Sunday, 30 December 2012

Motivating Amy Part 2

In Part 1, I talked about how to stay motivated, in response to a comment by Amy. If you didn't read that post, have a quick look now... It's okay, I'll wait for you...

I love going to the gym, but I understand that for lots of people it's not an option, through cost or availability or sheer opposition to working out in a crowded, air-conditioned gym when there are hundreds of other things to do. For some of these people, exercising at home is the perfect solution... and yes, it can be. But only if you do it right.

Progression is something that happens naturally in a gym. When one level on the bike or cross trainer gets easy, you move up. If you're lifting an easy weight, you choose a heavier one next time. But some home exercise equipment doesn't have that option, or they only have a couple of settings. Or people who like to run always take the same 4 mile route and never deviate or speed up. Can you see the problem?

When you start a new exercise programme, especially if you've been previously inactive, your body is shocked into making huge changes: it has to get fitter very quickly, the lungs and heart have to become stronger to keep the air and blood circulating. Your body requires more fuel, so as long as you're not eating more you start to lose weight.

But when your body reaches the perfect state where it can efficiently match your requirement, using less fuel and muscle power because it's figured out the easiest way to do it, you simply ask it to do the same thing again and again.

Your body will respond (get fitter, lose weight) if you keep pushing it. Here are some great ways to progress:

For runners:
  • Interval training - find a slope/hill, sprint up it, walk down it x 10 (or 20, depending on length of slope)
  • Run your normal route the other way around
  • Lengthen your run
  • Shorten your run, but run faster
For people with exercise bikes/cross trainers:
  • If you listen to music, try speeding up a little when each new song starts until you can't go any faster, then slow back down to your original speed and start again
  • If you watch soaps, sprint at the start of a new scene, then slow down at the start of the next, and repeat
  • If you always cycle for 20 minutes, do one session a week that's twice as long
  • If you're short of time, sprint for 10 minutes
For people who do exercise DVDs:
  • Buy a new one!
  • Take the moves you've learnt from the DVDs and make up your own circuit - time yourself for 30 seconds each station with 10 seconds recovery time:
    • Jog on the spot
    • Squat
    • Star jumps
    • Lunges
    • etc...

Hopefully that's given you a few ideas. Don't forget Part 3 in a couple of days' time.
I'll be talking about how to build muscle and why it's important.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Motivating Amy Part 1

In response to my last post, Amy replied:

I have the motivation problem, I'm afraid. I managed to lose about 12lbs last year - which is about half what I aimed to lose - and then stalled. In the couple of weeks before Christmas I was down below 60kg after trying for a while to lose an extra bit, but now I have frustratingly gone just over 60 again even after thinking I'd try not to put weight back on over Christmas.

I think what made the difference when I did lose weight was keeping a food diary coupled with exercising a bit more (exercise bike at home), but when work got busier I found it harder to find the time and energy to exercise and plan food ahead.

... and without realising it, she's given me enough subject matter for the next few posts.

When you first start losing weight, it comes off quite quickly. Any change to diet and exercise gets you off to a great start, but mostly you're losing water not body fat. Seeing the scales changing every week keeps us going. But it doesn't last, for reasons I'll go into in Part 2.

Here are my top tips to keep going when you hit a plateau:

  • Try measuring yourself instead of relying on the scales. Chest/bust, waist and hips are good areas to measure. Don't get hung up on the numbers, just the difference between the previous measurements. Or, have a skirt/shirt/pair of trousers that you can try on each week. Your shape might keep changing even when your weight stabilises.
  • Look beyond just losing weight. If you've been exercising at the same time as dieting, then you're fitter than when you started. See how many times you can walk up and down the stairs until you're exhausted, and try to do more each week? If your exercise bike measures distance, try to go further in the same time, or do intervals - 1 minute normal cycling, 30 seconds very fast, and see if you can do more intervals every week.
  • Add more activity into every day life. Everyone says it, but it's true. If you can, walk or cycle to work. If you already do that, walk quicker! Get out and about at lunchtime. If you work in a tower block, walk up and down the stairs on wet days (great for your bum!) I'm not sure if I want to admit this, but I jump on the spot or do star-jumps when I'm waiting for the kettle to boil. Or I balance on one leg, which is great for activating your stomach muscles.

Please pop back for Part 2 tomorrow.

Friday, 28 December 2012

New Year, new start!

I started this blog at the beginning of 2012, and then promptly forgot about it except for random postings. In hindsight, 2012 would have been a great year for a fitness blog...

Never mind, 2013 is a new year, and I'm sure there will be lots more fantastic things I can write about. The name of this blog has changed slightly - I've added the word Revived! I'm hoping this will motivate me to write about my other great love - fitness!

So, to get this blog properly revived, I need your help. What would you like to know? Is there a burning fitness question you're dying to ask? Do you need motivation? Are you bored with your routine and looking for a change?

Are you looking to lose weight in 2013? Or gain it?

Or do you have a great tip you want to share with other people?

It's over to you... for a little while, at least!!

