FITNESS = FLEXIBILITY

This week I want to remind you of the importance of not only strength, but flexibility when it comes to fitness. Some of my clients recently have experienced the joy/pain of my flexibility band!
Whether you have had an exercise session today or not, your body will need a STRETCH.
Did you know:
  • Simply sitting down at a desk all day will tighten your hip flexors (top of the thigh) which will cause your glutes to lengthen to compensate, causing possible hip pain.
  • Sitting slouched will also cause more pressure on your intervertebral discs in the lumbar spine (lower back) which can cause lower back pain and stiffness.
  • Stretching specific areas for up to 60 seconds each regularly (at least every other day, or when tight) can help posture improvement, reduce muscle soreness and improve circulation and help to heal and prevent back and knee pain..
 
… So why wouldn’t you do it?!
6 Key areas to stretch:
Erector spinae (the muscles either side of spine). Lie down and bring both knees up to your chest by grabbing either around your knees if you don’t have any knee pain, or underneath if you do have knee pain. Then tuck in your chin and hold the stretch for 30 seconds. 
Hamstrings Lie on the floor on your back. Loop a long bath towel around your toes and hold the ends of the towel in both hands. Slowly pull on the towel to lift your straight leg up. Bring your leg up until a stretch is felt behind your thigh. Hold for 30 seconds, and then relax.
Glutes Lie flat on your back and bend both knees. Cross one leg over the other so your foot is on the opposite knee. Bring both knees towards your chest and gently pull the uncrossed leg towards you until you feel a stretch in your buttock. Hold for 30 secs
Hip flexors Kneel on your left knee.Lean forward, stretching your left hip toward the floor. Squeeze your bum UNDER; this will allow you to stretch your hip flexor even more. Then, rotate your torso open to the left. Hold 30 secs if you can, then repeat on other side.
Calves Stand near a wall with one foot in front of the other, front knee slightly bent. Keep your back knee straight, your heel on the ground, and lean toward the wall. Feel the stretch all along the calf of your back leg. Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds.
Upper back. Hold arms straight infront of you, twist so palms face outwards. And place palms of hands together. Interlace fingers and round the upperback. Push hands fowards, away from you to feel your upper back opening. Drop chin and hold thisposition for 20-30 seconds
 
These are just a few ideas, but give them a go each eve to relax you before bed, or each morning to wake up and set you up for the day! Do this for a week and see how much better you feel.

WHY YOU MAY NOT BE HITTING YOUR GOALS

5 reasons you’re not hitting your weight loss goals

I want to begin by strongly stating that ‘weight loss’ is the term I am using to improve body composition – gaining muscle, reducing body fat. Remember that every human body needs a certain amount of body fat to function, fat has an important role to play in the functioning of the human body,  and the ‘goals’ I encourage are to be healthy, fit and strong – inside and out.

 

1)     You’re not taking notice of what you consume

A nibble here, a spoonful there, half of this and that. When we think of our day’s food and drink consumption, we regularly think only of Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner, not the milky coffee with a muffin, slice of bread and jam, or banana we had randomly. These mouthfuls all add up, and could be the reason you’re not shifting the weight.

2)     Underestimating portions

So, you are keeping a track of your daily intake of food and drink, but are you weighing and measuring? Are you checking the back of packets for what a ‘portion size’ means? We can greatly underestimate our consumption by 10-50% which can have a huge effect on our weight-loss goals.

3)     Not keeping a weekly calorie deficit

To lose 1lb of fat per week, we need to be in a calorie deficit of 500kcal per day (=3500 per week). This is a healthy and sustainable rate to lose body fat at. However, if you are inconsistent, then this will not be the case. For example, yo-yo-ing between very low calorie days and high calorie days, bingeing at weekends way beyond your daily calorie expenditure, not taking in to account the 1000kcal of alcohol you consumed in one night…this will all add up to a detrimental effect on your diet goals.  (similarly, too large a deficit will slow the metabolism and have a detrimental effect on your goals as well as your health. Don’t be fooled into thinking ‘the less I eat the better’).

