How do you define success?

You’ve set a new goal for yourself; you’ve put all the right actions in place but how do you know if you’re successful in achieving your goal. How do you measure your success?

For a lot of people, setting goals is not the problem; it’s how they measure their achievements. It is so easy to write down a plan but how do you know if you are on the right track, if what you’ve got is what you wanted? Well it all starts with setting achievable and realistic goals. I am sure you have heard the acronym SMART goals. Well, there’s a reason it’s been around for so long, it’s about setting specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time specific goals. How do you know if a goal is specific, measurable etc? Well you need to say precisely what you would like so instead of I’d like to lose a stone in 4 months (realistic, specific, time specific) saying I want to lose weight soon………………….is not very specific, realistic etc etc

The other part of defining success is making sure that you are not measuring your achievements against other peoples. So for example, your best friend went on a diet and lost 1 stone in 2 months. Well if you lose 1 stone in 4 month and then you hear of your best friend’s achievement you become deflated then that ruins what should be a very happy time for you. Instead of revelling in your own success, you find it ruined because you are comparing it another person’s goal.

Personally, I’ve learnt, success in the eyes of the world is not necessarily going to equate success in my own life because how I measure my own success is of course going to be different. If you decide to be very clear in what you want to achieve and you don’t base whether you’ve been successful on what other people say then you are on the right path. That is why you having a very clear goal for yourself is very important and being committed to your goal and plan is very key.

So the next time you think about setting a goal, think also about how you will measure whether you’ve been successful or not, this will help you ensure you set goals that are realistic and even more important that are real and true to you.

Be true to yourself always and you will find your way.  Happy training!

 

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What are the main concepts of a good training programme?

I believe these are some of the main concepts that should be looked at when devising a fitness program, so make sure you review your training regularly and assess if it is fit for purpose.

Functional training - this is a style of training that uses movements and training sequences which are similar to or use the same movements and body patterns that an individual’s would in their daily living activities. The primary goal of functional training is to transfer the improvements in strength achieved in one movement to enhancing the performance of another movement by affecting the entire neuromuscular system.

Consistency - this is the key to long term success and is linked to regularity. Consistent training, recovery and good nutrition are keys to success. This is not just for the short term but is a lifestyle change for good. Remember use it or lose it!

Recovery - it is crucial to exercise, eat well and also to rest/recover. This is because our bodies get stronger when we rest.

Regularity- random training sessions with no particular sequence makes it difficult for your body to adapt. You will make progress if you set goals regularly and review these goals and then set new goals

Variety - there is a need to include variety in not just the types of exercise you do but also in the intensity and length of time you spend doing certain exercise. If you do the same thing over and over again, not only does it become ineffective as the body gets used to doing the particular exercise but you also become bored and lose interest. That’s why people say “Variety is the spice of life”.

Progression - progression is linked to variety, for you to get better and improve your strength, endurance and body shape, you need to set more challenging exercises because your body will get used to doing the same exercise using the same weights so for example you can progress from a push up on the wall to a push on an elevated stable surface.

Emphasis on good nutrition - Remember without the correct nutrition, you CANNOT achieve your goals

Overload - to change your body shape and to get stronger, it is essential to put our muscles under a form of stress that they are unaccustomed to. The body then has to work to adapt to this stress and therefore gets stronger and more able. At this point, we then need to increase the overload so the whole process starts again. This is why progression and variety are also important as they are inevitably linked to overload.

Happy training………………..!!!!!

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How do I reduce my body fat?

Reduction of body fat is probably one of the top questions that trainers get asked. There is no one specific answer and there are a number of variables that affect body fat. I am going to examine a few common ones namely; Nutrient timing, HITT and Steady state cardio. Nutrient timing is about timing your intake of protein, carbohydrates and fat. HIIT is high intensity interval training and Steady state cardio is a form of cardiovascular exercise that is performed at a steady state and rate of exertion for most of the workout. Let’s look at this in more detail……………….

