Is Your Gym Membership A Luxury?

This week is all about the money!
The start of the year sees a huge amount of people joining their local health club or gym determined to get fitter – but it’s also the time of year that sees the biggest number of cancellations too.
People cancel their gym membership for a huge amount of reasons but the 3 most common are:
– They haven’t used their membership in a long time
– A change in their finances
– A change in “lifestyle” (which usually means that they simply don’t want to go to the gym anymore)
Either way they all tend to boil down to a change in that person’s priorities and the feeling that the money would be more useful spent elsewhere – whether that be on debts, new additions to the family or even going out clubbing.
But that got me thinking whether we see gym membership as a luxury or a necessity?
In 2012 a survey, gym membership was 8th in a list of the UK’s best loved luxury items, even beating a coffee shop latte and for some, the obvious answer would be that it is classed as a luxury!
For some the only necessities in life are the ones that provide food, shelter, clothing, gas/electric and legal taxes – where even insurance is a luxury and of course if you are struggling financially – then yes these are your priorities and membership to a gym is indeed a luxury!
But for some the gym is more than just a gym – it can be a way of life! There are those that spend 2-3 hours a day at the gym – socializing with friends, getting an adrenaline rush and buzz from a great workout and relaxing in the spa or cafe afterwards.
Yes – you can have a great workout at home, but you don’t have the camaraderie of your fitness buddies encouraging you to do more, you don’t have the professionals there to ask for advice and check you are doing it correctly or you may not have the necessary equipment be it weights, treadmills or even the space needed to have a proper workout.
When it comes to fitness – “Gym membership” comes in a variety of forms and costs to cover a variety of budgets.
Google searches, Forums and YouTube can provide you with advice and workouts for free!
OnDemand services providing workouts and advice on-line can cost around £10 per month.
Basic weights based gyms can cost as little as £15-20 per month, Leisure Centres covering the middle ground around the £30 mark, with Top End Health Clubs costing anything from £60-150 per month! You could also be paying for a Personal Trainer, which again could cost anything from £20-£100 per session.
Of course – as with most things you tend to get what you pay for. If you’re paying £15 for your local budget gym, then you can’t expect a huge range of fitness classes, plenty of staff on hand, free drinks, plush changing rooms and a sauna!  Mind you this doesn’t stop people complaining about not having them 😉 People want to get the most for their money!
For some – their health is their biggest priority, no matter the cost and they will work their budget around making sure that they can afford their membership fees. The list of benefits of regular exercise is huge and there are those for whom these benefits far outweigh the costs of membership. Whether it’s to lose weight due to obesity or as part of recovery from cardiac arrest – their gym membership can help them recover or achieve their health goals a lot quicker than if they were trying to do it alone at home and because of this Debt Advice agencies can also include gym membership as part of “necessary expenses” when calculating available funds for creditors.
A lot of council run gyms are also affiliated with local GP surgeries and run an exercise referral scheme where a GP can actually prescribe exercise as a “medicine” and their gym membership is free for up to 3 months. A lot of these centres also offer free membership to those over 75. Not only does this provide the benefits of exercise for these individuals, but it also provides a support system – so it couldn’t be classed as a luxury for them!
So how do you view your gym membership? Do you see it as a luxury? Or do you feel that the benefits you get make it more of a necessity?

