Circuit training newbie

If you have never been to a circuit style class before, these pointers might highlight why you should give it a go. Note – they might not be called circuits anymore but HIIT, Bootcamp or Tabata all have the same thing in common – they are effectively a circuit.

It’s a great way to train – you can get through lots of exercises – strength and cardio – in a set amount of time, just set a timer for each station (and rest) and you’re good to go. To do a lot of strength work you may need to add in weights, but to get started just use your own body, keep it simple and you’ll get a good workout.

3-minute blast

Perfect way to end a session A 3-minute blast – simple exercises that will make you work hard but for only three minutes. 

It’s also a perfect blast for when fitting in any kind of exercise seems impossible!

Read through the feature to make sure you understand any variations, watch the video and then give it a go! Once you’ve got the hang of this one, tweak it with other exercises (burpees, walking lunges, mountain climbers & bicycle crunches are a few examples), but keep to the format. Focus on your technique and push yourself hard – it’s just 3 minutes!

Core challenge

We all need to keep our core strong, as it sounds – it’s the core of our body, like a trunk for a tree, and if it becomes weak it causes all sort of problems with our posture and ability to carry out everyday tasks.

Here’s a great addition to your workout to keep the core strong. As with any exercise, start at your own level and progress – so you might not achieve all of it first time round but after a few times you can add in more.

80/20

The rule you hear is 80% diet and 20% exercise to lose weight, but is that right?

Well yes cutting out unhealthy options will ensure you are able to lose some of those pounds – but it’s a battle. By adding in exercise you can rev up your metabolism and help your body burn the stored fat. It also means you don’t have deprive yourself of everything you like. So the truth is you need both!

Have a read and see how you can incorporate small changes into your daily life to get you to your goal.

Reach your goal

Reaching your goal, whatever it may be, can seem impossible at times. This article has some great tips and inspiration from people who set their goals and met them. Everyone has a different method, finding one (or a few) that work for you will help you stay on track until you get there…and you will.

Remember it will take time and effort, but if you don’t make any changes, then nothing will change. Take inspiration and beat that goal!

12 week taster

Here’s a taster of something from my 12-week programme, why not try it this week as part of your usual routine and if you’d like to see more. you can sign up here.

Upper body:

Beginner: 8-12 repetition. Intermediate: 12-16 reps. Advanced: 16-20 reps. Rest 30-45 secs and repeat another once or twice.

Make sure you choose a weight you can complete the repetitions with using good form – but that are hard enough for your last two repetitions to feel tough!

Bicep curls

Tricep dips

Shoulder press

Side raises

Push up (can be done on knees)

Bent over row or single arm row

Tips for a healthy balanced life

There are hundreds of tips for weight loss, some better than others, but some of these tips are just good common sense, or helpful hints for a general healthier lifestyle, whatever your goals are.

This article does that too, some of the points such as getting more sleep, changing your workout routine and eating from smaller plates, are useful and well-known tips. However, being reminded to focus on our daily non-exercise based activities are a simple way to keep us healthier. For people who don’t like gyms, this is a godsend – if you like walking, gardening or spend a lot of time doing chores – it all counts! Just keep active!

Hard work makes you hangry

Working out first thing in the morning is not only a great way to start the day, but it makes sure you get your exercise in before the day really gets under way (and therefore less likely to skip it). But, you could undo your hard work if you get too hungry post workout.

These tips highlight the pitfalls and suggest easy solutions to fix them.  You know that pre and post workout eating is important, but what should you eat? Have you  had enough sleep and drank enough water… All these little things can help ensure you don’t eat more than you work off! Which means results will come quicker.

Making exercise your priority

We all know that good exercise and eating habits make you healthier and can improve your life in all sorts of ways – from self esteem to living longer, so I was pleased to read this interesting piece, which is well worth reading if you are struggling with your work/life balance (who isn’t), and could be worth forwarding to your manager! 

It also reminded me that I have to focus on the balance of my life too. I might train other people to make my living but fitting in my own training can be really tough and I am not alone! That’s why trainers often hire other trainers – because the commitment means you won’t forego it.  I am making that time – even if it means I have to adapt my training plan – so far so good!

