Tis the Season to Make Resolutions, innit?

It’s this time again: New Year, New Me! The list is out. The lines 1-10 duly filled. Lovely jubbly. THIS time I will actually DO them. All those things. Get fitter. Be healthier. No alcohol. Don’t use the credit card.

Yes, I know I start a new year the same way every year. But 2016 will be different! Or will it?

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Are you the kind of person that does do a list? Even if only a mental one? Don’t get me wrong: lists are great. Goals are great. Without goals you can’t get anywhere. They give you directions. How can you reach your destination if you have no directions? But setting goals can be tricky.

For any goal to work, it has to be SMART.

S is for SPECIFIC. “I want to be fitter and healthier”. GREAT! Now what does it actually mean?

Tip: test your fitness level, measure your body fat %, blood pressure, weight, waist whatever it is that you think you should improve. Then you can set yourself a target. But you need a starting point.

M is for MEASURABLE. No, it doesn’t have to have anything to do with weight… How many push ups can you do in a minute? Or if you are really starting your fitness journey set yourself a goal of doing a series of 15 proper push ups. Do you know your FTW/FTP number – we are talking about indoor cycling?

Tip: If you have a PT ask them to give you a bleep test. Or go on a treadmill and see how fast you can run 5km. Make notes of these numbers and then retest every 6-8 weeks. (FTP test should be done much less frequently – even every 3 months).

Numbers are important but don’t get fixated on them and start measuring your waist and weight etc every week. Pay more attention to what changes you introduce to your lifestyle, including what you eat, so you can work out what brings results.

A is for ACHIEVABLE. Jan 1st “I will not use my credit card!” Jan 2nd – SALES! “Oh, Ok, after the sales. Jan 10th – Oh what’s the point. I am over the limit already. I will do that next year.” Don’t set yourself up for a failure. January sales are great for bargains especially gym gear and cycling shoes, even bikes.

Tip: be SMART with your spending. Shop around, buy stuff that will help you achieve all the other things on your list. If you plan to really get into the spin classes, buying cycling shoes is the best thing you can do. It’s an investment that will pay off in abundance. It also serves as an additional motivation: “Bloody hell I spent £60 on these babies I may as well go to take the class…”

Tip: If your initial test showed that you can only do 2 proper push ups before your form goes down south, don’t set your target at 100 push ups in 4 weeks, OK?

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That ties up nicely with R for REALISTIC. Don’t aim for 15% body fat. Just don’t. Women athletes are between 14-20%.

Tip: Get some advice from your PT, GP even reliable sources from uncle Google but not the likes of Kim Kardashian etc.

If you like a glass of wine don’t say NO ALCOHOL with immediate effect. Unless you are going for a personal challenge or a charity thing. If you have a sweet tooth suddenly cutting out all sugar may feel like mission impossible and cause you so much stress you will fall off the wagon by day 4. Not to mention you becoming impossible to be around…

Disclaimer: if you are the type of person who CAN do cold turkey quitting anything, then please do. But if you are known to fail over and over – change the strategy. Be SMART. Get some data and then get the numbers down 🙂

Finally T for TIME BOUND. If you are on a mission regarding your fitness, your goals must have time limits. It’s good to have a long term goal: 6 months or 1 year down the line but it’s important to break it down into smaller chunks.

Tip: Testing in a gym environment is great but things happen, excuses make appearances… That’s why signing up for events is fantastic to keep you going: 5k run, 10k run, half a marathon and a marathon. And if you do it for charity it makes you even more accountable.

Sign up with the local cycling club. Tough mudder? Gym challenge? We are halfway through Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge – you can still join us. We have two more months to go 🙂

One of my favourite songs of 2015 was Changing by Sigma. There is a line there: “I don’t understand playing by the same hand how you find something new”. So in 2016, instead of a new list get a new approach.

10 Instructor Tips To Convert Indoor Cycling Newbies Into Regulars (Part 2)

And here come the other 5 tips 🙂 as a follow up to the previous post that you can read here.

  1. 1:1 ATTENTION

It can be challenging if you have more that 3-4 beginners especially if they are dotted around the studio. I encourage new people to sit in front by saying:

“No point in going to the back to hide – I walk around so I will see you anyway 🙂 If you sit in front you can see me clearly and I can give you corrections. Plus it’s scientifically proven that you burn 25% more calories in the front 3 rows because you are trying to look good! But it’s your choice 🙂

If this is your first class your mission is to ENJOY THE MUSIC and make sure you feel like you are DOING SOMETHING. If your breathing is changing and you are sweating – you’re doing the right thing. The rule is: FEELS LIKE NOTHING – YOU ARE DOING NOTHING”

The balancing act of giving attention to those who need it most – read: beginners – without the others feeling like you have abandoned them is a tough one. And I will be honest with you, I can’t imagine doing that from my bike. I have to get off and walk around.

