Sunday, 27 December 2015

Having a personal trainer. Is it worth it?

Happy holidays to everyone; I hope you’re all enjoying the Christmas period and no doubt over indulged on Christmas Day as I did (thoroughly enjoyed and deserved of course!)
So today I want to talk to you about personal training. I’ve heard many stories over the years, good and bad, of having a personal trainer and witnessed some first hand; watching people get fantastic results with their trainer and then also watching some people never seem to get any leaner, bigger, stronger, fitter etc. despite numerous weeks or even months with a trainer.
There is a lot of controversy on the subject and I just wanted to share my own personal views on having a trainer. As some of you will know from my previous posts I do currently have a personal trainer and this is my third period of having one; after enjoying two other stints in 2014.
So why did I first enlist the help of a personal trainer?
Looking back to May 2014 I was pretty fit and healthy; training about 4 times a week and in a decent shape. I was a little bored with my training though, stopped seeing many results and I’d just recently got a promotion at work so with a little extra money on my hands and a European summer holiday just 8 weeks away I thought I would give personal training a shot. I didn’t go into it with big expectations; in fact I’m not sure what I really hoped to achieve or what gave me that final push but all I can say is it was one of the best decisions I ever made.
For the next 8 weeks I had 2 personal training sessions per week with Adam El Koussy at my local gym; Total Fitness. Adam introduced a whole host of new exercises, routines and eating habits into my life and I never looked back. I got brilliant results over that period and I went on my holidays feeling fit and healthy.
After the summer holidays I stuck with my training programme on my own before returning to train with Adam for 6 weeks in December ahead of going off on my gap year to Australia and again training hard and sticking with a good diet it got me to where I needed to be.
Results after my 2nd round of PT sessions before Australia
As I’ve talked about on my previous post my health and fitness took a back seat during 2015 as I headed off on my travels and coming home carrying an extra 5kg and feeling very much unfit, unhealthy and untoned it was never in doubt in my mind that I would be absolutely getting a personal trainer when I returned home.
During my brief return home for a wedding in summer 2015 I had a training session with Michael Barrett who was soon to become my new PT. I’d enjoyed Michael’s bootcamp classes for a few months before I went to Australia (well I say enjoy, I’m not sure ‘enjoy’ is the right word when you’re left gasping for every last breath at the end of the 45 minute session but you get what I mean!) so I knew I liked his workout style. My taster PT session in summer was torturous to say the least and left me hobbling down the aisle at my best friend’s wedding a couple of days later. But I knew that was going to be exactly what I needed to get me back to where I wanted to be when I returned home full-time.
So Michael gave me a few on-the-go routines to do whilst I was away in preparation for my return home and at the start of October 2015 we sat down and talked about where I wanted to be and how I’d get there. By this point I didn’t feel good in myself at all and was very honest with Michael about this. And I’m pretty sure he must have been able to see in both my body and my training performance that I was a million miles from where I’d been before I left 10 months earlier but if he did he never said it once.
Phase 1: Strength
Now I am 10 weeks into my training which is the longest period I’ve had with a trainer and I can honestly say that it was the best decision to get a PT on my return home, as I knew it would be.
In the early weeks of my sessions my body must have thought it had gone to hell as the workouts crippled me. Not only did I have 2 PT sessions per week I also had Michael’s bootcamp class and then he prepared 3 other sessions for me per week with one day’s rest. Pretty much all of my sessions involve weight lifting and very little typical cardio which suits me just fine. Michael used one term that has stuck in my head ever since and he’s stayed true to his word when he said ‘we are constantly going to shock your body’. You can say that alright!
Some sessions I was genuinely close to tears, my body would ache from the day before, my heart was pounding away trying to keep up with what my body was trying to do and I remember there were some sessions I would just sit in the changing rooms for half an hour afterwards just unable to even move. And you pay to be put through this? I hear you say. Yes and it’s 100% worth every penny.