So…..the dilemma of what to eat and when to eat it continues to baffle many people especially when your goal is fat loss. First of all, let me say this, no two people are the same, what works for one person won’t work for another. I know and meet people who defy the science every day. People who have never lifted but are naturally muscular or people who run a lot and still have muscle etc etc. There are metabolic tests that can be done to look at what foods are best suited to your blood group and this may be useful if you have food intolerances but in general;

The most important things to burning/losing fat still remain;

  • Be in a moderate caloric deficit
  • Eat enough protein
  • Lift

It is also important is when you have your macros(protein, carbohydrate and fats) . One thing that for some people inhibits fat loss is the timing of their carbs pre and post training. If you are going to eat bad carbs (refined or white bread, rice, pasta etc), then the best time is before a lifting workout that incorporates a hiit session. This means that the carbohydrates will be used during that exercise session

When you eat carbohydrates, it raises your insulin levels which stops body fat mobilisation and in a carbohydrate surplus, fat is stored instead of burned as there is plenty of carbs from glycogen to run metabolism and this is why we don’t want too much of it especially when you are not going to exercise.

After working out, you should have some carbohydrates, protein and fat but I would suggest wholegrain carbs or what we call healthy carbs…….sweet potatoes, wholewheat pasta, brown rice etc etc . Protein is vital after your workout so that should form the bigger portion of your meal.

So if you time most of your carbohydrates around your workouts and incorporate some lifting (@ least 3 a week focusing on compound movements), cardio (steady state and/hiit sessions) and a calorific deficit or surplus depending on if you’re cutting or bulking you should be ok but as I said above what works for one person may not work for another so feel confident enough to tweak your workouts and diet.

Please  note the additional points below;

  1. * Hiit burns carbohydrates, It uses up the reserves in the muscles and therefore carbohydrates you eat won’t go towards fat and since there will less circulating glucose, your body will burn more fat. On the other hand steady-state cardio is aerobic: It requires oxygen and is fueled mostly by stored fat.
  2. *Your starting point should always be your goal………………some goals work against each other so you need to be clear what is the most important thing you’d like to achieve. If you want to be an awesome runner then it will be very difficult to do so while doing a lot of lifting, you need to do more running……………..:)
If you want any more information about anything in this article, please email me at info@fitesprit.com

 

 

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Shoulder Pain

As a newly qualified sports massage therapist, I have found that a lot of people seem to suffer from shoulder and neck pain. It is probably one of the most common ailments for massage therapists, physiotherapists and other related practitioners.

I can relate to this as I have also suffered from a rotator cuff injury on my right shoulder so I know how distressing and uncomfortable this kind of pain can be. I therefore thought I’d share just a few tips for managing this type of problem, preventative and restorative.

Why do so many people suffer from shoulder or neck pain which are usually linked? there are many reasons but these are probably some of the most common;

  • Poor posture
  • Carrying heavy handbags, children or other items over or across your shoulder
  • Having a desk job where you slouch over your computer
  • Exercising with weights incorrectly
  • Trauma or falls
  • Overuse

These are just some of the reasons for having painful shoulders, there are a host of other factors that may make you susceptible to shoulder injuries. The most important thing to do is not to ignore any pain hoping that it will go away. Pain, particularly joint pain is your body’s way of letting you know its not happy. So make sure you address your problem early on rather than later, the longer you have pain, the worse the injury gets and the longer it will take you to recover.

When pain hits; try the following;

  • Stretching the muscles in the area
  • Using a heat pack with chronic (old) injury or ice pack with acute (new) injuries.
  • Having a sports specific massage may help to relieve muscle tension and to release any tight muscle fibres, it will also help to bring more blood and nutrients to the area
  • Strengthen the joint and surrounding muscles.  (see link below for some basic exercises)

If the pain persists and none of the above seem to help, then see your GP. They might recommend you get an X-ray or MRI scan.

Please note that if you have had a fall or trauma then please see your Doctor or GP immediately so they can rule out a possible fracture,broken bones or other more serious injuries.