World Workouts – Globally Inspired Fitness Trends

Anyone ready for a holiday yet? Pretty much as soon as Christmas is done the holiday adverts seem to start up on the telly and the dark cold nights soon get us longing for a bit of sun. So with holiday destinations in mind this week I’ve been looking at global fitness. From American Football Style Cheerleading to Turkish Belly dancing, the world of fitness has been taking inspiration from other countries and cultures for a long time.
In terms of having a “stay-cation” – High Intensity Interval Training classes started in the UK. Although HIIT itself isn’t something new, Metafit started the trend of putting it into a group exercise class. 30 minutes of body-weighted exercises with short work & rest periods you push yourself to the max. Cross-Fit came soon after mixing in weighted exercises like squat presses and medicine ball wall throws to push your limits even further.
Moving toward Europe, Parkour or Freerunning has it’s origins in France. And while it may have started with individuals jumping, somersaulting and running across rooftops, walls and railings you can now find indoor parkour courses and classes at various indoor sites around the UK and for those less brave but like the idea of bouncing around you could try one of the new trampoline parks springing up or  Boogie Bounce which is a choreographed aerobic class performed on trampettes.
Actually talking of obstacle courses…..  while the US and Asia may have globally popularised extreme obstacle courses on TV shows like Ninja Warrior and Takeshi’s castle. It was Europe that brought it to the general public with the Tough Guy Challenge (which has been going for 30 years!!!), Tough Mudder and The Spartan Races. Working as a team against obstacles like ice water baths, commando crawls in the dark and tear gas as well as flaming hoops spread over a 10 mile course tests your mental and physical endurance to the extreme.
Travelling further afield and bringing a lot of summer vibes Zumba classes take their inspiration from latin dance moves from countries like Spain and Brazil. Zumba now comes in a variety of formats from aqua classes in the pool, to using a step or even maraca style weights.
India has inspired a number of fitness classes – the most obvious being Yoga in it’s many variations – improving our balance, core strength and flexibility as well as being a great stress reliever. One of the latest Yoga trends is aerial Yoga, where the positions are performed on a material loop suspended from the ceiling.
While we’re in India – remember those extravagant dance routines from Bollywood films? Both BollyX and Bombay Jam are dance fitness classes that take their moves straight from the movies.
Asia is of course the home of martial arts – karate, taekwondo, muay thai, kung fu and tai chi are just 6. Each have their own styles and you can find beginner classes all over.  One class that aims to combine martial arts in a non-impact and fun environment is BodyCombat where you can kick, punch and kata your way to better fitness.
So where are you heading for a holiday? Maybe you could be inspired by your next class or have a look at the link below to see what other countries do to work out 🙂

Old Dog/New Tricks? Is it too late to make a big change?

I remember when I turned 40 some of my older friends would tell me not to worry as 40 was the new 30, much like people seem to do these with any of the big birthdays – 60 is the new 50… and so on….
Originally I just laughed it off however studies (by Professor Warren Sanderson and Sergei Scherbov) have shown that compared to previous generations, in terms of  our health and the number of years we may have left on earth, there is some truth in it. In fact, it could be an understatement and actually 50 may be the new 30!
The nature of our work, our environment and advances in medicine mean that we’re living way longer than previous generations.
When it comes to our work, despite the fact that we’re expected to continue working well into our sixties and beyond, the workplace is still firmly fixated on hiring fresh faced youths and though in your 30’s you might still seen as having some potential left and making moves into management – by your forties they’re not so keen! In my previous work it seemed the older you were, if you weren’t going into management you were moved sideways or even downward, from customer facing, into back office and administration roles which were not as “high profile” and would be “less stressful”!!
It’s usually around this age that you start to take stock and wonder if you took the right path. You might be thinking although you started as a go-getter, somehow work and family have overtaken you life, and now you’re never gonna get it.  Maybe you’re worried this could be your last chance at chasing your dream – so how difficult or easy could it be to make a big change?
It’s also around this time that we notice the effects of age on our bodies and it’s true that our bodies do in theory start to decline. From the age of 40, our eyesight starts to worsen, our bodies store fat more easily, bones start to lose density and we begin to lose our muscle definition. Let alone the fact that those little wrinkles also start to deepen – and that’s just the start!
Reality sucks and the problem is that it IS harder to start again once you’re over 40 the slight silver liner being that it’s easier at 40 than at 50!
So if you’re at that point and have that dream career in mind or really want to do something about those extra inches that seem to be creeping on – it can be done – there’s plenty of examples of people that have been able to make that change (me included) but the time to do something about it is NOW!
If you’re after a particular career look at the skills needed and see how close you match, if not think about how you could gain those skills?  what would the affect be on your family and finances? could you start at the bottom of the ladder and cope with a reduced income? and really think about what it is that you’re trying to get away from. Is it really the current job your unhappy with or is it the company? For a lot of people, they get trapped within an organisation and simply switching companies is the change they needed. Or maybe it’s not the job at all….. and is something else.
When it comes to your health – again your 40’s are a great place to restart a fitness programme – yes it will take longer to build muscle and/or lose weight – but so long as you know this – then why not? By starting now you are adding a lot more years to your life than if you leave it until your retirement and means you can actually enjoy that retirement for a lot longer. Training with weights will help keep those bones stronger for longer and will help to keep or build muscle definition and a good cardio workout will help keep that heart ticking.
When I turned 40 I was a smoker, putting on weight, my psoriasis was getting worse and after 17 years in finance was really unhappy and stressed at work! Reviewing my situation – it seemed that everything seemed to stem from the stress at work and needed something new. It was one of the older instructors at my local gym that suggested a career in fitness and I did my homework and got really excited at the prospect. Thankfully I did a lot of planning, did my inital qualifications as a nightclass, and focused on getting healthy – stopping smoking, eating right and starting a proper training regime. Then once qualified reduced my hours in my old job, whilst working casually in the gym, which then gave me the experience to find a permanent job. Since then I’ve done further qualifications, and slowly built up my number of clients, classes and hours. It’s not easy! It’s a lot of work and was initally a huge reduction in income, but looking back over the last 3 years from where I was to where I am now – I am so pleased I made the decision to change and have never been fitter or happier.
Age really shouldn’t be a barrier – don’t feel that you are too old – it may be difficult as we get older but I see people in the gym that are just starting at the age of 65, and there’s one older gentleman that comes in every single day for a run on the treadmill a short weights programme and just celebrated his 92nd birthday!
If you had a chance at your dream job – what would it be and would you take that chance? Let me know!

