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Life’s a Peach!

I prefaced my last post by saying that it was not a rant, so I suppose it’s only fair to warn you that this one probably is.  Some of what I am about to say will no doubt be unpopular, but I am willing to take that risk.  I simply must get this off my chest, but I promise I will try to keep it short!

It is no secret that I am mildly obsessed with all things health and fitness related.  I am also extremely active on social media.  I have accounts on all of the platforms ( I think) and I follow lots of people, such as, athletes, nutritionists, trainers, fitness experts and other bloggers.  Lately though, I find myself noticing, and being irritated by, a weird trend.  Some of the trainers I follow have been posting photos and videos of their clients drawing attention to their “peach.”

I am sorry, but I don’t care what you call it, I don’t think it is right to be showcasing your clients’ asses!  People go to trainers because they want to improve their fitness.  For some people, especially women, by they time they get to you they can have pretty serious body image issues.  One of your main roles as a trainer is to provide a safe environment for healing and rehabilitation.  It is not your job to objectify and sexualise your clients on social media in order to gain more likes, follows, etc.  Not only does this exploit them and abuse their trust, but you also risk exposing them to all kinds of negative feedback at the hands of trolls.

Another thing which is bothering me lately (while I am on a roll, I may as well let loose) is how certain female “Fitspos” are choosing to peddle their wares.  As a woman, trying to establish herself in this world, trust me, I understand how difficult it can be to be taken seriously.  But, believe me when I tell you, posing in your underwear, is not the way to do it.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the beauty of the female form, and I think it should be celebrated.  I would love to live in a world, where everyone was accepting of their body and felt no shame in revealing as much of it as they wish to.  One of the most empowering things I did when I lost weight was to get an underwear photo shoot done.  I am all for women feeling sexy and beautiful.

The problem I have is with women feeling the need to strip off in order to essentially, sell their product.  You are a fitness professional.  You have studied and worked hard in order to achieve your qualifications.  Please don’t cheapen yourself and the industry in general by making it a peep show.  All of the social media attention might feel good now, but like any dopamine hit, it will be short lived.  Ask yourself is that really how your want to grow your business?  Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t see what boobs and bums have got to do with fitness.  Be well xxx

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Scenes From the Dressing Room!

It had been about 5 years since I trained in a gym which had communal dressing rooms.  Just long enough, it turns out, for me to have almost forgotten all of the weird and wonderful goings on the innocent bystander is likely to observe.  Let me preface this post by saying, it is not a rant.  I am not about “fit shaming” or “fat shaming.”  I merely wanted to share some of the things I love to hate.  Some are amusing, others are confusing and some are just downright odd!

Pristine, post workout perfection:  I came out of the shower the other night and I was standing with a towel around me, waiting to get to my locker.  There was a girl using the locker beside mine, so I patiently waited while she rooted in her gear bag, (forever.)  I waited because I assumed she was getting ready for her workout.  She was all long, blonde tresses, not a hair astray.  Make-up so perfectly applied, it could have passed for a professional job.  She looked like she has stepped off the cover of a magazine (albeit a fitness one!)  So imagine my surprise when she hoisted her bag onto her shoulder and left the gym!

I don’t understand this, and I have no problem admitting jealousy.  How can these girls leave the gym looking more put together than I manage even on my best day?  What genetic anomaly is at play to ensure these girls’ faces don’t sweat and their hair doesn’t move?  The bitchy part of me thinks they must not be working too hard if they look that good at the end of their session.  If the bitchy part is wrong, I definitely need to get some make-up tips!

look cute

The tummy tuckers:  I firmly believe that anyone showing up to the gym and making an honest effort deserves nothing but respect.  Regardless of your size, shape or current level of ability, you are making an investment in your health and well-being and you should be proud.  It honestly breaks my heart to see women, and usually young girls, obviously sucking in their tummies while trying to get changed.

Not only is this hugely impractical and uncomfortable it should be completely unnecessary.  All of us are in that changing room together because we share a common goal.  It should feel like a safe and judgement free environment.  Not a place where you feel the need to risk passing out from lack of oxygen.  In a world full of body image issues and pressure to be perfect, surely the dressing room should be the one place where we girls can let it all hang out?  In any case, as my mother always says “nobody is looking at you!”

The last time I witnessed this, the girl doing the sucking in had a lovely figure.  It really saddened me to see such an obvious sign that she is unhappy with her body.

The make-up mogels:  This one really baffles me.  Women who, after their shower, take the time to blow dry (with their own hair dryers) and straighten their hair and expertly reapply their make-up.  I could understand this painstaking ritual first thing in the morning, but this could be at 9pm on a Monday.  Either these ladies have far more exciting social lives than I do, which wouldn’t be hard, or they are going to a lot of effort to get ready to go to home.