4)     Not mixing up exercise routine

Do you spend hours on the treadmill? Or bike? Or ONLY do weights because you HATE cardio? Whilst the digits on the screen might say you are burning a huge number of calories, your body will be getting used to the exercise, and its weight-loss effect will become diluted. Cardio is great for heart and lung health, and does burn calories, but to get more out of your time, mix up your routines with some resistance training and HIIT. The human body burns more calories per day to maintain a lb of muscle than a lb of fat.  Therefore the more muscle your build, the more calories you burn. And ladies – YOU WILL NOT GET ‘CHUNKY’! High Intensity Interval Training is a time-effective way to challenge your cardio system and boost fat burn through the EPOC (Excess Post Oxygen Consumption), or ‘after burn’ which you will benefit from long after the workout.

5)     Not chilling out enough!

After all of the above, don’t forget the importance of sleep and rest. Yes, being ‘lazy’ isn’t going to help, but you will learn to listen to your body. If you have been ill or excessively busy and feel downright exhausted, don’t throw yourself into a gruelling HIIT routine. Aim for a walk, maybe some stretches. Overtraining is a real phenomenon and symptoms can be fatigue, failure to recover from workouts, and plateaus in progress. Aim for good ‘sleep hygiene’: get to bed at a decent time, avoid caffeine late and night and have less crazy nights out!

 

If you’re serious about hitting your goals, you will make these changes.

CHALLENGE YOURSELF

CHALLENGING YOURSELF TO CHANGE YOURSELF
Whether you walk the dog every day, go for a run on your favourite route most days, or go to a gym class every day of the week …your body MAY be getting used to the exercise and therefore stopped adapting to exercise (ie, stopped burning calories as efficiently as at the start, stopped challenging your heart and lungs as much as before, and stopped using the energy systems as well as when you began).
In short, you plateau
So, what can you do?
1) Consider your diet, look at reducing by a couple of hundred calories a day, or if you don’t calorie count, make portion sizes slightly smaller for each meal. If you are hungry, fill up on protein and fibre-rich foods such as Greek Yoghurt, wholemeal bread, no added salt or sugar peanut butter, egg whites and chicken (be careful to keep an eye on the carbohydrate content of foods, particularly sugars)
2) add 15-30 mins to your usual routine. If you are short of time, try an extra 15 mins at a higher intensity. If you are exhausted at the end of each workout, maybe try just adding 5 mins extra for a week or so and then building up. The extra push will challenge your system. 

