I wanted this blog to be about more than my year abroad, and encompass all of the things that interest me. Those that know me know that I like to stay active and (relatively) healthy. This isn’t going to be a post preaching about how you should be going to the gym 6 days a week, or trying to make you feel guilty about the way you live. Rather, I wanted to give you an insight into my ‘fitness journey’ (cheese) and maybe some not-too-scary tips from a normal girl.
I literally haven’t stopped doing any form of exercise for more than 6 weeks since the age of 4. I danced until I was 16, took up pole dancing at 19 and I’ve been going to the gym since I was 16. To be honest, I used to hate the gym, until I started lifting weights. Properly.
I grew up watching my mum weight lift (yay strong women) so seeing muscles on women wasn’t really foreign to me. Then during summer 2014 she made me pick up some dumbbells and do bicep curls. At that point I was very much in the school of thought that all you needed to do to keep fit was a half-assed jog on the treadmill for 30 minutes then some inner and outer thigh exercises. I felt stupid going into the ‘man’s section’ (I will never, ever, EVER say that again) of the gym and picking up free weights. I didn’t really think it was for girls. Mum then started showing me more and more exercises to target my shoulders, back and chest. From that moment on, and in her words, ‘a monster was born’.
I started to obsessively scroll through Instagram, following all sorts of women in the fitness industry. Don’t get me wrong, there are some really annoying ones out there that just post selfies of their butt and/or abs, or are just plain unrealistic. Personally, I prefer to see a woman flexing her biceps or back than using Instagram as an opportunity to show off her ass but hey, that’s just me! My favourites at the moment are Jessie Hilgenberg (seriously, check her out – she’s amazing) and Sarah Bowmar. They’re real women, with good, healthy advice, and aren’t completely up themselves. I learnt most of what I know through Instagram, and also by following a 12 week programme designed by Jessie (Muscle Building programme). I did ¾ of it before I left for Paris, and it was great. I was going to the gym 6 days a week and monitoring what I ate (not to lose weight, but to make sure I was fuelling my body properly). I loved it, but it’s pretty hard to keep up when you want to enjoy your year abroad without stressing about every morsel of food that passes your lips!
So, there’s a brief (ha!) insight into what led me to this point. At the moment, I’m going to the gym about 4 times a week, mainly to weightlift, and I barely do any cardio. I don’t count what I eat, but keep promising myself, unsuccessfully, to cut back on the sweet things! The way I see it, life’s about balance, and you want a healthy body AND mind! One day I want knuckle down properly and seriously get to grips with training and food, and maybe *whispers* enter a figure/bikini competition. We’ll see!!
To give any gals a bit of a starting point, here’s a list of the things I’ve learnt over the past 2 years:
1) Cardio doesn’t exactly mean weight loss.
Sorry, but those 45 minute sessions on the treadmill/cross trainer are probably not getting you anywhere. From the tons of article’s I’ve read, there’s quite a lot of mixed advice about when you should perform different types of cardio, whether you should do fasted cardio, whether you should do cardio at all blah blah blah… but I’ve basically narrowed it down to two things. 1- Lifting weights is way more effective. Your body continues to burn fat for longer after you’ve put the weights down, than it would if you had just done a steady state session of cardio. 2- HIIT (high intensity interval training) is more effective at burning fat and also less time consuming.
2) Carbs. Are. Not. The. Enemy.
I repeat. CARBS ARE NOT THE ENEMY. In fact, NO food group is. Carbs give you the energy to perform a workout properly. If you feel tired in the gym, it’s probably because you haven’t eaten enough carbs to fuel your body properly. And it’s needless to say that carbs are great in any form. Potatoes, cake, bread, chips, bread, cake…! Another rule I go by is that if you need to cut anything out to lose weight, it’s probably sugar. Go and read all the articles out there.
3) ‘Low fat’ is a load of shit.
They lower the fat, they add the sugar. And sugar is the culprit for weight gain, as well as causing things like diabetes. I also get nervous about what they do to natural products, like yoghurt, to make them low fat – how do they do it? What do they use? Why would you trust a man in a lab over the deliciousness of full fat Greek yoghurt?! The same thing applies to ‘diet’ drinks as well. I read something somewhere about sweeteners actually making you crave sweet things more, so you end up snacking and… weight gain. Again, man in a lab… no thanks!
If it fits your macros. So far, this is the best way to watch what you eat that I’ve come across. You work out how much energy your body needs according to its expenditure, and from that you work out how much carbs/protein/fats (macros) you should be consuming depending on your goals. Typically it’s something like 40-50% carbs and the remaining 50-60% divided equally between protein and fat. It takes time to get your head around it and to hit the number perfectly (which I’ve yet to do) but I think it’s pretty logical and clear, and gets a lot of people results!
5) Weight lifting does not make you manly.
In fact, it will undoubtedly make you look more womanly. You will have curves in all the right places. All you have to do is google/instagram female fitness figures in the industry and you’ll see with your own two eyes. Not to mention, you’ll be strong, you’ll have less chance of getting osteoporosis and you’ll be able to do all the DIY. The list goes on.
So, there you go, some tips from an average girl attempting to find her way around a gym. Obviously, I’m not an expert, I’ve just read a load of articles, so don’t take my word as gospel. Go and Google and research these things yourself – it’s actually quite fun (/addictive)! I’d also like to point out that I’ve far from perfected any of this. I am NOT currently counting my macros, nor am I getting in much HIIT cardio. But I’m definitely lifting weights, I’m definitely not shying away from proper foods and I’m definitely not eating ‘low fat’/ ‘zero sugar’ crap.
I’d also like to say that these are my viewpoints at this moment in time, and they very well may change in the future as I read more and more!
List of articles that might interest you written by actual qualified people: