We aren’t vain we’re just trying to stay sane. How exercise helps the mind.

I like to lift weights. Heavy weights. It makes me feel great.

For me, going to the gym, lifting weights and finishing off with perhaps a ten minute swim or sauna and a shower (in complete peace) is like switching a re-set button in my brain.

I feel calm.

I like to run too. Running gives my heart and lungs a great workout, airs my legs and allows my thoughts to roam. Sometimes I run without music so I can just think but on sunny mornings like today, I’ll tune into some great running beats and just immerse myself in my little running world.

I like to practice Pilates. I might take ten minutes before a class to have complete, flowing, peaceful practice time. There’s a tranquility and peace I find in silent, solo practice that I don’t get from other types of exercise.

But – when it’s just me and the bar and the lift – that’s when I can totally zone out.

No distractions. No kids. No thoughts.

The biggest reason I exercise is to clear my head. Through exercise I can process thoughts or get creative. Sometimes I might need to run hard to get rid of pent up stress or anger. Sometimes I need to just chill. The way exercise makes me look is always secondary to how it makes me feel. And having spoken with so many women in the fitness industry and women who are exercisers (rather than non-exercisers) it always comes back to mental wellbeing.

I can’t speak for men on this one but I do know that for the majority of women, the exercise hook is feels not looks.

We aren’t vain we’re just trying to stay sane!

Every exercise form gives us an opportunity to zone out or re-set, to process thoughts or to meditate.

Here are a few ideas on how you could use exercise to zone out or work out.

  • Yoga can be both challenging exercising and challenging meditation. The postures in yoga were originally based on the meditation. This is why it’ s often recommended during addiction therapy or rehabilitation.
  • Pilates is more of a conscious workout. Joseph Pilates originally called his method, controlology. The control of muscles through the mind. We are very mindful of technique during Pilates exercises.
  • Swimming can feel like re-birth. Yes you can go hard and workout your circulatory system (swimming is a great challenge for the lungs) or you can enjoy the simple pleasure of weightlessness and water. It’s rhythmic and repetitive and no phones are allowed.
  • Running can feel hard or could let you go for a great chat with a friend. When running alone you can internalise by focusing on how your body feels or you can let your thoughts wander.
  • High energy classes like martial arts or boxing can literally allow you to fight off your stresses.

Of course there are always ways of exercising optimally but the most important thing with exercise is to find something you love and find balance.

Enjoy x


Taking the fun out of fitness

Personal training. Spinning. Bootcamps. HITT training. Weights or no weights. Running vs. jogging. Pilates vs. yoga. Zumba. Walking the dog. Nordic walking … the list is endless. As someone who is immersed the fitness industry on a daily basis, both as a service provider and a writer, I’m forever bemused by the internal wranglings of fitness professionals over what is best, what is optimum and what is just a waste of time. In their opinion.

The thing is, if you are exercising to train in the Commonwealth Games or to rehabilitate a broken back, then the type of training that you do is REALLY important. But if you start a personal training programme and your trainer insists you do X,Y and Z for optimum effect and you hate X,Y and Z, then no matter how clever your trainer is or how keen you are, you won’t stick to it. Would it not be better for you to do a bit of X and Y but then a whole lot more of the stuff you love?

Here’s what I think (for what it’s worth). Enjoyment, community, stress release and fun are THE most important factors when it comes to exercise for most people. Yes, if you have a specific goal in mind like marathon training or weight loss, then you might have to factor in a little more of the optimal training stuff but please not to the detriment of what makes exercise enjoyable for you. When I recently interviewed the man who pioneered fitness clubs in the UK. Ken Heathcote (who was also the founder of fitness industry qualifications) he said social HAD to come first, functional after.

So if someone tries to tell you otherwise … I’d suggest you tell them to optimise their opinions to someone who cares.

Now here are a few people who knew how to laugh at themselves: Acorn Antiques does health and fitness.

Ken Heathcote, Father of Fitness, on creating fitness moments of magic.
Karen Laing is a pre and post natal exercise specialist and journalist. Karen teaches Pilates (including pregnancy specific classes) in Epping, Essex and London and blogs about fitness, women’s health and wellbeing at http://www.alittlefitter.com.
Karen co-directs Fit School with her husband Chris. They run fitness classes, ladies only training camps and Pilates classes in Epping and Essex.
TWITTER: @fitschoolessex
FACEBOOK: ccfitschool
WEBSITE: http://www.alittlefitter.com

Move over men, the weights room is for girlies

According to Sabi Phagura, writing in the Huffington Post yesterday, entering the weights room (TWR) is like entering the lion’s den, full of testosterone fuelled men grunting and staring at totty?

Whilst this preconception might be the case in some gyms, times have changed.  In my experience,TWR is far more social than the cardio gym or even classes.  There’s time and reason for interaction (even in London) and you tend to see the same folk at the same times.

Far from it being the domain of the alpha male, I believe girlies have a lot to offer TWR.

For example, around 90% of the men I’ve seen train in TWR have abysmal technique and need to be ashamed of themselves for grunting when they’re shifting teensy weights.  Girlies in TWR generally have great technique, otherwise they wouldn’t venture in. Weekends are the best time for comic weight antics, when men who rarely venture in to the gym feel they need to sweat it out whilst their partners do yoga.

Men do not stare at women in TWR. They stare at women all the time. In TWR, in the cardio gym, in class, in the car park.  It’s just when you’re looking out for it you’ll notice it more. And if you’ve trotted into TWR in see through pants of course they’ll stare. PS: Keep skimpy shorts and low cut tops for summer holidays, they are totally impractical for TWR.

Girlies are neat and tidy and smell nice. We clean our kit regularly. These are good things in confined spaces.

And a few Do’s and Don’ts:

DON’T wear a white top. When you train with weights you tend to get the smuggled peanut effect.

DO check the structure and modesty of your pants. Most running tights are see through when you bend over, never a good thing when doing a deadlift.

DON’T stand right next to or behind a squat rack if you can stand somewhere else. It’s dangerous and pretty stupid.

DO ask for help if a sweaty bloke has left his heavy weights on a rack.

DON’T wear headphones in the weights area. You need to listen out for someone asking you to move; someone asking if they can share your station; someone in trouble who needs a hand; someone about to vomit; or a heavy weight moving quickly in your direction.

DO clean up after yourself. Put stuff away, clean up your sweat, move benches back to where they belong.

AND FINALLY DON’T stand down wind of  men.  Protein shakes and a hard workout do nasty things to your guts.

Read Sabi’s original post here: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/sabi-phagura/getting-fit-gym-walking-into-the-lions-den_b_1815791.html