Monday, 16 July 2012

Today's training

Today was a good day for training. I've been suffering a rotator cuff injury which - when I finally realised I needed to rest properly and do no upper body weights at all - has started to recover. As a result of focusing solely on cardio for the past month, my cardio has perked up a bit - my love of running is having a resurgence, albeit just on the treadmill at the moment. I'm hoping I'll get back to running outside again soon.

So, I thought I'd share what I did today:

Warm up - a race on the Trixter Xdream bike

Treadmill -  intervals - walking at 4mph for 30 seconds, running at 5.8mph for 1 min. I started at a 3% incline, and added half a percent after every run. I made it all the way to 7% - although as it got higher, I dropped down to running for 30 seconds too.

Weights - rehab weights for shoulder
Cable chest press @ 6.25kg per arm x 12/10/8
Inverted row x 5/5/5/4
Reverse fly @ 4kg per arm x 10/10/10
Dumbbell bench press @ 6kg per arm x 10/10 (as a rehab technique, when my arms are straight up I allow my shoulders to lie flat against the bench, using the weights in my hand to push my shoulders down - and I do the exercise much slower than in the video, to make sure I'm not putting any excess strain on my shoulder)
Walking lunges @ 6kg per arm x 8/8/8
Leg press @ 75kg x 10/8/8
Lateral raise @ 4kg per arm x 10/8 (similar to this video, but starting with my palms facing my thighs, which activates the rhomboids and encourages the deltoids[shoulder] to relax)
Bicep curls @ 6kg x 10/10/8
Tricep pulldown @ 8.75kg x 8/8/8

All of these exercises were only performed until I could feel my shoulder pulling/hurting. This was only my second session lifting weights that were more than 2kg, and it felt good. I'm looking forward to slowly increasing the amount of weight I can lift... but when I say slowly, I mean r e a l l y slowly - I don't plan on getting injured again any time soon.

So, that was my training, what does yours look like?

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Updated 'About Me' Page

As I tweeted about this blog, I ought to write a post. I'm cheating slightly, because I'm just going to point you towards my 'About Me' page, located somewhere on that left hand column (unless I change the layout of this blog in the months to come, in which case it could be anywhere!)

Please say hello and tell me a bit about yourself!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

How to push yourself at the gym

If you're following me - and I know there are five of you out there - you've probably forgotten you follow me, because it's been a while since I posted. I've averaged about one post every 7 or 8 weeks of this year so far, but my plan is to at least try for a weekly post.

As I was pushing myself on the treadmill today ( I'd already done 10 minutes cycling, and followed the run with 20 minutes on the cross-trainer) I looked around and noticed how other people weren't sweating buckets and glowing bright red. These people come to the gym - mostly women, I'm sad to say - potter about on a couple of machines, maybe lift a dumbbell or two, and leave. Some of them leave with their make-up fully in tact - whereas I do not, ever ever wear make-up to the gym because it wouldn't last two minutes.

These ladies, who look lovely and are able to catch up on their reading while cycling, will find that in a couple of months they will still have the same levels of fitness as they did today. They will still weigh the same, even though they're convinced they should be losing tens of pounds because they come to the gym three times a week. After a while, they'll become disillusioned and give up.

I don't want you to give up. I want everyone who walks into a gym for the first time to achieve their goals eventually. I want them to enjoy working out, to even grow to love it like I do!

So, what's the right way to push yourself?

  • Workout at the right heart rate -we use the Karvonen formula, which allows for a higher working heart rate zone. This link is interesting, because it compares different formulas.
  • If you haven't increased the levels on your cardio machines for a few weeks, just increase it by one. You can always lower it back down half-way through the programme, but you should find that after a couple of sessions you won't need to.
  • Increase the weight you lift by the smallest increment available and see if you can complete the same number of reps. If you can, do the same after another couple of sessions until you have to reduce your reps a little bit.
  • Do not be afraid to sweat.
  • Don't worry whether other people are watching you. They'll be stares of admiration.
  • At our gym, we offer regular reviews of your programme. I know some gyms don't offer that service or charge - if that's the case, get an instructor to check your technique periodically. It's very easy to fall into bad practices.
  • Use the mirrors to check your technique - that's what they are there for.
These are just a few ways to make sure you are always pushing yourself. Although it might not be what you want to hear, working out should never be easy. But, as your fitness, endurance and strength increase, you'll be able to handle it better!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

"I don't want to bulk up"

At some stage, usually in the induction when I start to explain the benefits of strength training, women will say "But I don't want to bulk up."

Fair enough, but... it's unbelievably hard for the average woman to bulk up. In fact, if you take a look around the weights area of your gym, it's actually very hard for the average man to bulk up. And they're trying to do it.

I'm currently watching the programme about Jodie Marsh training for competition. Over the last few weeks, she's been on telly, in the papers, on the radio, talking about her transformation. There have been a lot of negative comments, and that's to be expected - a lot of muscle on a woman is not to everyone's taste. But these comments have ignored the amount of work that's gone into getting her body into this condition.

