Debunking Fitness Myths

As a Personal Trainer and a fitness blogger I can see a lot of pressure in the industry to look and act a certain way which can be rather stressful and damaging for some people. 

The world of perfect abs, long legs and sweat-free faces on Instagram portrays an image of fitness that is fun, easy and full of happiness. It can be all of these things but it can also be tiring, tough, demoralising and grump-inducing when you’re getting up and it’s still dark outside. Plus, no one actually looks perfect if they’re working out properly! 

Here are some of the top misconceptions of the fitness industry:

1) Selfies show the truth 

Even I have been guilty of only posting the most flattering selfies but don’t trust what you see. There are various things you can do to create the perfect selfie:

All I did in the 3 minutes between the two photos was to turn off the overhead light, put on underwear that fit better, twist my body slightly to the side to show off my best angle, flex and, of course, add a filter. So don’t pay much attention to those ‘before and after’ shots!

2) To be healthy and fit you have to have a six-pack

Having a six-pack just means that your body fat percentage is low enough to be able to see your abs. Also, the shape of your abs is totally dependent on your genetics, some people can get a six-pack, some can’t. For the majority of people the lifestyle you have to live to achieve and maintain them would stop them living a normal life free from counting every single calorie. Also, ladies, having such a low body fat percentage might stop your periods. Surely that can’t be good for you…

I prefer a bit of definition and that’s about it for me!

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3) Personal Trainers & fitness bloggers live like saints

Anyone who knows me will know that this just isn’t true. I love to eat anything and everything. Pizza is probably my favourite food and although I don’t really have a sweet tooth I can eat sweet n’ salt popcorn or ice cream for days. I may not drink that much but that’s because I don’t like the taste of most alcohol! However give me a margarita (or 3) and I’m a happy girl… It’s all about living a balanced lifestyle. Indulge when you want to but get to know your body and understand what it wants and when. 

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4) Exercise is easy

Exercise is not easy. And if it is easy then you’re not pushing yourself. And if you’re not pushing yourself then you won’t make any progress and reach your goals. Even if your goal is just to clear your head you need to put in a bit of effort to achieve that. The real side of fitness is early mornings, freezing hands and ears in winter, ridiculous sports bra tans in summer, stinging sweat in your eyes, not bothering to wash your hair because you’re only going to get sweaty again tomorrow, permanent hand callouses, blistered feet and stiff muscles. But all of this adds up to feeling alive, proud and on top of the world.

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5) You have to able to run really fast

Nope. Have you seen me run? It’s not pretty, it’s not fast but I get the job done. If you run you are a runner, if you lift you are a lifter, if you spin you are a spinner, it doesn’t matter how fast, how heavy or how much you do it. Just get out there and give it a go, you’ll amaze yourself.

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Challenge Yourself

Life is a battle. We’re constantly fighting against other people growing up, at school, in social situations and in family life. It’s always about getting more attention, being better and just generally winning. 

Well I’m here to say STOP. It’s time to start looking at yourself, not at other people. We’re all different and however much we strive and work to look, act or be like someone else it’s not going to happen. 

I had a totally epiphany as I was slogging my way round the triathlon course a couple of weeks ago with a bloody great grin on my face. Every person on that course (apart from one man who was 3 times my age) overtook me and with each one that flew past my smile got bigger and bigger. 

I was racing for me, against my previous personal best and no one else. I was the last woman to finish that triathlon and to be honest that only made me prouder that I’d gone in there for myself, conquered some demons and given it everything. 

Here are some of the methods that I’ve used to challenge myself and not compare myself to others:

– Take comparison photos of yourself if your goal is a physical change. Use ‘instababes’ as motivation rather than goals

– Note down PBs if your goal is a strength or speed change

– Fall in love with yourself. I know it sounds cheesy but rather than beating yourself up about your weaknesses try and identify your strengths. Then champion your strengths and be proud

– Surround yourself with positive people who will celebrate your victories, however small

– Listen to your body and don’t push yourself past what you can do at that point. Rest when you need to, reduce weights or resistance and eat that piece of cake if your body needs it…

How do you make sure that you’re challenging yourself rather than comparing yourself?

A love letter to my stretch marks

Dear stretch marks,

Firstly, I’m sorry. For as long as I can remember you’ve been in my life and for most of that time I’ve hated you. You used to remind me of how much weight I put on going through puberty and how uncomfortable I was in my own body. I used to slather on cocoa butter and starve myself to try and get rid of you but nothing worked.

