Returning to training after lock-down: How to deal with strength loss

When the gym’s closed in March people were given an ultimatum; continue training at home and make the most of what you’ve got, or have a break from training all together. Even though me and my clients took option 1, I do not judge anyone for taking a break from training, as these few months have been difficult and everyone’s circumstances are different. However, now the gym’s have reopened and things are getting back to normal, now is the time that people are realising how hard it is to get back into a normal training regime. In this mini blog series I will be providing help and advice on the main struggles people may be experiencing post lock-down, in respect to returning to training.

The gyms have reopened and you are really excited and ready to get back to some serious training after 4 months off. You turn up for your first session feeling pumped, but after the first exercise you feel like you’ve ran a marathon: This scenario will be all too common.

Many peoples reaction to the gym reopening.

If you were a regular gym goer before March, you do not have to start from scratch when going back to the gym. However you have to go to the gym with a plan which is designed to ease you back into training, and will allow for strength and fitness losses. For example, if you were focusing on achieving a new personal best on deadlifts before March, but since then you have either not trained at all or only been using light weights, you would not go straight back into deadlifting heavy in your first programme. Instead why not take the time to enjoy a different deadlift variation (e.g. a rack pull), so instead of feeling deflated because you can’t do your PB, you feel motivated and energised by a new exercise which will in turn build your deadlift strength back up.

If you do want to include the 3 big lifts in your first programme but you have not performed them since March that is fine! However, be prepared to build the weight back up gradually. If a female that was squatting 80kg before lock-down, but since then has been only squatting their body-weight, it shouldn’t be expected that she can lift 80kg in her first few sessions. If she puts squats in her returning to gym programme then she should expect to regain the 80kg squat after a period of slowly building the weight back up from a manageable start point.

If you are someone that cannot deal with feeling weak on exercises that you used to be really strong at, then I wouldn’t advise doing those exercises until you feel comfortable and happy in the gym again. It may feel like going backwards, as you have had all this time off training so why not dive in head first. But practice self restraint and understand that it may be good for your mental health to avoid placing pressure on yourself to be as strong as you were before. By trying new exercises that you haven’t done before may help you to re-find your love for training and feel strong whilst your doing so, which in turn will boost motivation and general adherence.

My main advice for how to deal with strength loss post lock-down is just to try not to put yourself into situations where you feel pressure to do a certain exercise or lift a certain weight. If you feel like you want to go full throttle in the gym straight away, and you can handle it then go for it! But on the other hand there is nothing wrong with doing an ‘easier’ programme or opting for lighter weights until you feel confident enough to go back to your old style of training.

I would love to know how everyone is getting on with training now that the gyms have reopened! Let me know how you are, by dropping me a message on Instagram @aliciaburkecoaching or email aliciaburkecoaching@gmail.com

Lock-down results. Pt 6.

It brings me a lot of pride and gratification to publish this blog series, reviewing the results and achievements that my clients made during one of the most turbulent times of our lives. It goes to show that you do not need fancy equipment or lots of space to create results, but instead need determination, a hard working attitude, and an open mind. Well done to everyone that has not let this pandemic affect their attitude towards training, and managed to better themselves through this.

Since the gym’s closed lots of people had to resort to body-weight training or using little equipment. This felt alien to a lot of people, including my clients that were used to heavy strength and resistance training. We no longer had a squat rack to perform heavy squats, or no platform to dead lift on. I have some equipment at home but that made no difference when lock down forced us to train from our individual living rooms, and the most that some people had was a single resistance band. This meant that I had to design programmes and workouts that provided enough stimulus for muscle gain and fat loss, but using very little equipment. Even I knew that this would be a challenge to achieve the same results training at home by themselves, using light equipment compared to being in the gym, but honestly the results speak for themselves!

I thought about including all of my clients in this one post, but I do not think that would do them justice for each of their individual achievements and results. So I will write one post for each client that totally smashed this lock-down and did not let that stop them from reaching their goals.

Nadia

Nadia only started training with me 2-3 months ago during lock-down, so we had no prior experience of being in the gym. However she has had a personal trainer in a gym before, and decided that she would like to re-start personal training but in a different environment. Since working together she has made some incredible progress and we have lots of fun in the sessions, so I am really glad that she chose to come to me during these crazy times!

Nadia’s top achievements:

She has found the time to train even though her work life is crazy!

I’d say Nadia has one of the most high pressure/ demanding job’s out of everyone, but she has never missed a session. One of her biggest reasons for having a pt is because if I was not there to meet her for training, she just wouldn’t find the time to do it. There has been times that she has had to answer the phone to work during a session, or she has had the session at 7pm and then gone back to work straight after even though she should be finished. This commitment to training and staying fit deserves so much respect, because all to many times people say that they can’t find the time to train, or work has been too stressful… but Nadia never does.