I almost always have a long endurance track in my profiles 6-9min. I tell people what they need to do. Clear and simple:

“80-100RPM, steady tempo, RPE7. Resistance high enough so you have to fight a bit for your chosen RPM. If you are doing it right in the next 3min you will hear your breathing and a puddle of sweat will start forming under your bike. If none of these is happening – adjust your resistance or speed.”

These are perfect to switch the mike off and walk around. When I see beginners struggle (especially with no consoles) I describe with more detail how they should feel. then ask them: “Ok personal challenge for you: when the clock gets to 0:30 you push harder for 30sec then back off. Then again”.

I prefer this to saying: do whatever you feel like you can do, listen to your body etc. Let’s be honest, if you have never done this and it feels hard your body will tell you one thing – THAT’S TOO HARD. TAKE IT EASY. LET’S STOP FOR CRYING OUTLOUD!

I still want them to feel like they are taking the class and not doing their own.

Make sure however that every minute or two you say something to the whole group so they know you are still with them.

  1. PERMISSION TO STAY SEATED
Cyclist with stuck seat.

Cyclist with stuck seat.

The only thing I always allow first timers is to stay seated the whole class. Yes, it makes it more uncomfortable on the bum but some people really need to build some base pedalling technique and get an understanding of resistance to stand up.

“When we stand up, feel free to try. Remember you always need to add resistance before you do stand up. When you get up if you feel out of control or it feels awkward, try adding resistance. If it still feels wrong or you’re not sure what I want from you – just stay in the saddle”

  1. CUEING – VISUAL & VERBAL

When you are not used to loud music with instructor talking over it, and you have this resistance knob to think of then keeping up with the beat, breathing and staying alive all at the same time makes understanding the instructor one thing too many. And if people around start doing different things it can all get too much for a beginner.

As an instructor use your face, exaggerated movements, point to elbows, knees, get off and mimic pedal stroke from the side. Do anything to get your message across.

Choose your music wisely to help yourself – get some instrumental tracks giving you space to explain stuff.

Get them ready: my warm ups always have a flat fast track first to cue the form. Then there is a slow hill to cue the standing form. Don’t get into a standing run straight away.

  1. CONSOLES/POWER METER

Do you remember your first spin class as a participant? I lasted about 2min. There was no set up. We went into a crazy speed (or I did at least, I had no clue and no direction) straight away. I left and it took me almost 2 years to try again. That was on an old school bike and I used to cycle outdoors as a kid.

Nowadays we have great bikes with monitors. Yesss! Or is it? Some of them have bright colours and all of them have sh******* of numbers on them! Imagine how the first timer feels walking into a studio with 45 bikes, loads of people wearing lycra, some funny noisy shoes, punching loads of data into the bikes, and they all seem to know what they are doing…

When I get complete beginners and I have consoles like on MatrixIC7, I do not set them on coach by colour. I leave the basic screen on with only the basic data. And I explain that they can go by the beat or by RPM (I ride to the beat most of the time, with options for those in-the-know 🙂 ).

“Top left hand corner is your speed. I will give you a direction like 80-90 or 64-66RPM and you can either check your numbers or if it is too much, you just listen to the music. It’s the same thing. Top right is your resistance. You start around 20%. Every time you add or take off you just feel a slight difference in your legs and match the beat.”

On other basic consoles I only use RPM.

  1. FEEDBACK

I always give group feedback in the cool down as we ride out for 1-2min.

“Congratulations to the first timers! It wasn’t easy. Reality check: it never gets any easier, you just push harder (wink wink)”.

Then I give 1:1 when necessary or when I get a chance. Good, bad and the ugly. It makes people realise you care and you actually watch them work. Even if they were in the back row.

These are my tips. Anything that you could add? Any tried and tested methods?

 

 

10 Instructor Tips To Convert Indoor Cycling Newbies Into Regulars (Part 1)

This post has been inspired by one on ICA page which you can read here if you are a member (and if you are an indoor cycling instructor but not a member I would recommend you become one).

It’s about the challenge we group exercise instructors face when new people come to our classes. And this topic is extremely relevant as January approaches and the New-Year-Resolution-Stampede is about to take place.

