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Gemma Atkinson: How to fit training around a busy life

Lockdown has been a tough and challenging time for everyone, and many people’s fitness routines have fallen by the wayside.  

Gemma Atkinson picked up on this issue during a live Instagram Q&A with Ultimate Performance personal trainer Elliott Upton.  

With many people working from home, having to home-school children, and struggling for time, Head of LiveUP Online Coaching Elliott offered some insight on how people could start to focus on their health, fitness and wellbeing again, even with limited time.   

Here is an extract from the conversation between Gemma and Elliott, and below are four actionable strategies for anyone struggling to get fitter, feel better and regain some consistency with their goals.   

GEMMA:   People are juggling kids, they’re juggling work, they’re juggling furloughs, and so a lot of motivation is just kind of was sapped.  

So, loads of people have said, what would you suggest to just get that starting point again? Just like ramp yourself up and say ‘right, enough is enough. I can’t control the environment, but I can control how I react to it’.  

ELLIOTT:   There’s nothing you can do to control these things. They’re outside of your power. But what you can control is your reaction to it and the actions you take from it.  

I understand that everybody has differing levels of responsibility and other difficulties and other things that go on in their life and then it becomes a case of prioritizing.  

Now, first and foremost, if you’re a parent, you’re a parent, right? You can’t forsake your relationship with your child or the love that you need to give to your child, for the sake of training or for the sake of doing all of these things, that needs to be priority number one.  

That cannot be something that’s up for discussion.  

The problem is, that most people think because of maybe what we say, maybe what they’ve read, that they need to be doing X amount per week in order to move forwards – in order to make progress.  

Number one, it’s always going to be your diet that’s going to allow you to make progress and keep your mindset in the right place and keep your body in the right place.  

Number two, if you’ve got two hours, figure out what you can do with those two hours it’s going to have the biggest bang for the buck.  

Now you’re a new mum, you’re a working professional. You’re going out of your way constantly to do other stuff for other people, especially with chats like this, right, but still, you find the time to train.  

And I know you’re up at five o’clock in the morning sometimes, doing bits and bobs.  

Not everyone has a home gym but certainly, everyone has a body that they can move around  

in their bedroom or their living room, while their child’s getting the last hour of sleep.  

Some people will do it, some people won’t, but it’s important for everybody to understand what they can do and then choose to do that.  

It’s understanding that whatever you can do, if it’s an hour walk with your child, whatever you can do, it’s going to have a positive effect on your mindset. So by not doing something and then getting pissed off about not doing something, you could have spent that hour getting pissed off doing something.  

Endorphins are going to start to flood, and you’re going to think, do you know, I actually felt better after that.  

You probably won’t feel good before training, no one ever does, but while you’re doing it you feel sick, you feel like you want to stop. When you finish, you’re like ‘God, I loved that!’ you get that rush.  

And that then reinforces why positive actions are always the best way out of a negative mindset.

4 actions you can take today to improve your health and fitness  

1. Plan In Exercise   

When we are busy and have work or family commitments, it’s easy to let our health fall down our list of priorities.   

But it is vitally important to set aside some time in our day to nurture our health and well –being – it will help everything from our productivity at work to our mental wellbeing and happiness at home.  

So, at the start of every week or every day, look honestly at your schedule and see where you can make time for yourself to exercise – even if it’s only 30 minutes, something is always better than nothing.  

Your health is important, so book the time into your diary like you would an important meeting to exercise.   

For many people, the best time is the first thing in the morning before the world wakes up, the kids get out of bed, emails fill your inbox and the responsibilities of the day are begin piling up.   

If not, think where you can eke out some time in your day to be active – can you take the kids out for a walk or a game of football, can you take that work meeting call while you walk, can you do a 30-minute online HIIT class when you finish work instead of sitting on the sofa catching up on social media?  

Planning ahead and scheduling in time will ensure that exercise gets done. You will feel better for it.   

2. Take Control of Your Diet  

What you eat will play a big part in determining not just how effectively you manage your weight and recover from workouts, but also how you feel.  

Just a few simple changes to your diet can have a profound effect on your energy levels, your mood, your appetite and your bodyweight.  

One simple rule to follow, that we advocate with all clients at Ultimate Performance, is simply to ‘eat from the land’.  

Every single person would look, feel and perform better is the majority of their meals came from ‘whole’, nutrient-dense, minimally-processed ingredients that came from a farm rather than processed in a factory.   

So build each meal around a quality source of protein, such as meats, fish, eggs or dairy; plenty of green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach or cauliflower; healthy sources of fat, such as nuts, seeds, olive oil or avocados; and then healthier and unprocessed sources of carbs, such as sweet potatoes, quinoa, and rice.   

Batch cooking food is a great way to be more efficient with your time so you have ready-made meals to eat throughout the week. Throwing some of your favourite ingredients into a slow cooker first thing in the morning is a good way of ensuring you have some hot and delicious food ready and waiting for mealtime with your family too.   

3. Move More  

One of the simplest things you can do to be active and improve your health and fitness is walking.   

But interestingly it is also one of the most underrated ways of increasing your energy expenditure and managing your bodyweight too.  

We always insist our body transformation clients complete a minimum of 10,000 steps a day as a way of boosting their energy expenditure and speeding up fat loss.  

If this number sound big and unmanageable from where you are right now, don’t worry. Focus on what you can do now – see what your current average daily step count and see build it up from there.   

The great thing about walking is that most people, no matter their starting point or fitness levels, can start walking – it’s free, it’s low impact, and it’s a great way to get outside, blow the cobwebs away.  

There are plenty of creative ways you can increase your daily step count – go for a walk with a friend, walk an elderly neighbour’s dog, walk to the shop rather than drive, take the kids on a treasure hunt, take a work call or meeting on foot, or go for a walk with your favourite podcast.  

Get outside and walk every day – you will look and feel better for it.   

4. Find someone or something to keep you accountable  

You want to get fitter or lose weight, but there’s that mental barrier stopping you from doing a workout. Maybe it’s you think you don’t have time, maybe it’s that you don’t think you’re fit enough to start, maybe it’s just the lure of sitting in front of the TV that’s too strong.  

But remind yourself that working your body and getting a sweat on will get the blood pumping, the endorphins flowing and always make you feel better.  

This could be something as simple as going for a run, doing a HIIT workout, or a weight training circuit.  

If you struggle to find the motivation or you find sticking to a workout regime hard, find something or someone to keep you on track.  

Accountability is the secret sauce that enables our ordinary clients to achieve extraordinary results, even over the past 12 months during lockdown.  

The research backs this up – people that had some kind of social support were 20% more likely to stick to a programme.   

This increased to 30% when people receive some kind of professional support against people who just tried to do it alone.  

The gold standard of accountability is having a personal trainer who can plan your nutrition, set your workout programme, guide you through the process and check-in regularly to help you achieve your goals.  

You only have to look at the results our clients have achieved during lockdown at Ultimate Performance on our virtual personal training, online personal training and LiveUP online coaching programme to see how effective this can be.   

But even simpler than that, it could be finding an ‘accountability partner’ – someone who has the same goal as you that you can workout with (whether virtually or in person).  

Or even a diet partner – a friend or family member invested in your success – who you can share a daily log of your exercise, your step count and a food diary to give you that accountability.  


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