She has already made amazing changes to her physique

The left photo is when she first started in May, and the right is from July. Nadia was not a beginner when she came to me so it is harder for someone who is used to training to achieve fast results because the body has already adapted to training. However as you can see she has lost fat from around her waist, tummy, arms and legs. And her glutes, wow! The shape and tone of her body is hopefully something she is very proud of, as her goal was to create a firm and toned physique… which she is definitely doing!

Well done Nadia for doing so amazing, I hope the results keep coming! Here’s some words from the lady herself.


“Due to my workload, it has always been hard to make the time to train and look after myself. I used to push myself to go to the gym at least 3 times a week. Unfortunately, this completely changed after we went into the lockdown. From training and walking everyday at 10,000 steps to just be sat at my desk and spending long hours in front of my laptop. I found myself in mood everyday all week along and the only thing made me feel a bit better was eating but then, I felt guilty and I punished myself for not being good on my nutrition. Suddenly, I just realised something was wrong and it was I passed from training quite often to not exercising myself at all. Alicia helped me to be back to my exercise routine, my healthy nutrition habits, feel more confident with my body and be a little bit less stressed and a little bit happier. “

Lock-down results. Pt 5.

It brings me a lot of pride and gratification to publish this blog series, reviewing the results and achievements that my clients made during one of the most turbulent times of our lives. It goes to show that you do not need fancy equipment or lots of space to create results, but instead need determination, a hard working attitude, and an open mind. Well done to everyone that has not let this pandemic affect their attitude towards training, and managed to better themselves through this.

Since the gym’s closed lots of people had to resort to body-weight training or using little equipment. This felt alien to a lot of people, including my clients that were used to heavy strength and resistance training. We no longer had a squat rack to perform heavy squats, or no platform to dead lift on. I have some equipment at home but that made no difference when lock down forced us to train from our individual living rooms, and the most that some people had was a single resistance band. This meant that I had to design programmes and workouts that provided enough stimulus for muscle gain and fat loss, but using very little equipment. Even I knew that this would be a challenge to achieve the same results training at home by themselves, using light equipment compared to being in the gym, but honestly the results speak for themselves!

I thought about including all of my clients in this one post, but I do not think that would do them justice for each of their individual achievements and results. So I will write one post for each client that totally smashed this lock-down and did not let that stop them from reaching their goals.

Catherine

Catherine has been training with me for just under 2 years now, and she is almost like a new person compared to when she joined the gym. Her initial reasons for coming to me was to solely lose weight, as she had a history of losing and regaining weight through diets like slimming world etc. And after getting to know her it was clear how low her self confidence was, which made it all the more impressive that she had followed through with joining the gym.

She had no experience whatsoever with training, so I was able to design her programme like a blank canvas. With no pre-conceptions of weight lifting or strength training she didn’t know what to expect, but she actually enjoyed it! In the first 6 months of training Catherine was training exclusively with me, but after then she used the confidence and knowledge that she had gained, and started coming into the gym on her own! Since then she has continued to make great progress both in her physique and her confidence.

However when the gyms closed it took us all by surprise, and I had to come up with a plan with each client individually. I suggested that we did all of our sessions via Skype until we could meet again face to face, to which Catherine agreed to straight away. However there were many hurdles to this method that we had to overcome, which I will discuss below.

Catherine’s top achievements

She obliterated the people that say they don’t have enough space to train:

With Catherine she had literally no equipment and was very limited on space, but she never let this affect her. I put certain things in her programme such as squat jumps, that we had to change because her dad was working from home and she was jumping above his room. She managed to get her hands on some resistance bands which came in handy. But often the sessions were body-weight high intensity exercises, which were not what she was used to in the slightest. In the time we have worked together the main focus had been on strength training. So to go from lifting weights for the full hour and seeing me in person, to doing body-weight exercises for the full hour whilst I am demonstrating on a screen, it would be enough to make anyone quit, but not Catherine.

She is actually training more now!

In the gym she would aim to come in for her session with me, and then 1 or 2 additional sessions on her own each week. However in the few months leading up to lock-down she was finding it hard to come into the gym on her own. But when I changed the sessions to being able to do them all at home, she would do 1 session with me and then consistently each week complete the other 2 sessions on her own. This was because she felt more comfortable in her own home training, and didn’t feel the pressure of the gym environment or have to take time to travel anywhere. So this actually went to show me that some people like Catherine, have thrived from the gym being closed. In the past month or so she has also nabbed an exercise bike and started cycling to replace her daily walk to work!

No matter the stress, she has never given up.

Like a lot of people Catherine was asked to work from home, and since she worked in IT this meant that she would be sat in her bedroom all day staring at a screen. Which was not good for her poor back or wrists, and they started causing her a lot of strain. She was also doing extra hours to make up for those that were furloughed, and just generally felt very stressed from work. This, coupled with stress that was going on with the family, and health, would be enough to push someone into taking a break from training… but she didn’t let it stop her.