Part of me is completely confused by this, but another part is envious of their energy and conscientiousness.  Most nights I can barely be bothered putting a bra back on!  I am far too busy calculating how many hours sleep I will get.  Full disclosure, I only make the effort if I have to stop on the way home.

Miscellaneous madness:  There are some things which really ought only to be done in the privacy of your own home.

  1. Shaving legs, or any other part of ones body.  Seriously girls time, place etc.
  2. Standing naked in front of the mirror to examine oneself, intimately (enough said)
  3. Using hair dryers to dry your body.  Unless you have forgotten your towel, and even at that, I struggle to think of a reason why anyone would do this, even at home!

For all the things which confuse and baffle me, there are one or two that just genuinely make me smile.

I love seeing little kids running around with wild abandon.  Caring not about what state of undress they are in, and deftly escaping the clutches of parents trying to wrangle them into clothing.  They serve as a reminder that we are not born with inhibitions, hang ups and body image issues.  These things are learned, and so can be unlearned.  Small children don’t question whether or not they fit in or if they have the right to be there, they just live.  We can learn a lot from them.

I also love seeing parents putting kids into their pj’s for the journey home.  There is something so timeless about this, and I remember it being done when we were children.  It is heart warming to see them in their pajamas with overcoats and shoes.  I just wish I could go home like that myself.

Mostly I just love seeing the place full of people.  Be well xxx

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Full Circle Fitness!

It was early 2012.  I had just finished my accountancy training, and I was beginning to realise that I couldn’t ignore my health and fitness, or lack thereof, for much longer.  I made a decision to join the gym.  I was determined to get fit and I also wanted to take swimming lessons for the first time.  So I went and bought my new trainers, some “active wear”and signed up at my local hotel gym.  I was all set, or so I thought.

I was not one bit prepared for how intimidated I was about to feel.  I was over weight, out of shape and had never lifted a weight in my life.  I had literally no idea what I was doing.  I was sure everyone was looking at me and they could tell I didn’t belong there.  So, I did what many others in the same situation do, I turned my attention to the fitness classes.  I tried everything on offer from aquafit to Zumba and I loved it all.  It was a really safe and non judgmental environment in which to start getting fit.

The months passed and I starting feeling like I wanted more of a challenge.  Something different to push me further, so I joined a Strength and Conditioning gym and began doing Crossfit style training.  I was instantly in love.  The challenge and sense of community were exactly what I had been seeking.  The fact that it was progressive was absolutely perfect.  There seemed to be no limit to how much you could achieve with your fitness with this type of training.  You guessed it, there’s a BUT coming.

I kept getting injured.  Nothing major, just little knocks and niggles.  Mostly in my knees and hips.  All fairly minor and things, which in my mind, I could “train around.” I got into a cycle of injury, rehab and physio, full training, injury…  Eventually, about a year ago, I asked my coach to refer me to a good physio, enough was enough.  The guy was amazing, and for the first time I was getting answers as to why my body kept on breaking.  He told me I have hyper mobility.  What this basically means is I have no stability in my joints.  He told me in no uncertain terms that I am not strong enough to do Crossfit safely.

It took many, many months of banging my head against a brick wall before that message eventually sank in.  Months spent having to modify workouts and feeling heart broken watching my peers across the gym doing what I so desperately wanted to be doing.  Months of promising myself that I would eventually get back to it.   Months of beating myself up for not being able to compete.  I hasten to add that during this time my coaches were phenomenal. They truly did all they could for me, and never made me feel like I was a problem child.  The pressure I felt was purely coming from within.

I was also having an insanely busy time both in work and out of work.  Just making it to the gym was a challenge. Classes were on the hour and a five minute delay would leave me scuppered.  Each time I would get back there I would say to myself “Okay Arwen, 5 sessions next week, no excuses!”  Monday would come and I would be buried in the office and not make it to the gym.  I had failed the week already!  Ironically, it was hearing myself say something to other people, which eventually made the penny drop.

I was giving a presentation to a corporate group, and I was telling them about the importance of exercise.  I heard myself saying “you don’t need to do Crossfit, you don’t even need to join the gym, you just need to get the body moving!”  Suddenly it dawned on me.  I had been so attached to the idea of being a “Crossfitter” and so unwilling to let it go, that I was standing in the way of my own fitness.  I realised I needed to let go of my ego.  It was not serving me, and it was making me crazy.  I needed to take a fresh approach.

It was not an easy decision.  It was hard not to feel like I was admitting defeat.  I love Crossfit and I wondered could I even watch the events now without feeling like a fraud.  But at 35 years old, I need to be moving in a way which neither damages my body nor causes stress to my mind.  Eventually, I made the decision to return to my local hotel gym.  Five years later, I was going back to where it all began.