You may think well all of the above you could do yourself so why pay for a personal trainer? And technically yes I could do 6 workouts per week by myself. Would I work as hard? No. Would I push myself to my absolute limits? Probably not. Would I have learnt so much about the human body, diet, nutrition and exercise? Not a chance. And ultimately would I have got the results I’ve got so far? Simply, no.
And I’m not some lazy, weak girl who if I don’t have someone telling me what to do I just won’t do it. I am very motivated, very determined, self-disciplined and organised with my nutritional and exercise preparations. But having a PT educates me, motivates me further and pushes me to be the best version of myself that I can be.
During the last 10 weeks there have been many challenges. My confidence in my body and my ability back in October was nowhere near what it used to be but Michael gave me that confidence. He encouraged me during every session, during every set, right down to the very last rep when he knew I was ready to cave and he would have that belief in me to push through it and he has ultimately got me through each and every session.
I’ve always hated training upper body; I think because it’s always been my weak area so whilst I was away and for a good proportion of the time before I went away it was legs, legs, legs. Well who doesn’t want a firm, toned booty and fit legs hey? After 2 sessions with me Michael had already picked up on this and much to my initial annoyance he soon drafted in 2 upper body sessions per week into my schedule and just one focused on legs and ass. I’m pretty sure my facial expression didn’t hide my feelings towards this horrendous prospect and I’m pretty sure Michael soon learnt these thoughts as I shot him deadly glares whilst he had me bench pressing and doing press ups haha.
The dreaded chin ups...another upper body day
But that’s what you need from a PT. You have to focus on your weak areas and when you’re training on your own it’s easy to focus on what you enjoy and what you’re good at. I knew that once I got stronger I would enjoy it more and thanks to our perseverance I’ve gone from bench pressing at 20kg to now hitting my one rep max at 40kg. Results speak for themselves. And I actually now enjoy my upper body sessions…I never thought I’d hear myself say that.
One thing that has astounded me is Michael’s overwhelming knowledge of everything related to exercise and nutrition and already I’ve learnt so much from him and I’m able to apply these every day into my training and my diet and notice big results.
Don’t get me wrong; having a PT is only one element of the whole concept. You’re with your PT a few hours a week; the rest of the time you have to control what goes on your plate, whether you push yourself to go to the gym after a long day at work and whether you aim for big results in your sessions rather than just going through the motions. It’s very much a joint effort and you have to be willing to put in the time and dedication yourself if you want results. A PT will help you; but you ultimately have to be the one to do this.
Not only is Michael my PT and my nutritional guru though, he’s also become a friend to me over the last few months and I think it’s important that you have a good relationship with your PT as you need to be able to work well with them to get the results. We very much see it as a partnership and he’s just as focused on getting the results as I am and that means a lot. Knowing he’s always at the end of a text if I need some advice on what to eat, if I’m struggling to stay on track one day or if I simply need to rant at him for the DOMS he’s inflicted onto me is a big encouragement and I know I’m not going through this journey on my own. He’s also become well versed on hair dip-dying after I had this done a few weeks ago, my daily work battles and he’s shared the highs and lows (mainly lows) of my love life since I returned home haha. I’m pretty sure he must feel like he’s also my therapist sometimes (sorry Mikey).
PT life...
But on a serious note I absolutely love training with him and I know I’ll be training with him for a fair while longer. In 10 weeks of training I’m back to my pre-travel weight, back into my size 6/8 clothes and feeling fitter and stronger than ever. We have some big goals lined up for 2016 that I’m excited to work towards with him (all of which I’m not sharing with the world right now) and I know that I’m in the best hands possible.
Feeling toned and fit 10 weeks in
So ultimately, is having a personal trainer worth the money? In my opinion absolutely yes. Would I recommend having a personal trainer? If you can afford it, it’s definitely something that will transform your approach to health and fitness and improve your life for the better.
Obviously there are some PTs out there better than others so you have to do your research but of course I’m going to recommend my PT as the one I would use. Michael Barrett; based at Total Fitness in Wakefield and you can contact him at for PT and health and nutritional advice.

