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Alex Valentine Personal Training

Effective training for smart people

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The Dos and Don’ts of the Gym

It’s January, and loads of people are joining the gym to get fitter, leaner, stronger, or generally just to feel better in their own skin. I love this time of year, it’s great to see so much motivation! But I also see a lot of fear. Yes, actual fear! If I had a pound for every time someone told me they are afraid of looking stupid in the gym, I’d probably have enough for a week in Benidorm. At least.


Apart from what exercises and the number of sets and reps to do, people want to know basic things like, where to stand, or can I take weights without asking? Is it OK to use a mat in this area if the gym? What do I do if someone is on the machine I want? If you’re a seasoned gym veteran this might seem easy, but for a new comer, it can be incredibly daunting. Here’s a few gym etiquette rules to keep you on the straight and narrow at the gym and help you on your way to being a gym pro:

  1. Bring a sweat towel. No one wants to use a machine after someone’s sweated all over it.
  2. Put your weights away. If someone is strong enough to lift it, they’re strong enough to put it away

3. If you are resting in between sets and some one wants to share your machine, let them. They will give it back and sharing is caring. Similarly, if someone is using the machine you want, it’s OK to ask them “how many sets have you got left?” (providing they are not mid-lifting the weights….don’t distract them!) Usually the person will say how many sets they have left, and you can either wait around, or ask if it’s OK to share with them? If they say no… that’s rude!

4. Get off the phone. If someone’s  on a machine and they can clearly see someone waiting to use it, there’s nothing more annoying than them just sitting there on their phone. It’s completely acceptable to ask someone how many sets they have left (see above polite asking technique)


5. Bring a water bottle. You will get sweaty, you will need to hydrate!

6. Squats racks are for squats or bench press at busy periods in the gym.

When it is busy in the gym: Do not bicep curl in the squat rack. Do not do pull ups in the squat rack. Do not do shoulder shrugs in the squat rack. It will literally make me want to cry.

7. If you’re not sure of an exercise, ask a member of staff or hire a Personal Trainer for a few sessions. It’s better to do the right exercises with good form than spend a few months doing it wrong and maybe getting injured.

8. This might seem really obvious but….my favourite phrase is D. B. A. D. = don’t be a dick. This is also my rule for life! A lot of people go to the gym to work out stresses from the day, but it’s no excuse to be disrespectful to other gym users or the staff. If someone is a dick, just walk away. Better to stay positive and carry on training the way you want to than to let someone else’s issues ruin your day!

As always if you’ve got any questions about how to train or eat well, or general gym stuff, just drop me a message at alexvalentinept@mail.com 😊

Is your FitBit LYING to you?

fitness-trackers.jpg
WTF???

Or more accurately, your “fitness tracker”? They’re all the rage, and come in so many brands, shapes, sizes, colours…you name it, they sell it! The purpose of them is to track your heart and activity rate, and give you feedback on how active you are, and ultimately give you the answer to the million dollar question…. how many calories you burn.

Sounds amazing right? Strap it on your wrist, hit the gym, and hey presto, you can calculate calories in versus calories out, down to the number of steps you take. For such a small device to give so much information is pretty darn incredible, but just how accurate is it?

A recent study by fancy pants Stamford University found that fitness trackers are amazingly accurate at calculating your heart rate, with as little error as just 2% (Apple Watch). Even the largest heart rate error margin was just 6%, which considering the device goes nowhere near your heart, it’s pretty accurate!

But when it comes to calorie counting, that’s where the margin of error gets a little scary. How accurate would you say a fitness tracker is at counting calories? Maybe 5% error? 10%?

No.

The smallest margin of error for counting calories, was 27%. YES, THE SMALLEST! (On FitBit Surge). You did not read that wrong. So if a fitness tracker says you have burned 2,000 calories that day, it could actually be as little as 1400 calories. The largest margin of error was 92% with the PulseOn. Again if it stated you’d burned 2,300 calories in a day, it could be as low as approximately 1,240 calories (read the full study here: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4426/7/2/3 ).

Why is this important? We know that calories consumed versus calories burned are directly related to weight loss. If people eat more calories than the body burns, it results in weight gain. If people are in a moderate calorie deficit (are safely consuming less calories than their body needs), it will result in weight loss. The problem arises when the estimation of how many calories a body burns in a day is inaccurate. An overestimation will result in no weight loss at best, and weight gain in the worst case scenario. Conversely is the estimation is too low, it can result in drastic unsafe weight loss and possibly irreversible hormonal changes (like the 1200 calorie a day diet…don’t get me started on that crap!). The most accurate way to measure calories burned in a day is via an oxygen consumption machine to determine how much oxygen our body needs and calculate our calorie burn from that. Which is really easy because everyone has one of those, right?? OK so not everyone has these, so the next best thing is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the number of calories your body burns at rest. The next step is to multiply this number by the amount of activity you do on a daily basis. You can use this handy link to work it out:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Nothing is 100% accurate, but this calculation is the quickest and most accurate way we can work out how many calories your body needs, which is so important for weight loss. Often when I introduce people to this calculation, I will hear protests of, “but my FitBit says…..”, or, “I treated myself to a take away because my iWatch said I burned xxxx calories on my walk today”. It’s an easy trap to fall into, so make sure you do the calculation yourself so you know for sure.

Despite what you may think, I don’t hate fitness trackers. I even have one myself…..

img_3357
See?

