Of late I have found myself having quite a lot of conversations in which the topic of willpower has come up. It’s got me thinking about the wider implications of the word.

There is a widely held belief (or certainly it’s portrayed in the language we use) that things fall into “good” and “bad” or “naughty”. Take food, for example: I regularly have people confessing to all the “bad” or “naughty” food they have eaten recently, as though in telling me they’ll somehow absolve themselves. Or maybe I’m expected to berate them and be pious about the fact I never eat anything “naughty”. This conversation inevitably leads to the confessor reaching their own conclusion that they have no willpower and therefore they’re a failure.

Here’s the thing. I don’t ever eat anything “naughty”. I enjoy salads, I enjoy pizzas, I enjoy wine, I enjoy chocolate. I don’t like coffee or tea. I don’t like pineapple. The difference is in my labelling of these things. Over the years I have learnt that my internal language is the only thing that helps or hinders me. If I tell myself I have no willpower because I eat chocolate, I will eat more chocolate, feel guilty, feel a failure, eat more chocolate. And repeat. If I tell myself I can have some chocolate, I will eat the amount I want AND THEN STOP. Because I have permission to eat all of it.

The same goes with exercise. I don’t have any willpower for exercising. I go for a run because I enjoy running. But (unless I’m training for a specific event, and need to cover a specific distance) I am allowed to turn around at the top of the road. If when I get to the top of the road I want to carry on, then that’s what I’ll do.

Am I rambling? The point I’m making is that the word willpower needs to go in the should box. It’s an external pressure “oh well I should do some exercise, because, you know, society thinks I should” vs “I want to do some exercise because I want to be more active”. External pressures inevitably lead to guilt because we can’t ever meet the expectations of this external someone who is applying the pressure. And so we believe we have no willpower. And so we feel guilty. And so we have some more chocolate and do no exercise. Cos, well, we have no willpower, right?

My biggest piece of advice for having willpower is to stop requiring willpower. Reword your inner monologue. Get rid of ALL SHOULDS. Replace the ones you like with WILL, and get rid of the ones you don’t want in your life.

I should go for a run = I won’t go and then I’ll feel guilty and tell myself I have no willpower.

I will go for a run = I will run because I have chosen to, and I didn’t need willpower.

Everytime you catch a should creeping in, ask yourself if the sentence is right with will in place of should. If it isn’t, don’t do it. There’s no guilt, it just wasn’t right for you right now.

Permission granted to say no when things aren’t for you and to feel zero guilt for it.


A sugary treat?

One of the things that led me to become a personal trainer was the wish to help people feel better about themselves, primarily through exercise, but also through food. Now let me set this straight from the start: I am no nutritionist, but I do have basic nutrition qualifications, so when I analyse clients’ food diaries I am looking for little tweaks they can make so their food works with them, not against them; things like spotting where there’s a blood sugar slump during the day and advising on healthier snacks that could be eaten to ward that off, or advising on healthy yummy breakfasts that will see my clients getting through the morning at work without needing to reach for the biscuits.

For more detailed food work I look to two friends, one I see as my female hormone and energy level guru, the other I view as my sports nutrition guide. They are actually both qualified the same and can advise on each other’s areas, that’s just how I fit them into my little world.

Anyway, last week Health Coach friend, Kathy Payne, who runs Kathy Payne – Hormone Health and Fertility, ran a facebook challenge called Curb Your Cravings. Every day she set us a challenge, some easier, some harder. The one that really got my ears pricked up was her sugar day. We were challenged to add up our sugar intake (either all sugar or just refined sugars, it was for each of us to choose, I went for all sugar, including those from fruit, veg, etc) as we went through the day until we reached the daily recommended amount for an adult woman, which is 30g. 30g of sugar. That’s about 5 teaspoons. That’s nothing!

OK. Breakfast – soya yogurt, muesli, ground linseed, mixed berries. Yep, I’m feeling pretty smug. Oh. The muesli is 9g sugar/100g. OK, have a look at the other box of muesli in the kitchen. Oh. 14g sugar/100g. Breakfast in total was 10g (I went for the lower sugar muesli and had nowhere near 100g of it).

Lunch – right, let’s do this. Made a veggie/chickpea/spinach thing 3.3g sugar/100g. Smugness back. 1 apple. 12g!! What????? OK, mental note to self, stick to berries when wanting fruit. Total 15.3g

Mid afternoon – OK, I’ll have some mixed nuts, they’ll be fine, right? 4g sugar/100g. Wow. But you know, nuts are good fats and all, so I’ll still have them, just add them to my sugar tally. Total 4g (ish, didn’t weigh the nuts)

Dinner – cod on a tomato and butter bean sauce, with tenderstem broccoli. About 10g

So on a day WHEN I WAS FOCUSING ON MY SUGAR INTAKE I got to 39.3g. Nearly 10g over the recommended daily intake. Granted I was counting fruit and veg sugar, not just the refined stuff, and had I only counted the refined stuff I’d have been at about 9g over the day, but what an eye opener.

