The Trouble with Phones in the Gym

As a personal trainer I see all sorts in the gym. 

What I saw the other day (and I've seen before) is someone stepping on a phone that had been left on the floor of an exercise studio. What ensued, was nothing short of a cat-fight. 

Woman 1 - who trod on the phone - let out a small squeal, alerting woman 2 - whose phone it was - to rush over (she was busy putting a mat away at the time). Woman 1 apologises, adding she didn't see it because it was on the floor. Woman 2 picks up the phone to find that the screen has shattered and launches into a tirade of abuse. Woman 2 stands her ground and protests that it's not her fault because the phone shouldn't have been left vulnerable on the floor and it was an accident waiting to happen. Woman 1 suggests she must be blind not to see it, and starts name calling and using foul language.

This exchange  goes on for a couple of minutes by which time the studio has emptied of other people and a member of the gym staff rushes in, advising them to carry on their argument outside.

It was an unedifying sight which could have been avoided with a bit of common sense:

I am totally with Woman 1 on this:

If you bring your phone into a gym, do NOT leave it on the floor. It's plain STUPID and if someone does tread on it, you've only got yourself to blame.

I understand why people bring phones into gyms - there's a number of valid reasons. But, they can be a menace. 

What I DON'T understand, in addition to abandoning  them on the floor, is people who spend more time talking on them than working-out.But that's a whole different subject which needs a blog of its own - watch this space!


As a personal trainer, I'm in and out of gyms all day. Something I've noticed lately is the emergence of an 'athleisure trainer'  being used instead of a bona fide sports one.

Be aware: fashion trainers might look cool and stylish, they might come in more colours and styles, they might even cost less, but - in the main - they are not suitable for working out in. 

That's because they're not made for athletic functionality or to help prevent injury. 

The grip on the bottom is likely to be inferior to fashion ones and the cushioning and support at the rear of the shoe is unlikely to be suitable for supporting the ankle and instep - particularly if you're running or jumping. Also, the impact on joints will be greater, which is a classic pathway to knee and hip problems.

Also, the materials and fabric used in fashion trainers are often 'hard', inflexible, heavy and without wicking to help release heat and moisture.

If you're an athleisure-trainer-wearer in the gym, it might not be your fault. When you walk into the trainer section of a sports store, the two varieties are often not de-lineated and if you ask a member of staff, they don't always know the difference.

So, do your research before you part with your money. Once you've worn your trainers (whatever type they are) you won't be ale to return them.

D‚Äčon't Run Out of Steam

So much has been written about coronavirus and how to keep fit while we're locked down. So much information, so many You Tube videos, so many Instagram posts and so many people to like, follow and watch. It's overwhelming and exhausting - and that's before you've even done any exercise.

 My advice is this: find a type/s of exercise that works for you and keep doing it. Change it when you feel your body's got used to it or when it gets boring, The most important thing to do is keep going during this period. Those people who maintain an exercise regime throughout lockdown are the very people who are likely to remain committed when this is all over. They are the people who will stand out and flourish back in the gym/exercise classes and they are the people who will be able to feel proud of themselves from a fitness perspective for a very long time.


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The Honest PT

Posted on March 5, 2016 at 1:05 PM Comments comments (6412)

This week's rant: women who do multiple exercise classes in a row

We've all seen them - those smug, super-fit, super-slim women who rush from one group exercise class to another.

Why? is the question that springs to mind.

I'll tell you why - because theu can, because they're showing off and because they've obviously got time on their hands (and in some cases they're obsessed and think that the longer they exercise, the more they will benefit).

What perhaps they don't realise is that they could be doing more harm than good. As most classes at gyms and health clubs are an hour long, this means that some women are working-out for three hours a day. I know such women. I also know women who travel from one gym to another in order to meet timetable deadlines so they can get their class 'fix.'

It's now almost universally accepted within the fitness industry that 'less is more' in terms of time spent doing exerciuse. The guiding principle is: it's not how long you do something that matters, it's the quality and intensity of what you do in a shorter time that counts. (unless you're training for a marathon, or similar, of course)

And almost all research shows that, for an average person, exercising (hard) for much over an hour is likely to be counter productive - both in terms of results and impact on the body. This is because after about an hour, your brain registers that your body is exhausted and sends it into 'survival mode' via metabolic changes and hormonal responses. It starts doing cruel things like storing fat and burning muscle which is the last thing you want if your goal is a fit, healthy and toned body.

The other potential problem is that if you've got any physical vulnerabilities - for example, a weak knee or diseased heart - they will be the first things to 'go' if your body reaches its limits - particularly as you get older.

And then there's the problem of lower level injury - like strains or sprains - not to mention general aches and pains. These things are common in people who over-exercise (whatever their age) and they are your body's way of telling you to stop. What an irony though. You exercise for as long as you can, and then you have to stop exercising because it's harmed you...

