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.

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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.

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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.

It’s your workout – make sure you are working out

I had a last minute cover today in a gym I used to be a member of. I like the crowd and I think they like me too because I always get asked if I teach a regular class there. Unless they want make sure they don’t accidentally run into my class ever again 🙂

Today as per my motto “keep it real” we climbed for about 30min. Mostly steady with a few hill attacks. Now bike set up is always important but in a class where you spend 50% of your time climbing and 80% of that time in the saddle, if your bike looks like a cruiser (or I call it Boris bike) it will: impede your performance, get your upper body tired, you won’t be able to really give your best because sitting upright in the saddle you haven’t got much power in your legs.

And if you can’t really challenge yourself then it’s a very long and boring 60 minutes. I did emphasise all this before we started. I went through the set up, walked around checking those who asked and some who didn’t. Still you can never reach everyone individually.

But there was a girl whose set up was so wrong, I assumed there must be a medical reason for it. I walked up to her during the class and asked her to chat to me at the end. And she did so I asked: “Do you have any medical issues, lower back or disk problems that you should have told me about? Is there any reason your bike is set up this way? You were very uncomfortable, your arms were getting tired etc. You really need to correct it.” The response that came back just took me aback: ” Yeah, yeah, I know. I am sitting too low, my handlebars are too high. I know.” Followed by a disarming smile and a shrug.

If you are actually AWARE your set up is wrong and not good for you, you know WHAT the problems are, why are you choosing not to correct them?!

And guess what, I think I figured it out. People associate hard, challenging workout with being uncomfortable. If you are uncomfortable just because of your set up you simply can’t exert yourself to the level you would if it was correct. Hence you have a great excuse to take it easy on yourself WHILE STILL feeling uncomfortable and exhausted. Yes, the main parts that are exhausted are your upper body and poor hip flexors but your body aches so it must have been a good class, right? You are sweating buckets so you are working hard, right?

Well, I hate to break it to you but no. That fact that a muscle aches doesn’t mean it is getting stronger and isn’t that why you train? If you carry your weekly shopping home and it takes you and your 7 bags 20 minutes to reach home, by which point your arms feel like they are 10 inches longer, does it mean you can skip the Bodypump class you planned to attend? If you pick up 1lbs weight and do bicep curls for 10min, will your arm be tired? Yes. Will you have made any lasting effect on it as in helped to build it and make it stronger? No.

The answer to the sweating argument? There are 17 people in a closed room with no air con, just massive alien looking units that blow super humid air at the temperature of 23 degrees right in your face: You will sweat even by thinking hard…

So next time whatever class or workout you do, listen to your body and be honest with yourself. It’s your workout. You are only going to get out of it what you put in…

Les Mills ONELIVE – One Tribe

You have probably heard about Les Mills. Failing that I bet you have seen a Bodypump, Bodybalance or RPM class on your gym’s timetable. These are some of the classes they offer across most gyms.
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I have been so busy with my full time job and teaching indoor cycling that I have never had a chance to try them. Well actually I did take an RPM once, which is their take on indoor cycling.

As a freelance instructor what put me off adding a Les Mills instructor qualification to my toolbox were two things: choreography and music.

You get given a choreography that you have to learn and follow so the programme is unified across the board and there are new releases every few months. You are also given the music that you have to use which means paying a licence fee that covers the CDs, workshops etc.

The music was my main thing: I have to feel the music I teach to otherwise it just doesn’t work. I have used other people’s class profiles found on websites or at workshops but in 99% of the cases I had to change the music completely.

When it comes to teaching indoor cycling I am trying to keep it real so not every class I teach involves intervals or HIIT. Sometimes we do races or 40 min climbs or pure cadence drills so I found the RPM programme very restrictive. Plus I enjoy creating profiles, sometimes adding a little presentation on a DVD to it way too much to give it up. And the music? Yes, it costs a lot too and it sometimes takes hours to find the right songs but when it all comes together the feeling is great.

The one RPM class that I took had all rocky tracks – the kind of music I simply hate so that was just a confirmation: this was not for me.

But today at Alexandra Palace Les Mills held their big ONELIVE event with tens of classes you could try. It was a bit pricey at £75 but you could do 7 x 55min classes between 8:30am and late afternoon. I booked 6 and then last week a disaster struck resulting in a hand injury so today I could not try the Bodypump but I watched two classes.

What’s my verdict? I loved it! The music was great – at least for this release. The workout was really challenging and as soon as I am better I will definitely take a class or two. I loved the clear options for various fitness levels. Apart from the main presenters on stage they also had instructors working the floor and correcting form and giving directions to those who needed it. People wooping and cheering giving into the feeling of being “one tribe” which is Les Mills motto. Great!
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I was hoping to watch Bodybalance and RPM too but cycling was booked up and you couldn’t watch it as it was in a closed room. The same went for Bodybalance and everything else. That was disappointing.

But I didn’t despair as I also booked Bodystep. This class followed the Bodypump on the main floor. I must say to see all 1,200 people do the same choreography was a proper spectacle. Unless you are like me and your brain cannot understand what to do when faced with someone you have to copy: when they lift right leg up do I lift right leg up or left? (This is the reason I don’t drive: when I look in the mirrors I no longer know what’s left or right).

I followed people in front of me – who clearly have done that before – for as long as I could but then we stepped it up and started incorporating TURNS?! That’s where the car crash feeling became too overwhelming and I left. Thankfully I was realistic about my chances and my step was the closest to the exit so I sneaked out unnoticed… Verdict? Great class, great energy. Could I teach it ever? Hell no!

Overall a good event. People of all ages, shapes, sizes, even a few toddlers perched on their Les Mills instructor parents’ hips. It was a really good feeling to see thousands of people (there were 3 classes happening at the same time with 1,200 people on the main floor and at least 1,000 across the other studios) who got up way before 7am on a miserable Saturday morning to spend a few hours exercising.

There was a sense of community in the air. Even when I was waiting for W3 bus to take me down the hill to Wood Green station it was omnipresent. There was another girl in Les Mills gear waiting for the same bus. A few minutes later we were joined by an incredibly hunky guy in a Bodypump T-shirt who asked me in his sexy Kiwi accent: “How much is a single ticket these days?”. “I am not sure. £2 something… Oh., wait, actually London buses don’t take cash anymore. Have you got a contactless bank card?”. “Oh, no, I don’t… I may have to try and bribe the driver with cash…”. At this point the girl said: “Don’t worry! I have a contactless card and an oyster so you can use one of mine”. “Are you sure? Thank you so much!” responded the Nice Eyes With Sexy Body. Damn! I should have offered that, I thought. Instead I just smiled at them and said: “One Tribe!”.