Saturday, 21 March 2015

Secret gym thoughts

If you've read this blog before you might know that I'm fairly new to this fitness thing. I haven't even reached my one year healthiversary yet - coming up in May FYI - and up until even a few weeks ago I'd only been in a gym once before. Instead I have spent the past 9 months working out exclusively at home or outside which I love and have seen great results from.

Last month however, I decided to join the gym close by my work so that I could make the most of my lunch breaks and their facilities. I find the idea of working out in public strangely embarrassing so I'm taking it one step at a time, and have so far only ventured as far as the running machines. So far, so good. It's a whole new weird world to me though and I thought I'd share some of my secret gym thoughts and revelations in the hope that someone might relate.

#1: People make weird noises when they run.
On my first day at the gym, I headed straight for the running machines (because I knew that could at least work a treadmill), plugged my headphones in and marvelled at the fact that I could choose a TV channel to watch on the far wall. Only when the audio dipped did I hear some grunting coming from the guy next to me, but I didn't think too much of it. The next time I went I forgot my headphones, so I was forced to face the reality of running noises. Squeaks, grunts, puffs and huffs, even the occasional semi shout. It's weird. I love it.

#2: Not everyone has a gym membership so that they can exercise.
I've heard rumours about people who go to the gym and prance around not really doing much, but I don't think I really thought that could be true because gyms aren't cheap and daily schedules are tight, so why would anyone go to a gym unless they a) love working out b) hate working out but are committed to their health or c) work at a gym. However last week I saw my first pointless gym person in amazing leggings (jealous) get on to a step machine thing - not entirely sure what it is - put on her headphones before sort of swaying ever so slightly from side to side, whilst texting, for 20 minutes. I shit you not. Why?

#3: It's hard to fight the urge to cheer people on.
In complete contrast to the people referred to in #2, there are some people that give it absolutely everything they've got and I find myself staring in complete awe. A few times I have noticed people on the treadmill who look like they are seriously hitting their limit but they just keep on going. In those moments I have to refrain myself from shouting words of encouragement which I gather from my short gym experience is not considered 'normal'.

#4: Personal trainers are scary.
I haven't ventured up to the wider weights and equipment area yet (that's this weeks challenge) but occasionally ginormous personal trainers come down the stairs with some poor individual, put them on the running machine, whack the incline up as high as it will go and then just sort of shout at them for a while. It's quite off putting. Apparently people pay for this service which at the moment I find bizarre, but maybe I'll do it one day. Maybe.

#5: Nudity is a big part of the gym process.
I don't know why it didn't occur to me that people have to get changed in front of each other and that it's not practical to have rows of private changing rooms. What has really struck me is how everyone has a different attitude to nudity. Some just whip everything off. Some do the complicated looking sports bra over the normal bra and then remove the normal bra manoeuvre. Some practically climb in to their lockers and use the door as a shield. It took me approximately 10 seconds of watching someone cowering in the corner to become part of group number one. I can't be doing with the faff.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Why exercise for weight loss means more than just cardio

Many women think that cardio equals weight loss, and weight training (or resistance training) equals bulking up. So as summer looms in the distance and bikinis are dug curiously and apprehensively out from the back of drawers and wardrobes, it's time for that myth to be broken.

Cardio does indeed burn calories and torch fat, so if that's your goal you should be aiming for 2-3 x 30-45 minute sessions a week. That can be running, cycling, dancing, whatever you enjoy that gets your heart rate up. If you hate cardio with a passion then a fast paced walk will do the job. Ultimately you just need to get moving, so squeeze in what you can, when you can. Park further away from the shops, take the stairs, ditch the bus and walk to work a few times a week if you can. Tiny changes add up to big results and better overall fitness.

The next thing to focus on is incorporating weight or resistance training in to your workout schedule. This can mean a wide variety of things so if you're not sure where to start, talk to a member of staff at the gym who will happily talk to you about what equipment to use and what classes to try. No gym membership? That's fine too, you can buy cheap dumbells and workout mats online (Amazon is great for this) and the Internet is full of guides, plans and YouTube videos for you to follow. Personal favourites are, and, but the choice is huge. Again aim for 2-3 sessions of 30-45minutes a week.

So why introduce weight training? When you stick to cardio, you burn not only fat but muscle too, meaning the figure on the scales might make you smile but the reflection in the mirror may not. Weight training on the other hand takes 100% of the burn from fat. You'll also burn more calories overall, as muscles continue to use energy to repair themselves for 12 hours after your workout (some studies actually have this figure as high as 39 hours!).

The biggest reason women avoid weights is the fear of 'bulking up', which is really hard to achieve due to their low levels of testosterone in comparison to men. What you'll actually gain (and likely want to achieve) is tone. Toning your muscles will mean you'll not only look better and tighter, but your clothes will fit better too. The benefits stretch further than aesthetics, with increased energy, bone strength and heart health counted among the results.

So go get out there and get strong for summer!