Do you like it in the morning?

Are You a Morning or Evening Exerciser? And Does it Matter?

I couldn’t tell you if my brain is at its optimum logical state at 05.30am as I make my way to my Bootcamp Tring session on Wednesdays, but I know that early starts do spark some ‘random’ thoughts…

It is while I was in that frame of mind recently that an issue which has intrigued me for some time sprung to mind:

“Do women train better in the morning and men in the evening – or vice versa?”

To be perfectly honest this particular question didn’t just float into my consciousness unannounced but was prompted by an online article from the BBC which I scanned briefly.

Apparently, a study undertaken in the USA has indicated that men and women may actually benefit differently according to the time of day at which they exercise. Although exercise is good for all of us whenever we do it, the best result for a man may be achieved at a different time in the day to that for a woman.

The findings showed that morning exercise for women resulted in more body fat being burned. Alternatively, exercising in the evening was more beneficial fat burning-wise for men.

Quite reasonably, the researchers suggest that differences in hormones, biological clocks and sleep-wake cycles between the sexes may also play a part in the outcomes.

The 12-week programme saw improvements in the participants’ overall health and performance irrespective of the times at which they exercised, but there was sufficient data elicited to allow a conclusion that women who are aiming to reduce body fat around their middle and seeking to reduce their blood pressure should try to exercise in the morning.

On the other hand, women trying to develop stronger muscles in their upper body and improve their overall mood and food intake should exercise in the evening.

However, as far as the men were concerned, the time of day for their exercise was not so crucial. They could improve their strength either in the morning or the evening without any significant difference in result. But, if the men were looking to improve heart and metabolic health as well as emotional wellbeing, then evening exercise yielded the most beneficial results.

Needless to say, the authors of the study say more research is needed to find out why the timing of the exercises created such a difference in results between men and women.

Can we draw any meaningful conclusion from this?

Maybe the most obvious deduction is what we already know: whatever the time of day you exercise, it is the best time for you. Certainly for me – as long as I get it done, I feel great!


BBC article:

Frontiers in Physiology original article:Frontiers | Morning Exercise Reduces Abdominal Fat and Blood Pressure in Women; Evening Exercise Increases Muscular Performance in Women and Lowers Blood Pressure in Men | Physiology (

Catch some Z’s

“The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.”
― W.C. Fields

Recently we had ‘World Sleep Day on March 18 and l’ve just missed National Stop Snoring Week (18 – 22 April).  

As you might expect of someone who spends most of their day engaged in some form of physical training or activity, I generally get a good night’s sleep, but experts reckon that around 20.6 million in the UK suffer from insomnia and sleep deprivation.  That’s about 1 in 3 of the UK population.

And while we’re into statistics, Apparently 6 hours 20 minutes of sleep is what the average adult in the UK achieves at night. While 8 hours per night is the recommendation.

But lack of proper sleep for many adults is not surprising considering the pressures of life in the 21st century where your employer is more and more likely to have access to a lot of your time even when you are outside the office; when families are in constant contact night and day and social media means we are perpetually “open for business” whatever the hour of the day.

According to Amy Gallagher, Senior Sleep Physiologist at the BUPA Cromwell Hospital, a good night’s rest is the best preparation for getting up and being really “fired up” to tackle what the day will bring. On the other hand, if you have had a poor night sleep, it’s a recipe for feeling jaded and lacking in energy.

She agrees that achieving a good night’s sleep is as important as taking regular exercise and a healthy diet to maintain your wellbeing – both physical and mental.

So How Does a Good Night’s Sleep Help?

Here are just a few of the known benefits:

1            Risk of stress is reduced

2            Maintains a healthy heart

3            Can help keep your weight down – when tired, we crave more sugary carbs.

4            Keeps your immune system strong

5            Stops your mind wandering during the day and helps with concentration

6            Your brain organizes information while you are sleeping

7            If you sleep well you are less irritable and this can help with relationships

So What Can You Do to Encourage a Good Night’s Sleep?