Well done for these and all the amazing achievements you have made these past few years Catherine. Keep working hard and achieving your goals!

Here are some words from the lady herself:

When the gyms closed I didn’t know how I felt as for a while I was only doing 1 or 2 sessions in the gym instead of 3. I had just got back into doing 2 or 3 a few weeks before the gym closed. Working out from home was a challenge between the connection not being the best over the Skype sessions, not having much space to work with and several of us in the household working from home. I also found that i missed the walk I did to work and back and that it had an impact on me whilst in lockdown so i chose to use the exercise bike my brother no longer used to replace the walk I used to do. I now incorporate this through the week and do 2 or 3 30 min sessions as well as one home workout on my own and one with Alicia. I have found that I enjoy doing the workouts at home much better than going to the gym.

Lock-down results. pt 4.

It brings me a lot of pride and gratification to publish this blog series, reviewing the results and achievements that my clients made during one of the most turbulent times of our lives. It goes to show that you do not need fancy equipment or lots of space to create results, but instead need determination, a hard working attitude, and an open mind. Well done to everyone that has not let this pandemic affect their attitude towards training, and managed to better themselves through this.

Since the gym’s closed lots of people had to resort to body-weight training or using little equipment. This felt alien to a lot of people, including my clients that were used to heavy strength and resistance training. We no longer had a squat rack to perform heavy squats, or no platform to dead lift on. I have some equipment at home but that made no difference when lock down forced us to train from our individual living rooms, and the most that some people had was a single resistance band. This meant that I had to design programmes and workouts that provided enough stimulus for muscle gain and fat loss, but using very little equipment. Even I knew that this would be a challenge to achieve the same results training at home by themselves, using light equipment compared to being in the gym, but honestly the results speak for themselves!

I thought about including all of my clients in this one post, but I do not think that would do them justice for each of their individual achievements and results. So I will write one post for each client that totally smashed this lock-down and did not let that stop them from reaching their goals.

Jess

Jess only started training with me 2 months ago, so we were already in lock-down by that point. She actually decided to start personal training because she felt like being confined to the house magnified her poor lifestyle choices, and she wanted to become more active. She had never been in a gym before, so them being closed made no difference to her, and we decided to do her sessions in her local park. Because Jess had never done strength training before I created her entire programme to be body-weight, so that it could be done anywhere, and she wouldn’t feel intimidated by weights. Fast forward 2 months now and she has absolutely smashed her training and I am able to challenge her more and more each session. She now is not afraid to lift weights and put her all into the exercises.

Jess’ top 3 achievements:

She is absolutely smashing her weight loss goal. She has lost inches on her waist, hips, arms and legs. Whilst also showing impressive muscular definition in her legs and arms! She is quite a fussy eater and was also addicted to red bull energy drinks when she first started training, so we worked together to get the red bull consumption down and introduce a wider variety of foods into her diet, without anything being too drastic or strict.

She has never missed a session even when the weather has been absolutely brutal! With doing the sessions in the park, there is no cover from the rain. Which means that on multiple occasions we have both been completely soaked. However Jess doesn’t let the rain stop her from pushing herself in the sessions, and isn’t afraid of getting muddy whilst exercising on the ground.

(I had to use a random picture of someone running, because why would I ever take a picture of Jess whilst she’s running ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ).

One of Jess’ main goals when she came to me, was to be able to jog for at least 2 minutes without stopping. She had never been a runner before but she knew that it was something she struggled with, and admitted she would get out of breath after 10 seconds of running. But now after 3 sessions a week with me: 1 hour of strength work, 1 hour of running & technique, 1 hour of strength and HIIT; she is able to run around the whole of the park without any breaks. This was built up over time by doing small sections of the park each time, and gradually making the run longer. So now she can run non stop for 5 minutes at a time, blowing her goal of 2 minutes out of the water!

Well done for these and all of the other amazing achievements Jess! Here are some words from the lady herself. x

I decided to start training during lockdown as I felt my bad habits could get very out of control with being stuck in the house all day. Before I started training I really struggled with motivation and knowing what exercises to even do. My training plan has been very varied and I can feel my body improving week after week. Training with Alicia is always fun and an amazing start to my day!

Lock-down results. Pt 3.

It brings me a lot of pride and gratification to publish this blog series, reviewing the results and achievements that my clients made during one of the most turbulent times of our lives. It goes to show that you do not need fancy equipment or lots of space to create results, but instead need determination, a hard working attitude, and an open mind. Well done to everyone that has not let this pandemic affect their attitude towards training, and managed to better themselves through this.