Queues outside the studios, face offs, cat fights for the bikes, the regulars getting peeved that THEIR bikes are taken, etc. It is always fun. You know it will last 3-5 weeks and things will be back to normal though.

"I'm really serious about exercising. Last year I only went to the gym twice, once to join and once to renew."

“I’m really serious about exercising. Last year I only went to the gym twice, once to join and once to renew.”

 

But wouldn’t it be nice to actually convert some of these newbies into regulars? As an instructor you only have those first 2-3 classes (sometimes only that first one) to leave an impression positive enough to make people stick with the classes throughout those first tough few weeks.

Here are my 10 tips that will help you do just that. And they apply to both January Madness and any other time of year. Oh, and yes, you ALWAYS get a new person (or a couple) in each class throughout the year but in January 30% of your group may be people who have never been on an indoor bike.

This post includes 5 and further five are coming next.

  1. BIKE SET UP

If you don’t pay attention to the set up and don’t instil its importance in the participants from day one, you risk them getting into bad habits at best and not coming back EVER at worst.

Do you remember how much your backside hurt the fist time? Or second? Or really until you started doing 3 classes a week or more? It can put you off completely. Therefore make sure you take time setting the bike up so they suffer for all the right reasons only 🙂

TO DO THAT YOU MUST ARRIVE TO YOUR CLASS AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE…

I also finish classes saying:

“Your butts are going to hurt. Maybe not today but tomorrow. You can’t help that. Don’t sit on hard surfaces. If you have another 5-10min stretch properly outside the studio so you can at least save your legs”.

“Give yourself 2-3 classes with different instructors, different times of day before you decide if you hate spin or not”.

2. BEGINNERS HANDOUTS

I have a great hand out that gives advice about shoes, clothes, bike set up etc plus included my contact details in case they have questions. I give these out at the end of the class.

I encourage new faces to come early or stay a bit after the class to check the bike and put down the numbers on the hand out. They can then transfer them onto their phones so next time they come they can set themselves up. It gives them more confidence in the second class.

3. GET FAMILIAR WITH THE BIKES – MAINLY RESISTANCE

I encourage people to use the studio (if the gym permits it, or bikes on the main floor) when there are no classes. Now they know their set up, they can ride with their own music and play with that resistance trying to keep the beat.

As a rule every time I have a complete beginner I ask them to turn the resistance all the way down and see how that feels. Then to keep turning it right until their legs can’t move. Now they know both ends and have a better idea how hard it can get I say:

“We will never be working at any of these points in the class. Ever.”

4. CLASS PROFILE

Be prepared with your profiles in January. Have enough variety to choose from. You don’t want the first timers to think the classes are boring just because they don’t yet understand the intensity and resistance, nor do you want them to leave with an impression they are not fit enough to come regularly.

At the same time you want to keep your classes challenging with your regulars in mind. Can it be done? Ideally there would be some introductory classes on the timetable but hey, we don’t live in a perfect world.

  • beware of long endurance classes where 70% or more of your class is in the saddle – they can come across as boring to new people so make sure you choose some interesting tracks with clear beat
  • power intervals – I would wait with these for a couple of weeks
  • testing – yeah, wait…
  • mixed workouts will work best: in and out of the saddle, speed & resistance variation
  • long endurance tracks (around 7min) are great though giving enough time to settle into a pace and resistance

5. MUSIC

No, you will not please everyone but my advice would be to choose music with clear beat even if you have bikes with consoles showing RPM. Keeping an eye on the console and on you at the same time may be too much to ask. If you always teach with the beat they can keep an eye on you.

Choose your music wisely – get some instrumental track giving you space to explain stuff.

My warm up always have a flat fast track first to cue the form. Then there is a slow hill to cue the standing form. Don’t get into a standing run straight away.

The remaining 5 tips coming up next.

 

 

 

 

 

I really hope he did get it this time

I thought I was going to update you on the story that I have described here and the dilemma I faced as an instructor. It’s about that gentleman that insists on riding every single class out of the saddle. Full 45min. Only gets off maybe once to refill his bottle.

I would only see him once every few weeks as I was sharing this class with another instructor so it really almost felt like a cover class. Which links well with yesterday’s post which you can read here.

Long story short: the guy is over 50, has had blood pressure and weight problems. The only class he likes is spin but he doesn’t want to sit even for a second as it hurts his bottom hence from warm up to cool down he would be standing. I could accept it if his technique was good but it was really bad: straight elbows, straight knees, not much resistance. As a result he was not achieving his goal which was cardiovascular workout as he wasn’t even getting breathless.