12 Top Tips for Restful Sleep

1.      Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends

2.      Keep your bedroom cool and dark

3.      Switch off your phone, laptop or TV before bed

4.      Go outdoors when you wake up. Being in daylight helps your body adjust from ‘sleep mode’ to ‘awake mode’

5.      Exercise no later than 2-3 hours before bed. Intense exercise just before bed can raise stress hormones, making it harder to get to sleep

6.      Cut down on coffee, tea and smoking. Too much caffeine – also found in chocolate and coca cola – and nicotine (in tobacco) can disturb your sleep

7.      Say no to a nightcap. Alcohol can make you feel sleepy but it disrupts restful sleep as the effects wear off

8.      Make a conscious effort to relax and wind down for an hour or two before bed

9.      Avoid an afternoon nap. Sleeping after 3pm can make it harder to fall asleep at night

10.     Try an earlier evening meal. Eating a large meal late at night can interfere with digestion and make you feel too warm

11.     Put your thoughts to bed. Writing a ‘to-do’ list for the next day can help you feel calmer and more on top of things

12.     If you can’t sleep, get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy, rather than tossing and turning

There is a massive amount of information and help available about the benefits of sleep and tips on how to improve your chances of “piling up the Zssss” and I have listed some sources below.

Why not click on the links and check them out? But whatever you do, don’t lose any sleep over it!


The Heart is a Muscle – Work it!

We all know that having a healthy heart is key to living as full a life as possible. After all, it beats around 40 million times per year so it’s pretty important that we look after it and try to keep it at peak performance. Especially as, the less exercise the heart gets, the higher the risk of heart disease and related illnesses.

The good news is that, because the heart is a muscle, the more we exercise it (as part of a regular and properly designed regime) the stronger it becomes. With a healthcare professional’s approval and no underlying reasons as to why exercise should not be undertaken, we can undertake an assessment of your cardiovascular fitness and limitations and have a good idea of how little or how far you can be pushed in our workouts.

Although the heart is always working, not every activity is helping your heart to get stronger. Sitting down for any length of time just doesn’t do anything positive for your heart muscle so even simply standing or walking about a little is better for helping to improve heart fitness.

It’s a really good idea to try to exercise the heart every day. Even a thirty-minute walk can have a positive impact. Most experts recommend spending at least 150 minutes per week doing moderate exercise. NHS guidance here, and you can obviously do this by yourself, with a trainer or with friends.

Although, if you are intending to allocate that sort of time to your exercise, then you may benefit from working with a personal trainer who can design a more focused, personalised and time-efficient programme, taking into account your individual fitness goals, whether in your home or at the gym. The demands of each session will increase to lead you through successive stages of increasing effort safely and sympathetically.

However, many people very content that their regular, shorter walks will provide the exercise that their heart needs to keep it “ticking along” nicely.

Having waxed lyrical about the importance of exercising your heart, it would be remiss of me to ignore the part that diet can play in contributing to your general “heart healthiness”

Of course, if you are exercising it is wise to include foods that can contribute to the success of the effort you are investing by sustaining strength and improving endurance to enhance the impact of the exercise being undertaken.

Diet as a factor in Heart Health

I apologise if this next paragraph is “old news” to anybody but I believe it does no harm to include in a missive about treatment of your heart muscle, a tribute to the virtues of foods that contain minerals, antioxidants and natural vitamins e.g. kale and spinach. You can add blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries; whole grains such as whole wheat, quinoa, oats, barley, rye, buckwheat and brown rice, each group offers real benefits to heart health.

For monounsaturated fats you could try avocados. While a source of omega-3 fatty acids include sardines, salmon, tuna and mackerel

Beans, walnuts, almonds, tomatoes, flaxseeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds. Garlic, green tea and even dark chocolate – all have ingredients and characteristics that benefit the heart and as part of a

balanced diet will help maintain your heart and reduce the risk of heart disease. More information available at The British Heart Foundation

The main takeaway from this brief message is that exercise is as vital for the heart as it is for every part of our body and you don’t need to get up too much of a sweat to improve well-being and enrich life.

