DON’T GET FAT!

This time of year is a weird one with fitness.

I liken it to crop circles, how people can have tomatoes in sandwiches, and why Power Plates are still about.

It’s a big mystery.

A mystery because it is the only time of year when people feel like it’s ok to give themselves 2 WHOLE WEEKS OFF their usual healthy-ness.

“It’s ok, it’s Christmas” is the usual line but actually, this magical time actually lasts for at least two weeks for a lot of people. When would you  give yourself two whole weeks of eating crap and drinking too much any where else in the year? And you wouldn’t because you know it’d make you feel like poo.

I am exactly the same.

I train hard most of the year. I eat pretty well (at least during the week anyway!) but then once it gets somewhere near December the 20th, I seem to think it’s ok to shut down and give in. Not just for a few days, but pretty much until Jan 5th.

16 days! wowsers.

We never pick a time in the summer and say, “right, i’m going to stop training and stuff my face for two weeks” do we?! But we do at Christmas.

A mystery.

gloop

Don’t be an Augustus at Christmas

 

Then it’s all over. We get depressed because it’s Jan. Depressed because the weather sucks. And depressed because we’re the size of a small house, our clothes don’t fit, we have no energy and just can’t be arsed. All because we completely changed our usual routine “because it’s Christmas”.

Like I said, I do it too. I’m not for one second saying you should be part of the boring chicken and broccoli brigade, or frown at anyone drinking wine, or even train all the time. I will still suitably indulge and much more so than normal, but I’ll still be training. I’ll also pretty much limit the indulgences to Christmas day, Boxing day and New Years Eve. 3 days. Not 16!! This is also, after all, the ideal time to rest, recoup and de-stress.

Party hard, train hard, eat hard (and well) -ish.

Now chances are you’re not gonna want to mission it the gym and it’ll probably be raining (even though global warming is doing it’s best at keeping December ridiculously warm), so to help you out, here’s something to do. It’s not ground breaking, it’s nothing special, but it’s a tiny plan to follow and remember the goal…..JUST MOVE. So do this:

30 secs, as fast as possible, of:

Walkouts

High Knees

Squats

Half press ups

Rest 1 min

Do that 5 times.

If you aren’t sure of what any of these are, help yourself to my very cheesy but uber informative videos by copying and pasting this into a browser https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFyGAFTbS1j8oQxB2KD2i3i-kICp0nZyM

15 minutes. Can’t really do it too wrong and it saves the problem of you turning into a fat, stale slob over Christmas 🙂 Challenge yourself to do it 6 times between now and Jan 4th.

It won’t make you ripped, it won’t make you mega strong, but it’ll stop you gathering moss so jump on it.

Have an awesome Christmas everybody and I’ll see you on the other side. Now where’s my beer…… 😉

santa fit

 

 

 

Highlighters, dividers, and getting nowhere.

 

Revision.

A horrible word to a teenager. When I was younger I hated it. Could never be bothered. I did ok in my exams but could have done a lot better had I actually been revising instead of doing what all teenage boys do all them time, watching erm…sport. Obvs.

With the constant threat of my creators asking how the revision was going, I employed what I though was a rather clever tactic. Periodically buying something from WH Smiths to make it seem as though I’d done something really productive. Highlighter pens, dividers, folders, whatever I thought might make it look as if I’d done something positive towards getting straight A’s. “Have you started revising yet son?…..No but I’ve brought this cool folder I can organise all my work in”

revision

 

 

What a great idea                          .

 

But my folks aren’t stupid and I knew that. I also knew deep down that this wasn’t fooling them, and my motive for this incessant stationary buying was actually more to CONVINCE MYSELF that I was making progress. I was the same as a job hunter. Instead of hounding agencies and companies face to face and doing EVERYTHING in my power to get a job, I’d sign up with wishy washy agencies online, send my cv off to random companies I knew wouldn’t respond and look in the wrong places. All to make me feel as if I’d done something positive when deep down I knew what I’d done was as helpful as a 1kg kettle bell (not very).

