Monday, 24 February 2014

My last post

I tried, so hard, to keep on top of this blog - but I've failed.

I am a fiction writer by day and a fitness instructor by night. I thought I could use this blog to widen my non-fiction writing experience. For a while it worked, but not as well as I'd hoped. I'd wanted to be able to take my personal experiences and translate them into fun, witty and helpful posts...

But it's time to face the truth: I am not an article writer. I am a fiction writer, and as such I'm going to leave the article writing to someone else.

Thanks for your support over the last couple of years, and I hope you reach your weight/fitness/strength goals. This blog will stay up and running for a while longer, and then - sometime after Easter - I'll take it down.

If you're interested in finding out more about my fiction, please follow this link to my writing website.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Injury and embarrassment

Six days ago, I injured myself doing a deadlift in the gym. I've told pretty much everyone about my stupidity, so I might as well share it here - it might prevent you from doing something similar.

I've been following the weightlifting protocol 5/3/1 where you work to pretty tight progressive weights over the course of the session and the weeks. I was only using it for a couple of lifts, including my deadlift.

So, there I was last Sunday morning... I did a 5 rep set x 30kg, 3 x 36kg, 3 x 41kg, 3 x 51kg and the last set was as many reps as possible at 58.5kg. I did 4 good reps, and went for a 5th...

Now... something happened between that 4th and 5th rep, but I don't quite know what. I lost concentration, I forgot how heavy the bar was, I didn't push through my feet but pulled from my arms... One or all of these happened, and the top of my left glute went ping. I heard it.

I dropped the weight, said 'ow' very loudly, decided to give up the rep and even tried to bend down to unload the bar. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen. I shuffled into the gym office and promptly fainted on my colleague.

I was completely laid up for two days, and in pain ever since - a sharp pain when I move the wrong way, and a dull ache at all other times. Standing still is not easy, and sitting down on a proper chair is impossible - I have to slouch back propped with cushions and my feet up.

I've also completely finished a box of chocolates, snacked at all the wrong times, and I can feel myself getting weaker and less fit with every passing minute. But I am using this time to ditch 5/3/1 and go back to my own system, which was actually working very well.

To finish, the moral of this story - the thing you should remember whether you're lifting 20kg or 200kg - is respect the weight, don't lose concentration and try really, really hard never to faint in front of the people you work with!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Ah, sugar sugar...

Go on, play this while you read - I know you want to...

The sugar debate has raised its head with a vengeance in this first month of 2014 - in the UK there are newspaper articles, documentaries and blog posts all shocked and appalled at how much sugar is in our food!

Here's a typically hysterical Daily Mail article about a woman who changed her child's diet to be more healthy and discovered they were eating more sugar than before! The first thing you might notice is that they still eat a lot of processed foods. The second thing is that she serves Special K Oats and Honey cereal... The last time I checked, honey was sugar!!

Here are my top observations about sugar: (by the way, I hope you're still singing along... I am!)

  • After being on a heavily sugar-restricted diet for medical reasons, the two things I can no longer bear to eat are Heinz Tomato Soup and Kit Kats. They are both far too sweet.
  • Sugar can be an addiction, but you can also wean yourself off it. 
  • The energy slump you experience after eating sugar usually has you reaching for more sugar, but if you eat a protein/fat based snack, such as nuts or a boiled egg, you will be sated for longer.
  • Low fat versions of common foods (such as yoghurt and cottage cheese) tend to have higher levels of sugar, when actually those foods are not high fat so there's really no need to choose a low fat version. These foods rely on added sugar to preserve the taste, texture and flavour.
  • Fat is not the enemy - our body needs fat, approximately 20 - 30% of your daily calories should come from fat. Current research suggests we need a certain amount of saturated fat too, and a couple of years ago that was a big no-no. 
If you're concerned about your sugar consumption, or you've been trying to lose weight without success, take a closer look at the food labels - a couple of strategic changes might make a big difference.

Note: sugar in fruit is not a problem, because the sugar is bound into the fibre of the fruit so it releases more slowly than the quick hit of a chocolate bar or cake. If you can't give up cake, consider making your own and experimenting with using less sugar than the recipe suggests!

