Thoughts about personal training

One of the reasons that I set up this blog is that I wanted to help other people who are walking a similar path to the one I have taken over the last three or so years. To share what I have learned along the way.

Consequently, this is an advice style post.

For the last nine months, I have been working with a Personal Trainer. I only initially signed up for five sessions, but have found it an invaluable activity for lots of reasons.

I don’t have a problem with motivating myself to exercise. I do something pretty much every day, usually at some awful hour of the morning previously reserved for the snooze button.  But we all need a little help from time to time.  So here are my thoughts on what a Personal Trainer can do for you, and what you might want to think about when finding one.

First of all, the benefits.

Someone else is probably going to push you harder than you will push yourself. Even if you are the self-motivated type, a PT will make you do one more rep or lift a little more weight than you usually might.

They will get you to your goals faster. I have improved more in the last nine months than I had in the previous three years combined.

They will challenge your bullshit excuses. I recently tried to tell my PT I didn’t know why I had put weight on.  His response?  Yes.  You really do.

Their specialist knowledge. I’ve been a member of a gym for years. Including years in which I paid the fees but never actually went other than to sit in the Jacuzzi.  But I had no idea that some of the stuff I was doing was at best sub-optimal, and at worse ineffectual.

If your motivation does decrease, the very fact that you are have an appointment to see someone and are paying for it, will help to get you out of bed or off the sofa and into your gym gear.

If you do decide to go ahead with personal training, here are a couple of recommendations.

Firstly, find someone you can build a good rapport with. And ideally, swear in front of.  Or at.  I once told my PT I was going to buy a doll that looked like him and stick pins in it.  You need to be able to be entirely honest about how you feel with your trainer.  Fitness is as much a mental process as a physical one, and that level of discussion needs to be present between you.  If the rapport isn’t there, change your trainer.

Be completely honest with your trainer. They will know if you are not, as the numbers don’t lie.  But if you aren’t truthful about what are doing, eating, thinking, feeling, then they can’t help you effectively.

According to an article I read recently, the personal training industry is about to get the Uber treatment. Put your requirements and location into an App and a PT will turn up.  I can see why this might fit into the lifestyle of some busy folk.  But for me this misses out on building the kind of relationship in you can freely discuss goals, barriers and what success looks like. The process of discussion and refining your goals is helpful in its own right.

Do what they tell you to do. The chances are, they know better than you do, unless you are similarly qualified.  Even when I really dislike what my trainer tells me to do, I do it.  Sometimes I moan about it, but I do it all the same.  Because that is the point.  If it’s about what I’d like to do, I’ll go back in the Jacuzzi.

What I have learned about losing weight

I have a weight loss milestone in sight.

The big one.

Target Weight.

As time has gone on, I have cared less about the numbers on the scale. I am now much more excited when I find that I can do something in the gym that I couldn’t do just a few weeks ago.  But that isn’t to say that the satisfaction in reaching a weight loss goal has gone away.

And I have lost my weight over the last few years, there are some things that I have found to be true about the process.  Here they are…..

It will be hard work. But then again, so is being fat.

It will take a long time. Longer than you think; there are no sustainable quick fixes.

You are capable of more than you ever thought you could be.

Sometimes, you will have a bad day or a bad week. You will fall back into bad habits.  You might even binge a little.  But you can continue along the path all the same.

Exercise hurts. In the beginning, it hurts a lot.  But you can get to like those aches and pains in a strange sort of way, as they are a symbol that you are changing who you used to be.

There will be times when you think you cannot go on. Trust me, you can.

If you eat what you have always eaten, you will weigh what you have always weighed.

You will never regret making this change.

Some bits of your skin will never go back to how you would like them to be. That sucks, to be honest.

Belief is everything.

It took years to put it on, so you can’t expect it to come off in a few weeks. One pound at a time – keep your eyes on the prize.

It is never too late to make this change.

Buying new clothes in the next size down is one of the best feelings in the world.

The only person who can do this, is you.

You will have to give up some of the foods that you love. You will miss them a little, but it is far outweighed by what you get in return.

Excuses don’t burn calories. Dieting alone isn’t enough.  You need to exercise too.

No matter how busy you think you are, you have time for exercise. You just have to want to make the time. Many people who say that they don’t have time to exercise have time to go to the pub.

You will start to enjoy exercise. Honestly.

Diets don’t work. Especially crash diets.  Sustainable lifestyle changes are the only way.

You will have bad days. But this isn’t a reason to give up.  Just start again, tomorrow.

You are totally in charge of your own perspective on your weight loss.

You are not trapped by your weight, and neither are you defined by it. You are only trapped by your own attitude towards it.

And the most important truth of all: it will be worth it.

The Kindness of Strangers

Yesterday, I ran the inaugural Yorkshire 10 mile. It was my furthest distance so far. As with every time you run a new distance or a new course, you don’t know quite what to expect. How will your body feel? How big will those hills be? Can you really make it all the way around?

There is something special about a big event. The atmosphere, the build-up, the anticipation. Feeling simply, part of something special.

Part of what makes it so special, what makes it a little easier to keep on going when you think you can’t run another step, are those people that you meet so briefly; the kindness of strangers to just another runner passing by.

So thank you from me, from all of the runners, to……

The volunteers, pointing the way, handing out the water, tidying up behind us, shouting encouragement over and over.