3) Change your routine! If you always run, or always cycle, or always walk, your body may be used to the movement and the load and not working as hard as you would like it to. Try a different exercise, or go heavier with weights, or go for more hills when running (for example).
4) re consider your ‘cheat days’ if you have them. Some of us eat VERY WELL Mon-Fri and then indulge over Sat and/ or Sunday. This might be hampering progress, and instead think about only having a ‘cheat meal’ instead of a whole day.
5) get enough rest! You may think if you are on the go all the time you will be burning loads of calories and therefore getting closer to your weight loss goal. NOT necessarily. The body is designed for survival and when we push it too hard without enough fuel, it begins to hold on to reserves. You may have heard of the  stress hormone cortisol  – both these things can lead to the body retaining fat reserves , usually around the tummy in the case of Cortisol.
Be kind to yourself – work hard but also ensure you have ‘down time’. This doesn’t mean eating chocolate and drinking wine, but spending time with friends and family, having a lie-in, doing yoga (great vids on you tube!) or going for a coffee.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Energy
We all need calories to survive. Our organs and tissues need energy to carry out their processes. The heart, brain, and all the cells require carbohydrates, protein or fats (or a combination) to function.
How much?
So, nationally recognised guidelines say we should have these macronutrients in the following proportions, daily:
Carbohydrates 50-55%
Fat 33-35%
Protein 10-15%
These will be a percentage of your overall daily calorie intake. We al have a BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) which is the MINIMUM amount of calories (energy) required to power our bodies simply to survive at rest. We all move about in the day – whether at work, home, leisure activities, exercise etc. The PAL (Physical Activity Level) multiplied by your Basal Metabolic Rate will give you your daily Energy Requirement.
‘good’ carbs and good ‘fats’
Carbohydrates are not ‘bad’! A lot of people find diets which recommend cutting out carbohydrates entirely (heard of the Ketogenic diet?). However as long as Carbs are eaten in the correct proportions and are the ‘good carbs’ then there is no reason why things such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes can’t be part of a healthy, balanced,diet.
The more processed and refined a carbohydrate is, the less nutritional benefit there is. For example, white rice, white bread and white pasta lack the nutritional benefits of fibre (which can aid weight management through taking longer to digest, keeping you feeling fuller for longer, and promoting bowel movement). Carbohydrates with more nutritional benefits are brown rice, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and sweet potatoes. As long as you manage portion sizes (I highly recommend inexpensive digital scales) there is no reason to have to cut out carbohydrates!
The Glycaemic Index is the measure of the quality and digestibility of a carbohydrate – the lower the GI, the slower the release of sugars into the blood stream and the better it is for weight-management. (however, also check the fat content of low GI foods). 
Fats: in short there is saturated and unsaturated fat. and trans (hydrogenated) fat. 
Saturated – in meat and dairy products. Solid at room temp (lard, butter, cheese)
Unsaturated – liquid at room temp (oils)
Trans fats – artificially created through a process called hydrogenation. Avoid as much as poss!
Fat IS essential. It provides energy, insulation, transports vitamins, constructs cells, prevents water loss.
Omega 3 and 6 are required (essential) but are the only fats which cannot be produced by the body. Therefore you need them from seeds, nuts, fish.
Take away tips: 
  • Remember to check food labels for their amount of carbs, fat and protein per portion.
  • Aim for no more than half of a portion to be carbs, no more than 1/3 to be fats.
  • Look at food labelling and see the first 3-4 ingredients. Thy are the ingredients which are in the largest quantity in the food. If any of them is ‘sugar’ (in any form!) then this is a HIGH SUGAR product and best avoided.
  • Invest in some scales and get into the habit of weighing and preparing food.

A MORE DETAILED 8 WEEK FOOD DIARY ANALYSIS AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME IS AVAILABLE – CLICK HERE TO ENQUIRE!

GOAL SETTING

It seems like an extra chore, I know, but how are you going to know when you have succeeded if you don’t have goals and ways to measure them?
You will probably have heard of ‘SMART’ goals  – Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Time-bound. Goals can only be ‘Agreed’ between you and I if the other 4 criteria are met.
Example of BAD ‘goal setting’: ” I want to lose weight and eat better”
  • It’s not SPECIFIC (how much weight? What would you like to reduce/increase in your diet? )
  • Without a starting and end weight specified, how to measure it cannot be identified. 
  • Without knowing the goal , we cannot agree it will be a realistic goal
  • AND there is no time-limit set (by End of August/ in 8 weeks)
GOOD Goal setting:
” I would like to lose 2st (SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE) by End of August (TIME BOUND and REALISTIC) , and I would like to reduce my alcohol intake from a glass of wine every night (SPECIFIC)  to JUST at the weekend”
How can you measure your success?
Whether it’s losing weight, increasing muscle tone and definition, reducing body fat %, increasing strength, or improving ability to perform everyday tasks and enjoy life…you can set goals and measure your success in one or more of the following ways:
  • ‘Before’ and ‘After’ Photos
  • Waist, hip, chest measurements
  • Body Fat percentage measurements (calipers or Bio Electrical Impedance scales)
  • Keep an item of clothing aside which you use as your benchmark (maybe a pair of jeans you would like to wear comfortably again?
  • Simply noting in a diary or calendar how much easier it was to get out the bath/get up the stairs/climb the hill to the bus stop/ walk into town.
  • Noting weights used/reps each week and tracking the increase
  • and more!
Any way you can note your progress can be a great motivator, it can show you if the routine you are following is working, if not – we can tweak it! It can also reassure you of your progress even if you don’t feel particularly good one day.
Set realistic goals and keep focus

