Guest Post: Jo Giroux on Weight Loss Exercise

Jo Giroux is a personal trainer, weight loss consultant and nutritionalist. She also runs the fabulous Park Fit class that I attend every Monday in the Derbyshire Dales. Jo is a wonderful trainer, incredibly motivating in the face of mass cynicism and has really helped bust my body back into a recognisable shape. Jo has kindly posted about the best ways to shed fat while exercising.

Get Fit

I’m often asked what’s best for fat loss or weight loss, and it’s a been the hot subject for years. As somebody that runs, I’m a big running supporter. But for fat loss? No. It’s resistance and HIIT training that’s key.

I hear the same thing time and time again – “I want to lose weight but I hate running”, ” want to shift a stone so I’ve started going running”. If this sounds like you and your goals then read on.

It’s very easy to assume that running will single handedly shift the pounds because you see how many calories you’ve just lost on your little running app or watch and think that’s it. The thing with running though is once you stop, so does the calorie burning. There is very little Exercise Post Oxygen Composition (EPOC) with running (or any other steady state cardio) – so you only burn calories whilst you run. There is no doubt that you’ll burn calories, which is fab, but it will take longer.

You see that woman (lets use a woman for this scenario) who runs and runs and runs, has slim hips, lean muscles etc etc. Trust me, she’s been running for years, probably since school. And she’s like that because of her GENETICS. Not because she runs for hours on end. Don’t compare yourself to that woman – you won’t get her figure because we’re all different. It’s about being the best YOU can be.

So in Park-Fit we do a lot of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and there’s a reason for that. When it comes to efficient calorie burning HIIT is leaps and bounds ahead of standard cardio. Why? EPOC! That thing I mentioned before. When you do HIIT your body and metabolism function at a higher rate of burned calories for hours and hours afterwards. What does that mean? It means that whilst your sitting with your coffee post Park-Fit you’re still burning calories. HIIT forces your heart to adjust to the changing conditions: sprints, hill runs, fast feet etc. Your heart learns to operate outside its norm, and your body learns to adapt to these changes. All of this changing and sprinting kicks your metabolism into high gear for hours after you’ve finished exercising.

Studies have shown that participants who did integral training as opposed to steady continuous exercise lost THREE TIMES the body fat. I’d take that option every time. The bad thing about HIIT is that it’s exhausting. Your body wants to give up after 20 minutes and it takes time to recover.

So where does resistance/weight training come into it? Simply put, the bigger the muscle, the more calories it needs to work and keep being efficient. Big doesn’t mean you’ll turn into Arnie – as women we don’t have the physical capacity to get like that. But we can become lean.

Which exercises in particular are best suited for weight loss? Exercises that recruit the largest number of muscles – squats, lunges, burpees, kettlebell swings, push-ups etc. Hence the reason I like to do these most sessions. Get them in your workout, mix it in with some HIIT and you’ll build muscle and burn calories at an accelerated rate for hours after you’ve finished.

This is all good and well, but if you don’t eat properly all the above means nothing. Eat right, eat real foods. Don’t miss meals – you may see weight loss but not necessarily FAT LOSS. If you skip or miss meals your body will hold onto its fat stores, resulting in a weaker metabolism. If you want advice about your food – just ask. I’m happy to help whether you come to a Park-Fit class or not.

So, my ultimate advice? Establish your goals, but be realistic about it. Do a variation of exercise if you can, and pick something you enjoy. If you want faster results in less time – do HIIT and resistance. Run if you like. I run because I love the feeling of running, but it’s not for weight loss reasons. That’s why I do burpees 😉

For more details about Jo Giroux, please visit her website:


The 30 Day Shred and Lying.

Push ups = nemesis


Today I have completed the 30 Day Shred by Jillian Michaels. If there is a woman in her 30s who hasn’t yet heard of this workout I would be amazed. It’s a Mumsnet favourite for a reason: 20 minute work out from start to finish. I’ll be honest, I missed one day due to complete exhaustion and illness but otherwise I did it. It wasn’t easy, I lacked time, motivation, fitness levels and enthusiasm but I did it. If you’ve followed any of my Insta-spam you’ll see I put my all into it.