Monday, 14 December 2015

How do I stay on track during the festive period?

One thing I get asked about quite frequently is how I stay on track with my diet and training; and particularly around this time of year it can be especially challenging.
For many of you out there I’m sure you’ll find yourself in similar scenarios when the festive period hits; the tubs of Quality Street seem to find their way onto every desk in the office, there’s the work Christmas party (or make that parties if you work at YAS where you seem to get invited to several different team’s celebrations – popular I know!), celebrations with friends and family that always include endless assortments of food and copious amounts of alcohol. And all of this is before you actually reach the big day itself; where you simply eat yourself into a turkey coma by 3pm and then spend the rest of the day force-feeding yourself chocolates, dessert and anything else that’s calorific that you can get your hands on (ok maybe that’s just me!)

Throw into the mix the British weather is as predictable as ever with temperatures ranging between cold, very cold and not much else. And the continuous drizzle that seems to wash the country for three months solid and you seem to have found yourself on the end of a motivational disaster which can only end badly right?
So how do I keep on track at this time of year?
Damage control and moderation.
Now I’d love to sit here and tell you that I just love eating cold salad in winter, that the Christmas bake-off at work isn’t at all tempting and that there’s nothing I love more than dragging my butt out of bed in the freezing cold at 6am on a Wednesday morning so I can hit bootcamp. But if I said that I’d be lying.
The truth is I love rich, yummy, typical winter meals loaded with carbohydrates this time of year just as much as the rest of you and I have a crazy sweet tooth that could devour pretty much any dessert any time of day. And to put it bluntly getting out of bed to go workout before a full day at work is hell on earth but my philosophy is quite simple; you can either have results or you can have excuses, you can’t have both.
When it comes to December I cut myself some slack but I stick with my 80-20 rule. 80% of what I eat is clean and nutritious and 20% is whatever else I fancy and that may include some chocolate, pizza, a piece of cake etc. I don’t restrict myself in a crazy way but I AM controlled. If I know that on a weekend I’m having a takeaway with the girls on a Saturday night and that on Sunday I’m heading out to have pancakes for breakfast; I make sure my diet throughout the week is on point. Knowing I have that ‘cheat’ to look forward to on a weekend helps me to stay on track.
 Now that doesn’t mean that Monday to Friday nothing bad will creep into my diet. The rest of the year it doesn’t as my diet during the week is spot on but as I said at Christmas I loosen the reigns a little. I’ll be the first to admit that the mid-afternoon slump will often hit me and I need a sugar rush so occasionally I’ll reach for a couple of chocolates out of the Christmas selections in the office. Or this week at work it’s our team bake-off so I know that there will be one or two days that I will want to sample the delights. And that’s ok. But I will also make sure that my training is where it needs to be and especially this time of year I’ll throw in some extra interval sessions after my weight workouts to give me that added cardio boost and to keep my metabolism ticking over.
For me I’m not a big drinker; I can easily pass on alcohol so in that respect the festive season doesn’t hinder my diet too much apart from the occasional night out. But I know for some of you this will be a big issue for you during this month. But if you know you’ve got a couple of nights out coming up, why not use that as motivation to get an extra workout in that week or to eat a little cleaner than normal?
Essentially it all comes down to accountability and this is something I am very big on. If I over-indulge one week or let that run over into a couple of weeks; that is my fault. I will be the one to suffer. I will be the one that feels lethargic and rubbish. I will be the one that finds training a little harder than normal and I will be the one that doesn’t feel as good as what I could when I pull on my Christmas party dress. Holding yourself accountable for your actions; both diet and training wise, is the first step in taking control of your health and fitness.
