I would have laughed, but just like everyone else the Corona crisis changed my work and my fitness regime. On the 20th March the announcement was made that all gyms would be closing which meant that for the foreseeable future not only was I unable to go to work but I was also unable to train in the gym as I would usually. I have never been one to exercise at home and quite honestly it filled me with dread. Prior to becoming a gym junkie my only form of exercise was running but now there isn’t really any form of exercise I love more than a good gym session (or at least I thought!). When I thought about training at home, I had a number of concerns. I couldn’t imagine myself really giving my all to a session, thought I would continually be interrupted by family, would hate not being able to lift heavy and work on my strength and generally wouldn’t find the motivation to get out of bed and get it done. Surprisingly however I feel it has been the complete opposite, but there was some trial and error. For the first few weeks I was still trying to maintain muscle and split my training like I would at the gym (upper body, lower body, push, pull etc), but the thing is, unless you have a full gym set up at your home I just don’t think you can truly replicate this and therefore I just felt completely uninvested in my sessions. So, I decided to take a step back and actually think about what I enjoy doing as well as what I want to achieve from a fitness perspective during lockdown. I wrote these down:
Improve my flexibility and get back comfortably into my splits
Trying something new that also helps with my mindset. For me this was online yoga
Get a bloody good sweat on in sessions! So doing things I enjoy like HIIT, running, dance etc
Hit a new running target – this was a 10km best time
Focus on my nutrition and calorie count to lose some weight I have been trying to shift for a while
Try to achieve 10,000 steps a day for at least 5 days of the week
Share my motivation and passion to train with others – this became my Instagram lives
Make the most of the outdoors, reconnect with nature and spend less time in front of the TV
Suddenly as soon as I had written all of these down, I could see clear goals again. I could plan my weeks and structure each day to have more focus on my training and also enable me to reach out and help others, which has really kept me going in this difficult time.
Before I knew it I was setting the 7am alarm every morning, excitedly planning a horrendous HIIT workout to blast myself (and my willing Instagram followers), getting excited about the weekend and whether I was going to beat my 5km or 10km PB on the streets and watching the few pounds I was hoping to lose slowly come off. When you start seeing results your mindset completely changes! I am a FIRM believer that exercise can be a big healer and during lockdown I was struggling with my own mental battles (as I am sure a lot of other people can relate to). It felt at times like a complete emotional rollercoaster but I am confident that exercise really helped me through these difficult times. We sometimes forget just how effective a little bit of movement can be for both our physical and emotional state and even on my darkest of days I felt lifted by a short walk, a dance class or just a 30minute HIIT thrashing.
I know from speaking to others that this journey has not been easy for them. People have been finding the change difficult, struggling to find any form of motivation and generally just perhaps putting their exercise lower and lower down the list of priorities, and I can completely understand this. As a fitness professional I know that it is easy for me to sit here writing about how I did X, Y, Z and found it all fabulous, but I know this isn’t how many people have felt, and are still feeling now! It can be extremely hard sometimes to put yourself and your needs first when your world has been turned upside down and you have family, friends or work relying on you to deliver! Where in this do you even begin to think about your exercise and health?! But it’s beyond important to remember that when you are at your best health (both mentally and physically), you can care and serve for others at your best as well! This is something that is so easily forgotten.
So, I guess the biggest points I wanted to make are to think about number one and to ensure you are always striving towards a goal FOR YOU. No matter how big or small these may be, goals enable us to have focus, motivation, structure and provide purpose to what we are doing. Setting goals is very important and I will do another blog post shortly about how to set specific and measurable goals for yourself (so keep an eye out for this!). Secondly its important to do things you enjoy. There is no point doing 3 or 4 HIIT sessions a week if the idea of HIIT makes you want to curl up in a ball and cry! How is that going to get you excited?! See exercise as YOUR time and make sure you are filling it with things you find fun! Thirdly I would say that this time has meant that everyone has had to adapt, we have had to be open to new ideas and ways of thinking, working and living and I believe we will all have to continue to do so. So be proud of what you have achieved so far, don’t be too hard on yourself, continue to embrace change with positivity and take time to reflect on how far you have come.
And finally, this time as been a huge reminder of the importance of exercise and health on mindset and this should not be forgotten in the months and years ahead of us which could see further uncertainty and troubling times. Exercise really and truly is king!
Oh… and keep up the walking and enjoying the great outdoors …. Its great stuff that!