What I needed to do was ACTUALLY revise, and ACTUALLY go to look for a job and speak to people. But I didn’t. Why?

BECAUSE THESE WERE THE HARD AND SCARY OPTIONS.

It’s a practice I bizarrely still try to employ now as a marginally maturer adult (luckily I know myself so can manage it), and I see it ALL the time with clients.

“I know my food diary is bad but I’ve bought a healthy recipe book”
“I didn’t go for run but did research exercise dvds”
“I didn’t find time to meditate but did download an app for it”
“I haven’t prepared my lunches for the week but have bought new Tupperware!”
“I didn’t train but at least I bought my kit in”

Any of those sound familiar?

We take time out of our already time poor day, to do something just to put off doing the actual thing that we should be doing ha! Read that back. Aren’t we bizarre!

What’s more bizarre is that when you actually get something done, you feel good right! Wow, I’ve actually got a job. I’ve got money and can actually have a life now. Plus it’s never as hard or scary as you think it’ll be.

Going to the gym on a Saturday morning does actually make you feel good. Planning your meals for the week and then pulling it off, does actually make you feel good.

GETTING STUFF DONE DOES ACTUALLY MAKE YOU FEEL GOOD

So there’s a general theme here isn’t there.

Easier said than done though eh.

So we often make a big ass to do list (sometimes that in itself is just something we do to put the main jobs off!) The big jobs go on and then we start doing the whole “highlighter and dividers” thing. We put silly jobs on like ‘change the lightbulb’ or ‘take the dog for a walk’. Why? Because we know these are easy to accomplish. Small job after small job gets done, putting off doing the “real jobs”. But the real jobs are the ones that make the biggest difference to your life, the ones that MAKE YOU FEEL HAPPIER, and they never move.

To do

 

So get your list in order…

 

Firstly order of urgency.
Then order of importance
Then order of urgency AND importance.

The job that is the most urgent, and most important, is what you need to do first. It’ll be a mega weight off your mind, make the biggest difference to your life and make you happier. Everyone’s a winner baby.

Closing line is four letters….

J F D I

If you’re not sure what that means…google it then implement it.

Don’t eat…get weak…look bad…

Yo.

If you don’t eat, you’ll get weak, and look bad.

If you want to look good, read on.

In recent times, the need to “lift” has become more and more prominent.

And that’s good!

Slowly but surely people are realising that endless hours of cardio is not only mind numbingly soul destroying, but it’s actually not great for our body. Not just because of damage through tons of repetitive movement, but because it often means we’re neglecting the fun part….pumping iron!

Ok not all of you will enjoy that feeling of lifting heavy things as much as me but I hope most of you are doing it in some way shape or form.

What I want to talk about today though is not so much about gaining muscle, but simply keeping  what you have.

You see, we need muscles.

I’m not talking in an Arnold Schwarzenegger, tearing up a yellow pages, 28 egg a day eating kinda way, nor am I saying that you need to be a walking egg box. If they’re hiding under a SMALL layer of body fat that’s cool! As long as there is a decent amount of the stuff to help us move, protect our joints and help us fight off the baddies.

Batman-Punch

With more muscle comes the need for more food. A humongous topic and one for another day but here’s the thing. If your goal is to get trimmer / more toned (hate that word) / less body fat / look better in your bikini,

Continue reading

I am a bad blogger!

I am a bad “blogger”

Yes that’s right. I admit it, I am a bad blogger. They say a blog that is not regularly updated is a bad blog. I agree.

I have just looked at my last entry on here and can’t quite believe it’s a WHOLE YEAR since I last wrote something. Considering I talk so much, that seems a bit odd.

Truth is I have neglected it. I have had other areas of life that have needed attention and areas that were less of a priority (not necessarily less important) had to take a backseat.