So here’s the thing, why do a 30 Day Shred? When the 30 days are up, then what?

This is what I’ve learned over the past month:

  1. Women tell lies.

I’m guilty of this myself. I was in the pub with friends right at the start of the month. As we were in the pub it is safe to assume these were childless friends and the subject of post-partum bodies came up. They talked about how their mothers still had great bodies after birth and didn’t know how they managed it. Then asked me how I managed it.

For a second, I was about to tell that great lie that sometimes we tell “it just happens”. Like there is something great about you if you find things effortless. No there isn’t. I shocked myself that I almost said this because a. it’s not been effortless and b. I’ve grown two humans inside of me, my body will never be the same again. I have no idea why for that split second I wanted people to think it was easy to lose the baby weight, like there is a shame in working out but it was there. Instead, I broke the news to the childless that my body has changed shape and I work damn hard to get somewhere near to my 20-odd year old body.

I try to be okay about stretch marks but I know that it is okay to be upset by them too. For all the wonderful things that happened to make them, it still doesn’t mean I like them any more. I don’t love my children any less if I get upset that I look like melted Barbie.

2. It will take more than 30 days to look like Anita, Natalie or Jillian.

Bless Jillian for her boundless motivation on the DVD. I love it, I push through the pain but somewhere in the Level 3 circuits she says that if you’ve been working hard and following the diet plan this is where you’ll start to see the 6 pack. And I believed it. I eat well, really well and I put so much effort into the work outs but I have not got a 6 pack or anywhere near. I still have a post-pregnant pouch.

And when I took mid-shred challenge measurements and found I’d lost 2 inches from my hips in 15 days, did I celebrate? No, I cried because nothing, absolutely nothing had gone from the part of my body I hate the most: my stomach. What on earth is wrong with me? I truly believed that it didn’t matter how fat I was on day 1, by day 21 I would have six pack. No, the 30 Day Shred will not give you a six pack in 30 days but it will give you the kick start you need to make that (or something else) your goal. It will take more than a month to get the body image you want, but if you get a kick start then the end goal doesn’t seem so far away.

3. Self-confidence is everything.

If you’d met me you wouldn’t think that confidence and self-esteem were something I struggled much with but beneath the outer presentation to the world is a very shy person who battles against all natural instincts to go up and talk to people. It might be why I feel so chilled out in London; no one wants to talk to me. When blogging this shred on Instagram, I really struggled with the sweaty selfie. There is something quite self-indulgent about it and also, I don’t want anyone to see me in my workout. I would rather hide in a darkened room alone to do it.

I was horrified last week when three people saw me jogging into town from the school run. Horrified. I struggle to do my runs after the school run because I feel so exposed in the playground in my running clothes. I hate it. It took me ages to build up the the selfie on instagram. So, not everything that is put out in the world is a real, honest document of life. There are the bits that I didn’t show. I showed my arms because I was so impressed with them taking shape. If I could have photographed my legs, I would have done. I got my husband to take a photo of my press ups because I could do them. Did I get any of the things I struggled with whilst struggling? Any of my podgy tum? Nope, I only gave you half a story, half of the reality. It is just another way of lying.

One of the great things about blogging all of this is that I’ve met some great people online. I am in a shredding group on facebook. As everyone was posting their ‘before’ pictures, they would comment on how much they hated their bodies when in fact they were normal sized and shaped bodies for women who had quite recently given birth. All this sharing will hopefully let women see what is normal post-pregnancy. And so here is my before and after. Suffice to say my anxiety levels are sky high posting this:

Before and After

4. A kick up the arse is needed.

I love this 30 day shred because it kick starts putting exercise into the daily routine of my life. After a month, I have finally figured out I need to plan my workout into my day as much as I plan my work into my day. I stick to my plan too. If something comes along and derails my day, I put on my gym clothes anyway and do it when I can.

I started this shred struggling with level 1. Today, I ran up a big old hill in the rain. That may not seem like much but I detest rain, running and hills more than anything. I get up and I do it not because I want to be skinny but because I want to be strong. We have a newly installed pull up bar in our house. I can barely lift off of the ground but I try each day because I know being strong is a realistic goal.