WHEN YOU CAN’T TAKE THE HEAT…

So, when the hot weather hits – do you feel sluggish and just wanting to remain as still as possible and do minimum exercise??
Unless you are genuinely feeling unwell – no excuse!
  • There will be better times in the day to exercise – pre-midday is going to be cooler, pre-9am even better. there is ALWAYS 15-30 mins somewhere in the day
  • Choose the exercise appropriately – if you feel you will be unwell if you do a HIIT (high intensity interval training) kind of workout, choose resistance work (squats, press ups, tricep dips, bicep curls, core strengthening)
  • If you can’t exercise, be good with your diet – avoid sugary soft drinks, ice creams, choose to have less bread and condiments if you have a BBQ (and choose lean meats such as chicken, fish, turkey….over sausages, steaks and bacon)
  • Drink at least 2ltr water throughout the day. This is not only essential for your body to function, but will wake you up, stave off snacking, and stop you feeling like rubbish waking up dehydrated after a sweaty night’s sleep.

The weather is only an excuse, NOT a reason!

DON’T LOSE FOCUS

I regularly get emails saying that person A wants to lose weight, get fit…however they are their ‘own worst enemy’! Starting with a ‘diet’ only to sabotage this after a couple of days and then binge! Motivation for exercise is low, and given the option, they would take a lazy evening after work rather than workout.
My response:
  • Noone can make you change, unless you WANT to. And it’s not just a ‘oh wouldn’t it be nice if…’ statement, but a ‘I want to … and I will do what ever it takes’. 
  • The only person who it negatively impacted by you not doing your workout/not sticking to your healthy eating habits/not foregoing that pudding…is YOU. You can’t make changes for someone else’s benefit, it must be for YOU. 
  • Prioritise YOU – person B can WAIT while you finish your workout, it’s ONE HOUR out of your day! That pile of laundry can be done later, (or can be done by someone else?). IF people want their shirts ironed and aren’t doing anything – get them to do it! You have a workout/stretches/walk to do!
  • Cravings are just that – cravings. You don’t NEED or DESERVE that chocolate/beer/slice of pizza. I DON’T promote excluding any foods from your diet, because when you deny something, it becomes even more desirable (am I right?!). You can be educated about how calories work, how many you need, and enjoy a range of foods and drinks and STILL stay on track. (If you would like detailed Nutrition guidance, please let me know)
  • Instead of giving in to habit and choosing to do diddly-squat after work which benefits no-one, YOU will BENEFIT from going for a walk, doing 30 mins workout in your living room or bedroom, picking up some dumbbells and going through a routine. (not to mention how everyone else will benefit as you will be pleased, less irritable, and more relaxed!)
In short – excuses don’t burn calories/build muscle/make us healthier (some of you may have heard this before..;)). Excuses make us feel guilty, put on unhealthy weight, and slow progress.
Hear your excuses next time you feel them coming on , imagine someone else saying them to you…and what you might say back!
Don’t lose focus 🙂 