Cponsistency-is-Key-7-Health

This is something I see a lot with new clients. No not that they are useless at writing blogs but like me, have no consistency. A really common problem. You see making any sort of “healthy” change to your body requires regularity and dipping in and out of a training plan or eating well here and there just doesn’t cut the cheese. Our body needs time to adapt and all of those times you’ve told yourself “oh I’m too busy this week to train”, add up. While you may think you’re being good, if you actually wrote down what you’d done over the past 6 weeks or so it’d probably not be enough.

I once heard a very apt saying that as I sit here, realise I can’t remember exactly so I’ll just give you my freestyle version…

 

“It’s better to be consistently average than sometimes perfect” 

 

Ok this doesn’t work for everyone, and I’m certainly not for one minute saying to settle for average, but for most general gym goers, it applies. You’ll see much better results if you train and eat “pretty well” most of the time rather than eating chicken and broccoli and training like a maniac for one week of every month.

So think about that. Ask yourself “realistically have I been training and eating well CONSISTENTLY for the past 4-6 weeks” and if the honest answer is no, get better!

 

Hot Yoga…..Crikey….

For those who don’t know me particularly well, let me paint a brief picture about me and exercise.

I have trained for many many years. Starting off as a National League hockey player then moving on to an “everyday” gym goer before starting to half know what I was talking about and actually taking training pretty seriously (so much so it’s now part of my job). My “mode” of exercise has changed over the years but one thing that has remained the same is that I have always trained as hard as I could.

What I failed to see the importance of though, more so at an early age, was the need to look after my body and that being in good condition was not all about being strong and being able to move fast. As I grew older it became clear that years of playing hockey 3-4 times per week, jumping about like a maniac, lifting whatever heavy weights I could, or whatever exercise I was on at them time, then jumping straight in the shower with no post exercise stretch or release became to take it’s toll. Tight muscles were starting to cause problems, flexibility was rubbish and I could feel niggly injuries starting to occur. Not cool.

“That’s it” I thought, I need to do something about this. I spend my life telling people that decent condition involves a wide range of disciplines yet don’t practice it myself. That coupled with the girlfriend wanting to practice more yoga before heading off to India to become an instructor was the kick up the derriere I needed to actually pull my finger out, bite the bullet and face my fear. Let’s get stretchy.

relig_yoga

So with that, I accompanied my significant “seasoned yoga pro” other to a “hot yoga” class (Thanks @yogahaven Clapham). Not Bikram as the thought of a 90min class instilled even more fear but a 60min class in a heated room and you can only imagine my horror when my conversation with the receptionist went:

Her – “Have you participated in yoga before”
Me – “No”
Her – “You are aware that this is an advanced class”

Yes that’s right, an advanced class. Oh god. Visions of bendy people turing themselves into pretzels and a guru pushing and pulling me into shapes my body is just not designed to make started to fill my head, but my competitive streak told me to stop being an idiot and get on with the challenge. How hard can it be?

So in we went.

At first the heat didn’t feel too bad. But as we waited for the instructor I could feel the sweat starting to drip, Oh god. My fellow “yogi’s” (that’s what the other yoga participants are called if you didn’t know….get with the lingo) all looked at home and every other fella was topless so inevitably my sweaty body came out.

About 50 minutes later, I was a dripping mess but still going. I was surprised at the pace of the class which was non stop from the outset. Not much holding but dynamic moves with a lot of twisting and looking at other people through my legs to check I was doing it right. I had kept up pretty well, nothing had snapped and I only fell over once when trying something too technical (essentially making myself look like one of these signs “&”. Being at the back was a good move!)