Two Much? Why sometimes it’s better to workout alone.

What do you prefer?

MENtal Wellbeing : Male Body Image and Mental Health


With Movember coming to a close – this week I’m looking at men’s mental health.
Mental health issues for men is a growing problem with the Royal College of Practitioners reporting an increase of 66% in male hospital admissions.
It may be surprising (to some) but if you happened to spy on a men’s locker room – you’d see the guys checking each other out. Not in a sexual way, but merely as a way of sizing up the competition as it were. How muscular are they? How big are their genitals?… Friends may take the mickey or even praise each other on the size of their manhood!
However, in more recent years, what was previously classed as locker room “banter” is now starting to affect a guy’s mental state. Body image for men has some similarities as those for women but also some big differences – one of which being the lack of research and studies.
As men’s interest in fashion and fitness have increased, so has the number of images of the so-called perfect male body in magasines and on the TV. In addition to this, with the decline of the traditionally male industries, men have lost a source of masculine pride and identity and men are now finding their bodies being under close scrutiny.
Studies have found that men with bigger balls produce more sperm (and therefore more likely to become a father), whereas those with smaller balls were found to have greater intelligence (perhaps making them better fathers).  In a similar way, hair is production is linked to Testosterone levels so there was a thought that hairy men were therefore seen as more virile.  Both studies consequently then try to link these “attributes” to how attractive they would be to a potential partner!
When it comes to their body image – Men are generally told they should be tall, lean and muscular, have a full head of hair and a large penis. And while trends come and go, apparently gaining more popularity is facial stubble/beard, little body hair, and tattoos.
In the same way it has affected women – this now near constant barrage is starting to affect men’s mental health, with a range of differing Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. The extent of which can depend on the visibility of the body part, the ease of control over it’s state and the extent of it being a symbol of the person’s masculinity.
Both Male Pattern Baldness and penis size – can lead to obsessive behaviours. Such as constantly trying different treatments, gadgets and surgery – which can all rack up a large amount of debt – which brings further problems….
However the 2 biggest threats to men’s mental health as far as body image is concerned, are Anorexia and Muscle Dysmorphia.
11% of Anorexia sufferers are male and while it can affect men of all ages, more commonly it affects those between the ages of 14 and 25, with suffers obsessively doing a lot of high intensity exercise and under eating, with a view to getting as high a calorie deficit as possible in order to lose weight.
A recent study of male gym users found 1 in 10 suffered from Muscle Dysmorphia. The Opposite of Anorexia  – sufferers feel that they are never big enough, over-training and straining their muscles, eating  large amounts, taking supplements and fangerously, it can also lead to steroid abuse.
Both are serious conditions that can be fatal in their own right but it should be noted that all are underlined by depression, which can lead to alcohol and substance abuse and suicide is the single, biggest killer in men under the age of 35.
Although things are improving – men are least likely to open up or talk about their feelings and there is still a generalisation that those men that do are somehow “weak” – but guys it’s time to “Man Up”!
It’s time for us to be strong by not giving in to the stereotyped images and be brave by talking about how we feel instead of bottling it up.
We need to create a new ideal of what it is to be a man, and it starts by being you.

