It’s been twelve days since our schools here in Ireland closed their doors, and in that time we find ourselves in increasingly difficult circumstances. During the last week, more non-essential services and shops have closed, and people are struggling to navigate the landscape of new phrases like “social distancing” and “flattening the curve”.
Non-specific, conceptual recommendations like “practice social distancing” can be unclear and confusing. It is far better to deal in known quantities and specifics: if you ask people to “maintain a distance of at least 2 metres with people you don’t live with whenever you leave the house”, their goal is clearly understood and measurable and they are more likely to follow it.
In the same way, we at Intelligent Fitness like to deal in specific, measurable goals rather than concepts, and now more than ever we can apply this to our exercise and nutrition plans. What are your goals for the next few weeks? “Try not to get too fat” is the most common answer we’re hearing!
We’re in the unprecedented situation of being restless and housebound, of having large stockpiles of food and alcohol at home, and of being incredibly worried. The temptation to comfort eat and drink is huge, and now more than ever we need to plan what we buy and what we are cooking and eating.
As well as practicing a bit of expectation management over the coming weeks (it may not be realistic to have weight loss as a goal right now), the goal of simply maintaining your current body composition until we can get back to normal is probably a good one. But how are you going to change that from a non-specific, conceptual goal to a measurable one?
The odds would appear to be stacked against you. For a start, your NEAT is way down! At 15%, the second greatest daily calorie expenditure for most people (after metabolic functions) comes from NEAT or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Which is a fancy way of saying activity that is not planned exercise. Running for the bus; taking the stairs at work; walking to the shop for a pint of milk – in short, all of the things that we are no longer doing.
If you make an assumption that, being housebound, you are moving, say 10% less, then to maintain your body weight, you either need to eat 10% fewer calories to compensate, or get out and move 10% more. Having a daily step goal is a great start – it’s measurable and specific. If you can’t get outdoors, you can set a calorie goal and use a tracker app like MyFitnessPal – again, it’s specific and measurable and therefore more likely to work as a strategy.
We are now offering daily Virtual Bootcamp classes that you can do from your own sitting room, with a WhatsApp support group to help you with your exercise and nutrition at this very challenging time (contact us on 087 963 7666 to sign up!). Like all trainers and nutrition coaches at the moment, the way we work with our clients is changing. But our goal – to help you be the best version of you – as always, remains the same.
Here in Ireland, we have gone from our first confirmed case of COVID-19 fifteen days ago to 129 confirmed cases as of today, including two deaths.
Schools, colleges and creches are closed, and many shops, restaurants and small businesses are deciding to shut down temporarily. People are understandably worried; for their health and the health of their older relatives; for their finances; for the availability of resources and for their mental health in the face of such uncertainty.
We have no choice at the moment about what is happening to us, and no clear idea of what the outcome will be for individuals or the economy, and that coupled with the social media frenzy and empty supermarket shelves is understandably causing a great deal of anxiety.
Like everyone else, we at Intelligent Fitness are concerned. But we are focussing on this above all else:
You can’t change what is happening, but you can change your reaction to it.
In line with preventative measures being taken at the moment and to ensure the health and safety of our valued clients, the High Performance Centre in Fingallians will close for a period of at least two weeks and we won’t be training clients or holding classes on the premises.
We certainly won’t be sitting this one out though! We’ll be contacting all of our clients privately to discuss one to one personal training sessions and ways in which you can continue to train. We’ll be holding virtual classes online that you can do from home. We’ll be active on social media with coping strategies, exercise ideas and nutrition tips.
We can’t change what is happening, but we can change our reaction to it. Our focus is now on helping you navigate the new challenges we are facing in changing circumstances and providing you with the right tools and support that you need to make sure that your physical health and mental wellbeing are protected during this worrying time.
It’s a bit of a frightening time at the moment with the worldwide Coronavirus scare causing panic, and we wanted to share with you some of our thoughts on the role of exercise and nutrition in keeping you healthy and strengthening your immune system.
A healthy immune system can defeat pathogens and protect you against illness, and is affected by diet, exercise, age and psychological stress, among other things. A good starting point is to protect yourself from environmental factors (don’t smoke, avoid excess alcohol, wash your hands thoroughly and cook meat properly) and adopt healthy living strategies, some of which we have detailed below.
