So this week I’m looking at health & fitness during pregnancy.
There are actually huge benefits of exercise during pregnancy –helping to minimize aches and constipation, it will help you sleep better, as well as lowering your risk of diabetes and depression. You may even end up having a shorter, less complicated labor and building good workout habits during your pregnancy will help you get your body back faster after delivery too.
What exercise you can and should do, largely depends on your current activity and fitness levels and what trimester you are in – and you should always get approval from your GP or Pre-Natal team beforehand.
If you were really active before pregnancy, then try to stay as active as possible. If you weren’t – now is a good time to start! Beginners should start with just 15 mins of low intensity exercise and gradually build up to 30 mins moderate intensity, 3-4 times a week.
If you have access to prenatal exercise classes then make sure to sign up for them – not only are the workouts modified for pregnancy, but you also get to make some new friends with the other mum’s to be.
It’s fine to keep going to your favourite classes right up to the third trimester – however only as long as you pay attention to how your body feels, limit your intensity and stay within the normal range of motion. In terms of intensity use a 1-10 scale of Perceived Exertion (with 1 being really easy and 10 being maximum effort) and try to aim for between 3 and 5 on the scale and always make sure the class instructor or your Personal Trainer knows you’re pregnant as that way they can advise you if you are safe to continue and will provide variations and alternatives.
Highly choreographed classes like Step or Combat aren’t the best choices for expectant women since they require quick direction changes and a heightened sense of balance – so can risk pulling on the stomach or increase risk of falling. Other things to avoid would be Hot Yoga (as it increases your risk of overheating), Contact Sports (for obvious reasons!), or HIIT and heavy lifting. The hormonal changes in your body can make your joints and tendons more elastic – so avoid overloading (either in terms of speed or weight) to avoid damaging the joints.
Some great classes that you can include are Pilates or Yoga (avoiding any of the exercises on your back – always keep your head above your belly after first trimester), water bases classes like Aqua Aerobics or swimming are brilliant as the water supports your growing belly and is low impact.
In Terms of resistance training – try to use the weight training machines rather than free-weights but again avoid any machine or exercise that puts pressure on belly such as the seated row and abdominal crunch and avoid raising your arms overhead (to avoid excessive curvature on the spine) and if using a bench always have an incline.
When it comes to food make sure that you load up on the big 5 nutrients – Folic Acid, Calcium, Iron, Zinc and fibre, as well as Omega 3 Fatty acids – ideally these should come from natural sources and you should also increase your water intake. When pregnant your body loses hydration quicker – so make sure to drink plenty of fluids. Staying hydrated helps prevent headaches, kidney stones, dizziness and common pregnancy complaints such as constipation and haemorrhoids, but also helps avoid pre-term contractions. You know you’re well hydrated when your urine is light yellow to clear.
Finally make sure that you don’t “Eat for Two”! Half of all woman gain too much weight during pregnancy using it almost as an excuse to eat as much and whatever they want. Research suggests that when mums-to-be gain excess weight, their babies then have a higher risk of obesity later in life, plus the mothers then tend to retain that extra weight after giving birth.
It’s crucial therefore to base your pregnancy weight-gain “target”, on your height and pre-pregnancy weight but as a guide – if you’re carrying a single baby, you would need approximately 340 extra calories per day in the second trimester and 450 extra in the third trimester.
To find out what’s appropriate for you and some more ideas on exercises you can do or need to avoid – have a look at FitPregnancy.com which is a invaluable source of information covering everything health & fitness related during and after pregnancy and is highly commended.
Have a look at the cover of the magazine in any newsagent – and they are full of images of what they deem as the beautiful people.
Many will highlight which celebrities look amazing after losing loads of weight or put on muscle mass by following a particular diet or routine – but at the same time – will berate them for either putting on a little weight or looking too thin!
This is one of the hypocracies of magazines and everyone should be aware by now that most images are photoshopped to accentuate the best (or sometimes worst) aspects.
This is also true of a lot of before and after pictures that you see on adverts – even if they don’t use photoshop – a lot can be achieved by lighting and changing the size or fit of the clothing worn.
It’s unsurprising then that two thirds of adults have negative body image issues – for some it may be simply that there are one or two parts of their body they would like to change – for others this can become an obsession which they will try to resolve either through diet, exercise, surgery or all three!
34% of adolescent boys and 49% of girls have been on a diet to try and change their body or lose weight – even younger 1 in four 7 year olds worry about the way they look and have tried to lose weight at least once.