Burning The Midnight Oil: Surviving The Night Shift

Although Halloween was a couple of weeks ago, for anyone that works a night-shift – sometimes it can feel like you are living in a zombie apocalypse – the streets are empty and you’re so tired, you walk around in a dazed state.
On the odd occasion I’ve done it myself, and it’s like being on a long distance flight – very little sleep, permanent snacking, little movement from my seat, and when you finally arrive/finish your shift – you are so tired you almost fall asleep driving home and when you get there end up collapsing on the sofa completely drained – messing up your system even more!
The pitfalls and negative effects of night-shift work on your health are well documented. Night-shift workers have a higher risk of cardiac disease, mental health problems, obesity and cancer – and the lack of sleep can make you grumpy, aggressive and emotional. Juggling family and social life on top of it can add even more stress.
So this week I’m providing some tips on how to cope with it!
First and foremost, the key to surviving your shift, is making sure that you get 6-8 hours of sleep!
Depending on if it’s the start, middle or end of your shift pattern – it’s important to get some shut eye at the right time.
On the day of your first night shift, try and sleep-in as much as possible and have a nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
When you finish the shift don’t go to bed straight away – instead go to bed at a time equivalent to if you had finished work during the day ie. if you normally get home at 6pm and go to bed at 11pm (5 hours later), after your night shift, if you get home at 8am – then go to bed at 1pm.
Once you finish your stint of night shifts, to reduce the Jet Lag effect – when you get home, have a fairly large meal and nap for 3-4 hours before getting up again and then go to bed at your normal bedtime. A Melatonin tablet after your nap can also help to reset your body clock and get you through to bedtime.
2. Did I Mention Sleep?
Quality of sleep is just as vital, so it’s important to cool your bedroom, block out any light with thick curtains or tin foil on the inside of windows (or an eye-mask) and use ear plugs! If you’re scared this means you wont hear your alarm clock, then most fitness trackers have a vibrating silent alarm function (my other half is really grateful for this as I regularly have to be up at 4am!).
Try not to use your tablet or phone or watch tv while in bed and avoid having an alcoholic drink before hitting the sack, as although they all may help you to relax and get to sleep quicker – they affect the amount of quality deep sleep you need.
3. Prep Your Food
Food is another major issue, due to the lack of open cafes and shops most late night workers can fall into the trap of surviving off vending machines – so it’s important to prep! Take lots of healthy snacks and small meals, eating smaller portions but more frequently will help you avoid mid-meal cravings, help you to digest food more easily, which will then also help avoid stuffing yourself at “lunchtime” which can then make you feel even more tired.
Keep hydrated throughout your shift. Coffee or “Energy” drinks are fine for the start of your shift but should be avoided in the second half, so that they don’t affect your sleep.
4. Be A Vampire (only kidding)
Seriously though, daylight while on night shifts, is your enemy! When you finish your shift, wear sunglasses before heading outdoors. I even know some people that will use orange tinted glasses when at home to reduce the effect of sunlight coming in through windows!
At the end of your shifts, it’s quite the opposite and try to get as much daylight as possible after you’ve had your morning nap.
5. Take advantage of the quiet gym
We all know that exercise is good for us and it’s just as important if working nights. Most cities will have 24 hour gyms, otherwise gyms will usually open at 6 in the morning and close 10 at night, so you should be able to get into a gym or have a home workout either immediately before or after your shift – with the added luxury of the gym/pool being quieter and it can give you the energy to start your shift on a high or after your shift, help keep you awake till your bedtime.


