Why I’m Not a Fan of Competitive Bodybuilding

Disclaimer: this post may ruffle a few feathers, but I’m ok with that. Not in an asshole kind of way; more of an ‘open to discussion’ vibe.

When I first got into Personal Training, I considered bodybuilding to be the epitome of ‘fitness’, aspiring to look like the athletes that step on stage. Their physiques were genuinely something I, amongst many others, looked up to. I considered these individuals a showcase of what could be achieved through a steadfast and determined mindset.

Naturally, I wanted to have a go for myself, and started to wonder if I was ‘committed’ enough to obtain a stage-lean physique. Questions entered my mind regarding whether or not I was a ‘worthy’ coach, if I hadn’t stepped on stage. The reality was, I didn’t know much about the sport at all.

Three years on, my opinion couldn’t have adapted further. Having learned more about the world of bodybuilding, I’ve realised that the sport is plagued with individuals with severe body issues, many (not all) of whom have previously suffered, or continue to suffer, from eating/body-image related disorders. During my time as a coach, I’ve recognised a definite trend between cases of body dysmorphia and those that decide to step on stage.

My personal dilemma lies in the following questions:

  • Does the concept of bodybuilding as a ‘sport’ rationalise otherwise irrational and obsessive thought processes regarding food, calories and exercise?
  • Does the ‘dieting’ process, within the paradigm of competitive bodybuilding, perpetuate already existing issues relating to food and exercise?
  • Does the sport sanctify the diet mentality, and normalise a disordered relationship with food?

These are very big questions; ones that are not to be taken lightly. At this point, I think it’s important to highlight that I don’t necessarily seek to criticise the sport in general. For example, when we look at bodybuilding at a professional level, most athletes have adequate systems in place to assist in managing their lifestyle during peak/off peak season etc.

If we study the sport at a novice level, however, here lies my problem. We are faced with primarily young, impressionable fitness enthusiasts, many of whom don’t have the necessary tools/knowledge/support at their disposal, to assist with either the psychological or physical effects of competing. Post-show rebound weight gain, for example, is a physical consequence with almost inescapably concurrent psychological effects. Surely this, in itself, has the potential to be pretty damn destructive to a somewhat vulnerable, aesthetic-focused mind?

Dieting down to a stage-lean physique requires a strict calorie deficit over a time-frame usually somewhere between 12-18 weeks. During this time, the body will experience hormonal adjustments (in both male and female participants), often to the point of ammenorhea for females. Consider that for a second: if you actually lose your menstrual cycle due to dieting, surely this, in itself, is a strong enough signal from your body that what you’re doing is unhealthy?

I’m not doubting that the sport requires absolute dedication and commitment. I’m simply questioning whether some people participate in this sport for the wrong reasons. Consider the following:

  • Why do you feel the need to compete?
  • Is it worth potentially putting both your psychological and physical health at risk?
  • Do you currently have a healthy, stable enough relationship with both food and exercise, that these cannot be jeopardised in the process?

If you can answer these questions adequately and still wish to compete, go for it! It’s your body and I would never try to tell you what to do. I’m just sharing my opinion and hoping that these thoughts could potentially assist you in making an informed decision.

Happy Wednesday. Love you all xoxox

Postnatal Exercise: When Can I Start?

 

Restarting exercise after giving birth can be a point of concern for new mums. A number of questions arise and, inevitably, the answers differ somewhat from person to person, dependent upon a range of factors.

Pelvic floor/Kegel exercises are very low-risk, and can therefore begin very soon after delivery, from the comfort of your own bed. I aim to educate my clients on these exercises during the prenatal period, so there’s no uncertainty  the immediate afterbirth stage.

In terms of regular exercise, with a natural birth, it’s essential to wait for your 6-8 week postnatal appointment. Any qualified practitioner should examine your stomach to determine the extent of abdominal separation (diastasis recti). This, alongside a number of other health-related questions, will determine how soon you’re able to get back to training.

