Wellness & Wellbeing
Alexandre Vallot (28) is a French coach in Paris. He has been coaching for 6 years now. From pro athletes to regular folks trying to simply stay in shape, he likes to train anyone with a purpose and a desire to progress in their fitness journey. He does not only want his clients to be motivated while he coaches them, but he wants them to create a mindset that they will carry forever.
Today we go down the list of 5 important factors to consider when you want to get back in a training routine after a long break: your nutrition, your training plan, your routine, your relationships, and the goals that you have.
1 – Back to eating healthy
Weight is not the number one indicator of your fitness level and you should not stress about it too much unless you compete in a sport with weight classes. However, weight can be a way to measure your eating habits, which can tell if you have been eating less or more. Therefore, keeping an eye on your weight can be beneficial. Being inactive for a long time can lead to some unwanted weight gains.
What is your tip for people going back into training regarding their eating habits?
ALEX – First of all, it really depends who you are talking to. If we are talking about an experienced person, it is “easier” to have a strict approach. Usually the person knows what it takes, and you can be stricter for the first couple of weeks in order to really get back to the shape you want.
However, if you are talking about an unexperienced fitness enthusiast, you cannot cut back too fast. You need to take steps, otherwise it will not last. I like to not use the word “diet” as it sounds scary to most people, and just talk about making small adjustments day after day. First cut the extra drinks, then dial back on the snacks, add some veggies etc. But if you cut too much too fast, you risk ending up in this “new year resolutions” type of vibe, where goals vanish after a month.
2 – Finally training again
No matter the reason, not being able to train for awhile is going to have effects on your body and your mind. Some people will feel (too) excited about going back to the gym and may risk injuries. Some people may have lost the motivation and will find it hard to go back. For all those cases, how do you get back into training mode?
ALEX – You should not imagine going back to the gym as the perfect scenario where you are motivated, you are stress-free, you perform the same… Things have changed ! However, one thing that has not changed is how beneficial “moving” is for your body. Whether it is 10, 30 or 50 minutes, moving at least twice a week will do wonders. Your motivation will come back slowly but surely and seeing your body change and adapt is the best boost you can hope for.
However, do not try to do too much or too complicated too soon. Same as the nutrition part, take steps towards coming back to your routine. Those steps can include a training partner or a coach! This is the best way to stay motivated as you are now accountable to someone else. If you are a Compex user, use the Compex app to plan your training sessions, share your results with your friends and see your progress.
3 – Going back to a routine?
Lots of people have a fitness routine. You train around the same time of the day, you eat at the same hours, you sleep about the same amount every night etc. When that has been broken for a while, people may be lost when it is training-time again! How do you help people get back to their routine?
ALEX – You need to realize that in this situation, time is your best friend. Getting back slowly but surely is the best recipe to a successful come-back. You should also be open to changes in your fitness routine, and not desperately want it to be the same as before. Adding new movements and training methods can do wonders to your body. So why not start by trying something new? Bodyweight workouts, yoga, Compex-Training… You used to be a gym-rat that loves pumping weights? Try new sports and workout methods, your body will love it.
4 – The influence of your close friends
The fourth point may be left aside by a lot of people but is more important than we think. The influence that our friends and family have on our choices in life is huge. You cannot stop talking to people just because they do not motivate you, so how do you deal with your closest relationships when it comes to your motivation to be healthy?
ALEX – Like you said, you cannot stop talking to people just because they do not agree with you, otherwise you will not keep many friends! There are two different types of people in my opinion. First is the closest friends, then you have the people around you that are the closest to your training habits. Your friends might be party-people and maybe you get invited to diners often. However, the most important is: where do you train? Do you have a coach? Are these friends also training buddies? Having friends to party-with is not an issue, as long as you have a fitness circle to stay right on track with your goals. Once again, it is all about balance
5 – Defining your goals
Setting goals can be challenging. The way you write down a goal can instantly tell whether you will be successful or not. We hear often people say, “I want to be stronger” or, “I want to lose fat”. These statements are never to be fulfilled. The reason is: they cannot be measured. 1kg of fat lost will not make you happy. However, you still “lost weight” and according to your goal, you are successful. But we all know this is not how you will be happy. How do you help people set goals the best way possible?
ALEX – For me, the first step is defining who do you want to become. Do you want to be a professional athlete, do you want to be a fit mum, do you want to look good at the beach… These are all different approaches. When you have defined that, you can create a ten-step plan towards your goal. These steps must be small challenges, attainable, measurable, and realistic. For example, your first step could be “Eat three whole fruits per day this week”, or “Exercise 20 minutes, three times this week”. These steps are measurable and realistic, they will open the path to success in your fitness journey. I know it sounds all Instagram-ish but setting goals measurable and realistic goals is the number one key to success.
Dr Sue Knowles is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, who works for Changing Minds UK (www.changingmindsuk.com), and an author of self-help books for young people.
