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I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be teaching a circuit class. Aerobics, step and spinning – yes. But circuit? Never.
Teaching step aerobics used to be my happy place, and I loved nothing more than preparing new routines for my classes. I would place my step in the middle of the living room and spend hours jumping up and down, making up new combinations and practicing until it was perfect.
Before a class, I’d turn up an hour early, so I could practice again in my space, making sure I knew everything off by heart, before excitedly teaching it to my girls. It was pretty much my dream job.
Teaching circuit classes
But when I started working as a Fitness Instructor the thought of teaching a circuit class filled me with dread. I wouldn’t have the privacy of a studio, I’d be teaching in the middle of the gym where everyone could see. Hello, introvert nightmare!
But over time, it’s gotten a little easier, and sometimes, I even enjoy them. I just don’t shout that part too loudly at work.
Because each instructor has their own style of teaching, it means no two classes are the same. It keeps the members on their toes! Some instructors like to focus on the upper body, while others like to concentrate on the lower body. Personally, (at the moment) I’m a fan of doing a full body circuit. I make sure people walk away with a feeling that every muscle group has been worked. Also, the more core the better.
They’re mixed ability classes, so anyone can turn up. This just means I plan my classes as best as I can and offer low impact options, along with a couple of different weight options too. Obviously, if someone with a specific injury turns up, they get given an alternative exercise that’s suitable to their needs.
Teaching circuits is still quite new to me, but so far, I’ve had good feedback.
The 30-minute circuit
The following circuit was for a lunchtime express class (excluding warm-up and cool down), where people like to get in and get out. We spent a couple of minutes warming up with some jogging, jacks, high knees and lunges, along with some shoulder mobility and finished with a few minutes cooling down and some stretches.
The circuit was completed 3 times. Each exercise lasted 45-seconds with 15-seconds of rest in-between, followed by a 1-minute rest at the end of each full circuit.
- Mountain climbers
- Squat jumps
- Walk-outs into press ups
- Jacks with light weights (arms no higher than shoulders)
- Plank with shoulder taps
- Plank jacks
- Weighted Russian twists with kettlebell
- Tricep dips on a box
People who take part in the lunchtime circuit classes are normally the hardcore exercisers. They want to get the most out of their class before heading off and getting ready for work again. They push themselves hard and it’s good to see them giving it everything they have in the time available.
The last 12 months have seen some major changes for vegans and eating out is becoming easier than ever. With places like Prezzo, Zizzi, Wagamama, Pizza Hut and Pizza Express offering vegan options on their menu, the choice is growing all the time.
Here are my thoughts on some of the current offerings out there.
I LOVE Zizzi! It’s been my favourite place to eat since the launch of their vegan menu. I always start off with the vegan garlic bread, which is served with full garlic cloves, smoked garlic oil and rosemary. What’s not to love?
For my main course, I have either the spaghetti pomodoro with mushrooms, red chillies and caramelised balsamic onions or the rustica Margherita pizza, with mushrooms, caramelised balsamic onions and fire roasted red peppers. Sometimes we order one of each and share.
If I’m going all out, I’ll have a side order of green beans – which depending on the restaurant is sometimes served with a sprinkling of sea salt. Other times they’re just plain green beans plonked on a plate!
I once complained at a Zizzi restaurant because I found some mozzarella on my pizza. It wasn’t a big kick-off complaint (which I have a reputation for), it was a very reasonable, hey, I want to make you aware of this and can you please tell your chef to be more careful in future. The result? We ended up getting free meals with a free dessert. The manager was very apologetic and said due to my lifestyle choices it was completely unacceptable that it happened.
It didn’t affect my opinion of Zizzi and it’s still my favourite place to eat. Mistakes happen. I just wanted to draw their attention to it, hopefully helping to prevent it from happening again in the future.
Full garlic cloves as part of the garlic bread. I could eat it all day long. Most of the time, their customer service is really good.
I hate cold food and the vegan cheese they use goes cold really quickly. Even though watching me eat has been compared to watching Formula One racing, I would prefer to eat at a slower pace and enjoy my food without having to inhale it before it goes cold.
The service is always painfully slow. There could be as little as 4 tables occupied at a restaurant and everything will still take forever. From getting the starters right through to getting the bill.
