The training cycle is tough on the body, and with successive workouts-and-showers, nothing takes a much of a gruelling battering as the hair. As such, and in direct response to several curious, hair-conscious reader enquiries over the years of scribing fitnessontoast.com, this post is fully dedicated to hair health. I may be a highly qualified professional when it comes to training and the likes of sports massage, but I’m only an enthusiastic amateur on matters pertaining to the hair. As such, I’ve done the heavy lifting for you, and picked the brain of multi-award-winning superstar hair artist Siobhan ‘Shivvy’ Jones for all the choicest pro-tips. Shivvy is a L’Oréal Professionnel teacher & Guest Artist, hair stylist on X Factor, Next Top Model, and artist to the likes of Little Mix, as well as being the Owner and Creative Director of Rose & Wild Hair, her delightful new studio in Fulham where we shot these pics! Those are some of her professional credentials, but beyond that, she enjoys heavyweight repute for setting the tone on colour technique and trends in the fashion industry. If like me you wash your hair too frequently post-training, Shivvy’s insights will help you to find and get the perfect tone, products to use and much more! Read on…
Some biblical character once said ‘your hair is your crowning glory…’ – well, with Corinthians 11:15, I agree – a haircut can indeed totally transform the mood, poise, purpose, and even fortunes. I wanted to share some tips from my favourite hair ‘confident’ who has helped me not only achieve healthy and long hair but also managed the impossible – realising my dream tone.
I first met Shivvy before my wedding in 2015, when I had developed a quest-like obsession with achieving the perfect shade of blonde. [[ Shock alert, whilst I was born with stereotypical Swedish blonde hair, it darkens over time, so I have a little help once in a while!]] In the past I’d often gone to see a local hairdresser and come home with one ‘good’ tone of blonde, though the next time it would be a noticably different shade of blonde… there was such variety and inconsistency, sometimes I’d be happier than other times – but it really didn’t play on my mind too much.
Then like many other brides-to-be ahead of my own wedding (I’d like to think), I went a bit mental because suddenly I needed THE colour/tone to be just right ahead of immortalising it in the photos (see one such below)! I had seen a dozen or so hairdressers and at this point my hair was starting to break apart, because it was in unloved, brittle condition. Through sheer technical mastery, Shivvy achieved a miraculous result for me; she looked at my #pinspo board of hair colour that I wanted, and hit the nail on the head first time, and every time since! Hallelujah!
I didn’t take this lightly (lol pun?) because prior to experiencing Siobhan I had tried 5 hairdressers (some incredibly costly) all promising they could fix my hair, and yet then didn’t. However, not only is this master the friendliest, loveliest woman but she listens and is honest. If I show her a hairspo picture, she’ll say up front, gently and respectfully, if something may be unachievable / different because of the intricacies pertaining to my hair are different – rather than telling me of the disappointment afterward. Shes also a magician when it comes to colour, truly elevating hair tones to a different existential plain. It’s the difference between buying a shop-bought croissant and one which is freshly made at the artisanal bakery in Paris. At first they look the same but on closer inspection they are simply incomparable. Her creations are perfection, so beautifully and elegant.
Here follow Shivvy’s responses to my questions around hair health, specifically from the angle of one who gyms regularly. I hope her insights help you in your quest for continued hair health.
1. What advice would you give to someone who trains regularly, sweats and therefore showers/washes their hair too frequently, c. 4-5x per week?
Washing your hair often can often lead to dry hair as you are constantly removing natural oils so ensure you are replacing these as often as possible.
Add the moisture to the areas that are most likely to not receive the natural moisture such as the ends of your hair .
Product-wise, Kerasrase masquintense is a great treatment that can nourish the ends of the hair after shampooing and they also have an elixir oil which can be placed in the hair before drying, after drying and also pre shampoo to nourish the hair before the cleansing.
Dry shampoos such as batiste are great alternative to shampooing everyday as it helps to remove and disguise natural oils
2. What are the best shampoos / conditioners for dry hair or greasy hair?
Kerastase is the most definitely the best range for all your hair needs as it’s prescriptive so any hair issue can be tackled . For dry hair I would recommend Bain satin. It comes in numbers 1-3 dependant on how dry your hair is .
