By Megan Smiley, Oct 24 2019 05:39PM
Find out why I love my job in the artcle below that was featured in the autumn edition of The Sport & Physical Activity Industry Magazine - S&PA Professional.
Find out why I love my job in the artcle below that was featured in the autumn edition of The Sport & Physical Activity Industry Magazine - S&PA Professional.
British Summer Time officially ends this weekend and although that means you gain an extra hour in bed it also means shorter days, as well as cold and wet weather (especially in Glasgow), are well and truly here. So the heating is now on timed rather than a quick blast when it feels a little chilly, you’ve dug out that oversized cosy jumper/cardi that has seen better days but still does the job of keeping you feel warm and safe on the sofa, you’ve switched your meals from salads to soups and grilled fish and meats to warming one pot wonders. In other words you’ve gone into hibernation mode!
There are some other changes that often occur in this autumn hibernation transition, one being people become less active. Now I understand it is harder to get out of bed when it’s still dark, and it’s less appealing to go and run around, cycle, walk or whatever when it’s dark and cold. And there isn’t that summer motivation of wanting to look good in skimpier clothes/swimwear.
But that mindset just reflects the short-term view people take on health and fitness. As I always say, there aren’t any quick fixes or magic answers. Being fit and healthy is a long term commitment, a way of life that should be intertwined in your existence. It shouldn’t be because of a holiday, birthday or wedding, those things can be a great catalyst to start you off but you should want to find a routine that you can continue forever. Obviously there will be times when you need to adapt your routine and then times things will get dropped a little, but generally it’s about finding healthy habits that become second nature AND you enjoy (on some level)!
If you let those healthy habits and exercise routines you’ve built, drop off over autumn and winter it means, if you do start them up again, say in next spring, it’s going to be hard and take a while to get back into your routine and reach the levels you were at when you stopped.
So it’s about slightly adapting, working out how you can continue your healthy habits without having to go running in the rain if that’s something you don’t like. It’s amazing how much you can do inside, so even if you only have a small space in your home, you could still do a morning workout there. Also, think outside the box for spaces you could use (I used to train a client in the underground car park in the depth of winter), and things you could do. There are the obvious options of gyms and classes but maybe there’s some indoor activity you’ve always fancied but haven’t had the time to try, it could be indoor climbing, swimming or dance lessons.
Finally, as I touched on above, there is a tendency to move to a more wintry diet but it isn’t a bad thing. There are plenty of hearty and wholesome winter foods that are healthy. If you don’t fancy a cold salad, you could cook it instead – I love oven roasted little gem lettuce and cherry tomatoes. Warming food doesn’t have to be all about pies and puddings!
So what I’m saying is don’t just throw the towel in on your healthy habits as the days draw in. Keep being active and eating healthily but adapt it as necessary. Or if you’re wanting to get fit and healthy don’t think, there’s no point starting now, I’ll wait till spring. So carry on, or start now, and get your body fit, healthy and strong not just for summer but for life!
With Spring here, it being National Gardening Week and the house refurbishment being pretty much finished (apart from a million little niggling jobs that may not get done for a good while yet, if ever!), I turned my attention to our garden. It is a lovely garden and a great space but has been neglected for nearly 10 years so in need of some major TLC.
My previous gardening experience is somewhat limited, comprising of a metre squared yellow box I used to grow a handful of vegetables from in west London. So with a 30 metre long garden as well as a front garden, with very little knowledge and measly amount of experience, I set upon them! Luckily I have a helpful gardening consultant on hand...my lovely Mum!
So far I’ve ripped out lots of ivy, brambles and dead stuff, cut back various shrubs and bushes, and planted my first lot of vegetables. But as with the house, things seem to have got worse before they will, hopefully, get better. Instead of an overgrown garden, we now have a slightly less overgrown garden with lots of piles of garden waste in it.
So I am yet to see the fruits (or veg) of my labour in terms of the appearance of the garden, however what I have achieved is something less tangible but possibly more important, and what I often think of as benefits of exercise, in particular exercising outdoors.
I’m talking about the mental and physical benefits of gardening. It is that perfect level of having to think about what you’re doing so that your mind doesn’t wander too much but not too challenging that it becomes taxing. Therefore it’s very relaxing and has a meditative quality to it. Then there are the physical benefits. I tell you I think I’m pretty strong and fit but gardening is quite a workout. It requires strength, balance, co-ordination, explosive power, you name it and there will be a job in the garden that will cover it!
I also think nurturing living things to grow and develop is very therapeutic and rewarding, giving you a sense of accomplishment and a connection to nature. Then there’s the benefit of being outdoors getting fresh air and if you’re lucky enough some sunshine, soaking up that important vitamin D the sun dishes out. So all in all I am sold on this gardening stuff, which is a good thing as I’ve got plenty to do!
I've always loved a bit of sportswear from the days of shell suits and over sized Kappa t-shirts to C&A's brightly coloured ski range. So it's lucky that I ended up in a job where I get to wear sports clothes every single day as my 'uniform'. In fact, I sometimes feel a little strange when I pop on a pair of jeans and a top that doesn't have a racer back!
