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.

Festive Fitness & Winter Wellbeing

Winter must be one of the most challenging times of year for our fitness and wellbeing. A combination of cold, damp weather, a touch of overindulgence and frenetic Christmas preparations can leave many of us feeling wiped out come the New Year.

No wonder then that January is so popular for new year’s resolutions as we attempt to inject some healthfulness back not our worn-out bodies.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. What if we were to approach winter a little more mindfully and give ourselves some self-nurturing during the festive season?

Now before you panic, I’m not suggesting you cancel all your Christmas Parties and go tee total for Christmas (unless you want to), but there are things we can add to our day to support our fitness and wellbeing through these challenging months. Here are my 3 top tips:

A person standing in the snow

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  1. Get Outdoors!

I can’t say this often enough or loud enough, but if you do only one thing to support your wellbeing this winter make it spending time outside in the daylight – even dim daylight! We instinctively know that being outside is good for us, but it’s also scientifically proven to boost your mental wellbeing too. So, whatever you’re doing, try to do at least some of it outside.

  1. 2. Eat your vegetables!

Sounds obvious? Heard it all before? Well there is a good reason for that. The nutrients we put into our bodies make a huge difference to our health, fitness and mental wellbeing. We tend to over-indulge at this time of year which puts a strain on our bodies. Now I don’t want to be a killjoy and tell you to put down the mince pies. I believe healthy eating should focus on including greater nutrition rather than deprivation, so whatever you’re piling on your plate think what else you can add to boost the nutrients your getting. One of my winter veggie favourites is braised red cabbage with apples and pears. What’s yours? If you don’t have one, go experimental and see what tasty nutritious treats you can discover.

  • 3. Move your body!

It can be challenging to stick to any kind of exercise routine in winter, especially on days when it’s icy and treacherous outside. In addition, the endless line of visitors and visiting can soon push good intentions to the bottom of the to do list. However, by focusing on just doing what you can, when you can, you can take the pressure off and get enjoyment from moving your body when the opportunity arises. Here are some of my festive favourites:

  • Winter walks – round the block to admire the Christmas lights, or down to the pub to meet some friends. Getting out and walking is especially fun in the Christmas holidays when lots of other people are doing it and you can dress yourselves up in Santa hast for a bit of fun.
  • Sledging – OK, you will need a touch of snow for this one, but if it comes make the most of your opportunity. A few kids on a sledge with you trying to pull it along will give you a great workout and make you popular parent (or grandparent) number 1!
  • Dancing! – This one can be enjoyed whatever the weather and is perfect for when it goes dark outside. Throw on a few tunes and boogie around the house. Great for entertaining the kids but also handy when you need a bit of motivation to get the housework done.

Whatever type of movement you want to go for, just 20 minutes of getting your heart rate up each day will really help boost your fitness and wellbeing, and will also set a great example to other family members.

Some final thoughts:

Fitness isn’t all about weight loss, running times and muscle tone. Probably the most important thing exercise can do for us, and our stressful lives, is the boost it gives to our mental wellbeing – and you don’t need a gym membership to achieve it.

At FitBee, I focus on helping women gain greater wellbeing through exercise, and balancing fitness goals with the demands of family and work life. During my life, I have faced many health challenges from obesity to back injury and from anxiety to burnout. What I discovered was that being more active brought huge benefits, not only to my health, but also how I felt about myself. That is why I chose a new career path at the age of 41, trained in Wellbeing Life Coaching and qualified in Sport & Exercise Psychology, so that I can help support other women going through similar experiences. You can find out more about me and my work on my website www.fitbee.co.uk

If you have some fitness & wellbeing goals, I’d love to discuss them with you sometime, but until then have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Unlocking Female Energy through Physical Activity

Why I left my Corporate Career to Help Women Exercise?

Back in 2016 I attended a women-only Wellbeing Retreat for the first time. It was my recovery strategy for the burnout I was suffering, as a result of trying to “have it all” and “do it all”. Whilst I was there I came to realise that there are thousands and thousands of women out there with huge potential, but who don’t feel that they are able to flourish due to either what life has thrown at them in the past or what they are experiencing right now. Over the months and years that followed I began to discover more about female energy, and how unlocking it could enormously benefit our society and our planet.

A Gateway to Wellbeing

Like me, many women fight hard to pull themselves into better health and wellbeing, and I noticed there are often quite gentle and supportive messages in the “wellbeing industry”, and too often quite negative messages surrounding the “fitness industry”.

My personal understanding of exercise is that it acts as a gateway to my wellbeing. It is a positive action I can take and any effort I make at all (even just 10 minutes walking) makes a positive contribution to how I feel. Scientifically, physical activity is one of the best things you can do, not just for your physical health but also your mental health. Being active has enormous potential to boost the wellbeing of absolutely everyone, yet we find it difficult to get motivated, and then beat ourselves up about it. Why?

What if instead of looking at being active through a “fitness” lens we looked at it through a “wellbeing” lens? What if instead of thinking we should exercise to lose weight, we wanted to exercise to take time out for ourselves? What if instead seeing our exercise routine as punishment for the cake we ate last night, we saw it as self-care that nourishes our body and mind? What if we took a new approach?