Thanks to items referenced.

How your heart works – Heart and circulatory system – British Heart Foundation (

Exercise and the Importance of Rest

Much has been made recently of the impact of Covid on mental health and how the measures imposed by the authorities, and adhered to by most of the population, have led to many people leading a comparatively solitary existence throughout the (almost) two years of the pandemic.

We know why we were asked to distance ourselves, or even isolate if we actually contracted the virus, but very few of us realised the extent to which this apparently ‘contra-social’ behaviour would impact our mental state.

‘Mind’, the charity which offers advice and support to those who experience mental health problems and campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding, is expressing concern that some people are over-reliant on exercise as a way of “getting through the day”. An uncomplicated and accessible coping mechanism.

‘Mind’ is very clear that they believe exercise is a “good thing”, but they have recognised signs that many are over-indulging such that they feel that the more they exercise, the more they will overcome the stresses and worries of everyday life; a life that has been made increasingly angst-ridden by trying to overcome and survive the virus that has caused the problem in the first place!

Research has shown that it is not uncommon for some to become obsessed with keeping fit and will continue to exercise through injury or sickness.

In fact, we all know that, during ‘lockdown’, exercise was an activity that could be undertaken more readily than most. Particularly unsupervised, solo fitness sessions.

It is very easy for people who find they have more time on their hands – and who have a positive attitude to their wellbeing and fitness efforts – to focus on their workouts and even start to feel they should be doing more.

‘Mind’ were finding that, for some, the sole purpose of their day was exercise. And exercising on their own was feeding a tendency to drive themselves too hard.

Now, as a personal trainer, I am pleased if anyone has a healthy appreciation of the benefits of exercise. It’s what makes my day. But, one of the key functions of anyone planning or supervising a fitness training class or session is to ensure that the activity suits the client/s i.e. it is neither too demanding nor too easy. By observing the exercises, whether “in the flesh”, or over Zoom, we know how our client is coping and when to “push” them a little or when to “back off”.

The other vital element of a planned fitness and well being programme is rest. PTs will always “bake in” rest periods for recovery and re-hydration into any session and these should always be heeded.

You may have heard how a top athlete “listens to what their body is telling them”. This simply means they monitor the intensity of the challenges with which they are confronting their body and psyche and adjust according to their capacity to complete the task in front of them.

Often this means they take a break from the action – be it a few minutes or a day or two. They know how to manage optimum physical and mental efficiency through a mix of activity and rest.

In the same vein, it is important to be aware of what your body (and mind) can feel comfortable with in terms of activity, both physical and mental, and ensure that you recognise the signs of strain, over-stretching, limits to flexibility etc. so that you don’t exacerbate a minor muscle “pull” and cause a major tear. Don’t be afraid of taking a break occasionally. Your body and mind will thank you.

Overtraining can lead to poor performance, plateaus and injury.

One participant in the ‘Mind’ survey says, “Health and wellbeing are about balance, and sometimes that means running a marathon, but other times it means lying on the sofa.”

Exactly my sentiments!

Personal Training – What to Expect in 2022? Here’s What I Think.

By now most of us have returned to our normal routines following one of the strangest Christmas and New Year periods certainly that I’ve ever experienced. If you’re like me then the sooner we get back to our regular ‘habits’ the better.

And (hopefully) this includes your fitness and well-being schedule.

However, I’ve been keeping an eye out for what’s going on in the constantly-changing world of personal training, and I thought you might be interested in some of the ‘nuggets’ of information and ideas I have gathered from around and about.

One impact the pandemic has had on a great many people is the rise in anxiety and even stress levels linked to the massive changes in our social interaction – or lack of it- over almost two years of necessary distancing, mask wearing, isolating etc.