For greasy roots my absolute favourite is Bain Divalent . Most shampoos for greasy roots can be incredibly drying on your hair however this one not only purifies the scalp it gently nourishes the lengths and ends
3. Are there any particular ingredients you should avoid when picking a shampoo/conditioner?
Sodium laurel sulphate or sodium laureate (detergents) create a lot of foam when shampooing so subconsciously it feels as if your hair is getting cleaner. In fact all that the detergents are doing is drying your hair out. Remember extra foam doesn’t mean it better or cleaner. The shampoos that foam less are more likely to be more caring for your hair whilst cleansing just as well!
4. I like an icey, cool blonde look; what are your best tips to achieve this?
To make sure hair is icy there are 3 major things to consider;
1) the hair needs to be lifted light enough. If it is only lifted to a gold or yellow it will always fade yellow.
2) once the hair has been lifted to the correct or ideal lightness then a colour called a toner can be applied. Your colourist can create a bespoke toner dependant on the desired tone. There are different types of ash.
Some appear more white whilst others can appear more pearly or vanilla. Find your ideal blonde in a picture and ask your colourist to design the ideal tone for you.
3) When looking after your hair at home, tones of yellow can start to appear so using a purple toning shampoo and conditioner once a week can help to prevent this. My favourite is Kerastase blond absolu as it removes brassiness and yellow tone whilst still caring for your hair
5. What can you do to avoid the look of dry/split ends?
To tackle actual split ends the only thing really to remove the problem would be to trim them away. The more regularly you trim your hair the less you will need to cut and the better it will look. However to reduce the look of them, then a styling oil is going to be your best bet. This can be placed in your hair whilst you blow dry and used also to finish and seal dry hair. My favourite is Elixir Ultime – it’s hydrating for the hair but also seals the ends
6. What can you do if you’re washing your hair too often yet it looks greasy/oily/dirty quickly?
The more you wash your hair the quicker natural sebum will be produced so where possible try to get into the routine of washing your hair not quite so often. To help reduce the hair looking greasy and dirty avoid styling your hair smooth and embrace its natural textures. Textured powders like Loreal super dust are going to help remove oils whilst giving an Uber cool lived in texture to the hair
7. Any tips on how to retain your hair’s professional styling for a couple of days (and how do you avoid ruining it in bed)?
Silk pillows are great for reducing fluff and frizz when sleeping but encouraging movement and texture will always be your best bet and also will give the impression of more volume . Transitioning your hair each day will also be quite fun.
Day one – blow dry with bounce.
Day two – tong your hair.
Day three – add dry shampoo or texture dust ( Batiste or super dust ) and give your waves a lived in texture.
And day 4 – work a cool pin up do or undone pony . There are some great little videos on YouTube!
8. What is least harsh on the hair when styling – blow drying or straighteners?
Blowdrying can be the least harsh but that is only if it’s done properly.
I,e you always need to use heat protector – my favourite being the thermique range by Kerastase.
They have different types one for strengthening, one for hydrating and one for removing frizz.
Also only add a brush to the hair once it is over 85% dry because before that the hair is at its most fragile and can you can cause breakage by pulling the hair when wet.
However when straightening the GHD new range of stylers have ultra zone and predictive technology which means you only need to stroke them through your hair once to get great results rather than repeatedly passing through a hot iron over an over again and causing extreme damage.
9. Any tips for creating a professional blow dry look at home when getting ready for work in the morning and you have limited time? (Any special hairdryer/ hair dryer temperature etc)
Always use a professional hairdryer as the heat and speed will give you great, fast results.
I’m a big fan of the brand Parlux for value for money or if you are looking for something more high end then GHD professional hairdryers look flash and give an amazing finish.
10. You specialise in colour; for anyone who’s a bit unsure what to ask for, or maybe even what suits them, are there any tips how to figure that out what to go for?
If you look at the colours in your wardrobe it can generally give you a good indication on what colours you are drawn to which will often simulate what suits you.
I.e. if you wear a lot of coral, pink or mustard you are most probably more suited to warm shades where as if you find your wardrobe is filled with more grey, blue or purple then the cool route is most probably your thing!
11. What trends/styles do you predict are or become popular in 2019?
Experimental colour is definitely a thing for 2019.
Due to the extreme amount of experimental colour that we are exposed to via social media, it’s created a real buzz around it . This means people are a lot more open with colour. This does not necessarily mean EVERYONE wants to be bold and bright, but it has opened people’s minds to be ready for change and open to playfulness. When people are more open it encourages a wider range of ideas and concepts and a less obvious one off trends you can pinpoint.