So, while I don't wish to discourage enthusiasm and I should acknowledge that any woman who can do two or three classes in a row must be pretty fit, my message to such women (and it is a female phenomenon) is: calm down, chill out and give 100% to just one class. You'll achieve the same results and you'll get back a couple hours or your life every day to do whatever you were missing out on before - like, for example, scoffing a cream cake!

The Honest PT

Posted on October 22, 2015 at 4:20 PM Comments comments (1133)

IN this weekly feature, personal trainer Aylia Fox shoots from the hip about some aspect of the health, fitness or weight loss industry. Unafraid, upfront, provocative but most of all honest, you'll either lover or hate her opinions. Either way, you won't be able to ignore them and you might just learn something!

This week's rant:


FASHION is fun and colour is cool, but if you're buying a pair of training shoes for the purposes of exercise, make sure you're ruled by your head not your heart.   

What I mean by this is that nowadays there are so many trainers on the market, it's easy to be confused about which are for sport and which are for everyday use. They look much the same; they cost a similar amount and they're often not separated on the shop shelves. On top of this it's difficult to focus on what you need - rather than what you want - when your senses are bombarded by a rainbow array of colours and designs the moment you walk through a shop door.

Caught up in this intoxicating vacuum, you can be drawn towards a pair which you can't help but try on. They fit like a glove, feel like a pair of slippers and the shop assistant is employing their best sales patter on you. Soon you're hooked and you've long forgotten the reason you went shopping today was to buy sports trainers. It doesn't really matter though because these trainers look great, they're cool, they'll impress your friends and therefore you simply have to have them....                      


Above, an example of a fashion/leisure trainer

No you don't!

If you buy them and use them to work out, you are setting yourself up for problems and, potentially, injury. Initially this might only present itself as a bit of discomfort in your joints such as your hips, knees and ankles. But it can escalate to back pain and conditions such as shin splints (extreme pain in the shins)l achilles tendonitis (damage and inflamation between the calf muscle and the ankle) and plantar fasciitis (overstretching and damage to tissue that links your instep to your heal). A worst case scenario could mean irreparable damage to your spine.

So here's a bit of guidance: as a rule of thumb, the higher the exercise impact, the more support you need from a trainer - particularly around the ankle and underneath the heel in the form of  cushioning. If you're a serious runner you need serious running shoes. If you're someone who does a variety of exercise types, then your best bet is a cross-training shoe. This is a soft and flexible generic trainer which moves as you do (see pic below). You can normally identify this type of shoe by a criss-cross patern on the sole. 

Above, an example of a cross trainer                                            

As a personal trainer I often see people exercising in 'leisure' shoes or sneakers. Sometimes I strike up a conversation and mention it. Most people welcome the advice because they want to be safe, but I was once told to 'mind my own f-----g business' by a burly macho man who was a regular gym user and should have known better. About six months later I saw him hobbling around with a hunched back. I couldn't help wondering if his condition had anything to do with his gym footwear. Unfortunately I was too much of a coward to ask!

And finally, trainers are like tyres - they wear out with use. If you exercise more than about three times a week, you should be looking to replace your trainers every six to eight months. But don't think you have to buy one of the overpriced, well known, 'hip' brands (I'm thinking tick logos here). No, buy what's right for you and within your price range. But before you do, just remember: functionality first, then fashion.


The Honest PT

Posted on October 5, 2015 at 3:10 AM Comments comments (6277)

In this weekly feature, personal trainer Aylia Fox shoots from the hip about some aspect of the health, fitness and weight loss industry. Unafraid, upfront, provocative and honest you'll either love or hate her views. Either way, you won't be able to ignore them.

This week's rant:


PROTEIN products are everywhere, you can't escape them. Once the domain of specialist sports shops and health food stores, now you can't even go to Sainsbury's without being distracted by bars, shakes, powders and protein-enriched concoctions. The internet is awash with them.

Retailers aren't stupid, they've simply responded to market forces and jumped-on the protein bandwagon that seems to have infected anyone who has the slightest interest in health and fitness.

As a personal trainer I am often asked by clients if they should be stocking-up on this sort of stuff. I tell them 'NO' and advise them to eat plenty of lean meat - particularly chicken - along with some salmon, tuna and mackerel. I tell them to Include kidney beans, chick peas, cottage cheese eggs and wholemeal cereals and grains in their diet and if they can throw in a bit of Quorn and Quinoa washed down with skimmed milk and a low fat yoghurt, they'll be getting more protein than they need and - more importantly - it will taste better and it's real food (this is not an exhaustive list, by the way!)

