7 Exercise Myths Busted!

We have a lot of ideas about exercise. What it is, and what it isn’t. Often these ideas have come from our past experiences and even the experiences of others, but because of the way our brains work we seldom question whether these experiences offer conclusive evidence, or even if they are still relevant to our current situation. They are simply integrated into our beliefs and our being.

Let me give you an example. If you went to see your doctor about having an operation, would you prefer that recommendation was based on 10 years of scientific research or on conversations she’d had with friends and family?

If your last experience of “exercise” was 90s Step classes, 80s Keep fit videos or even P.E. at school, then you need to know that the world of fitness has moved on. Yes there are still gym-bunnies and Personal Trainers who want to push you “to the max”, but they are following a model of fitness mostly tailored to young men (or middle-aged men who wish they were young men).

I am championing a fresh approach to fitness and “exercise” based on recent research. It focuses on an active lifestyle rather than just a training plan. It allows for all different kinds of body movement and body types, and most excitingly for me, it places the emphasis on mental wellbeing and how people feel – not looks or performance numbers.

I’m calling it ‘Active Wellbeing’.

It’s time to take back the benefits of body movement and I’ll start by busting 7 common exercise myths.

  1. Exercise is hard work

No. Exercise can be hard work but that completely depends on what you’re doing and how much effort you want to put in. Government recommendations are based on 150 minutes per week of ‘moderate’ activity. This means getting slightly out of breath. A fast walk or slow jog will do it for most people, and there’s lots of other options if they don’t sound like fun.

2. You need to lose weight before starting to exercise

No, not quite true either. Above a certain weight we do need to be a bit more careful as carrying extra weight can increase injury risk, but there are two good ways to address this. One is by choosing low impact activities in the beginning and the other is by building strength which can better support the weight. There is always some kind of movement that we could be doing. The confusion often comes in when we start dismissing movement as ‘not proper’ exercise. If weight loss is a goal then you need to know that being active improves body confidence and increases adherence to healthy eating, so you could actually argue that you need to start “exercising” before losing weight.

3. Life is too busy to fit exercise in

This is a very popular myth, and we are all too accepting when people offer this as a reason for not taking action. Life is certainly busy. There is no doubt about it. But this is actually a reason for increasing exercise, or at least increasing the amount of physical activity we blend into life. When we increase our physical activity levels we improve our sleep, we improve our eating habits and we reduce our stress levels. All of this combines to make us more energised, refreshed and effective in our life and our work. When you feel more energised you can get more done in less time, and with less effort. It can be hard taking the first step, but we can begin with very small steps.

4. Only “exercise-type” of people can enjoy fitness

There is a persistent myth of the “exercise-type” of person. By this I presume people are referring to those people the see as physically active: marathon runners, long distance walkers, Olympic athletes etc. These are highly visible and often elite athletes, but they don’t possess special physical-activity-enjoyment abilities. What they possess is an ability to give something a try, build up their confidence and recover from set-backs. This is something anyone can achieve (the confidence – not the Olympics!). If you have never exercised in a confidence-building environment, it is not surprising if you don’t enjoy exercise, but it doesn’t mean you’re the wrong type of person, it just means you haven’t been given the right, supportive environment to try out an activity you enjoy.

5. Now is not a good time

Similar to ‘Life is too Busy’ comes the classic ‘Now is not a good time’. One of the best things I see about getting more active is that it doesn’t take long to get results. Yes, it can take 6-8 weeks to see the physical benefits of exercise, but if you go for a walk today, you will feel mental wellbeing benefits today. I’ve yet to come across a day or situation that wouldn’t benefit from a 10 minute walk, some fresh air and a clearer head. I’ve never heard anyone say “I had it all under control until I took that 10 minute walk and it ruined everything!” I’m just going to leave that there.