But with about 10mins to go, I was seriously starting to feel it. Heat and the moves were taking their toll, my heart was pounding and I’m pretty sure I was close to passing out. “One more round” the instructor said and once again my competitiveness made sure I didn’t leave the room. Powering through, it finally came to an end and with that I got out of the room as fast as I could, whacked the shower onto the coldest setting and stayed there……and stated there….and stated there…..ahhhh yes. Eventually emerging from the changing rooms, my bald head still steaming like a freshly boiled egg, I heard several people say that it was particularly hot and tough which made me feel better. Even the instructor was impressed with me (I wasn’t going to write that but hey, it’s all about the praise). I’ve done some pretty tough workouts in my time and I’d put this up there with them. I was properly done in. Next few days I felt some nice aches and actually felt pretty awesome so will definitely be making this a regular part of my training from now on, just maybe not this particular class…..at least not until I’m a pro (a week or so should do it 😉 )

So what’s the point in me telling you this. Well I guess that really it’s to hopefully inspire you just a little, to get out there and try a new form of exercise. I often talk about how training should include a wide variety of disciplines. Just lifting weights, just doing “cardio”, just doing yoga, isn’t enough if you want to be in as good a shape as you can be. Plus each discipline compliments the other really well. Strength training is better with flexibility. Your cardio will be more efficient if you are strong etc etc.

Now why not make it your own personal challenge to try a new discipline over the net few weeks. Get yourself out there, book into a class / course / session and just give it a go. If I can do it, you definitely can.

Namaste (…another example of my extensive yoga vocabulary)

Essential Core Strengthening Exercises During Pregnancy

During pregnancy many physiological changes occur to your body including increased blood volume and flow (it is common to see a 50% increase!), increased resting heart rate, and certain muscular changes, in particularly the abdominal wall which spreads to accommodate growth but consequently becomes weaker. It is also common to see some forward tilt of the pelvis from the 2nd trimester onwards which can compress the vertebrae of your lower spine and this combined with weaker abdominals (particularly the transverse abdominus) can be a major cause of back pain. Compensatory curvature of the upper back can cause muscles in this area to become long and weak and conversely chest and front of shoulders, short and tight. Both of which should be addressed. So, with all of this in mind, should focus on the following areas:

– Strengthen lower abdominal region and pelvic floor

– Strengthen upper back


 – Strengthen glutes

– Stretch chest and front of shoulders

Below I have outlined some simple yet effective exercises that will help strengthen and release the necessary areas outlined above. From the 3rd trimester you should be aware that your ligaments will be slightly looser than normal due to the release of a hormone called “relaxin” (which can remain in your body for up to 5mths post pregnancy) so be careful not to push any stretches too far.

