Tag Archives: fitness

Bikes Aren’t Just For Men…

If you do a Google image search for women riding bikes you’re greeted with images upon images of women riding road bikes in a closed race style setting, or idealised images of a working woman on a city bike, suited & perfectly coiffured.  Both of these things could be (& probably are) true, however to me it paints cycling in an idealised setting. Showing that women should probably only ride this type of way….

I first & foremost, identify as a “cyclist” before lifting, before nutrition; I LOVE my bike. I have done since I got it, & I’ve loved riding for as long as I’ve been able to ride.  That being said, I am a minority when it comes to bike riding.  Courtesy of Cycling UK I have some figures for you:

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That’s a huge difference in averages – I can do 9 trips on my bike in a week.  Why is this? Why does cycling seem to attract boys moreso than girls & then the continuation of that attraction into adulthood?  It’s not like manufacturers don’t make bikes for women.  I can’t wrap my head around it, however I thoroughly love being on my bike so it’s natural that I wouldn’t understand why someone would prefer to not ride.

Again, I turned to Google & two main things appeared:

  1. Safety. As cycling is seen to be male-centric, women have (in some cases) felt belittled, scared or intimidated whilst riding.  It’s fair to guess that we’ve all seen *that* viral video (which; to clarify is staged & doesn’t represent a real life situation) However, that being said….if a bloke gets a puncture, chances are he can fix it road side. Could a woman do the same? Perhaps, maybe, certainly – however, not many women would be comfortable on the side of the road pulling out an inner tube, especially if it’s getting dark, or it’s secluded or whatever.
  2. Ease. Cycling to work, uphills, in hot weather or in winter layers can be a sweaty affair. Not good if you have a customer facing job, or don’t fancy helmet hair/wanting a shower etc.  Plus, how do you transport a suit/smart clothes/uniform on a bike? Then there’s the mothers out there…how do you carry your shopping & your child on a bike?!

I also asked friend’s on Facebook if they rode bikes, if so; what for:

“I don’t but I’d like to… no bike, and living in such a built up area there’s nowhere nice to go.”

“I like the idea of cycling but I always had shit bikes and the memories of bike maintenance on the go are kind of off putting.”

“I do! Generally to work and back or town and back for shopping”

“I cycle off road cycle paths as I don’t like car times. It’s my favourite way to relax and focus on the moment outside as nothing is being asked of me and I can just breathe.”

“Not any more, but I wish I did. I used to cycle to work, but it was uphill and I was super sweaty and tired by the time I got there. I also used to go shopping a couple of times a week.”

“I alternate between cycling and walking to work (about 2 miles each way) and just enjoy going on ‘adventures’ where I just get my bike and cycle until I’m tired to discover new places and just because it’s fun. It’s a bit of a nightmare to cycle in Leicester since bike lanes are horribly designed and only cover small segments all of which are crowded with pedestrians anyway.”

“I have a cycle but would like somewhere nice to cycle not just round the roads”

That’s just a few of the responses, however the majority don’t ride, or would like to but facilities/places to ride around England are pretty garbage, unless you can shove your bike in a car, drive somewhere & then ride for a few hours.  (For the record, the number of women that regularly cycle in Scotland is higher than it is in England)

I also got a response from Squat Rack Shenanigans (if you don’t follow her blog/insta/facebook, you *totally* should!)

Hi it me! San Diego, CA. I ride for cardio on bodybuilding contest prep, and for enjoyment because I live in a beautiful bikeable city.

July is Women’s Festival of Cycling in the UK, aimed at getting more women cycling.  I personally feel that it’s a shame that not more girls & women take advantage of the freedom that comes with cycling.  Like, seriously….Short on time? Ride. In a bad mood? Ride. Need to wake up? Ride. Full of energy? Ride.  There are many, many reasons to get out on your bike.

They’re not just for men!