I always thought that if I lost loads of weight and turned myself into one of those willowy girls then you would disappear and I would look like a model. That’s how warped my brain was back then. Think about it: my brain was telling me that if I lost weight then I would magically have a body shape that was so far away from what I naturally might have. And then I would be happy. Um… really?

Continue Reading…

Keeping The Family Balance

This year the Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) and Easter fell on the same weekend meaning that there was even more emphasis on eating over the long weekend. For the first 2 nights of Pesach (it lasts 8 days) we have a big meal with lots of family and friends and I can safely say that I’ve eaten enough to last me a week… 

Now that I’m sitting on the sofa the day after in a bit of a food coma I’ve been  thinking about some rules to maintain the balance when you have family functions, religious days or celebrations. 

3 generations of women in red

Rule 1) Someone will have spent days preparing all of the food you’re about to eat so unless you’re REALLY allergic, be respectful and polite. One bite of something that’s made with love isn’t going to ruin your progress

Rule 2) Don’t get preachy about your approach to nutrition or exercise unless someone specifically asks you about it. It’s not a ‘look how strong my quads are looking’ party, it’s a time for family

Rule 3) Prepare your body so that you can make the most of all of the food that’s about to come your way. An interval cardio session followed by some heavy work on your legs will mean that your body will use some of what you’re eating to repair muscles and replenish energy stores

Rule 4) Don’t starve yourself the following day to ‘make up’ for eating a lot. Just go back to your normal schedule for eating and exercise, chances are your body won’t even register the big meal and it won’t have an effect on your progress

Rule 5) Don’t feel guilty because food is something to be enjoyed, not to regret, especially if you’re making special memories with friends or family

Now, where’s that last remaining Easter egg… 

My Life’s Happiness as told through the medium of denim

I’ve read lots of posts recently about health, happiness, fitness, love and peace. But I don’t want to talk about any of those things, I want to talk about jeans. Yes, of the denim variety and no, that wasn’t a spelling mistake for ‘genes’.

I put on a great new pair of jeans this morning and it got me thinking, there’s so many points in my life that have been punctuated by jeans. Denim as a material is pretty unforgiving, it doesn’t pretend that it fits and it will always let you know if it’s too tight or loose. 

When I was a kid I wanted to spend every day in jeans, the older the better. Rips, soft denim, never-washed, shorts or full-length, they were the best, perfect for climbing trees, riding bikes and digging holes in the garden. 

Good god, so much 90′s sass in one so young… 

The problem came when puberty hit and I no longer fitted into boys’ clothes which I loved to wear. Jeans suddenly became restrictive and something to highlight parts of my body that were growing in all kinds of wrong directions. 

I tried to ignore the course of nature by buying baggy mens’ jeans, trying to hide all of the bits that I didn’t like. Top tip: baggy clothes will just make you look bigger. Sorry 14 year-old self… 

It’s worth nothing that it wasn’t like I was blossoming into some curvaceous beauty, I just had puppy fat which always made me feel big and rather lumbering. Just great when you’re growing up. 

It was only when I hit about 17 that I realised that perhaps all wasn’t lost.

Throughout university I took great delight in those times when my jeans were hanging off me, only serving to reinforce my unhealthy habits and disordered eating. Equally there were times when I couldn’t get my jeans up over my thighs which created a vicious circle of bad habits. 

Continuing the trend of jeans being a barometer of my feelings towards my body I wore particular pairs into holes when they fitted and felt comfortable because I thought they made me look skinny and cool. Note to self – skinny does not = cool…

About 3 years later, in the midst of a job that I hated and a particular obsession with McFlurrys, I stopped wearing jeans altogether. They didn’t fit, they reminded me of how much weight I’d put on and everyone else looked better in them than me. 

And then I discovered leggings. All-forgiving comfortable leggings. I wore them every single day for about 2 years, in denial about how unhappy I was with my body shape. I refused to believe that I’d gone up 2 or 3 dress sizes so I just ignored the problem. 

And then suddenly, enough was enough. I started to get fit and over the last 18 months that’s what I’ve been doing. 

Ever so slowly jeans have started to reappear in my wardrobe, cautiously and subtly. The first day that I went out in a pair of jeans again was a big step, one that was so surprising that I celebrated it in my head. 

