Overcoming challenges with BLOK's Lotti Maddox
Lotti Maddox (@lottsofmovement) is Head of Movement at award-winning fitness studio, BLOK. BLOK specialise in Cross Discipline training in their three studios in London and Manchester. Lotti discusses her evolution in the fitness space, and how she gets in the frame of mind for tackling difficult days and personal goals.
Can you tell us about your journey at BLOK and how it has flowed?
I’ve now been at BLOK for six years - since day two! It all kind of happened accidentally; I was at drama school, and I was looking for a side hustle job that would keep me moving at the same time, and so I joined BLOK working behind reception, checking people in, and making coffee.
From there it’s flowed really naturally. I grew up doing classical ballet, and so I thought I could probably teach barre if I got my level two under my belt. I also started teaching conditioning classes and really enjoyed doing yoga, so started my yoga training. Then Ed and Max, the founders, announced they were opening the Shoreditch studio, and I became manager of the barre and HIIT studio. About a year later they opened BLOK Manchester, and I became the Head of Fitness across both our sites in London and helped on the set up in Manchester.
As our ethos at BLOK evolved surrounding cross discipline training, so too did my role, to where I am currently as Head of Movement.
This involves managing the team of head trainers, and everything we do in terms of the content of the classes. Then the other half of my job is the development and strategy side. It’s so important to us at BLOK that we are leaders rather than followers, so I’m always on the lookout for what people need and what they’re calling out for, so that we can develop it into what we offer.
Have you seen the industry change during your time working in it?
It was clear very quickly that there’s so much in the fitness industry that needs to change, and it felt really obvious to me where the change needed to be. In something so simple as making it a more inviting environment to be in. Even as someone that knows what they’re doing, I still find traditional gym environments intimidating. In a previous life I’d just use the gym for the treadmill, do 50 sit ups and then go home. That’s why I love that class-based fitness is growing so much. Having that guidance, someone to be like “it’s okay, I’ll show you how to do it!”
What does a typical day look like for you at BLOK? What’s your fave part?
Although people often say to me that it makes no sense of my time to still teach, I love it so much that I don’t want to give it up! So I still teach a few classes a week. It’s funny with management roles, you can end up getting further and further away from doing the reason that you decided to do that job in the first place.
I also meet with the head trainers and see what’s going on in our sites, I meet with the explore team to look at how we can give people as much guidance and structure in their workouts as possible, and often with the marketing, brand, and PR teams, too.
BLOK move is my baby. It was the last class I designed myself and it really came from wanting to advance my yoga practice. I found that I needed the opportunity to break down a lot of the movements into their individual parts and workshop them, rather than just being like “now throw yourself up into a handstand” during a flow. So I still teach that and really enjoy it.
How do you tackle that feeling of not wanting to move your body some days?
Sometimes I just don’t move it. Last year I did a half iron man, which was my focus of the year, and meant that up until September I was training like an absolute machine. Then from September to Christmas what was so nice was that I just did a few yoga classes a week, maybe a gentle jog if I fancied it. But there was no pressure on training, or on what I ate. I really took that time to balance it out.
What I realised, is that rather than make me feel incredibly lazy as I thought it would, because I’d laid the foundations, I knew that getting outside even if only for a walk does actually make you feel better. It just makes a massive difference mentally on how you approach the day.
The other thing for me would be if you haven’t moved for a few days, and it’s cold outside and harder to get up in the dark, it’s much easier to make excuses, but just making some tiny baby steps can really help. One that I really like doing is putting my gym kit on the radiator the night before. Then you just get up and put it on and immediately it feels easier. Whatever the next tiny step is to get closer to moving, just keep doing that. That’s been a real game changer for me.
What has been the biggest change in your approach to wellness in recent years?
One major thing is that I no longer think running is bad for you! I ran a marathon in 2019 and I was like “running is so awful, it’s terrible, it damages your knees”. Now I truly believe in cross discipline training, and I’ve realised that getting outside and running alongside everything else, as a balance, can be so good. Even just adding a gentle jog a week and building it up slowly can have a great impact.
