Social Media, That Troublesome Thing

Last night, I was lying in bed, and I found myself stalking my own Instagram. Let me repeat: stalking my very own Instagram. What a curious concept that is. As I scrolled through (primarily fitness or alcohol-infused images of myself), it got me thinking about the abstract phenomenon we have discovered with the rise of social media.

Now, I warn you, these ideas have been hurled around a million and one times before (so if you wish to opt out, perhaps do so now), but I’m in a writing mood, and this just seems to be sprawling from my fingertips.

Instagram; a bizarre space within which we exhibit the best parts of our existence, each attempting to prove our lives to be unquestionably wonderful (whether that  happens to be a conscious decision or not). This may be through the medium of the body we’ve achieved, those we socialise with, or the places we visit, to mention just a few.

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Exhibit A) Major flexing going on. Great lighting. Took the picture again because first time I had my hair up and I wasn’t on that vibe.

It’s peculiar how much of the world revolves around social media. Instagram is, quite literally, at the centre of everything we do (we, being millennials, obvs). Consider the phrase, ‘do it for the gram’; coined by an entire generation (if a generation can be collectively held responsible for coining a term?).

Now, this isn’t a targeted attack at Instagram. My work as a fitness professional is largely reliant upon social media, and evidently, these platforms can be put to good use. I’ve used social networks to connect with people I would never have encountered otherwise. In terms of building a business, maintaining relationships and developing yourself as a brand, Instagram is priceless.

However, social media can become pretty damn damaging, should we let it. Consider the following:

Procrastination:

This relates to a meme I saw last night (it seems my late night scrolling may not have been so mindless after all), stating:

‘Sometimes, when I’m really overwhelmed, I like to sit back, take a deep breath, make a list of everything I have to do and then spend 4-5 hours looking at complete strangers on Instagram’.

This speaks to my soul on so many levels. So many levels, it’s worrying. Social media can single-handedly act to destroy productivity. Time is precious (particularly in Dubai, I mean where does that shit even go?), we need not waste it being inefficient.

Misinformation:

Thousands of people have a very large social media following, and very little education on their chosen subject. It’s genuinely concerning that individuals can have such an expansive reach, with little-to-no factual insight or evidence-based research. I can safely say this is why the fitness industry is an absolute shambles. Did you really do a 30 day squat challenge to achieve that butt, Tina?

Advertisements/Promotions:

This is largely connected to my last point, however it’s related more selectively towards celebrity/influencer endorsements. Skinny teas that upset your stomach to the point of chronic dehydration, and ‘revolutionary’ new diet strategies that suggest we eradicate all carbohydrates (and consequently endure sub-optimal brain function). P.S: carbs are life for the purpose of fitness/performance/overall sanity.

I feel somewhat hypocritical for writing this post, because I’m one of those to blame for posting regular updates, and parading the best part of my day on social media. However, I pride myself on being real wherever possible. Most body-related images are paired with a sarcastic caption, which confirms how great the lighting is, or how high my leggings are pulled up. For example: hereherehere and here.

I can honestly say that I have never edited a picture with anything other than a filter, whether that may be on Instagram, Lightroom or HUJI cam. A little bit of saturation and a smidge of structure to highlight any minor ab definition (I repeat, minor). Never once have I altered the shape of my body, smoothed my skin, or whitened my teeth/eyes (because apparently you can do that now huns).

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Exhibit B) This pic was the result of multiple glasses of rosé and around 30 other failed (yet utterly hilarious due to aforementioned rosé) photo attempts. Editing: Instagram only, NEVER ever photoshop. Lark filter + saturation for tan gains.  Just keepin’ it real.

So, what’s the point of this lengthy and arguably somewhat boring post? Something you’ve heard a thousand times before: be conscious of how you consume the information you see online. Remind yourself that your insta crush probably took 400 selfies, before photoshopping the hell out of her favourite one and posting it. There’s a very high chance that her butt isn’t that peachy and her skin ain’t that flawless 100% of the time (if ever). Take everything with a pinch of salt.

You are responsible for the way in which you absorb information. ‘Unfollow those that make you feel bad about yourself’: a narrative that has been widely adopted of late in the realm of social media. Ultimately, it’s true. Next time you see an image that makes you question yourself, or simply annoys you,  u n f o l l o w  (myself included, I’m fully aware that I can be v annoying).

Happiness does not exist in displaying the best parts of your life on a grid. Genuine contentment lies in the mundane, everyday stuff. Watch the sunset, spend time with the people you love, read a good book, learn something new. Instagram will only ever be, at large, an idealised and constructed representation of reality. Don’t allow yourself to be consumed by information fed to you through the paradigm of a social platform.

Soz huns, that got deep. Love you.

Peace 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.

Be Selfish with Your Time

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It’s interesting that the word ‘selfish’ has developed such negative connotations. 

Narcissistic.

Egotistical.

Inconsiderate.

All synonymous with a modern perception of ‘selfishness’. What if we were to rethink the value of this trait?

There are never enough hours in the day. Whether our time is being consumed with social media, working our butts off to try and get on the housing ladder, or alternative millennial clichés. Whatever it is that’s occupying our time, it’s doing a damn good job.

Yet, we’re often criticised for saying ‘no’. Well, I’d like to undermine this tendency, and highlight the importance of putting yourself first. 

We’ve all been roped into plans we’re not wholly invested in, quite literally, in these instances, living for others. Of course, we have commitments to people; that’s natural. There will be the odd occasion where we have to do things we don’t want to. I’m not encouraging you to become an asshole.

Equally, I’m not asking you to bail on plans, or let people down last minute. That’s actually pretty shitty. What I’m getting at, rather, is that we should be more inclined to consider circumstances fully, before agreeing to them.

We live in an age of FOMO; a mindset that could ultimately lead us into a mindless cycle of overcommitting to others, should we let it. Don’t be afraid to say ‘no’: what’s the worst that will happen?

Happiness will never be extrinsic. That night out probably isn’t going to change your life, and your friends (if they’re decent humans), will still love you if you decide to stay in and catch up on sleep, instead of going to watch that movie with them.

Protect your time, invest your energy wisely. Spend time with yourself, working on yourself, for yourself. Find contentment in your own company. Don’t undermine the importance of a little selfishness.

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:

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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.

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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.

Hidden Gem: Dubai Nessnass Beach

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From high-end beach clubs to overcrowded public areas, Dubai’s coastline has it all. The city’s beaches range from heaven to hellhole. Sweaty crowds and swimming pools full of more alcohol than chlorine; needless to say, it can be a bit much at times. If you’re not a fan of dolling up in a glitzy bikini and wedges, or you don’t fancy sifting your way through a hundred tourists to find a space for your towel, I have just the hidden gem for you.

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Nessnass beach is one of the most untouched spaces in the city: an escape from the hustle and bustle of Dubai life. Big, open beaches, without the crowds (even on a weekend). The perfect place to sit back, relax and unwind.

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In terms of food and drink, there’s nothing much around there, as it’s not a touristy spot. So if you’re happy to chuck a towel on the sand and chill with your own little picnic, Nessnass is the place to go. Nothing fancy, nothing pretentious. Just pure, laid back goodness.

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Well worth a visit, if you ask me! Where are your favourite spots in the city?

Exercise and Adherence

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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