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Work, rest & play + exercise!

Getting the right balance between each aspect of the above title is a truly modern day problem.
I guess it depends on how you view structured exercise but many people I know wouldn’t list it in the ‘play’ category, so I’ve added ‘exercise’ as the plus one to the list as it’s an important part of our lives that shouldn’t be overlooked and my main focus here.

It’s so difficult to juggle all the many aspects of our lives but crucial that we do, because if one area is extremely out of whack it will impact the others sooner or later. One example of this is not getting enough sleep – I know I’ve talked about this before, so I’m only going to touch on it here to highlight the importance of rest since a consistent lack of sleep can have monumental health implications in the long run. Make quality sleep a priority!

Another major life imbalance is exercising too intensely or too often (yes, some people actually do this!) unless you’re an athlete or a fitness professional you don’t need to be exercising several hours every day, this could end up causing injury, or even depleting your immune system so that in the end you’re prevented from doing any exercise at all, let alone too much!

On the flip side it almost, but not quite, goes without saying that there are far too many people who literally do no structured exercise at all and even their daily living activities are limited, the long term health risks of this are too numerous to go into here but we all know we need to be exercising in some way. The current government recommendations for activity in adults suggests trying to be active every day & do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week, plus incorporating strength work on 2/3 days per week. So as part of a balanced lifestyle the bottom line is – get moving – pun intended!

– This Article has been published in the December edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

StuuuuuuuuretCH !

Hands up who finishes their workout without stretching? Go on admit it – perhaps just putting your arm up in the air then was enough of a stretch hey! It’s certainly not uncommon to forgo this part of exercising but you won’t be maximising your gym routine or your health if you do.
There are many benefits to stretching, so much so, that lots of group exercise classes can be found that focus purely on stretching and then of course you have disciplines that have a very strong element of stretching involved such as Pilates.

Why is stretching so important then?
Well let’s start with what happens if you don’t stretch? Tightening of the muscles can occur in a relatively short amount of time and these tightened muscles will then start to pull on the joints they are attached to, causing pain, then injury and affecting normal function, which can drastically reduce mobility – Not good news!
An example of this issue would be clients suffering non specific back pain, which can be caused simply by having tight hamstrings.

The solution is simple, always stretch after your workout and add in stretch specific sessions to your schedule, especially if you are stuck in one position for several hours each day at work.

The benefits of stretching are numerous and include helping your muscles to recover faster from exercise, no one likes that day after, the day after soreness, which can be excruciating and often is the part that puts people off exercising all together. Stretching also helps prevent injury by enhancing your range of movement, keeping you flexible. Blood flow and circulation are improved, helping to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and breathing rate. Stretching will also aid to improve performance, including agility, power, speed and muscular tone, minimising wear and tear on joints.

All of these factors contribute to enhance your overall health and wellbeing, proving the importance of stretching as an essential component of fitness that shouldn’t be ignored.

– This Article has been published in the November edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Fusion Confusion!

“Pilates! That’s like yoga isn’t it?!” I hear when I tell people what I do. I then try to find a quick overview to explain the difference between yoga and Pilates.
It might start something like, “Well they do have similarities but infact they are fundamentally quite different…”

Within the fitness industry there are a lot of ‘fusion’ training methods and one such example is ‘Yogalates’. Classes are a mixture of both Yoga and Pilates together.
Purists of either discipline may not approve but banding them together is certainly one reason why there may be a little confusion for people trying to differentiate the two.

Yoga has been around for 5,000 years and it’s origins are essentially a form of worship.
A deeply spiritual practice that is far more than just physical exercise. Each position or pose (asana) in yoga is actually an ‘offering’ to one of the many Hindu Gods. The word Yoga itself actually means ‘To Yoke’ – to connect to the Gods. Chanting and meditation are also an integral part of true yoga practice. All with the main purpose to reach spiritual enlightenment.
Western practice of yoga has diluted it down to be more well known as a relaxing form of stretching exercise.