It appears that the result has been that, although personal training fitness sessions delivered via “collaboration tools” such as ‘Zoom’ have been very well-received and worked extremely well for most people during the pandemic, the vast majority of clients (and me!) prefer the immediacy, accuracy and sociability of face-to-face workouts. There is recognition that the value of exercising with a qualified instructor is increased if they are actually in the same room advising on posture and technique etc! Not to mention improvements in mood and better sleep benefits. And this obviously applies to face-to-face, individual classes in the gym as well.

As far as I am concerned if any of my clients prefer a ‘Zoom’ session, either as a last-minute change for convenience or for a long-term programme, I ensure my workouts can be made-to-order however they need to be delivered. (And I have some clients abroad who can be serviced only via ‘Zoom’).

Also, truly personalised programmes, rather than a pre-recorded You Tube workout, are more popular than ever, creating more challenges for personal trainers to ensure they monitor progress and analyse performances of individual clients to ensure they are receiving the optimum coaching for their own particular needs. (Of course, many PTs do this assiduously already because that’s what’s expected).

Another noticeable dynamic is the growing use of smart technology with wearables such as Smartwatches, fitness trackers like ‘FitBit’ or eGym, ‘joule’ wearable jewellery, smart clothing, ‘implantables’ or even smart tattoos! Offerings such as ‘Whoop’ and ‘Joyn’ are now tracking ‘wellness’ in addition to exercise activities.

It goes without saying that the absence of a qualified fitness expert at the “point of use” raises the risk of misuse and over-reliance on technology at the expense of quality of exercise.

The same could be said for the myriad of free online sessions that seem to have proliferated in the past year or two. Again, the objective is to be commended but the principle of designing a tailored fitness programme to address individual needs and circumstances, including medical conditions and physical limitations, never gets a look in due to the generic delivery and absence of immediate feedback. Care should be taken to check that the instructors are qualified and the publishers are verified or approved before you take on one of these programmes.

Some organisations in the field of delivering fitness and wellbeing courses believe that more employers may take to subsidising their staff on fitness programmes or via well-being allowances. It could be worth making enquiries in the right circles about that!

The ‘High Intensity Interval Training’ concept is taken to another dimension with ‘ZUU’, which uses 30 animal movements such as the bear crawl (walking on all fours), frog squat (a dynamic squat position) and gorilla walks (jumping like an ape) and mixes them with bodyweight exercises for muscle, aerobic and anaerobic work. Maybe you’ll see some of these in our workouts in the future 😉

Having said that high intensity workouts are popular in time-limited situations, the demand for more low-impact exercise is on the up, with rowing and Pilates-style isometrics enjoying increased interest. This seems to come hand-in-hand with functional training where the movements are closely related to actions of the body in everyday situations like climbing the stairs, standing up from chairs etc.

Other activities I am seeing more and more examples of are trapeze, trampolining and weighted hula hoop exercises. Even roller skating has been brought to the fore by trending on TikTok (and I now have a set, so watch this space…!).

And at this point I should state my personal interest in pole and aerial hoop fitness. I chose this to enhance my portfolio of exercise offerings because they are fantastic, low-impact methods of getting super strong, working the cardio vascular system and getting a total-body workout. Whether in a class or 1-1, Pole and Hoop is SUPER challenging but also such a laugh. Combined with cross-training in the gym, I highly recommend you give the aerial fitness life a go!

One fact is abundantly clear, whatever the latest trend, properly designed personal training plans will accommodate them and enhance the combined effects to deliver a true cross-training regimen to the benefit of the client.

So that’s my “take” on the likely shape of some of the fitness and wellbeing themes, memes and maybe dreams that we’ll see through the next 12 months.

One thing I can guarantee in 2022 is that I shall continue my journey to learn more about what I can do to propose exercises and activities which improve both the physical and mental wellbeing of my clients

b x

Strong to the CORE!

Why are Core Exercises So Crucial? 

You probably hear mention of your ‘core’ or ‘core muscles’ every time you work one-on-one with a personal trainer, in a boot camp session or in a gym class. It basically goes with the territory of fitness regimes and exercising. 

But why does it play such a leading part in exercise? What is this ‘obsession’ with the core? 