For good shoulder health, try these exercises from the active website (http://beta.active.com/fitness/articles/3-exercises-to-strengthen-the-shoulders)

Happy training :)

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Somedays, it just feels so hard………………..!

I had one of those days recently where nothing seemed to go to plan, everything that could go wrong did and I just got fed up and frustrated. When it was time to hit the gym, I just did not feel like doing it.  The excuses came one after the other, I was tired, I was late, I had a slight headache, and so on …………….!

I had almost decided not to go when I remembered a saying i’d read recently. It said and i paraphrase ”Working out is better than sitting on the sofa”.

That got my butt off the sofa and I ended up in the gym, had a great workout and felt miles better for it after.

It led me to thinking that there are many times that even with the best will in the world, there are times when we you will find it hard to keep it going.  Now, there are times when you should really choose the sofa. It is smart to be able to tell the difference but not necessarily easy.  So here’s some reasons that can help motivate you and keep you going and some reasons why you shouldn’t go to the gym.

IDEAS TO HELP YOU STAY MOTIVATED

  • You want to reach your goal, whatever that goal is, it is useful to have a visual somewhere you can easily see it. So if its fitting into a wedding dress or being able to run a 5k, stick a visual of it on your fridge and look at it every time you are wavering
  • Write down how you feel after a great workout and save it somewhere and whenever you don’t feel like training, read it over
  • Find a friend with a similar goal who you can work out with, they will help you to keep motivated
  • Link your workout to a coffee or lunch with friends so that will act as an incentive
  • Promise to do something you really enjoy when you hit the gym. Pick some great tracks on your Ipod and put them on repeat and turn the volume up.

DON’T TRAIN IF…………………………

  • You have a cough or cold that is in your chest, it can make things worse
  • If you have a fever
  • If you have an injury or muscular strain
  • If you are very stressed, remember that exercise is a good stress buster but if you are already under a lot of stress, then it can be an additional stressor that you do not need
  • If you have an undiagnosed illness that affects your mobility, breathing or your cardiovascular system (heart).

REMEMBER ALWAYS CONSULT YOUR DOCTOR IF YOU ARE NOT SURE………………Happy training!!!

 

 

 

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Why do strength training?

I am often asked this question “Why do I need to use weights?” especially by women. Women are concerned about bulking up and building muscle. The mere appearance of a dumbbell brings some women out in a sweat! The truth is that, it is very difficult to bulk up and contrary to what most women and some men think, weight lifting to increase body mass is very difficult to achieve without the proper nutrition.

I am a big fan of strength training especially for women because I think there are so many benefits which are overlooked. It is important to remember that strength training does not have to involve weights or machines. Training with your own body weight is also a form of strength training and just as effective.

I used to be a big cardio fan, particularly running. I used weights occasionally, did a couple of body pump classes but particularly preferred cardio. I loved sweating profusely during and after a tough cardio session as this was tangible evidence to me that I had worked out. I loved that feeling of complete exhaustion at the end of my run, swim or cycle that I couldn’t seem to emulate when I trained with weights and I wasn’t quite clear how I could avoid bulking up so I kept weights to a minimum  Unfortunately, I sustained an injury which meant I had to stop running and it was then that I turned to strength training. To allay my fears, I researched the area thoroughly and read extensively and one of the first things, I discovered is that the main difference between whether you bulk up or lose body fat is NUTRITION. Also in a woman’s case, we have less testosterone (which is commonly known to help the process of building muscle) so it is much harder to build muscle than for men.

The article below from LIVESTRONG.COM;

Resistance exercise and other strenuous physical activities trigger muscle growth by causing small amounts of trauma to the muscles themselves. In response to this stimulus, the body adapts by repairing the muscular tissue and increasing its strength and size by adding new protein strands to muscle fibers.This process is called protein synthesis, and it is modulated by a variety of hormones called growth factors, of which testosterone is one of the most important.