Maintain a Balanced Diet!
Vitamin C, is important for immune function, bone structure, iron absorbtion and healthy skin. We mostly find it in citrus fruits, strawberries, green vegetables and tomatoes, and taking slightly elevated doses of vitamin C does appear to reduce the duration of cold symptoms, although there is no need for the mega-doses of vitamin C that some are currently advising.
Deficiencies of zinc, copper, iron, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C and E can alter the immune response, and are again better absorbed through the diet rather than supplementation (although if you don’t eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables it may be advisable to take a good quality multivitamin). Eat a wide range of whole foods, and lots of colourful fruit and veg to ensure you are getting enough micronutrients!
Regular exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight and protects against a variety of diseases and helps contribute to a healthy immune system. It contributes even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Don’t Get Stressed!
Emotional stress and immune function do appear to be linked, although it’s difficult to define because stress is subjective and varies from one person to the next. If you feel stressed and particularly if that is in turn affecting your sleep, your immune system could be compromised. Exercise – and we can’t stress this enough – helps enormously in combating stress and aiding healthy sleep.
So as well as eating a healthy, balanced diet, it’s vital that we all keep moving and exercising. As tempting as it may be to stay at home, try to get out for a walk, get to your fitness class or visit the gym because it will help combat stress, improve sleep and keep your immune system fighting fit!
Coaching is defined in the dictionary as “a form of development in which an experienced person, called a coach, supports a learner or client in achieving a specific personal or professional goal by providing training and guidance.”
People often ask me what a Nutrition Coach actually is, and the honest answer is that it’s different for every client I see! What I can say is that my job as a coach is to guide my clients towards their goals (whatever they are), rather than set out a pre-designed diet plan, or impose strict rules about what they can and can’t eat.
Every person is an individual with a unique relationship with – and history with – food. The food we eat, crave, enjoy, hate, tolerate and fuel with is different for everyone. Our habits around eating – comfort eating; secret eating; restrictive eating; binge eating; forgetting to eat; obsessing about eating; feeling afraid of eating or eating as a reward are highly personal and often formed very early in life. The way we define ourselves through our diet is also unique – the foods we use to celebrate religious festivals, or the diet we choose for ethical reasons, or to sustain a particular sport, can represent who we are and the life we choose to live.
Medications, life stages and hormones, illnesses, genetics and activity levels can affect what we can and can’t, should or shouldn’t eat and also how the body processes the foods we do eat. And to add further complexity to our relationship with food, we – never more than now – have to negotiate our way through a wealth of misinformation and pseudoscience surrounding nutrition, diets, what is a “good diet” and what is “bad food” which leaves us confused and sets us up to fail when it comes to making informed choices about what we eat.
My role as a nutrition coach is to start with your goal – be it fuelling for a sport, weight loss, controlling impulsive eating, curbing sugar cravings, changing your eating habits, finding the right diet for your stage in life, medical diagnosis or genetics – or simply just feeling better. Starting with your diet as it is today, I work with you to change it through habit-based stages. These can include anything from making small changes to what you eat and drink to helping with meal planning and timing, going to your supermarket to research foods, coming up with recipes, helping you learn about the psychology of why you eat the way you do, coaching in changing deeply ingrained habits or disordered eating patterns, educating about what a “good” diet actually looks like, advising on what foods would help with medical issues or life stages, the optimal foods and meal timing to fuel for sport and exercise, helping you gain an understanding of metabolism and calories and energy balance in the body… I could go on all day but you get the picture!
The huge advantage of working this way rather than telling you how to eat or what diet plan to follow, is that the end result is a diet that is sustainable, realistic and manageable, and more importantly, a diet that you understand and feel in control of. My ultimate goal is to be by your side teaching, coaching and advising until you are happy and in control and have all the tools you need in your nutritional toolkit, so that you never need to come back to me (or go on a crazy diet) again!
If you think nutrition coaching might be something you would benefit from, give me a call or send me an email. Pop in and have an informal chat and we can go from there!
We’re really excited to be able to introduce our new class timetable for March!
