Sunday, 19 March 2017

I find the gym intimidating

One of the most common barriers to exercise is fear of the unknown. Often a gym can be viewed as an intimidating place full of gym-regulars that all know exactly what they’re doing. An environment where you won’t have a clue what to do and you’ll stand out like a sore thumb. If that’s the case, here are a few simple tips that you can try in order to make yourself feel more confident entering the gym and bettering your life.

Get some professional help
Training with a personal trainer is a great way to gain the necessary education you need to improve your gym confidence. During your sessions you’ll learn an array of exercises, how various machines work, how to target specific areas of the body, the best exercises to help you reach your goals and the general workings of a gym floor. Having someone guide you through everything can be a great way to learn firsthand what you should be doing and not, like so many, waste years training ineffectively. It may be a cost that you assume you can’t afford but view it as a short-term investment. Train with a personal trainer for a few months, learn what you need to learn and then make contact with them again from time to time while training on your own and book a few additional sessions for more ideas and to check up on your progress.

Dress down
Just because you’re exercising it doesn’t mean you need to wear tiny outfits or dress yourself head to toe in lycra. Many of these outfits can be very unflattering on the wrong figureand make you feel self-conscious before you even leave the changing room. If you’re unsure what your options are, spend some time browsing sports sections of shops and fitness magazines for ideas and inspiration. If you want to avoid the eyes of other gym goers simply wear something discreet and comfortable that fits you well. If you’ve never bought gym clothing before try it on in store and move around to make sure that everything stays covered as it needs to and you can move freely. If you see someone else in the gym with clothing you like, pay them a compliment and find out how to get something similar yourself, “Nice top – where’s it from?” – simple as that.

Tune Out
You can take yourself to a whole new place if you wear headphones when in the gym. It will not only keep you motivated and upbeat but will keep your mind focused on the job at hand. It seems a simple idea but, if you’re conscious of those around you and the gym environment on the whole, headphones can be a great way to escape it all. Better still, The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine (2005),alsofound that listening to music during exercise not only lifted mood but also helped to improve performance.

Avoid the rush
If you’re worried about being an “outsider” in the gym, try to avoid peak times. Perhaps you work 9-5.30 and can’t avoid the evening rush? Then try first thing in the morning. It may mean you’re out of bed a little earlier which can be hard, but just remember why you’re doing it. By getting up earlier and training in the morning the gym is likely to be less busy than the evenings and you can be happy that you’ve completed your exercise for the day before most people’s day has even started. As you become more confident after a few weeks you can then train during the evenings and be happy that you too are now a “gym regular”.

Bring a friend
Training with a friend can be a great way to boost your confidence in the gym no matter what their level of experience. If you both have little experience then you can learn and work things out together; if they’re more experienced than you are then you can get a guiding hand around the gym from a familiar face. Either way, you’ll no longer be alone on your fitness journey. A “gym buddy” can also help to keep you motivated away from the gym. Together you can make sure that you don’t let your eating habits slip too frequently and that you make each gym session that you have scheduled – a friendly nudge can be very useful from time to time.

Try group exercise first
The gym is full of weights, equipment and fitness “toys” – all of which can, if you’ve never used them before, appear very confusing. If it’s a more active lifestyle you’re looking for then group exercise can be a great inroad. There’s something for everyone and even classes that will incorporate some resistance work in them as a hybrid of traditional group exercise and gym work. You’ll get to build a regular, healthierroutine and class times will mean you start off with an instantly more structured workout schedule. As you become more familiar with the classes, more confident in your image and want some variety you can gradually wean yourself into the gym.

Get out of town
For some the fear of bumping into a friend of work colleague while they’re “not at their best”, covered in sweat, wearing an old gym top and gasping for air is enough to keep them out of the gym all together. Don’t use this as an excuse; find a gym a little further away and you can exercise in confidence that you can remain completely anonymous. If that’s not an option you can invest in a variety of equipment to allow you to train at home. Things such as multi gyms, dumbbells, kettlebellspowerbags or a TRX are all very versatile pieces of equipment that you can use for full body workouts in the privacy of your own home.

The Truth...
The truth is there are plenty of reasons and excuses to not exercise if we look for them; being intimidated by the gym is just another excuse. If you want to change the way you look and feel about yourself then you can’t let it be the be all and end all. Find a way around it. Those who want to exercise will find a way. Those who don’t want to exercise will find an excuse. Just remember, everyone, in every gym had their first day in the gym at some point. Now look at them – that can be you in a matter of months. Leaner, more knowledgeable and more confident – stick with it, remain consistent and these things will come.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

One Limb at a Time

I regularly include training a single side of the body at a time in my own training and my clients training too. But why?..