Since the gym’s closed lots of people had to resort to body-weight training or using little equipment. This felt alien to a lot of people, including my clients that were used to heavy strength and resistance training. We no longer had a squat rack to perform heavy squats, or no platform to dead lift on. I have some equipment at home but that made no difference when lock down forced us to train from our individual living rooms, and the most that some people had was a single resistance band. This meant that I had to design programmes and workouts that provided enough stimulus for muscle gain and fat loss, but using very little equipment. Even I knew that this would be a challenge to achieve the same results training at home by themselves, using light equipment compared to being in the gym, but honestly the results speak for themselves!

I thought about including all of my clients in this one post, but I do not think that would do them justice for each of their individual achievements and results. So I will write one post for each client that totally smashed this lock-down and did not let that stop them from reaching their goals.

Ella

Ella has been personal training with me for just over a year now, but has been doing my camps and group sessions for a while before that. She does partner PT sessions with Annabelle, and they make an amazing pair. They bounce off each other in both energy and banter, and I enjoy training them very much! But when lock-down was imposed on us they had to do their sessions separate at home, without being able to properly chat or ability to laugh at each other if one fell over. Which was a different dynamic in the sessions, and that is something I think we picked up on straight away. It is not as if we couldn’t chat at all during the sessions, but when you are used to seeing someone in person and having a bit of a goof around, talking on a screen, one person at a time is not the same. So we were really happy when the rules lifted enough to do the sessions in my garden.

Ella’s confidence in the gym has grown massively in the past few years of training, so much so that she wouldn’t think twice about going to the gym to do one of our weightlifting sessions on her own. I don’t have any worries about Ella quitting the gym because she has shown that much dedication and motivation to train, and if she ever has to miss a session she is not happy. But one thing for Ella is that she does not see how far she has come both physically and mentally. As a big motivation for her to train is so that she does not put weight back on. From my perspective this is a complete normal worry, because if you stop being physically active of course you might regain weight, but Ella doesn’t actually see how much she has lost over the years, and know that it would take missing more than one training session to put it back on. So of course when the gym closed it made Ella worry that she was going to lose all the results that she worked so hard for. But in fact, the results that she has achieved during lock-down have amazed both of us!

Ella’s top achievements

She has done the opposite of putting weight on!!

Ella doesn’t weigh herself, as we just go on the way she looks and how her clothes fit to know that she has lost fat. I can’t get over her abs on the most recent photo (right), and her arms and legs, even though not clear in these photos are much more defined and strong. Again going to show the results you can achieve using only a 12kg kettlebell and a band.

She has the best mental attitude to life and training! Thinking about it, apart from when an exercise is really tough and she has a little moan (like we all do), I never hear Ella moaning about anything! She is always laughing and cheering other people up, and I have never seen her without a smile on her face. Even when she was stuck at home on furlough, being bored and stressed, she never let it get to her and always turned up to the sessions happy. I think that staying positive during these horrible times is one of the biggest achievements of them all!

Not going to lie, I typed eating treats into google images and then ended up laughing at funny pictures of dogs catching treats for 30 minutes, haha! If you want cheering up, google funny dogs catching treats, its amazing :D.

Anyway… back to the topic. Ella has a great relationship to food. She understands that when you eat ‘healthy’ you will lose weight, but you have to find a balance that works well for you. So that means that she eats healthy through the week mostly (eating fruit and veggies, hitting protein goals and cooking fresh), and then if she wants a treat like a dominoes, or a pick n mix, she can eat it GUILT FREE. It is harder to be able to find a balance of eating foods that you are told are bad for you, and not feel the guilt, then it is to just cut out everything all together. But I try to tell everyone that you should still be able to enjoy the foods you want even when you have a fat loss goal. As Ella has become more confident in her training and the way she looks, she has shown to feel less guilty about enjoying the foods she wants.

Well done for these achievements and all the amazing things you have achieved Ella, I hope it continues! Here are some words from the lady herself.

I was really nervous when the gyms closed, after working hard with Alicia for so long I was worried that my progress would be all undone. So I was so happy when we were able to continue the sessions over Skype, Alicia made it really easy to carry on adapting the workouts with minimal equipment. In such an uncertain time it also gave me something to look forward to being able to catch up with Alicia and the other ladies on the group sessions! I would have been happy going out of lockdown as I went in I just didn’t want to go backwards and gain any weight but the fact I have actually made more progress is amazing!!

Lock-down results. Pt 2.

It brings me a lot of pride and gratification to publish this blog series, reviewing the results and achievements that my clients made during one of the most turbulent times of our lives. It goes to show that you do not need fancy equipment or lots of space to create results, but instead need determination, a hard working attitude, and an open mind. Well done to everyone that has not let this pandemic affect their attitude towards training, and managed to better themselves through this.

Since the gym’s closed lots of people had to resort to body-weight training or using little equipment. This felt alien to a lot of people, including my clients that were used to heavy strength and resistance training. We no longer had a squat rack to perform heavy squats, or no platform to dead lift on. I have some equipment at home but that made no difference when lock down forced us to train from our individual living rooms, and the most that some people had was a single resistance band. This meant that I had to design programmes and workouts that provided enough stimulus for muscle gain and fat loss, but using very little equipment. Even I knew that this would be a challenge to achieve the same results training at home by themselves, using light equipment compared to being in the gym, but honestly the results speak for themselves!