Fat-busting Tabata

Tabata workouts are quick, simple but very effective. Here’s a few ideas that may surprise you! The bike, treadmill or swimming can work if you are at the gym, but so can high knees, mountain climbers or box jumping (or step) and they can be done at home. Mix it up to keep it fresh. All you need is 20 seconds of hard work followed by 10 seconds of rest – repeat 14-20 times and you’ll have completed a touch workout in 10 minutes  Who doesn’t have 10 minutes?

 

Boost your metabolism

As we get older we notice many outward changes, but just as many happen on the inside. A particularly annoying one is that our metabolism slows – which can help cause weight gain. Unfortunately the usual reaction to weight gain, is to try to lose it, but a slower metabolic rate makes it much harder.

While reading, I saw this article and how to help yourself, not all of the points are groundbreaking, but there are some very interesting points which could help. Such as, lifting weights (nothing new – we are constantly being reminded we need to increase bone density, better posture etc), but what about doing it in the morning – setting your metabolism up for the day. Small changes could make a difference. Definitely worth a try!

Take your abs to the next level

 

How about taking your abs to the next level.?  We all get stuck in a rut – repeating the exercises we  know, but you need to change it up if you want to see results. Easier said than done – well here’s a helping hand – some truly tough abdominal exercises to keep your ab workout fresh for a while.

Some of these may be too extreme for right now, but take a look and build up to them.

Workout nutrition

For people into serious training the nutrition element is really important, this article talks you through, pre, during and post workout nutrition, including supplements. 

While supplements might not be something you’re interested in, the article gives a good explanation of what your body needs and the reason why.

At the very least, consider the pre and post workout nutrition of protein and carbohydrate to help your work out and recovery.

What is a portion?

Counting calories was always seen as the key for managing a healthy balanced diet, but like all health and fitness news, something else always comes along to change our thinking. Portion control now being used as the way to keep your meals and snacks under control.

Ultimately it’s what works for you – counting calories or managing portion sizes. But are your portions right? This article is a simple guide.

If you want to look into further help with portions the British Heart Foundation guides are interesting.

Non-diet diet tips

Sounds good…. Sometimes concentrating too much on what you’re not having makes it even harder, so how about living a healthier lifestyle, improving fitness, losing weight or just improving your general mood as a by product of a few tips that make you feel good?

Try these tips and see what a difference it makes.

Break your work day up with a walk. Yep even a few minutes every few hours, walking around the office will improve your overall health and can help reduce the risk of later life chronic conditions. To take it further, take the stairs, walk or cycle your commute (or part of it).

Water as you know is vital, but drinking it plain for some people is just too dull. Add in pieces of fruit – berries, lime, lemon, mint, cucumber – whatever you life, if it tastes good you’re more likely to keep hydrated.

Watch an hour less TV a day…. What if you used that time to do gardening or house chores (burning calories while you’re at it), spent time with friends or family, went for a walk? It would give you a bit more time to hit the gym too…..

Most importantly, spend less time being critical of yourself. Too much time telling yourself you aren’t able to do something or you can only do it/wear it/be it if you lose weight isn’t going to help you achieve your goal – it will only help stop you. Be your own cheerleader.

 

Eat right & Workout – not just for weight loss!

If every you need motivation to keep up the healthy lifestyle, this article can help.  It highlights so many benefits to eating well and exercising regularly. There are the obvious ones you’ve heard a million times, but what about improving your self esteem, boosting your sex life, having better sleep, clearer skin and reducing mental health issues.

There are so many more reasons, not just to beat the scales (or beat yourself up about them). It’s not all about weight loss – there are so many positive health benefits for your everyday life (and for your family too).

Why do people have Personal Trainers?

Sometimes it may seem like an indulgent expense. Everyone has their own reason – mostly it’s because if someone else tells the what to do they will do it! But this article points out why you might want to consider it and what you should consider. Cost is one issue but most trainers do offer deals on block bookings and added value by including nutritional support.

If you feel inspired contact me!

What’s the difference?

If you’re unsure of what counts as circuits and intervals or you’ve never heard about pyramid training methods, this simple guide can help you create your own short exercise routine – which can be done anywhere.

If you’re stuck for exercise ideas – try theses:

Cardio:

skipping (with or without a rope)

high knees

jumping jacks/star jumps

running on the spot (or between to points)

Strength:

Squats (add a jump to make it cardio too)

lunges

press ups

tricep dips (off a sofa/bench or on the floor)

Core:

bicycle

leg raises

curl up

plank (if you do only one core exercise do this one!)

