Keeping it Real: Outdoor Strength and Conditioning

There is no good time for disruptions, but sometimes it seems as if an evil fairy arranges for them to occur at the worst possible moments. It’s been a week full of disruptions (and it’s only Thursday!), so tonight the last thing I felt like doing was commuting and having to interact with other people in the gym in order to get my strength and conditioning training done.

Fortunately, I’ve been working on a program which emphasises body-weight exercises, and I’m now able to chin and pull my own body-weight (albeit not very many times.) So I really needed very little in the way of equipment – just some bars for pull-ups and dips, and a bench for back extensions and box jumps.

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Why I Do My Job


Nothing makes me happier as a personal trainer than seeing a client make progress. The most meaningful progress can’t be neatly summed up with a before-and-after pic on social media. The most meaningful progress from my perspective is an improvement in quality of life. Today I was privileged to witness a long-term client able to push herself to near-failure on the lat pull-down machine. This is significant because, in the space of a few months, she has gone from being in constant pain due to muscular dysfunction in her upper traps and exercising purely to rehabilitate this dysfunction, to being able to explore the limits of her strength with functional, integrated muscle recruitment. In simple terms, it means no more sleepless nights with headaches and back pain, not needing to see a physio multiple times a week, and being able to consider exercise goals beyond pain management.

Moments like these are the reason I do my job.

Kelly

A little bit before I started Muay Thai, which was my introduction to combat sports, I was caught in a cycle which many girls and women will find familiar, of hating my body, wanting to be “liked”, slavishly following poorly thought-out diets, and doing hours of cardio at the gym.

Needless to say, none of this was very fulfilling. In my quest for ever more cardio, I ended up in a Les Mills Body Combat class.

The instructor’s name was Kelly, and I remember thinking that she was amazing. She was lithe and strong in a way that I had always been told that women were not, and unlike the step-class instructors she made no apology for her athleticism – no thick layer of make-up or pink accessories or feminine affectations.

Unlike those other instructors, she was also very approachable and generous with her time. I spoke to her after class and she told me that she had a background in Taekwondo. I think she may have been the first person in whom I confided about my desire to learn to fight.

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Effective Goal-Setting

Are all goals created alike? Setting goals effectively can help you to reach your destination and develop a sense of competence, where setting them ineffectively can set you up to feel overwhelmed.

Part of my work as a specialised exercise trainer requires me to help people to identify their values and define, refine and specify their goals. Here are some basic tips that I often use in this process.

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Why Women Speaking for Themselves is “Facebook-Worthy” – Women’s Day Special

Some people think that you have to be “Facebook worthy” before daring to discuss your experiences in a public forum. It’s a shame that this attitude exists, because I personally find so much value in reading about the experiences of other people, especially other women, in combat sports as told in their own words. Historically, much has been written about women, and the voices of women that have made it into the public sphere have had to come through a thick editorial filter. The internet allows people to express their views and experiences without censorship, and while this can be both harmful and beneficial, I believe that in its capacity to allow women to speak freely about their own experiences it is invaluable.

Because it’s International Women’s Day, I wanted to share a few blogs and – yes – Facebook pages which are run by women whose shared experiences have added value to my own.

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Confidence & Competence: Perception vs Reality

I have been thinking a lot about confidence lately, in the context of my own training. I go through cycles of feeling like I’m making great progress and solving problems, interspersed with cycles where it feels like I have run into a wall and am doing the “wrong” thing over and over again. I have come to view these phases somewhat fatalistically, accepting that if I just keep grinding, each phase will yield to the other in its own time.

That’s not to say that I don’t experience emotions in association with these states. When I feel like I’ve reached a plateau, I feel frustrated and inadequate, and I start to doubt myself and – yes – lose confidence.

Recently I’ve felt that I have been experiencing a plateau in my MMA training. I never feel that I am transitioning as fast as I want to be; I’m not winning as many drills as my team-mates; I don’t feel like I’m showing dominance in sparring or making enough progress from week to week.

While continuing to work with my team to increase my competence, I’ve been exploring ways of improving my confidence, which I consider my own responsibility.

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The Hunger Game: Combat Sports, Eating Disorders, and Roy Nelson the Anti-Hero


When I first started combat sports training, one of the ways in which I found it a liberating experience was in the way that it changed my relationship with my body.

As a teenage girl, like so many other teenage girls, I had been taught by the people, role models and the media influence around me that my body was an object that existed for the pleasure of other people. I was defined by the reaction that my body elicited in others. If it elicited repulsion, I was Ugly. If it elicited desire, I was a Slut. Like all girls my age, I walked a fine line. I needed to be “pretty” but never a Slut.

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