They are scary statistics and can lead to serious illnesses like anorexia, bulimia and body dysmorphia.
Working as a Personal Trainer in a public gym – I see it a lot of it to various degrees from stick thin girls spending hours on the stair-machine to finding steroid paraphernalia in the locker rooms…..
For clients – as well as asking WHAT a person is looking to achieve, more importantly I like to know “WHY” they want to achieve it – is it to look like someone else? Is it FOR someone else? Or is it for their own health & well being?
This will help to determine if what they want IS achievable! For example – losing 2 stone in 4 weeks for someone weighing 12 stone is going to be extremely difficult. Whereas an expecation of losing (or gaining) or 1-2lbs per week would be more realistic and healthier.
A person’s diet, weight, gender, age, attitude and genetics are all important factors that need to be taken into account and a good PT will look at them all and should be honest and set realistic expectations of results.
All PTs should be aware of the signs and symptoms of eating disorders and body dysmorphia, and should approach the client with any concerns and refer them to a GP or counsellor if appropriate. We are always happy to listen to a your concerns and if you have any body issues be honest with us as this will also influence the dietary and exercise advice that we give.
Last week I looked at working out with a buddy but what if that buddy was your partner?
I know a lot of single people at the gym that have this relationship goal of finding a partner that will workout with them.
The assumption is that if they go the gym then they will look after their body. They will therefore have a great diet and an awesome physique to match (which then motivates you to do more too). Its easy to understand why and the sexual undertones in a gym can be quite apparent – hot sweaty bodies, minimal clothing, not to mention some of the exercises positions (especially when working out with partner) it can be easy to see the connection and why a number of singles can see the gym as place to find a partner.
I have heard and seen it happen from time to time – however the fantasy is often far removed from the reality.
Look around the gym and you soon realise that the members are all shapes, sizes and ages – the majority of whom are there to work-out not pick someone up. Their knowledge and passion for working-out and diet could be better or worse than your own. Striking up a conversation can also be difficult as most people will be wearing headphones and making inappropriate comments or advances in the gym is very much frowned up.
If however you are in a relationship and you both enjoy exercise at some point you will try going to the gym or a class together. For the majority this will only happen once or twice – as you soon realise that you may have different goals in terms of weight loss or muscle gain and different preferences for exercise type. I know very few couples that actually exercise together fully – and even here it’s not for every session.
For most – the closest to working out they get is that they enter and exit the centre together but will go their separate ways to do their own workout.
If your partner has little or no interest in exercise – relationships can also be the biggest barrier or excuse that people use to not work out. It could be due to time required (and being apart from your partner or family), fear that you may be looking at other people or it could be partly down to their lack of understanding why you go to the gym, or even jealous of your progress.
If you find yourself in this position – it is always best to talk this through with your partner to explain why you enjoy it, or indeed that you need to go if it’s illness or injury related, and if necessary make sure that you always have time set aside when you are alone together.
Working out with your boyfriend or girlfriend does have it’s benefits – just like working out with a buddy – but you need to appreciate that you don’t need to do every exercise together – just the ones that match your individual goals and understand that you both have different limits/abilities so try not to make it competitive. My biggest tip would be to say that exercising together doesn’t need to involve the gym it could just be going for long walks or dancing in clubs.
Having just packed my suitcase for a week in the sun – it dawned on me that I’ll be missing my usual classes and workouts…. I’m sure for most people this is perfectly acceptable and they look forward to doing nothing but relaxing, eating and drinking!
Sometimes it is good to let you mind and body rest and recuperate – but if you’re a gym junkie or class addict, the thought of missing even one session can give you palpitations, let alone missing a whole week of more….
However – don’t panic! There are plenty of options to help you stay active while away from home, whether in the UK or abroad – it just takes a little planning.
Here’s 5 tips to help you keep fit while on vacation:
- Hotel/Local Gym
If you really can’t do without a gym, look for hotels that have one when you are booking and if they don’t – use Google maps to search for a local gym or fitness centre at your destination and contact them to confirm prices etc. If in the UK, sites like www.payasugym.com can provide a list of gyms/pools/classes, opening times and prices as well as reviews.
Bear in mind that they may not have a specific class or machine or the weights may not be as high as you would like so you may need to change your routine – increasing reps/sets is just as effective as increasing weight.