  1. Pelvic tilts-Stand with your back against a flat wall with your arms by your sides and feet 6 inches off the wall, adopt a nice relaxed position. Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, pull your tummy button in towards your spine, “tilt” your pelvis backwards as if pushing your lower back into the wall, and waistband in an up. Breathe in again and relax, out and tighten. Repeat for 10 “deep” breaths. This same movement can be practised sitting on a Swiss Ball.
  2. Side hip external rotations-Lying on your side with heade rested on your arm,place your other hand just in front of your chest with fingertips on the floor (just for stability). Bend both hips and knees to 90 degrees with knees and ankles both together. Hold that position, engage your core to stay stable and rotate your top leg outwards, lifting the knees as far apart as possible and keeping contact between the feet at all times. Perform 10 repetitions per side and really try to think about the outside of your hip and glute as you externally rotate the leg.
  3. Ball stability-this one will utilise the Swiss ball. Sitting on the ball with feet flat on the floor and arms by your sides. Adopt an upright posture, pull tummy in with a slight backward pelvic tilt. Lift your right leg 1 inch of the floor and hold for 10 seconds aiming to keep the ball a still as possible. Change legs and repeat 5 times for each side. This can be progressed to holding weights / bottles of water in one hand and passing over head to the other to alter centre of gravity and require slightly more core stability.
  4. Superman-adopt a”horse stance”on hands and knees. Hands should be directly under shoulders and knee under hips and spine should be neutral. Breathe in and as you exhale, draw your naval up towards your spine, engage pelvic floor and perform a slight backward tilt of the pelvis. Breathe in and return the start position. Repeat for 5 repetitions, sit back on to your heels to take the pressure off your wrists, then repeat for another 5. This can can be progressed – on exhalation lift one hand 1 inch off the floor, alternate hand with each breath. With one less point of contact on the floor, you will be slightly less balanced meaning more stability required to maintain the neutral position.
  1. Shoulder rotations – Using either a long piece of string, broom stick or elastic exercise
    band, adopt a grip that is roughly twice that of shoulder width. Relax your arms but keep them straight and SLOWLY raise them up maintaining a small amount of pull on the elastic, and rotate all the way over your head until the elastic is behind you touching your lower back. Slowly bring the elastic back over to the start position and repeat for 10 repetitions. It is very important not to push through any pain or discomfort on this exercise. If it feels too hard, widen your grip. This is not really a strengthening exercise but more to maintain good shoulder movement and mobility.
  2. Reverse Fly – Standing upright hold your arms directly out in front of you with thumbs pointed upwards, feet hip width apart. Breathe in and as you breathe out engage core and move your arms out to the side (as if trying to make a cross shape), at the same time rotate so that your thumbs are now pointing back behind you. Bring your arms as far back as possible and really try to squeeze your shoulder blades down and together. Be sure not to “hunch” your shoulders up. Breathe in and return to the start position, repeat for 10 repetitions. This exercise is great for your upper back but is most effective when you really think about that shoulder blade squeeze. Imagine you are trying to squeeze a ping pong ball between them!
  3. One last muscle group to work AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE is the pelvic floor group. On all of the above if you really try to squeeze those muscles (as if you are trying to stop yourself going to the toilet) you will see even more benefit.

Complete this circuit 3 times and remember to concentrate! That is the key. Without engaging the correct muscles these exercises are pointless and should not be rushed. Done correctly and at least once per week should help with back pain and ensure as easy a birth as possible!

 

“Knowledge is Power”…..but is it enough to make a good fitness professional?

“Knowledge is Power”, one of my favourite phrases. I think that whatever field you are in (and indeed in everyday life) you should constantly strive to learn more, I for one have wowed many a folk with useless yet amazing facts. Did you know for example, that 13 people a year die because vending machines fall on them? A fact that I’m sure if I think long and hard enough, has got me somewhere in life. But the point is we should all try to increase our knowledge especially if one is working in the health and fitness industry which is a minefield of information. Now before I start ranting about misinformation, fads, gossip magazines and false advertising (which is a whole new post altogether) I want to get onto the point of this blog entry – knowledge may be power, but to be a good personal trainer / coach / advisor / whatever you label us weird, over energetic oddballs as, much much more than a qualification or two is needed.

vending-machines

I have been in the industry for a while now and I won’t lie, when I first started out I thought I knew it all. How could I! I had very little experience and actually had a lot to learn. Fortunately I got in with an awesome team of trainers and over the years gained a lot more from the guys and girls that surrounded me, courses I went on and experience during my time on the gym floor, than I did from the standard certification course necessary to work in the game (though a Sport Science degree did certainly teach me a lot more than a hell of a lot of certification courses I have come across!). I still continue to, and have a lot to learn and if any trainer out there tells you they know it all, they are not a good trainer, because they don’t. It’s impossible. What I have learnt the most over the years though, is that knowledge is just one “spoke” of a good trainer’s wheel and a list of qualifications as long as your arm, is only good if you have the ability to deliver that knowledge successfully (and have some clients to deliver it to in the first place). A trait that is bloody hard to be taught and only learnt through good experience and one reason as to why many trainers have second jobs and turnover is so high.