We all have days or weeks where we fall off track and that’s ok. We’re all human. But what you do to correct that is what’s important. A couple of weeks ago I was sick and on antibiotics. I had to rest from training a couple of days and my body was craving rubbish food. I ate what my body wanted for a few days so allowed myself more treats than normal and I knew I’d not had a good week. Some people might say ‘oh you’re ill, these things happen’ and they do but it’s not an excuse. I spoke with my personal trainer about it the following Monday and admitted my diet hadn’t been as good as it what it should have and I needed to pull it back. So that following week I had an awesome week diet wise; still sticking with my 80-20 rule but keeping on track when I knew I had to. Accountability. Responsibility.
As much as it is a challenge to keep focused on your diet ultimately you do have control. You don’t have to order dessert at every festive meal you go to and you don’t have to have a few glasses of wine at every social event or sample every single cake in a bake-off. If you want to that’s absolutely fine; don’t moan when you’ve put on half a stone and haven’t got the results you want. Hold your hands up and say ‘yeah I indulged and loved every minute of it’. But this is aimed at the people that make excuses that it’s ‘just too hard’ to eat well around Christmas. It is hard but it’s not impossible with the right mind frame.
For me the diet is the hardest part so when it comes to training I don’t find it too much of a chore, even though I only ever see the gym in the dark at the moment as it’s either first thing on a morning that I train or last thing in the evening. And yes sometimes it is the last thing you feel like doing after a long day at work but when did you ever hear someone say ‘oh I really regret that workout’? Never.
 I think it’s ok to accept at this time of year your focus on diet and training might not be exactly where it needs to be. Enjoy the festive celebrations and have fun but make yourself accountable. Plan in advance what your social calendar looks like and how you can compensate during the week ahead. That way you keep some control, you feel better enjoying yourself knowing you’ve earned it and more importantly you’re not left with a huge mountain to climb after Christmas as you try to get back on track.
Remember; excuses or results, not both.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Travel. It broadens the mind…and the waistline!

Travel was always something that was on my mind; right from being a 15 year old girl wanting to work as a holiday rep, to having a dream of living abroad and to just taking any opportunity I could to see somewhere new in the world. The start of my twenties was spent studying and building my career so when I completed my degree in 2014 after four and a half years of part-time study alongside full-time work I was itching for some excitement and adventure.
A couple of incredible holidays in Europe last summer well and truly gave me the travel bug and to cut a long story short within a month of returning home from Ibiza I was extremely fortunate to have been granted a one year career break meaning I could chase my dreams and have the adventure I longed for and after it all return back to the job I love within the NHS.
Australia was my destination of choice; having visited twice previously and always having had a strong desire to sample the ‘Aussie lifestyle'. Plus the fact my sister moved out there a couple of years ago, there was only ever one country it was going to be (although I did throw a couple of others into the mix as the year progressed!)
Sydney soon became my new home
I have to admit during the process of deciding to go and the early planning stages, training and keeping fit didn’t really enter my head. I was so caught up in the excitement at finally having this opportunity that that was all I could think about. As my departure date got closer however it became the one thing I felt most anxious about. Which sounds silly to think that I was heading to the other side of the world, on my own, with no job lined up and other than the first 3 weeks no plan whatsoever, the one thing I was concerned about was how I was going to maintain my health and fitness…and of course with that my toned body that I’d grown to love over the previous 12 months. But I’m sure you other gym-addicts out there will understand this completely.
Whilst it was a consideration of mine I accepted that at certain times in life you have different priorities and that the upcoming year was going to be a chance for me to live my long-awaited dream and that would be my priority. I realised my fitness would have to take a backseat; and that was ok.
And I'm off...
So the first four or five months I did pretty well. I had access to a gym and my diet was still pretty good and when I lived in Sydney I would spend as much of my free time as possible outdoors seeing the sights which often meant plenty of walking. So after heading off to a land Down Under in January by the end of May I was still looking fairly toned and feeling pretty healthy.
It all went downhill from there. June and July brought the Australian winter (and yes they do have proper winters if you’re in the Australian Capital Territory just as bad as the ones we have in England) so as so often happens out came the yummy food, training became more of a chore especially without my usual gym network and venturing outdoors on evenings and weekends wasn’t particularly appealing when it was often less than 5 degrees. And admittedly I simply enjoyed myself with my family in Australia and with my new found friends; partaking in weekend drinking sessions a little too often (and the fact that Canberra has an amazing pancake parlour really didn’t help matters).