6. Everyone will look at me

I was once really sad to hear of a lady who really loved swimming but wouldn’t go because she didn’t want people to see her walking from the changing room to the pool. The saddest thing about the story was I realised lots of women feel the same way, and it’s not just swimming either. Some women won’t exercise in public because people will see. Some women don’t even want to exercise at home because the family will see. There is a worry that everyone will be watching, but you know, they won’t. Yes some people might see you, but they are more interested in themselves than whatever it is you’re up to. I completely appreciate the self-consciousness that can come with larger body size in particular, but these are your thoughts. In reality you have no idea what other people are thinking. You are guessing based on what you are thinking. I happen to know that most people seeing someone exercise feels inspired to do the same or happy for that person who’s giving it a go.

It’s not that everyone is looking at you. It’s that you are looking at you. And if you look closely enough, you’ll see a person being brave enough to give it a go, and inspiring other people.

7. I’m too old to start

One of the most eye-opening moments for me, in my Sport & Exercise Psychology training, was when I saw the evidence for improved wellbeing of active versus inactive people, across different ages. As you would expect it was always better to be active than not, but what was startling was to see a relatively small gain for someone in their 20s turn into a large gain in the 40s and bigger and even bigger gains were made as life progressed. What I realised was the biggest benefits of becoming active were available to those in their 40s, 50s, 60s and up. It really was never too late to start – just more important!

I hope this has given you some useful insight into the world of physical activity. Do let me know if it raises any thoughts or question for you in the comments below, and please do share if you think it will help others.

Stay Well

Diane Brown

Wellbeing Life Coach & Exercise Psychology Coach

http://www.fitbee.co.uk

What Is a Life Coach?

And why are they popping up everywhere?

For many years there has been a steady increase in the number of people setting themselves up as ‘life coaches’. Following the COVID 19 pandemic, I’m fully expecting even more of them to appear. Already you may have begun to notice your social media feeds, and your inbox, filling up with claims from people who seem to have found the solution to living a happy life. Surely they are all a load of con-artists? After all, there is no magic wand for life. Here I explain, what a life coach is, why there are loads about, and some tips for separating the good from the downright dodgy.

When is a coach not a coach?

Answer: When they are a mentor, a counsellor, a therapist, a trainer or a sports coach!

There is a lot of confusion around what a ‘coach’ is (Both in the general public and, unfortunately, the coaching industry itself). Coaching is the process of helping a person find their own solutions to problems, usually through skillful and insightful questioning. As individuals we are the experts on our own lives, but often we have blind spots, fail to see the bigger picture or lose perspective. Working with a skilled coach helps us find our own path forward. This is one of the things I love about it. Someone who is purely ‘coaching’ will never tell you what you should do. At most they may stretch to a suggestion, which you can choose to ignore. This is very different to a ‘mentor’ who is teaching based on their experience, a ‘trainer’ who is teaching you how to do something, or a ‘sports coach’ who is often part mentor, part trainer, and the good ones have some actual coaching thrown in too.

Another area to emphasize is that coaching is about the future and moving forward. Contrast that with counsellors and therapists who are more likely to look to the past, particularly to explore trauma or difficult events. A coach may discuss past events with you, but only for the purpose of context and understanding of where your thinking is now.

What on earth is a ‘life coach’?

So next we have the myriad of different types of coaches: Business Coach, Health Coach, Mindset Coach, Life Coach… These are indicators of the field of work of the coach, and gives you some idea what they specialise in. In reality many coaches blend at least some mentoring into coaching, and as individuals we are attracted to work with people whom we perceive have solved the problems we want to solve – which is actually mentoring. Whilst it’s important to have a coach you feel comfortable with, they don’t actually need experience of your problem if they are truely coaching. Remember you are capable of finding your own solutions, a coach will help you uncover them.

A ‘Life Coach’ will help you resolve issues in life, and a ‘Wellbeing Life Coach’ (that’s me!), will take a perspective of prioritising wellbeing as a foundation for supporting other parts of life.

How do I avoid getting ripped off?