Stand outs for me however are play on tone – which is the use of playful hues such as coral, rose , blorange and pearl and Beautifully Blended colour which is multi-tonal colour that has a seamless transition. This is very similar to what I have created on your hair, Faya. It’s colour where you can’t quite pinpoint where one colour ends and another starts.
12. Rose and Wild is the most remarkable, cosy and comforting salon I’ve been to; what was the inspiration behind it?
I wanted to create a space that is more than just a salon but a feel good location .
A go-to happy place for clients and the colourists to enjoy also. To achieve this it meant I needed to create a space that was relaxed, lived-in and comfortable . When researching and flicking through millions of interior design pictures on Pinterest it was clear it needed a homely feel so I decided to create a kind of Instagramable living room that wasn’t afraid to be playful with colour. I worked with an incredible designer Gillian smith and she helped to bring the dream alive.
Each area of the salon has a different colour palette which means you partake in a kind of salon journey experience in each area you move from the consultation to the hair colouring stations and then the hair spa.
13. What made you decide to work in hair?
I originally trained in theatre and decided to learn a skill that I could have to do in between auditions etc but I totally fell in love with the feeling you get when you make someone feel and look amazing each and every time you do their hair . A chef once said to me, you don’t know how lucky you are to be client facing and you constantly receive praise and thanks and it’s totally true. It’s like daily therapy haha
I now also have the added bonus of being creative and designing campaigns and sharing my knowledge internationally by educating colourists wishing to update their skills.
It really is a phenomenal diverse and interesting industry to work in.
14. You’re super inspiring – you manage to seemingly do the impossible – see clients, teach, travel, you recently got married – and meanwhile opening your own salon! How do you find the time and still have abundance of positive energy left over?
Time management and balance is what we are all seeking and and if I’m totally honest I always feel I could do it better, but I think what has worked best for me is to assign specific time and energy in what I’m doing at the moment and nothing else. I allow days for administrative things and that only and when I’m teaching or in salon I will be in the moment and focus my time on that and that only.
My phone can often cause distraction so I’ve learnt to put it in a different room or away in my bag if I’m doing something or with people that need my full attention and time ( my husband included)
Rose and Wild is a remarkable salon, from the moment you walk in and instantly feel relaxed. It’s like being cocooned in soft, pink tranquil macaroon. It’s fresh and clean but cosy, and is stunning but not pretentious, rather inviting and warm. If you’re seeking a colour miracle too, here is your destination:
Happy New Year, my good reader! If you’re anything like me, you’re most likely not new to the whole fitness thing; you’ve possibly been training for years, and you might even be in groundhog mode with your regime – which would be totally normal, we all visit that place! Hitting a plateau can be super confusing because you probably don’t know what’s causing it. The sorts of questions swirling around your mind are likely; am I not training enough, am I training too much, am I training the wrong way, in the wrong place, with the wrong people, wearing the wrong clothes, listening to the wrong music (etc.)? Well fear not, dear 2019-ready reader, for this post contains my top 7 simple tips to help you to break through that training plateau! Click MORE for your download to start the year the way you mean to go on – in blitz mode!
IMPLEMENT ‘PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD’ TECHNIQUE
With any form of training, this technique can be implemented. In its simplest terms, it means that you’re sequentially increasing the volume of your training – whether that’s increasing number of reps, sets &/or weight-load – in order to keep the exercise challenging. In theory if you are comfortably squatting 15 reps x 3 sets of 20kg, you could make it harder by either:
Increasing reps to 20
Increase sets to 4
Or by increasing the weight by some challenging percentage.
Remember that the body is outrageously smart and adapts to any stresses placed upon it. When those stresses are balanced, the body itself will remain in balance. Soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) will adapt to gravity, momentum and ground reaction forces by sensing and reacting to body position. Soft tissues are placed under both static and dynamic stress in everyday activities and thrive under that stress by improving and adapting accordingly. However, if you’re looking to get stronger, faster, leaner – whatever it may be – you need to keep your body guessing. Once your muscle memory has become accustomed to 3 sets of 15 reps at 20kg, you simply have to change it up or you’re only to blame for indulging your plateau!