- Body-Weight exercise
There are plenty of other ways to keep fit outside of the gym. A simple body-weight exercise routine can easily work-up a sweat and can be done in just a few minutes. Try a quick HIIT session of squats, lunges, press-ups, crunches, plank rotations, door frame rows and on the spot sprints – 1 minute of each, 20 seconds rest in between. Repeat as many times as you like.
- Portable Equipment
Resistance bands and Suspension Straps are a great way of being able to step up a hotel-room routine. Bands come in a variety of strengths that can be similar to lifting 2-10kg and Suspension straps will come with an attachment so that you can trap them into a door frame. Both weigh next to nothing and take up very little space in a suitcase.
- Use your phone
If you struggle to think of a routine, there are hundreds of apps that you can download for your phone that can provide routines and exercises whether or not you have any equipment. A number of which are free to download such as VirtuaGym.
Another option is YouTube and there are thousands of videos of work-out routines again with or without equipment, but also videos of class styles like interval training, boxercise, aerobics and yoga….. the list is endless. Have a search before you go and favourite them for ease while you’re away.
- The great outdoors
You may be lucky enough to have a hotel pool but rather than just sunbathing by it – actually use it and swim a few lengths for a great whole body workout, even better if you’re at the beach as the waves/current can provide greater resistance – just make sure you swim within designated areas!
Alternatively, going for a walk/run or jog is the easiest and cheapest form of exercise – have a run along the beach (sand is particularly challenging to run on), go exploring the local area (don’t forget to take a map!) or try a walking-tour rather than a tour bus.
Remember if you are working out in the sun to wear sunscreen and drink plenty of water.
Too many people take a holiday and resign themselves to the fact they will do very little, put on a few pounds and lose a level of fitness – but whether there is an available gym or not there is always something you can do to minimise the damage.
For me, I’ve chosen a hotel with a gym and pool, plus I’m taking a couple of resistance bands and have some body combat videos stored on my tablet – always good to have options! 😉
Finding a Personal Trainer is a bit like dating……
You want to find someone who understands your situation and health needs and with whom you can build trust and have a fantastic professional relationship with. It can be a bit of a minefield! You can’t just use Google and pick the first PT that takes your fancy and think it will be a success. So to help you find a PT that is the right one for you – here’s some tips on helping you to find your ideal PT.
1. Write a “shopping list” of what you would like in a PT.
Do you want a male or female PT? or are you not fussed on what gender they are? Do you want someone who is quite strict or easy-going and chatty? Is there a particular exercise style/type you like eg. Military, Fun, Aerobic, Strength….? What environment – Gym based, home, outdoors? How many sessions per week/month? Duration of session? Budget? Do you have specific medical or sport needs? Would you prefer online training and advice?
It’s a lot easier to find what you want when you have an idea of what you’re looking for first!
2. Ask friends/colleagues/your gym.
It may be that one of your friends knows of, or has used a PT – they may be able to provide you with a bit of information about them, possible costs, and whether they would use them again. A personal recommendation is invaluable. It doesn’t mean that they are the ideal match for you but it is a good place to start.
3. Use the Register for Exercise Professionals.
REPs in the UK (or international equivalent) are a professional body that provides a system of regulation for instructors and trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry’s agreed National Occupational Standards.
Searching your postcode they can provide a list of registered instructors and PTs in your area and will provide confirmation of their qualifications, a personal profile and contact links.
By using REPs you can be assured that a registered individual has gained relevant qualifications and training, meets the REPs professional and ethical guidelines and is more importantly, insured.
4. Check their Online presence
Once you have found a potential PT (either using REPs search facility, Google, or any other method) one of your next steps should be to check their online status. It could be a website, blog, Twitter account, Facebook page, Instagram account….. and so on.
How often is this updated? What type of things do they write about/post? Do they interact with the reader? Do they post lots of gym selfies?…..
For some PT’s their website etc – is simply an online place for them to advertise their costs and provide contact details. For others it can provide an online “shop” where clients can buy services/products. Others will use it to communicate fitness tips or motivation. Others can come across like they just want to show off their own physique. But by reviewing what they do, you can gain a better understanding of what they are like as a person and you should be able to figure out if they are someone who you would like to work with.
5. Check documents
This can cover qualifications, training, insurance. A good place to start would be checking with REPS however if the PT is not registered, most would automatically bring along copies of these with them to their first meeting with you – if they don’t then ask to see them!
