Archives for posts with tag: exercise

Whilst browsing the internet a few weeks ago, I came across the website of a weight loss coach. I am always interested in the work of other health and well-being practitioners so I started to read her introduction, but within a few paragraphs I was angry and upset and felt as though I was being personally attacked for being a personal trainer.

For the record, there was no real reason for me to take this woman’s comments personally; I don’t know her and I very much doubt that she has ever heard of me. She was merely expressing an opinion based on her own experiences and observations, but her words touched a nerve nonetheless.

To paraphrase: this coach stated that most personal trainers want to keep hold of their clients long- term and so they will purposefully confuse and misinform people to ensure they never reach their goals and never gain the confidence to go solo! In comparison, she – the weight loss coach – prefers to work with her clients for just a few weeks and get real results.

I couldn’t stop thinking about what she had written and I began to question my own practice as a trainer. You see, it is true that as a personal trainer, I prefer to work with clients on a long-term basis. Does that make me a bad person? Am I just in it for the money? Have I been sabotaging my clients all this time? No, of course not! Why would anyone go into this profession thinking, ‘I hope my clients fail’?

But here’s the truth: I really don’t care whether my clients are fat or thin. I want them to keep working with me for as long as possible because I love seeing them grow stronger and fitter, and because I love introducing them to new and different exercises, and because I know there is always something else I can teach them. Some of my clients lose weight when they work with me and some of them don’t, but that doesn’t mean the ones who don’t have failed in any way. We need to dispel this damaging message that the only reason you should take up exercise it to lose weight (or more accurately, lose inches). Exercise is about so much more than what size jeans you wear or whether your arms have definition or whether people are going to compliment you on your six-pack when you slip into a bikini.

My aim as a personal trainer is to instill in others the joy of moving. For me, my greatest success stories are when I see my clients learning to use and trust and enjoy their bodies in a whole new way. If people need or want to lose weight along the way, that’s fine and I help them to do that by encouraging them to address their diet and life-style as a whole, but first and foremost, I want my clients to realise that exercise can be fun and enjoyable and rewarding. I want them to witness first-hand how it can boost their mood and make them feel strong and flexible and alive. I want my clients to learn that if they start enjoying their bodies and tuning into how good it feels to get up and move, they will naturally begin to take care of themselves better in other areas of their life.

Exercising can be inspiring and energising and it can free your mind in ways you never thought possible. So, as a personal trainer, I feel it is my duty to encourage you not to have weight-loss as your main goal in life. Mental and physical health, strength and fitness, and a positive body image are much better life-goals and the likelihood is, when you start enjoying your body and appreciating everything it can do for you, you will begin to see positive physical changes anyway.

So let’s spread the word: love your body, nourish it, treat it well … and above all else, enjoy it!

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I can hardly believe it’s been a year since I launched Sarah Thorp Fitness, and what a year it’s been. It’s been incredibly busy (as you may have gathered from my lack of blog posts) and fantastically rewarding at times. But this doesn’t mean it has all been great fun – far from it: there have been quite a few times over the past year when I have felt over-worked, stressed, exhausted and generally down. It’s upsetting to feel like that when you think you have finally found your dream job but, at the risk of sounding cheesy, it has forced me to rediscover myself; to think about what really makes me tick and what is important to me, and to make changes to my work and life to fit in with this.

I don’t regret setting up Sarah Thorp Fitness and I’m very lucky to be able to go around dancing and exercising for a living, but I don’t want that to be all I do. I’ve discovered I need variety in my life:

I love to teach dance and fitness classes…but not too many.

I love being left alone to do editing work or to write stories…but not for too long.

I love doing hardcore HIIT workouts, going to exercise classes, dancing and I love love love stretching…but I also love lying on a sofa for hours on end and engrossing myself in a good book.

Most of all I love spending time with my family and watching my little girl grow up and being around for her as much as possible.

I guess I knew all of this before, but somehow in my endless quest to find the perfect job and have the perfect body and be the best and healthiest person I could possibly be, I’d managed to forget that being healthy and happy is all about balance and not about any one thing.