However, the lack of decent, affordable women's sportswear has been an issue over the years. As with many things in sport, it is dominated by a focus on men, and it has felt like women's clothing has often been an afterthought. But there's been a shift. Stylish and functional sportswear for women has started to pop up all over, rather than being a pleasant surprise when you found something decent, now you have a choice.
This has been down to a number of reasons: the big established sports brands expanding their women's range, and collaborating with designers and significant style icons - the most famous being Stella McCartney for adidas. Also, high-street shops like H&M branching out to sportswear. And not to overlook the growing number of female specific sports brands such as Sweaty Betty and Lorna Jane.
All of the above and more, means you can choose your clothing for what exercise you're doing (be it tennis, yoga, gym sessions, running, cycling etc), colours, fit, style, or what brand you want to be seen in. I'm obviously a purist when it comes to sportswear as I still love the originals like adidas, nike and puma. There is a downside to this, for me anyway, and that is that as there are so many great pieces around now, that I could end up spending a small fortune on sportswear (I obviously need it all, it's my job!). I am in double figures, at least, for the number of sports leggings I have!
But I would much rather have the choice of good looking, good fitting and good performing sportswear and have to show a little self-restraint at times, than how it used to be!
Now December is here, your calendar is no doubt starting to get very full with Christmas parties, lunches, dinners and drinks. Which means, unless you have the willpower of a saint (which I assume is equally as endless as their patience!), you will eat less healthily and more, and of course drink substantially more over the festive period. And, to make matters that bit worse, due to all the lovely socialising, you will probably have less time to exercise and train. So you, like the majority of people, will lose a little bit of fitness and put on a little bit of weight.
So what can you do about it? Well, reading the numerous articles addressing this issue that are out at the moment, there are loads of tricks and tips of how to avoid the dreaded Christmas weight gain; from wearing your tightest fitting clothes to social gatherings (rather than your elasticated joggers like so many of us do) to encourage you from eating too much from the buffet table, to the '3 rule' that includes taking 3 steps away from any food so if you want more you have to walk back to it, or take 3 deep breaths between each mouth full, or my favourite, take 3 sips between each mouth full. Although the '3 rule' may work in making you eat less, the first one might make holding a conversation with someone rather difficult. The second might make you look like you're trying out some breathing techniques you picked up at pre-natal classes, and the latter, well would you rather be the person who ate too much at a party, or the drunk?
I believe the way to deal with the festive season is to embrace it! Accept you might put on a little bit of weight but one bad month out of 12 isn't going to have a catastrophic impact on your health. I'm not saying go for it hell for leather. Yeah try and not have a mince pie for breakfast (although I think an advent calender chocolate alongside a healthy breakfast is completely acceptable!) and don't 'write off' December. Ok you might not fit in your usual 10k run on a Wednesday evening but you can still get up 30 minutes earlier that day and do a 5k run in the morning. December is busy so fit in small amounts of exercise where and when you can; nip out at lunch for a power walk, it's better than nothing. It's about time management.
I love December. It's by far my favourite month of the year. You get to spend lots of time with all your favourite people, you get to eat lovely food, drink mulled wine, but what I love most about it is that people are happier. Strangers smile at each other, even wish each other a Merry Christmas. So please don't dread December, enjoy it!
I like reading about it, I watch programmes on it (loving Great British Bake Off at the mo and always a MasterChef fan), I talk about it (a lot), I cook it, and most importantly, I consume it. At my flat, friends' houses, restaurants, cafés, pop-ups, parks, I'll consume it anywhere really. I have to admit, I love and am a little obsessed with food!
I have always loved food, but in recent years my relationship with it has changed. This is partly due to being more involved and interested in it due to becoming a fitness professional, which has led me to understand and eat a more nutritious and balanced diet. But also the increasing availability and easiness to develop and nurture this inherent interest of mine. On social media I follow food reviewers and bloggers, health food shops, restaurants and the list goes on. Instagram provides millions of 'food-porn' photos to inspire and drool over. And yes, I am one of those annoying people who post photos of my dinners, often featuring quinoa, tofu or fish– you get the picture!
I get over excited about all food, but I love healthy eating. I'm a fruit and veg fan so that helps, but I genuinely would rather cook a cauliflower base pizza than a normal one. I prefer wholemeal rice/pasta/bread (I'm now making my own bread rather than the rubbish in shops or ridiculously over priced artisan bread you can get). I consume a ridiculous amount of kale, mainly because I grow it so have an abundance of it. I prefer almond butter to peanut butter, rather dark chocolate to a kitkat, cook with coconut oil, have at least 10 different types of nuts and seeds in my kitchen, and so on.
I really enjoy healthy eating and it's not just because I think that's what I should eat. Yes that helps and encourages me as I know the 'fuel' you put into your body will effect what you get out, performance wise and generally with the way you look and feel: but I actually like it.
However, as with many things in life, it's all about the balance! Every nutritionist would advise variation in your diet, this helps you get the range of nutrients, covering all the macronutrients – protein, carbs and fats, as well as micronutrients – minerals and vitamins, that you need. So use your common sense to both enjoy and eat a balanced healthy diet.