Interestingly nutritionist friend, Claire Doherty, who runs Namaste Nutrition, is running a sugar challenge on facebook in September. I may report back. If I survive a low to no sugar September!

Why exercise?

Seems a silly question – the media are always telling us we should be more active, there are government guidelines for how many minutes a week we should be doing, most people have had a gym membership at some point.

But actually, why exercise? Why do something you keep being told you should do? I for one hate being told what to do, so why do I exercise?

I run because it makes me feel better. I cycle because it gets me out into nature so I see beautiful scenery and wildlife. I swim because while I’m focusing on not drowning I can’t worry about anything else in life. I do short exercise sessions like the ones I give to my Jumpstart clients because sometimes there isn’t the time for anything more, and I enjoy being out in my garden doing something active. I walk with the dogs because it clears my head.

I don’t go to high octane classes that I perceive will make me feel bad about myself (I have little coordination!), I try not to compare my speed to other people’s. I exercise because it fuels me. Just like eating healthy food, it makes me feel better. I exercise in the time I have available – some days that’s just 15 minutes. Some days it’s more.

And why am I a personal trainer? Because I want to help other people find their little bit of peace through exercise. I want to enable others to feel better, happier, brighter in life. Join me!



Ever since I qualifyed as a personal trainer I knew I wanted to be able to do distance sessions via Skype, so I could work with clients anywhere rather than being limited geographically. For me the reason for retraining was to be able to help people who don’t know where to start to do just that. I wanted to enable these people to get more active without the pressure of going to a gym, without the humiliation of going to a class where they don’t know the moves already, without the expense of buying equipment but with the full support of someone who understands where they’re coming from.

So, why do I understand? Well, I am not that person who has been sporty since childhood. Getting active is pretty new on me, too. I ran my first ever mile in 2012. Also, I’m a size 14-16, I know that cake and wine fall into people’s mouths. I am realistic about this. I can give you a list of excuses as long as your arm why not to exercise. I also can give you a list of reasons as long as both arms why actually doing the exercise will make you feel better. And I want to help you add reasons to the 2nd list.

OK, so how does Jumpstart work then? We start with a chat over Skype so I can establish both what your goals are but almost more importantly what your barriers are. If you’re someone who doesn’t function until they’ve had 5 coffees, I won’t ask you to “just set the alarm 15 mins earlier”. If you’re a straight in from work and the pyjamas go on type, then I won’t start expecting an hour run from you at 8pm. Jumpstart is simply about fitting exercise into YOUR life. It doesn’t matter how I fit my exercise into my life, or how your partner, your mum, your auntie’s cat or anyone else fits it into theirs, I want YOU to succeed. We’ll start small. Achievable. You may well think I’ve not set you enough in the first week. Good. That means you’re succeeding. It’s achievable.

So if you want a personalised exercise plan that is designed to fit into YOUR life then Jumpstart is for you. 3 different levels – Silver, you get the plan, but then you’re on your own; Gold, plan plus weekly chats to see how you’re getting on and adapt the plan accordingly; Platinum, all that plus a food diary analysis. The food diary part is done in a very similar vein – I won’t give you an hour by hour plan of what you MUST eat NOW, rather we’ll have a look at achievable changes that will make the food you eat work with you, not against you.

Sound good? Sign up here – I for one can’t wait to help find a fitter you.

Fitness for health

One of the reasons I love being a personal trainer is when clients see real benefits to their health through the work we do together, and the extra effort they put in between sessions. I always want to make fitness fit into my clients’ lives, and I would always rather know they’re doing 10 minutes here and there than ask so much of them that it becomes prohibitive. So here are some examples of clients who are really feeling the benefits:

Client A (I’ll keep everyone anonymous) has had medical people keeping an eye on her for a while in terms of her weight and the effects on her hormones, as well as possible type 2 diabetes. We have been working together for 8 weeks, one session a week and I give her short sets to do in between times, we’ve also made some small but manageable changes to her diet. At her last hospital visit she had lost 7% body fat. That is amazing. I am so proud of her achievement. She had tried all sorts of diets and the like, but nothing had worked because it had been too big, too much. Unsurprisingly the doctors are all very happy with what they’re seeing, and it sounds like she’ll be monitored less closely going forwards, as she’s at less risk.

Client B had lost a fair bit of weight before we met, but still had high blood pressure. She and I see each other weekly and she does a lot of walking as well as some small sets of the exercises from when we see each other in between times, and the last time she saw her Dr her blood pressure was back into the healthy range. All from getting more active.

Client C has long suffered with low energy and as such has always shied away from exercise, believing that it would zap what little energy she does have. Since doing some short sets in her home in her own time she’s finding she already has more energy and her muscles are working with her, not against her.