He wouldn’t accept my advice so against all my professional instincts I simply ignored him. I stopped correcting him. I focused on the rest of the group.

Then today was my last class at that place. The gym was empty – only two people on the floor. 5 people taking Bodypump class. Then when I got into the studio to set up, it tuned out it was only me and the aforementioned gentleman.

I had to revert to plan B: there was no point trying to do any speed work or intervals so the only choice was hills. I also moved my bike next to him so he had a mirror on the left and me on the right. I didn’t bother with the mike and turned the music a bit down too.

Now 1:1 class has happened to me before and it’s a great chance to put that person through their paces but it wouldn’t work here so I suggested something else: “How would you feel if we did 2 songs on the bike and then to give your legs a break we would do some core work on the floor?” He agreed. Yes!

I won’t walk you through the class step by step but I hope it was an eye opener for him. I was on the bike next to him doing what I was asking him to do and huffing and puffing with my legs getting heavy but his breathing was stable. I was gently trying to coach him and motivate him to add resistance but after years of “switching off” in classes and just doing between 55-60RPM on little resistance regardless of the music, it wasn’t going to change.

But! When I got him to do some planks, Russian twists, screen wipers etc on the floor, boy did that HR change! It looked like getting on the bike was to get some rest…

The 45min flew by and he enjoyed it. He worked up some serious sweat and his breathing finally was challenged. It’s a shame there isn’t a mixed class like that on a timetable.

It also proves that people sometimes think: cycling is a cardiovascular exercise so if I get on that bike REGARDLESS  of what I do and how fast I pedal and where my resistance is, it’s a CV workout. If only they listened, switched on for once and tried something different to get that penny dropping moment.

The message will not get across when you talk to them though, they have to be willing to do the work your way to FEEL and EXPERIENCE the difference.

Confessions of a Cover Girl

I came across this picture on FB today. In the UK we say “cover” rather than “sub”, at least in the world of group exercise. There was a question to go with that picture:

Do you think our students in a cycling class sometimes do the cycling version of this with a sub? “When she says stand and climb we’ll all sit and sprint, pass it on!”

Covering classes has many aspects. I will just mention 4 here.

WHY DON’T THESE PEOPLE FOLLOW?

Thankfully I have never had a whole group completely ignore my instructions but it’s very common for a few people do it especially in the first few minutes of the class.

Reasons for people doing their thing in the warm up? They are used to their regular instructor and just like I do mobilisation and warm up routine without thinking, so do they. They are on autopilot. And or they know what they normally do works for them and they may not know where you are going with yours.

Why do people do their own thing later? You say speed endurance in the saddle, they go for a standing power interval etc.

Ok, if you are covering and your class seems to be going in a completely different direction to where it normally does people who are stuck in their way, or to put it politely like to keep their routine, want to do what they normally do.

I always say before we start what they class is about, what the focus is etc. I say that we will have 4 rounds of… or it’s all about form and speed today or it’s hills today. I think it gives you a clear picture what you will be getting and what you want.

It can be a double edged sword 🙂 In one of my classes I said: “Today we will be focusing on form and endurance so no sprints today”. To which came a very angry response from the front row: “What? Why? How can you not have sprints?!”

When you cover a class you need to pick your battles: do you have enough information what the group is used to? Enough time to explain how you can get fitness benefits from endurance work? What if the regular instructor says to go all out every time?

I go with my plan and then if someone is interested I have a conversation with them about my reasons behind the class structure.

PEOPLE LEAVE THE STUDIO AS YOU ENTER IT

I mentioned it in this blog already on other occasions: I have done it myself not giving a second thought to the instructor’s feelings.

Story from last week: every Tuesday I have a 6:45am class then go home and do whatever I need to do then I teach a double class in the evening. But last Sunday I got an e-mail from a desperate instructor who contacted 52 people on the cover list for a gym and nobody could help him on Tuesday lunchtime with a double class. So I said I would do it. Making it 5 class Tuesday…

First class went without drama. 15min to the start of the second one. The door to the studio was made of glass so as I was walking around chatting to the first 3 people in as they were setting their bikes I can see a couple of guys walk up to the door, then look at me and see their faces fall followed by a look of consternation. I could hear what they were thinking: Oh no! It’s not Sandro. WTF… Should we go and do some weights? I waved at them, walked towards the door and as they hesitantly opened it I said: “Guys, don’t knock it until you try it. It will be fine. Sandro trusted me enough to ask for cover so trust me I will do a good job”. They were not convinced: “But last week he asked someone and it was shit! Oh man… Is it going to be the same style as Sandro’s?”. I said: “Give me 10min. And if you think this is shit, you leave. Deal?”. They agreed. It was a risk as my warm up track was 8 min… 🙂