This is the point of the shred, not to just lose the weight but to know that a daily piece of exercise is a good thing. This is my ‘what next?’. The final few days of this challenge were the hardest because I was so ready to move on to the next thing. I now run home from the school run, do some work out before starting work, have picked up a yoga class on a Friday evening with friends and even do some strength work outs with my husband. I have 6 week abs, kettlebells and ballet arm challenges all lined up next plus runs getting booked in. I cannot wait.

5. Your body is the only one you need consider for goals.

It is very hard not to compare yourself to others, especially if you have groups that are doing workout challenges with you but your body is unique and special to you. Your fitness is like no one else’s and the only person you should be in competition with is yourself. Wise words that I should heed sometimes as well. Not sit on my phone after 3 glasses of wine being miserable that other people have lost more weight in the same time. We all tell lies about our bodies in one way or another, we only show what we want other people to see.

So what is next?

Well, I’m not going to bore everyone with daily photos of my 6 week abs, goodness knows I was bored of my instagram feed by the end of this month.  But I am going to keep working out and striving for my goals. I am also speaking to some women who have inspired me over this past month to talk about what keeps them going, how they’ve felt about their post-birth bodies.

5 Lessons in getting fit

For the first time since I was in my early 20s I weigh less than 10 stone. Or if I use my friend’s very flattering bathroom scales, 9 and a half stone. That is well over one stone of weight loss since my journey to pre-child body began. I still have a long way to go but I have learned rather a lot along the way about myself, the person I want to be and my relationship with my body. This is what I know.


1. #No Excuses

What a load of crap that is for a start. I don’t have any excuses for why I don’t exercise daily and lose weight quicker. I have lots of very good reasons as to why it is impossible for me to do so. Let’s start with the fact I am exhausted by the time I get the kids into bed, then have to yo-yo up the stairs as they tag team waking until I take my tired carcass to bed. After which, my youngest wakes a few times in the night meaning the choice between waking early to exercise or 30 minutes of sleep is a no brainer.

I would rather be chunky Mum than tired and angry Mum. And I think my kids would prefer that too. Quite frankly all that running up the stairs must be doing something.

2. Fit it in where you can.

I have a weekly date with the kettlebell class at my local gym whilst my son has his swimming lessons. Sure I’d love to watch my boy flap about in the pool but it is a guaranteed 30 minutes of exercise each week that burns 500 calories. Plus it doubles as ‘alone time’ if I ignore the menopausal women with better arms than me.

I also figured out that walking back from the nursery run with the new one on my front burns quite a few calories. So on the days I do the drop off, rain on shine I go for a walk. If I stay out all day it all tots up to almost 8 miles.

3. Food


Ah the food porn of Instagram. I was invited to join a vegan cooking group on Facebook but a well-meaning friend. I say well meaning because the group was more about weight loss than it was about vegan cooking.

I fully support anyone embracing the plant-based lifestyle for whatever their reasons, it is just that mine are not centred around weight loss. I love my food, I enjoy cooking it and eating it. I love eating healthy, colourful food as well. But I also love cake. Lots and lots of cake. Which is why I have developed a sure fire way of eating well and not gorging on cake: do not buy the cake. Or the biscuits. Or that chocolate bar. If it is not in the house by 7pm then I cannot physically shovel it down my throat while justifying it with the breastfeeding calories. Breastfeeding will never burn off eating a whole packet of Lazy Day Tiffins, which ever way I look at it.

This kindly person, when I joked about my post-birth body suggested I hire a personal trainer. As cheap as the gym, she said. Ah but not as cheap as my tried and tested ‘eat well and exercise more’ method and also read Lesson Number 1 up there.

I have also learned that if I do accidentally lose an entire packet of tiffins down my throat or over eat on the fresh bread from the market that it is not the end of the world. Guilt will only make it worse. Everyone has bad eating days and you know what? The next day will be much better.