I came home for a few weeks in July for a wedding and it was only around that time that I realised I’d put on a few extra pounds and wasn’t looking anywhere near as toned as I was before I left. Heading back to Total Fitness for a couple of workouts I also quickly realised how much my fitness levels had dropped.
Up until this point in the year, other than a few weeks off here and there to travel, I’d been mainly working in Australia so had had a routine and some control over my eating habits (not a very tight control I may add based on what I’ve just told you above) but the next part of my adventure was to purely travel. A little bit more time in Australia and then also onto New Zealand and Fiji. So after being home for 3 weeks I headed back to my second home and had the most amazing 2 months seeing and experiencing such incredible things every single day.
Anyone that has been travelling will tell you it’s often impossible not to gain a few extra pounds. On the road every few days, staying in hotels and hostels (and the occasional wooden hut on a random beach) you eat what’s available, you also eat what you can afford (no fillet steaks on the menu when you’re on a traveller’s budget) and let’s not lie you enjoy yourself simply indulging in whatever you fancy to eat or drink as after all you are on a holiday right? Normally living by this rule on a 1-2 week holiday is absolutely fine. Living by this rule on a two month holiday is absolutely not fine. If I thought I had become a bit untoned and unfit in the first 6 months of being away I pretty much made it twice as bad in those last 2 months.
KiwiYo in NZ delivering the goods
Now I’m all for accountability and it drives me mad when people make so many excuses why they simply cannot exercise and be healthy so I hold my hands up to some of it as no I didn’t need that extra chocolate bar and yes if I had really wanted to I could have swam around a Fijian island every day. Although I’ll give myself a bit of a break; when you’re living on a remote island in the middle of nowhere that has two food options for dinner…burger and chips or simply don’t eat then you do kind of lose a bit of control over your diet.
More food...
I had a fantastic time though and I knew once I was home I would be fully back on the health and fitness game. So I tried not to stress about it too much while I was away but I’d be lying if I said I completely embraced it all and didn’t mind this part of it one bit.
I did mind. I minded a lot. I’d spent months and months working to get to where I wanted to be health & fitness wise and happy when I looked in the mirror. And to watch it dwindle away literally before your very eyes, despite the amazing experiences you’re having each day, was simply soul-destroying. To anyone that’s reading this that doesn’t live the ‘gym-life’ you’re probably thinking I’m absolutely crazy. I’m here travelling the world, seeing amazing places every day and eating what I want and I’m complaining about a few extra kilograms; but that’s what the gym-life does to you (and I’m sure there are plenty of you reading this nodding your head in agreement!)
So at the start of October 2015 I returned home with a lifetime of memories, all adventured out, a host of new friends across the globe and feeling very blessed. Many people would say to me ‘oh I bet you’re gutted to be home in the English winter’ and whilst I’ll not lie it wasn’t exactly thrilling to be back to the cold weather I was actually very happy to be back on British soil. For a number of reasons but a huge part of that was because I was craving routine after living out of a suitcase for 10 months and moving cities and countries every few days, weeks or months (now that I’m back in a routine working the 9-5 I’m not quite sure why I ever got tired of moving cities and countries so often but anyhow!). And with that returned routine came the control back in my life over my lifestyle.
I cleaned my diet up right away so very quickly felt better on myself and then started the training regime. I’d decided long before I came home that I would be enlisting the help of a personal trainer again to help me get back in shape (I’ll be doing another post soon about my thoughts on having a personal trainer) and that turned out to be the best decision as those first few weeks were HELL.
Looking a little 'chunky' on my return
It felt awesome to be back training but it was hard. Not just from a physical aspect of the sessions being very challenging on my body but also from a mental perspective. Knowing that 12 months ago you could easily do ten lots of ten sprints as a warm up to circuit training and now you were ready to collapse in a heap after five, it was frustrating to say the least. And I knew I had such a long way to go. My previous fit body could often recover from a tough session in less than 24 hours yet now I faced a three day recovery from a legs session that saw me often crawling out of bed or wincing every time I stood up from my seat…and don’t even get me started on approaching stairs.