GOAL!

So when you’ve hit your fitness/weight goal – what happens? It’s hard to know how to maintain – you’ve spent so long trying to achieve the goal, to finally make it (or at least this goal), you need to learn what to do next – this article keeps it simple and achievable.

But don’t forget to set yourself another goal – it keeps you motivated, ideally something that keeps you fit and healthy without excess. Maybe take part in a charity event or become a workout buddy to a friend that needs a little extra motivation……

Eating post workout

So you hit the gym for an hour, worked hard, and you’re really hungry, but haven’t planned ahead……

You’ve probably made at least one of these mistakes, as highlighted by Women’s Health. .

Eating a pre-planned snack or meal (depending on the time of your session) is key, you need to replenish your body with healthy food, but sometimes (and we’ve all done it), what we actually do isn’t always the best option.

 

Time out

There are times when a work out should be put off or a different work out tried instead of the usual hard session. If you’re unwell, exhausted from lack of sleep or injured, then you need to take some time out – working your body hard in any of these circumstances could do more harm them good, rest and recovery are important.

If you’re trying to cram in too much, have a light head cold or can’t get to the gym then you need to either take an active recovery day (cycle or walk) or maybe fit in a quick high intensity workout like this one. 

Read more on when and why you need to take time out here.

Progression

If you’ve been near a gym, you will have heard about progression, if you had a programme written for you or have had personal training you’ll also have heard about progressive overload.  Terms which could seem terrifying if you think that means you’re suddenly going to be lifting seriously heavy weights….but have a read of this article, I think it explains the idea of progression well and how to do it. 

The weight you lift/squat/press is irrelevant – the idea is the same however much you can do, this will lead to results. Sometimes understanding the principal makes more sense and can help you get a better work out. If nothing else, it will explain why gym instructors leave notes reminding you to increase weights/reps/sets!

Not just about abs

Most of us know we need to work our abs or more precisely our core. Abdominal muscles aren’t just to make us look great, they are part of our core – which as it sounds – is the core of our body, think about a tree – the trunk has to be strong to keep it upright whatever the weather and to support the branches. Well your core is doing the same job, so while it’s great to keep working those abs – you also need to make sure you are strong in the back too. Here are a few simple back exercises which can be done anywhere and easily form part of your exercise routine. And if you’re short of time – plank! It works the full core and can be done on your knees until your strong enough to so the full version. Ask an instructor or watch this to help you perfect the pose. 

Weight loss blocks

Easter is over, the eggs have been eaten. Now you’re getting back to your healthy lifestyle, but if that seems harder than usual – or Easter was a good excuse to let go because the plan wasn’t working, have a look at these tips.

Some are obvious and well documented, but did you know that your mental health may affect how successful you are with weight loss or that eating too little could cause you a problem, or that it could be your exercise regime.

 

 

Bounce back after a break

Or maybe you have been injured, unwell or just overtrained and needed some rest. Recovery is key to build and repair muscles and to ensure you are ready for the next hard work out

If you’re just recovering from a hard work out – you can keep active even on rest days, if you’ve been unwell or injured then ease yourself back in slowly and follow these tips for recovery.  Foam rollers are a painful investment – but worth it! And don’t forget the protein!

Gym shy

If you’re just starting out, have been away for a while or maybe just moved – going to a new gym can be intimidating. Or maybe, you just hate the idea of them! But you don’t need to worry – most people are too busy focusing on themselves to notice what you’re doing, but the thought is often worse than the reality. Here are some tips that could help you. 

And if they don’t convince you –  you can still do a work out at home.

Cardio calamities

If you’re spending hours on end in the gym or pounding the pavement, yet you still don’t seem to have reached your goal, maybe you’re making some of these mistakes.