Pilates on the other hand has no spiritual worship connotations, no chanting and no guided meditation techniques. If you receive these in a class it is likely to be a fusion class rather than classical Pilates. Pilates is about 70 years old and only in relatively recent times has it increased in popularity. The breathing techniques are also different, while yoga focuses on ‘Chi’ or ‘universal life force’, Pilates takes a more scientific approach in achieving ‘maximal oxygen intake to fuel the body’s systems’.

There are many more differences between Yoga and Pilates, therefore my advice would be to research both to see which you prefer.

The obvious similarities between the two however are working on a mat, having bare feet and lying down a lot!

– This Article has been published in the October edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Yo Yo is a No No !

Weight gain and the subsequent issue of trying to lose it is a real struggle.
Especially as we get older. Our metabolism slows down and the pounds get harder to shift. Poor diets and sedentary lifestyles are typical reasons for many adults dealing with being overweight. This is when people often turn to extreme diet plans or join fad weight loss groups in an attempt to beat the bulge but these supposed solutions can actually exacerbate the problem long term, not to mention all the other health issues that can occur.

Even from as early as 30 years old, our muscle mass and strength begins to reduce, this is called sarcopenia, sounds scary doesn’t it and in a way it is because if adequate exercise isn’t undertaken to counter it, the ratio between lean muscle tissue and fat alters and contributes to an ever decreasing metabolism. So obviously we need to exercise but what I’m focusing on here is our need for a healthy, wholefood, balanced diet and to resist the quick fix!

If ANY food group is reduced you will lose weight simply because you’ve reduced your calorie intake but you need to make sure you’re loosing subcutaneous and visceral fat, not – muscle tissue, bone density & water retention, which is often the case with extreme diets. This is where the problem starts. It looks impressive on the scales & you may drop a few dress sizes but as soon as you eat ‘normally’ again the weight flys back on, sadly with an extra helping on top! Why?
Because you’ve wasted away the muscle that keeps your metabolism revved up, that burns calories even while you sleep, take that away and you have less calorie burning potential, you’ve weakened your bones and set yourself up for a psychological reliance to the diet you thought ‘worked’ and so you go back to it and the cycle perpetuates. So please say no no to the yo yo!

– This Article has been published in the September edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Festival Fitness

Taking a holiday doesn’t mean your fitness has to fall by the wayside.
On the contrary mine often increases as I have more time to focus on my fitness and pour more energy into it. Similarly you could easily find ‘holiday fitness’ means not having the added distractions of work deadlines, domestic chores or the drudgery of routine as excuses for not getting to the gym, a new environment is exactly what can kick start a fresh take on exercise for you, like a holiday romance that hopefully lasts once you get home!

Imagine having lots of sleep with no alarm, let your body wake up when it’s naturally ready – surely one of the best luxuries of being on holiday?! Enjoy unhurried hearty breakfasts with plenty of delicious fruit after a ‘fasted’ run along the beach. Experience great scenery knowing the sand beneath your feet is creating extra resistance for toning your legs. Afternoons can be spent lazing around the pool perfecting your tan, then with a few dips to cool off, you could easily rack up a few steady lengths. It all counts.

Holidays are perfect for upping the anti on super calorie burning activities, out of the ordinary stuff like snorkelling, scuba diving and surfing and because the body isn’t used to doing them it causes the muscles to burn extra energy to complete the the new physical challenge. Bonus!
Simply spending the day walking around exploring streets & pathways in quaint towns or ancient cities, you’re bound to exceed your fitbit’s quota of 10,000 steps a day and if you’re off to a weekend festival, all that dancing the night away to your favourite bands are hidden fitness gems!

Of course the benefits of all this calorie burning business hinges somewhat on your calorie consumption, so if you keep a bit of a reign on the food and alcohol you could well come back a few pounds lighter than you went and certainly a bit fitter.

– This Article has been published in the July edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Core Blimey!