Though the role that testosterone plays is important and significant, it is only one of many factors that controls muscle growth. Other growth factors include insulin, insulin-like growth factor 1, hepatocyte growth factor, fibroblast growth factor and growth hormone. Outside of an athlete’s body chemistry, his nutrition, quality of sleep, training experience, discipline and quality of training plan all play important roles in muscle growth.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/68797-testosterone-muscle-growth/#ixzz2BRUwsrDM

http://www.livestrong.com/article/68797-testosterone-muscle-growth/#ixzz2BRUoY5pC

Having read plenty of information and feeling more confident that I wouldn’t become a female Arnie! I proceeded with caution………………………and I have to say the results were impressive.

There are many positives of strength training but these are the ones that I have personally experienced and can therefore recommend you to strength train for if you are looking for any of these;

  • Reduced body fat……………………big drop in body fat provided you don’t combine your strength training and cardio in the same sessions (more about this in another post coming soon) and of course you eat healthy!
  • Lean and toned body
  • Faster metabolism! (Yes!!! there is no quicker way to increase your metabolism than by having more muscle (not bulk just muscle tissue as opposed to fatty tissue). When you have more muscle, your body burns calories at a much faster rate. (At least twice as much calories per pound, figures from research are inconclusive but conservatively muscle burns about 6 calories per pound to fat’s 2 calories per pound). So the more muscle you have the more calories you burn. Apart from this however, you have the increased after burn, after exercise involving strength training, you continue burning extra calories after your workout.
  • Strengthens bones and connective tissues (this is especially important for women especially menopausal women who are more prone to osteoporosis after the menopause due to the loss of oestrogen)
  • Improves coordination and balance and can help prevent injury (when done correctly!)
  • Keeps you strong and active as you get older, I feel one of the other main benefits of strength training is the fact that you can continue it well into old age compared to cardio where as you get older, your ability to perform activities such as running can be limited if you haven’t previously been involved in the sport.
  • There is no quicker way to sculpt all or parts of your body, be it toned arms, legs, less flabby triceps, firmer abs……………….the list is endless
  • Finally contrary to what i thought, you can work out just as hard and sweat just as much when doing strength training by incorporating high intensity interval workouts. e.g. squats + Kettlebell swings or skps + squat jumps and so on
  • It also helps you cope with depression and mood swings and also boosts your self esteem and self confidence.

All in all,  its a win win situation with strength training in my view but the key is to seek good advice and ensure you use good technique and to remember that if you don’t want to bulk up then watch what you eat and keep to around 2000 to 2200 kcalories per day, if you do want to bulk up then you can increase that by another 500 to 1000kcal.  Get in there and watch your body change……………………..Enjoy!

 

 

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Age is nothing but a number…………?

I recently had a chat with a friend about the different injuries we pick up from time to time and we started bemoaning our old bodies and it got me thinking back to another conversation which I seem to encounter a lot more frequently these days. I was telling someone about a niggle that I had been suffering from during my runs which had made running more difficult for me. I was rather surprised at her reply which was “Don’t you think you should stop running and take it easy, you’re not getting any younger”  Her view was that as we get older, we need to take it easy as the body is ageing.

She is not alone in this line of thinking. I know many people who are surprised at the amount of exercise I do and even more surprised when I announce I am training for one race or the other. I recently completed my first triathlon and I got many strange looks and are you mad? sort of glances from a variety of people whenever I told them what I was training for.

These people seem to think as they and everyone else around them get older, the best way to prepare for it is to slow down, take it easy and do less exercise.

This is despite mounting evidence that incorporating exercise into one’s lifestyle especially as we age has numerous benefits and in many cases actually helps prolong and maintain good health into old age.