It has been about a month and I have been taking all the fitness classes again, HIIT, TRX and of course Zumba.  It took me no time at all to remember how much I loved these classes.  I love Zumba so much in fact, that I took the instructors course last week  (more on this in a future post.)  It is such a relief to get a sweat on without getting stressed out.  It has also been a great revelation to me that sometimes going full circle is not the same as going backwards.

I am not saying I will never try Crossfit style training again, but for the moment I am happy enough to be moving and letting someone else do the thinking.  I can’t believe I allowed the fantasy of doing Crossfit become more important to me than the reality of actually training.  When I started writing this blog, I made a commitment to being as honest as I possibly can.  Sometimes this is going to mean admitting I was wrong, this is definitely one of those times.  It feels very fitting that I should talk about this now, in my 100th post.  If we are lucky in life we will always be learning.  Sometimes the teacher will be yelling at us, but we just are not quite ready to hear it.  What this has taught me, eventually, is that if something isn’t working for you, change it.  This doesn’t make you a quitter and it doesn’t mean you have failed.  All it means is that you have learned to invest your energy where it will serve you best.  Be well xxx

 

 

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The End is No End!

Back in January, I launched a corporate wellness program, for a well-established engineering company in Dublin.  The participants were very diverse, and had a wide range of personal goals.  The program set about improving overall health and wellness by addressing nutrition, hydration, sleep, exercise, mobility and stress.  It also sought to foster a sense of community and establish an accountability network for the group, in which, to support each other.

This is the sixth and final week of the challenge, and the men and women who have stuck it out have seen some phenomenal results.  Some have lost weight, others have seen improvements in health markers, while still others are seeing the benefits of mindfulness in their everyday lives.  I check in with the group everyday and visit them on site every two weeks. When I met them last week, the difference in everyone was immediately noticeable.  They all stand taller, exude more energy and just seem genuinely happier.  I could not be any more proud of them.

But what now?  These people have had strict guidelines in place for the last six weeks.  They have had daily contact with their coach and they have had the support of each other.  What will happen when the program ends?  This is a problem with all programs of a fixed duration, and let’s face it, nothing can go on forever.  Every plan, be it a 28 day cut,  21DSD, Whole 30, or a program like mine has an end date.  One day you are on the plan and the next day you are off it.  So, what do you do?  How can you avoid walking, lemming like, off a cliff and back into all your old habits?

It can be a tricky enough transition.  On the one hand, it is not realistic to live in such a regimented and restricted way forever.  On the other hand we don’t want to end up back where we started.  Making a plan for how you are going to manage this phase is absolutely essential.  Without clear intention about what you are going to do after the end date, relapse is almost guaranteed.  Believe me, I speak from bitter experience.  As much as we may not want it to happen, if we don’t guard against it, the old familiar ways quickly return.

If you think about it, this really isn’t surprising.  You were practicing your old behaviours for years, or even decades.  Our new habits, only really budding after a few short weeks, haven’t a hope of competing.  They need to be continually nurtured, so they can take root and become part of the landscape.  But of course, there has to be balance.

My guys have been really working hard for the last few weeks.  Eating whole, unprocessed food and exercising daily.  I have been giving them bonus challenges and truly putting them through their paces.  I absolutely expect that come Sunday they will celebrate.  I fully expect that there will be take aways ordered and beers opened.  In fact, I encourage it.  It is really important to let your hair down, once in a while, especially after a period of restriction.

I have asked them to take some time this week to reflect on the experience.  Try to identify aspects that they found helpful, and come up with a plan for incorporating those elements into their lives going forward.  If any of you are currently working a program, or planning on starting one soon, I encourage you to do the same.  Say, for example, you are currently doing a program that requires 20 minutes of daily exercise.  You might enjoy that, and decide to continue with it.  If you don’t make a plan for how that is going to happen, it simply won’t.  Similarly, you might decide to continue eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods, but if these items don’t make their way onto your shopping list, they definitely won’t make their way into your diet.

To my mind, programs of a short duration are essentially reset points.  They act as a Ctrl+Alt+Delete for the body.  Purging you of junk and rubbish and helping you to lay the foundations for a healthy future.  They act like stabilizers on a bicycle.  When your program ends, that isn’t the end of your biking career, you just continue on with two wheels.  Yes, you may have the occasional wobble, but with planning and perseverance you will gain the confidence to go it alone.

We live in a world where everyone wants the next quick fix, the magic tea or the simple solution.  The reality is that if you want a healthy life, it will take effort and intention to get it.  Once you have achieved it, it will take just as much effort and intention to keep it.  We make dozens of choices every day, which can either bring us closer to our goals, or steer us further away from them.  So, if like my guys, you have a Sunday coming, make sure you don’t wake up on Monday morning wondering “what now?”  Make a clear plan, write it down, and commit to it.  Remember, the end of the program is really only the beginning.  Be well xxx