Top Tips for coping in Stressful Times:
1) Getting a good night’s sleep – Sleep is so, so important for your health and wellbeing. Maybe use this opportunity of being in lockdown to think about and improve your sleep routine, and you’ll see a big impact upon how you generally feel. Start by asking yourself, am I getting enough sleep every night? Do I have a proper bedtime routine? Do I generally go to bed and get up at about the same time? Is my bedroom an appealing place to sleep? (cool, dark, quiet). Then start to make little tweaks to your sleep routine and notice yourself start to feel a little more refreshed each day.
2) Closeness and connection – We need closeness and feelings of connection with others – it’s what makes us human. Although it can be hard to be physically close to others right now, think carefully about how you can continue to connect. It might be sending a text, photo or video, checking-in with friends or family, sending an email, or having a videocall, or finding ways to play games together online. You may even want to go old-school and send a letter.
3) Keep up with our exercise – For lots of people, exercise is one of the best coping strategies. It can relieve stress and tension, help us to ‘let go’ of the day, make us feel physically better, and improve our mood. It can also be an important part of our daily routine. Although you might not be able to exercise in the ways that you usually would (such as going to the gym) seek out other ways to exercise and be creative.
4) Self-soothing – One of the best ways to make ourselves feel better, is to find things that help us to feel soothed. Is it snuggling with a blanket on the sofa, having a bath, having a bowl of warm comforting soup, sitting in front of an open fire, or kneading dough? Everyone is a bit different, so you can have fun exploring what works best for you. For example, some people prefer warmth (a hot water bottle, hot bath etc.) and others prefer the cold (a cold compress or icy cold drink).
5) Opposite emotion – One way to alter our emotional state, is to do things that play into the opposite emotion. For example, if we’re feeling sad or low, it can be useful to watch a funny film/comedy show, read an uplifting book or listen to a high-energy playlist. Or if we’re feeling angry, we can listen to calming music and try to relax our bodies.
6) Release any tension – When we get stressed, angry or anxious, we tend to hold this emotion within our bodies. Sometimes we don’t realise that we are feeling this way until we do a body scan. Try checking in with your body right now – how am I feeling in my body? Am I tense? Are my shoulders relaxed? If you feel any tension, gently let it go on each outbreath. Slowly notice your body start to relax. Other useful ways to let go of any tension are doing progressive muscle relaxation exercises or having a massage.
7) Tune into the here and now – When going through a stressful period, we might notice that our minds race, and our thoughts feel overwhelming. But when we can calm our minds, this can help us to feel much better, more in control, and reduce feelings of stress. Mindfulness is a technique that helps us to pause, quiet our minds, and ‘be aware’ in the present moment. There are lots of great apps out there with guided meditations that you can use, or you might want to try out the ‘breathing mindfulness exercise’ below.
8) Remember what works for YOU – We have often been through tough times in our lives and have somehow learned ways to get through them. Try to think back of what has helped you to cope in the past: what did you learn from that experience? What strengths can you draw upon now to help you to cope with what you are currently going through? What coping strategies can you use again?
9) Be kind to yourself – In this stressful time, the headlines suggest that society is generally being more empathic and compassionate. It’s absolutely true that lots of people are going out of their way to care for, and support, other people. But sometimes, we forget to do this for ourselves. We can continue to hold unrealistic and high standards for ourselves, when we would never expect this of others. It’s important to remind ourselves that we are going through this too, and that “It’s okay to not be okay”.
Find a comfortable position, whether you are lying down or sitting on a chair. If you’re sitting, make sure that your back remains straight, but allow your shoulders to gently drop. Notice your eyelids starting to feel heavy and gently close your eyes. Feel your body becoming heavy and allow it to sink down into the chair or bed. Acknowledge a sense of your body and mind slowing down. When you’re ready, bring your attention to your breathing, breathing in slowly…and out slowly.
Bring your attention to your chest, feeling it rise gently on your in-breath, and fall on the out-breath. Continue to focus upon your breathing, staying with each in-breath and each out-breath.
Every time you notice that your mind starts to wander, as it naturally will, gently bring your attention back to the feeling of the breath. If your mind wanders from the breath a thousand times, then your job is simply to gently bring your attention back to the breath each time, gently and compassionately.
Now, when you feel ready, gently bring your attention to your nose. Feel the cold air rushing through your nostrils on the in-breath, and the warm air rushing out through your mouth on the out-breath. If you find it hard to focus, perhaps swap this around, and breath in through your mouth and out through your nose.
Finally, when you feel ready, bring your attention to the whole breath. Notice how the cold air rushes in through your nostrils, how your chest rises and falls, and the warm air rushes out of your mouth. Be with each breath for its whole journey.
To end the mindfulness exercise, slowly bring your attention back to the room, gently open your eyes, and wiggle your toes.
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