  1. It often adds an element of balance to your training and increases the level of skill necessary
  2. It often teaches you anti-rotational strength (keeping your body straight and even when the body is not under even load)
  3. It allows you to uncover and address any strength imbalances between the left and right side of your body

So how should you do this? Here are a few of my favourites to include:  

Single Dumbell Chest Press (Option: On Swiss Ball)

Single dumbbell Shoulder press

Single dumbbell Three Point Row

Single Hand Seated Cable Row

Single Leg, Leg Press

Single Leg Dumbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts / Romanian Deadlifts / RDLs

TRX Pistol squats

Cable Wood Chops

REMEBER: Don’t perform any of these exercises if you’re unsure of how to perform them safely.  If you’re confident with these exercises then I’d recommend including these as part of your weekly training program.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@MichaelD_PT

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Bad Gym Plans

When it comes to health and exercise there are plenty of people with plenty of bad plans. Here are some and some alternative, better plans...


“I need to get back into the gym after some time off - I’m going to go to the gym every day from now on”

If you’ve had some time away from the gym or you’re starting out for the first time then aiming to exercise every day isn’t a good idea. You won’t allow yourself enough rest time so you’ll inevitably feel sore all of the time and end up resenting it. Also, it’s likely to be too much of a shift from your usual schedule for you to manage every day so you’ll end up missing some of the sessions and so you’re instantly setting yourself up to fail.


Better Idea: Start out with something reasonable; twice a week is a good starting point. Then, when you’ve managed this every week for 3-4 weeks add in an additional session every 2-3 weeks until you finish with a sustainable routine that fits in with the rest of your lifestyle.


“I need to lose weight so I’m going to run and get rid of it all”

Purely cardio work may have some weight loss effect but after a while it can become slow or impossible to lose weight via just traditional cardiovascular work. Often some of the lost weight on the scales is a combination of lost body fat and lost muscle mass which in turn, slows your metabolic rate. Over time your body becomes less efficient at burning calories and in turn, weight loss will plateaux.


Better Idea: When it comes to being healthier and improving your physique it’s unwise to put all of your eggs in one basket. In general you need to be fitter, stronger, more mobile and robust so your weekly schedule should be made up of a combination of strength work, cardiovascular work and some stability, mobility and stretching work.


“I’m going to get fitter before I join the gym/group exercise / start personal training.”

You’ve become unfit. The purpose of exercising or training with a trainer is to help you get more fit. If you haven’t managed to get yourself fitter in the past few years what makes you think that you’re going to suddenly do it now?


Better Idea: Join the gym and, if you need guidance on relevant and suitable exercise for someone of your ability then get an educated trainer to steer you in the right direction.


“I’m going to go on a juice diet.”

Why are people surprised that they do nothing but drink a few small juices every day for a week or two and then they lose weight!?.. You could drink 3 McDonalds milkshakes each day and eat nothing else and lose weight!? You do NOT need to go on a juice diet! Ever!


Better Idea: Don’t start anything that isn’t sustainable. Amend your diet bit by bit to include ground rules and guidelines for eating that you can apply whether you’re eating at home or eating out and you can maintain year-round.


“I’ve got a really good plan to follow from a magazine”

There are lots of programmes and pieces of training information available. It can be hard to sift through the junk and find a) the good quality suggestions and b) the ones that are suitable to you at your stage of training. Then, if you’re not very experienced with exercise then there’s also a big risk that you may be performing the exercises incorrectly and unsafely. You may also be buying into a lie. If you want to look like a super hero then don’t believe that they did some planks, bodyweight squats and pull ups and looked like an absolute tank. Don’t believe too that there wasn’t a decent amount of growth hormone supplementing involved too.


Better Idea: Seek some guidance. There are some great free resources available but you can’t always be sure that they’re suitable for you and designed with your goals in mind. Don’t aim for a “6 week body” approach; find something with longevity that will steadily and regularly offer you