 

qualifications-experience

 

So becoming a good trainer takes time, commitment and dedication but becoming a bad trainer is very easy and even the most qualified trainer can invalidate their amazing knowledge in a few easy swoops. Here are my top five:

 

  1. Eating, drinking or using a mobile phone whilst training a client. AAGGHHHH I HATE THIS!!! Unprofessional, rude and a bad advert.
  2. Charging for absolutely everything. Hey we all need to make a living but ultimately we are there to help. Good trainers will make a good living but would never say money is their main motivation for being in the industry. Without the passion to help people succeed, a trainer will become disinterested and you won’t get what you paid for – results.
  3. Too much science. Whilst some people love hearing about the role of the sarcoplasmic reticulum or the role of pyruvate dehydrogenase in the Krebs cycle, others quite frankly could not give a flying monkey! A good trainer will have an adaptive teaching style. Bombarding someone with knowledge is not always the way to a clients heart (Deadlifts are…) Krebs Cycle
  4. Standards. Yes many of us are self employed and are our own boss but it doesn’t mean standards should slip. A trainer who is constantly late, smells like beer from the night before or not acting like you feel a trainer should, is a bad, yes I said it “bad” trainer.
  5. Non-motivating. Arguably the most important trait of a good trainer is the ability to motivate even the most unwilling of exerciser. Sure you know some amazing techniques to get strong and shift fat but you BORE ME TO DEATH! Not cool.

 

So that’s what I think. Any half decent trainer will not only have a brain stuffed with awesome knowledge to amaze you with, but they will be able to use that info effectively to help you justify employing them If not, or they are displaying one or more of my top five swoops above, get rid!

 

Get your pump on!

We all like to look good and many, particularly us guys have at least once in our lives trained with the goal of getting big muscles. In order to get the most from our training (and mega biceps!) it’s important to know the mechanisms that occur and how exactly our muscles get “bigger” 

“Hypertrophy” is the term we use to describe muscle growth of which there are two types –  Sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. In very basic terms, a muscle is made up of loads of “myofibrils”, all surrounded by a fluid or “plasma” which contains all the essential bits and bobs enabling the muscle to work. This plasma and myofibrils are all encased in a type of cling film and a group of these equals your muscle. 

When we lift heavy loads, 5 reps or less, over time can actually increase the number of myofibrils in each muscle fibre. We get bigger and stronger. If we follow a programme of lifting a slightly lower load for around 10-12 reps for anything from 3-10 sets (high volume), the lighter load does not have the same effect on myofibrillar density but instead produces an increase in muscle plasma (the fluid surrounding the myofibrils). We experience a good immediate “pump” so look bigger though relatively speaking do not see the strength benefits. 

I would always stick to the side of myofibrillar hypertrophy from a human performance point of view but as always mix up your training and always look to alter load, reps and sets to challenge the body and see best results. From a “real life” perspective, if you’re hitting the gym to look good in a tight t-shirt on a Friday night, go for volume!

Sit tight.

Sitting tight…

5 muscular problems with sitting down all day:

1. Tight hip flexors (front of hip)
2. Tight cervical extensors (back of neck)
3. Tight chest
4. Weakened upper back
5. Weakened abdominals

Sounds bad doesn’t it. What does this mean? All are massive contributing factors to bad posture, aching and pain but you can start to help yourself in one easy step – get up and move around!

If you are desk bound, set yourself a challenge today. Every hour (more if possible) stand up tall and walk about. Doesn’t have to be far, just “lengthen” your muscles and move.

Tightness leads to chronic tightness which leads to problems and pain. See to it before it sees to you!

Sitting tight...

5 muscular problems with sitting down all day:

1. Tight hip flexors (front of hip)
2. Tight cervical extensors (back of neck)
3. Tight chest
4. Weakened upper back
5. Weakened abdominals

Sounds bad doesn't it. What does this mean? All are massive contributing factors to bad posture, aching and pain but you can start to help yourself in one easy step - get up and move around! 

If you are desk bound, set yourself a challenge today. Every hour (more if possible) stand up tall and walk about. Doesn't have to be far, just "lengthen" your muscles and move. 

Tightness leads to chronic tightness which leads to problems and pain. See to it before it sees to you!