  1. Not fuelling up – getting up and out there is a great way to start the day and to make sure you get your exercise in, but, if you aren’t fuelled up for a long run or hardcore gym class or session, then your body is using up protein stores to keep you going. That means it’s using the energy needed to create lean muscle. Either do a light cardio session if you can’t face eating early or have a least a banana or granola bar (carb based snack) before you head out so your body can use it’s preferred fuel (Carbs) which will help you work out better.
  2. Keeping it fun and varied – hating what you do at the gym isn’t going to keep you motivated. Try out classes, get a programme written specifically for you and tell the trainer what you don’t like so they can find an alternative. Keep your body guessing with regular changes to your workout.
  3. Pay attention to what you’re doing – why turn up to the gym and sit on a bike for an hour reading. You won’t be paying attention to your technique, let alone if you’re actually working hard enough. Yes an hour of light cycling is better than sitting in the pub reading with a drink, but if you are focused on what you’re doing you could do it in less time.  A 20 minute more intense workout would boost your heart rate, burn fat and still allow you time to sit and read AFTER you’ve been to the gym (it’s your recovery – just don”t undo your hard work). You’re also less likely to fall off the treadmill……yes it does happen!
  4. Changes – to see changes you have to make changes. Mix up your routine, from your walks or runs outside, to the weekly classes and gym sessions – it all keeps your body guessing and therefore working harder, which is what will give you results.

Breaking up with goals

As you know, goal setting is seen as an important part of reaching your desired outcome. But what happens when they don’t seem to work? There are various reasons – some may not be in your control, a crisis at work or home means the routine goes awry or an illness or injury means you have to stop. These can be demotivating, but what about the goals that you set for yourself which aren’t achievable but are desirable.

Working with a trainer can help you set SMART goals, breaking them down into manageable and realistic goals for you. But sometimes, the end result isn’t enough (ever sabotage yourself while on a diet?). So a starting point of “I want to lose weight and get toned” (which is probably the most common goal for a woman), but is that a real goal? It’s the reason you came to the gym, it’s the ideal outcome for you, but in terms of having a goal, it doesn’t create a reason to put the work in.

How you get there would be a better focus of your time. To lose weight and get toned – you need to add in weight training – learning new moves, technique and building a stronger (leaner) body will keep you working hard as you see the changes and therefore more likely to keep going.. A positive goal – I want to get stronger, lift more weight do more repetitions/sets, will see you losing that body fat while getting stronger and leaner. So whatever your initial reason for walking into a gym, find the reason to keep going, enjoy it and you’ll soon see results.

Fit tips

There are hundreds/thousands of ‘fit tips’ from the advice your mate gives you to social media, some better than others… These 10 tips are what I think works… Simple straightforward advice so worth reading it, but the short points are:

  1. Effective workouts – make a focussed plan
  2. Be consistent – keep aiming for your goal, slow progress is better than none.
  3. Train with a mate
  4. Set realistic goals
  5. Work with your body clock – if you’re a morning person then train first thing
  6. Fit exercise into your lifestyle – be realistic. Can’t make the gym – do a version at home
  7. Be inspired – by an instructor, by reading an article, someone you know.
  8. Patience – results take time – that’s why consistency is key
  9. Get professional help – sometimes a trainer can help you make the changes you don’t seem to be able to .
  10. Workout happy – find the class or style of training that you enjoy – you’re more likely to stick to it.

Top Tips for change

If you really want results you need to make changes, everyone knows it, but it’s easy to underestimate quite how much change is needed. Here are a few simple pointers from Women’s Health which answer a few of the usual questions, such as how long until I see results and is age is a factor in your fitness level. Worth a read as it could just be the motivation you need to get started!

Fat Loss

Aiming to torch the fat can be hard work. It’s key to eat and exercise right, without going OTT. In the gym, you need to burn it off, 30 minutes on the treadmill will burn calories, but continuous training won’t really torch the fat. Add in some high intensity training, blasts of cardio that make your heart work harder – not only will it help you keep burning fat it will also increase your fitness level – and it can be done in 30 minutes or less. Don’t forget to cool down and stretch (to aid recovery and reduce DOMS).

To take it to the next level, add in weight training, if you don’t have time for one or the other add it together – mix some CV with weights (instead of rest), but be sure you work different muscles otherwise you’ll tire quickly and the workout won’t be so effective. How about high intensity jump squats into press ups. Alternating upper and lower body exercises means you should have an effective all over work out in no time. And you’ll burn fat, build lean muscle (which burns fat even after training) and all in less time.

Now to the food, it’s all well and good to burn fat in the gym. But if you don’t fuel your body well it will be for little gain, if you know how many calories you should be eating that’s great, remember to count everything from dressings to drinks – everything you eat has an effect (even the tiniest spoonful).