But I was back on it. I was following a 80% clean eating diet. I was training 5-6 times per week and I knew I had to just push through this first couple of months. And I’m so glad I did. Now I’m two months into it and I’ve lost the extra weight that I had put on purely in fat on my travels and I feel fitter, stronger, leaner and so much better in my own body. This morning was a real moment for me as I went to Bootcamp as I do every Wednesday morning. It’s a killer of a class and I’ve travelled to the other side of the world and sampled a number of similar classes yet none have even come close to the physical challenge of this one.
Bootcamp got me like...
I noticed at the last session I was coping better and today I felt on top of the world. Now don’t get me wrong it was still as gruelling as ever and I still spent the majority of the session in a sweaty mess desperately trying to get my breath back ready for the next circuit station. But this morning I could do it. At no point did I question my ability. At no point did I feel like giving up. I knew from the first minute to the very last minute that I had it covered. And at that point every minute spent in the gym, every chocolate bar I resisted, every event I’d sacrificed going to in favour of getting another workout in, was without a doubt worth it. I’m back!
8 weeks in

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Welcoming Love, Life, Lift

I'm so excited to bring you my first blog on Love, Life, Lift.
I have to first of all give a mention to my friend Siobhan, a fellow blogger who recently set up Feeling Pretty Vintage (check out her page Feeling Pretty Vintage for all things beauty, fashion and...vintage). After considering blogging for a while chatting to Siobhan gave me the push I needed to go for it.
Health, fitness and everything in between is a huge passion of mine after joining the gym back in 2013. It's not an understatement to say it transformed my life. Not only from a physical side developing and strengthening my body and with that comes an improved confidence. But also as much from a mental side.
I got into my 'gym-life' during a difficult time and going to the gym gave me something to focus on. It was then that I realised just how much of a positive part of your life it can be for your mental state. There's the scientifically proven element of exercising that supports this; exercise boosts you through the production of endorphins which when they connect with certain receptor cells, block transmissions of pain and also produce a euphoric feeling. But aside from this, exercise gives you something to mentally focus on and couple that with eating healthy and nutritious foods and your body is getting what it needs to be in a happy and healthy state.
During the first year of me training I have to admit I was very much 'all the gear, no idea' and spent a lot of time on cardio machines and not so much time lifting weights. My diet improved but looking back now, still was not great so whilst I did get some results in my first year they were not fantastic but none the less it was a good starting point.
2014 did transform my whole approach to training however when I sought the help of a personal trainer at my gym. All of a sudden I went from spending lots of time on the treadmill, cross trainer and bicycles (which let's be honest aren't the most riveting things in the world!) to making my way into the weights area which was full of testosterone pumped, grunting guys who I soon came to learn far too often skipped legs day.
Whilst a bit of daunting experience at first I soon came to love lifting weights and I spent very little time doing typical cardio (result!). Not only was my training now more varied and fun I started to see much quicker results. I was also educated on my diet and the right and wrong things to eat and within 6-8 weeks some little muscles started popping out in my mid-section...I'd finally found abs wahooo!!
On continued my journey throughout the year and I can honestly say it was the best I'd ever felt physically and mentally. 2015 brought new adventures, challenges and goals and unfortunately meant my new lifestyle I'd built and grown to love had to take a back seat. All for good reason however and I'll write a bit more about this in my next blog but my travels took over and that was ok.
However, now I'm back home and in a routine again my journey continues. And I'm more motivated and determined than ever to get my body back into a good shape, to get back healthy, to use my training and lifestyle to continually create a happy mind and be better as a person overall than I've ever been before.
I hope you'll all follow me on this journey and I'll share with you the highs and the lows, the good, the bad and the ugly and let's see what 2016 brings.