Saturday, 18 January 2014

A quick chat about interval training

This week I have started doing some HIIT cardio training.

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training, and I started it this week because I designed an information board for the gym on this subject, and some of the research was very interesting.

According to studies, you can lose 2% body fat in eight weeks, or up to six times more body fat than if you stuck to a steady-state cardio regime, and burn 100 more calories over the following 24 hours.

So I'm doing intervals to test it out! If you fancy joining me, I'm using a stationary bike. I can usually cycle for 30 minutes at level 12 (on our make of bike - 25 is the maximum level). So I chose levels 10 and 14 - you will need to change the levels to suit your circumstances.

Make sure you warm up! And - disclaimer - if you feel sick or dizzy or faint, please slow down, stop and take a drink! You may need to build up to the speeds and intensities I've suggested. If you don't do too much exercise at the moment, only increase the level by 2 for the intense sets.

  • Cycle for one minute at level 10 at a pretty easy speed- ie. 65 rpm
  • Then 1 minute at level 14, 75-80 rpm
  • Then 1 further minute at level 14, trying to hit 95-100 rpm
  • Repeat 6 times, taking 21 minutes altogether
I don't have any expectations, I just thought it would be an interesting experiment, and I had nothing else to post today!

I'll let you know how I get on!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Do you feel you're wasting your time at the gym?

If there is one piece of advice I wish everyone would listen to it's:

train like you mean it!

But what does that really mean?

It means:

  • don't be like those people who coast through their workout without breaking a sweat (Apologies if you're one of these women, but my heart sinks when I induct someone and they're wearing full makeup. If I trained in makeup it would be all down my face in about 10 minutes!)
  • don't stick to your favourite machine, on your favourite level, and definitely don't read your favourite book!
  • don't spend the hour in deep conversation with your friend, or use the time to phone your mum
  • don't grab the first (pink) weight you see, do some half-hearted bicep curls, and think you've completed your strength training for the session.

[source] Some of these guys are working harder than others!

Train like you mean it

  • have a programme to follow - either designed for you by an instructor, or one that you find online/in a magazine (and I'm always happy to help out, too) - and stick to it
  • put your full effort into each workout - if you can say more than a single sentence when you're on a cardio machine without pausing to catch your breath, you could probably put the level up
  • listen to music to keep your speed up, rather than watching TV - it's easy to get sidetracked by your favourite show, and end up watching instead of working (I've seen people stop cycling entirely so they don't miss that really important scene in Hollyoaks!)
  • when you strength train:
    • choose a weight that's heavy enough - usually one that will fatigue your muscles at somewhere between 8 - 15 reps (depending on your goals and programme)
    • watch that your rest times don't last too long - 30-60 seconds is long enough for most general training
    • make sure your form is perfect - get an instructor to check, if you're unsure - make every rep count

Happy training!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

I love food...

My birthday presents 2013 :-)
... and I really love chocolate.

So, I work out a lot, and then go home and eat a lot.

This is probably not the best way to achieve my goals. One of my goals is to look like I lift weights - because I do lift weights, honestly!

Over the last six months or so, I've realised that my protein intake, especially, was not as good as it ought to be. I was working hard, and becoming stronger, but when I flexed my muscles in front of my kids, they laughed. Now I know I'm stronger than my kids, because I can deadlift them. In fact, it was when I deadlifted my eldest child that I realised I should be lifting more than that at the gym!

So I finally succumbed to MyFitnessPal to figure out where I was going wrong - in short, carbs too high, protein too low, and far too much fat. Probably, if I cut out the chocolate and ate more chicken, I'd solve all of those problems at once - but I'm a realist, and although I like to work out, and like to be strong, I don't want it enough to cut out chocolate completely.

Instead, I'm making small changes:
  • more tuna
  • nuts instead of crisps
  • boiled egg instead of fruit loaf
Small changes work best in the long term, because as soon as those become the norm, I can make another change.

Have you made changes to your diet?
Are they sustainable? Are they working?