If you’d like to learn more about women in cycling:

http://hopetechwomen.com/

https://www.letsride.co.uk/breeze

http://www.cyclinguk.org/womens-festival

https://totalwomenscycling.com/

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Photo from @Liv Cycling

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Drop It Like a Squat…..

Wait.  That’s not how the song goes is it?   I don’t know.  *shrugs*

Anyhoo.  Today’s lesson kids is all about the SQUAT.  SQUUUAAAAAAAAATTT!!!! Oh, dear lord.  Why?   Why are you talking about that most (imo) discussed move in the gym?  Why discuss the elephant in the room that is “The perfect form”

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Just like “The Perfect Form”

I spent a year with Andy, PT extraordinaire & lot of our sessions were focused around squats; he mentioned not taking videos of clients because as soon as you do & post it on-line everyone has an opinion about whether their form is correct or not.  Helpful, you may think?  Yes, it can be from time to time…..the more stringent of moves can definitely benefit from opinions of others & I guess, that from time to time a form check on a squat can be advantageous too – however everyone has an opinion about whether your squat is correct or not.

Unless the person giving you feedback knows your bodily mechanisms – such as femur length, ankle flexibility, any prior injuries & how your hip joint sits into your hip socket, then they’re probably not overly qualified to give you advice.  I don’t mean that you can never ask for a form check, however there are a few things to bear in mind if you so choose to open yourself to the array of feedback from the internet (I have found myself on the receiving end of unwanted feedback, however that’s by the by)

I’m not an expert & I have NO intention of ever telling anyone their form is wrong – if they ask for critique then fine, there’s a set of basics I like to adhere to:

  • Warm up! Warm up! If you can squat with weight, body weight squat a few reps to engage your hips. At bodyweight?  That’s fine, hold onto something or box squat to warm up.
  • Break parallel – if you can’t with a barbell squat, do box squats with a kettlebell (known as goblet squats) to know where parallel is, then move the box & work on getting lower to the ground….not to low though, you don’t want you back to curl too much.
  • Keep your feet FLAT, or if ankle mobility could be an issue, raise your heels.  You don’t need expensive lifting shoes, just some small weight plates with your heels (up to your foot ach, I’d say) keeping your toes FIRMLY on the floor.
  • Flat shoes!  Converse, chucks, Crossfit style….not squishy style running shoes.  They’re too soft for all that weight you’ll squat – if you can’t afford other shoes, then take off the squishy running shoes & squat in your socks.
  • The way I squat isn’t the same as the person in the rack next to me.  Comparing our forms to be a “cookie cutter” one size fits all with squats is outdated, incorrect & potentially, harmful.

A little insight if this is the first post of mine you’re reading – I have degenerating discs in the lower area of my spine (L4 & L5) which can rub nerves through my SI joint causing pain across one or both hips.

When I squat my toes point out & my knees go over my feet – I have long femurs (or at least from what I read online it means they’re long) A lot of people who think they’re attempting to be helpful by telling me things like I need to open my hips more, or lean a little backwards, or whatever critique they want to lay on me when it comes to squats is either, A: Ignored. or B: Retaliated – this person doesn’t know me & I wasn’t asking for their input.  Their “help” is actually extremely out of date & if I wanted my form checking, I’d be asking Andy for a session in the gym.

****

This is why no two people will squat the same & why you shouldn’t expect them to.  If you can squat low & keep your knees from tracking over your feet, bravo. Well done.  If you can get “ass to grass” but your knees are over your feet?  Well done to you too.

In conclusion, you do you & don’t ask for multitudes of advice & opinions of others, too much information can be more confusing than helpful. This is why I advocate the use of a PT.  These guys are trained & should be up to date with all the latest sciences to help you prevent injury & become stronger.