And finally, today, I put on a new pair of jeans that I never thought would work, a pair of dark denim, super skinny, HIGH-WAISTED jeans. And they look good. I think. And as I strutted to work I realised how crazy it is how influential jeans have been throughout my life in how I see myself and my body image. 

Excuse the lack of face but today was not a good hair day… 

Surely it’s about more than this but I still can’t help myself from feeling all of these feels today. Strange but there we go. 

The Yes Woman

10 years ago my best friend and I embarked on a ‘life-changing’ trip to Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii. I say ‘life-changing’ because it was in a way, but not in an ‘I lived off air and good vibes in an ashram and now I know my soul’ kind of way. We basically partied and had fun for 6 months and learnt to say ‘yes’ (within reason) to lots of cool things. We were inspired by reading The Yes Man by Danny Wallace who said yes to everything in his life and even ended up getting his book about the experience made into a film. A lot of the crazy and memorable experiences we had were down to that book, thanks Danny Wallace.

Apparently underground tubing and caving requires some fetching balaclavas in New Zealand… 

Anyway, I was inspired to do this again recently as a way of keeping myself busy and man, has it worked… 

I’ve got a couple of incredible opportunities coming up in the next few months that I would never have been a part of had I not taken a deep breath and said ‘yes’. I can’t tell you what they are yet but I think it’s fair to say that they will take me hugely out of my comfort zone but also give me a massive boost. 

This isn’t meant to be an overly-emotional post but I just wanted to share the excitement that can come with taking a chance and having the confidence to put yourself out there. I’ve spent long enough closing myself off and not having the balls to give things a go so from now on I’m saying yes. 

Give it a go.

The power of alone time

While Simon (my fiancé) is in India for 2.5 weeks, I’ve had to fight the urge to book arrangements in for every night due to not wanting to be alone all of the time and not wanting to spend loads of money! 

So today I did something that I haven’t done in a couple of years by myself, I took myself off on my bike and had a cheap little adventure. 

I’ve lived very close to the Olympic Park for nearly 2 years now and can you believe it, I’ve never been! It’s an easy 5km cycle there which only took 15 minutes and then once you’re into the park there’s lots of wide and smooth cycle routes that take you around the whole area. 

My first triathlon is coming up in May so with that in mind I headed to the Aquatics Centre for a swim (cue swimming selfie…). 

It was busy in there but once you’re in the water there’s actually plenty of room for swimming! I swam sets of 250m for 1km, alternating breaststroke and freestyle trying to concentrate on my technique. For triathlons you really want to swim hard with the arms to save your legs for the cycling and running to come, so I focused on them. Jelly arms now… 

Afterwards I basked in a bit of February sun overlooking the canal and took some time just to relax and enjoy not having to rush anywhere. Also, hello Vitamin D top up!

I cycled the long route home through a very busy Victoria Park and I’ve spent the afternoon doing chores, writing up plans for a PT client and pampering myself. 

The point of this rather rambling post is to remind myself (and you) how important it is to do things for yourself every now and then. Our lives are always so busy and rushed, there’s never enough time for ANYTHING. So make time, indulge yourself in whatever it is you enjoy and luxuriate in the alone time. That’s all there is to it.  

Goals for the rest of 2014

How the hell did it get to November and how is it only 7 weeks until Christmas?! This is scary. This woman has got stuff to achieve before 2015 sneaks its way into reality. 

Before Christmas I am aiming to:

1) Lose 5lbs of fat without losing any muscle or strength – it’s all about the definition… 

2) Run 50km – I’ve let my cardio slip somewhat in the last few weeks so it’s time to get moving again

3) Try to hit my macros perfectly at least 5 times – I’m still trying to get my head around the quantities of each food that I need to be eating to do this and it’s taking a while to figure it out!

4) Tri-swimming training once a week – I’ve signed up to the London Fields Triathlon Club, mostly for the swimming training so I can get used to swimming in my wetsuit and work on my breathing and technique

5) Get my road bike back on the road – it’s been in mum and dad’s garage since my last triathlon 2 years ago. The feelings of guilt are HUGE. I’m sorry my little Trek baby… 

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Now, who’s going to join me for one or all of these goals so we can keep each other accountable? 

Lining Up Challenges for 2015

My first 6 months of 2015 are sorted in terms of challenges because I like to have things to aim for in terms of my fitness (plus I want to add to my growing medal collection…). 