4. Use what you have around you.

Getting fit and strong doesn’t need gadgets, fancy clothes or equipment. I don’t have a gym membership, I wear my £5 leggings and an even cheaper vest. I forked out on a decent sports bra because we all know that bras matter. But that is it. I am a little obsessed with the Queen of all Fitness, Gillian Micheals but at a fiver a pop for a DVD, that’s not too bad.

Instead I use my kids. Bench presses with the baby, work out the legs while she goes ‘flying’, become a swing as I do squats and bicep curls to lift her. With the older one, a quick trip to the park and 10 minutes on the see-saw is more squats than I’d do all week.

You Tube is also amazing for free work out videos. I like a challenge to kick start a new routine in my day so I take up a 30 day challenge of yoga. Sure I maybe only get through 5 days and of that my kids try join in too so make that 3 and half. Possibly spread over two weeks. But we had fun doing it.

5. With great age comes great wisdom.

Or something like that. Basically, I have come to accept that I do not have the body of a 20 year old. I get my bikini body the old fashioned way: I buy a bikini and I put it on my body.

There was a time that I thought I would never wear a bikini again. I last wore one when I was 24, in a hot tub in Estonia where only my best friend would be subjected to the horror of my slightly squishy body. Then pregnancy happened.

I went from looking like rivlets of blood were scored down my torso to a chubby Barbie left too close to the fire. At first I cried and then I thought sod it because I love my children more than I dislike my stomach scars. I am rounded and a bit soft around the edges because I need to be. I am still breastfeeding so there’s not going to be any hardened abs happening soon.

Not only that but sometimes I go on the weekly family swim without shaving. I know, there are people in my town who now know I am capable of growing body hair, that I’ve reached puberty with all the dark hairs that go with it. I gleefully do kettlebells whilst flashing my pits. I walk through the change room with hairs on my legs. It is liberating how much I have accepted my body and wish, oh so wish, I had done so a decade ago.

Battle of the motivation.

It seems that motivation has a nemesis: laziness. You would think that wanting to feel comfortable in existing clothes is enough motivation to drag my oversized butt off the sofa and move it around a bit faster, right? You know what is easier than doing that? Buying more clothes. Ones that fit a bit better, accentuate (read hide) my curves and give me a self-esteem boost. Losing my ‘can’t blame it on the baby anymore’ weight was my prime motivation for weight loss, healthy eating and this blog. But it seems that now my arms no longer keep waving after I have stopped and I can fit into a size 12, that is no longer enough to work that bit harder on getting rid of what used to be the baby bump.

I am by no means fat but neither am I by any means pre-baby shape or in any way. I could probably run for the bus but really, I won’t. I will stand and wait 5 minutes for the next one to come along. You would think that my snazzy, new, cost-more-than-a-normal-bra, sports bra would kick me off the sofa to justify what I spent on it. It doesn’t. It sits there being an amazingly comfortable and supportive bra, one which makes my last sports bra seem like a roll of cellophane could have done the same job of squishing my tits into a chest sized sausage but it does not drag me off to the gym when I would rather be having a cup of tea.

Oh yes, I joined a gym. Even as I was doing it, I wondered if investing nigh on £50 a month would be the motivation to make me do some exercise. It was against me, I was turned away three times as I rocked up to join up and only after refusing to leave reception until I spoke to the manager and joined was I finally given a plastic green card to sit in my wallet, wedged between coffee loyalty cards. I had the motivation against all odds to join and as I was given the induction. An actual induction. One where I stood thinking, ‘I could just run. Outside. For Free.’ or ‘I could just do some sit ups. In the living room. For free’. But the fact is I don’t. I don’t go out and run in the woods or perform sit ups, push ups or leg weights against the chairs of my living room. If I did then I would probably brave going swimming some time this decade. The fact is, I don’t. Which is why I joined the gym to make me do it. It was a very good induction as well, complete with a work out plan to induce improvement rather than sitting in the cafe to avoid bedtime routine.

The last gym induction I had involved some surly man in Tottenham Fitness First waving his arms at the machines in front of us going ‘Yep, this is where they are’. I muttered something about not knowing how to use them and he showed me some unhelpful diagrams on the side of each machine. When I asked about pulling muscles, he walked off leaving me to find my own way to the women’s changing rooms via a darkened studio, the men’s and a very smelly weights room. Goodness knows what muscles I was concerned about pulling back then, maybe the muscles which took me to the pub for a pint or the ones used to change the TV channel?