My second favourite place to eat.
Even before they introduced specific vegan options, Prezzo was somewhere we ate regularly – even though the penne arrabiata was pretty much the only thing on the menu we could eat. Until we realised we could also eat the pitta bread dipped in hummus.
The manager at our local Prezzo was really good (he recently left) and would bring us packets of food from the kitchen so we could check the ingredients before ordering.
Now, they have vegan options on their menu including pizza, pasta and garlic bread. Even though our incredibly helpful manager left, the assistant manager is just as good. She makes sure we get an amazing vegan garlic bread made with chilli oil instead of milk, a tomato base, caramelised balsamic onions and chopped garlic.
The garlic bread we order is nicer than the one at Zizzi. I know, right?
I can’t have pizza because I don’t like the cheese they use. It tastes like feet.
Just like Zizzi, the service can be slow. And depending which restaurant you go to, customer service can be a bit hit and miss.
Vegan Pizza Hut
Towards the end of last year when Pizza Hut announced their vegan options, I was really excited to see what they were offering. Unfortunately, I was left feeling disappointed.
Firstly, we made the mistake of eating in. Pizza Hut is basically a glorified McDonalds and it was full of kids screaming, whining and running around. Parents chose to surf their smart phones instead of interacting with their offspring. One dad even sat there watching a film on his phone, ignoring his family completely.
While the pizza was good – the price was not. And after all the rave reviews across social media, I came to the conclusion that the bloggers shouting about it were probably producing sponsored content. Not one of them mentioned the price. They were too busy making yummy noises and high fiving each other.
The menu said it served two. Ha! A 12” pizza to serve two? Maybe in the land of make-believe perhaps. Even with side orders, it would only just have been enough, and apparently, there were no vegan side orders available. So, we had one pitiful 12” pizza between us and then had to go home and eat all the food to fill ourselves up.
With a price tag of £20 each, there was no way we were ordering a second one!
We came to the conclusion, the best way to enjoy Pizza Hut is to order it as a takeaway on a Tuesday when it’s buy one get one free.
The pizza tastes good.
The price tag, and also the service – it was terrible. Our waitress was a teenage girl who had the attention span of a goldfish and we had to keep reminding her to bring us things. Yes, I know. Pot. Kettle. Black. But at least I can do my job properly, with only occasionally getting distracted by shiny things.
I must admit, I haven’t tried the main courses from the new vegan menu yet. I’ve been too busy devouring what Zizzi have to offer. However, the wok-fried greens are really nice and the vegetable gyoza’s with dipping sauce are okay too.
Also, I’ve been a little apprehensive about trying the main courses because most of the options list coriander as an ingredient, and I hate coriander.
Depending on the other ingredients, the taste can sometimes be disguised. But what I don’t want, is to order a meal and then not eat it because it’s coriander central.
Way before their vegan menu was introduced, Wagamama used to be my favourite place to eat by far. Their Yasai Chilli Men was immense, and I was upset when they stopped serving it.
Shortly after, I discovered their chicken firecracker dish, so I swapped out the chicken for tofu thinking I’d found the perfect vegan option. Until I realised my new favourite dish wasn’t vegan at all. Thanks, chef.
The chef at the restaurant seemed knowledgeable and told us the recipe changed occasionally, and to check each time we ordered that it didn’t currently include crustaceans. Fab.
Or so I thought.
Orange juice isn’t always vegan
A few weeks later at a different restaurant, the manager seemed confused over the information we’d been given. She brought out the allergen/ingredient book and said even with tofu it wasn’t classed as vegan because it contained orange juice.
It was a Saturday night and we’d already walked away from multiple restaurants due to the waiting times. I had no idea what made orange juice unfriendly to vegans, but knowing we wouldn’t find anywhere else to eat, through gritted teeth I placed my order, vowing not to look up the ingredients until after I’d eaten.
It turned out orange juice can contain fish oil (omega 3), gelatin (made from animal skin, cartilage & bones) and lanolin derived vitamin D (a natural oil found in sheep’s wool).
The moral of the story? Never assume something is vegan just because it looks vegan-friendly. Always check the ingredients with someone.
Wok-fried greens, the customer service and the fact they serve free green tea.
Eating a dish that isn’t vegan through misinformation.