The other thing is more of a focus around nutrition. I guess it’s been a psychological shift that has crept in, I now focus much more on what I am doing rather than what I’m not. So for example, trying to eat as many colours as possible, rather than saying don’t touch the chocolate bar. So, the focus is on getting the largest variety in, and then if I still want to eat the chocolate bar at the end, then that’s fine. It just means that I focus on what I’m fuelling my body with rather than what I’m depriving it of.
Congratulations on completing an iron man last year, how did you get in the physical and mental frame of mind to approach a challenge like that? What did you use as support throughout?
Honestly, I would say that I signed up to it thinking “why am I doing this” – which was the exact same thought process I had when I signed up to do a half marathon, and then a marathon. But every time I’ve got to the end of one, I’ve realised that structured training, and something that holds you accountable, as well as doing something that you wouldn’t necessarily normally do is so good for you mentally and physically.
I think the fact that it’s quite a lot of money to invest in the first place and you don’t want that to go to waste is definitely a factor. A friend of mine was also doing it, so we could hold each other accountable. During the last three months of my training, I got a coach, and she made me realise that even though I thought I was cracking through a training plan quite well, you don’t know what you don’t know, and there’s actually so much more to it. It’s always so good to find people that have more knowledge than you do, and there’s so much depth to our wellbeing. It’s not just about moving; it’s about understanding how your body moves and connecting your brain to what your body is doing.
I also really wanted to put cross disciplinary training to the test. I hadn’t ever done this previously, and with the marathon I ended up getting injured, and I think this was because I hadn’t prepared and researched enough. So, with the ironman I wanted to do it as ‘properly’ as I could. It meant I was spending 15-20 hours training a week, across strength, mobility and yoga and it massively paid dividends because I had no injury throughout the whole process.
I think crucially the more you invest in it mentally, the more you’re going to get out of it.
Do you have any rituals you try to implement into your lifestyle regularly?
Most of my rituals are around skincare. I used to have really bad acne and have really been through it all with my skin, so now I take really good care of it. I went to a fantastic dermatologist who recommended high quality products, so it’s an expensive ritual to have but it makes a huge difference to how I feel. Getting up in the morning and doing a proper facial routine – I genuinely feel like it makes me start the day better.
I also try to warm up every day. When I’m still in my PJs I just do a bit of a wiggle and a stretch. It makes me feel so much better than sitting straight down at a desk. I think because I went from teaching thirteen classes a week, down to six, then to four, and then two, pretty quickly my body was like “what are you doing!?”. It felt alien to be sitting at a desk. So doing a ten-minute wiggle has been a really great thing to add into my morning.
It’s also made me realise I’ve been guilty of being a movement snob! I’ve always thought that classes should be between 45 and 90 minutes, but what I’ve learned over the last few years is that it’s better doing something small than nothing at all. Of course, building in some longer sessions is important too, but we’re so time sensitive as a population that sometimes these more accessible shorter movements can make all the difference.
Today is officially classed as the day when people are most likely to drop the resolutions they made at new year. What would you say to somebody that’s struggling to keep up with their fitness goals?
Again, take tiny steps. It doesn’t have to be a massive commitment - if it feels like it is too daunting then it will seem out of reach. So, taking baby steps, whilst also setting an end goal - something to work towards and to hold yourself accountable. I think it’s really helpful to do both, because if you’re just doing the baby step, it can be tempting to stay in your comfort zone, but if you combine it with an end goal, you can keep increasing your baby step to achieve it. Likewise, if you just set an end goal, if can end up feeling too far away to achieve.
In collaboration with BLOK, we’re offering the chance to win a 10 pack of classes to use at their London studios PLUS an APOTHEM RESET kit to support your body from head to toe. Head to our Instagram @apothemlabs to find out how to enter. Competition is open until 20/01/2022.