My Return To Personal Training

personal-training-workoutAfter having spent the Summer back in the States, I returned back to London last month and straight back to work. Unfortunately my time away over the Summer has been spent largely socialising and catching up with friends and family. My fitness has frankly gone out the window, except for a few early morning jogs. So to kick start me back into a healthy regime I decided to try a course of personal training sessions once again, as this worked so well for me before. I was looking for intense results and the motivation to get me back on track.

My trainer Daniel turned up at my home and within a few minutes had analysed my lifestyle, eating habits and exercise shortcomings. With a knowing nod of his head, he assured me, “We’ll get you back into top shape, but you’ll have to make some changes”. Okay so I was expecting this but I suppose until someone sits you down and tells you straight you kinda avoid wanting to make any changes. We began with some measurements as Daniel told me this was the best way to see how the body was improving. I have found from the past that this approach really works for me so I was happy to have these taken. Waist and hips were measured, bodyweight and bodyfat percentage (I don’t wish to share these results this time!). I was quite ashamed at how much weight I had put on over the Summer months. These figures really gave me some motivation to really change. We booked in our first session for the next morning and I was ready for it.

The next day I met Daniel from and we arranged a first session in the park – he arrived with a whole manner of tortuous looking contraptions. Some light jogging to start the workout and then we were right into high intensity circuits using boxing, kettlebells, plyometric boxes, agility ladders and battle ropes. This was very intense training some of which I had done in the past, so I hadn’t. Although tough I felt than Daniel pitched the session just right, without making it too tough to put me off! We decided to go with three sessions a week and Daniel also gave me a meal plan that was based upon complex carbohydrates and protein without any refined sugar, and no alcohol (yes you heard me right, he wanted me to stop drinking!). I have to confess that I can give up sweat foods and treats far more easily that the glass of wine I enjoy at meal time. But this was all about making sacrifices so I accepted the challenge and we began a 5 week program of intense personal training and strict eating.

I have now just finished my 5 week plan and I am delighted with my results. I have lost 1 stone and my bodyfat percentage has dropped significantly. My arms don’t wobble half as much as they did before but the biggest difference is in my thighs and hips where I have slimmed down considerably. My plan now is to try to maintain this new me on my own. I will be continuing with one session a week with Daniel and then exercise in between on my own – but not so intensely. My diet was great. I plan to stick with the no sugary foods as I feel so much better on it. I also agreed a compromise with Daniel that I would restrict alcohol to just weekends. With my new improved physique and eating plan I am confident of getting through to Winter without letting it all go again.


Health Benefits of Outdoor Fitness

I have to confess I love the sunshine! There is nothing better than being outdoors when the weather is fine and watching the sun go down. Being a fitness fanatic I love to change my workouts in the Summer months and get myself out of the air-conditioned gym and breathing fresh air while I exercise. But for those that like to train outdoors, there may be more benefits than just the sunshine on your face.  Scientists have shown that outdoor exercise can reap many rewards that cannot be replicated by working out in the gym.


In the winter months I often add a treadmill routine to my program. Yet I always notice that when I start running outdoors I struggle to cover anywhere near the same distance as I can on the treadmill. Why? Outdoor running is harder. From the uneven surfaces that we run on to the wind resistance, we have to push our bodies harder to cover the same distance. I always find running downhill quite tough. Most people who don’t run assume running downhill is easy (like riding a bike!) but in fact when you run downhill you use muscles that just don’t get worked when running on a treadmill (you certainly cannot replicate downhill runs in the gym).

But apart from the physical advantages of changing your routine, outdoor exercise can have fundamental advantages to our mental health. Studies have shown that exercising outdoors can boost mood by up to 50%, compared to training in the gym. Outdoor fitness can decrease tenions, anxiety and depression and it seems that green countryside has a positive effect on mood. Sunlight, open space and scenary make a significant difference to our enjoyment of exercise and studies even show that a 20 minute walk through a country park has a much more mood boosting effect than a similar walk through a busy city. It seems our exercise environment matters.

Outdoor exercise can get us motivated and this in itself can help to keep us more consistent with exercise. We all know that changing a routine is one of the best ways to achieve results. So whether you prefer to run, cycle, shoot hoops, play tennis or just walk – make the most of the weather for a positive change in your fitness routine.

Exercise of The Month: Renegade Rows

One of my favorite exercises for building core strength (abdominal and hip flexor stabilization) and also adding serious strength to arms, shoulder and back is the renegade row. You’ll also get the heart pumping faster as you begin to lift heavier weights – making the renegade row an incredibly effective full body workout in itself.
Start in a press up position with a dumbell (or kettlebell) on the floor gripped under each hand (shoulder width apart). Ensure that your body is straight and that your hips are not too high or too low. Your body should be straight and in line. Raise one dumbbell up so that it ends up near your ribcage. Lower and repeat on the other side. Perform the movement slowly and under control. Also don’t twist the hips. Whilst you may see a lot of internet videos showing people twisting the hips when performing the renegade row, this actually makes the exercise too easy.