To get the most benefit you actually need to manage your macronutrients –  work out how much of each (protein, carbs, fat) you need to eat each day, focus on protein as this will repair and build lean muscle. For protein aim for 1-1.5g per pound of bodyweight (even if you aren’t going to count the rest this is a good start). So if you weigh 65kg, you need to eat 65-97g per day. Break it down to include it in every meal and snack.  Don’t fear the fat – healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, salmon and avocado are good – in moderation, and like protein, will help you feel full, among other benefits such as healthy skin, hair….

In short, cut out processed foods as much as possible, eat fresh foods (if you have a packet with a long ingredients list then it’s processed), save that for your cheat meal (if you want to), make sure you eat enough (too little and you will lack energy, and your body will hold onto fat). Focus on effective gym sessions – short and sweet, keep changing it to avoid boredom. Don’t believe the hype, sports drinks and bars aren’t necessary, use real food and if you are restricting food (to a healthy range – not less than 1200 calories a day for women), you might need to add in a supplement to cover the micronutrients. Ideally you’ll be eating well enough not to need this but sometimes a little extra help is required.

Injury free training

Most regular gym goers will have been injured at some point, either by overtraining and straining a muscle or accidents in the gym with equipment or other users, most of the time they are minor incidents and after a bit of rest a full recovery is made. But you can avoid many injuries by following a few simple rules.

  1. If you’re lifting heavy weights, take a friend (spotter), who can help you if they get too much. And while you’re resting you can spot them.
  2. Pay attention – if’ you start watching a programme while running on a treadmill you could easily end up clipping your foot and losing balance. While it might amuse others to see you fly off, it will hurt and you could do yourself some serious harm.
  3. Plan your work out area and if you can, keep away from other users – they will be focused on their own session and could easily drop weights or trip over you.
  4. Put away your weights – if everyone did this then no one could trip over them. Be sure they are secure before you walk away – putting a ball back on a rack is fine, but if it isn’t in place it could bounce off and hit an unsuspecting person.
  5. If in doubt – ask – don’t try an exercise you’re not sure about, poor form could cause injury and at best would be ineffective and a waste of time. A gym instructor can show you how to do it (or another appropriate option).
  6. And of course, warm up, cool down and stretch!

Core strength

Most of us want a flat stomach because it looks nice and makes us feel good. But a strong core supports the entire body and makes an active healthy lifestyle easier. Why? Because your core – is that – the core of your body and that is more important the how it looks. You can have a strong core without showing off six-packs abs.

Strong abdominals help support your back and your posture. Pilates is great for building strength in the deep abdominals. If you can’t get to a class here are some suggestions that can be done at home or in a few minutes at the end of gym session.

And if you are looking for the six-pack, it’s more than crunches, there has to be little fat around your stomach, which means a strict diet, focused on getting the best balance of macronutrients a lot of work in the gym and willpower!

Flexible friend

Stretching is an important part of any work out, attending regular yoga or Pilates classes is a great addition to any fitness routine – whatever your goal. But the stretches you do pre and post workout are also key to looking after your body.

Trends change, years ago ballistic stretching was advised (bouncing movement), any trainer would now tell you that’s not good for you! There will always be debate but one thing remains true – stretching is good.

Pre-workout, use dynamic stretches – walking, rolling shoulders, swinging arms and legs and increasing the range of motion, it will warm you up without pulling or overstretching cold muscles. If you are heading off for a run, standing still while stretching out doesn’t make sense – walking while moving arms, then going into a jog, is a logical progression.

Don’t skip the post workout stretch. Once you’ve cooled down (decrease your intensity slowly, let your heart rate slow down), hold each static stretch for 15-30 seconds – remember to work through the whole body and it should help reduce DOMS.

Boost your workout

Feeling a bit bored with your workout? Or feeling like it’s not working quite as well as it did? What about changing the intensity and how you plan? Simple changes like music (create a new soundtrack) or planning a workout in a different order could be all it takes.

What about hitting free weights instead of the usual machines?  It changes your posture and makes you work more muscles! Try different training systems (superset instead of the basic – eg. reps of biceps and triceps back-to-back rather than one then the other), or adapt the weight/rep range, maybe add in explosive movements such jump squats/lunges, create your own circuit (or attend a class). Working at a higher intensity for shorter periods of time can be much more effective – for cardio or weight training.