Well, if you knew how important your core is to the efficient functioning of your body, you would give it plenty of attention in your workout. Any well-planned, inclusive fitness programme will involve core exercises so it’s probably a good idea to understand what are your core muscles. 

Your stomach, middle and lower back contain the key core muscles. If your core muscles are weak or lack flexibility, this can have a detrimental impact on the functionality of the rest of yourbody. If you exercise to build up your core, then you improve the power in your limbs. 

‘Kinetic Chain’ 

Some of you may even have heard about the ‘Kinetic Chain’, the name which refers to the basic movement system of the body. The ‘Kinetic Chain’ goes from the top of your spine through your hip joints and knees, ending in your feet and ankles.  

All of the parts of this ‘chain’ – muscles, joints and nerves – work together so if you are active and healthy, they will combine to generate motion. If your core muscles are not healthy, any attempted movement interacting with your Kinetic Chain will risk being weak, inadequate and maybe fruitless. 

Your core does a great job in protecting your internal organs, helping the efficiency of your breathing and other activities which require strength and control such as childbirth, heavy lifting and climbing. The core even comes into play when you sneeze, cough or laugh (ever done a hard core sesh and winced the next day when you sneeze?) 

So How Does Exercising the Core Muscles Help? 

By working the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and trunk, core exercises will ‘educate’ them to all work together and help improve and maintain balance and stability. This can help you avoid or alleviate back pain, adjust posture and maintain functional fitness i.e. help those everyday movements which your body needs to perform just to manage your daily activity.  

If you can strengthen your core muscles you will find it easier to perform all sorts of activities which will seem to be unconnected with the strength of the muscles in your trunk and abdomen. Reaching for items on a shelf, bending down, squatting, pushing a vacuum cleaner, climbing stairs, digging the garden, mowing the lawn, ironing, pulling, lifting and, believe it or not, even just standing still! All these actions require movements which incorporate muscle groups within your core which, when benefiting from regular, focused exercise, can work far more effectively and efficiently and avoid injury. And that, in turn, can help to prevent pain. 

On the other hand, if your core muscles are weak then you may experience lower back pain and poor posture, amongst other symptoms. 

Your balance can be affected by your core muscles; the stronger and more flexible they are, the greater will be your ability to maintain your balance and stability, which helps, not just in everyday tasks as covered above, but also if you play sports or undertake any physical activity.  

At this point it might be worth mentioning the bit of the body that most people think of when they hear “core muscles” mentioned: The abdominal muscles or ‘Abs’. While they are part of your core muscle group, you should be careful not to focus on them to the exclusion of your back or hips. In fact, overdoing exercising your abs can risk injury in the other areas. 

Which Exercises Work Best?

There’s FAR too many to list here, but I’ve got a few covering the different parts of your core, loosely divided up:

Transverse abdominus and rectus abdominus exercises (‘6 pack’ and below the tummy button)

Crunches/curl ups

Knee folds or toe taps

Leg raises

‘bicycle crunches’


Obliques (sides,/ the ‘corset’)

Side bends

Heel reaches

Side planks

Glutes and lower/mid back:

Glute thrusters

Back extensions



And I for one, as most of my clients will confirm, always ask for “quality” rather than number of repetitions when instructing. It’s not how many you do but the way that you do them that most influences the outcome of an exercise. 


The importance of working your core: Physio & Pilates Central ( 

Why the core muscles are so important ( 

Fitness is for all

“Plus-sized fitness classes in Exeter to help people feel confident”


This headline caught my eye recently and I really couldn’t let it go by without commenting on how disappointed it made me that some people are put off exercising in “traditional” gyms because they are described as ‘plus-sized‘

I feel particularly concerned because my personal training philosophy has always been that no-one should believe that they have an unsuitable body shape or size which precludes them from exercising and that there isn’t an exercise programme which can’t benefit them when professionally planned or supervised.