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

Some of my clients will have been subjected to my ‘toy box’ of various items.  I thought I would post list of all I believe you need for a good home-based workout. When you’re short of time or space, there is no excuse!
Bands
You can get loop bands such as these
Good for putting around the ankles or above the knees, for squats, lateral leg raises, lying on your side and performing leg extensions to work the glutes and hips.
You can also get straight bands with various attachments for a full body workout. I have these
These can be used for EVERYTHING – pop round a banister for rowing, under your foot for bicep curls, around the ankle and a chair for glute kick backs, under the foot for upright rows or shoulder press…
I also have these
These are longer bands, typically I would loop them round a bar or sturdy branch for assisted pull-ups. But with a bit of creativity, they can also be used for most of the above exercises.
Weights
These are less portable, but I believe a great part of any tool kit is either an adjustable set of weights, with interchangeable plates, or a couple of pairs of dumbbells (heavier and lighter pair)
  • Heavier pair can be used for leg work (holding whilst squatting, lunging, stepping up)
  • Lighter can be used for upper body (bicep curls, tricep kickbacks/overheads, bent over rows, chest press/flyes)
Kettlebells are also a great versatile piece of equipment. I would start lighter if you have never used one before – 4 or 5 kg max.
For those who are experienced and have no lower back issues, aim for 8kg +
Kettlebells are fantastic for upper, lower, cardio and core workouts with minimal equipment.
What you don’t have to buy:
The steps in your home! 
Brilliant for:
  • raised burpees/mountain climbers, plank jacks, squat thrusts and press ups
  • Step ups and knee repeaters
  • Toe Taps
  • Calf-raises (single and double leg)
  • Tricep dips
  • Split lunges
A simple dining chair:
  • good for all the above, but also a good anchor for straps if you are performing leg exercises
  • sit-to-stand squatting practice
  • balance support for lunges and calf raises
Any solid, weighted object:
Heavy books are a great item for pressing over head, lateral raises for the shoulders (one in each hand), holding whilst squatting and lunging, using in russian twists abs exercise..
and finally…
Your own body
You needn’t spend a lot of money to have a good strength or cardio workout. Use your own body. Vary intensity with speed, depth, direction, number of repetitions or number of sets of the exercise.
  • Press ups (off floor, step or even upright off a wall
  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • tricep dips off chair or step
  • crunches, knee folds, ….in fact ALMOST ALL ABDOMINAL EXERCISES
  • Glute bridges
  • Donkey kicks (on all fours)
  • Super-mans
  • cat-cow stretch

That’s NEAT!

I was away on holiday recently and DETERMINED to keep my exercise and enjoyment in balance (I was in Italy…pizza and prosecco anyone?).

I was reminded while I was away of a little thing called NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (the energy expended by everything we do which is not sleeping, eating or deliberate exercise)
This can increase your body’s fat burning  efficiency, using extra calories by simply continuous movement. Examples will be some you have heard before:
  • taking the stairs
  • walking to work or the shops
  • household chores (a particularly vigorous cleaning session, changing the bed or gardening are all great examples)
  • Standing at a desk to type instead of sitting
  • Running your own errands – walking to the post box, whizzing round Tesco,
  • Even fidgeting!
Studies show that lean men and women stand, walk and fidget significantly more during the day which results in around 350 kcal more energy expenditure than overweight individuals.
It is SO important to be as active as you can be OUTSIDE of exercise classes or PT sessions. Your body will benefit from being active throughout the day, rather than 60 mins of concentrated exercise in the middle of an otherwise sedentary day.
The suggested target of 10,000 steps a day is a good way to motivate yourself to keep moving as much as possible each day
So take this thought with you this week – move as much as possible, do chores, walk and stand, move around every hour if you have a desk job, take things one at a time up and down the stairs….

Exercise for your mood

Some of you may have noticed the benefits of undertaking an exercise programme on your mental health:
Physical activity is proven to have positive effects on DEPRESSION, SLEEP, RELAXATION, ANXIETY PROBLEMS, SELF-ESTEEM AND STRESS MANAGAMENT
We all have ‘bad’ and ‘good’ days, and these can be for many reasons.
I like to encourage in myself and others the belief that whilst you may not be able to control a LOT that is going on around you, you CAN take control of your health and fitness. YOU can take yourself out for a jog or a brisk walk, YOU can avoid the biscuits and prepare a healthy meal, YOU can pop some music on and go through a strength or cardio routine for 20 minutes.
Sometimes you may find it REALLY hard to get the motivation:
  • If you feel TIRED or UNWELL, go for a slower more gentle workout involving a walk, or stretches and gentle core strength.
  • if you feel STRESSED, go outdoors or stick some music on which uplifts you to take yourself OUT OF YOUR HEAD and into the moment.
  • if you feel ANGRY, you need some strength work…or some boxing gloves, give me a call 😉
  • If you are feeling good and motivatedGO WITH IT! Make the most of the rare free time and positive attitude and give yourself a great workout (be that a jog, a mini circuit in your living room, a YouTube workout… the possibilities are endless!)
I am here not only to make folks sweat but to try to help them be the best version of THEMSELVES, and that means Mind, Body and Spirit.
We will always find a workout to suit any mood (oh yes we will!)