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Best Tips for Staying in Shape

The global pandemic has taught us a few things, one of them being the importance of getting regular exercise for the sake of our mental health. We asked Three Personal Trainers to share their tips, because we know when it comes to exercise, one shape doesn't fit all.

The Weight Lifter

Pam McVitie is the owner and coach at Project Me, a private women-only fitness facility in Liverpool. She specialises in getting women stronger, fitter and helping them to gain self belief. Her doors are open to everyone, but Pam who is her 50s wants to de-bunk the myth that we get too old to try anything, especially weight lifting. Pam is a Level 3 Advanced Personal Trainer, a Level 2 British Weightlifting Coach and holds a Black Belt in Kickboxing.

Q1. Silliest myth about exercise and weight loss?

"There are so many silly myths out there: Carbs make you fat, you have to eat breakfast to rev up your metabolism etc but I’m going with the theory that you can gain weight if you don’t eat enough because your body goes into “starvation mode”. It is true that your metabolism will slow down to preserve energy if you eat below your basal metabolic rate - the amount of calories you need just to stay alive. But you’ll just feel tired and won’t want to move much. You categorically can’t gain weight from not putting enough calories in. It’s science! If you have the perception that this is happening to you, i.e that you are eating very little and gaining weight then I would wager that you’re grabbing a lot of food on the go and on autopilot. A packet of crisps here, a couple of biscuits there, a handful of nuts every time you pass the cupboard and all of that is racking up the calories under the radar. If we don’t sit down with a knife and fork with our food on a plate, we tend to forget about it. Try logging your food intake - and that’s everything - in an app like myfitnesspal. Alternatively, just keep a pen and paper food diary and write it all down. This will open your eyes to your calorie intake”

Q2. Any open-air or at-home exercises you have learnt or adapted to during lockdown that you will continue once lock-down lifts?

"I wouldn’t say there are specific exercises, although we have had fun making slam balls out of cushions and using towels as battle ropes! The one thing that I have done through lockdown is take my group training “bootcamp” programme completely online. I retained about 90 per cent of my group clientele this way. My programmes have been periodised and progressive and I have actually seen people develop their fitness, strength, balance, coordination and improve on weaknesses as a result. Many clients have increased their training frequency because of the convenience of it, so the answer to the question is, I’ll be keeping an online version of bootcamp going even when we return to the gym”

Q3. Lots of us have gained a few extra lbs in lockdown, comfort eating & drinking, but we want to shift it in time for summer. What are your golden rules for getting in shape?

"My rules are:

  1. Invest in professional help. If your washing machine breaks, you don’t try to fix it yourself!

  2. Find a place to train where you will be supported, encouraged, challenged and held accountable to your promises, even when you don’t feel like keeping them!

  3. Accept the science. In order to lose fat, you have to eat less calories than you need for the amount of energy you expend. That said, you need to find your calorie ceiling. This is the most calories you can eat and still lose weight, not the least. This is how you will stay compliant.

  4. Improve your food quality. Eat more veg, fruit, whole food carbs and lean protein to preserve your muscle and keep you full between meals. The better the quality of your food, the more volume you can eat and still be in a deficit.

  5. Increase your daily movement. Stand up when you are on the phone. Take the stairs not the lift. Walk the kids to school. If you sit at a desk, get up and move for two minutes every half hour.

  6. Get an extra hour’s sleep instead of watching the next episode of your favourite box set. When you are tired, it is very difficult to resist snacking on high calorie fast food.

  7. Start resistance training. Working with weights, be it kettlebells, dumbbells or barbells, will change your shape and improve your self-confidence like nothing else. It’s very goal-oriented too and you can measure progress in many ways; more weight, more reps, more technical movements."

Any other words of wisdom you give to your clients?

"There’s no such thing as good or bad food. It is just food, there’s no morality attached to it and you are not a good or bad person according to what you eat. Following on from that, a bad day is just that, one day. It doesn’t ruin everything. No need to start again next Monday. Learn from it, move on and do better tomorrow. Be committed to the basics and be consistent and patient, don’t have your head turned by the promise of a fast fix. And finally, make your peace with what may be a long journey and realise that you are only going to fail if you quit, so keep going!"

The Boxer

Kieran Flanagan is the owner and coach at Ki-Fit and Ki-Nutrition based in Liverpool. An ex-Amatuer Boxer, Kieran is a qualified sports therapist and level 3 Personal Trainer. His 1-1 and group classes have a focus on boxing for fitness, pad-work and technique.