Note: I’ve come across a number of GPs in Dubai that don’t deem it necessary to perform these checks (something that I disagree with entirely). As such, always ensure you are dealing with a qualified professional.

I’m not, in any way, trying to suggest my knowledge on the subject is greater than that of any GP. I am, however, confirming that any Dubai-based readers must take heed when selecting their practitioner. I’ve come across some questionably nonchalant attitudes towards the whole affair. If in doubt, seek a second opinion.

With a C-section, timings are slightly more delayed. You’ll need to wait for a 10-12 week check up, where the GP will examine how the scar has healed. All being well, you’ll be back to exercise no later than the 12-14 week bracket. This is, again, dependent upon individual circumstances.

For individual guidance/enquiries, email charlotteshelley1@gmail.com.

Unsuccessful Fat Loss

All too often, we (the media, ill-educated ‘fitness professionals’, and probably your favourite health bloggers) target incredibly specific aspects of nutrition, deeming them responsible for ineffective fat loss.

Consider the image below:

reasons_meme

How many times have you heard someone blame one of the above reasons (other than number one) for their inability to lose weight?

The truth is, gluten isn’t making you fat. Sugar, likewise, cannot be solely responsible for weight gain (unless of course you’re eating in a calorie surplus, and 100% of those calories are obtained from sugar alone).

Nine times out of ten, if a member of the general public ‘cuts out gluten’ or ‘goes sugar-free’, they will lose weight. Why? Because they are simultaneously (and subconsciously) cutting out a huge portion of their usually stodge-ridden diet, and likely replacing it with a less calorie-dense alternative. Does this mean that gluten/sugar were directly responsible for making them fat? No, no, no. But the daily cakes, sweets, take outs that contain gluten/sugar (which the subject has now renounced)?  Now we’re talking.

Demonising specific food groups, in itself, demonstrates a lack of awareness on the subject, and it’s a practice that instils unnecessary scaremongering relating to certain aspects of nutrition.

Likewise, blaming basic bodily/hormonal functions for poor weight loss is (in the vast majority of general population cases) just plain stupid. Sally down the road isn’t overweight because she’s insulin-resistant, and your colleague Jeff isn’t piling on the pounds because he skipped breakfast, and his body is subsequently operating in ‘starvation mode’.

Let’s look at the reality…

What Sally didn’t tell you about her diet, is that she spends her afternoon snacking on ‘just a few’ biscuits in the office, which easily total 400 calories every day. Over the course of her five-day work week, that’s an extra 2000 calories. Consider that figure per month – a hefty 8000 cals on biscuits alone. But they were just a ‘little snack’, right?

Jeff, on the other hand, forgot to mention that he makes up for his lack of breakfast by ‘treating’ himself to a sausage roll from the bakery in the afternoon. And we all know that sausage roll tastes better served up with a full fat cola.

Both Sally and Jeff are, of course, completely metaphorical in this instance. But, I hope you can start to understand my point: people are all too quick to seek a ‘reason’ for being overweight, in order to excuse themselves.

Fat loss comes down to consumption and expenditure. We’ve been over this before (if you missed it, read more about the energy balance equation here).

The more you eat, the more calories your body takes in. If an increase in consumption is not met with an increase in expenditure, the energy balance is somewhat out of whack. In simple terms, the excess of calories will be stored as fat.

So, what’s the point in going over the same ol’ nonsense again, Char?

My point is this… We NEED to stop targeting specific food groups, hormones and everything in between, and get to the facts on fat loss. As fitness professionals, it’s our duty to address false claims, marketing ploys and downright stupid theories on the human body.

So, my message is the same as always…

  • If you want to lose weight, stop eating like an ass.
  • Consume good, wholesome foods: a varied, naturally colourful, fresh dietary intake.
  • Base your meals around lean, high quality protein sources.
  • Eat treats to maintain your sanity, in whatever way works for you. Personally, I advocate little and often, as I feel this is the most realistic and reliable approach.
  • Move. Every damn day. However you want. Just move.

