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.

Outdoor-Fitness

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.

Fitness Selfies – Inspirational Or Just Depressing?

In the last few years there seems to have been an explosion in the use of fitness-selfies (or gym-selfies). Looking online there are millions of pictures of healthy, muscular and toned individuals (of all ages) who are happy to post their pictures of themselves in their gym gear on social media sites, particularly on Instagram or Pinterest. The prevalence of smart phones means it’s a piece of cake to snap and post in an instant. Of course many of these people are happy to post their pictures because they’ve achieved a toned and muscular physique – a body to be proud of. The idea behind some of these fitness-selfies is no doubt to brag, but in fact for many it’s to act as inspiration. If I can achieve this, you can too.

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I have to say I’ve come across a few of these gym selfies online and actually felt slightly more inspired to work that little bit harder in the gym. Is there just something about looking at pictures of people who look  like regular folks, but who clearly have achieved great physiques, quite inspirational? Or do they harm or dent our own self-esteem? Do they inspire others or just discourage us?

Certain psychologists say that these fitness selfies can actually harm those with low self-esteem or low self-image issues. There’s also the view that some people posting these selfies may themselves be becoming obsessed with their self-image, never quite happy with how they look and always striving for perfection. This in itself can of course be equally harmful.

There is no doubt that self-photos are useful when it comes to fitness. Personal trainers regularly take photos of clients as they progress throughout their fitness program. Week 1, Week 6, Week 12 and so on. But the reason they take these pictures is that most of us don’t notice changes to our own bodies on a day to day basis. We don’t notice gradual changes in our bodies. It’s only when we look over photos (side by side) that we can see how far we’ve come. Think of it as a log of your progress.

So what’s your thoughts on this. Have you ever taken a fitness selfie? Are these fitness-selfies you see online, images that inspire you to get in shape or do they simply put you off? Do they motivate you to want to get fit or do they make you feel slightly depressed? I want to hear your views.

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.
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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.

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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.

CrossFit: When Exercise Gets Serious

Crossfit is all about training your body for the unknown (not just the known). Its one of the fastest growth areas in the world of strength, conditioning and fitness and has gathered an almost cult status amongst serious competitive exercisers.

It certainly isn’t recommended for beginners and is even considered tough for fairly seasoned exercisers. Combining strength training with plyometrics, speed training, various Olympic lifts, body weight exercises, kettlebell and sandbag routines. By training the body in this way CrossFit aims to work the whole body in a comprehensive fashion promoting improvements in cardiovascular-fitness, strength, endurance, stamina power, speed, agility and coordination. Exercises are normally explosive and carried out in circuits (timed). Most exercises will work the whole body with lifting, pulling, squating and pushing exercises forming the basis for most circuits.

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With the popularity of this form of exercise, CrossFit gyms have begun to spring up all over the globe. There are now about 2,500 locations worldwide. Forget the conventional set-up you may be used to. This could not be further from your local Fitness First. These places are more akin to a garage or industrial warehouse with Olympic plates, barbells, climbing ropes, pull-up bars, plyometric boxes and the like. Not for the uninitiated.

Despite its hardcore nature, the advantages of CrossFit are that the workouts are actually quite quick so you don’t need a hugh amount of time to complete your circuit. It will appeal particularly to athletes and ex-athletes and has a big following with ex-military. There is almost a competitive pride at participants’ ability to compete not just against other crossfitters but against themselves and their own times. The workouts are certainly not without risks and injury is common for newbies.  But being the kind of person that loves to try all things fitness I decided to give it a try.

I returned to New York over Christmas to see Family and friends and I was able to seek out a session at CrossFitNY. I arranged an induction with my coach and the first session I really just observed. It was totally different to anything I had done before but I was excited (if not a little daunted) about trying it out myself.

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There were a number of newbies like myself but a lot of very serious athletes there too that had clearly been doing this for some time. However, the atmosphere was friendly and I got stuck in to my circuit. There were Olympic Lifts which were my biggest challenge but also kettlebell work which was fine for me. The climbing ropes were really tough and I realised how poor my grip strength was. My circuit was short and I completed it in 20.22. But I was absolutely shattered and I have to confess, I did pick up a small injury (just a strain!).  I can certainly see how this could become quite addictive and would make anyone extremely fit. However, for now I think I need to rapidly improve my fitness before returning to a CrossFit gym!

Motivation Fitness Quotes With Pictures

With the start of  a New Year upon us it is a time for many of us to work up the motivation to get ourselves in shape and hopefully healthy again. I know that my fitness routine goes a little off-track over Christmas and New Year. Sometimes a few great words of encouragement and motivation can help us to get motivated. Here are my top five fitness motivation quotes and fitness motivation pictures to accompany them.

1. To Achieve Your Fitness Goals – Work Hard
We all know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Equally we have to always remind ourselves to be patient with our bodies. We cannot expect to turn up for a few exercise classes or cut out bread for a week and all look like Jessica Biel. We have to be consistent with our training and not give up even when we would perhaps rather not be training.
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2. Take Small Steps To Reach Your Dream Body
Semetimes we have to keep focused on the goals we set ourselves, understanding that the hard work we do today will pay off tomorrow. We must take time to celebrate our achievements and focus on the bigger goals ahead.
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3. You always feel better after Exercise
It may be a cliche but it is true that we always feel much better after having our workout. I know that some days I find it hard to get motivated but once I begin my workout I start to feel better straight away. Sometimes when I’m feeling demotivated, I try to remind myself how good I will feel once I actually start exercising – it really helps me.
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4. Understand Why You’re Getting Fit
All too often we focus on how we look and feel on the outside when in fact what’s going on inside our body is actually more important. So maybe you haven’t dropped any weight this week, but you’ve lost internal fat and lowered your heart rate. Fitness is a journey not a destination.
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5. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Fitness Goals
It is easy to let life set you back. Stay true to yourself and your fitness goals and don’t give up. Stick with your healthy plans whilst others are losing sight of theirs and you’ll reach your goals.
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