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 motivatept.co.uk 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.

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Exercise of The Month: Seated Russian Twist

When it comes to exercise selection there is one body part that seems to be spoilt for choice –  and that’s the abs. Maybe it’s our obsession with acheieving that wash-board stomach. For me there are many great exercises that really work for my abs but it’s those hard-to-reach obliques that really need attention for me and for this my favourite exercise is without doubt the good old-fashioned seated Russian Twist.

Seated-russian-twist
You can perform this exercise without any weight at all. Just begin in a seated position with your knees bent at 90 degrees and leaning back slightly to help balance but with your back straight. Hold your arms outstretched in front of you (level with your chest). Then whilst pulling in your stomach (important), explosively rotate your torso round to the left as far as you can and then all the way back round and to the right as far as you can.

Hint: your back should be straight and you torso 45 degrees to the floor. It’s easy to perform the exercise if you arch the back but that’s not the idea. It’s very tough to perform when keeping the back straight but it works, so concentrate on correct form. You can also perform the exercise with your feet off the floor. My personal preference is to perform the exercise this way as I feel the stomach working harder this way.

weighted-russian-twist
The great thing about the Seated Russian Twist is that it really works. Even without weight you can feel it working. But to add extra difficulty to the russian twist exercise try holding a dumbbell, medicine ball or even a kettlebell. Only progress to something like the Kettlebell Russian Twist when you have already perfected the movement without any weight. Keeping correct form is the most effective way of feeling the burn.

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.
Kettlebell-renegade-row
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.

Can Too Much Exercise Make You Fat?

So everyone who reads my blog knows that I love to exercise. I suppose you could say I am a little addicted. I can’t live without it. But that isn’t such a bad thing right? What’s wrong with keeping yourself active and healthy? However, I was surprised to find that too much exercise can actually be a bad thing for those of us who exercise for weight loss. That’s because too much exercise can actually cause our bodies to store fat rather than burn it.

A recent study showed that too much exercise at too high an intensity can cause the body to become depleted and worn down and this can actually slow the body’s metabolism as we go into survival mode. This means that our bodies will try to hold on to our fat stores rather than burn them. In such situations its not uncommon to actually lose muscle and preserve fat. Not what we want!

biggest-loser-fat-loss
So how can we ensure that we are exercsiing in a way that will ensure we burn fat not muscle?

1. Firstlly make sure that you enjoy exercise. Keep the workouts at a level that ensures you still enjoy what you’re doing. If you work so hard that you begin to totally dread every new workout and feel drained, chances are you are doing too much. It ‘t doesn’t have to be pure agony for you to derive benefit.

2.  Make sure that you add resistance training to your workout regime at least twice a week. Too much cardio and not enough resistance can cause your body to stop burning fat effectively. This can be in the form or weights or just by using body weight exercises. Using our muscles and building them ensures that we don’t lose muscle.

3. Try to reduce cardio if you are pushing yourself too much. 2-3 cardio workouts a week of 30-45 minutes at moderate to high intensity is sufficient for most people.

4. Try using intervals as a way of breaking up your workouts. You can speed up your metabolism and burn fat whilst spending less time exercising. Replace long runs on the treadmill with short 15 minute interval circuits to help boost your metabolism.

5. Ensure that you get plenty of sleep. This helps your body to repair and recover from the day’s stresses and strains. Look at ways to reduce your stress if you have trouble sleeping

6. Eat a healthy balanced diet and don’t cut out food groups or starve yourself. Sensible eating and portion control ensure that you eat a balanced diet that will give you all the energy your body needs.

Exercise of The Month: Mountain Climbers

Mountain climbers are without doubt one of the most popular all round exercises you can perform without any equipment. They look pretty simple, yet they are a killer! I love them. They are a full body plyometric exercise that you’ll feel working all over. Not only do they hit just about every muscle they also work the core and raise your heartrate, giving a great cardio workout.

Mountain climbers place significant muscular emphasis upon the butt/hips and thighs. Due to the repetitive nature of the exercise they are great for building strength and endurance in the lower body, but you’ll also begin the feel it in the arms and shoulders too. It’s a favourite warm-up exercise for track athletes as well as sports team as it gets the blood pumping around the body quickly.
mountain-climbers
Getting the mountain climber exercise correct depends upon form. Getting your body angle wrong means that you won’t see the kind of results you should from the effort you put in. Ensure that your weight is distributed evenly between both hands and feet and keep your hips low (bum down!) throughout the exercise trying to ensure that your knees virtualy touch your chest on their way forward. Keep your arms straight and hands directly below the shoulders. Now you’ll feel the burn!
mountain-climber-exercise

Beginners can modify the exercise by placing their hands on an elevated surface rather than the floor and they can also perform the exercise  with a shorter range of motion, so that the knees don’t reach the chest. Advanced exercisers can use an unstable surface to rest the hands on such as a medicine ball, bosu. This will add greater stability challenge to the core muscles or you can even try adding a push up before each rep. Other variations include mountain climbers performed using TRX straps to suspend the legs off the ground – this is a really tough version!