Long story short – they stayed to the end and gave me good feedback. I was asked by a couple other people if I teach a regular class at that gym but it wasn’t all trumps and funfair. A couple of guys left 15min into the class. I didn’t take it personally. It was a strength endurance class – not everyone’s cup of tea. Which leads me to the next point:

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE YOUR CLASS PROFILE FOR A COVER?

I will teach the hardest class ever. I will show them what a bad ass instructor I am! Right? Not necessarily…

Do you ask the regular instructor what they normally teach? Ask about the sound system, mike and bike type but also what type of group that is. Do people ask me? Not often. Do you always teach intervals? Do you ever play long tracks like 7min? What music do you play? Still it’s always better to be prepared with plan B.

I was recently told that the place I was to cover at had bikes with consoles, My Ride software and it was mainly cyclists. I got excited and prepared a good VO2 max intervals profile. Then as I arrived (thankfully much earlier) it turned out the consoles only showed RPM and HR. There were 3 people in the group of 25 who had cycling shoes and looked like could be cyclists but when I mentioned thresholds, VO2 & power they looked at me like I was an alien. Then I had 2 complete beginners who have never been on the bike and came 30sec before the class started and about 10 people who didn’t seem to have much clue about RPM.

Such a diverse group is normal but I knew that my planned profile was out of the window. Thankfully I always have with me 3-4 others suitable for various levels that I know like the back of my hand and can use them as and when.

HOW MUCH DO YOU CARE ABOUT PARTICIPANTS IN THE CLASSES YOU COVER?

This is tricky. I always do care about people I teach even if I think I may never see them again. If they have a really bad form I will correct them, I always go through the bike set up etc. but…  I covered a class a year ago. I did that on 3 consecutive weeks. People in there had no clue about bike set up and their postures have clearly never been corrected. I was horrified. But I ended up practically criticising them for 45min…

I realised at the end of the class that nobody was smiling and I was exhausted. And a week later when I came into the studio one woman was already there and greeted me with: “Oh no!” and left. That was a tough lesson in letting go: you cannot correct a lifetime of bad habits in one class and if you correct too much you will put people off.

Anything you want to share?

“Don’t call me baby.You got some nerve, and baby that’ll never do”.

There is so much to think about when you are a group fitness instructor: you create a class profile, scour iTunes for music & make sure it all makes sense. Then there is the practical side: remember your kit, your shoes, iPod, back up CDs, mic shields, every type of batteries under the sun, water bottle, beginners’ hand outs, pens etc.

You arrive at the gym and two bikes are broken and the class is fully booked, mic is not working, you find the electric fan DOA. Life happens 🙂 I am not complaining. Nobody made me do it.

But only once you start teaching the class, that’s when the REAL challenge begins. You are facing anything between 1 to 50 people. All individuals with different expectations.

We have all heard the famous: “you cannot please everyone” and it is true. Not with your musical taste, class structure etc. But I want to focus on something else today: client/participant approach.

Say what? Well, how do we refer to the people who came to take our classes, how do we come across? Are we aware of that? Do we ask for/get any feedback?

Today I had a girl in my class whom I have never seen before. She came 15min early and she was very clear and vocal: “I take 4 classes a week. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. But not on Wednesday. I cannot stand the teacher. She keeps calling me “sweetheart”! I told her my name is Georgia and I am not her sweetheart but she kept doing it!”

It can be a struggle to be friendly and approachable but not condescending. Especially if you are not sure if people didn’t hear your advice or just decided to ignore it. And if they did – was there a reason for it?

That is why trying to develop a rapport with your groups is so important. I know, I know: what about the places where you get new people every class? I make it a point to be at the studio and set up 15min before a class. If I teach on a weekend it is sometimes 30min.

This gives me the precious time to walk around, give 121 attention, get people’s attitude sussed out: are they going to be receptive or they already know it all? Will they laugh at a joke?

I also try and stay there for 10min after a class for the same reasons. And believe me, walking around the studio during the class helps too. Sometimes you keep repeating a cue: “Shoulders down. Elbows in.” but the person you are directing it to doesn’t react. But when you go by and gently tap their elbow or shoulder – they do.