Unfortunately anyone can set themselves up as a life coach as the area is unregulated. You can ask about training, which shows at least a commitment to the profession, and it’s also a good idea to ask a prospective coach why they do what they do. This may help you sniff out those who think they’re going to make easy money, and don’t have your best interests at heart. It’s actually a bit of a myth that coaches are money swindlers, because despite low start-up costs and overheads, most coaches barely make any money at all. It tends to be something people are drawn to because they care (a bit like nurses), rather than a financially astute career choice. Of course there are exceptions, and you should be wary of flash advertising and quick fixes, in the same way you would be in any industry. There’s always some bad apples around.

Why are they popping up everywhere now?

I think there are a couple of reasons for this which I’ve already mentioned. First, it’s an easy business to set up and anyone can do it. This will be attractive to people out of work thinking they have something to offer. They may be very well intentioned. They may even have something useful to offer as a mentor or trainer. But coaching is a learned skill, and if that’s the skill you want to employ then make sure you are checking out credentials.

The other reason I expect to see an influx of life coaches, is that they are incredibly helpful for getting through times of change. The more turbulent the change, the more helpful a coach can be. When we are in crisis is when we are most at risk of losing sight of what’s important. A coach can help us keep perspective and look to move forward. A life coach is also really helpful for forging a new path in life. Whether it a new career, and change in relationship status, or dealing with a health issue, a good life coach helps us work through the difficult decisions, develop new ideas, and keep moving.

In behavioural change science it is well recognised that sudden shocks in life can cause us to re-assess our priorities, and want to make a change for the better. Right now we are experiencing such a life-changing shock on a global scale. It will affect people differently and on different timescales, but it is certain that many people will benefit from support for the change ahead. Of course life coaches are not the only people who can help here, but they are part of the picture, and are stepping up to make their contribution.

Diane Brown is a Wellbeing Life Coach, helping women who want to move forward and thrive in life. Originally trained as a PhD. Chemist, she has since had a 15 year in corporate management, before choosing to re-train and set up her own coaching practice in 2018. Diane holds qualifications in Workplace Coaching, Triathlon Coaching, Wellbeing Life Coaching and Sports & Exercise Psychology (Including Behaviour Change). She lives in Thirsk, North Yorkshire, with her family and treasured garden.

How to stay active with kids at home!

One of the most common barriers to exercise for women is not being able to get time away from children. This has never been more true than now.

During the lockdown of COVID-19. How on earth can you keep exercising with 2 and 3 year olds running round your ankles, your other half trying to work from the kitchen table, or coping as a single Mum without any of the relief of nurseries or relatives having the kids for an afternoon?

Kids love to move!

Whilst it’s not ideal, the great thing about being with kids is they do love to move! You will be surprised at the types of exercise you can do where young kids especially will happily watch or join in: dancing, aerobics, hula-hoop, piggy backs, kids yoga on YouTube.

The traditional approach might see you turning to Joe Wicks (I’ve done far more of his sessions than my 7 year-old!), or (quite understandably) putting them in front of the TV whilst you sneak in a Zoom Yoga class. There are lots of ways to be energetic in your home, with a bit of imagination, planning and open-mindedness about what ‘counts’ as ‘exercise’.

Get outside

Make the most of your outdoor daily exercise time. Maybe you can get some jogging done as the kids go up and down on their scooters. Or you can have ‘races’ with them to the end of the street and back. And let’s not forget skipping. Competitions to see who can get the most jumps without stopping really appeals to a child’s sense of competition and challenge. And it’s much harder than I remember it too!

Blend it into your routine

If that’s not enough. there are also ways to make housework into a fitness routine. Rather than carry out your chores as simple jobs to be done, look where you can inject more movement. Speed walk around the house. Race the kids to see who can put the clothes away the fastest. Go up and down the stairs more times than you really need to, and wiggle your hips to the music when washing up.

Recognise what you’ve acheived

At the end of the day what you do doesn’t really matter, along as you are staying safe and well. that is your most important job. Recognise that you have made that extra effort to take care of yourself and notice how it makes you feel. Then make plans to repeat it the following day, and see if you can do a little more.