Monday, 12 December 2016

Where There’s a Will There’s a Way - Training With Injuries

Recently I’ve picked up on one or two awkward injuries that have in some ways interrupted my training.
I don’t want any trophies and you can hold the applause but... it didn’t stop me from training. 
While I never want to encourage people to train when injured and worsen the issue, I DO think it’s important to:
  1. Learn to listen to your body.. PROPERLY!
  2. Be flexible and work around issues 
I always say to my clients: “If you only trained on the days when you feel full of energy, you’ve slept well, eaten well and have no aches and pains then you’d probably exercise about 5 or 10 times a year.”
It would be naive of me to encourage people to “just get on with it” or “ignore the pain.” Far from it. Acknowledge the pain and figure out a way to stay active while resting the injured body part.
When it comes to exercise and making regular progress consistency is king. If you take regular breaks from training because things “aren’t quite right” then you’ll constantly be taking one step forwards and one step back again.
  1. Listen to your body but BE HONEST! Don’t look for the first excuse to skip a session.
  2. If a joint hurts – stop! 
  3. If you’re injured – that’s not the end! Find a way to work around it. Use alternative equipment, try using cable machines, incorporate more cardio work, get creative!
  4. Focus on other areas: cardio, mobility, isolation work. Just keep active!
  5. Be patient! Don’t rush recovery! I’ve tried it before and regretted it every time!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter(@MichaelD_PT)

Saturday, 12 November 2016

15 Things You Can Do With a Kettlebell

Any of my clients and former clients will confirm that I always tend to incorporate some form of kettlebell work into most sessions.


  1. There are some exercises which are only suitable for kettlebells
  2. Kettlebell variations of traditional gym exercises often add an element of skill to a workout
  3. Some kettlebell exercises and flows can allow your body to move freely unlike many traditional gym exercises

I have my own kettlebells at home and I am one of “those types” that enjoys spending my free time in the garden throwing them around and moving around through a variety of movements. I love kettlebells... there... I said it!

Here are 15 exercises that have helped me fall in love with kettlebells.

NOTE: If you’ve never had any in-person guidance with kettlebells then PLEASE do so. Do NOT use images in magazines (and blogs like this) as enough guidance.

2) Kettlebell Goblet Squats -

3) Double Kettlebell Push Press -

6) Kettlebell Clean and Press -

7) Single Kettlebell Front Squat -

8) Kettlebell Reverse Lunge -

9) Kettlebell Sumo Squat and High Pull -

10) Kettlebell Windmill -

14) Kettlebell Suitcase Deadlift -

Or.. one of my favourite things to do (especially if you're short on time or doing a quick home workout) is a Kettlebell flow / complex like this: 
Click Here

They’re fun, different and challenging. If you DON’T use kettlebells on a weekly basis then you’re missing out!

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@MichaelD_PT) and YouTube

Thursday, 27 October 2016

FUN!.. Yet Cardio? F.Y.C

"But I hate cardio!" Said almost everyone at some point.

It's because these people are probably thinking specifically: "I hate the idea of jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes with nothing else to look at but the mirror in front of me."

Well if that's the only cardiovascular work you do then no wonder you hate it! If you want to have some fun with cardio why not try some of these options below?

Idea 1: Break down your distance into high intensity intervals. Instead of rowing 2,000m or 3,000m why not set up to row 250m, rest for 30 secs and repeat 10 times. A tough, more engaging and high intensity 2,500m.

Idea 2: Row for repetitions. Perform 10-15 strong strokes, jump off the rowing machine and perform a compound movement such as 10 kettlebell swings or 10 dumbbell thrusters. Jump back on to the rowing machine and repeat. Keep going until your total distance reaches 2,000m. The harder you pull, the less rounds you need to do.

Idea 3: Row for calories. Set the monitor to read calories rowed. Row until you achieve 1 calorie. Reset the monitor, count to 5 and repeat for 2 calories. Reset, count to 5 and row for 3 calories etc. Keep going finishing on 10 or more calories.

Idea 1: Deadmills / manual sprints / skill mills. This is much more challenging and interesting way to use a treadmill. Even better: it's quick! Below is a "how to" video for deadmills. Why not try getting the treadmill up to top speed, sprint for a count of 5 then jumping to stand on the sides. Rest until the treadmill belt stops moving. Jump back on and repeat. Try this 5-10 times.
Deadmills: HOW TO 

Idea 2: Hill running intervals. Run for 15 secs, rest for 45 secs. Start on incline 5% and increase the incline by 1% each interval. Repeat for 10-15 mins or until you can't complete the 15 secs.

Idea 3: Get off your feet and use your hands. Try some treadmill crawls like these: Treadmill Agility Work

Idea 1: Hills, Sprints, Rest, Repeat. Start with a heavy resistance to replicate a hill climb. Pedal standing out of the seat, against a slow, heavy resistance. Then reduce the resistance and pedal quickly for a 30 second sprint, then pedal very slowly for 30 seconds of recovery. Repeat for 10-15 rounds.

Idea 2: Spin and pump. Rest 2 x dumbells on the bike handlebars. Pedal quickly for 30 seconds, then, while keeping th epedals moving slowly, take the dumbells and perform 10 x dumbbell curls or 10 x shoulder presses. When the next minute comes around, repeat this until you have done 10 x 30 sec sprints, 50 x dumbbell curls and 50 x dumbbell shoulder presses.