STEP UP THE FREQUENCYThis could be for your overall training program – so for instance training 4 times a week instead of 3. Or the frequency in which you train a certain muscle/muscle group (remember recovery is key!). It may be that to observe real, demonstrable progress with a muscle group such as shoulders / upper back, you’ll need to train more frequently than once a week, provided there’s the requisite rest period in between. This ‘targetted’ frequency consideration will help you advance specific muscle group goals.
MAKE IT MORE COMPLEX
In this instance, complexity refers to the degree of biomechanical difficulty provided by the exercise. The performance of more complex exercises in training can increase training intensity. Doing the same exercises week after week, month after month isn’t going to break a plateau, but rather reinforce it. Going back to my earlier point that the body adapts accordingly, and that after a time you need to ‘fire up’ the body by doing something different, this complexity point is critical. It’s also going to prevent boredom and who doesn’t love a challenge?
PICK UP THE TEMPO
Tempo training – increasing the ‘time under tension’ to which you subject your muscles (i.e. for how long is the muscle contracting) is also a way to implement a form of progression without having to necessarily add more weight. The muscle is working harder for a longer period of time. This also touches on eccentric and concentric training which you can read more about HERE.
THAT’S INTENSE, MAN
Increasing intensity really comes down to honesty with oneself. You’ve got to ask yourself ‘how much effort did I really put in to that session?’ If you think out of ten… was it a 5 or a 7? For how much time are you ‘resting’ between sets, whilst chatting to your mates or looking at Instagram… You don’t necessarily have to give it a 10 every single time and be a quivering exhausted wreck plastered to the gym floor, but if you’re leaving every time and haven’t really broken a sweat then maybe it’s worth stepping the intensity up a notch. I have had a lot of female clients throughout the years coming to me with huge goals and aspirations to be followed by the comment ‘by the way I really don’t like and want to sweat’. Some people naturally don’t sweat very much but the likelihood is that if you don’t train hard enough, you won’t see the results you want. Intensity is key, and only you’ll really know how hard you’re pushing it.
This is something many people overlook; overtraining is often caused by repetitive overuse or overstretching. Muscles and tendons have an elastic limit at a point whereby an elastic structure cannot stretch any further and is likely to rupture. It’s the combination of training the muscle incorrectly in the sense that it’s pushing it too farwhereby the body cannot adapt to the stresses or demands placed upon it and is not receiving enough rest and recovery in between training sessions. When you train hard, fitness levels will naturally increase but fatigue will also increase, which can reduce your preparedness for the next session. My view is that you want to step into the gym (or to approach whichever form of training you’re about to do) full of energy, not feeling mentally and physically depleted. For me, a minimum of 7 hours sleep, enough recovery between each training session and the occasional sports massage does the trick nicely. There should be no guilt about taking a break when it would be detrimental not to do so.
HOW’S MY FORM?
Form & Technique – possibly the most important point I can make in this post. If you’re not performing the exercise correctly, you’re not targeting the right muscles and it may be your doing more harm than good. There’s a chance you’re compensating for your poor form by engaging the wrong muscles in the wrong plane; so, before you start loading your squat with too many plates (machismo alert!) ensure you’re doing the exercises correctly, so you don’t end up damaging your back instead. Once you sustain a back injury from squat, there’s a decent chance that will haunt you for a long time to come. My preference is always to go slightly lighter, but to ensure my form is right. Use the mirrors to help you gauge body planes and angles, and don’t be afraid to ask a PT at the gym to help show you an exercise if you’re not sure.
That’s not by any means an exhaustive list, and there are of course countless considerations such as nutrition, supplementation, sequencing of training load (etc…) but I thought we’d start there! Hope that’s given you something to bite into for now. Best of luck for 2019 and once again, a very happy new year!