There are so many healthy living blogs out there written by amazing people who seem to have discovered the best and only way to live and eat and who (if what they write on Facebook or Twitter or on their blogs is anything to go by) never, ever slip up. Paleos, vegans, raw foodists, vegetarians: they all think their way of eating is the only way to be truly healthy. Then there are those who swear by daily yoga, daily meditation, daily runs, daily juicing, daily green smoothies, daily supplements, daily oil pulling or tongue scraping (yes, these last 2 are real things – google them if you don’t believe me). Many of these blogs are truly inspiring and educational and I still read them from time to time, but I’ve had to ration myself because I got to the point a few months ago where I was becoming obsessed. I was reading healthy eating blogs and articles constantly and was becoming increasingly stressed and confused, and I felt like a complete failure because I didn’t have the time (or the inclination) to do all of the things I should be doing every day. Even worse, I was beginning to stress my family out with all my ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ when it came to food. And the funny things is, the harder I tried to be healthy, the worse my digestion seemed to get and the more down on myself I became.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because I know I’m not the only one who has experienced this and I want to remind you that being healthy is not just about doing the hardest workouts you can do and having the healthiest diet in the world. In order to be healthy we need to be kind to ourselves from time to time: we need to know how to listen to our bodies and know when to give in to laziness or when to have something nice to eat just because it makes us happy in that moment. Of course, I am not saying we should all start eating rubbish, give into every single craving and slob out all the time but we need to find a balance that works for us as individuals. I know that drinking too much cow’s milk or eating too many tomatoes makes me feel sick and that too much sugar and too many grains makes me anxious and agitated, but equally if I cut grains out of my diet completely I feel low, angry and lacking in energy. Other people won’t eat meat or fish because it doesn’t feel right for them but as long as I don’t eat meat too late at night, I don’t have any problems with it.

Everybody is different and needs different things in life, so rather than beating ourselves up and setting rigid rules about what is good and bad for us, shouldn’t we start listening to our bodies a little bit more and find out what works for each of us as unique individuals? Read these blogs, feel inspired and take on board the advice given but don’t get carried away with it all. Experiment with your food and fitness and mental well-being and see what makes you feel the healthiest, happiest and most alive you can feel…and don’t be afraid to change your mind if what you thought was right to start with doesn’t seem to work anymore.

x

me dancing

Having recently returned to work after 10 months on maternity leave, I’ve found myself lacking my normal motivation to exercise and eat healthily. I’m not stuffing junk into my mouth, but neither am I eating the variety of fresh protein and vegetables I would like, and whilst I’ve still been playing netball 3 times a week and going out for the odd run, I haven’t felt up to my usual exercise routine.

I don’t think any of this is unusual for a new(ish) mum returning to work. In fact, any sort of major life change – a change in job, a house move, a new relationship, for example –  can make it difficult to stay focussed on staying healthy, even if it’s usually something that comes naturally to you.

To get myself back on track, I’ve been making a list of things that will help me get motivated and stay motivated in all areas of life, and I’ve decided to share them in case any of you ever need a bit of help getting your diet, fitness or mental well-being back on track.

1.       Do what you love

Doing what you love makes you happy and the happier you are, the more motivated you’ll feel. It may be that you love sewing or drawing or reading. Find out what it is that makes you tick and make time for it on a regular basis.

My passions are dancing and writing but in the past year, I’ve barely danced. Last week I decided enough was enough: I went into my lounge and started doing my favourite modern dance warm-ups, followed by a ballet DVD. I instantly felt happier, more inspired and more positive about life in general so the next day I called up a local dance school and went along to a dance lesson. I was supposed to be going on a run that night, but I went dancing instead and guess what, I felt much better for it.

You might like to read this post on doing a 30-day happiness challenge.

2. Sign up for something…anything

This might be a marathon or a triathlon; it might be The Three Peaks Challenge; it might be a weekend away at a health and well-being retreat; it might even be a painting or writing course if that’s what inspires you. Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you want to do and will look forward to rather than something you feel you should do.