I thought about including all of my clients in this one post, but I do not think that would do them justice for each of their individual achievements and results. So I will write one post for each client that totally smashed this lock-down and did not let that stop them from reaching their goals.

Annabelle

Annabelle started personal training with me in October 2018, so almost 2 years ago! She will admit herself that she did not join the gym because she loved training, or even enjoyed it, she joined because she wanted to achieve her aesthetic goals. Fast forward these years and I am still sometimes undecided if she enjoys it ;), but she has not quit which says a lot. Her growth both physically and mentally since joining the gym is phenomenal! She has never had time off from the gym; even when her training partner quit without notice, she continued, and during difficult family times, she continued. Achievements like that are not linked to lock-down, but Annabelle’s own determination and persistent attitude.

When the gyms closed Annabelle never questioned any decision I made moving the sessions online, and even admitted that she pushed herself even harder in the sessions. As I said in part 1, as the trainer I felt the pressure to make the sessions hard enough for everyone whilst using little or no equipment, but by the 3rd week of hearing Belle moan about how much every muscle in her body was aching, I knew it has working haha! Even after 2 years of training and adapting to weightlifting, body-weight training provided a new and invigorating way of training, and provided enough stimulus for some amazing progress!

Here are my top 3 things Annabelle has achieved during Lock-down:

She proved that you don’t need a lot of space or equipment to exercise.

Annabelle was limited at home by space and managed to complete every single exercise in a little space in her flat. Even on the hottest of days, she cracked her window open as wide as it would go and still put her all into the workout. At the beginning of lock-down the only piece of gym equipment she owned was an exercise mat. Which meant everything had to be body-weight or for some exercises she used wine bottles for resistance… handy! Then she managed to get hold of some bands and a 5kg weight bag, which was the only equipment she used for over 2 months of training. This goes to prove to everyone that says they do not have enough space at home to exercise, that’s not true. Belle has shown that if you have the right attitude and determination you can train just as well as in a full kitted out gym.

She has continued her progress to her best physique yet!

The left photo was taken a few weeks before lock-down and the right photo is Annabelle’s current physique post lock-down. There is no doubt that she already looks great in the left photo because she has a lovely toned physique, however if you compare the 2 side to side you can see changes like more definition in her arms, her glutes are perkier and her posture is improved. These changes were all made using very little equipment, and after 2 years of intense training which means Annabelles body would not respond as easily as a beginner would. She does not weigh herself as the scales are irrelevant to her goals, however its clear to see from these photos that she has lost a considerable amount of fat.

She has carried on training throughout difficult times during lock-down

This is not something I am going to go into detail with, but I wanted to add it to one of Belles biggest achievements during lock-down. From the outside looking in, she has had one of the hardest times of it during this pandemic, she has a very cute and super close family, and they have had a lot to deal with. And it is wrong to say that it didn’t affect her, as it would anybody, but she never let it stop her from living her life and even though she will of felt like not switching on the laptop to train, she still did. This is something she should be super proud of and shows least how far she has come in her training but more of how strong of a person she is!

Huge well done to Annabelle and thank you for you continuing to work with me for all this time :D. Here are some words from the lady herself.

When the gyms closed, I was so anxious. The gym was my safe place, it had helped me both mentally and physically so not being able to go there was a real struggle for me. But, with the help of Alicia, I have still continued my training. We are still able to do strength sessions which i absolutely love but we’ve been able to try new things and work more on technique and fitness.

Lock-down results. Pt 1.

It brings me a lot of pride and gratification to publish this blog series, reviewing the results and achievements that my clients made during one of the most turbulent times of our lives. It goes to show that you do not need fancy equipment or lots of space to create results, but instead need determination, a hard working attitude, and an open mind. Well done to everyone that has not let this pandemic affect their attitude towards training, and managed to better themselves through this.

Since the gym’s closed lots of people had to resort to body-weight training or using little equipment. This felt alien to a lot of people, including my clients that were used to heavy strength and resistance training. We no longer had a squat rack to perform heavy squats, or no platform to dead lift on. I have some equipment at home but that made no difference when lock down forced us to train from our individual living rooms, and the most that some people had was a single resistance band. This meant that I had to design programmes and workouts that provided enough stimulus for muscle gain and fat loss, but using very little equipment. Even I knew that this would be a challenge to achieve the same results training at home by themselves, using light equipment compared to being in the gym, but honestly the results speak for themselves!

I thought about including all of my clients in this one post, but I do not think that would do them justice for each of their individual achievements and results. So I will write one post for each client that totally smashed this lock-down and did not let that stop them from reaching their goals.