Almost everyone loves Sweet Potato; it naturally sits one level higher than potato on the deliciousness continuum, precisely because of the inclusion of the word ‘sweet’. These tuberous wonders profess lower-GI properties, rendering them ‘complex carbs’, whos sugars break down over a longer period of time. These properties, in turn, are less likely to leave you a hyperactive sugar-high child for an hour, followed by transformation into crushed zombie at your sugar trough for the ensuing 4 hours. With that in mind, I thought I’d throw out the recipe for something quite delectable; these gluten free sweet potato chocolate brownies are provocatively moist, soft and gooey thanks to the inclusion of this masterful, hero ingredient, which keeps them molten and exquisite. You’ll find this recipe along with a bunch of other desserts, breakfasts, lunches dinners and snacks in my book Fit in 3, which contains a mammoth 60 recipes in total, all Scandi-inspired. Check out this recipe below…
It’s been some 3 years since I wrote one of my most well-read ‘how-to’ posts, entitled Blogging 101; in that article, I focussed on my camera selection as a part of what makes FitnessOnToast so much fun to create, and a way to differentiate your own creative pursuits. Time has moved on, as has technology, and now I have professional-grade photography integrated in my smartphone. After visiting Cupertino for the recent launch of the Apple iPhone XS, I’ve been test-driving one of their golden phones for the past fortnight, and this post is the result of my creative experimentation. Shot almost exclusively on the iPhone XS (all except for the 2 shots of the phone itself), these images were captured around Hampstead Heath in the glorious late-summer British sunshine. Click MORE for a full look at the new Camera capabilities and my full perceptions…
I’ve spent quite some time evaluating the quality of these images with my photographer. We usually shoot on a main rig which has been updated since the ‘Blogging 101’ post, and are currently using a Canon EOS 1DX Mark 2 and an array of their superb L-series lenses. That is an unrivalled, exquisite suite of kit, but it requires an entire suitcase to lug around, weighs as much as a freight train, and leaves a deep score on the shoulder of whoever’s strapped into it! With the notably-more-portable iPhone XS, sure the results are simply not technically comparable because the two devices don’t even pretend to compete in similar categories, but there are material advancements in the ‘mobile photography’ category which have been made here, and must be shared.
The dynamic range is most observable for its improvement, such that highly-exposed daylight backgrounds aren’t blown out with under-exposed subject foregrounds suffering at their expense.There is a balance to the imagery, which typically requires ultra-sophisticated chipsets and plenty of post-processing in the DSLR world, but is nicely adjusted in-camera with the iPhone XS. That’s a user-friendly feature that most people probably won’t ever consider, but it’ll be one fewer problem they notice with their captures – and it’s a significant one too, in my experience of travel photography. I’ll look forward to trying this out on beaches and around highly-exposed landscapes.
Depth of Field – that beautiful blurriness – has ever been a huge differentiator of DSLR imagery. My Canon 50mm F1.2 lens generates such a gorgeous background blur (a.k.a ‘bokeh’) when wide open, that it’s hard to imagine anything getting close. Today however, software can simulate this effect quite convincingly, and in the iPhone XS, the combination of improved dual cameras, and a slider to control (in post processing) the amount of background blur to the desired level, is a big leap forward, to my mind. The new chipset’s Neural Engine makes it possible even around the dreaded ‘frizzy hair zone’, so that almost all the shots we took were highly convincing rivals to a DSLR – but with all the convenience of handbag-sizing.
Colour too seems ultra rich, as does sharpness of imagery; subjects always seem to stand out in the shots we took. In Portrait Mode, the more-tightly-cropped framing simulates the effect achieved by a 50mm prime lens, whilst in wide mode, one can achieve a towering sense of perspective, width or breadth, whilst losing none of the sharpness around the edges. Knowing that I have access to that diversity of capture is reassuring.
For too long, mobile shots have looked (surprisingly) pixellated, but I believe that is a thing of the past – an advancement which means travels armed with just my iPhone are now possible. There is of course no suggestion that it will be replacing my ultra-sophisticated main rig, but for those many occasions when it’s just not feasible to carry the big-rig, there is now a reliable, high-quality solution, which just happens to sit in my pocket all the time. That is a big step forward. Give it a shot…
My entire autumnal outfit is by the classically-Swedish brand, Gant, who’s softness of colour palette and softness of cashmere touch I have grown to love over the past 10 years.
N.B. THIS IS NOT AN ADVERT FOR APPLE, NOR HAVE I RECEIVED MONETARY COMPENSATION FOR THIS REVIEW. I WAS SEEDED WITH AN APPLE IPHONE XS AND AM MAKING THESE ENTHUSIASTIC OBSERVATIONS BECAUSE I HAVE FOUND THEM TO BE TRUE AND VALID. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE SEE MY DISCLOSURE PAGE HERE.