This is me at work the other day, after reading a discussion about femur length on a group I wondered if mine tracked out farther than my shoulders (I tend to squat away from mirrors in the gym, so I can “feel” the movement) so I whacked on the self timer & repped out a few BW squats in the kitchen.  My position is what it right for me, it may not be right for you, but the best thing to do is to try. Don’t attempt to fit to the “perfect form” aim for form that is good, form that won’t cause injury.  Keep to the basics, don’t overthink, ask for feedback if you want it, but remember what works for one, may not be right for you.

A day of squats in the gym means it’s a day closer to deadlifts!

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Bonus last year vs this year BW squat

 


The Goal Posts Have Changed….

No, no.  This is not a post about football or anything else that uses goals to punt a ball through.  This is a reflection of goals from this year & moving to 2016 (Dubbed “lean ’16” by Gem)

Back in January I decided to start this blog – not to gain followers or likes or whatever; I started it to keep a progress log for myself.  It was re-reading back through my posts that I noticed a trend in my energy levels & food – had I not had this blog would I have noticed? Probably however I do believe it’d have taken me longer.

This blog was started so that I didn’t “hound” my facebook friends with my gym pursuits, this way people can read it if they want to & don’t have to hide me (Side note – facebook gym updates irritate me…ironic, right?)

So, let’s reflect on what this year has brought me, I was gonna bullet point it but decided to just write it & see what happens…it may still end up as bullet points but we’ll see how this goes.63

So, the blog is a little less than a year old.  In that year I’ve had nearly 4,000 views (or 330 views per month) & 185 likes on various posts.  My most popular blog post has been my documenting of Intermittent Fasting, followed by my Dear You post.

That’s interesting.  Like I said, I started this as a place to keep my fitness pursuits as separate as possible from my facebook feed.  It’s nice to know how many people have viewed my posts & are hopefully finding answers to the questions they searched on Google via my blog.

YO5eDRx

giddy as a kid with lots of tiaras.

So, down to brass tax now I’ve written 300 words as an introduction.  Hahaha.  Whoops.

Continue reading


What I’ve Learned From Owning A SmartBand

Smartwatches, smart bands & other attachable connected trinkets are all the rage now – you can buy them for your dog, attach cameras to your baby’s crib & switch your lights on from the comfort of your office, ready for when you get home.  They’re enabling us to do things that a few years ago, simply would have been impossible!

I’m the first to admit that when smart watches first appeared I considered them to be a gimmick that wouldn’t last.  I’ll happily eat my words as I have a smart watch & would actually be lost without it now.

It started with wondering how much of a decent night’s sleep I was getting – I was always tired, regardless of the time I went to bed, so I started looking into sleep monitors & whathaveyou, finally settling on the SW10 from Sony – It’d monitor my sleep, as well as notify me about calls, alarms, as well as my steps for the day & other events via the app Sony created for it.  It was small & unassuming & only needed to be taken off whilst charging.  I had it a few months before I lost it, I hunted high & low for it & genuinely pined for it; I’d check my sleep as soon as I woke up to check my restless periods & deep sleep to try & notice trends, so as soon as it was gone I was in the dark once more about my sleep.

SW10 has a multitude of colour options

The quest for a new smart band began!

By now, the fitness market had become saturated with smart bands; each promising to be the best for your needs.  By the time I’d lost the Sony, I was cycling & using Strava to track them, which is great (I still use it from time to time to track segment speed increases) I wanted more though, not just tracking my cycling.  Being in the job I am in, connected tech advances is the area I find most exciting.  So, I did my research & decided that a small company, who’d started through crowdfunding on IndieGoGo would be my next choice & I opted for the Misfit Flash, I blogged about it back in February, however as good as it was, I couldn’t get to grips with the point system & still used Strava to track my cycling alongside activating the cycle option on the wearable.

