I’ve not really ventured into the minefield that is workouts and healthy eating on here. Mainly because there are many people doing it far better than I ever could. Given that I’m certainly no expert on matters of health or fitness, I’m happy to be passing on words of wisdom from my personal trainer at Pure Gym Urban Exchange, Manchester.
My relationship with exercise is quite volatile. I’ll get really into a new class and go six times a week and then all of a sudden drop it and not do anything for six months. Once upon a time I ran the London Marathon and the sense of achievement I got from it made it was one of the best days of my life. But as my dad said to me the other week, I ‘can’t live off that forever’. So in an effort to get back on the saddle, I’ve been training with Jak over the last few weeks at Pure Gym Urban Exchange.
He adopts the penitentiary method of working out, which, as the name eludes, comes from prisons and involves favouring free weights over the various machines in the gym (the ones i’ve avoided for fear of using them incorrectly). In his experience, this style of ‘stripped back’ training sees more profound results, much faster, and is actually not as terrifying as it sounds.
Lots of Jak’s clients train with a friend and split the fee which he highly recommends as friendly competition means they push each other harder. Much like the ‘Skinny Bitch Collective‘ you may have seen on the likes of Ellie Goulding, Laura Whitmore and Millie Mackintosh’s Instagram feeds.
I’m clearly no skinny bitch, but I feel I’ve come someway towards feeling fit and strong this past month. So while I’m in no way an expert, I thought I’d pass on some of his advice and workouts, as well as chip in some of my own tips on keeping motivated in the hope you might find it useful or even decide to get a personal trainer too.
For anyone who’s not familiar with how a personal trainer works, they’re there to guide, inform, motivate and push you to reach your goals. Typically, you’ll have one or two sessions with them a week where they’ll teach you new exercises, and really put you through your paces. They can also set you workouts to do on your own the rest of the week and check up on your progress. They’ll adjust your workouts and make them increasingly challenging so your body doesn’t become too accustomed. As well as this, they’ll build your confidence in the gym and give you that much needed boost when you’re feeling down on yourself.
The following exercises are designed to build muscle on the legs, bum and stomach so yeah, lots of squats but apparently lunges are even better for getting a peachy bum. The below exercises are a taster of what Jak has taught me and are specific to my goals. They may not completely be suited to everyone, and in that case, I hope you can cherry-pick what is useful to your own goals.
Get as deep into the squat as you can, then launch yourself as high as you can.
Squat down with a straight back, and hoist your kettle bell up with straight arms until it’s almost above your head. Let your arms follow as it swings back down in-between your legs and follow into a squat position.
Balance on one leg and rest the top of your raised foot on a bench or box. Place your hands on your head for balance, and squat on one leg.
Planking and moving weight from side to side
Great for toning your whole stomach, including the sides. Crunches build muscle and so can bulk up your stomach. Doing these regularly should help to flatten it and tone up the sides.
No matter what you’re trying to achieve, the biggest driver will be having a plan of what you’re going to do to get there, and adapting it to suit your lifestyle as much as possible. For example, if you’ve started doing a bootcamp class three mornings a week at 6am but find it a real chore to get there and feel drained at work all day, don’t beat yourself up for swapping it to two evenings instead. Your exercise plan has to be sustainable and it has to suit your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid of trying new classes, even if it means going on your own. You can guarantee there will be other newbies on their own too.
There’s nothing new to say here, we’ve heard it a thousand times before. With both diet and exercise, balance is key. I believe in filling up on the good stuff Monday to Friday, and then allowing yourself a burrito/pizza/fry-up/bottle of wine at the weekend. If i’m really craving a treat, I have a rule of making it myself from scratch so that I at least know what’s gone into it. Most of the time I decide I can’t be bothered so go without.
Food is a huge part of my life, so I’ll doubt I’ll ever be one for totally restricting my diet. However, I do know that if I want to eat salted caramel dumplings or chocolate crack cookies later, I should probably forgo the bagels at breakfast. I do find it helpful to remind myself that whatever I’m craving will still be there next week, and I don’t have to have it right now. Normally the craving has gone within an hour or so.
Be mindful of the choices you’re making, fill up on the good stuff first, and remember to treat yourself (but not every time you fancy something).
It is highly unlikely that you’re going to come home in the dark, exhausted from a manic day at work and think ‘ooh I really feel like going to the gym’. I believe it’s about making time in your week, scheduling-in exercise like you would a meeting and sticking to it. Having a personal trainer has really helped me to be more disciplined and if this is something you struggle with, i’d highly recommend paying someone to shout at you. There’s no slacking when you’ve got a trainer there pushing you to your limits, so you’re getting the most out of yourself and not wasting your own time.
The biggest surprise this past month is that I’ve found that I love to workout early morning. Luckily my gym is just a hop skip and a jump away so I set my alarm for 6:10am and I’m warming up on the treadmill by 6:30am. I like being there when it’s really quiet and I know i’m not going to bump into anyone I know. I’m really not an early-bird type of person usually, but I can’t help feeling a little smug arriving at work fully alert, having done a workout and eaten a good breakfast. They say it takes 30 days to make a habit so we’ll see if I manage to keep this up!
Feeling like a bag of crap in your cotton leggings is not going to help you feel motivated to workout. If you’re worried about spending lots of money, H&M do fantastic affordable sportswear, and you don’t need to buy loads all at once. I really like their leggings as they hold you in and have a super flattering waistband. A good quality sports bra is a must, I have this one but for large busted ladies, I’ve heard ShockAbsorber bras are the best you can get. I like a lightweight vest top and a warm, soft hooded jacket for afterwards. As a reward for working hard this past month, I treated myself to these new Nikes which I love. They’re everything I want in a trainer and can be worn without socks (ideal for times I forget to pack them).
Tupperware is also a must so you can prepare your meals in advance (avoid hangry trips to the supermarket after a workout!), meal planning for the week ahead and writing shopping lists will keep you organised and limit the number of trips to the shops (avoiding temptations).
Although it’s only been a few weeks, I’m already amazed at the changes to my body since I started training with Jak. My fear of using weights has vanished and I’m more than confident using the equipment in the gym, even if there’s five body builder types right next to me. I highly recommend Pure Gym Urban Exchange, the staff are super friendly and willing to help you out and push you when you need it most, plus at £20.99 no contract, I love how affordable the gym is. Jak is really passionate about what he does and has a knack of explaining it all in a way even I can understand. He pushes but is mindful of your limits and won’t take any risks if he thinks you might hurt yourself (at the start of my first session, I knotted a muscle in my right bum cheek. He rescheduled the session and insisted I got my boyfriend to massage it out).
If you’re local to Manchester Urban Exchange and interested in finding out more about the personal trainers at Pure Gym (each has their own methods) then you can read a little bit about each of them here. Send them a text or an email introducing yourself, and tell them your goals (don’t be shy even if your goal is to get a Kardashian arse). Jak’s not on that page but if you like the sound of his methods, text or call 07825394668. His fee is really affordable and can be split with a partner (even better). When I was looking for a personal trainer, I really didn’t know where to start, so hopefully this has been useful!