Vegan Pizza Express
After our experience at Pizza Hut, I can’t bring myself to go in and try what they have to offer.
It really is a good time to be vegan. More and more restaurants are offering vegan options and even if there isn’t a specific menu available, many things can be adapted.
But I feel like Zizzi, Prezzo and Wagamama have somehow slipped under the radar a little. With their vegan options and staff who can string a sentence together – I’m struggling to see why Pizza Hut has received so much attention.
Quality of food, taste (aside from coriander!) price and service are all so much better. Or maybe I’m just not Pizza Hut’s target clientele. And although the service can be a little slower than I would like At Zizzi and Prezzo, I never have to ask where my order is.
For now, though, I suppose I’m just happy that more places are offering vegan options, and I’ll just have to enjoy Pizza Hut the only way I know how.
As a takeaway, on two for one Tuesday’s.
What are your thoughts on the vegan options now available in restaurants?
In a world where everyone is trying to escape the 9-5 life, become a digital nomad and reinvent themselves as an entrepreneur, last year I made the decision to go back to work as a fitness instructor.
Just to be clear, I hadn’t been sat at home twiddling my thumbs for nearly a decade – I’d been self-employed. For 7 years I ran my own photography/videography business and for the past 3 years, I’ve been designing and making handprinted wrapping paper. But fitness has always been my first love.
In May 2017 I shut the doors on my photography business and started pondering over what to do next. While it was great being my own boss, I’d become tired of the hustle. Editing images until way past my bedtime, making phone calls, sending emails, chasing invoices, drumming up business – all for something I’d fallen out of love with. It just wasn’t enjoyable anymore and I needed things to change. I decided to keep my printing business and look for a part-time job to replace the photography.
Returning to the fitness industry
It couldn’t be just any job. It had to mean something to me and I wanted to use my current skillset. Although it was blindingly obvious I should be working in the fitness industry, I think I denied it for a while. I’d already been there, done that and bought the t-shirt. I’d taught aerobics, step, spinning and body conditioning; I’d worked as a gym instructor and done a small stint as a personal trainer.
Once I finally gave in, I started looking for jobs and applied for two. The first, I was a little underqualified for but gave it a shot anyway. The second was perfect for what I was looking for, and a couple of hours after my second interview I received a phone call offering me the position. I started the following week.
8 Things I’ve learnt from going back to the fitness industry
I’ve had to work on my personal skills
When I had my photography business I used to pick and choose my clients. If I thought a bride was going to be the bride from hell – I turned her I down. Sometimes I said I was already booked, other times I was honest, telling her I didn’t think we were the right fit. This was the same in other areas of photography, and overall I was very lucky with the clients I bagged.
At the gym, I don’t get to pick and choose. I have to deal with whoever walks through the door on my shift. Most people are lovely. But it took me a little while to realise I was there to help whoever that person may be, and I’ve had to adapt my approach a little. Just like if I’ve had a shitty day, I can’t take it out on someone. I still have to smile, be polite, remain professional and do everything I can to help with whatever that person wants – even if they piss me off a little.
I always have been, and always will be an introvert
Making random uncomfortable small talk is never going to be easy for me. I acknowledge everyone, smile politely and say hello, but I’m much better at slowly building relationships and finding common topics to talk about. This has been my approach and it’s starting to pay off.
Also, I find it draining spending so much time with people. If I have a day in-between each shift, I’m okay. But if I work 3 days back-to-back, I struggle. I crave my own space and long for some serious downtime with a good book.
My favourite times of day are just before I open the gym, or just before I close for the night. I like the silence, the peacefulness and the emptiness.
I like hearing people’s stories
Even though I will always be an introvert, listening to people’s stories and hearing about their lives is fascinating. Everyone has a different reason for being at the gym and everyone has a life story about how they ended up where they are, doing what they’re doing. These are the conversations I adore.
Other times, people just need to offload – and that’s fine too.
Early mornings are a killer
Even though I consider myself an early riser (hello 5.15am alarm for the gym), early shifts kill me. To get to work for 6.15am, I have to get up at 4.15am. One early shift a week I can just about cope with. But give me two back-to-back and it wipes me out for a few days.