Depending on your experience, there are many more options, concentrate on what you’re working on, squeeze the muscle and hold it before you release it, do giant sets, train to failure (so you can’t lift one more time), reduce your rest time between sets/intervals and if you’re still stuck – get some advice from a trainer.

Make your workout different each time and you’ll not only see results, but you’ll also enjoy it.

Health & Fitness for 2016

I read an article about the trends for 2016, it’s funny how new trends are just revamped old trends, but sometimes with a bit more sense and science behind them!

We’ve had detox, juicing, clean eating, paleo, vegan, mindfulness and so many more, but this feature highlights some healthier suggestions – my favourite three are:

  1. Exercising to relieve stress, anxiety, depression, it’s long been accepted that exercise can help you manage your mental health. Easier said than done when you’re feeling low, but it works (in my experience), it’s got to be worth a go!
  2. Carbs – not the devil food – once you understand the nutritious value, portion size and the difference between healthy and unhealthy options.
  3. Vegan + eggs –  not a true vegan diet, but possibly more achievable for the general population. True veganism can be a healthy option, if you do it right.

Keeping up your fitness

When you start out on any fitness plan it’s hard to keep motivated, especially if you are new to it. These tips should help you keep on track.

  1. Booking in your sessions – and sticking to them! It can take a while to make your 3/4/5 weekly trips to the gym a habit, but if you plan them in (write them in a diary, on a wall chart, set an alert on your phone), it becomes easier to prepare and plan the time for them. As with your healthy eating habits, you need to make time for the habit to stick and don’t expect to be 100% perfect.
  2. Be flexible – no not physically (although that’s also a good idea), with your training plan. Some days you may not be able to complete a session or perform as well as you hoped. Tiredness, stress, working hours or not eating well enough could affect a session. Or you have a family celebration, a friend needs a night out or your partner planned a surprise.  It’s just one session, it’s not going to derail the plan – unless you let it!
  3. Work hard but never over work. It’s great you have got into the habit of working out regularly, but overtraining can lead to injury, fatigue and could put you off your plan for good. Balance, as with everything in life is key. Take rest days seriously, your muscles need time to recover properly.
  4. Drink up! Sports drinks are not needed unless you are competing in a marathon (even then it’s better to make up your own – orange juice and water can do the trick), you need water to help the body function effectively. Water is a simple option for hydration, mix it up with herbal teas, avoid fizzy drinks and caffeine (the odd cup of tea or coffee is fine). Don’t overdo it, you need to keep hydrated, and the best way to tell is by your urine. 
  5. Share your enthusiasm. A workout buddy can help the motivation, just try to ensure they are of a similar fitness level, if one of you can beat the other one at everything – that’s not motivational at all. Or you could end up injured. Remember not to assume knowledge if you’re the one leading the session – leave that to the professional trainers.

No time for exercise?

When time is tight, fitting in exercise seems like a push too far. But, 20 minutes can be enough – if you do it right, whatever your fitness level.  Try these suggestions for a quick workout.

For the non gym-goer – walk for 10 minutes at a consistent pace (to the shops, in the park or up and down your street), then turn back and try to get back home quicker. If you know how far you walked you can try to go further at a higher speed each time.

In the gym, decide on your plan, then just focus on that – high intensity is key to make sure you get the heart rate up – try a circuit of 10 of each (or as many as you can do in 20 secs) of star jumps, burpees, jump lunges/squats, push ups, Rest for 1-2mins and repeat as may times as you can in the 15-20 mins. All you need is your own body. You can also mix it up with speed bursts on treadmills or bikes or cross-trainers. Keep a steady pace and then add in bursts of inclines or speed to get the heart pumping. Or if you need to fit in a weights session, just work one area each time also known as split routines.

Swimmers can do a similar thing – go for as many lengths as you can in 20 minures and try to beat it each time.

The options are endless and can make all the difference. Time to hit the gym!

From good to great

 

Whatever your starting point, your new to the gym or redefining goals, here are a few tips aimed to help you get the best out of your workout.  They may seem simple, but could make the all the difference.