Idea 3: Add in some powerful bursts. Break up a 15 minute bike session by throwing in some sprint intervals. Try sprinting with maximum effort between 25-30 secs of each minute and again from 55- the end of each minute. ie: 2 x 5 sec sprints per minute.

If you'd like some more ideas on creating fun and interesting training sessions have a look here: Workout Ideas 

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter - @ MichaelD_PT

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

What motivates you to exercise? Why do you go to the gym?

I've recently returned from a relaxing holiday in Thailand. The hotel was fairly remote and not particularly near to anything.

When the issue of "exercising on holiday" came up myself and my girlfriend had very different feelings about it (I won't go into it!).

It made me begin to think: "What motivates people?"

Over the years I've had an array of clients each with differing needs, experience, abilities and levels of self-motivation. By training an array of people I've developed skills in identifying different characteristics to help me keep people engaged with their sessions and help to motivate them.

But you can't always have someone guiding you through every step; so, it's important for you to understand what motivates you so that you can tap in to this and develop a decent and sustainable gym routine and workout intensity.

"I feel good afterwards"
This is me (mostly). Myself and the majority of people I train are aware of their body, emotions and energy enough to acknowledge the positive impact that exercise has on these areas of their lives. If you can tap into this emotion it can be a real help on those days when you miserable or tired or feeling uninspired.
If you don't know what I'm talking about then take time to consider the difference in your energy levels and mood on days when you do and don't exercise. How you feel before and after a session.

"I enjoy it"
Some people really enjoy themselves DURING their gym sessions. They like to feel challenged, they like to learn new skills and they see the gym as a playground. Don't worry if this isn't you; these people are a minority.

"I've always been active"
Some people can't manage being inactive. Don't get me wrong, I like to be a sofa slob some days as much as the next person but, if I'm still for a long period I get the fidgets. For this group of people it doesn't even need to always be structured exercise in order to satisfy their needs; just moving around and not sitting can be enough.

"I like the way it makes me look"
These people can remember their "before" stage and like the results that their efforts have created. If you fall into this bracket then it's essential that you don't allow progress to stall as your motivation will begin to waiver.

"I'll get fat" / "I'll get small"
This fear is probably the most useful trait to have. If you're genuinely worried about the impact of NOT exercising then, you'll probably develop a very consistent exercise regime. Just be sure that you're spending your time wisely and not over-doing it for your body. Many people with this mindset won't have the education to get the results they desire so they'll just do loads of exercise; some suitable for their goals, some less so. Train smarter - not harder!

"I do it because I have to"
If going to the gym is like community service to you then you have a long and testing relationship with exercise ahead. You need to find your passion and find something to float your boat. There will be something, you just need to look hard enough. Maybe it's a style of training (strength training, circuit training, Olympic lifting), or group exercise style (bootcamps, spinning, boxing), maybe a new sport or maybe some new equipment that you've not done much with (kettlebells, clubbells, TRX).
If you still can't find your addiction then try this article:

"I train with one goal in mind"
Some people can only train with specific goals and challenges in mind. Perhaps it's something they can measure in the gym: a bigger deadlift, a quicker 10k run, mastering skipping. Perhaps it's with their physique: dropping body fat percentage, fitting into old clothes. Perhaps it's lifestyle based: being able to play football with their children. Perhaps it's a fitness challenge: running a marathon, finishing a "Tough Mudder" event. This is a great way to stay engaged as your can alter your goals and training at regular intervals. Just be sure that you always have the next challenge in mind as these people are very susceptible to a moral crash once the events are finished. With that down goes the training, up goes the poor food, down goes the happiness and feelings about themselves as up goes the weight.

"I have an event coming up"
This is predominantly a scenario as the summer months approach or perhaps a wedding. Any time that you're going to be on show basically. The problem for this set of people is that more often than not, there will only be one summer holiday per year, one time that you're forced to wear less clothing and reveal your body in front of others, one short period where you're made aware of just how unhappy you are with your physique. So what do you do the rest of the year? Rather than putting stress on yourself 4 weeks before holiday, try to starve yourself and ultimately, end up stressed, anxious and unhappy with your appearance on holiday, why not "stay ready"? Remember the last time that you felt those horrible feelings of being conscious of your body. Next time you think about not training with intensity or not training at all call back these emotions.

What now?..
Whatever your motivation, it's important to acknowledge it and understand how to tap into it in your times of need.

Don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@MichaelD_PT)