Those people that held out Jelly Babies and fruit pastels so that we could top up our energy levels.

The children, who held out their hands for a high five, all along the route.

The boy and his Dad on the outskirts of York, playing the theme tune to ‘Dad’s Army’ on a trumpet, who made a whole load of runners laugh.

The people who sat in deckchairs in every villages along the way, shouting and cheering and waving flags.

The band, just before the final hill, banging their drums and giving us the energy for that last stretch.

Those who came with homemade signs, both funny and inspirational.

Those that bothered to check your name on your shirt, and shout for you personally.

The two young girls in between water stations, one holding a black bin liner, the other a sign saying ‘drop your rubbish here’.

The police men and women on the route who joined in with the encouragement.

The band, right out amidst the country lanes, playing an acoustic ‘Teenage Kicks’ as I ran through.

Everyone that shouted ‘well done’ to a stranger as they crossed the line.

And for every single ‘you can do it’.

You made it a better experience. You helped us run home.


A race.

On Sunday.

Further than I have run before.

My hip is dodgy.

My knee too.

I have no idea if I can get all away around the course, let alone run it.

I am frankly, a little bit terrified.

I don’t want to come last.

I don’t want to be the person who has to go and find a race marshal and a get lift back to the event village.

I don’t want to have to walk any of it.

These were the things going through my mind.

Then I got talking to a colleague, who is also a runner. Shared my fears and my doubts.  And he said to me, simply this.

Every time you run a new distance, ask your body to go further than it has before, it is a new adventure to see what you are capable of.

So that is what I will be holding onto on Sunday, on the journey and on the start line.

I am on an adventure.

And after all, as they say in running, dead last is better than did not finish, which is better than did not start.

Stuff people have said to me about losing weight

Over the last three and a half years, I have lost (as of today) a total of five stone and nine pounds.

I have learnt much along the way, but one of the things that I have most definitely found out, is that lots of people have an opinion about it. Whether you ask for it or not.

So here are some of my favourite things that people have said to me about weight loss and fitness, and my response.  Sometimes real, sometimes only imagined…..

I feel sorry for your husband, based on how much time you spend in the gym.

Well, the last time I checked, he was making the most of having the remote control all to himself.  And he can always come with me if he wants to.

I’m your fat friend now!

Yes. You are.

When are you going to stop?

Stop what? Stop getting healthier, reducing my chances of getting life threatening illness, improving my strength and resilience, feeling great about myself? Not any time soon.

It doesn’t suit your face.  You are looking a bit haggard.

Erm, thanks for that.

You are going to get anorexic.

I’m probably not actually. Anorexia is a serious illness. I don’t have it. I am making my choices well with the support of a fitness expert.

I bet because you work out, you can eat as much as you like.

Yes. It works just like that. I am just off four my fourth Big Mac of the day.

You need to stop now.

Actually, the best person to decide that, is me.

You were fine as you were.

No, I wasn’t.  I was very overweight, breathless, and heading towards serious health problems in the future.

I couldn’t be bothered. It’s boring. (usually about running or gym visits).

That’s you.  Not me. And I go because I love it and it is doing me good.

I have a rule about those that have an opinion on my weight loss. If the person sharing their views also had a well-intentioned conversation with me about my weight gain, when I was obese and heading in the direction of all sorts of serious health conditions, I will listen to what they have to say. If they didn’t then I will take no notice.

And for the record, this adds up to precisely no people.

All for one

I went to Denmark recently with some of my team from work, to join some of our Nordic colleagues in an annual corporate challenge; a 25K relay race. Over 50 employees took part, making up several teams, from Sweden, Denmark, Finland and the UK.

The event is simply huge. It takes place very year over five consecutive nights, with anything up to 30,000 runners each evening. It is very much a corporate thing. Each company has its own tent and after the race there is a BBQ and beer. Some companies have hundreds of runners taking part, all sporting their corporate colours.

I will admit that whilst running around this park in Denmark, I had my own private ‘Am I really doing this?’ moment.  Two years ago I couldn’t run up the stairs, and now I was taking part in an event with some fairly serious runners.  I was proud to be there, taking part.

The course itself is very cleverly designed. Taking place in and around a park, at the end of each lap the final 1.5K or so winds through the tents, meaning that you will inevitably run past your own team mates and colleagues, some of whom are awaiting their turn to run, others who have already done their part and are celebrating accordingly. As the evening wears on, those that are taking the later legs in the relay find themselves running in the dark, the course lit all the way along with burning torches.

And then comes a special tradition, one I haven’t seen before at any UK event. An announcement comes across the public address system. The very last runner, from the thousands who have gone before them that evening, is coming through. The announcement is a call for you to come to the course and cheer this last runner home, all the way to the finish line. Everyone left their respective tents, went to the side of the course and waited for him to come through, cheering and shouting his every step. Behind him, two bicycles follow, effectively signalling the end of the race.

Thousands of people, all cheering for this one final runner.

When you run, you are part of a family of runners everywhere, whatever the country, whatever the language. Perhaps this because we see ourselves in every other runner; simply people putting one foot in front of the other, as best as they can. Perhaps it is because we share knowledge of the pleasures of running, and its horrors too. Perhaps, when it comes to this particular tradition, we cheer the final runner because we know that sometimes, we all need a cheerleader to get us across the line. In running and in life.