He also founded Ki-Fit Striders, a running club that raises money and awareness for local charities.They raised over £3000 for the Woodlands Hospice by tallying up a total of 2,400 miles, the length of Americas Famous Route 66.

Q1. Silliest Myth about Exercise & Weight Loss you have ever heard

"I have heard them all! I was once asked by someone if they exercised whilst overweight would their fat just turn into muscle, leading them to put even more weight on... I can safely say it doesn't work that way."

Q2. Any open-air or at-home exercises you have learned or adapted to during lockdown that you will continue once the gyms open?

"I have always run, I prefer being outdoors, so I’ll continue with that, and I have enjoyed training clients outdoors. The outdoor classes are something I’d like to continue with when the restrictions lift and as the weather allows. Not being able to go into a gym has meant clients have learned to adapt their exercises without professional equipment, using steps, park benches, whatever to get the exercise done."

Q3. Lots of us have gained a few extra lbs in lockdown but now want to shift it in time the summer, what are your golden rules for getting in shape?

  1. A healthy balanced calorie deficit (no quick fix or fad diets!) has to be sustainable.

  2. Regular exercise preferably a mix of both strength training and cardio activity.

  3. Be accountable to someone whether that’s a personal trainer or to a goal.

  4. Adequate rest and sleep.

  5. Drink plenty of water.

  6. Set small achievable goals, that way you keep celebrating small wins on the way to big results!

The Fat Loss Specialist

Aaron Maj is the Owner and Coach at Aaron Maj Fitness in Liverpool.

"When I was young my Dad was into Boxing and my Sister was a runner, I always wanted to become good at sports so I tried my hand at everything; Kickboxing, Judo, Rugby, Athletics, Football to name a handful. I knew I wanted some sort of career in sports. It wasn't until mid teens when I started to focus on my fitness levels, learning about training and nutrition that I decided coaching was the route I wanted to take, Now I specialise in fat loss, and have helped 100's of people over the past 8 years, lose fat and gain confidence with basic lifestyle changes”

Q1. What’s the silliest myth about exercise & weight loss you have ever heard?

"There are many myths out there that could do with being busted, but I think having worked with a lot of females specifically the one that I hear the most is 'I don't want to lift weights because they will make me bulky and manly'. That simply is not the case, it takes an awful lot of work, years of intensity, structured nutrition and training to gain a large amount of muscle. 2-3 resistance sessions a week, while eating in a calorie deficit WILL NOT lead to large amounts of muscle gain, but instead lead to feeling stronger, fitter, more confident and developing a leaner physique that most would envision for themselves."

Q2. Are there any open-air exercises you have learnt or adapted to during lockdown that you will continue when the gyms open?

"Yes, my workouts have changed quite a lot during lockdown and I've had to get quite creative with some of my methods due to limited equipment, from using strong shopping bags with weights and household items inside to using dining chairs and resistance bands to form a make-shift leg extension machine. I've managed to cover most bases with such limited resources. The one thing I will likely continue to utilise when the gyms reopen is a greater variety of rep ranges. Having much less weight at home than you would find in a gym, I've opted for a lot more higher rep ranges working between 20-30 reps with much shorter rest as opposed to my usual ranges of between 4-12 reps, so I will certainly look to incorporate a bit of both once the gyms are back open."

Q3. Lots of us have gained a few extra lbs in lockdown but now want to shift it in time the summer, what are your golden rules for getting in shape?

"My golden rules have got to be:

  1. Calories matter - and it's much easier to control your intake through nutrition, than it is to use up those calories through exercise. Making food swaps from low volume, high calorie foods e.g. biscuits, to high volume, low calorie foods e.g. 0% yogurt with berries is a much easier way to save 100-200 calories in a matter of minutes as opposed to 30 minutes of exercise

  2. Don't neglect resistance training - If you want to get "in shape", you must create shape, developing your muscles and losing fat gives you a lean and defined look, whilst improving your strength and day to day functional performance.

  3. Get some shut eye - it's crazy how much your sleep can impact so much in your life including your physique goals, positively with a good night's sleep of 7.5-9 hours, and negatively if you're falling below 7.5 hours. My number one tip for improved sleep is to set yourself a consistent bedtime and wake time everyday, and avoid or minimise use of devices for 30-90 minutes before bedtime, the benefits are insane.

We hope you found this as helpful as we did. A huge thank you to Pam, Kieran and Aaron for their contributions.

Love Jo & Rachel xx


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