The Flash also has an array of colour options

In April this year, I turned 33.  My gift was the Fitbit Surge, It promised an update to add accurate cycling to it; which was released a few weeks after I got it.  If it was waterproof, I’d never take it off; except for charging it.  (it is water resistant to a degree, but the packaging states to not submerge it in water) I know Fitbit’s have suffered a little due to the “Fitbit Rash” however, I’ve only suffered a light rash once; readjusting the strap soon fixed it.  It is the Flagship device from Fitbit & although a little chunky to wear, you do become used to its size relatively quickly, however using the GPS on it as much as I do will dramatically reduce your battery life from 7 days to about 3.  Even President Obama has one!

Surge colour variations

Anyway, the point was what I’ve learned.  Now that I’ve owned a few different variations & have been tracking my food & am a lot more active than before, these are my main findings:

  1. Despite me thinking that I was pretty active before I joined the gym. I wasn’t.  (Walking everywhere, although is a good start cannot be classed as being active, imo)
  2. I do not walk about as much as I thought – I get weekly reports from Fitbit on how many steps I did & which days were most active.  If I average them out it’s about 7,000 a day which is below the suggested 10,000 steps
  3. 8 hours of sleep is too much for me.  I’m tired & irritable if I oversleep, the recommended 8 hours a night is too much.  I’m a higher functioning human being if I get 5-6 hours an evening
  4. I’m not really restless in my sleep, I generally fall asleep & that is me until morning – if my sleep reports are accurate anyway
  5. I was severely undereating for years – This part in particular will probably get its own blog post as I find food fascinating & am studying nutrition
  6. Stress causes my heart rate to increase on average 10bpm, I normally have a relatively low RHR of 54bmp, however any kind of internal worry that I’m not correctly dealing with displays with an elevated HR
  7. Owning a smartband has made me try harder, push faster & generally want to be better in myself.  It’s almost like a mini competition with yourself to do a little better than you did yesterday.  I also love how I can look back a year ago on Strava & see how much faster I am now 🙂

The “Muscle Weighs More Than Fat” Debacle

Logic is the use & study of valid reasoning.  Logic is “something that we know to be true” so WHY does logic fly out the window when it comes to people training & wanting to lose weight?

I have many, many pet hates & have often been told I’m an angry person, I’m not.  I just don’t suffer fools gladly.  I cannot stand double negatives, people putting themselves down & moronic sayings like “muscle weighs more than fat.” It just doesn’t & the sooner you stop saying it, the more intelligent you become.  (my annoyance list is longer than this, but let’s keep it there)

Let’s investigate:

Muscle Weighs More Than Fat

HOW? How can the weight of something firm be more than that of something soft?  Switch it to something else, lets go extreme….lead and feathers.

Hrmmmm, those scales look level to me.  Whaaaaaaaaaaaaa?  How can this be?  Lead is obviously heavier, than feathers.  Isn’t it? Is it?  No.  No. NO. NO!

A pound is a pound is a pound is a pound is a pound is a pound!  A pound of feathers weighs the same as a pound of lead.  The same goes for muscle versus fat. A pound of muscle is the same as a pound of fat; in weight, not density.  What you mean & what you say are two different things.

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This may sound a little harsh, but when you realise what you’ve been saying for years is utterly preposterous, perhaps you’ll change your mind.  Otherwise, if you’re unsure if your statement defies logic; Google may have the answer for you.

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I’ll leave you with some “food for thought”

muscle-vs-fat

Muscle is more dense, so takes up less space that fat

60-kg

Identical weight, but entirely different physiques


Training With Prior Issues/New Injuries

I figure, that due to almost rendering myself unable to train yesterday due to massive pressure on my left side (that I ignored) it’d be prudent to make a post like this, as all of us at some point or another will suffer some level of injury that hinders our training; whether it be for a few days or a few months – it’s a good idea to be aware of some of the basics for training with injuries/issues.