I personally don’t like when people I don’t know call me honey, sweetheart, babe, whatever. I do my best to avoid it when referring to people in my classes.

I also tend to say before the start: “If you hear me say NO BOUNCING for the 15th time and you feel like you may throw your bottle at me if I say it again – I am fully aware of how many times I have repeated it. There is a reason for it: someone is still bouncing. Look around: if you can see nobody bouncing – IT IS YOU!”

I also have my feedback forms that I give to people about once a year where I ask about my catch phrases, any pet peeves etc. Then I sit down with a glass of wine and go through them andI know what needs work. The forms (even if e-mailed) often work better that face to face conversation as people won’t always tell you in your face what negative points they find in your teaching.

How do you get your feedback? How do you refer to your participants? Are you good with names? How well do you know your regulars? Do you ever meet socially outside the gym as a group? I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

6 Things That You Think Are Good For You But Will Stop You From Achieving Your Fitness Goals

It’s an absolutely stunning afternoon outside. The fog is gone and the sun is out. The leaves are red , yellow and gold. I love autumn. But this morning the picture was altogether different. If it was a picture at all.

There was nothingness. No hope. You couldn’t see further then a few steps ahead. It was like that at 8am. And 9. And 11. And even 12. It only changed at 1pm when I gave up hope. Suddenly I looked through the window and it was picture perfect.

It is a great metaphor for what happens when you take on a fitness challenge. You are all fired up, plans drawn, schedule sorted, good intentions at the ready and then s*** happens. You have to stay longer at work. Again. Kids get sick. Then you do. Then suddenly apparently it’s almost Christmas and everybody starts panicking. And next thing you know your fitness is at number #78 on your TO DO list. You can’t see a way out.

There are things you can’t control but the following 6 you can.

  1. I have been doing 3-4 classes every week. I can’t do anymore.

If you do that many you definitely deserve praise. Some people struggle with two. And I am sure you have seen results of your fitness regime. But our bodies are extremely clever and within a few months you will hit a plateau. No, you don’t have to send your children into care so you can do 8 classes a week… Just change it up a bit. The key is  WHEN and HOW MUCH.

No point of changing class schedule every 2 weeks as you won’t even give your body a chance to tell you if they work. But every 3 months try something different. And even when you do let’s say Bodypump twice a week for 3 months make sure you steadily progress with the mount of weight you lift.

2. Let me try the latest miracle supplement or fad diet.

The_Diet_Cycle_20101[1]

Don’t. Please. It’s about eating everything but in moderation. Enjoy it. Don’t just eat it because you think you should. If you go for home made green smoothie make sure it tastes good so drinking it is not a chore. If you fancy a Kit Kat don’t go for a diet replacement because you think you should. If you do, probably 30min later you will go for that Kit Kat anyway. Just make sure before you get your treat that you are really hungry and not thirsty and eat slowly enjoying every bite not devouring the bar like it’s going out of fashion.

3. I am going fat free.

Fat-Free-1T[1]

Do not obsess over FAT FREE products. Fat is what gives taste to foods. When you take fat away you need to replace it with something to make the food palatable. What is the substitute? You guessed it: SUGAR. That is much worse and much more addictive option. Prepare as much food at home as you can. Know what’s in it.

4. Giving 50% during your gym classes/sessions

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Quality over quantity. Commitment, the right mindset and self-discipline get you lean and toned. People make the mistake of going 50% at their spin class because they have Bodycombat straight after where they will give another 50%. Give 100% in the first class. If you can face one more do it. But if it is too much – go to the sauna.

5. Getting obsessed with the scales.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight if you are overweight and it’s obvious you will want to check your results. My advice: instead of starting every day, every gym session and finishing every session and every day on the scales, pay attention to how you feel. Do you huff and puff walking up the stairs? If you run for the bus do you need 2min to catch your breath or just 30sec? Can you get in those pre-baby jeans? Weigh yourself but not more than once every couple of weeks.

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Your weight may fluctuate by 1-2kg in one day especially if you are a woman on your period.

How about fitness testing instead of overusing scales? Strong is the new skinny they say.

6. Having energy drinks after 20 min on the elliptical

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If you read labels on the bottles they clearly state that these drinks should be used when you are doing high intensity training for OVER 45min. I would say that even a high intensity45min spin class does not call for these. If you go on a 2-3hr run or a bike ride or decide to do 2-3 spin classes back to back then you will find these drinks useful. Otherwise water will do just fine. Sugar free coconut water is very popular. I use water with a bit of squash if I have two classes back to back.