I find planning, preparing, cooking and eating food is a pleasure. The process is relaxing and enjoyable and I love the social aspect of it; I rarely do anything sociable that doesn't involve eating!
This is why I find the thought of Soylent, a nutritional drink used as a substitute for food, absolutely bizarre. Soylent is not marketed as a weight loss product. It's for people who don't want to or don’t have time to make or eat meals. In their own words it was “developed from a need for a simpler food source... after recognizing the disproportionate amount of time and money spent creating nutritionally complete meals. ” But, if you hadn't guessed from my rambles above, I think there should always be time made for the love, appreciation and enjoyment of food!
It's getting to that time of the year when people are planning, packing and heading off on holiday, so the health and fitness world decides there's little else to talk about than getting that beach body we all dream of. But in reality if you're flying to a sunny paradise any time soon what can a few weeks of this beach body regime really do?
Of course if you hit it really hard, both training and nutrition wise, you will no doubt improve matters. However, if you go with one of the faddy 30 day challenges that require little time and effort will the 'challenge' pay off and make a noticeable difference?
Maybe a little bit, but with health and fitness as with many things in life if you try to cut corners and achieve something in less time than it normally takes the results aren't really of any worth.
So what's the answer? Basically there isn't a magic answer, yes if you started training and looking at your diet a lot earlier in the year giving yourself plenty of time you could get 'real' results but with the longest day around the corner, summer is already here and probably your holiday too.
So I suggest you get excited about going away and yeah try and ramp up your training, eat healthier but how about also spending a small amount of time learning some basic phrases in the local language for where you're holidaying? Because I'm pretty sure the effort to appreciation ratio will be better for that than the results of a quick fix beach body regime!
Before becoming a personal trainer I worked for the international development charity Right To Play who use sport and play to help disadvantaged children and youth around the world.
Last week was Right To Play's annual 5k run in Battersea Park, London so I went along to not only show my support by running the 5k but to lead the pre-race warm up for the 250 plus participants taking part in the run.
Warming people up in the sunshine in a park is nothing new for me, however doing it with a Lion by my side, and not just any old Lion but Chelsea FC's Stamford the Lion, was most definitely something new! Stamford performed dynamic stretches including squats and side lunges beautifully, he even accidentally attracted a small child to ambush the stage at one point!
Right To Play is a charity that will always be close to my heart not just because I worked there for a number of years but for the fact that what they do is amazing – giving children their fundamental right to play, and helping them to develop life skills through the activities they deliver.
As a personal trainer and fitness professional I can vouch for the power of physical activity be it for children, adults or lions - it's an amazingly powerful tool for making people happier and for making the world a more positive place.
Last weekend I took on, what the organisers call 'Probably the toughest event on the planet', the 12 mile obstacle course that is Tough Mudder.
For those who aren't familiar with Tough Mudder it is a course with 20 military-style obstacles spread over 12 miles some that are pretty easy – crawling through a plastic tunnel, some that are physically demanding – monkey bars with an incline and decline with the bars slicked with mud and grease, and quite a lot that are mentally challenging - jumping in an ice filled tank, jumping off a 15 foot plank into muddy water and running through hanging live electric wires.
Since 2010 over 1.3 million people have taken on a Tough Mudder event worldwide and thousands of people entered Tough Mudder London West which took place over the last weekend of April. Many were returning for their second, third or more Tough Mudder experience earning the title of 'Legionnaires' and receiving a different coloured headband at the finish line. So it's obviously popular but as a first timer to the event I have to wonder is there more hype and disorganisation than toughness?
I'm sure the many people who loved the experience (and continually made grunting noises along the 12 mile course, although waning a little towards the end) might disagree and although I'm not claiming the course was easy; it was very hilly, there was a lot of mud that made it difficult to walk let alone run at points and there were obstacles that were pretty challenging. The biggest hurdle for myself, and for my fellow 8 team mates and from what I've heard on the grapevine for lots of other people, was not the course but the (unnecessary) coldness.
This was not due to the 5 or so obstacles that involved you getting completely soaked, which I'm absolutely fine with if you then carry on running and scrabbling over walls and such. But if you are completely wet from head to toe and then have to wait 20 plus minutes in a queue for the next obstacle you're going to get cold, and I did, teeth chattering, lips turning blue cold.
I heard some of the very encouraging, helpful and friendly stewards discussing that people are only to be allowed one attempt at the 'Balls to the Wall' obstacle as people were falling off the other side once at the top because their muscles were seizing up due to getting so cold when waiting in the queue. This was the second longest queue we waited in and it took about 20 minutes. I also heard that people were taken to medical tents due to getting so cold whilst waiting in the very orderly queues that were assembling at a number of points on the course.
So to sum up my Tough Mudder experience, although I did enjoy the event I would have liked a little more toughness but in a form that requires some sort of skill, be it physical, mental or otherwise, not something that if the participants had more body fat (which there wasn't much of at this event) then they would be at an advantage and probably find the toughest bit not so tough!