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I’ll use myself as an example; I have a series of issues with my back & sometimes it can flare up & render me to an almost immobile state – over the weekend I felt my left hip beginning to burn; the first sign of more pain to come.  It must’ve been bad as I had terribly interrupted sleep on Sunday, however I still went to the gym on Monday. I was doing ok until I got to 40kg barbell squats, did one….felt a pull across my entire lower back & made a noise that may have been heard by hades himself…I heard it & I had headphones in.  TBF, should’ve know as after I walked up the stairs I could feel my hips rubbing.  Sounds gross & painful??  Yeah, it is.  Anyhoo…..I was training on my own.  SHIT!  What do I do??  The urge to run downstairs, cobble my gear together & get the fuck out of the gym was my first thought.  However, I seem to be growing as an individual, so I racked the bar & attempted to compose myself.  I managed to (while thinking lots of encouraging things) do another one before I decided that it was probably wiser to drop the weight down, so I took 10kg off & did 10 reps before deciding that it may not be wise to continue with more reps.

Because of this, I began to wonder what would I do if I’d injured myself further or if it was a new injury & I didn’t know how to deal with it. The misconception that you should rest all injuries is still pretty popular & couldn’t be further away from the truth, resting completely can cause issues along the road – sitting immobile while you heal is gonna cause hindrance as the muscles seize up over time, making recovery longer and more painful.

You can still train if you’ve broken a limb, you can still go to the gym if you’re full of cold, you can even go to the gym after breaking your nose & recovering from concussion! That last one, I did actually do.  I just made Andy aware of how I felt & whathaveyou before we began training.Which leads me to how do you know if you’re fit for the gym? I’m came up with my own little checklist:

  • Does it hurt? Pain levels can vary immensely, let’s use this scale chart:

I’ve experienced all levels based on this scale.  Monday I’d say I was at about a 2-4, at this level I’d still go to the gym. I’d probably still go to level 6, pushing it a little with 7 & above.  So, go with this.  Does it hurt? Yes. Will I be off work cos of it? No. GO TO THE GYM.

  • Will it stop me from going to work? I know I’ve already mentioned this in the pain point, but it’s worthy of another mention. If you’re still able to go to work, then you’re able to train, however you may wanna take it slowly initially depending on the level of injury.  There’s the flip side too; post op it’s probably best to steer clear of the gym for a while (I avoided the gym when I’d had a rather large tattoo session) When I broke my nose I didn’t go for the first week after it’d happened, so I guess to assess on an individual basis.  However, if you feel well enough in yourself, then as long as someone in the gym knows you’re a little ill/post op/in severe pain so they can recommend things to do to avoid hurting yourself.
  • Progress or pain? This is an odd one, (I wrote some of this at work then carried on thinking about it on the cycle home & I think this was my point) Think about the pain you have – Remember the handy scale!! Now, if you’re teetering on a 7, will going to the gym hinder your progress? Yes, probably.  However, if the pain is localised to a body part that you can omit; a leg say then (imo) there’s no harm in going to the gym to do an upper body workout. Just remember if it hurts, STOP & assess the situation – can you carry on, even with a lower weight? yes, good on you – the Marines would be proud of you!
  • Is it gonna be a long-term injury? I consider my back issues to be a hindrance more than a debilitating irritation; however I received some interesting reading material to my work email today that suggests my back issues are worse than I thought, but I digress…..I have friends that are trying to regain strength after months of limited training due to needing bones pinning back together & extensive physio sessions. I have had my fair share of physio & I guess my issue is long-term too, seeing as how I’ve dealt with it since my twenties.  It was only when I started training with Andy that I learned how much of a complication it has been on my body, my left side is completely shot.  I say is because I still have a deficit that I’m trying to correct (I’ve blogged about this annoyance before)  What I will say though is that any progress is STILL progress! no matter how small, take the little victories! Did two more reps than before? Fantastic! Could lift a slightly heavier weight? Incredible!  Recovery takes time & it’s frustrating, but I refer back to the previous point; going too fast because you wanna catch up to the beautiful people will only make your journey more of a struggle in the long run.
  • DO NOT FORGET TO EAT! Oh, I’m not feeling too well, so I won’t have lunch or I’m not training today so I don’t need as much protein. Right? Wrong! I learned this the hard way. I started to do barbell squats; my first lot were going pretty well, then the following session I went to do them again & couldn’t.  During a conversation with Andy he explained my body hadn’t recovered from the last session, or my lurgy (I had a cold when I started BB squats) and that was why I couldn’t lift the weight. I was really annoyed with myself cos I thought I was doing ok, but I wasn’t.  I’ve since made a conscious effort to eat better & it’s definitely paying off dividends in the gym!