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.
winter-workout
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!

Fat Busting Myths Exposed

There are few Industries that seem to propagate as many misconceptions and false truths as the weight loss Industry. From misquoted research to simple marketing spin promoted by big businesses, it seems that we’re constantly awash with new ideas and concepts and it can be difficult to decipher fact from fantasy.

Over time it seems that some weight loss concepts have stuck despite the fact that they actually remain complete myths.  Here are some of the most commonly held weight loss myths:

1) If I exercise hard enough, I can eat what I like
This is not true. You simply cannot out-run a poor diet. Let’s put this into perspective. Running on a cross trainer at a moderate to high intensity level for an hour will burn around 500 calories. That’s equivalent to a small 100 gram bar of milk chocolate for an hour of hard exercise. Unfortunately many people believe that just an hour or two of moderate to intensive exercise a week will enable them to eat whatever they want and still see the weight just slip off. It won’t. Exercise will help to offset some of your daily calorie consumption from food, but it won’t give you carte blanche to eat whatever you like. In order to achieve weight loss you need to still make sensible changes to your diet in conjunction with your exercise plan.

weight-loss-myths

2) Drinking a cup of green tea each day will help with weight loss
Highly unlikely. Whilst green tea does contain flavonoid phytonutrients which have been shown to accelerate metabolism in studies on rats, it seems they may have little effect on humans. In a study carried out with two controlled groups of human subjects, one group consuming green tea daily for 3 months and a group that consumed no green tea, it was shown that the green tea drinkers lost, on average, just one tenth of a pound more than the group that consumed no green tea. There are also some experts who believe that consuming large quantities of green tea could be detrimental, as it can effect your body’s ability to absorb iron.

3) If I don’t eat after 6pm, I’ll lose more weight
Not true. Putting on weight or dropping weight, is dictated by the total daily calories that you consume not when you choose to eat those calories. If you regularly eat 4000 calories, but all before 6pm, you’re still going to out on weight. Equally if you regularly eat only 1000 calories a day, of which 500 calories are eaten after 6pm, you’re still going to lose weight. The time of day you consume those calories is irrelevant.

4) Artificial Sweeteners are better than sugar when losing weight
Not necessarily. It’s true that artificial sweeteners contain less calories than sugar, but they are often found in products that are high in fat making their calorie value an irrelevance. Worst still is that artificial sweeteners have been shown in scientific studies to actual increase your appetite, leading to carbohydrate cravings and increased fat retention. It seems that we may all be better sticking with good old-fashioned table sugar.

5) Losing weight using a method that worked before will work again
Often it won’t. Weight loss is complicated and your body adapts quickly to a set of conditions and a certain way of eating. In most cases when you return to a diet that worked for you previously, you’ll find it far less effective the second time around. Scientists believe this is not only due to the adaptation of your body to the new hormonal environment, but also physiological and behaviour factors within yourself that change the second time around. Often trying a completely different diet than the one you did before produces much better results.

6) I can eat as much fruit as I like when losing weight as its healthy
Fruit is certainly healthy but also laden with calories. If you’re goal is weight loss than you need to cut down on your calories and this means reducing sugar-rich foods including fruit and fruit juices. It doesn’t matter that these sugars are natural fruit sugars – they’ll have the same effect for weight gain as eating processed or refined sugar. Remember that there are plenty of foods that are healthy but that still pack a punch when it comes to calories.

7) Cutting out entire food groups is a good way to lose weight
Absolutely not. Certainly not if you’re eating too much from the other food groups. Any diet that revolves around cutting out entire food groups is nothing more than a fad. It relies on lowering your calories simply through the loss of that food group. The popularity of high protein, no carb diets was based not on any magic formula, but simply the fact that it’s very difficult to eat vast quantities of just protein and fat without carbohydrates. It’s carbohydrates that are the comfort food and by taking this from the diet, people naturally eat far less calories that when they previously consumed carbohydrates. A sensible diet should never revolve around eliminating entire food groups from your diet. We need all food groups for proper health and development.

8) If I perform lots of sit-ups I will get a flat stomach
Not true. You can perform thousands of sit-ups every day, but unless you burn the fat that’s sitting on top of your abdominal muscles you’ll never see a flat stomach underneath. Performing lots of stomach exercise will only serve to develop the muscles sitting beneath the layer of fat. In order to burn the fat you actually need to increase your cardiovascular exercise and start making dietary changes to create a calorie deficit.