What is your drink of choice during the gym workout? Which of the 6 do you see the most around at your gym? Which one are you guilty of? Or is there a biggie I missed out on? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Get up Stand Up. Stand up for your Right. Don’t give up the fight. Or should I?

I have got a dilemma. An instructor dilemma.

I have a 50 year old gentleman come to my weekly class. I mentioned him in a previous post. He insists that he does NOT want to sit on the bike AT ALL. I tried to get an actual reason apart from “my butt is sensitive”, which he gave me. No such luck. He just looks annoyed and says: “I do all spin classes on the timetable (around 10 a week). I have been doing it for years. This is how I have always done it. I need my exercise to lower my blood pressure and lose weight and this is the only exercise I like”.

What is the problem you ask? If he wants to stand up and can do it, let him stand up. You see, that’s the problem: he cannot stand for 45min. His technique is so poor he can’t really do 30 seconds standing in a safe and efficient way. He has no resistance. He presses all his body weight onto his hands and locks in his elbows. His knees are permanently locked and he mashes the pedals heels down. ALL THE TIME.

I spoke to him nicely on a few occasions. I showed the technique. Tried corrections. Asked him to use the mirror. He does not take it in. He closes his eyes and does his thing.

When we are riding flat or intervals in the saddle – he’s up doing his thing. By the way he is permanently locked in about 55RPM – same speed for 45min… What is even more baffling is that when we do get up and do stuff standing – hill at 64RPM, hill at 70RPM, hill runs at 80RPM – he’s up doing his thing at 55RPM. He simply never joins in.

I suggested he tries padded shorts or gel seat – he said he had never thought about it. I showed him in 1:1 after class the right standing technique and his version. I explained how much long term damage he does to his knees, how his upper body gets stiff and loses him energy. He looks and then does his thing.

I offered a solution: “Do 2 songs on the bike working on your technique then when you need a break get off the bike I can come up with a core exercise for you”. Not interested.

I asked him last week whether he ever uses HR monitor. He says he doesn’t. I am thinking of lending him mine and the watch to show him what I can see with my naked eye: everyone’s HR goes up in the 6-8min warm up. He only gets there 20min in. And that is because his arms get tired as his legs definitely don’t. He never gets higher than HR zone 2. No need to mention power zones as he never has much power on. Shame the bikes the gym has are the old school Spinners with no consoles.

I feel really torn – clearly all other instructors are fine with the situation as he says I am the only one badgering him…

Here comes my question: in view of the fact that he’s is nit getting a workout, he’s damaging his joints long term and he sticks out like a sore thumb in the group (when I correct everyone else but not him) – do I ask management’s permission to ask him not to attend my classes or do I ignore him and let him do his thing?

5 Ways to Keep You Active Over the Cold Months

The dark times are upon us. I am no Stark but the winter is coming 🙂 We all could do with a cunning plan top keep us going to the gym even with the uninviting weather.

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PAIR UP – FIND A GYM BUDDY

This seems to be the best solution for so many people. When the alarm goes off and you are so tempted to snooze or just switch it off the one thing that will make you get up is the though of your friend waiting or you at the gym. And whether it is about not allowing them to get fitter than you 🙂 or simply not letting them down – it works. Be wise choosing one though. It’s great to train with someone who is on similar fitness level or even better – fitter than you. It will be a great motivation. if you are easily persuaded NOT to exercise, ensure your buddy is the opposite…

HAVE A LONG TERM GOAL FOR AFTER THE WINTER

Signing up for a race, be it running or cycling, is a great way to keep you on track. Especially if you had to pay an entry fee!

LET’S GO OUTSIDE!

WHAT??!! I hear you say. Yes, you have heard me right. In my running days cold and crispy mornings were the best for running. But if you are not into running or cycling outdoors, try one of the boot camp outdoors classes. BMF (British Military Fitness) run classes all over London’s parks. The first one is free. Try it. If being trained by a soldier is a bit too much to handle, there are many other outdoors classes to choose from. There is a great option for women: classes run by women instructors for women participants. Check out Fit For a Princess here. You can pay membership or drop in and pay in cash.

The benefits of exercising outdoors are immense: fresh air, boost to the immune system, no gym smells and a great sense of achievement at the end of each class.

To find something that suits you go out to your local park one morning and see what’s on offer.

