‘Why Do You Go Out So Much if You’re A Fitness Professional?’

Of course, I understand where people are coming from when they ask this question. However, I think it’s all too easy to place fitness professionals on a (in my case, arguably somewhat precarious) pedestal.

The phrase ‘practice what you preach’ comes to mind: how can I inspire others to be healthy (‘health’; that somewhat ambiguous and abstract concept, but let’s not get into that), if I spend the weekends with a cocktail in hand?

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Well, in my opinion, I’m practicing exactly what I preach. I’m 24 years old, and enjoy a night out as much as the next person. It just so happens that I live in a city where both food and alcohol are a prevalent component of most weekend plans.

Yes, alcohol is very calorie-dense.

Yes, I will probably go and eat an extra burger if I’ve had a few drinks.

However, manipulation is key: there is always a solution.

Here are a few factors I like to implement during a boozy weekend, in order to minimise the negative effects of one-too-many rosés.

  1. Always train the next day. Always, always, always. No excuses: you got yourself into this position, so ya better move ya damn peach.
  1. After point 1, you’re probably thinking I’m mad. If you struggle badly with a sore head and can’t face the gym, get out and go for a walk. I tend to train in the morning and then walk in the evening. I like to grab one of my besties, take to the beach (the countryside/city will more than suffice if you live outside of Dubai), and have a catch up. Before you know it, you’ve accumulated 10,000 steps, and you know alllllll the gossip from the weekend. Double whammy.
  1. Be clever with your alcohol choices. Ok, so perhaps rosé is ya jam (obvs). So, why not start with a couple of glasses of rosé, then switch it up to something a little lower in cals. Think spirits and soda (add some fresh lime juice if you need a lil extra pozazzzzz), diet mixers, etc.
  1. Don’t eat like a moron when you’re hungover. You’ve had your fun, now it’s time to reign it in a little. We’re fortunate in Dubai that we can get pretty much anything delivered, so if you’re feeling like a total lazy bum and don’t want to cook, opt for something fresh, as opposed to a dense, oily, calorie-laden fry up. You’ll feel better for it. I promise.
  1. Eat moderately less/move more in the coming few days. You guys know by now that calorie restriction isn’t my favourite activity, so I always opt for moving a little more. Either way, it’s about re-establishing an adequate energy balance (calories in vs. calories out) to avoid weight gain.

Weight loss requires a lifestyle overhaul: there’s no point at which the hard work stops permanently. Yes, you can ease your foot off the gas a little from time to time, but the reality is, you’ve got to be fully invested.

I’m a big believer in allowing clients to enjoy the things they love, whether that may be a pizza or a pint (or both, in many cases). The moment that fat loss becomes excessively restrictive, is the point at which adherence dwindles.

Society propagates short-term transformation ideals every day. But, ultimately, if you want to maintain any sort of positive development, this is a long-term process. Surely, then, it’s of utmost importance that we learn to manipulate certain lifestyle factors, in order to incorporate the things we enjoy?

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.

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

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

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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

Motivation

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Let’s talk motivation…

It’s a conversation I have with people day in, day out.

‘How are you so motivated all of the time?’

‘Why do you always have so much energy?

‘Don’t you get bored of going to the gym?’

When you work in the fitness industry, people seem to think you’re a crazy superhuman machine, who’s full of beans 100% of the time.

The reality is, that just isn’t true! When you’re waking up at 5am, and finishing work at 9pm most days, of course you get tired. Heck, sometimes tired is an understatement. There are days when I feel like an absolute zombie, and the last thing I want to do is drag my butt to the gym.

Don’t get me wrong, some days the temptation to nap surpasses my desire to train. So I’ll let myself catch up on some Zzzs, and skip out on the gym – and that’s totally okay! Depriving myself of sleep is arguably going to be more detrimental than missing one session.

However, you have to draw a line. When motivation levels are low, it’s all too easy to talk yourself out of training. At times like this, you need that extra bout of dedication to help pull you through. I’m fortunate in that I genuinely enjoy moving, and never want to make a habit out of inactivity. If I don’t train, I feel blergh. Motivation levels drop, diet starts to slip and everything goes a little downhill from there.

This is a trend I see in others as well. That ‘day off’ soon turns to a week, then a month. Next thing you know, you’re five months down the line, 10kgs piled on and you’re ‘not sure where it all went wrong’. Hmmm.

For me, wellness and motivation come hand in hand; one spurs on the other. I’ve managed to establish that lovely little thing (and wondrously overused term nowadays) called ‘balance’, where my diet and training routine are flexible to fit with my lifestyle. I drink (occasionally too much) wine at the weekends, and take days off from the gym when I need/when my schedule dictates that I can’t fit in a session for myself.

So, returning to the question: how do I remain motivated?

