• Natasha Oakley

PTea & Biscuits

Wait! Before you start signing up to personal training, my session don’t actually include tea and biscuits (well, one does), but nor are they turbo charged aggressive ‘tough love’ sessions either.

My philosophy is to live the healthiest life that makes you happy. What’s the point in being so healthy you live to 100, if you have no passions or people to share your long life with. Or hitting the gym everyday to create a gorgeous body if you don’t then celebrate it by using it for a new task or challenge.

Anyway, enough of the philosophy (for now), instead let me explain how ‘Tasha the PT’ came into being.

Back in 2015 we abruptly discovered my dad had cancer. It was aggressive and, as with most cases, the treatment meant it would get a lot worse before it got better. I cannot begin to imagine what it’s like to be the one going through something like that; to face the fragility of life head on. But being on the side-lines is no picnic either. Desperate to help, you fuss and flap, pumping your loved one full of bullet coffees, cider vinegar and anything else that you’ve heard is the latest super food.

Dad had always been physical and I knew being less mobile would make him feel like a caged animal. So, I decided to enrol in a part time Personal Training course. That way I would be able to help him with his recovery, and at the same time keep my mind busy and away from the dark thoughts that come with such a situation.

It clicked almost instantly – I LOVED it. Which makes total sense; I love being active, healthy, outdoors, meeting people, not working a 5-9 (now known in London as 7-7) or being at a desk. In a way, I felt foolish that I hadn’t thought about doing it sooner.

So, when my etch-a-sketch moment came along, Personal Training fitted in perfectly.

And it has totally changed my relationship with exercise, food and health generally.

Before I became a PT I used to be much stricter with myself. All that mattered was my weight and waist line. I wasn’t great at HIIT; instead I would run or cycle for hours and strictly eat only ‘clean’ food. And it worked, I was the lightest I had been with the smallest waist. I was perfect Before/After photoshoot material…But only if they focussed on my waist.

My face would have said something else. I was pale, tired and had the personality of a goat. I was so focussed on my weight I lost interest in socialising and even managed to make working out a chore.

It’s only now that I am a PT that I can see how I had mistaken health for fitness. Health is actually made up of 6 components:

  1. Physical Fitness

  2. Social

  3. Environmental

  4. Emotional

  5. Spiritual

  6. Intellectual/mental

All of these are important – even if they don’t look good in photos on Instagram. And I was just focussed on Physical Fitness.

Physical Fitness has between 7-10 components (depending on who you speak to):

  1. Body composition

  2. Muscular Strength (Stamina)

  3. Strength

  4. Flexibility

  5. Power

  6. Speed

  7. Coordination

  8. Agility

  9. Balance

10) Accuracy.

It’s hard to just work one of these in isolation, but that is pretty much what I was doing. I was spending hours on the bike working on my stamina but had no real strength, especially in my upper body. Sure, I could cycle like Forrest Gump could run, but I couldn’t do a push up for toffee (obvs not toffee, but not even for a gluten free energy bar).

So, not only was I focussing on just 1/6 of my overall Health, I was then only focused on 10% of that! So 1.6% of Total Health. Well done Tasha, score.

Anyways, Personal Training helped me see the light. That staying in bed for an extra hour on a Saturday may be more beneficial to your emotional health than hitting the gym is to your physical health. Or going for a glass of wine with a friend (social health), instead of staying in with a cauliflower burger (physical health).

And sometimes it’s just our physical health fighting itself:

You want the biscuit.

You don’t allow yourself the biscuit.

You have some nuts instead.

You still want the biscuit.

You don’t allow yourself the biscuit.

This time you have some carrots and hummus. Maybe a little pitta bread too.

Nope, you STILL want the biscuit.

You have some cereal – two bowl minimum rule.

There that done it, well done you. Nuts, carrots, Hummus, pitta bread, cereal and a whole restless evening was definitely better than having a biscuit – which you end up shoving in your mouth as you made tea anyway!

And I am not saying it is easy. As an avid Insta-worshipper, I find it really motivating to see people’s posts. But they can also make you feel like a potato in yoga pants.

Generally I find it inspiring, whether it’s new yoga sequencing, amazing physical feats or moving quotes, it often refocuses me back on my own goals.

However, one thing that always jars me slightly, is the relentless flow of photos just showing abs. In the past this would make me feel sad, as no matter what I tried, I could never achieve those abs. But now I realise they represent something I do not want to be part of – the celebration of looks over function. These photos usually are not following an epic workout, not accompanied by a exercise suggestion, sometimes not even a face. Just a set of ripped abs, as if that is the end goal.

Now, don’t get me wrong, having abs that look lean is fantastic. But it’s not really the looks that are important. It is the extra core strength you have gain that will help you achieve your goals, that you should be focussing on. In the same way, i used to be obsessed with 'thigh gap' until i realised this services me no real benefit. So now i'm all about big strong thighs - who cares if they wobble when they aren't tensed, if you know they are there to help you run and jump and Bound Around.

As a PT I use these experiences and emotions to influence my sessions; often it is more about changing our minds rather than our bodies.

I try to make my PT sessions training for Total Health. I like them to be outside (if possible), I want people to look forward to them, I want people to laugh and chat, for our sessions to motivate them to make changes in their daily lives that will make them healthier. And ultimately, I want them to realise how bloomin’ amazing and clever and resilient their bodies are. I want them move them in all sorts of ways and achieve things they never thought they could, from feeling confident enough to wear a swimsuit on the beach, to running a Tough Mudder.

Oh, and for any of you that wondered, training my dad was the equivalent of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. So now we just have tea and do crosswords – which is just as good for our health!

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