As it stands I’ll be taking on:

Winter Run 10K – February 1st 2015

Eton Dorney Sprint Triathlon – May 9th 2015

London Triathlon Olympic – August 8th 2015

I entered the London Triathlon 2 years ago as a challenge to myself to get fit and while I had a brilliant experience on the day it didn’t really kickstart me into getting fit. However, now that I’m much fitter I’ve decided to work towards the Olympic distance one and challenge myself further. 

That means:

1.5km swim

40km cycle

10km run

Oh god, this is going to hurt…

Watch this space for training updates!

The Importance of Relaxation

When life is getting a bit much it’s important to just stop. A bit of ‘me’ time will never go amiss. 

I’m struggling with my energy levels at the moment. Working 4 days a week, doing homework, planning for assessments and spending the entire weekend studying and doing practical workshops for my PT course means that I have very little time to rest and relax. 

I’ve had to cut down on exercise to 2-3 times a week rather than 5 and I’m making sure that I’m in bed by 10pm every night. I’m also struggling to stick to my food plans because my body is craving sugar and processed carbs for instant energy. I’m trying to allow myself a little bit more flexibility with food at the moment, eating some healthier sweet treats and adding in a few more calories each day to maintain some semblance of energy.

When I do get time to relax, here are my favourite ways:

1) Run a bubble bath, light some candles and settle in with a good book. There’s nothing better for soothing the soul than a good soak

2) Make some hot chocolate using raw cocoa, almond or coconut milk and agave nectar

3) Go out for a walk by yourself and just appreciate the beauty of where you are 

4) Pamper yourself. Go for a manicure or massage or even set up a home-spa for a facial, manicure and pedicure to save some money

5) Spend some time with loved ones, remind yourself of all of the great things in your life

6) Cook! I love to cook and the process of experimenting really calms me. It also means that the fridge and freezer are full of healthy quick meals

What do you do to relax? 

Taking The Plunge

It’s now been a year since I started on this health and fitness journey and I’ve learnt a few important and useful things:

1) Always pee before a run – London doesn’t have many bushes or trees that are big enough to hide behind

2) Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, they weren’t making that up

3) Water is your best friend, guzzle it like it’s running out and if you hate water (like I used to), jazz it up with lime, lemon, cucumber and/or mint

4) Get as much sleep as you can because it helps your brain and muscles recover

5) You’ll never regret working out (until the next day when it might hurt like a bitch)

6) Sometimes you have off days and that’s ok, it doesn’t mean you’re going backwards, it just means you need to listen to your body a bit more

7) Rest days. At least 1, preferably 2 each week

8) If you put good clean food into your body then you get good clean energy out of it

9) Fat is not the enemy. Good fats (avocado, nuts, coconut, olive etc.) give you energy, help your muscles grow, make your skin glow and make your hair shiny and bouncy

10) It’s a journey, not a quick fix

Oh and 11) If you want to eat the burger and fries, eat the burger and fries, it’s not going to kill you

With all of that in mind it’s time to make a big announcement… 

As of January 17th (provided I pass all of my assessments), I will be a certified personal trainer and nutrition adviser! 

I’ve decided that I want fitness and health to become a much bigger part of my life and I want to help other people make the journey that I’ve made. So watch out for lots of geeky posts as I work my way through my course and I might be calling on some of you to be guinea pigs at some point. 

Wish me luck! 

The Importance of Sleep

I love to sleep. Whether it’s the 12 hour mega-sleeps, the 45 minute power nap or the tube snooze on the way home, I can’t get enough of it. 

Having had a very busy couple of weeks with work and redoing our bathroom and therefore moving around various different houses, I’ve not been sleeping very well, waking up numerous times throughout the night and then finally waking up a good couple of hours before my alarm. It’s very annoying. 

But more than just being annoying, I’ve noticed how much less motivated I am to workout and eat healthily. I’m craving carbs for a quick energy fix and I’m permanently hungry. Exercise has dropped off the list of priorities as it’s taking a lot more energy to simply stay awake and be coherent. My brain has also felt fuzzy and I’ve had to work that much harder to stay productive and focused at work.

All of this is because without enough sleep the part of your brain that’s responsible for language, memory, planning and sense of time starts to shut down. In fact, staying awake for 17 hours affects your brain in the same way as having 2 glasses of wine.