But hang on I hear you say! You’ve just told me my fitness tracker is LYING, so why would you have one?? I guess it depends what you have one for. I use the heart rate monitor to track the peak heart rate zones I’m training in, so I can tailor the intensity of my workouts depending on what part of my Roller Derby season I’m in. But this function is useful for everyone, and with a maximum of 6% inaccuracy, it’s a good guideline of how hard you’re working in the gym. So if you feel like you’re smashing it, but your heart rate is still at 85, you know to crank it up a notch….. 😉

As always, if you’d like any help or advice on how to improve your training or give your nutrition a kick start, drop me an email at alexvalentinept@mail.com , or text me on 07875465275.

The craziest things I get asked at the gym….


It’s January and every one is in full “New Year New Me” mode, and people are buzzing with lots of questions about the gym. But sometimes they’re afraid to ask!! Simple answer…. don’t be. There is nothing you can say that I haven’t heard before!! Here’s a few examples from the last few years:

-if I eat one meal a day will I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger?

-will eating ginger burn ALL my body fat away?

-if I inject myself with insulin will it make me more ripped? (Quick tip- NO, and it might kill you)

-if I wrap myself in cling film and train really hard, will I sweat out my body fat?

As you can see, there is nothing I haven’t been asked before! Especially when social media like Instagram and YouTube are actively promoting fitness fad diets and crazy fit-tips. A good rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! As always though if you need any help or advice, please ask me, I’d rather you know and get the right advice to achieve your goals than keep wondering and maybe set yourself back a few months. Email me at alexvalentinept@mail.com for more info 😊

Also this is me when I’m on the treadmill…


😆

“New Day” Resolutions

As the year is drawing to a close, it’s time to look back on all the things you have achieved, or made progress towards achieving. It makes us think about about how far we have come, but also, how far we WANT to go. What do you want to do next year? It gets us on to the subject of New Year’s Resolutions, because inevitably, most people make them. And a lot of people make them about losing weight, or “getting fit”. 

I used to buy into it too, I’d even make a list of all my goals after Christmas, and swear I’d be ready for it in the New Year…. and then New Year would come and go, and I might do a couple of things on the list, but really, by March it’s all fallen by the wayside! So why wait until New Year to make a change? If you have the motivation to do it now, DO IT NOW!!

I say this to a lot of people – don’t wait for the New Year to make a change, all you need is a new day! At this time of year though it is hard to get motivated, but now is the perfect time to start training. Our metabolism slows down in winter, we move less, we eat more…. weight gain is going to happen unless we stay proactive! 

Yes, we all overindulge at Christmas, but we don’t have to let it get out of hand. Offset the mince pies and mulled wine by heading down the gym twice a week, and cutting down on any extra sweet treats that might be creeping in. You’d be surprised how much of a difference these small changes can make!

You will limit the potential for seasonal weight gain, AND head into the party season and New Year carrying a little less timber around. It’ll make you feel better about you, help you look leaner and give you a head start if you DO decide to make some New Years Resolutions! Give it a try 😊

If you have any questions or need any advice on how to get your gym sessions started, or how to limit the Christmas bulge, drop me a message on alexvalentinept@mail.com or 07875465275

Why are pull ups so HARD??

Ok, so you’ve been at the gym a few months now. You’re feeling pretty strong, you’re eating right and you’re working hard. But now you want to try something new. And you see these super buff guys and girls in the gym and on Instagram just knocking out pull ups like they’re nothing. It’s A) pretty impressive, and B) pretty annoying….why can’t I do them?? I feel your frustration!
If you do some research (like you know I love to do!) you’ll be hit with a plethora of different reasons why some people can (or cannot) do pull ups, why males and females are biologically different, that women are weaker, that some people are just “too heavy”, that we don’t need to do pull ups anyway…. this list of pull up articles is literally never ending. I know I’m adding to it with this one, but I’m writing it from a real, first hand perspective, and minus the bullshit.
Why can’t you do pull ups? The simple answer is…. you just don’t train to do them. No body walks into a gym and smashes out 20 pull ups without practising (unless you’re a 15 year old boy, maybe). It’s the same with anything: gymnastics, powerlifting, football, Olympic Lifting, reading, writing…nobody just rocks up and is just able to do these things. They take practice, training, and patience.
The main muscles worked in a pull up are the lats, traps, biceps, rhomboids, and core. Ask yourself: how often do you train those muscles? I mean, REALLY train them? Sure, we all do lat pull downs every now and again, and maybe the odd shoulder shrug, but that isn’t the same as a pull up.  Pull ups take full activation of the muscles of the back, and with our sedentary-sit-down-and-drive-everywhere lifestyles, this just doesn’t happen on a daily basis. Try including bent over rows, upright rows and flexed arm hangs into your training sessions (at least once a week) to really get those muscles activated and ready for performing pull ups.
And make sure you train your core to be strong – pull ups are a lot harder if you’re swinging around like a chimp from a tree. A lot of people find core training boring, but your core is your foundation, and you wouldn’t build a gorgeous mansion on a bed of jelly. I did some serious core training and upper body work to get me to be able to do pull ups, and I’m not gonna lie, it was hard. But one of my biggest motivations was that I kept reading in all these articles how women aren’t meant to do pull ups, that women are not strong enough. Anyone who knows me knows never to tell me I can’t do something, it’s just fuel for the fire! It took time, about 10 weeks, but I got there. I trained the right muscles, I was patient, I worked my core, and it happened. I feel stronger and more in control of my body. And my back looks awesome!
Nobody tells me what my body can and can’t do….except for me.

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