This is especially important of you have any form of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart conditions, respiratory problems to name just a few. It may be that they say that they have had a lot of experience in dealing with these conditions, however from an insurance point of view without the relevant qualifications they may not be covered.
If you are using a gym based PT it may be that they are covered by the gym’s insurance policy should an accident or injury occur – but always check!
A PT will have previous/current clients that can provide feedback and reviews of their skills and ability. They may even have before and after pictures. Online testimonials are a good resource, but again they may show you some during the initial consultation with you. Feel free to also ask if you can contact any of their past or current clients if you would like to hear it “from the horse’s mouth” as it were.
7. Ask questions
Whether it is via email, over the phone or in person – please ask questions if you are unsure. It may be about costs/discounts available but it could be something more personal – just remember this is a professional relationship you are looking for. A good PT will be asking lots of questions about you to understand your situation and ensure they create an enjoyable and challenging programme – so don’t be afraid to ask some yourself.
Some examples: What exercise/training do they themselves do? What are they currently studying? How do they keep up to date with exercise knowledge/guidelines? What is their “story”? What do they enjoy outside of fitness?
8. Meet them in person.
Once you have narrowed your search to a couple of possibilities, your next step would be to meet in person. This may be for a quick chat in a coffee shop, or an initial consultation within a gym. Please note for your own safety a first meeting does not need to be at your home!
Some PTs may charge for an initial consultation depending on the time taken and depth of consultation – for example completing questionnaires, fitness tests etc.
This is when you will more than likely cement your decision on whether or not you want to employ this person as your personal trainer. You will be able to determine their confidence in being able to help you, set potential goals/targets, and go through documents etc. You will also be able to see what they are like in real life and if it matches what they say and show online and if you will be able to trust them. Do they show an interest in you as a person? Do they understand your needs and goals? Do they speak in a way you can relate to?
9. Don’t be pressured – Read the Small Print.
Don’t be swayed by “one time” offers or time limits to signing up (they will more than likely come round again at some point). Employing a PT can be costly in terms of money and time – so you need to be certain in your decision before signing up fully. Some PTs may offer a “Try before you Buy” scheme, offer money back guarantees, or may provide discounts or refund consultation fees if you book training sessions etc. Be sure to read the small print regarding any purchase – especially cancellation policies as these can vary dramatically and can be strict in terms of when a session would need to be rebooked or if/when refunds are given and so on.
10. A PT is not “for life”.
While all PTs would love you to be a life-time commitment – the truth is that at some point the relationship will come to end, be that after 1 month or 10 years. It could be due to the completion of training for a specific event or goal or it could be due to something else.
Once you start your training sessions unfortunately sometimes the reality doesn’t match the promise. It may be that once the sales pitch has been completed the sessions are hard to book, the PT does not give you their full attention or you are not seeing the results you hoped for. It may be that you are not enjoying the sessions or other issues have arisen such as injuries or health conditions or finances, that mean that you cannot continue.
As with any relationship – try discussing this with your PT. If something isn’t working out for whatever reason – rather than suffering through the rest of the sessions you have purchased – try to speak to them about it. Feedback from you is usually requested at the end of each session anyway, but any PT should be willing to amend your programme or adjust targets etc to ensure that you are happy (after all ,they would like your recommendations and repeat purchase!). Otherwise, read through the cancellation policy and see if there is anything that can be done.
There are thousands of PT’s out there with many different personalities, skills, types and costs. I hope that my tips will help you find your ideal PT match, to make sure that you enjoy working with them, get good value for money and the results you want! Have fun with it and good luck.
Whether you’re new to exercise or have been working out for a while – every now and again we could all do with a little help sometimes.
Some people may think that the expense is way out of their league, or wonder if it is really worth the money and what you would get out of the experience, when there are cheaper alternatives (instructors at the local gym, friends, magazines, videos etc) where you could get guidance on what you need/want.
While all these things have their place, employing a Personal Trainer could be the best thing you ever did!
Here’s a top 10 of reasons why:
1. Truly Personalised Programmes
While a gym instructor will normally ask a few questions about you and can create an exercise programme, a Personal Trainer will be a lot more thorough! A good PT will ask questions about your exercise likes and dislikes, current and past exercise habits and health details, lifestyle, occupation, and goals, and will carry out fitness tests (body fat %, BMI, heart rate, blood pressure, body measurements etc.) to get a full picture of you so that the programme they create is challenging, effective and tailored to fit around your goals and lifestyle. Maybe you can only get to the gym twice a week, maybe you can only spare 30 minutes a day….. a PT can work around these and will discuss any other potential barriers to make sure that they devise a plan that you can stick to and will enjoy with a number of programmes to be completed either in a gym or at home or even while on holiday!