So what is “Plus Size” Anyway

I hate the term and what it implies. According to recent research, ‘plus size’ could refer to someone who is UK size 6; but size 16 has also been defined as ‘plus size’. Apparently, most people think that being ’plus size’ means being fat, but it can encompass such characteristics as different body type and proportions – more booty, curvier thighs, larger bust etc. Essentially, it’s just a poor term to describe the variety of shapes and dimensions of the female body.

In fact, the average UK dress size in 2021 is a size 16.

The article goes on to explain that the classes in Exeter are aimed to help those with larger bodies and “give people confidence”. If this is their objective then I can only applaud the initiative and wish them all the success possible but, as a personal trainer, I have been taught to offer fitness activities which are tailored to the needs of individual clients, whatever their physical capabilities, limitations or size.

To put it simply, I plan individual exercise programmes for clients of all shapes and sizes which can be done in their own homes if they prefer that to the gym. NOONE is too unfit, too overweight, or too old to start to improve their health and wellbeing.

To coin a well-used phrase, “It’s what we personal trainers do”.


Make Room to Swing a Kettlebell?

Strongly rumoured to have originated in Russia in the 1700s where (according to farmers used a similar implement to weigh seed crops, the Kettlebell graduated to being a handy tool for exercise in between the normal farming activities.

It’s essentially a ball with a handle like a kettle and it can be held by the handle, the ‘horns’ (the sides of the handle) or by the ball (or ‘bell’) itself. Although the usual way to hold the Kettlebell is by the handle, various grips can be used in different exercises. For example, if you want to hold it while doing squats, you may find it better to hold the ‘horns’. On the other hand, you could hold the ball/bell when doing rows because this adds to the exercise by demanding a tighter grasp to prevent the Kettlebell slipping through your fingers.

I recommend the Kettlebell as part of conditioning and strengthening routines because it helps with building strength and muscle mass, cardiovascular health and aerobic fitness. One Kettlebell is sufficient to give you a good workout so you don’t need two.

If you’re thinking of buying a Kettlebell then most trainers recommend new users start with a 12kg and 16kg for men and an 8kg and 12kg for women. For more experienced weight training users these could move up to 16kg and 24kg for men and a 12kg and 16kg for women.

Yes, but what does a Kettlebell actually do that’s so good for me?

The key feature of the Kettlebell is that the weight is off-set, unlike the dumbbell, whose load is evenly distributed through the length of the handle. This means that the Kettlebell is more difficult to control because it centre of gravity is few inches from where you are gripping the handle.

Which in turn means that you are having to be much more careful about how you do the exercise (i.e. your form and technique) and you will be using more muscles than you would doing the same exercise with dumbbells.

As a result, the kettlebell compels proper execution of the exercise. As an example, if you do a squat holding a Kettlebell in front of you makes you sit back into your heels more on the way down which improves your squat pattern.

The off-set nature of the weight in a Kettlebell also forces you to focus on your core to avoid risking damage to your lower back or even to stabilise your body when swinging the weight.

Most kettlebell exercises impact the entire body, and many require lifting the weight from the floor to over your head which works muscles across the body involving a wide range of movement which can create significant


My research has led me to the following conclusion about the efficacy of exercising with Kettlebells.

a. They are great for conditioning the body because they can be used for flexibility, endurance, strength and balance training.

b. Because they require you to contract your core they really help with core strength. And not just by working the core in one direction or plane.

c. Working with a Kettlebell will improve your stabiliser muscles and your balance.

d. In using a Kettlebell in exercising means you will need to be aware of the proximity of people and objects in the space around you so you will develop a sense of where your body is in that space. This also helps coordination (mind – muscle).

e. Do you know what ‘EPOC’ is? Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption is when you burn calories at a higher rate AFTER your workout. And this is a proven benefit of an intense session with a Kettlebell. So it is very effective at burning calories leading to loss of fat.

f. Fast-acting cardio training is another major benefit when using Kettlebells. According to research you can get the same cardio benefits, such as burning fat, increasing metabolism, and improving cardiovascular health, as running or cycling in half the time.