Another bonus of getting your protein the 'real' way, is that it won't cost you the earth. Have you seen the price of pre-packaged protein products? You're lucky if you can get a tiny (tasteless) bar for under £2 and protein powders normally come in bucket size portions that start at around £30. I saw a pre-mixed protein shake in a leisure centre vending machine that cost a staggering £3.80 - that's nearly twice the amount of TWO skinny lattes at High Street coffee shop.

There are other factors to consider too. These products are, in the main, artificial. They have to be made this way in order for them to be palatable and so that they have a long shelf life. Some of them are also full of sugar and many of them are calorific. For anyone trying to lose weight, they are best avoided.

Here are a few facts about protein: it is needed for the growth, maintenance and repair of body tissue. Protein is part of every living cell and some tissues like skin, muscle, tendons, ligaments, hair and the core of bones and teeth are predominantly made of protein. Unless there is insufficent carbohydrate stored in the body, protein will NOT be used for energy production and compared to other nutrients, the body's protein needs are quite small.

Government guidelines say that a 'normal' adult should be getting 10-15 per cent of their total calories a day from protein. That's approximately equivalent to 0.8g per kg of body weight. For example, a 60kg person would require 60 x 0.8g = 48g per day.

That increases to 1.2-1.4g per kg of body weight for those people who are working-out hard, regularly (3 to 5 times a week) For a 60kg person, that's still only (approximately) 78g - which can easily be sourced through diet.


There are NO health or performance benefits in taking more protein than we need. In fact there are health risks associated with a surplus - for e.g accumulation of ammonia which can, in some circumstances, lead to kidney and liver damage.

So, don't get caught up in the protein frenzy and stop wasting your time and money on products that you really don't need if you're eating sensibly - and properly.

Protein IS important - I'm not saying otherwise. I personally include a sizeable amount in every meal I consume and I advise clients to moniter their intake to ensure they're getting enough. But let's keep the matter in perspective. Unless you want to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger  or Kelly Holmes, leave the protein supplements to those who actually need them.

The Honest PT

Posted on September 30, 2015 at 12:15 AM Comments comments (2333)


ARRIVE in the weights area of any gym in the world and you will encounter a puffed-up man grunting and groaning like an animal in pain.

Do you know why this? Well I'll tell you. He reckons he's working far harder than anyone else and must make a primeval noise to prove it.

And if other gym users don't look round in response to the alert, he's failed in his task. Truth is, he wants people to look at him. He wants them to think he's tough - even if he's not!

It doesn't necessarily matter whether the guy in question is ripped and bench-pressing a colossal load, or is puny and struggling to complete one chin up, the perceived stratospheric level of exertion can still be the same and the audible exhalation of relief can be too. 'Little and Large' might not have strength in common, but they sure as hell share a gender and that, in my experience, is enough.

Women lift weights. It hurts them too. Most don't feel the need to make noise. Women just get on with it - rather like they do everything else.They're not there to show off or impress, they're there because their goals and aspirations require them to be (they don't tend to look at themselves in the full-length mirrors as much as men either)

As a personal trainer I have witnessed this macho phenomenon hundreds of times and it never fails to amuse me. If I pass the beast in question, I have to supress laughter for fear he might get angry and drop a dumbbell on my foot. For fun, I sometimes make eye contact with a person nearby and we exchanage a wry smile that says: I know what you're thinking.'

Shame Loud Guy doesn't; he might stop otherwise. Instead,his preening peacock display often continues as he saunters round the gym wiping his (hardly wet) brow with a  boxing-style towel. He sips more water than is necessary because - lest we forget - he's been working harder than anyone else.

Unlike a peacock, noisy guy is not trying to attract a mate (that would take real effort!)... which is a good job because whilst a toned physique is attractive to women, narcisism and delusion are not.

The Honest PT

Posted on September 17, 2015 at 9:20 AM Comments comments (297)


Let's talk dimples - and I'm not referring to the cute ones on your face.

I'm talking orange peel flesh, blubber thighs, lard butt and cottage cheese tummy. In case you hadn't guessed ladies, I'm talking about the dreaded cellulite - or persistent subcutaneous fat, as the dictionary so charmingly puts it.

Cellulite is on a par with death and taxes if you're a woman living in the Western world - it's going to happen to you at some point and there's not that much you can do about it. You don't even have to be fat, unfit or chavvy to suffer. Supermodels get it, as do Hollywood A-listers not to mention royalty (who can forget that photo of Princess Beatrice on the beach in a bikini?).

So why is it that an affliction that connects women so personally, also divides us in terms of judgement on others? Open almost any magazine nowadays and you'll be bombarded with images of beautiuful skinny women on one page, while on the next you'll see someone in the public eye sporting thunder thighs reminiscent of the surface of the moon? 