There are many variations that can be performed including swapping dumbbells for kettlebells or raising one leg off the floor after each row. You can even add burpees if you feel so inclined! However the basic renegade row works just as well. Those with weak wrists or rotator cuffs, may find this exercise uncomfortable to begin, as there will be extra pressure exerted on the wrist and rotator cuff in this exercise. If this is the case for you, start with a light dumbbell or kettlebell and once you feel more confident start increasing the weight gradually. Focus on low reps, slow movement and keeping form strict.

How To Beat The Winter Bulge

Every year there comes a moment when many hitherto committed exercisers sit back and let it all go! That time seems to be the Christmas holidays. It’s understandable when December arrives to become busy with so many other things – exercise may well become less of a priority than usual. Whether you’re running around doing last  minute shopping, making travel plans to visit relatives or just enjoying the office party, it’s a good idea to try to keep some form of exercise going. With nutritionists claiming that the average person’s calorie intake on Christmas day is over 3,000 calories, it’s easy to see how we can all start bulging in the wrong areas. Try adopting some simple strategies now so you don’t have everything to do come January.
Make An Appointment At The Gym
If you make an appointment for something and put it in your diary, most of us are more likely to stick to it. So rather than putting your normal workout routine on ice over the festive season, try to set time aside. A great way to make sure you keep your appointments is booking in to see a personal trainer. I’ve already booked several sessions in over December and January to give me a kick-start and to keep me focused.

All Activity Counts
If you’re taking time off work to spend at home, try to do more than just eating and sitting. Most of us lead rather sedentary lives for the weeks leading up to and following Christmas. Get outdoors, take on some diy, rake and bag up the leaves or sweep the snow (trust me this can be back-breaking work!). Alternatively grab a fitness DVD or the kid’s computer console and try a game of tennis – something all the family can enjoy.

Start Counting Your Steps
The best way to beat the Winter bulge is to keep moving. Grab yourself a stepometer and make sure you start wearing it each day. When you awake set the counter to zero and then try to work up to a certain number of steps. A reasonable daily target throughout the holidays would be 6,000 steps a day. It’s very achievable if you plan exercise each day. You will have to regularly get off the couch to reach this goal. From several stair climbs to a walk around the block. Think of ways you can add extra steps. How about walking to the grocery store rather than  taking the car. Just try to move more and sit less.

Involve The Whole Family
Exercise doesn’t have to be an individual pursuit. Enlist the help of family and friends and evidence shows you’re far more likely to stick with it., Ditch the television and take the family out for a winter walk. Why not got ice skating – the kids will love it! We always enjoy taking the girls for a family walk this time of year in the countryside. We end up finding a pub at the end of it for hot chocolate and sandwich.

Choose Healthier Foods
We all indulge a little over the Christmas holidays, myself included. But unless you don’t want to faint when you step on the scales on the first of January, take heed. Food choices are key. Try to listen to your body and stop eating when you’re full. Most of us will eat to excess and then complain at how bloated we feel! Don’t do it. Reduce your intake of high calories snacks and also limit your alcohol to just one or two glasses of wine at dinner. Avoid second helpings of everything and these small changes can make a considerable difference to keeping your weight balanced.

Strive For a Fitness Goal
One of the best ways to stay focused over the Christmas period is goal-setting. Sign yourself up for a race, a 5k run or some other sporting event in January. This will psychologically keep you more mindful of what you eat and how active you are. It gives you something concrete to aim for and is proven to stop you from over-indulging. Many gyms are quiet during December and they often offer cut price deals and membership options the weeks around Christmas. Get in early and sign yourself up for some spin classes or Zumba!

The Holy Grail : Great Glutes

Lets be honest, as women we all want to have a great behind. Anyway we can make it smaller, firmer or more ‘uplifted’, we’ll try. But it’s an area that many of us, myself included, can struggle with. As females, we naturally store fat in our lower bodies and this means that the butt is often the last place that we lose fat from. For years I looked at women in my gym and realised that those with the best physiques (and the best butts!) were not those spending hours upon hours doing cardio, but instead those that spent time hitting the weights.

It’s unusual to find many women (at least in my gym) in the weights area. Instead they prefer to sweat it out on the cross-trainer or the bike. But this will have little effect on building great glutes. In order to really work your glutes you need to utilise exercises that will hit your glute muscles from every angle and the best exercises are the big compund movements. These form part of my glute workouts and have made such a difference. The best exercises for building a great butt are:-

The Squat: This is by far the best exercise for shaping the glutes. No other single exercise has quite the same effect. In today’s increasingly sedentary society, we all tend to sit too much, either like I am now, in front of the computer, or in the car or just in front of the television. This has resulted in loss of muscle activation in the glutes, hips and hamstrings. Squating can help this too and will really start to engage our posterior. You don’t need to lift heavy barbells either. Simple bodyweight squats can be just as effective.