Over the past 3 years, I’ve authored some of my most in-depth blog posts about each successive version of the iconic Apple Watch since it revolutionised the health and fitness tracking landscape back in 2015 (see review 1, review 2, and review 3); personally I’ve enormously valued the advances it’s enabled for me, arming me with data and awareness, reminding me to act, keeping me in contact with the community around me – and it did this whilst integrating seamlessly with my own ‘life technology stack’ in an un-intimidating, user-friendly way. Now, following an overwhelmingly impressive trip to the Steve Jobs Theatre in Cupertino, California, I have been introduced to my latest wrist companion, Apple Watch Series 4… Click MORE to see my full perceptions about this fascinating piece of kit, which represents a big hope for the future!
LOOK & FEEL:
The aesthetics of the watch have remained a consistent thread throughout the series’ evolution, and this iteration is no different in that sense. The familiar curved-edge rectangular form still declares ‘I’m an Apple Watch’, although this one is perceptibly thinner which removes a sense of stacked heft, and, even though a small touch, makes Series 4 feel a far more refined, and high quality piece of craftsmanship to the wearer. There’s a silver, gold, and space grey instance, with stainless steel versions in black and gold with even smaller bezels.
FEATURES I LIKE:
Under ‘the hood’ there are significant enhancements, with an infinitesimally small 64-bit dual core processor – on my wrist(!!!) – making functions lightning fast.
Whilst the device is thinner, the screen is almost a third larger with almost no bezel whatsoever, delivering me that satisfying technological holy grail of ‘more from less’. And beyond just size, the screen seems to have a far richer colour representation, a more imperceptible dot pitch for retina-style visualisations, and a more vibrant backlight.
I’m also a fan of the Walkie Talkie feature, where, if I’m on Wi-Fi or connected through cellular signal, and so are friends, we can just have an instant verbal conversation via the watch; the speaker is 50% louder, meaning conversation is far easier to hear, and sound quality is improved thanks to a relocation of the microphone
It’s got all the same fitness features I know and love from the previous instalments, plus a new Yoga and Hiking workout type, both of which are very much in keeping with my workout patterns. Whilst in Sweden on a Yoga retreat, I’ve been trialling these daily and have found them to be useful and necessary additions to the suite of options within the Fitness menu.
It also triggers workouts when it detects you’re hitting the trail, then gives you the retrospective credit for what you did just before it triggered your workout. That’s neat, because remembering to activate ‘workout mode’ can often slip the mind – this way, it’s harder than ever to forget.
For runners, Series 4 has several new features too which I’ve been appreciating – I get alerts if I run too fast or too slowly compared to my set goals as well as being able to see how many steps per minute I take. This is super helpful because rather than having to wait to look at the end of the run, you get real-time, cumulative feedback.
This is where the category-advancing features are delivered, and which is extremely exciting, as I’ve long believed a smart watch should and will be far more than a mere fitness tracker; Apple are going there. An ECG app draws upon the integrated electrodes and electrical heart rate sensor to monitor heart rates and patterns, storing the readings for easy sharing with your GP, and informing you if an irregular pattern develops. Given that Coronary Heart Disease is the single biggest killer in the UK, with 160,000 deaths each year, it is heartening that Apple are helping to consumerise the measurement of early warning indicators. I believe this is a blueprint of a serious revolution for preventative intervention, where the smart watch will one day monitor the vital stats perpetually, informing the wearer of early signs of disease and enabling early remedies.
Also, a warming feature of care is in fall detection, where the user is able to initiate an SOS call to emergency services when the watch detects they’ve fallen, conveying the coordinates. If there’s no response to the alert for a minute afterwards, an automatic communication takes place with emergency services, and key contacts; its quite nice to know someone’s looking out for you if you land in a spot of trouble!
Those are my initial thoughts following week 1 with my wrist-based companion. I will endeavour to test the farthest reaches of its new functionalities and report back anon!
N.B. THIS IS NOT AN ADVERT FOR APPLE, NOR HAVE I RECEIVED MONETARY COMPENSATION FOR THIS REVIEW. I WAS SEEDED WITH AN APPLE WATCH SERIES 4 AND AM MAKING THESE ENTHUSIASTIC OBSERVATIONS BECAUSE I HAVE FOUND THEM TO BE TRUE AND VALID. FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE SEE MY DISCLOSURE PAGE HERE.