One day, it’ll start to sink in. Promise.

Peace xoxox

Pre and Post Natal Series: The Posture Edit

Aaaand, we’re back with the second installment of my pregnancy series. In today’s post, we’re going to be focusing on the postural benefits of exercising whilst pregnant.

Throughout pregnancy, the body’s centre of gravity is shifted forwards, due to the increased weight of the baby. This adjustment increases the load on the mother’s lumbar spine. The below picture demonstrates the impact this places on the musculature of the body.

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 17.57.24

For this reason, it’s crucially important for the mother to have a strong lower back before, during and after pregnancy. One focal point of pre/post natal programming is to maintain strength through the posterior chain (muscles on the back side of the body – think gluteals, hamstrings, erectors, etc) . This, in turn, helps to avoid lordosis (excessive forward tilt of the pelvis), which can cause severe lower back pain.

After pregnancy, the aim is to further develop posterior strength, in order to aid the restoration of normal, pre-pregnancy posture. As the muscles of the lower back become stronger, they shorten in length, providing much needed support and stabilisation to the lumbar spine.

For enquiries on Pre and Post Natal Training, contact +971 52 742 1966.

Pre and Post Natal Series: Should I Exercise Whilst Pregnant?

This post marks the first of a mini series, on the topic of pregnancy and wellness, to tie in with the launch of ‘Bumps and Barbells’; a new, concept class, run at Beyond Human Training and Nutrition in Al Quoz. As a Personal Trainer, I specialise in Pre and Post Natal Exercise, hence, the class targets both new and expectant mummas.

The most common concern when falling pregnant is ‘what exercise is safe for me and the baby?’ In truth, there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ programme. I mean, I could certainly create one, but it would have to err very much on the side of caution if it was to align with every mumma-to-be out there.

Any individualised pre-natal programme will depend largely on exercise history, and the respective pregnancy itself. Your fitness journey will be guided by (but not limited to) what your body is used to. There are a number of very generalised rules, which as a pre and postnatal trainer, we’re advised to apply to everyone. However, in my experience, every individual copes with pregnancy very differently. Below, I’ve outlined some key (and very broad/universal) points to do with exercising whilst pregnant.

1) Relaxin:

One rule that cannot be overlooked is that to do with relaxin. This hormone is produced during pregnancy in order to lubricate joints and prepare the body for childbirth. Although relaxin is required primarily to make the hips more pliable during the birthing process itself, its release is not localised to this area. Instead, the hormone is spread through the body as a whole, compromising stability in all joints.

For this reason, it’s important to avoid high impact activity, both during and immediately after pregnancy. No squat jumps for the time being, ladies… Although I’m sure this is music to your ears!

The presence of relaxin also emphasises the importance of resistance training, to maintain strong, stable joints, thereby reducing the risk of associated injuries.

2) Frequency/Intensity:

Gym bunnies – there’s no need to stress! It’s likely that if you trained 3-4 days a week pre-pregnancy, you’ll be able to continue. The intensity may need to be reduced to suit your energy levels, but don’t scrap the usual routine entirely.

I think it goes without saying that we won’t be working towards a one rep max squat/bench/deadlift either during or immediately after pregnancy. As cliché as it may sound, it’s a case of ‘listening to your body’. If you’re training too hard, it’s more than likely that your body will let you know.

On the flip side, if you didn’t train at all pre-pregnancy, consider this a very good time to start! At Bumps and Barbells, we aim to get our mummies moving for three sessions per week, each lasting 45-60 minutes. The classes are structured in a way that facilitates variations in intensity, so everyone can work within their own comfort zone.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first post of my pregnancy mini-series. There’s plenty more content to come, so please do send me a message if there’s anything you’re interested in reading!

For more information on Bumps and Barbells, or one-to-one Personal Training in Dubai, call me on: +971 52 742 1966.