So a good gym, a work out plan, losing weight, an amazing bra and getting out of bed time routine. All good motivation to getting my arse into gear and running on the spot a few times a week, right? Motivation only works if it adapts to the laziness and remains one step ahead. What is motivating me right now is so painfully simple and works so excruciatingly well that I wonder why I didn’t figure it out sooner. In fact, it is not my idea but something found on pinterest. This motivation is not only taking me to the gym three times a week but also fitting in a DVD work out in there as well.

The answer: gym tips. Every time I go to the gym or do some real exercise, I put £1 (the amount needed to use the lockers) into a pot. That’s it. After a few months, if I work hard, not only will I be able to buy some amazingly expensive dress but it might even be a size smaller than all my other dresses and I won’t feel one bit of guilt about buying it because I know I have worked hard, albeit begrudgingly, to get it.

Frugal fitness

Living in North London is not always conducive to frugal living. Take Muswell Hill, for example. The place is a monument to the middle classes; coffee shops punctuate a long row of estate agents, clothes boutiques, baby boutiques and cosmetic boutiques. On Friday I realised my one and only sports bra was sat in the washing machine and a great barrier to my work out schedule for the weekend. With little spare time and no inclination to be trying on bras while keeping a toddler in check, I bobbed into Sweaty Betty to get some highly engineered scaffolding. There, in a shop that sells itself above my means, was the answer to my current conundrum of whether or not to join the gym.

I don’t especially agree with paying for exercise, it should be the most frugal of activities where you put on some running shoes (and a decent sports bra) and put one foot in front of another at increasing speed. However, a whole industry has been made out of making exercise very un-frugal and I too have been victim to the ‘year-long gym membership’ in the past. Joining a gym, using it for about 3 months and then never stepping foot inside again, counting down the weeks until I could hand in notice like a little chubby truant.

Instead, I went running sporadically in the clement weather and in a fit of January resolution making, bought a Davina DVD for a fiver. I actually use the DVD twice a week or so and see it as a personal challenge to get through the thing without cheating by way of sitting and watching it with a cuppa when I start to break the slightest sweat.  So I know that if I joined a gym with all the best of intentions, I would talk myself out of actually going because there would invariably be a bottle of wine urgently needing my attention at home.

Yet, upon my visit to Sweaty Betty, I found that with my purchase came membership to the Sweaty Betty club and therein lies free exercise classes. Yep, totally free exercise classes once a week in store. I am trying out yoga tomorrow and hopefully ballet fit later in the week. Sure, I will probably stand out like a sore thumb with my ‘kit’ being some incredibly battered up muddy trainers, holey leggings that have seen better days and a vest which cost less than the bus fare to get there.  As I watched my husband do some post-run stretches on my yoga mat tonight, I wondered whether I should give it a scrub first before taking the stinking, cat scratched and stained excuse for a mat down tomorrow  morning.  But I think I hear a glass of wine calling me.


Yesterday was a day of acheivements. I ran 5.5km during the morning. The last time I ran that distance was 4 years ago while fundraising for Cancer Research. I remember specifically it took 36 minutes and feeling very disappointed as I had clearly not put inthe training, having done 10k the year before in a decent time.

I’m not great at running. I don’t put enough salt on my food and tore all my knee ligaments a few years back. I could barely walk. I didn’t run at all when pregnant and only twice in the past year. So I was over-joyed to see that yesterday’s run had not only been such a distance but that I did my 5k in 37 minutes. Woop!

I only went out with the intention of seeing how many songs I could run non-stop for and then walk-run back home. Seems it was quite a few. Same again tomorrow.

If that was not all, my husbnand annouced he needed a hat for Download this weekend, given the bad weather. So I raided my stash and knocked one up in 4 hours over last night and this morning. It’s not the best thing I have ever made but it still felt like completing an impossible task. No photo of this as he has taken it with him to the festival about 30 seconds after I finished weaving in the ends.