Recently, I’ve been receiving quite a few mails from subscribers thinking about changing their professions to work as personal trainers; with the explosion of fitness on social media, it seems there’s a correllated increase in career jumps too. In my inbox, very often, the sender is thinking about changing their career, considering qualifying as a PT (Personal Trainer) or has been working in the job for a while and is looking for advice about shifting direction. REALITY CHECK! Whether you just want to know what your PT goes through, or if the romantic lure of the PT-life is tempting you, read on, as it’s seriously tough! I’ve been a PT for well over a decade and whilst my career has taken unexpected turns, I have often wanted to share my advice, for what it’s worth. I think that for many people considering this shift, it’s a case of ‘the grass is always greener…’ This post will talk about some of my honest experience-based perceptions about the career of a Personal Trainer, warts and all!
WHY IS THERE SO MUCH INTEREST IN THE PROFESSION NOW?
has unquestionably helped to glamorize the gym environment. From stunning supermodels who look a million dollars when punching focus pads, to cool athletic guys wearing Yeezys and drinking vegan blends. I’ve fallen for it too, but when I started out 10 years ago, this concept of aspirational, ‘haute fitness’ was only just beginning, with small boutique gyms beginning to open up – and it was all offline, mostly word of mouth. Now, we can all live and breathe it daily, via whichever social feed, and many people feel such motivated passion that they (understandably) want to be involved in it as their main line of work. Training to become an accredited personal trainer is one of the most traveled paths towards this.
Social media is a great way to promote your work and establish yourself, but I cannot stress enough the crucial importance of experience. Achieving a six pack through your own training is very different to training other people; that’s one of the biggest mistakes I see from newer trainers – training clients the way they’d train themselves. It’s not a one-size-fits-all industry, but should be something much more indepth and bespoke!
A QUICK BUCK ?
‘The Easy Formula’, as I like to call it, is the big misunderstanding. People think that life as a PT is chilled; something along the lines of “Yeh I’ll qualify, charge £100 a session, work with 6 clients a day for just 6 hours, then focus on my own training – so 6 hours x £100 x 7 days in the week x 52 weeks in the year is almost £220k. Sweet. Minted.” Firstly why would anyone pay you £100 an hour when you have no experience and have literally just qualified, but secondly, it’s hard graft, tough to establish regular repeat business, and since you’re on your feet all day long, it’s physically draining too. Not to mention cabin fever at the gym, as no matter how big and diverse your gym is, at the end of a 5-hour back to back grafting session, it’s the last place you’ll want to be!
At the risk of sounding as though I hate it, I should point out that I actually love it, I’ve learned so much from it, met so many fabulous people in the process, and wouldn’t change anything if I had my time again! I do however want to point out that it’s not for everyone, it’s not all glossy and polished, and it’s a challenge that some people may regret taking on, and they should be aware of that in advance! Here are some specific observations…
1) WHAT IT’S LIKE WORKING AT COMMERCIAL GYMS:
I started out working in a large commercial gym (Esporta) after qualifying. First up, I have enormous respect for people who work in commercial gyms as it’s seriously hard work, and not particularly well remunerated. I remember getting up at 4 in the morning to get to the gym for 05:30, so that I could open it for the 6am early-birds. Then I’d train clients between the hours of 06:00 – 22:00. It’s a role in which you work long, irregular hours often for little money. In between you’re cleaning equipment, which includes going on your hands and knees and scrubbing the sweat-spattered treadmills. A humbling experience, and far from the glamorous ideal you might have in mind when setting out on the PT journey.
When you start working in such an environment, you aren’t picky and you very much take the clients you can get. This means clients who want to train at 06:00, and those who want to train at 22:00. Peak hours are mornings and evenings (before and after work), which cripples your freedom to enjoy an on-demand social life. Also, that can often mean barren spells in between, which interrupts your ability to strike up a rhythm and press on. Financially, when you work for a commercial gym the client might be willing to pay, for example, £70 an hour. However, after the gym’s commission and overhead charges, you may end up with £15 in your pocket – which is then taxed, and doesn’t go far in London! So now not only are you busting your ass off trying to establish a regular rota of clients, and working crazy exhausting hours you’re also making very little money.
2) SO WHY TO DO IT?