Why You Should Hire a Personal Trainer

Are you feeling uninspired, demotivated, or a little uncertain of what on earth you should actually be doing in the gym? Perhaps it’s time to get a little outside help.

Hiring a Personal Trainer could be just the kick up the backside you need. Here are a few reasons why…

  1. Motivation

It’s all too easy to talk ourselves out of exercise.

‘I’m too tired, I should probably get some sleep.’

‘Maybe my muscles need (another) rest day?’

‘It’s ok, I can just go to the gym tomorrow.’

Before you know it, you’re three weeks out of training, twenty seven donuts down and that bottle of rosé in the fridge starts to look a little too appealing.

However, if you work with a Personal Trainer, your sessions will be scheduled in advance. That, combined with the fact that you’ve probably paid in advance, should be motivation enough to get ya lil toosh to the gym. In short, a coach will help you to maintain consistency. No more excuses.

  1. Variety

Motivation from a coach extends further than just getting you to the gym. Each session will be structured to your personal requirements (and if it isn’t, there’s a 99% chance that you’ve hired a terrible PT).

It’s a coach’s job to ensure that any training regime is diverse, interesting and enjoyable. An individualised programme is likely to differ somewhat from the training you plan (or perhaps don’t plan) when you train alone. This variety can be crucial in maintaining focus and drive, not to mention helping to avoid plateaus in strength/physical appearance.

  1. Form

So you reaaaaally wanna do a deadlift, but you can’t hinge without hurting your back?

Perhaps you don’t even know what a hinge is…. In which case, it’s definitely time to get yourself some professional help.

In theory, no movement pattern should cause pain to an injury free, able-bodied person. If it does, chances are, you need to fix the way you move. A good coach will be able to assist with cues and guidelines you didn’t even know existed.

For Dubai-based Personal Training enquiries, contact me on 0527421966.

Juice Cleanses, Bone Broths, Skinny Teas: The Myths, Debunked

This morning, our work group chat went offfff. Someone shared an image that had been posted on Instagram, promoting juice cleanses and bone broths as a photoshoot diet strategy. Enough is enough. It’s time to call out the bullsh*t.

Firstly, I want to address the issue of social media itself. Our social platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc) can be incredibly informative. However, with the rise of influencer marketing, we have to be aware that not everything we see is 100% truthful. In reality, I’d estimate that about 70% of the ‘health and fitness’ related content over Instagram is factually inaccurate.

Why? Money. It’s amazing what some individuals will do/say/promote in return for a little cash. Now, don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that this is some people’s livelihood, but come on… Let’s retain a little bit of integrity. Kudos to the influencers that only work with brands they genuinely believe in, you guys are the real MVP. However, far too many people are willing to promote ‘fad’ products, which have little-to-no value to the consumer.

On that note, let’s get to the nitty gritty. We’ve been here before. It’s a conversation that’s all too familiar for me now, and hopefully, it’s getting that way for you too.

Here it is: a single ‘weight-loss’ product is not an adequate diet strategy.

A juice cleanse is not a sustainable way to lose weight.

Bone broth is not the reason you dropped some body fat.

‘Skinny tea/coffee’ DOES NOT MAKE YOU SKINNY.

So, you want to go on that juice cleanse which is advertised to help you ‘drop 10kg in 5 days’… Firstly, let’s just point out that it’s physically impossible to drop 10kg of body fat in three days. Here’s what will happen:

  • You’ll drop some water weight.
  • You will lose a small percentage of body fat.

But… continue reading for the important stuff.

A juice diet, bone broth cleanse, or skinny coffee regime will not, itself, stimulate a reduction in body fat. Despite some very clever marketing strategies, none of these products have a mystical effect on your internal state. They will not ‘flush out’ your gut, or promote an increased metabolic rate.

The real reason you’ll drop some body fat? Because you switched up an excessively calorie dense diet (which made you overweight in the first place) for lower calorie liquid alternatives. Now, I know exactly what you’re thinking… Ah, so liquid must be important to lose weight then? Nope! Wrong again. The fact that these ‘weight loss’ products are liquid is totally irrelevant.