The Lunge: This is one exercise where I can really feel my glutes working. It’s essential to get the mechanics of the exercise correct, but once you do you’ll find you will start to hit the glutes in a way that is difficult to achieve through any other exercise. You can perform a range of lunge exercises, from bodyweight lunges, to barbell lunges and single to multi-directional lunges. Try varying them up to add variety.

The Deadlift: Whilst this exercise doesn’t specifically target our glutes quite like the first two, they do work our entire back-end immensely and help to encourage better posture. They strengthen our lower back, hips, hamstrings and stabilizer muscles, meaning they can have a positive effect on our glutes. There are many versions of the deadlift from sumo lifts to single legged deadlifts. Try different versions to see what works best for you.

A Healthy Diet: Great bodies start with a great diet and you’ll never have a butt to be truly proud of if you eat junk. (heard the phrase junk in the trunk?!). You have to eat a lean and clean diet that will work in unison with your workout program.  Through eating right and focusing on the above exercises I have been able to really make a difference to this hard to sculpt area and you can too.

VIPR Fitness Training: Great or Just a Fad?

Last week I had my first ever ViPR workout. I was calling it V-I-P-R until our class instructor informed me that it was just pronounced “Viper”! But what the heck were these strange looking tubes? Well the name is an acronym for Vitality, Performance, and Reconditioning and the device itself is a weighted hollow tube around 48 inches long with grip points that you can use to add resistance to your workouts. It looked like a rather simple piece of equipment but as a fitness tool it’s actually very versatile. The simple shape and grip handles mean that you can perform any number of movements that include pulling, pushing and twisting – patterns we all perform in our daily lives.
ViPR is certainly no easy workout. It focuses on core strength and is a great device for performing functional exercise using all three movement patterns. This ensures that you work muscles that may normally be left dormant when using traditional gym machines or other fitness equipment. It can be dragged, jumped over, carried, thrown, rolled, tilted, stepped on or flipped. I like to fact that I felt my core and legs burning within just a few minutes! We were holding it above our head’s whilst performing jumping jacks, pushing it infront of us during sit ups, doing ski-hops across it from side to side, performing squats, upper cuts, side lunges and even pushing it along the ground. I was amazed how many circuit based exercises could be performed with this device. I thought I was pretty fit but this really pushed me outside of my comfort zone.
Whilst the device looks a bit faddy, in fact I found it to be a great workout and it has certainly proved to be a popular piece of equipment to use amongst both recreational exercisers and sports such as martial arts and cage fighters. Whilst I would probably not want to spend a whole hour using the ViPR, it’s fun and a great addition to any workout routine.

Getting To Grips With Battle Rope Training

When I was last in New York, I went to a Crossfit Gym where I saw all manner of things that were new to me. The thing that intrigued me the most was battle ropes or battling ropes.  It looked kind of strange and I was intrigued to give it a try.

Battle Ropes (or heavy rope training) originate in sports-specific training drills developed in martial arts and also American Football and have been integrated into most mainstream sports from cricket to basketball. Yet their popularity has spread beyond sports and into gyms and even personal training classes. It’s about back-to-basics training using simple equipment that brings results.


Battle Ropes come in various shapes and sizes and usually weigh anything from 5kg up to about 20kg depending upon whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or advanced. I began with the 10kg and just holding it in my hand I knew it was going to be tougher than I thought. You anchor the rope to a pole or wall and this then provides two even lengths to work with. With a firm grip in both hands I was taken through various training drills. Exercises included spirals, whips, throws, waves… ouch my arms, shoulders, back, stomach and legs were killing me! I could not believe just how many muscles these exercises were hitting! We started doing circuits of just 30 seconds of exercise and then one minute rest. It was torture!

Battle Rope Training encourages upper body endurance, power and strength but it also works (indirectly) the core and legs. The next few days I could really feels muscles aching that had clearly not been worked in this way before. I can see why sports teams use battle ropes. It’s about power and endurance which is required for all sports in short bursts. It places stress on the muscles without any high impact on the joints making it a safe way to train. Most importantly for most casual users is that its a great way of burning fat. You don’t need any fancy equipment and battle ropes can be purchased fairly cheaply. You can wrap one around a tree in your back yard and hey presto, you’re up and running. As you become more proficient you can add new routines, increase your workout time and reduce your rest time. I recommend using battle ropes using interval training techniques with 30 seconds exercise (intense) and then one minute of rest. Trust me you will feel the burn! Has anyone tried it?