Choosing the gym that’s right for you

It’s a common cliche that we all sign up to expensive new gym memberships in January, only for them to become deserted by February. The cynical amongst us might even suggest that gyms are only interested in extracting money from us, and care little for whether or not we achieve our fitness and wellbeing goals. In fact, isn’t it better for them if we fail and then we keep going back to spend more money?

Whilst there’s always unscrupulous money grabbers, in every industry, the truth is that most people choose to work in health and fitness because they love to support and inspire people to live healthier and happier lives. Yes it’s a business, but it’s also a business striving to make a positive impact in the world.

5 Top Tips

So how do you choose a gym that’s really going to support you and dodge the money grabbers. Here are my 5 top tips:

1) Do your research.

Have you thought about what you need from your gym membership? There’s no point signing up because there’s a great looking pool if you never had any intention of going swimming. If you really want to do classes what are their classes like? Is it possible to have a taster or trial? It sounds obvious but sophisticated marketing at this time of year can often lead us to rush a decision before we’ve really done out homework.

2) If you wouldn’t pay full price then don’t buy at discount.

I think this is important because you need to make a judgement whether this place is really value for money. If you know you’d be prepared to pay top prices then you are genuinely getting a bargain. If you are only buying because “it’s cheap at the moment” then maybe your hearts not really in it.

3) Talk to the staff.

It’s the people that really make the place. Don’t be fobbed off with sales office people on a mission to lure you in. You want to talk to the reception staff and fitness instructers and decide for yourself if they come across as friendly, welcoming and supportive. Trust me, you’re going to need those positive vibes when you’re trying to motivate yourself out the door on a cold wet day.

4) Consider different gym types

There can be huge differences between different gyms and there really is no one size fits all. I know some people who love the budget style gyms, and it works well for them because they are self motivating and are just paying for what they need – the basics. Others prefer more of a luxury spa feel.

For example, I recently visited Supersonic Fitness, a boutique gym in the centre of York, and I was blown away by how much they broke the mold of the traditional chain gyms that I was used to. Before my visit some people commented that it was expensive. The reasons why became apparent as I took my tour and interrogated one of their lovely fitness instructors. With membership capped at much lower levels then traditional gyms, the Supersonic instructors are really able to focus on individual service and attention for their members. There is a real family vibe between the staff. And the relaxation suite with both infra-red and thermal saunas is a little piece of luxury after a long work out.

Supersonic have taken the deliberate decision to focus more holistically on both fitness and wellbeing, and this commitment was certainly backed up by the delicious, nutritious food offered by their cafe. So yes, it is a bit more expensive, but if they fit your needs, and you can afford it, then it could be perfect.

5) Location, Location, Location

Even if you find the greatest gym which fits your needs and your wallet, it isn’t going to work for you if you have to do a 2 hour round trip to make it there. Great locations are: close to work, on your commuting route, or close to home. The last one being especially useful if you want to use it on your days off.

Think about when you most want to use the gym and how traveling there will fit into your day. Many people prefer to go to the gym straight before, or straight after work. Having to to go home first, and then motivate yourself to get out again can be a big challenge, so a gym you can use before or after work takes one more obstacle out of your way. Another good routine is to go to the gym just before shopping. You can then use the inspiration from your workout to help you stick to healthier choices in the supermarket.

When you think you’ve found a gym in a great location, try a travel trial run on the days you think you will use it. It may be that you visit at the weekend, but getting there in the week at rush hour takes 4 times longer. This is something you’ll want to find out before paying up.

So gyms do tend to get a bad rap, but if you can find one that works for you then absolutely go for it. When you find a good fit, a gym can be a great source of support and inspiration, and a little me time space away from the wild outdoor weather. Don’t be put of by the cliches and the cynics. Only you know what is right for you

Dr Diane Brown is a Fitness & Wellbeing Coach, qualified in Sport & Exercise Psychology, Wellbeing Life Coaching and Triathlon Coaching. She has overcome her own health challenges to successfully complete an Ultramarathon (2018) and Ironman UK (2011). Diane’s current mission is to help as many women as possible to create active lifestyles, gain greater wellbeing and enjoy a better quality of life.