Of course this doesn’t mean if you’ve never done any exercise before you should suddenly get up and decide to run a marathon. That is just asking for trouble. Exercise needs to be introduced slowly and gradually and built into a routine. This does not mean you cannot run a marathon but you DO have to train for it.  Importantly we must acknowledge that as we get older our bodies start to age and decline and this can lead to us being slower at doing things but this should certainly not stop us from doing anything. We see from sportsmen and women that they are at their strongest in their 20′s and 30′s. Most footballers retire in their mid thirties for example bar a few. However, exercise can continue to be a part of your life regardless of your age. I have friends in their 60′s, 70′s and 80′s who still train very regularly some of them everyday.

The recent paralympics has certainly shown us what the human body working hand in hand with the human spirit is capable of achieving.

So what type of training is suitable for the older generation (40+)? Well there are no limitations, I recently read about a gentleman who took up running at 61 and has gone on to run many marathons including an ultra marathon.  Maybe that is not for everyone but we can all find and participate in some form of exercise. It is key to find something you enjoy and that you can do, especially if you have particular health problems or previous injuries which may limit you. For this reason, it is therefore important to consult your Doctor/GP before embarking on any exercise program.

Provided there are no medical problems preventing you from exercising then strength training is certainly an important part of an exercise regime especially as we get older. It has so many benefits but in particular as we age, we need and rely more on stronger ligaments, bones and joints and strength training helps with this. It can also help reduce signs and symptoms of osteoporosis, arthritis, diabetes, depression etc

Women in particular tend to be averse to using weights usually stating that they dont want to bulk up (become muscular), they dont feel comfortable going into the weights area in a gym as it is usually populated with alpha males! or they are not sure what to do with the weights. Women would benefit greatly from strength training and I would encourage them to speak to someone in the gym who can give them a basic program to start off with.

In my next blog, I will cover why we should do strength training in more depth, however strength training with regular aerobic exercise is particularly beneficial so don’t rule out the cardiovascular training. (Cardiovascular training is training that helps improve your heart and lungs, it usually involves raising your heart rate and keeping it elevated for a period of time and is also referred to as cardio or aerobic exercise. This kind of exercise will include swimming, running, cycling, dancing etc)

So do remember, you are as old as you feel and you will feel very old if you don’t do any exercise. Dont forget the body is designed to move not stay still. For many older people when they retire, keeeping fit helps them to stay independent for longer and have an active and fun existence.

So come on! What are you waiting for? Get off the sofa…………………….

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It was one of those days………………..

It was going to be one of those days. My legs felt heavy, I felt sluggish and I could think of many things I’d rather be doing instead of being on the bike in the gym. I put my headphones on and got on with it. I have a triathlon coming up soon and had to do the bike/run session practice. Last week, I had done the same session and it had been a real pleasure. I had finished feeling strong and really fired up. The run after the bike had seemed easy and I had finished feeling really positive.

Today it was a different story, the time drageed, I wasn’t enjoying myself and every muscle in my body ached. Classic case of over training, i suspected but nonetheless I had to get the session done. I managed to finish the session, the run was a real struggle. My legs felt like lead and I had to keep shutting off the voice that kept telling me there was no need to kill myself, that I could do it tomorrow or some other time instead I focused on my music as a distraction, I thought about how much better I would feel when I had finished, about the sense of accomplishment I would have. So I got on with it.

I rewarded myself with some time in the steam room and a nice coffee afterwards. I was glad I had stuck it out and despite the slightly longer finish time and tiredness, I was very happy to have managed to finish the session.

I am writing this to encourage you to persevere when the going gets tough. It is so easy to give up but it is so much harder but more rewarding to keep going even when you don’t feel like.” You must always do your best, learn to never say never “, the words of a song I was listening to the other day seem so apt. You really do need to push yourself, its not always easy and despite the fact that I generally love exercise and can sometimes exercise for hours on end, there are times I don’t want to do it. I may be tired, in a bad mood, stressed or weighed down with other problems, rushed for time, hungery etc but and this is the key difference, I know I will feel better afterwards. I know that if i give in now, it will make it easier to give in next time I feel the same way and then a pattern of giving in could start and I know for sure I dont want that. I have worked hard to achieve this level of fitness and I am still work in  progress so the job is not done yet, I must keep pushing.