  1. Goal setting – new or revised. If you don’t know what you want to achieve then how can you achieve it? Break it down into smaller goals, visualise it, do whatever helps you to fix it in your head.
  2. Nutrition – make a food diary, whatever your aim, nutrition is key, you need to eat the right foods to nourish  your body. If you are aiming to lose weight it will also help you see patterns and where you may have extra calories.
  3. Rest – the body needs time to recover, don”t skip rest days otherwise you could end up injured or overtraining. 
  4. When you are in the gym make it count – try intervals or higher intensity. If you struggle with motivation then join a class. And don’t forget to change it up, doing the same old thing – change makes your body work harder.
  5. Focus, think about the muscles you are working, the goal you have set and don’t forget to enjoy it! You won’t stick with it if you don’t enjoy it.

Weight training for beginners

New Year Resolutions come in all forms, perhaps instead of just saying – I want to get fitter – why not try something more specific, like weight training, and no it’s not just for men – why not try these tips to get you on your way.

They might not all seem logical to you, but a few pointers to get you started (or ask the instructor in the gym) could open up a whole new experience for you.  Or try out this four week plan from Shape Magazine.

Back to healthy habits

Had a good break? Feeling rested? Now is the time to plan your return to healthy eating and fitness, maybe you’ve decided on a new goal or training plan. Or you’re new to any of this, starting out slowly is key – over do it and you’re likely to end up injured, fed up and demotivated.

If you’ve eaten any and everything (hard not to with all the tempting treats on offer everywhere you go!), then plan to cut back over the next few days. New Years Eve is just around the corner so a strict diet is unlikely to happen – so don’t set yourself up for a tricky task, you need to prepare, plan and ensure you have SMART goals set before you get started.

Keep it simple, look up the gym class timetable, as a little extra motivation might be needed at this time of year, or get friends out for a walk to catch up, make a meal plan for the next few days, making healthy choices ensuring you cover all the main components (macros) but don’t stress if you can’t stick to it – this is just the warm up, a little preparation now, will get you a step ahead in January when everyone gets on the health kick.

 

It’s Christmas!

The word sets panic in those following strict diets or fitness regimes! If you’ve followed your plan with the odd cheat day then you’re unlikely to ruin your hard work in one day!

Christmas day is a day for appreciating all that you have and part of that is often a big special meal, watching TV or playing games – a lot of time and effort goes into it and all the traditions that a family has, unique to each family unit (and that could be friends who are as close as family). Enjoy the moments and the food and then think about the diet the next day.

Happy Christmas!

What you should ask your Personal Trainer

Taking on a Personal Trainer is an investment, without some proper research it could be an expensive mistake.

They don’t have to just look the part, more importantly, you need to feel some sort of connection – do they put you at ease? Will they help you achieve your goals?

If you’re looking for a new trainer – check our REPs website (registered exercise professionals), for a qualified trainer near you. Before you commit to spending the money, make sure they can back up any claims and that you feel they can deliver for you, If you’re not sure what to ask – here are a few suggestions.

What certificates/qualifications? This will show their commitment to continued development and experience. What motivated them to be a Personal Trainer – hopefully the answer will inspire confidence that they have passion for what they do. What experience/results do they have in helping clients achieve specific goals? Can they put you in touch with previous clients? Or at least have some testimonials for you to read. And also quite key – what training style do they have – will it suit you? If you hate the idea of being shouted at or you prefer that – then you need to work with a trainer that can deliver that.

It can be expensive, but getting the right trainer for you can help you achieve goals quicker, help you learn techniques that you can use on your own and support you if things go awry (which can happen). A good personal trainer is a support to help you achieve your goals with advice and, encouragement.

Compound or isolation?

Two different types of weight training, but which is best? In an ideal session plan, you would have both, the compound as the base with isolation exercises included for more specific training.

Compound uses more than one major muscle group at a time – so anything that includes pulling, pushing movements. Deadlifts, for example, use more than just one major muscle.  A compound exercise is great for building strength and progressing by adding more weight, but technique is key otherwise you could injure yourself, or overtraining may be an issue because you are working so many parts of the body. Another good point, is they save time because you’re training more muscle groups together.

Isolation, is, as it suggests, uses one major muscle group at a time, such as curling, raising or extending, think bicep curl.  Isolation exercises can help develop a particular muscle, but less weight is likely to be used and progress could be slower. It compliments the compound exercises because it allows more specific training in muscles which may not have been used in the compound exercises.