 


Personal Trainers – The FAQs

Before I start, I just want to add that this is my opinion & by no means a definitive “be all & end all” to Personal Trainers. I’ve asked around before creating this post about others opinions & will add that where I see fit.  Everyone will have a reason that they want to spend time with a PT, mine is mentioned very briefly on here.

I want a personal trainer, gimme! Gimme now!

Calm yo’self young Padawan!  You wouldn’t just walk in to a shop, pick the first thing you saw & pay for it would you? No!  (if you do, stop it. Stop it right now!) There are many ways to get one, main way being Go. To. The. Gym. There are independent ones out there, but unless you have a really bizarre schedule which means you can’t go to the gym then (imo) this isn’t really necessary.

OK, I’m in the gym, now what?!

If you’re an existing gym member, chances are you’ve already met some of the trainers – they’re the beautiful people in tight spandex looking ripped…..probably.  You may have been approached by one, or even just said hello to them.  If not, based on my experience in gyms there will be a “Meet The Trainers” board situated somewhere, you could read that to gain some info on them if you wanted to. Another way, would be the way I did it:  I contacted my gym & asked to meet a trainer, told them why & they suggested I meet with Andy.

Right. I’m meeting a Trainer, but….

Firstly, don’t be embarrassed or feel silly or whatever.  First meetings are usually to gauge your requirements from them, what you would like to achieve & how you want to be trained, or at least this was my experience.  I told Andy I prefer brutal honesty, don’t need regular encouragement (like, after EVERY rep) and am not adverse to swearing.  We discussed my goals, my flexibility/moveability and whathaveyou.

Don’t feel like you have to like them & sign up with them immediately, if you want to wait, think about it or meet some others this should be okay.  Not everyone is going to get on with everyone & there is always the possibility that what you want to achieve would be better handled by a different trainer.  They have the knowledge & expertise to guide you.

I’ve met with the Trainer, but I’m still not sure.  It’s a lot of money.

The average price for a Trainer in the UK can vary (the internet tells me “average” is from £15-£50 an hour) however, what you have to ask is how much do you value your health & well being? You’re paying for their knowledge, their skill set that they have spent years honing & refining to be able to tailor a lifestyle change specifically for you.  That’s the point, it’s not just paying to see someone in the gym, it’s a complete lifestyle change – Andy gave me nutrition advice, then a food programme & suggested protein shakes to help me as my training increased.

From my own experience, I’ve had people approach me in the gym after seeing posts on here to tell me how different I look in such a short space of time.  I’ve always told them who my trainer is if they didn’t already know & I know my story (so far) has helped others seek out the help they so deserve.

HELP ME! First session in & now I think I’m dying!

This is a feeling that I experience quite regularly – every time a new machine or weight is introduced my body normally screams at me internally for a day or two afterwards.  I’ll never forget my first leg day; the pain stayed with me for the better part of a week.  You learn to love it, to embrace it & eventually crave it!  If I leave the gym now without some level of ache I feel like I have not done enough – despite how much I may moan at Andy during training.

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And there you have it.  My opinions and advice about how to get yourself a personal trainer.

  • Do your research
  • Get to a local gym if you haven’t already
  • Check payment options with your PT
  • Be honest about your fitness levels/goals
  • Utilise the advice of your PT
  • Remember what you put in is what you get out