(A slight aside for the Daily Mail's reader comments I was reading: no, she doesn't wear the bronze fake tan all the time, that's for the stage to highlight the muscles and prevent all competitors from looking drained under the harsh lights. And I doubt she spends every moment of the day posing, so when she's in everyday clothes she'd just look in good condition.)

Firstly, her diet changed completely. No alcohol, no carbs, an awful lot of protein. She ate more than most people would feel comfortable eating in one day - definitely more than I'd be able to eat in one day. The eating alone demands an awful lot of dedication. When you're trying to reduce body fat levels down to the 10% she's aiming for, every mouthful counts - whether that's in a positive or negative way. That chocolate digestive you gave in to without thinking about it too much, would mean a setback in terms of body fat for Jodie!

And secondly, she spent almost all day, every day in the gym. Each day a different muscle group was worked, but the volume was relentless. (Although she still managed - at this point, halfway through the programme - to keep a full face of make-up in place. ???) After your workout, you get to go home with the knowledge that you probably will have the next day off. Could you imagine spending a day at the gym, and then going back again tomorrow, and the next day.

Back to the average woman who has a job, maybe a partner and/or children, who has friends and likes to go out to eat in restaurants and go for a drink, who takes the kids to the cinema and shares popcorn... all these things mean you are not doing enough work to bulk up.

This is probably good news for most women - phew!

And those who are thinking that actually they do want to have a go, well, it's time to consider exactly how you need to change your life to do it.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Are you the newbie at the gym?

Everyone thinks that on the 1 January, people are beating on the door of the gym, ready to sign up and blast through their new intentions. From my experience, it's more of a trickle that peaks around week 3. So, if you're still at the shall I/shan't I? stage, here are some tips to get the most from the workout.

1) Choosing a gym
 If you have a choice of gyms in your area, visit them all. Check how thorough the induction is. If their idea of an induction is to walk past the equipment saying 'This is a treadmill, this is a rower' without at least giving a demonstration, then you might find you don't get the most out of the gym without a lot of  research.

Are the classes you want to use at a time when you can use them? Is the swimming pool available when you need it?

2) Be sure of your goals.
 During a good induction you'll be asked about your goals. Losing weight and toning up, is the answer most people give - but it's not specific (it's like telling a travel agent you want to go somewhere hot for your holidays - they'd need a little more detail).

My favourite clients say things like, 'I want to run the London marathon this year' (note, not a marathon one day), 'I want to be able to lift xxkg on the bench', 'My left side is weaker than my right, I want to fix that', 'I want to get my body fat down to healthy levels'. I can work with that, and you can see the path towards achieving it.

3) Be realistic about what you can achieve
You can't get a six-pack in ten minutes a day. You can't lose two stone in three weeks, no matter what the side-bar adverts on Facebook say. You can't reach your goals in a month - unless your goal was to go three times a week for a month

Six weeks is the shortest time when you should start to see measurable and positive changes. Six months is about the time, if you've been consistently working towards it, that you should meet your initial goals. Then you need to make new goals. Don't give up - your health, exercise and diet is a lifelong committment, even though your goals and priorities may change.

4) Work hard
If you don't put the effort in, you won't get the results. It's that simple. Don't bring a book to read - you'll immediately work much less hard (if you get so bored at the gym that you need to read, think about intervals - 30 seconds easy pace, 30 seconds flat out effort - bet you won't get bored then!). Increase the levels when the programme gets easy. Change the programme you use. Focus on the muscles you use when you lift weights, don't just go through the motions.

You should be working out at a level which means you can't hold a conversation while you're on the cardio machines. You should be able to answer in one or two word grunts. With weights, you should feel a resistance (how much will depend on your goals, but if you're lifting something that weighs no more than your handbag it's too light).

5) Don't compare yourself to other people
They may have the body you envy, but they'll undoubtedly have different goals.

6) What you do outside the gym is just as important as what you do inside
This covers the food you eat and the activity you do. If you work out hard, then reward yourself with a slice of cake and a cuppa from the cafe, you'll be cancelling out the exercise - you might even put on weight! How many times have you heard people say, 'I tried going to the gym, but it didn't work for me'?

Do you drive to the gym? Could you run or walk there instead?
Do you always take the lift instead of the stairs?

So, that's all for now. Joining a gym is the easiest thing you can do; sticking at it, training well, and achieving your goals are harder. But they are worth it!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Fourth Day of January

By my reckoning, it's around about now that most people are starting to fail, or at least falter, on their New Year's Resolutions.

A Facebook friend, a few days ago, wrote that she was trying to decide what to give up. I wondered why she wanted to give anything up, why she didn't resolve to do something positive instead. It's easier to do something than to not do something.

Instead of giving up chocolate, why not resolve to eat a piece of fruit or some raw carrot before you have the chocolate? Chances are, by the time you've chomped through a carrot or banana, you won't want the chocolate, or if you do you'll be so full up you won't eat as much.

Eat all this before you eat chocolate!!

Instead of giving up alcohol, why not resolve to have a soft drink in between the alcoholic ones? Immediately you'll halve your intake, but you won't feel left out.

Now I've got you started, try to put a positive twist on your resolutions and see what you come up with. Please share them here, I'd love to read them