TAKE ON A GYM CHALLENGE

Like the one I am running: Izabela’s 50 Class Cycle SMART Challenge where you have to complete 50 classes in 120 days starting from 1 November. You can get more details here. Even more is coming up in the next week. Both here and on my FB page.

THERE IS AN APP FOR THAT

There are so many apps out there that I can see people use. My personal favourite is 100+ push ups. Browse the web, ask people at the gym when you see them use one. Have you already found one worth sharing? I would love to hear about it in the comments.

When it comes to indoor cycling try Ride Buddy from Cycling Fusion link here.

If you train on MatrixIC7 bikes they have their own Coach by Colour app. Some rides are free some you have to pay for but if you like training with colour zones but you feel a bit lost without instructor’s guidelines, this is a great alternative (here).

Another one worth checking out is Peloton app for iPads here.

Some of these are free others are not. The other option would be using YouTube videos or training videos that you can stream. But there are hundreds out there. Not all of them are great. Sufferfest are really, really good: great quality, easy to follow instructions but boy are they hard! This is the real deal guys. The clue is in the name…here.

Have you tried any of these? Has it worked for you? Any recommendations?

Tis the season to be sniffling.

Houston, we’ve got a problem!

It took 3 years and over a 1000 classes but it happened. I have had people of all ages, women of various stages of pregnancy in my classes with the studio temperature often being well above the guidelines and nothing. But this Thursday morning I have had a person faint in my class!

It’s a 6:45am class with about 25-30 people on average. The studio has 44 bikes it is not full. The studio warm but not steamy with a massive industrial fan at the front.

We started this tough profile including some strength pyramids and speed ladders which work so well on MatrixIC7 bikes. It was going well.

Morning classes are a bit different: quite a few people leave around 15min early – everyone has to get to work on time and there are not enough showers so some people cut the class short. I now know most of the faces. But there was one girl I have not seen before who with about 15min to go walked in front of my bike and headed towards the door. I do say “Bye” to everyone leaving early and they give me a smile or a wave. This girl though looked what I thought was upset. I actually thought she did not enjoy the class. She did not look at me.

I continued teaching but with the corner of my eye I saw her standing next to the door she had just opened: “If she wants to leave, why stand there holding the door?”. I cued the last step of the speed ladder. Then I looked at her and saw her eyes were closed and she didn’t hold the door, she was more leaning against it. And then she went forward with half a turn and started sliding down the door with her back to it. I flew off my bike! I grabbed her before she hit the floor. She was clutching a water bottle and thankfully wasn’t completely out.

I shouted for the receptionist. When I asked the girl: “Are you all right?” she whispered: “I have been unwell. I shouldn’t have come”. She was sitting on the floor for a couple of minutes before she was able to stand up with our help. “Oh God! The class!” – I thought – “I told them to go at 100RPM. I need to change the cue or they will all faint!” so I jumped up trying to still continue with the class. After sipping on Lucozade the girl was taken to reception.

And I went back to finish off the class. The studio is so big half of the people had no clue what happened…

This whole situation brought today’s topic on:

SHOULD YOU EXERCISE WHEN SICK/ILL/UNWELL?

Exercise is usually OK if your symptoms are all “above the neck.” We are talking common cold, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat. Consider reducing the intensity and length of your workout. And remember to get changed from your wet kit as soon as you can. If the studio temperature is low or there is a big fan, when you cool down go out and stretch outside. Prepare for feeling worse when you cool down completely.

If you’ve got a fever, hitting the gym is a definite no-no. Your grandma used to say it’s good to “sweat out” the fever? Yes, but under a duvet.

If you have been unwell and not eating properly rethink taking an early morning class when you only have like 30 minutes between waking up and going for it.

Do you really want to hurt me?

If you keep coughing and sneezing weigh the benefits of doing a half hearted workout and infecting half of the people in your class…

Do you really want to hurt yourself?

You may be thinking: “Oh, what’s the worst that could happen? If I don’t get the best workout it’s my business”. Well it’s no longer only yours if you faint or need medical help as a result. I could not stop thinking what would happen if that girl fainted on the bike! What if she fell off with her feet strapped? What if she just slumped on the handlebars and I wouldn’t notice straight away as she was sitting quite far?

So please: listen to your body, have a long night sleep, drink plenty of fluids (my brew of choice: a whole ginger root peeled and sliced, 2 whole lemons with skins quartered and a few spoons of honey; put in a saucepan, add a litre of water and boil the life out of it; drink hot; every time you reheat it, it gets stronger; add honey if needed).

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I REST my case!