Rest and recovery

It’s great to workout regularly, and if you’re training 5/6 days a week, then you need to make sure you plan in some time for the muscles to recover – which is often why split routines are helpful, because it allows your muscles 24-48 hours to recover.

There are other things you need to do too, remember to replace fluids, if you’ve done a heavy session you will have sweat a lot, and you need to replace that fluid. Checking your urine can help you figure out if you’re dehydrated (if the headache doesn’t), stretch the muscles you worked,  eat properly, ideally within an hour of your session, include protein and and carbs (poached egg on wholegrain toast(, if nothing else try a snack (chocolate milk is good on the go).

Rest! Sometimes active recovery – light exercise such as swimming can help aching muscles or DOMS, but sometimes, you just need to stop. Relax, maybe have a sports massage (painful but worth it) or just do nothing – for a few days or longer. It’s good to have a proper break – it allows your body to fully recover, avoid overtraining and means you can come back stronger, and without injury.

How do you measure up?

Most people use a scale to see if they are gaining/losing weight, but the scales can’t tell you the whole story, some are better than others as they can monitor your body fat percentage, which is an important indication of your internal health, the fat you carry but can’t see.

We are all different body types (often referred to as apples (carry weight around the waist) and pears (carry weight around the hip/bottom area).  Apples are more prone to holding fat around the abdomen (stomach) and this has been linked to increased risk of heart disease. Reduce your internal fat and reduce your potential risks.

BMI (body mass index) is often cited as the go to measurement because it’s an easy measurement to do and there are numerous calculators online, to do it yourself – divide your weight in kg by height in metres squared. A reading of 18.5-25 indicates you’re in the healthy range.  There have been some good articles about why this isn’t good for certain areas of the population – like athletes who have a much higher muscle than fat ratio (muscle is heavier than fat), but the BMI calculation means they are assessed as obese. Have you seen an obese athlete?

A good alternative is the waist to hip ratio, which can also be done with just a tape measure. Measure your hips at the widest point (just by the hip bones) and then your natural waist, the narrowest part (where your stomach button is). Divide the waist reading by the hip reading to get the result. Being under 0.95cm for men or 0.80cm for women is healthy.

And don’t forget, muscle weighs more, but looks considerably less bulky, than fat. Muscles also have more health benefits. We all need to carry a certain amount of fat – men, less than women, but if we carried more muscle, less fat, we would look leaner and be healthier.

Weights or Cardio

For some weights are a way of life and cardio is less of a focus for others it’s the other way around. We need both, male or female. A good training plan will incorporate both. Weights can be part of a cardio routine but for beginners it’s better to split the two – this allows focus on technique and therefore less chance of injury. Many women are unsure of weights, but in combination with cardio they offer a complete and balanced training session, your cardio will improve fitness, heart health and will help weight loss, weights will improve posture, bone density, build muscle (not so much for women). A couple of each sessions a week can offer health and physical benefits.

Party season

It’s the season to be jolly, but not if you are keen gym goer, all the extra socialising (and with that eating/drinking etc) can play havoc with the usual routine and for some, that can mean falling off the fitness train and struggling to get back on it.

So plan ahead, if you can’t commit to your usual sessions, try shorter, harder ones, train SMART each time. Arrange to meet friends at the gym, before for coffee (as long as you can encourage eachother to make it to the gym), or after for a drink. Also remember to enjoy the party season – use Christmas to have your rest week, if it’s planned, it’s less irritating when you can’t get into the gym. Suggest meeting for walks so you can get some light exercise in while socialising. And don’t over indulge too much! Christmas is one day (cheat day).

Hitting a wall

This has to be the most frustrating part of any fitness plan. Hitting a wall or plateau.  You are doing all your planned sessions, but are you eating well, sleeping enough and pushing yourself harder? Pushing too hard can be as bad as not pushing hard enough. Think about changing your plan.

Try a new class, do your usual gym session in a different order, be honest about how hard you are working. Do you lose interest after 30 minutes? Fine, then just plan to work hard for 30 minutes and then leave. Look at how frequently you train, what you’re doing and what you’re really doing! Then devise a new plan to include your diet – what you eat is key to your success. Are you treating yourself on the way home from the gym because you stayed for the full hour, even though it wasn’t that great?

Talk to a Personal Trainer if you need help. It could be well worth the investment to see the results.