Talk about perverted sisterhood. We all get cellulite and we all try to hide it. But why should we, it's part of a woman's identity. It's tied-in with our genetic make-up, the same genes that give us the gift of children. And, if someone fails to hide it, we feel their pain but we're also secretly laughing because they got caught out and we didn't. And, in the case of celebrities, it's reassuringly nice to know that they're not so perfect after all and have to contend with the same cruel tricks of nature as the rest of us.

So where am I going with this? Well, as a personal trainer I'm painfully aware how many women are tormented by their cellulite. One lady I know of won't go on a beach holiday for fear of having to expose her dimpled flesh in a bikini. She pretends she prefers city breaks and ski-ing so in order to avoid the humiliation. A friend of a friend spends hundreds of pounds a year on self-proclaimed wonder creams in the belief that they will somehow cure her condition. Guess what, they don't. Her thighs are as dimpled as the oranges she eats while trying to lose weight.

The trouble with cellulite is that once you've got it, it's extremely hard to get rid of. It often develops during puberty (along with stretch marks) when teenage girls are prone to putting on weight - partly due to raging hormones but also because junk food is the nutrition of choice and exercise is not as attractive as boys.

Yes, there's many things you can do to improve the appearance of cellulite-infected skin. But ironically, rather like an infection, sometimes the remedies work and sometimes they don't. So, the best advice I can give you is: don't let cellulite take hold - unless, that is, you don't want it to ever let go. Glaringly obvious advice, I know, but important to state all the same.

And the best way to avoid cellulite? Well, you need to prevent toxins being stored in the fatty deposits that form just under your skin. So:

1) Eat 'clean'/healthy and avoid saturated fat

2) Drink plenty of water - preferably 1.5 litres a day.

3) Exercise regularly - particularly cardiovascular work (where you sweat out toxins)

4) Limit your use of salt - or use a low sodium alternative

5) Stimulate your lymph system by dry bristle brushing your skin and massaging afterwards with a softening or elasticity-giving cream

6) Try to avoid weight gain - particularly rapid weight gain.

And if you get cellulite, and you can't shift it, try not to stress - at least you're normal and unless you're a pop, soap or reality star, the rest of the world will never see it!

The Honest PT

Posted on September 9, 2015 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (3664)

In this weekly feature, personal trainer Aylia Fox shoots from the hip about an aspect of the health, fitness and personal training industry.

Unafraid, upfront, outspoken and provocative, you'll either love or hate her opinions. Either way you won't be able to ignore them.

This week's rant:

Joggers of the World - Jog On!

  I acknowledge that any activity is better than no activity, but as far as I'm concerned, jogging is a bit of a waste of time if you want to either get fit, keep fit, lose weight or tone muscle. It's also mind numbingly boring.

So why do so many people do it?

I'll tell you why - because it's easy peasy and it's a good excuse not to push yourself. Perhaps more importantly, some joggers have convinced themselves they're actually working out and take great pleasure in telling anyone who will listen about their virtuosity. What they're actually doing however, is bolstering their ego in a somewhat deluded way.

Think about it. How many joggers have you seen who are hot, sweaty and breathless? None is probably the answer and there's a reason for this. Jogging might involve movement of the limbs, but unless you're elderly, infirm or injured, it's not 'proper' exercise for most people who do it.

Exercise means working your muscles harder than usual whereby there are noticeable physiological changes - normally uncomfortable or unpleasant ones. In the case of anything cardio related, the main muscle is the heart and the result is an increased pulse rate, rapid breathing, a red face, perspiration etc.

The joggers I observe are normally so fresh they can hold a full blown conversation with a fellow jogger while checking their phone and admiring the scenery. They can even read a book and consume a sandwich while trotting from A to B (I've seen this, honest).

And then there's the joggers who fall into amusing categories - such as the yummy mummies who glide around with a posh pram in front of them making ridiculous faces at their alarmed offspring inside. And what about the divorced 40+ men who hope to attract a younger woman by prancing round a park accompanied by a heart melting big, friendly dog on a long lead?

And have you noticed how joggers are always stopping? Stopping to do up their laces; stopping to adjust their hair, stopping for a pee and, if the mood takes, stopping for a picnic. Truth is, they stop because they want to and because they can. They rarely continue because they're not sufficiently motivated.

Jogging is little more than walking with a bounce. Fine if you want to put a spring in your step and get some fresh air. Great if it gives you pleasure and a sense of achievement. Each to your own; just don't kid yourself about it's benefits.

Structured and regular running is what's required if you want to improve your fitness, lose weight and tone your lower body - this plus alternative forms of cardio and a resistance programme designed with your goals, abilities and preferences in mind.

And how do you go about putting a regime like this together? By hiring a personal trainer, of course. Somebody like me of course!

'Don't run before you can walk' is probably a jogger's mantra. But in my experience once a jogger - always a jogger. It's a state of mind not an training classification.