Rachel

Rach started personal training with me in January 2019 after a few months of doing my group sessions, so we have known each other for quite a while now and I knew that the gym closing would hit her hard. She has a real love for the gym and has been a gym member for some years now, so having this taken away definitely felt like a crash to earth. One thing I love about Rach is her brutal honesty, and she didn’t hide the fact that she was not happy training over Skype, but it was something she was willing to do to continue working with me. She is a very visual learner and admits herself that she is not the most co-ordinated, so only being able to see my demonstrations through a screen and me not being able to move her into the correct positions was sometimes challenging, but often provided us with laughs.

So as soon as I was given the okay to be able to train people 1-1 outside we wasted no time training face to face again. Luckily Rach has a decent amount of gym equipment at home such as 10kg kettlebells and adjustable dumbbells, so I was able to be creative with her programming and show her some exercises she’d never done before. As a result she said that she felt like she was working even harder than in the gym, and the muscle soreness was real! I admit I made her programme extra challenging, as I felt like I had to prove that you could still achieve the same results at home. As a PT you cannot rely on fancy gym equipment, you need to be able to think outside of the box, and that is what I was out to achieve myself.

Throughout this whole period Rach never once questioned if she would continue training, even when her job came under review she still prioritised training. It fills me with so much pride that she values our sessions that much that even when faced with a financial loss, she said quitting pt would be the last thing she would do. It is Rach’s attitude and dedication that allows her to achieve great things, and allows me to be the best trainer I can be.

Here are my top 3 things that Rach has achieved during this lock-down:

A glowing body confidence!

She thought that when the gym closed that she would lose her hard earned work, but in truth it showed her the opposite. She sent me this photo when she looked at her stomach and saw that it was flat and she still had abs, but in honesty I saw a great body but also an improved mindset and confidence, which is the most important thing!

She has a great physique and built muscle.

She has been in a calorie surplus the entire duration, had birthday celebrations, and a baby shower, and not gained any weight. Her biceps and legs are 1 inch bigger than in February, which to me only means 1 thing… muscle gain 😀 Plus those glute gains are visible!

She has built her own home gym!

She is a woman after my own heart when it comes to committing to something she goes all in! She went from having a few bits of equipment to building her own home gym so that she is able to deadlift 100kg again, talk about dedication.

A huge well done to Rachel for achieving this and so much more during this crazy period, you should be very proud of yourself!

To finish here are some words from the lady herself which sum up her lockdown training experience:

First week of lockdown with gyms shutting and no work. I ate everything in sight and didn’t train like I use to because my holiday goal had been cancelled.
Second week my stomach hated all the binge eating and I felt tired all the time. So started making the best out of a bad situation! So Alicia sorted my food out and got me back to being more positive an focused! Training at home I just thought I would maintain my weight and I was doing it more for more my mental health at this point. I’m not a fan of Skype training session but they kept me going and I was so happy when Alicia could come round to train me in my garden. I’m a visual learner so it was loads better. My strength was improving each week and I was so happy I could still press 12kg. So when i did my progress pictures i was shocked that i got the same if not better results than being at the gym. Which led to loving my session at home in the garden with Alicia that it’s a permanent thing! Now I’ve built a gym in my garage I no she will get me back to my 100kg deadlifts in no time 😊

Is training outdoors better for mental health vs training in a gym?

Because of the pandemic lots of us had no choice but to train outside rather than in our usual gyms. And even though it’s not a move that many of us would have chosen, it is clear from what I have heard and experienced that training outdoors has a lot of benefits. In this blog I will be discussing the positive effect outdoor training can provide, and comparing it to training in a traditional gym setting.

In March 2020 the gyms were forced to close, leaving many people like me feeling a bit lost. In that first weekend after closure I started training my clients in my garden, but that was soon banned and we had to resort to online training only. This change took a lot of getting used to. For me, I had to be able to coach people using my voice only and be able to describe how they needed to correct themselves, without being able to properly demonstrate or touch them. Which was hard as a lot of my clients are visual learners like me, and it felt alien to both of us. But it soon became the norm and actually my clients said they felt their bodies working more than ever! This was the first learning curve for all of us, as it was clear that my clients could still get awesome results, even without gym equipment.

However, online training did not provide the face to face connection that my group of clients were used to. And it was music to our ears when the ban was lifted to be able to train outside again, first in 1-1’s and now in groups of 6. Outdoor training has all of the same benefits of online training, but with being able to see my clients in person I am able to better assess their technique and intensity and they can see me demonstrate clearly. I have clients that have actually said they would still like to continue their training sessions online, as it is easier for them being able to stay home and not need childcare etc, which makes a lot of sense. (I will be doing another blog shortly about which people online training works well for, as sometimes it has proved to be the best option!)