Firstly, I freakin’ love my job. Yes, the early mornings can be a nuisance, but ultimately it’s very rewarding to help people make positive changes in their life.

Secondly, it’s about structure and organisation, but simultaneously about freedom. Somewhat counterintuitive, I know. The element of structure comes in making a habit out of the good stuff. My body knows that exercise is positive, and the gym is now a foundational part of my routine. I feel kinda lost without it.

Freedom lies in not punishing myself for the little things. If you don’t hit the mark every time, that’s ok. Skipping a session or having a day of questionable nutrition really isn’t the worst thing in the world. It’s not going to be hugely detrimental to your progress, so long as you get back on track at the first opportunity. Use the setback as a chance to push forwards.

Be ya own motivation and all that.

Feels gooooood to be back writing! Hope you enjoyed reading this, and feel free to post any thoughts below.

Peace xoxox

Review: Black Tap Craft Burgers and Shakes

If you live in Dubai and you’re searching for the ultimate cheat meal, look no further. Black Tap Craft Burgers and Shakes, located in Jumeirah, is home to the most monstrous grub you could ever imagine.

We’re talking American-sized portions of the most dense, delicious and downright nawwwwwti food. This New York eatery is everything you could want in a cheat meal (and a whole lot more).

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The Milkshakes:

Feeling brave? I hope so. Imagine the biggest and best milkshake you’ve ever seen… And then multiply that by a million. Stick some FULL SIZE snacks on the side of the glass (quite literally – none of this ‘miniature’ business), and jump right in.

The verdict: creamy, velvety, and totally worth every single sugar-laden calorie. If food could deliver you to heaven, this would be the one (in regards to both its tastiness and questionable nutritional value, oops).

We tried ‘The Cookie Shake’ and ‘Brooklyn Blackout’ (pictured below). I’m not sure what was more difficult… Deciding which drink to order, or overcoming the sugar high and consequential food coma caused by this demon of a shake. If you’re in Dubai, you’ve simply GOT to try one. No questions.

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The Burgers:

Admittedly, I didn’t actually eat one for myself. You’re probably wondering why the queen of burgers would go to a burger joint and only order a milkshake. Well:

  1. Have you seen the size of those shakes!?
  2. Only I could be stupid enough to go to Black Tap on a whim, just moments after having eaten a lunch of two chicken breasts and a whole load of sweet potato fries. Cheat day at it’s finest.

Although I can’t comment on how the burgers taste, one thing’s for sure… They look UNBELIEVABLE. Juicy, cheesy and super fresh.

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No doubt I’ll be back soon to check them out for myself. Next time… On an empty stomach.

Find Black Tap in the Jumeirah Al Naseem Hotel.

15 Gym Girl Problems

Whether you’re a newbie to the fitness world, or an avid gym-goer, I’m sure you can relate to a few of these struggles. If you haven’t been faced with these problems just yet, then take my word… They’re REAL.

  1. The moment when you unthinkingly pour boiling water directly onto your protein powder, and your proats consequently become a disastrously-textured mess. Yuck! (Fitness life hack: mix in the protein powder after you’ve combined the oats and water, duh.)
  2. The constant struggle between your love for peanut butter and the desire to have visible abs.
  3. Coffee or preworkout. Is it acceptable to have both? Probably not, but let’s do it anyway… BAD IDEA.
  4. *WHY IS MY SKIN TINGLING?* Oh wait, that’s probably the result of consuming coffee and preworkout at the same time. Caffeine overload – SEND HELP.
  5. Not being able to sleep properly because of said caffeine, and stressing because sleep is the home of gainzzz.
  6. The battle between the aforementioned need for sleep (for muscle growth and repair purposes, not laziness – obviously) and that 5.30am workout you’ve scheduled.
  7. When you get to the gym and realise you forgot your headphones. Nightmare.
  8. Let me just pull my now somewhat sweat-laden phone out of my sports bra. Oh great, did he just see me do that?
  9. Learning to accept DOMS as a part of your everyday life… Cannot sit down like a normal human being. Cannot get up without looking like a grandma. Cannot climb stairs at all. Cannot comfortably raise arm above shoulder height.
  10. Cancelling social plans that don’t involve exercise or healthy food, in order to exercise or eat healthy food.
  11. Owning 487,000 pairs of leggings, but very few normal clothes.
  12. Wearing the same 3-5 pairs of leggings most of the time, despite previous point.
  13. Buying more unnecessarily expensive leggings, so the other 487,000 pairs can sit in your drawer for eternity.
  14. Wearing gym kit all of the time; even when you’re not going to the gym. Judge me all you like, I’m free to high kick in public whenever I feel like it (always).
  15. Need to wash my hair, but haven’t worked out yet today. Is it acceptable to leave the house like this?