I can’t put into words how happy this all makes me. I love that finding ways to help people fit activity into their lives can make such big differences. For me, exercise is all about how it makes you feel, and I want that to always be positive. If a client, therefore, comes to me saying they hate a specific thing, we won’t incorporate it. If they know that exercising after a certain time of day means it won’t happen, we find ways to make it work in the doing time of day. Tiny little things that make exercise work for you, not against you. I don’t want it to be a chore. I don’t want you to fail. I want you to feel better, happier, healthier. And with Jumpstart (and me!) you can. Promise.



Live Happy

*Advance apologies for a ranty post*

I was cycling this morning and spotted a sign from a well known weight-loss club headlined “Live Happy”. The message of course being that if you are overweight you can’t possibly be happy, and that your only route to some holy grail of happiness is via this fat club.

Excuse me while I step onto my soap box.

So, we can’t be happy if we aren’t lining the pockets of the fat club? We can’t be happy unless we’re parting with £5 a week to stand on some scales? We can’t be happy unless we label all foods as “good” or “bad”? We can’t be happy in our own skin? Happiness is found in diet drinks and Muller light. Happiness is found in deprivation and guilt. Happiness is found in being “good” while other people enjoy their meals.

Erm, OK. But what about the fact that the vast majority of people who diet put the weight back on, with interest? How about the fact none of these fat clubs address WHY their clients are making the food choices they are. Well, obviously, if you address the WHY then people might stop coming. They might lose the guilt. They might make their own choices.

And what happened to generally living a healthy lifestyle? If your only measure of “healthy” is the number on a set of scales, there’s a lot that is being overlooked. Your blood pressure could still be through the roof, you may still have no energy, you might be at risk of seriously injuring yourself when you walk up the stairs, your mental health might be being neglected as you continually find yourself failing. And who decided what number was right for YOU?

I have a good friend who is the same height as me and wears the same dress size as me, but weighs 3.5 stone less than me. Hang on… same dress size but 3.5 stone difference? Indeed, just looking at my own weight (for interest, not for scales-obsessive reasons) I gained 6.5lb in a day according to the scales a couple of weeks ago. Imagine the guilt and self-loathing I would have had to go through in class for that!

The number on the scales is NOT a good measure of how you are doing health-wise, exercise-wise, energy-wise. It is a good measure of how fat clubs can find reason, week on week, to rob you blind.

Right, could someone give me a hand off this soap box? I need to go and  release some more feel-good endorphins (diet coke doesn’t do that, by the way), before I enjoy my barbecue this evening.


Oh, and all my clients will vouch for the fact I don’t use weight as a measure of success with them any more than I do for me. We work on fitness levels, energy levels, how clothes fit. Of course I’ll offer advice for clients who want me to review their food diary, but I am ALWAYS looking for positive changes that can be made, never guilting people into giving things up.

** Cheeky edit to add: wherever you are in the world, have a look at my Jumpstart – it just might be the key to helping get you or your friends out of the diet cycle 🙂

Perceptions of fitness

I find this really interesting – everyone has an idea of where they sit on the fitness scale, and yet this perception is often vastly out of line with reality.

If we define the scale as running from sedentary lifestyle (drive to work, sit at a desk, drive home, sit on the sofa) as a 1, through to 10 being professional athlete, where would you put yourself? I often hear different versions of similar statements: “I’ve got the dogs to walk so I know I’m a lot fitter than many of my counterparts” (maybe placing themselves higher on the scale than they are?); “I can only run 10k, so I’m really unfit” (perhaps underplaying what they can do?); “I literally do no exercise” (only for me to discover they horseride/ dog walk/ do an active job).

I’m as guilty of it – I know I’m a slow runner, so I perceive myself to be less fit than those who run more quickly. Is that a fair assessment? Probably not. I can still run long distances, I can still swim and cycle further than many, but not as far as others. I’d position myself at a 5-6 on the scale. Where’d you put yourself? And where do you perceive me to be?


“I don’t have time to get to the gym”, “I’m too busy to go for a run”, “How on earth do you find the time to fit your training in?”. These are all things I’ve heard (and sometimes said) a million times. I get it, I hear you, we’re busy, we all have so many things competing for our time (and yes, Holby City is as valid a thief of time as work, kids, family) that exercise can fall by the wayside.

Not everyone considers 5am to be a sensible time for a run – although if you can get out there at that time you’ll be amazed at the birdsong you get serenaded by – so how do I encourage clients to fit exercise into their busy lifestyle? By breaking it down and adapting it. By making it so simple that you can’t not do it. By fitting it in to their life, not mine.

An example: one client commutes to London, so leaves the house before 6am and doesn’t get home until 8pm. What sort of fool would I be to expect her to get up even earlier to exercise or have any energy left when she gets home? I’d be a very unrealistic PT! So we adapt the exercises – rather than walk up the stairs at work can she run 3 steps in each flight, when sitting down to her desk can she slow the movement down so her quads really work, when waiting for the kettle to boil can she do some bicep curls with the bottle of milk, when brushing her teeth can she do some lunges in the bathroom. All suddenly very doable, very manageable. Suddenly time is available everywhere.

Next excuse…