So, what does this all boil down to? Calorie deficit. This topic must be somewhat fresh in your minds, remember my post ‘Calories and Fat Loss’ a couple of weeks ago? Same same. But I’ll say it again (and seemingly again and again after that).

Fat loss occurs through a caloric deficit. Fat loss does not occur because you had your fruit and vegetables in liquid form. Fat loss does not occur because you drank animal broth. Fat loss does not occur because you consume skinny coffee. Expend more than you ingest, and you will lose weight. That’s just science.

Don’t be a sucker for consumer marketing.

Peace xoxox

Exercise and Adherence

Charlotte-8.jpg

Let’s talk a little bit about adherence…

It goes without saying that sticking to something (whether that be a training plan, diet strategy, or something entirely unrelated to fitness) is a whole load easier if you enjoy what you’re doing. I have multiple clients come to me, claiming to ‘hate exercise’. Not only does this baffle me, it also annoys the helllll out of me.

Why? Let me explain.

Exercise is commonly defined in the following way:

‘activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness’.

But I want to break it down into even more basic terms.

Exercise, as I see it, is movement. It’s that simple.

Walking: exercise.

Gymnastics class: exercise.

Playing with your dog: exercise.

Tennis: exercise.

Kiss chase: exercise.

Spinning: exercise.

Wife-carrying: exercise (it’s an actual sport… Google it).

Evidently there are various levels of exertion involved in the above examples, but you get my gist. You simply cannot classify all forms of movement into one category.

So, you hate running? God damn, I feel you! But your hatred for running doesn’t mean you hate movement as a whole. Why not try something new? A dance class, an obstacle course, paintballing. Heck, get out roller skating for all I care.

Test the waters: it’s a simple case of trial and error. You’ll never exhaust every option. There’s an old saying that goes a little something like this: ‘When you do what you love, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ The same principle applies to exercise… It’s much easier to sustain an active lifestyle if you enjoy it.

The body was made to move; don’t disregard its purpose. Find something you love as much as I love barbells, and maybe you’ll exercise with a grin (and double chin) as cheeeeeeesy as mine.

Peace xoxox

Calories and Fat Loss

How many times have you heard a statement along the following lines?

  • ‘I need to lose weight, I’m going to cut out bread’.
  • ‘Ooh, no chocolate for me, that’s fattening’.

These statements are wildly outdated. Not only that, they’re damn right wrong.

So you want to lose weight? Let’s break it down. When it comes to fat loss, it’s about establishing the correct energy balance to align with your goals.

If you’re unsure what I’m talking about, consider the following:

‘Energy in’ = calories.

‘Energy out’ = energy expenditure (through tasks such as living, moving etc).

  • If energy in is equal to energy out, weight remains the same.
  • If energy in is greater than energy out, weight will be gained.
  • If energy in is lower than energy out, weight will be lost.

Energy-Balance-Diagram

So, as you can see from the picture above, fat loss boils down to calories in vs. calories out. In this sense, whether you decide to obtain your calories from chocolate or lean meat/vegetables is neither here nor there. Obviously, there is a logical approach to fat loss (which basically just consists of not being a moron), but whatever approach you take, calories remain as calories. Now, this is not me suggesting that you shouldn’t consume good, wholesome foods. Let me explain…

Your body does not have a magical trigger system to identify the calories obtained from ‘naughty’ (hate that label) foods, to immediately store them as fat.

Evidently, some foods (typically those which are also ‘hyper-palatable’ – v yummy and totally desirable) are more dense in calories. This means you can eat a much lesser volume, whilst still consuming a relatively high caloric intake. Other food groups (often classified as ‘healthy’ – think lean meats, veggies etc) are not nearly as hefty in calories. What does that mean? You can eat a whole lotta volume and still keep the calories low. In other words, you get a lot more bang for ya buck.

What am I getting at? I want to debunk the idea that certain foods are deemed to be ‘off limits’ when trying to shift some fat. Why? Primarily because I bloody love chocolate. No one should have to live without chocolate. Or pizza. Gal likes her food yo.

So no, dieting doesn’t have to mean absolute avoidance of all hyper-palatable foods. In fact, I’d personally argue the complete opposite. In my experience, the inclusion of more calorie dense foods, often identified as ‘treats’ in this context, can be highly valuable.

For me, and most of the clients I’ve worked with, a small, regular ‘naughty treat’ (for want of a more appropriate label) acts to maintain sanity. Look at the bigger picture: if a small bar of chocolate is going to stop you craving a big dirty binge, then surely that chocolate bar can be identified as a pivotal part of your progress?

It’s about establishing a balance that will keep you on track in moving towards your ultimate long-term goal, but also maintain your sanity in the short term. So, perhaps rather than searching for a single identifiable food source as the cause of your weight gain, why not look at the bigger picture?

Consider your nutrition as a whole. Chocolate or bread will not halt your progress. Weight gain will not occur unless there is a surplus of calories. So, providing you are able to establish a calorie deficit (through either moving more or eating less), then you will lose weight. It’s as simple as that.

In fact, it’s as simple as this:

Use your brain.

Don’t be a moron.

Eat your protein.

Don’t be scared of bread.

Your body loves micronutrients.

Don’t be a moron.

That’s pretty much it.

Peace xoxox

Absolutism in the Fitness Industry

Nowadays, the fitness industry seems to be the home of new trends, and everyone is quick to jump on the bandwagon. However… They don’t just jump, they seem to leap head first, and lose sight of everything else along the way.

Consider the following:

  • Ketogenic dieting
  • Herbalife
  • Fasted cardio
  • Veganism
  • Dare I say it… CrossFit

fasted cardio.jpg

keto       herbalife

What do all of these health/fitness trends have in common? A cult-like following: a somewhat all or nothing approach. Now, I appreciate that this is one hell of a sweeping statement, and I’d like to point out that I have nothing against CrossFit… In fact, I bloomin’ love it. I’m merely using it as an example.

Back to my point, which is this: whilst the fitness industry broadens, it ironically, simultaneously seems to lose it breadth. As more trends become available for the consumer, the more immediately the consumer becomes literally ‘consumed’ by that trend. Am I making any sense? I’m not sure.

Let me expand in the simplest of terms…

Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a ‘ketogenic’ dieter about anything other than the wonders of their keto diet? Me neither.

How about the bodybuilder that advocates only ever doing cardio on an empty stomach? … Because those fat stores wouldn’t be burned as efficiently if you’d eaten something beforehand, duh (sense the sarcasm, pleeease).

Cynical though this post may seem, I’m not attacking the actual trends themselves, per se. What I’m addressing is the idea that people misunderstand the value of variety. If you find success in one area, that’s great. Share your success, but don’t preach it beyond necessity. Why limit yourself to just one avenue, when there’s so much to learn from everything?

Your fitness journey is more than only ever attending Crossfit classes for the rest of your life (although that would be pretty damn great to me), or fearing carbohydrates in an attempt to reach a physiological state of ketosis. Who are we kidding, 90% of keto dieters don’t really care about ketogenesis… Y’all just wanna shift some weight! In which case, ‘keto’ isn’t required at all – calorie deficit is KING. But that’s a story for another day.

If ‘fasted cardio’ (or perhaps just a newly established overall caloric deficit – again… I’ll save that post for another time) has worked for you, congratulations. If you like to cook everything in coconut oil, great! But that doesn’t mean it’s the blanket solution for everyone.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… There’s no one-stop shop that leads to optimum health. To be open, malleable and willing to learn is essential. Don’t inhibit your progress by limiting your perspective.

It really is that simple, which is why I’m confused as to why people are so intent on being gobbled up by emerging trends. Consumerism at its finest, eh?

Just a little something to think about. Ponder away.

Peace xoxox