I suffer from imposter syndrome
Not believing in myself enough. Doubting myself. Fear of being exposed as a fraud. We’ve all been there. Unfortunately, I’m feeling it now more than ever.
If I have an induction that doesn’t go perfectly, or if I can’t answer a question (even though I know I can’t know everything), I start questioning myself, my knowledge and my ability, telling myself I’m not good enough to be there. To be honest, at times it’s been debilitating.
I like training women and they trust me
And at the risk of blowing my own trumpet – I’m good at it.
Lots of women find the gym an intimidating place – for different reasons – and I’m also discovering many women feel more comfortable having a female trainer. I patiently spend time showing them the different equipment, putting programmes together, correcting their form and showing them that the gym doesn’t have to be scary.
There are women who will only book in with me and some even book weeks in advance to make sure they can get an appointment during my shift. I find this part of my job really rewarding because it shows I’m doing everything right.
I shouldn’t get involved with gossip
One of the things I hated about previous jobs was all the gossip mongering, and working on my own meant it was never an issue.
Now, I find myself getting involved in a weekly game of Chinese whispers. What’s worse is that I find myself joining in and repeating some of it. This is a side of myself that I don’t like, so I need to be a bit more diplomatic and try to keep my head down.
I have to be flexible with my schedule
Sometimes, it would be easier to train at work, but I just can’t bring myself to do it – I like having a separate gym.
Also, when I first went back to work I convinced myself I could continue with my regular routine. Oh, how wrong I was. Switching between early shifts and late shifts, working every other weekend and running my printing business has taken time for me to realise I need to be flexible with my schedule.
At first, I told myself I could work late and still get up for an early gym session the next day – only to be left frustrated when I slept through my alarm. To begin with, I found myself doing home workouts and just hitting the gym on my days off but I started to get bored – and pissed off I was paying for a gym membership.
Now, if I work an early shift, I head straight to the gym afterwards and work out at 3pm instead of 6.30am. If I’m on a late, I work out early and then the day after, I have a lie in and hit the gym around 8am instead. It’s all about being flexible. I still throw in the occasional home work out, but not as much as I used to.
Overall, I like being back at work and being part of the fitness industry again. Part-time hours really suit me and so does working in a gym. At the moment, it’s pretty much my perfect job. Not perfect as in ‘oh wow, this is my dream job – gush, gush’, but a perfect fit for where I am right now. I like the hours, the location and the fact I’m able to use my fitness qualifications.
I can still run my printing business, I’m constantly learning new things and the fitness theme is a good fit for my blog. It’s also given me other ideas to explore that a while ago seemed out of reach. And although I’ll always be an introvert at heart, it’s made me realise that some days I was finding it quite lonely working from home.
I have no concrete plans for the future, but for now, I’m pretty happy exploring new ideas.
Have you ever gone from being self-employed to employed? How did you adjust?
So, here we are. Another year has been and gone and I can’t believe only a couple of weeks ago I was saying good riddance to 2017. So much happened during the last 12 months, and I was happy to hold a middle finger up to it and send it on its way. I didn’t even stay up to see the old year out and the new one in – I was over it and found myself tucked up in bed before 11pm, only to be woken at midnight by a million fireworks going off.
I realise there’s no magic door that separates the old year from the new one, but there is something satisfying about waking up on New Year’s Day. It’s like a clean slate. A new start. A time to move forward and plan for the year ahead. I love those feelings of positivity and determination, which 2 days later are replaced with the familiar feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. No? Just me then.
2017 was many things. Including,
Challenging, overwhelming and emotional
Just like the previous year, 2017 was filled with overwhelm. And if I had to describe it in three words (which I did in Susannah Conway’s Unravel Your Year), I would describe it as challenging, overwhelming and emotional.
As I recently said on Instagram, just because the photos are pretty it doesn’t mean everything is peachy behind the scenes. My dad had been in and out of the hospital for over a year, which ended with life-changing consequences for our family. Especially my parents. It’s been a huge adjustment for everyone, but luckily, we’re a family that deals with things using humour – most of the time in bad taste. Without this coping mechanism though, everything would have just gone to shit.
We also lost our pretty princess, Henry. She was 19 ½ and had a few health issues which were under control, but unfortunately, she’d started to deteriorate in other areas due to her age. In October, both the vet and I agreed Henry would be ready to leave us soon, but not quite yet. We needed a sign, and a few weeks later my little princess gave us one.