A New Approach

This is what I’ve set out to change. I’ve trained in Wellbeing Life Coaching and more recently Sport & Exercise Psychology and I’m blending the best of both worlds. I’ve developed a 12-week program, specifically to the needs of women, which will support those who would love to get the benefits of being more active. My aim is to change women’s relationship with exercise, so they feel empowered to appreciate and enjoy what they can do. I hope that this new approach will inspire women and support their health and wellbeing for many years to come.

Unlocked Potential

And the corporate career? Well I made my full recovery, regained my physical and mental health and could have chosen to continue with the well-paid daily grind. But that’s the thing about unlocking potential, once I could see a path towards empowering women in the world, then the daily grind had no attraction nor value for me. I left my job in 2018 and launched FitBee – Active Wellbeing, dedicated to improving fitness and wellbeing outcomes for women. Next week I open my first private consultation room. I’d be very happy to welcome you there.

Moving your body to save the planet

I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to be both saddened and yet fascinated by David Attenborough’s recent climate change documentary. Saddened by the seemingly relentless onset of global warming and yet fascinated by some of the science behind how we can still reverse it. From electric planes and hydrogen cars to adapting our lifestyle and food choices, there’s certainly a lot of positive action we can take, and it got me thinking about active lifestyles and the role they might play.

A few simple changes

So let’s start with what I think is the obvious one: Travel. We know that driving our billions of cars around every day isn’t good for CO2 emissions. How can we reduce that?

Well if you live less than 2 miles from your destination then walking (or even running) is one option. I know this doesn’t apply to the average commuter but many of us do still take our cars on small journeys. I know I do and it’s something I’m trying to change. Unfortunately, the notion of saving the planet may not be enough to make us change our behaviour. After all, climate change can seem like such a massive problem that taking a short walk hardly seems sufficient to make an impact, so what if we try shifting our perspective?

What if the short walk is repeated every day, or even every other day?  A 2 mile trip could take 30 mins and if you’re going you probably need to come back so that’s 60 mins. Do this 4 times a week and you’ve walked 240 mins in a week. The Department of Health currently recommends at least 150 mins per week of moderate activity. This means that if you walk briskly enough to get your heart rate up you’re going to be smashing your weekly activity quota, gaining enormous health and mental wellbeing benefits, oh, and helping save the plant too -BONUS!

Ok, so I already mentioned that a 2 mile commute isn’t convenient for all of us. But maybe it’s 2 miles to the shops, or the school run? I know, I know, then there’s shopping to carry and kids to shepherd. There’s always an element of challenge involved. My approach is to consider what is possible and start there. No matter how small a step it may seem at first.

Start the day with a boost

What about using more public transport? It’s bound to require some extra walking, particularly as it rarely takes you exactly where you need to be. In health and fitness terms though, this is an advantage. Also, if you’re late you may have to break into a light run! That run a bit, walk a bit, run a bit, walk a bit, that you do when trying to get somewhere on time has been re-packaged by the Fitness Industry as HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). You can do it for free when you run late for a bus!

When we run late and arrive at our workplace or appointment a little flushed, we might feel inconvenienced, but we should also consider that studies show that short bursts of exercise can increase oxygen and neuro-transmitters in the brain. Rather than feel awkward, we can be smug that our brains are running far more effectively than if we had drifted in from our cars.

Being amongst people is also good for us socially. Even having someone to smile at and say “Good Morning” to is a boost. You don’t have to get engaged in full conversation (unless you want to). The time can be used to read that book you’ve been meaning to get to or listen to a motivational podcast. Travel time doesn’t have to be ‘dead’ time, it can be an opportunity to stimulate your brain in other ways. If you’re trying to make positive changes to your lifestyle then this is helpful in increasing the neuroplasticity of your brain. The more your brain is challenged in different directions the more it learns to grow and adapt. This is exactly what we want if we are trying to overcome lifetime bad habits, or simply make small changes to improve our health.

Get creative

There are many other potential overlaps between taking care of ourselves and taking care of the planet. I heard of one guy who converted his exercise bike so he could only generate the power to watch Netflix by pedalling! A less technological activity is simply growing your own vegetables. This comes with the added bonus of being outdoors, which again has great wellbeing benefits.

So my conclusion is this. There are lots of ways we can combine a desire to be physically active with a desire to protect the planet for ourselves and our children.

It can take a little imagination, a little determination and yes a bit of an adjustment in mindset, but these are qualities and abilities that all humans possess and the result is truly win-win-win.

There seems to be so many things in life we wish were better at, and it can feel overwhelming. The brilliant thing about adopting an active lifestyle (in my humble opinion) is it offers an opportunity to make lots of things better, all at once! (Did I mention being active can also reduce feelings of overwhelm?!) Our bodies were designed to move and in turn moving our bodies supports our health, wellbeing and the health & wellbeing of the world around us. We can use this valuble asset we all possess and be the change we went to see.

Do you have ways of combining being active with helping the planet? If so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Get in touch in the comments below.