2. Making It Simple
When thinking about starting any form of exercise, especially if it is something you have never done before (or it was a VERY long time ago) it can be quite daunting. There is so much information available on the net and in magazines that it can be contradictory and confusing – let alone the time it takes to sift through it all trying to figure out what exercises to do, how many, what weight etc. Add to that the numerous adverts for DVDs , diets and “supplements” that promise miracle results in X amount of days…… it’s not that surprising it can put a lot of people off exercise altogether. A PT can help cut through the “BS” and jargon to make it clear for you, telling you the information that is relevant for you right now and can explain how and why in simple terms, making sure that you perform the exercises in the correct and safe way.
3. Avoid Your Results Leveling-Out
When you’ve been working out for a while, at some point your results might stagnate or stop – whether that’s losing weight, improving speed, or gaining muscle mass. This is only natural as your body adapts to a routine. By having a PT they will be able to look at your current routine, form and eating habits and be able to spot where you may be going wrong. They will then be able to help you to make changes, improve technique or design new routines and introduce new exercises and training methods to ensure that your results continue to be maintained.
4. Avoid Boredom
In a similar way, if you’ve been following the same routine for a few weeks, very soon you can get bored – you stop putting as much effort in or you may stop entirely feeling that you are not getting the results you want. PTs can help to avoid this by designing and re-designing programmes following your feedback and progress – introducing new exercises and equipment, split routines, suggesting weekly challenges and more to make sure that you are continuously interested and more importantly achieve your goals.
5. Improve Medical Conditions.
It may be that you have a medical condition such as high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, joint replacement, cardiac, bone or respiratory disorders or you may currently be pregnant or have recently given birth. A specially qualified PT will again be able to understand the implications and limitations of this for exercise and be able to assist with alleviating symptoms, avoid further damage/injury and improving your lifestyle.
6. Improve Sport Skills
If you are training for a specific sporting event such as a marathon, power-lifting or body-building competition, or looking to improve you football skills and more – again there a number of PTs that are experienced and qualified to provide sport-specific guidance and programmes to help improve your speed, power and endurance.
7. Work-out at Home
Although some Personal Trainers work in a specific gym (mainly the big brands) – there are many more freelance PTs who are mobile, where you can have the option to work-out at a gym, your home or outdoors – depending on your preferences. If you really don’t like the gym, a Personal Trainer will be able to bring a wide range of fitness equipment to your home to use during the session as well as being able to include outdoor/other activities like cycling, dancing, walking, skating…….
8. Work-Out on Your Own
Having a PT also doesn’t mean that you can only exercise with them! Without the restriction of using just a gym, they can provide a plan that includes a variety of activities and routines that you can complete on your own, both in and out of the gym, as well as with and without the PT (of course, they will be monitoring your progress with the plan!). They can include any equipment you already own and other activities like exercise classes. Giving you additional ownership and accountability for your progress.
9. Motivation and Challenge
For some having a PT at all is enough of a motivation to exercise – it can be an expensive waste of money if you don’t turn up for the sessions. However, for most (including myself) having someone watch what you are doing and offering encouragement and praise means that I can always reach that extra rep or those extra few seconds/minutes/miles and gives me a greater sense of achievement knowing that I have given my all and having my progress recognised is even better. It always seems a little easier to give up or “cheat” when you know no-one is watching. A PT will be able to push you through any self-imposed prior limits.
10. A PT for Every Budget
For a lot of people it’s the potential cost that will make them shy away from hiring a PT, but the truth is that the cost is dependent on a number of factors…… while celebrity trainers can seem to charge £150-£200 a session (seriously!!) the average is actually between £30 and £60 depending on location and experience/popularity of the trainer. However, with promotions and bulk-booking or sharing costs with a friend or small group, the costs can come down even further.
You can also consider regularity. Every work-out you do does not need to be with a trainer – you may want weekly or monthly sessions, with regular catch-ups over the phone. There are a number of PTs that also offer online and distance training with regular progress updates and technique monitoring via video or Skype. Even just one session may be enough to give you a kick-start and learn some skills and knowledge that will last a lifetime!
Hopefully, I’ve shown that a PT can be affordable for most and could be just what you need.
In a future post I’ll be giving tips to finding your ideal PT.