A comparison of training outdoors versus in the gym:

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, because our body creates it when we a re exposed to sunlight. A large amount of people in the UK are vitamin D deficient as we spend a lot of time indoors. Among the many benefits of vitamin D, is the positive effect it has on mental health. A study found that people who suffered from depression felt an improvement in their symptoms when supplementing with Vitamin D.  JordeM. SneveY. FigenschauJ. SvartbergK. Waterloo. You can only absorb vitamin D when you are outdoors, so training in a gym does not provide this mood enhancing benefit.

Potential for less triggers/ anxiety

A lot of people feel anxious in a traditional gym environment. This could be because they have linked the gym with negative feelings such as; being surrounded by people fitter than themselves, feeling like you are being stared at, looking stupid when you don’t know how to use equipment. These are problems that can be solved with the help of a personal trainer, or just by familiarising yourself over time. However for some people these triggers are enough to stop them coming to the gym all together, which means no more exercise. Instead, this person should train outdoors in an environment that is less busy and does not provide the same triggers. Often training outside involves more body-weight exercises or bands, so there is less risk of being overwhelmed by big machines. Once a person is comfortable with training outside they will more than likely be able to train in a gym setting without feeling uncomfortable, but for many the feeling of training outside provides a less stressful environment.

Cost

The costs associated with training such as gym memberships is cited as one of the main barriers to exercise. You should not feel like you are not able to get fit and healthy just because you cannot afford a gym membership. Training in your garden or local park provides a no obligation, cost effective solution. Also the money that is saved from not paying a gym membership could be spent on buying portable equipment that allows you to train wherever you want. Outdoor training can be done with or without equipment, and it is accessible for everyone.

There are many more benefits of training outdoors, and you can see why outdoor training promotes a positive mental health. However everyone is different. For some people they feel better training in a gym environment and they would not achieve the same level of training without it. For me I love training both outdoors and in the gym, and I do a mixture of both. For a lot of my clients they have found that they prefer training outside rather than in the gym, so that’s what they will continue with. I would say to those reading this wondering which is best… have an open mind and trial both methods for a number of weeks, and see which provides you with the best mental and physical results.

If you have any questions or feedback please contact me aliciaburkecoaching@gmail.com & http://www.aliciaburkecoaching.com

Thanks, ABC x

Should you be spending an hour in the gym?

This article is about training duration. I will be discussing if 60 minutes is an optimal amount of time to spend in the gym. This duration can suit most people, however, lots could benefit from longer or shorter sessions. These are the top reasons why 60 minutes may not work for everyone, and what you can do to use your time in the gym more efficiently.

The training volume does not warrant the duration.


A personal training session typically lasts an hour however, that hour is strategically planned by the trainer to make the most of this time. In one of my sessions, depending on the training method my clients can perform 8-10 main exercises. But I have seen countless amount of times when people are in the gym for an hour and they have completed less than 4 exercises. If the 4 exercises were not of an intensity that called for long periods of rest in between, then the session should not have taken an hour. This person either needs to plan more exercises or train for less time. Even if the person trains for 30 minutes they could still complete the same amount of exercises, which is a more productive use of time.


However, in opposition to this, a session with less exercise volume may also require more than an hour. For example, if someone is training for strength and are executing compound movements such as squats and deadlifts. If they are lifting a heavy weight and focusing on form and technique, they might only get 2 exercises done in the first 60 minutes. This is because the lifting intensity is so high that the lifter needs adequate rest in between. Also when strength training the lifter typically performs less than 5 reps, meaning that more than 3 sets may be required.


So in my first example, the training intensity and volume of exercises did not warrant a 60-minute session, and the lifter should aim for 30 minutes, or increase training volume to have a more productive session. And in my second example, the training volume and intensity was so high that the lifter would need more than an hour to provide enough time to recover in between sets, and a session of 60 minutes would result in a sub-par performance.

You are spending too long on isolation exercises


Unless you are a bodybuilder and have a specific reason to be spending an hour training biceps, you are probably wasting your time. 60 minutes is a long enough duration to be able to train a mixture of compound and isolation movements. Isolation movements are great for building strength in a specific muscle group and creating definition, but doing these for 60 minutes each time your in the gym will just lead to plateaus in strength gains and fat loss. This is because if you are spending all your time building t-shirt muscles (biceps), you may think you look better aesthetically, but you may be causing structural and muscular imbalances that hinder you in the long run. So instead of spending an hour on one muscle group, aim to hit a minimum of 2 muscle groups per session and add in some compound movements.

You are doing High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).


Sometimes it may be applicable to do a 60-minute HIIT session, however you need to be careful of a few things:


That it is a high intensity – It is very physically demanding to work at a high intensity for long periods. And if you feel your energy dipping then you are not at a level to sustain high intensity for an hour.


That you are following a full-body approach – HIIT workouts are usually full-body, as these workouts burn the most calories and reduce localized fatigue. If you are spending 60 minutes doing HIIT then you should focus on multiple muscle groups.