6. Rethink your social calendar
Family & friends can also make working nights difficult – so don’t accept invites etc for during the day, just because no-one else is on nights. Remember sleep is your priority. Work things around YOUR schedule – play with your kids or help with their homework before your shift, and help get them ready for school when you get home in the morning.  Try meeting friends for “breakfast” rather than lunch or an evening meal.
For all you night-shift workers out there, have a good shift and if you’ve got any other tips – let us know!
Until next time…….

Do you REALLY hate exercise………?


I think we all know by now the benefits of exercise – improving your health, reducing risks of heart disease, as well as kerbing obesity to name a few –  but despite this you may be one of those people that says they hate exercise…..
But do you really hate exercise – I mean REALLY?
What I think you’re doing, is either making excuses, or it’s a particular form of exercise that you don’t like – so this week I’m going to try and persuade you otherwise…..
It Takes Too Long!
One of the biggest excuses is time – you have to get to the gym, get changed, spend 30-60 mins working out, then shower, change and get home again. This could be 2 hours on a good day and it is time that you could be doing more fun or useful stuff! Fair enough, the , recommended amount of daily excercise is half an hour, but if you’ve not done that much before, or thinking about how on earth you can try to carry on with this for the foreseeable future, it can be a little daunting – so why not start small! 5-10 mins a day is a great place to start and you can slowly build it up from there. Everyone can fit in at least 5 minutes (it works out at 0.5% of your day if you woke at 7am and went to bed at 10pm even working out for an hour is just 6.5%)  and since we’re starting small you can do it at home or at work and there’s no need to get changed saving you even more time 😉
I’ve Got Too Much To Sort Out!
Maybe you’re  someone that thinks they are simply not ready to start an exercise programme – whether that’s due to a lack of motivation or for the need to have other things in order first (like new trainers or needing to do a list of chores) and you’re sure you should be giving exercise 100% of your attention?
The ting is, if you want to do exercise then the motivation is there, so it’s not the motivation that’s stopping you – it’s the perceived “obstacles” that you are using as a delay tactic.
It’s a bit like when you’re trying to eat healthily, but someone at work brings in cakes- you have one as it would be rude not to, so since you’ve now broken your diet, you might as well start tomorrow….
but how long will this “getting ready” take? If you think about it, knowing the benefits it can bring, rather than putting it off and neglecting your health and well-being – surely eating well and doing some exercise is something you should be starting right now?
It’s Boring!
It might be that you think exercise is boring and being honest some form can be! Personally I can’t think of anything more boring than going on a 10k run or an hour long spin class – but again looking at it honestly there’s usually two things that are usually the truth behind the excuse – Time and difficulty. A 10K “run” would take me a long time and I find both running and cycling hard as it’s a pounding for your legs and no matter what you try to do to try and make it interesting with mud/obstacles courses (or great music and disco lights in the case of spin) – it’s just not enough to tempt me, which bring me to my final point….
As much as people can try and sell you something – if you don’t want to do something then don’t do it!
Doing some form of exercise each day is really important, not only does it bring amazing health benefits, but it keeps you thinking healthy in making other decisions such as with your diet – but t doesn’t need to be a full on 60 minutes in a sweaty gym.
The key is to find a form of exercise you enjoy, whether that starting by dancing to your favourite song, going for a walk on your lunch break, spending more time with your loved one between the sheets, playing with your kids in the park or trying to beat the time is takes you to hoover the house – there are lots of easy and quick ways of getting your heart pumping and your body moving and 5 minutes here and there soon build up!
Who know’s maybe this time next month – you might be looking into salsa classes, self defence courses, and hiking groups and in 6 months looking to run a half marathon, join a gym or start Ju-Jitsu. Who know’s what those 5 minutes today could start.
Why not comment and let me know what you do extra for those extra 5 mins – it might just inspire someone else.
Until next time…..