While some people only need a few hours of sleep a night, I need a solid 8 (at least) and to get this I’ve made an evening routine that helps me to wind down: 

– Make sure the bedroom is tidy and warmly lit before having a shower

– Have a hot shower or bath (with epsom salts on work out days)

– Brush teeth, remove make up and moisturise in the same order each night

– Crawl into bed with a good book – no iPhones or lit up screens before sleep if you can help it!

If you’re struggling to sleep, try these tactics first before resorting to any pills! 

Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day

In the past,whenever I’ve started a weight loss journey, I’ve always had in the back of my mind that there will be this magic day when I wake up and I’m skinny, like flipping that switch from fat to thin. 

The fact that this magic day doesn’t exist is the reason why I’ve never succeeded before. 

It’s now been a year, almost exactly, that I’ve been striving to create a new way of life for myself and turn around my attitude towards food and my body. It’s been a journey of taking it one day at a time, congratulating myself for those tiny, almost invisible steps of progress and not beating myself up or feeling guilty when I decide to treat myself. 

Here are some of those steps that I’ve noticed:

– While the first 1.5km of every run feels like I’m dying, I have now reached that point where I get into ‘the zone’ by 2km and can just keep running (and I even enjoy it, a bit…)

– I can’t wear my jeans without a belt now as they fall down and although the scales haven’t changed in a while I’m still toning up

– I don’t think twice about getting up early and going for a run or doing circuits in the rain

– Abs (they’re tiny but you can see them. If you look carefully. With an Instagram filter)

– My body feels literally poisoned when I don’t eat properly – this is how I felt all the time before!

– My mindset has changed – I don’t want to be thin, I want to be fit. I want to have defined muscles, strong limbs and a ‘don’t quit’ mentality

So I’ll continue taking it one step at a time, recognising the tiny achievements and building myself up mentally and physically, one squat jump at a time. 

It’s All A Balancing Act

This morning at 07:15, my alarm went off so that I could get up for circuits at 8am. Except I didn’t get up, I had no energy, couldn’t open my eyes and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep. Which is what I did. 

When I finally woke up the first thought that went through my head was ‘I must be coming down with something’ until seconds later my stomach started rumbling. Painfully. Ah ha, I thought, I hadn’t eaten enough after circuits and boxing last night. That bowl of tomato, lentil, leek and cabbage soup just didn’t cut it.

And this made me think. I spent years of my teenage and early-twenties life equating feelings of hunger with something to be proud of. A rumbling stomach meant that your body was burning fat rather than food and was therefore making you skinny. When I was dieting I’d skip breakfast, have vegetables for lunch and a small dinner, keeping myself going with caffeine whilst trying to exercise and ignore the feelings of dizziness. Yes I was skinny but I wasn’t healthy…. 

Fast forward a few years to my realisation that I hadn’t eaten enough. It’s a very fine balance for me at the moment as I am still trying to lose the last 5lbs whilst reducing body fat and increasing muscle definition. However, if I don’t eat enough food then I don’t have enough energy to work out efficiently and build muscle. 

It’s all a learning process at the moment while I figure out what I need to put into my body to get out of it what I want. And my brain needs to go through an advanced training programme where I work on the fact that when it comes to food, less is not always better. Watch this space… 

This is something that has really caught my attention over the past few days for a few reasons. It’s an advert from Always called #LikeAGirl exploring why ‘like a girl’ becomes a negative phrase as girls grow up. 

As a girl who was a serious football-playing, anti-dresses, action man tomboy, being told that I couldn’t do anything as well as the boys because I was a girl was like a kick in the stomach. Just because I was the only girl at football training it didn’t give anyone the right to say that I was good ‘for a girl’. No. Get it right. I was good. The fact that I was a girl was irrelevant.

As I got older I was discouraged from playing mixed sports because no one ever included ‘the girl’ because what’s the point? She can’t kick the ball, she can’t hit the ball and she DEFINITELY can’t throw the ball. Bullshit. 

I fully appreciate that men and women are physically very different, for example women hold onto body fat more than men (and for good reason, you need to be a certain weight and body fat percentage for everything to keep working properly and enable you to have babies). But stop comparing my achievements to those of my male counterparts. 

When I run, I run for me. When I work out, I work out to improve myself. When I eat healthily that’s because I’m listening to my body and giving it what it needs. 

As one of the women in the film says, I run, workout and eat like a girl. Because I am a girl. A girl who’s damn proud of who she is and what she’s achieved over the last year. 

So I think I’ll carry on acting like a girl thank you very much.