Note: there are some major exceptions to pushing through a workout which I feel I should mention, Firstly, don’t train if you’re ill, there is nothing to be gained and you may end up making things worse. Your body is telling you it needs rest and recovery,  Ignore it at your own peril. Secondly, don’t push through joint pain or an injury. there is a difference between muscle fatigue/ache that you get from pushing your body to failure and the pain you get when you have an injury or have damaged a joint. Unless you are competing in the Olympics and this is your only shot………………don’t do it. Your body wont thank you for it and if you make an injury worse, you may end up having to be off exercise for longer than you would have if you’d listened to your body.

Keep pushing…………………..Good luck!

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How much?

How much weight should you lose in 1 week that is considered healthy weight loss.  I get asked this question a lot. There is a general consensus that 1 to 2 lbs (0.4kg) weekly is about the right amount to lose. A lot of people lose a lot more than this but usually they end up losing water and muscle and usually the weight goes back on. There are several ways of achieving this weight loss. First of all, you need to understand the maths. You are aiming to burn around 3500kcal per week to lose around 1lb. Averaged over 7 days this means you need to create a 500kcal energy deficit.

There are a number of ways that you can achieve this;

  • Diet restriction of 500kcal per day (note recommended calorie intake for men is 2500kcal, women 2000kcal; this depends on age, level of physical activity etc)
  • Exercise, aiming to burn 500kcal per day
  • Combine exercise and diet restriction (in any combination e.g. burn 250kcal per day + diet restriction of 250kcal

it is important to bear in mind that if you stick to diet restriction you must avoid missing meals. It is very important to make sure the reduction in calories is done in a balanced manner over the course of the day. Missing meals will cause your insulin levels to be unstable and this can end up leading to unhealthy snacking.

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NO SHORT CUTS

There was a programme on recently discussing the myths about sports products broadcast on BBC1. The programme researchers after a lot of surveys and research came to the conclusion that most of what we are told by the marketing companies who sell us sports drinks, shoes etc are a bit untrue. All of a sudden people were on twitter and facebook to say how disappointed they were to learn these things but the furore surrounding this programme and this long debated issue got me thinking.  Were there any surprises with the programme maker’s findings? What they were really saying was that your sports drink didn’t necessarily make you stronger or your running shoes make you run faster, in essence there are no shortcuts to improvements in your fitness. If you want to be Faster, Stronger and Go longer then you’ve got to train for it. You can invest in the best shoe on the market only to find your running gets worse and you are no faster than before, then the real reason could be that you only train once a fortnight!

It reminded me of when I first started running, once I became addicted, like most running enthusiasts, the first things I did was spend money on expensive gear, the best sweat wicking top, 2 pairs of trainers, ipod, headphones, gels and bars, waist bags, bottles and on and on. None of these things made me run better or faster but I suppose I got a good feeling from them which may have improved how I felt about running.

I think the bottom line is this, most people know the truth. If you want to be good at anything, you need lots of practice at it. There are no shortcuts to fitness, no easy way out. It is a long hard slog but it is so worth it when you achieve your goals. Look at the Olympic athletes; they train for years to be ready for their one moment in time.  Days, weeks, months and years pass by as they prepare their bodies to be at its absolute best on the day.

So it should be with us all. We need to constantly keep working hard, small steps at a time with the big picture in mind. Losing weight, getting fitter or healthier, toning up or sculpting your body, becoming a better runner, swimmer, cyclist etc any of these and more could be your goal, Whatever your goal, spend time doing it and doing it well, learn about it from those who have been doing it longer than you, read up about it, buy books, go on the internet, go to the library, enter competitions and keep remembering that the small changes start to happen almost immediately within your body and may not necessarily be apparent for a long time, but eventually the big changes will happen and you and everyone around you will be able to see what you’ve worked so hard for.

Just keep remembering, there are no shortcuts. 

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