That the training duration’s are correct – Most HIIT workouts involve the use of a timer. This method of training is focused on completing as many reps as possible during each interval. To maintain that high intensity, the duration of each set needs to be set according to the lifters ability. If you are a beginner you will need shorter duration’s so that you can maintain a high intensity throughout e.g. 20 seconds, but the more advanced lifter could be doing rounds of 40 seconds and maintaining a high intensity the whole time. So even with the same amount of exercises, a beginner would not need an hour to train whereas an advanced lifter would.

So there are my top 3 reasons to help you consider if you truly need to spend an hour in the gym. If you can manage to fit your workout efficiently in a 30-minute session then why not try that? And if you find yourself rushing to complete each exercise, then try scheduling a time to train when you can stay longer than an hour. As long as your time spent training in the gym is at an intensity that you are comfortable with and that is providing results, then you are using your time productively.

Happy training! ABC x

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Is my period normal?

This may seem like a silly question. But actually it’s a question that all women should ask themselves. In this article I will be discussing what actually is a ‘normal’ period, the different factors that affect the menstrual cycle, and how to spot that your period is not normal.

NHS England states that, between the ages of 12 and 52, a woman will have around 480 periods, or fewer if she has any pregnancies. The length of the menstrual cycle varies from woman to woman, but the average is to have periods every 28 days. Regular cycles that are longer or shorter than this, from 21 to 40 days, are normal.

So if a girl starts her period at 12 years old and has a period every 21 to 40 days until she is 52, she has had a normal menstrual cycle. How many of you reading this can say that this is you? I can definitely say that I am not normal, and I will be discussing why.

Amenhorrea is the absence of menstruation. Women who have missed at least three menstrual periods in a row have amenorrhea, as do girls who haven’t begun menstruation by age 15. Amenhorrea is problematic as it results in infertility, weakened bones, hair loss, and more. If you think you suffer from amenhorrea you should book an appointment with your doctor to discuss this.

For a number of years I suffered from amenhorrea without even realising it. I started my period about age 13 and suffered from severe PMS (period pains), so at age 16 I had enough and started taking the combined pill. I then had relatively pain free regular periods, or at least I thought so. During my late teens (16-20) I maintained a very low body fat, and excessively trained in dance and at the gym. However, as I was having a period each month I thought I was healthy. It was not until I met my coach in 2017 and she spotted the signs straight away. No doctor had explained to me that my periods were caused by the pill artificially and not by my body releasing hormones. So I decided to come off the pill (that I had been on for 6 years), and what happened… I had no period for over a year. All this time I thought my body was releasing an egg and that I was normal, but I wasn’t. My coach increased my food and I put on some body fat and muscle, and finally I had my first period in 7 years. Also I did not suffer from PMS as bad as my younger days as I was able to manage my symptoms. Since getting my period back in 2018 I have since had scattered months of amenhorrea, caused by competition prep, low body fat and stress, but as I was able to recognise the importance of having a healthy period, it was not long before they came back.

I am 24 years old and I have only had healthy periods for the past 2 years of my life. I have to thank my coach for spotting that I suffered from amenhorrea, and providing me with the support and knowledge to have a healthy period.

Factors that cause amenhorrea.

Contraception.

The pill, the implant, the coil, the injection. All of these contraception methods contain hormones that either stop your period all together or cause an artificial bleed.

Body composition.

The female body is a very smart but fragile system, and can adapt to different circumstances. If the females body fat drops too low the body will not release eggs to be fertilised. This is because the body does not have enough energy reserves to sustain a pregnancy, so a lack of period prevents this from occurring.

Hormonal imbalance.

Such as, Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). PCOS causes relatively high and sustained levels of hormones, rather than the fluctuating levels seen in the normal menstrual cycle. Thyroid malfunction, an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) can cause menstrual irregularities, including amenorrhea.

Excessive exercise. 

Women who participate in activities that require rigorous training, such as ballet, may find their menstrual cycles interrupted. Several factors combine to contribute to the loss of periods in athletes, including low body fat, stress and high energy expenditure.

Stress. 

Mental stress can temporarily alter the functioning of your hypothalamus, which is an area of your brain that controls the hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle. Ovulation and menstruation may stop as a result. Regular menstrual periods usually resume after your stress decreases.

So, after reading that it may now be clear to you if you have a normal period or not. If you have a normal period each month then it is definitely something to be happy about! But if you think your period is abnormal, hopefully this article explains why it is.

Again if you think you may suffer from amenhorrea please contact your doctor, however by eliminating any of the above factors that affect your cycle, you may be able to gain a healthy period all on your own.

I will be doing another blog all about my tips on how to reduce PMS symptoms and probably some more stuff about periods. Please contact me if you have any questions or if there is a topic you would like me to discuss.

Thanks,

Alicia Burke Coaching x

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