g. The way Kettlebells compel you to move through different planes of movement helps your flexibility and joint strength and stability, thereby improving range of motion.

h. Swinging a Kettlebell produces power and speed from your hips and this also improves stability and helps prevent injuries.

i. Kettlebell training will result in lean muscle.

j. Kettlebells are great for high intensity but short workouts and they put much less pressure on the spine.

k. Using Kettlebells in a structured fitness programme they will improve your posture because the exercises for which they were designed will engage the major muscles of your hips, core, shoulders, and neck.

l. Consistent use of a Kettlebell is known to improve the strength of your grip. And the stronger your grip, the stronger you are.

Some of my favourite Kettlebell Exercises

As I hinted above, a Kettlebell can be used in a lot of exercises. And here are just a few that I use with clients and myself. If you have never picked up a Kettlebell before, or have any lower back issues, don’t use without proper instruction!

Goblet squats

Single and double leg deadlifts

Clean and press

‘Round the worlds’

Lunge and twists

Tricep over heads


Front raises

and if they’re feeling brave…Turkish Get ups!

The gym has a great variety of Kettlebells, and for home training – I carry around my 8 and 12 for you! 😉

B x


All You Need to Know About Getting Started with Kettlebells | Breaking Muscle UK

Add to your Strength Training…with Weighted Walking

Having just returned from spending twelve exhilarating days with a day-pack on my back exploring Northumberland and the Highlands of Scotland for my honeymoon, I am brimming with enthusiasm for the many benefits of what has become referred to as “Weighted Walking”.

I should start by emphasizing that my recent foray into this arena involved more intense exposure than I would recommend to anyone looking at trying ‘Weighted Walking’ for the first time. (As with any physical activity, it’s best to get some assurance from your doctor as to what is safe for you to try.)

Begin slowly and carefully and build up within your own limitations. Go straight for a 10 mile hill walk with a 60lb army load on your back and you’ll not get far!

But including this controlled enhancement of walking as part of your lifestyle change, alongside your strength training with me in the gym or your home-based sessions, is an effective way of augmenting your exercise routine and adding variety. Not to mention harnessing the benefits of activity in the fresh air!

By now you will have gathered that ‘Weighted Walking’ is simply walking while carrying some additional weight to increase resistance and provide some low-impact physical activity, with a little higher-intensity than comes with a ‘normal’ (unweighted) walk. The extra weight can be anything from a pair of water bottles or wrist weights to a fully-loaded rucksack but remember, the weight must be distributed evenly to avoid any risk of imbalance or uneven stress on your joints or muscles. AND only work within your own capabilities – don’t push it too far. Probably best to start with a couple of weights of 2 to 3lbs each, but you could start with less if you feel more comfortable with that. It doesn’t take much to start feeling it!

It’s important that you don’t alter your method of walking to accommodate the extra weight. For example, avoid changing your posture such as hunching your shoulders or leaning forward because this can lead to long-term injury. Try to keep your normal walking ‘shape’, and adjust your backpack to sit properly on your back.

If you can give ‘Weighted Walking’ a try you’ll find that the combination of strength and cardiovascular exercise will contribute to improvements in your balance, tone your muscles and increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.

There is an interesting article in the September issue of Good Housekeeping about ‘Weighted Walking’ and several online publications provide more information.

In my opinion ‘Weighted Walking’, if used properly, can add variety to a fitness plan, maybe on the days you’re not working out with me, or when your are on holiday!

Managing Injuries

Most of us who try to maintain at least a moderate level of fitness through exercise or physical training of some kind will experience some form of discomfort, aches and pains etc. as a result of the activity we have chosen to indulge in (perhaps caused by a slip or by trying to lift a heavy weight).  It’s almost inevitable. However, actual ’injury’ from exercising is also something that can happen even to the most careful person.