P.S. I would absolutely love to hear about all of your fitness journeys over the last few months! Please feel free to leave a reply or alternatively you can contact me via the contact page!
When it comes to weight loss, gain and maintenance the equation is as simple as energy in vs energy out. Marketing companies will try and make this as confusing as possible in order to sell pointless products, but it all boils down to energy balance. If a client is looking to lose weight the first thing I do is try and explain the energy balance equation. This is that in order to lose weight their energy intake must be lower than their energy expenditure, thus burning more calories than they are consuming. The first question of course then is how do I know how many calories I am consuming and expending?
The first thing we need to do is to MEASURE. Most people these days wear Apple watches, Fitbits or use apps on their phones to measure the number of calories they are expending throughout a day (none of these methods are 100% accurate). There are also some equations you can use to estimate your total energy expenditure, but again these are only an estimate. Naturally, if you increase the amount of exercise you complete and move more in a day you will burn more calories. Generally, people tend to get very hung up on the number of calories they are burning, obsessing over exercise selection, duration and frequency without even giving a second thought to the number of calories they are taking in. I believe the growth of HIIT training is a great example of this where people are looking to burn lots of calories FAST for maximum effect. I will be doing a blog on exercise and weight loss in the future, but for today we are focussing on calorie consumption.
I have mentioned before the important thing is that we need to measure. One of the most common ways people measure their calorie intake is to use apps to track their food. In general the majority of people using this method will track their calories each day in the format of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks and either scan the barcodes of their foods, input the food themselves as a customised entry or search the vast database to find the foods they are looking for. The levels of accuracy of this method depend on the individual input. Those who weigh all of their foods before inputting the data will have a much higher accuracy then those who gauge by eye or go by the quantities provided on the apps. This causes a lot of inaccuracy in the data and those completing their calories using these latter methods will tend to under report which is one of the biggest causes of diet failures.
The food industry is also not making it easy for us. Many of the foods we purchase have misleading and unclear nutritional information, especially in terms of what is considered a portion. The inspiration for this blog post came from when I was snacking on some cereal and noticed that on the front of the packaging the nutritional information is based on a 40g serving. Now, most people I am sure would assume this would be a bowl sized portion (aka the amount you could eat for breakfast as this is the main purpose of the product) and therefore would input a 40g portion into their tracking app of 156kcal. As I was about to input my little handful of cereal, I decided to have a look how much a 40g portion is and as you can see from the image at the bottom of this blog it isn’t a lot! Especially not a full breakfast sized amount! Therefore, in theory if someone was having this cereal for breakfast, they may be consuming up to 3-4 times as many calories as they think they are! And if you underreported like this across the full day you can only imagine the number of calories you may be failing to include in your energy balance equation.
Another common habit is to under report or even forget the hidden snacks we consume in a day. If you imagine a busy day you have had where you are eating on the go and rushing around all day, I guarantee if you were asked to record everything you consumed at the end of the day you would forget at least 10% of the foods you ate. Therefore, it is very important when dieting to ensure you have planned your meals and snacks and even input them in the day before in order to ensure you remain on target for your calories. Finally, there is also one other area in which people tend to drastically under report and that is in drinks and alcoholic beverages. One of the main culprits is our hot drinks. Take for example a medium cappuccino at Costa coffee totalling 168kcal (using whole milk) or a medium whole milk latte at 207kcal, add a couple of those in each day without reporting and you could be adding an additional 400kcal to your daily amount without even realising. Then there’s the weekend boozy beverages. With the average bottle of wine having between 600-700kcal and a pint of beer around 180kcal I will let you do the maths on how this could be adding up for you! And what you generally tend to see is people on a calorie counting diet will tend to do well Monday- Friday but then totally misreport their weekend calories forgetting to add in all of these drinks alongside the potential takeaway and meals out they have had as well. Now, I am all for balance and having a treat now and again but it’s important to remember that if you are looking to lose weight that energy balance of IN Vs OUT doesn’t change.
So, to conclude the chances are that if you are looking to lose weight and its just not happening, or you are putting on weight, your energy balance of calories in is either the same or greater than the amount you are burning. Under reporting may be playing a vital role within this. So, to finish some top tips from me:
Ensure you check thoroughly the nutritional information on products
Try weighing your foods for a week to get a better eye for quantities
Log your foods the day before or in the morning and plan your meals/snacks in advance to avoid mindless eating
Remember to log your drinks as these calories also count
Little treats here and there are ok as long as you are in an overall calorie deficit for weight loss