For several years now we’ve been running our very popular Bootcamp classes on a Tuesday and Thursday at 9.30am. Many of our lovely “bootcamp ladies” have been with us for over two years and as a result, our Tuesday circuits and Thursday HIIT/ yoga class is continually evolving and changing to keep things interesting for the class. We have a fantastic group for bootcamp, everyone is so supportive of each other and are great friends, and the members regularly have social get-togethers outside of class, sign up to races together or just hang out for coffee.
Our facility is a great space for anyone feeling a bit intimidated about being in a gym environment; it isn’t membership gym and we only have a handful personal trainers who work in the space. So aside from the odd trainer with a client, when we have a class on, we have access to the whole gym and it’s private. It’s also a very positive, encouraging space to be in – we’re all about feeling better, moving more and enjoying yourself and there’s not even a mirror on the wall!
Even so, sometimes joining a class for the first time can feel a bit intimidating, especially if the people in the class seem like old hands, or know each other really well. So with this in mind, we recently introduced two second classes on a Tuesday and a Thursday at 10.30am, specifically for beginners. These classes are aimed at anyone who doesn’t feel “fit enough” or confident enough to join an existing class, who feel as if they have a big fitness journey to go on but don’t know where to start. Everyone who signed up to this class five weeks ago has made great progress (as well as new friends) and it’s been a genuine pleasure to watch them growing in confidence and fitness as the classes have progressed!
As of next week, we’re also starting a class aimed at older adults. Our 60+ Fitness classes will be on a Wednesday and Friday at 10.30am and are for anyone aged 60 plus who wants to get more active. It’s really important as we age that we keep up an element of resistance training (with weights or bodyweight) to keep the bones strong and protect the muscles from atrophy. It also becomes important as we get older to pay special attention to things like balance and mobility, to help keep us active for longer and to protect against falls. So this class is specifically designed for anyone who feels they might struggle to keep up with a less specific class, and who would like to become more active, make new friends and generally feel better!
If you’re interested in signing up to any of our classes, do get in touch!
In recent times, the third Monday in January, dubbed “Blue Moday”, has come to signify the most depressing day of the year. It’s the time when those New Year’s resolutions that you threw yourself into at the start of January begin to slide, it’s cold and dark outside, you have no money left after Christmas and January feels as if it’s been going on forever…
There’s nothing wrong with having aspirational New Year’s resolutions; in fact, it’s a time of year we really enjoy, when we see a surge of enthusiasm for classes and personal training and nutrition consultations. It can sometimes be difficult to manage the expectations of enthusiastic clients though, who want to go all-in with their health and wellbeing, training multiple times a week in the gym, giving up alcohol and making huge dietary changes. The problem with resolutions is that they are often unsustainable – after two or three weeks of forging ahead with major diet and lifestyle changes, the novelty wears off, it all starts to feel a bit too difficult to keep up, our best intentions start to slide and we’re back to mentally beating ourselves up for our lack of willpower. In short, we’ve set ourselves up to fail.
In fact, willpower is not, as is commonly believed, like a muscle that can be made stronger with repeated flexing. Willpower is more like a reserve of mental energy; once it’s been used up, it’s gone, albeit temporarily. Over the course of a day, there are lots of things that can sap our mental reserves of willpower – not setting the snooze button repeatedly, not snapping at a difficult colleague, avoiding that coffee shop with the enticing cakes, remaining calm with demanding children. This is why evenings are often the most challenging time for us in terms of avoiding treats or getting out to the gym or for a walk – it’s the time of day when our metal reserves of willpower are at their lowest.
Our ethos at Intelligent Fitness is to slowly build sustainable, habit-based changes with exercise and nutrition. Because once something becomes a habit, you don’t need to use your willpower to do it. For something to become a habit though, you have to do it repeatedly until it’s ingrained. Start with something you’re comfortable with (using the stairs at work instead of the lift, getting up an hour early once a week to fit in an extra gym session, replacing tea with herbal tea so you don’t feel as if you want biscuits with it) and do it until you’re comfortable to move on to the next thing.
It’s perhaps a less glamorous take on New Year’s resolutions but we promise you this – it works!