Henry used to sleep on me at night and early one morning I woke to her having a seizure. The vet had warned me this could happen, but it was a shock when it did. I had to wait until it was over before I could comfort her which was awful. She was disoriented, and I was terrified of going back to sleep. The following day she lost the use of her back legs and that’s when we had to call the vet. We were absolutely heart-broken.
Losing my princess hit me hard and I still listen out for her at night, thinking she’s going to jump on the bed for snuggles.
The house cost us a fortune this year. Yes, we bought it because it needed renovating, but unfortunately, it turned out the work that needed doing ran deeper than we initially thought. I’ve wanted to up and leave about a million times during the past year, but we made the decision to buy it, so we just need to man the fuck up and get on with it. Hopefully, a lot of the more expensive things have been dealt with now and this year I can concentrate on some decorating and making things look pretty.
But the year wasn’t all bad.
I went back to work
Health and fitness has been a big part of my life for so long. I spent 5 years teaching aerobics and a few years working as a gym instructor. I’m also a qualified personal trainer. I’d been wanting to get back into the fitness industry for a while, but wasn’t sure in which capacity, so in March last year I randomly took a course in sports & exercise nutrition. Then in November last year, I started work as a part-time gym instructor. It suits me perfectly at the moment because I can easily fit my printing business around it.
I’ve had some other offers that I’m currently looking into and I’ve got some ideas of my own that I also want to explore. So far, things are looking positive – although perhaps a little overwhelming.
I have a blog post coming soon with my thoughts on going back to work.
I switched up my exercise
Even with everything that went on last year, I still managed to work out 6 days a week. Some days I hit the road instead of the gym and other days I stayed home and did a circuit, T25 or a YouTube video. Working out is my coping mechanism, how I function and non-negotiable. It also helps that I enjoy it! Last year showed me I had to be flexible in order to squeeze in my exercise fix and this year is shaping up to be the same so far.
I’ll be sharing some of my favourite YouTube videos soon.
I found new running routes & ran the Preston 10k
I fell out of love with running early in 2017, but my passion was soon reignited when we discovered the Preston Guild Wheel. This opened-up some amazing running routes, and I fell in love with it all over again. Is it easy? Hell no! Running doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s still something I love.
I also ran the Preston 10k. My time was slower than I would have liked, due to a section of the route that bottlenecked while people filtered down into a single lane track. But overall, I was happy with how it went and this year I’d like to take part in more events.
I explored new places
I’m not shy when it comes to shouting about how much I love the Lake District. But 2017 also saw us cheating on the Lakes a couple of times with the Forest of Bowland and parts of Cheshire.
Stocks Reservoir and Nelson Pit No.7 were two of my favourite walks from last year. Even though they were a little boggy! It just made it even more fun. Especially when walking Stocks Reservoir and Ian dropped his sandwich. We watched it roll down a hill into a mucky stream and then through hysterical laughter I pondered out loud if tinfoil was waterproof. Unfortunately, it wasn’t so I had to share my lunch with him. The mud, cold, and sandwich rolling pretty much summed up the whole day. But they’re the days I love. The days where things don’t go to plan.
I also found myself on adventures with my bestie visiting Holker Hall, Sizergh Castle, Martin Mere, Brockholes, Levens Hall, New Brighton beach and the Cat Cafe in Manchester. Considering the year I had, I’m amazed I managed to visit anywhere at all!
I finally closed the doors on my photography business
Even though I announced in December 2016 that I would be closing the doors on my photography business, I didn’t actually do it until May 2017. Sometimes previous clients come out of the woodwork and you just can’t turn them down. It was nice to do a few last shoots, but it also reminded me why I wanted to close the doors and move onto pastures new. I have no regrets whatsoever and I closed my business with a lovely shoot of a small country cottage holiday let.
Last year was tough. But it showed me I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. There were days where I just wanted to give up. I wanted to hibernate and never speak to another living soul again. But somehow, I got through it and came back stronger. This year, I’m looking forward to getting organised, working on a new business venture, exploring the great outdoors and doing more things that make my heart sing.
How’s your 2018 shaping up so far?