When I started working, my team had two physiotherapists on board, one back specialist, one body builder, and a serious marathon runner. This meant I had an incredible team around me from whom I could learn, plundering their niches and expertise, picking their respective brains. I remember many times having a client wanting to train with me, but I felt I wasn’t right for his or her specific requirements, so I would send them on to one of my colleagues, and in return he/she would teach me about their back problems, and run me through their programs.
You end up training so many different people in commercial gyms that you gain tremendous breadth and experience. There is no substitute for that, and it helps develop a really strong foundation for the years ahead.
3) ITS A PROPER PEOPLE JOB
Whilst you can have the best knowledge in the world, being a PT means working in the service industry, where the customer is king. It is a classic ‘people job‘ meaning you have to be able to connect with many different personality types, from one hour to the next. Working in a commercial gym, trust me you quickly become a chameleon, as your livelihood depends on that ability to strike up a rapport, and influence your clients’ life.
On the flip side, you also have to BE a professional; you’re not befriending them, it’s not a 1-hour catch up with a mate, but someone is paying you a premium price, and they expect a professionally-delivered product. It takes a certain skill to tread the balance between ‘familiar’ and ‘professional’.
4) A BIG HOLIDAY ???
Also, you might like to consider that you’re there for the client; if you need to go abroad, or make a spontaneous trip, you’ll be letting down all of your clients for their regular spot. That’s a huge inconvenience to them, and there are plenty more PTs waiting to take on the business. In other words, you have to sacrifice your flexibility and end up booking time off based on your clients schedules (school holidays, christmas etc – i.e. the expensive times!).
5) EVENTUALLY, IN TIME…
If you stick with it eventually you can and will pick who you want to train. You’ll build up a client base and you can work regular hours (9-5). I remember when I started, I felt as though there were so many trainers around, and there are even more now thanks to an explosion in the popularity of the role.
Statistically around 30-35% of those who make the switch and retrain are still doing it in a years time. Perseverance and hard work is the key.
6) THE AMAZING PART!
It’s a hugely rewarding job when you’re able to truly help someone else, whether that’s weight loss or gain, getting stronger, conquering some unknown fear, their posture, energy levels, or how they feel about themselves.
This is by no means a post to deter people from going for it, but rather is a realistic review of what the work entails, aside from six packs and pretty Instagram pictures of squats.
FINAL PIECE OF ADVICE:
You never stop learning!
My other piece of advice for what it’s worth is never stop learning. There are so many different approaches, all with validity. There’s so much to take from such a diverse set of approaches. I take courses and read research constantly, all with the aim of delivering a more professional, well informed, and result-oriented service to clients. In an increasingly competitive market its a great idea to specialize whether that’s pre/post-natal, sports massage, yoga etc. Do as many courses as possible as it will help to set you apart from someone else.
I hope this frank assessment of the good and bad has helped, and good luck if you’re considering making the jump to the wonderful world of fitness!
‘Ah but Pancakes are just for Shrove Tuesday‘, you say? No, my dear reader, I disagree; you don’t have to wait for 5th March 2019 for your next pancake hit, but instead, embrace the healthier pancake for your next breakfast! Summery berry-laden pancakes, naturally sweetened with a sprinkling of Truvia in the mixture, are satisfying, deliciously filling, and yet light and fluffy, AND they pack a serious punch for the reader with a sweet tooth. Click MORE to see the full recipe and benefits…
What’s the benefit to me? Well, aside from a quite exquisite flavour profile, these pancakes consist of the following ingredients;
1. Banana – it lends the creamy consistency, is a natural mood-enhancer, & affords plenty of potassium
2. (Optional, if you’re using a non stick pan you won’t need this) Coconut oil – a great source of healthy fats, mainly mono & polyunsaturates.
3. Truvia, made from the stevia leaf (a member of the chrysanthemum family, native to north-eastern Paraguay). It’s the perfect alternative to sugar for the pancakes, giving it the sweetness and granular crunch of sugar – yet without any of the calories! It is the very essence of having your (pan)cake and eating it.
4. Eggs – a naturally rich source of protein – 13g protein per 100g.
5. Blueberries – an excellent source of vitamin C and antioxidants, as well as a very low-GI source of sugars.
6. Almond milk – I like to whip up my own thick batch of almond milk, which takes some preparation, but is super easy to make and gluten free. To try it for yourself find my separate almond milk recipe HERE.