Some of my favourites are:

  • The Aspire Channel Swim: The aim is to swim the distance of the channel in 12 weeks to raise money for Aspire, a spinal injury charity. I like swimming and find it quite satisfying to just keep on going once I start so I decided to set my own personal goal of swimming the distance in 3 weeks rather than 3 months.
  • Fitness Fiesta: A weekend of fantastic exercise classes to suit anyone’s taste. Check out the website and book up a weekend away with friends.
  • The Wolf Run: My training for this hasn’t gone exactly to plan (oops!), but I’m doing it in about 2 weeks and I can’t wait.

3. Listen to your body and be kind to yourself

This doesn’t mean sitting back and watching TV every night of the week, but it does mean being kind to yourself every once in a while.

Sometimes I get into a bit of a state because I think I should go and do a hard gym session when all I really want to do is curl up on the sofa and eat rubbish food. Rather than giving in to the latter, I often find that if I let myself off the hook and do a stretch or a gentle Pilates session I feel a lot better. Even if it isn’t the hard core training session I’ve planned, at least I’ve moved, which brings me to my next point….

4. Just move

Having gone back to my desk job, I’ve suddenly become very static. I can sit for hours in front of a computer screen and the more I sit, the worse I feel. My muscles seize up, my head hurts, I get grumpy and the thought of doing an exercise session only makes me grumpier!

I often find the less I move, the less I want to move and the less motivated I feel in other areas of my life too (especially healthy eating). As hard as it is, the only way to get out of this cycle is to just get up and MOVE. You could force yourself out for a run and come back feeling loads better, or you could put on some music and dance around the house, or maybe you could just do a bit of yoga in your pyjamas and see how much more positive you feel.

5. Find out what’s blocking you and do something about it

Everyone is different and it could be any number of things that are stopping you from achieving your goals. The thing that blocks me most of all is guilt: I feel guilty for not eating the right foods or guilty for not exercising enough or guilty for not writing enough or guilty that the house is a mess or….breathe! Calm down!

Recently, I’ve been feeling guilty about not using my gym membership enough, but the truth is I’d rather do a dance class, play netball, run outside or do a fitness session at home. For a while, my guilt about this was actually stopping me from doing any exercise at all until I realised just how stupid that was. So, I’m going to cancel my gym membership and do what I want to do without feeling guilty.

6. Make a commitment

I know I’ve just talked about cancelling my gym membership so that I can focuss on what I enjoy, but you might need to do the opposite. Making a commitment to something is a good way of keeping motivated. Some ideas are:

  • Book a class
  • Join the gym
  • Join a club
  • Join a team
  • Arrange regular workout sessions with friends

I recently found an amazing site called www.instructorlive.com where you can do live or archived fitness, dance, yoga and Pilates classes from the comfort of your living room. It’s well worth checking out. I love it. In fact, I’m about to do a Pilates class any minute.

I hope you’re all feeling inspired and motivated, or at least a little bit more positive. I know I am.

Have a great weekend.

x

I often tell people who are struggling with getting into a regular exercise regime, give it 3 months of regular exercise and you’ll be hooked. Once you’re hooked on exercise, you actually enjoy it and get miserable if you don’t get your regular endorphin fix.

However, 3 months is a long time to stay motivated if you’re not enjoying it. I’m one of those lucky people who actually enjoys exercise, but even I’ve been known to get bored of working out from time to time so it’s no wonder so many people give up before they’ve even started.

I don’t have a magical solution, but here are a few tips to staying motivated even if you’re already a fitness junky: if you want to stick to an exercise regime you’ve got to keep your goals achievable, you’ve got to choose a form of exercise you enjoy and you’ve got to keep it varied.

Interval training is one of my favourite ways of keeping workouts short, intense and interesting and it’s one of the most effective ways of getting results.

What is interval training?

Interval workouts alternate between high-intensity and lower-intensity levels.

Why is interval training so good?

