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Balancing physical fitness and life: Don’t overfill your glass

Being fit and healthy requires an investment of time and energy.

In an ideal world, we would all do something physically taxing three to four times per week. This doesn’t need to be structured fitness training, although there are great benefits to this, it just needs to be something that raises the heart rate for 30-60 minutes (like five-a-side football, dance classes and cycling).

Tom Berry, founder of To Be Personal Training. Picture: Keith Heppell
Tom Berry, founder of To Be Personal Training. Picture: Keith Heppell

In addition, we should all aim for a good amount of quality sleep. People’s sleep requirements vary, but generally between seven to eight hours is recommended, and if you still subscribe to the view that sleep is self-indulgent idleness, I encourage you to rethink this belief. Then there is our diet: eating healthily requires meal planning, weekly shopping and food preparation.

I’ve trained many people in the past who have treated their days and weeks like a temporal Tardis; when they decide to get fit, they add their training sessions and new dietary task to their already brim-filled schedules without taking anything else out. This doesn’t work because there are only 24 hours in a day, and seven to eight of them are spent (productively) asleep.

If something is added, something needs to be taken away. A common analogy involves a pint glass. If your pint glass is already full, adding more fluid will cause it to overflow, creating a soggy mess. So, if you want to add more, get rid of some of the fluid that’s already there (bottoms up!).

In real life, this means that you must prioritise your health and fitness and sacrifice other things that use up time and energy. If you spend every Friday night at the pub with your mates, you might need to arrive later and have fewer drinks. If you enjoy watching your favourite television series, perhaps watch one episode, not three. If you are in the habit of responding to your work emails on your days off, consider switching your phone off.

Tom Berry, founder of To Be Personal Training. Picture: Keith Heppell
Tom Berry, founder of To Be Personal Training. Picture: Keith Heppell

As a personal trainer, it is very important that I do not contribute to someone’s pint glass overflowing. Part of the art of writing effective training programmes is understanding what to leave out. When I first began personal training and running coaching, I would over-complicate people’s training programs. Individually, every component of a program was beneficial, but as a whole, there was too much, and programs became unachievable. So, I learned to prioritise and simplify, and my clients experienced better results.

Rather than filling clients’ pint glasses right to the brim, with a strong risk of overflowing, I now leave a safe gap at the top of the glass. Specifically, I make programmes simple and achievable, so clients feel that they are succeeding, not failing. In addition, if I need to add to a client’s training programme, something else is sacrificed.

With this in mind, this column will be my last for the Cambridge Independent. My circumstances have changed, and I no longer have the capacity to write my monthly column. I am exceptionally grateful to the Cambridge Independent for allowing me to contribute to their newspaper - it is something I have really loved.

If you have enjoyed reading my column, you are welcome to connect with me on Twitter (@Tom_Berry_PT). Thank you for time and energy, and I hope I haven’t caused your pint glass to overflow.

  • Tom Berry is the personal fitness trainer behind To Be Personal Training - tobept.com.

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