One reason why we warm up before a session is to prepare our bodies (and minds to a certain extent ) for the activity to come and the cool down afterwards is to avoid the sudden tightening of muscles etc. when we stop. Practicing these properly can help to avoid injuries. Follow JOINT MOBILISATION – MUSCLE WARMING – DYNAMIC STRETCHES

The key action point is to ‘manage your injury’.

Too many people don’t follow this principle and end up exacerbating the problem and increasing the recovery period, resulting in increasing the amount of time they have to spend away from their exercise regime.

One thing you should never do is return to exercise too soon: If you think you’re fine and the problem appears to have gone away, it pays to delay your ‘come back’ for a few more days.

When seeing the Doctor is a good call

The first action when feeling that you may have an injury is to consider if you should seek medical advice. You’ll be the best judge of that and certainly, if you have any of the following symptoms you should contact your doctor immediately:

•       Pain that stops you sleeping at night.
•       Pain that doesn’t seemed to get better after a few days.
•       Tingling or numbness in an area that persists over a few days.
•       Sudden pain which travels down your arms or legs.
•       A sign of weakness in your limbs (not necessarily painful).
•       Weight loss or high temperature which has appeared suddenly.

Assuming your physical condition does not include any of those examples above then here are some of the most common categories of injury experienced by regular exercisers:

•       Sudden trauma – e.g. twisting your ankle or pulling a muscle during a lifting exercise. If it hurts a lot and there’s significant bruising then you’ll know that you should probably see the doctor.
•       Overuse –  generally you notice a sudden pain and can almost immediately identify the cause.
•       Repetitive stress – difficult to identify one particular cause because the problem appears over a period of time and may manifest itself when you’re doing something unconnected with the part of the body that has been injured.
•       Exhausted Adaptive Potential – this can come about due to the healing of a previous injury not being managed or treated properly. It can also be caused by your body adapting to compensate for the problems caused by the earlier injury. Again, this might be a problem where the site of the pain is unconnected with the injured area (referred pain)

So how do you manage injuries?

Not every injury is the same, so it’s important to use the right approach in your particular situation.
Most of you have heard of the various ‘Etiquettes’ for managing injuries: RICE (Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation) or POLICE (Protection-Optimal Loading-Ice-Compression-Elevation) or MEAT (Movement-Exercise-Analgesics-Treatment).

So “Which one should I use?” I hear you ask!

RICE’ is one that’s been around for years and suggests we rest, elevate the injured area, put ice on it  and compress the area. This has its uses but, as I have said, it has fallen out of favour with many trainers and coaches.

POLICE’ adds movement of the area at issue on top of the traditional RICE procedure, but rest and icing are still of major importance.

MEAT’  recommends using general movement and specific exercises to encourage the ‘damaged’ area to move healthily, combined with painkillers if needed.

One key question for people managing injuries is when to rest and when to keep moving.

Movement is generally considered to be the best approach but obviously this isn’t necessarily the case with all injuries and some will tend to heal more quickly if they are rested.

For Traumatic injuries which have required attention from a doctor you’ll probably be advised to rest. But if you didn’t need to see a specialist, you may find that a few days or up to a couple of weeks’ rest with cautious or moderate exercise towards the end may work best for you.

If you’re managing an injury caused by Overuse it really is important that you use rest to improve the situation and hopefully the affected area will feel better within a few days, allowing you to contemplate starting gentle exercise again. This time, though, avoid problems caused by overuse by keeping to a planned routine – maybe ask your PT for advice. There is always SOMETHING we can do, and keep other areas of your body conditioned whilst you recover.

If the issue is Repetitive Stress, again, a PT can advise on suitable exercises and movements to help you avoid causing more damage by strengthening the areas in question.

When we come to Exhausted Adaptive Potential Injury this is most effectively managed by avoiding exercising and obtaining a medical professional’s opinion on how to proceed.

In summary, unless the problem is such that it needs the intervention of a specialist, the prevailing guidance in most cases is that some degree of movement is better than total rest.

And, as always, as I am qualified in Adapting Exercise for Controlled Conditions, you can hit me up for recommendations for your very own, personalised ‘Rehab. Plan’