  • The variety makes the time pass faster.
  • You can easily fit an interval session into a lunch break or when you’re pressed for time and still get better results than you would from a longer, less intense workout.
  • Working harder even for short bursts of time burns more calories and the body continues burning calories long after you’ve finished your workout.
  • The stop-and-start pattern trains your body to recover quickly, which improves your cardiovascular fitness.

This Infographic at www.greatist.com explains it really well.

So, let’s get started:

Here are a couple of great interval sessions for you to try out and adapt to suit you. Remember to include a warm up beforehand and stretch out afterwards.

Treadmill workout 1:

Put the incline up to 1 or 2. You’ll hardly notice the extra effort but you’ll be burning more calories and getting better fitness results.

To start with, you need to find your comfortable pace. This is a pace you could keep up comfortably for quite a long time. Depending on your fitness, this might be a fast walk or a jog.  For this example, let’s just say you’re comfortable pace is jogging at 9 km/h.

  • 1 minute: jog at 9 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 9.5 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 9 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 10 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 9 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 10.5 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 9 km/h
  • 1 minute: jog at 11 km/h

 … and so on for  15–30 minutes.

This is a good way of starting with intervals because you get to know your comfortable pace and find out how fast you can go.

Treadmill workouts 2 & 3:

Once you’re more confident with how fast you can go, you can change the intervals to make them more intense by reducing your rest time and/or going  straight to your fast pace rather than building up to it.

For example:

  • 30 seconds: 10 km/h
  • 1 minute: 13 km/h
  • 30 seconds: 10km/h
  • 1 minute: 13 km/h

… and so on for  15–30 minutes.

Treadmill workout 4:

Another fantastic variation of this (although a horribly hard one that I haven’t motivated myself to do for a while) is to vary incline rather than pace.

Find your comfortable pace again (e.g. 11 km/h) and start with the incline on 2 or 3, then build up:

  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 2
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 3
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 2
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 4
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 2
  • 1 minute:  jog at 11 km/h on incline 5

  you get the picture!

This one starts off feeling OK, but all of a sudden it begins to hurt. Don’t slow the pace when it starts getting harder. Just keep going up and down the inclines and see how long you can keep going for.

Writing about it has reminded me just how good this workout is. I guess I can’t expect you to try it if I don’t do it myself, so I’ll give it a go next time I’m in the gym. That’s a promise!

Intervals outside the gym:

Intervals don’t have to be done on the treadmill, of course. You can apply the interval workouts above to any piece of equipment and you can do other forms of intervals away from the gym too. You could keep it basic with running, swimming or cycling or you can do any form of high impact exercise followed by a short break and then back up to intensity.

Jo Parry did some great 10 minute workouts on Mission Clean & Lean (see my previous post about this, here). Here’s an example of a 10 minute workout, inspired by Jo:

  • 45 seconds: high knee runs
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: burpees (I hate them but they get results)
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: power squats
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: tricep dips
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: power lunges
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: plank
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: squat runs
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: star jumps
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: press up
  • 15 seconds: rest
  • 45 seconds: high knee runs again

Repeat this 2 or 3 times. Give it everything you’ve got on each exercise and you’ll have done a brilliant workout.

If you have any questions about how to perform any of the exercises mentioned here, please do not hesitate to contact me or if you’re a member of a gym ask a member of staff to help you out.

Good luck. Let me know how you get on. x

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my confession: I love food…especially cake. It makes me happy!

Perhaps you’re thinking that’s not much of a confession but as a dancer and fitness fanatic, it’s sometimes difficult to admit something like that. Well, I’m not going to deny it any longer. I love sweet treats and cakes and breads and yummy, comforting fatty foods. I love to bake; I love to eat; I love reading recipe books and watching The Great British Bake Off and overindulging when I meet up with my friends. I also love being fit and healthy and being in control of my body; I love knowing that what goes into my body is natural and nutritious.

This blog is about all of these things. I will be discovering and sharing healthy but indulgent recipes, talking about my favourite foods, and trying out new ways of exercising and staying healthy.

Please get in touch with your own recipes, healthy eating tips and fitness news. x