Do you know what your core is? Did you know that it’s more than just your ‘Abs’?
Infact your core is everything bar your head, arms and legs!
It is the thick layered musculature of the torso consisting of the abdominals, obliques, transverse abdominis, multifidus, diaphragm, pelvic floor, and many other deeper muscles.
All this meaty muscle protects our internal organs and the precious spinal Column.
So if you’ve ever had, or currently got, a ‘bad back’ it’s time to strengthen that core!
You can spend a lot of money on chiropractors, osteopaths and physiotherapists but at some point you may well find or be advised that it’s a lot cheaper and far more satisfying to create some ‘in house’ protection of your own.

Building the deep internal muscles in your torso, not only helps prevent back problems but makes you stronger overall, helps you move more efficiently and promotes longevity of your general wellbeing. So how do you do it? Well it’s not all about crunches that’s for sure, you need to get a good all round (literally) work out, that targets all those muscles mentioned earlier, working them in all three planes of motion.
One great way of doing this is known as Functional Training, a dynamic type of exercising that as the name suggests, helps you to be more functional in your every day life, making you less likely to bulge a disc while doing the vacuum cleaning – anybody?

As a Pilates teacher as well as a PT, I’m bound to promote Pilates as a great way to build your core, infact Pilates’ primary principle is about developing the ‘power house’ the centre of the body which, when strengthened is the foundation for all movement. Breathing techniques compliment the movements in Pilates making it a very precise and controlled form of exercise, perfect if you’re already suffering and great prevention insurance if you’re enjoying good back health.
So people, learn how to engage your core – its key!

– This Article has been published in the July edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

You can fake tan but you can’t fake tone!

As we rapidly approach our summer holidays the stark realisation hits us square on that maybe we should have started training in January just like we’d promised ourselves 5 months ago, eek!
Time passes so quickly and here we are drifting into June wondering to ourselves if there’s still enough hours left to get in shape before the holiday?

Shopping for new outfits and cosmetics needed for a trip to the beach is exciting fun. Salon visits get booked for gel nails, HD lashes, golden highlights and spray tans, which all help to create the ‘I woke up like this’ look and the vibe that you’ve already spent 3 weeks in the Caribbean.

Then we realise one thing that really can’t be faked and that’s tone!

Even if you’ve hit your target weight and trimmed down to fit back into your jeans from 2 years ago, something may still be amiss?! Jiggly bums, deflated biceps and protruding belly’s cannot be waxed, highlighted or sprayed away!

The good news is the body is an amazing creation and very responsive, so you can make a significant difference in the tone of your muscles in only a matter of weeks.

Resistance work is how to do it and there’s a plethora of options out there to choose from, body weight exercises, pump classes, kettlebell classes, free weights, Pilates, circuit training, boot camps, LBT classes, you name it, if you have to push, pull or pound something a resistance is created and that is what is needed to build muscle, but there’s no time to waste procrastinating on which class or activity?

If you don’t know which type of training you enjoy most, try them all. Dedicate 3 or 4 sessions a week to it and in the process of elimination you’ll still be toning up your body. You’ve really got nothing to lose, except the slackness of your triceps – so drop and gimme 20!

– This Article has been published in the June edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Is Pilates good for men?

Absolutely!…is the short answer but let’s give this some context. Firstly consider the fact that originally Pilates was invented by a man for men!

Joseph Pilates’ first motivation was himself, as a sickly child told his life expectancy wasn’t good, it determined him to prove the doctors wrong. Studying many forms of exercise including athletics, weight lifting, boxing and gymnastics, his own physique developed so well, with such excellent proportions, he was used as a model for drawings on medical anatomical charts – very GQ’esque, circa 1900’s!

During WW1 while working in a military hospital, he developed his system further by assisting the rehabilitation of injured soldiers. Using the pulleys and structure of the beds the men laid in, he created functional movement patterns.

So how does this system benefit the contemporary man of today? Well, whether you lift weights or you’re training for a marathon, Pilates can help fine tune your performance.

1. Develops the stabiliser muscles. Pilates uses subtle concentrated movements, developing the often overlooked muscles you don’t use during daily activities or during heavy lifting sessions. Making you stronger, fitter, faster.
2. Improves flexibility. When you build muscle you can lose flexibility, the Pilates focus on this can help prevent injuries, muscle strains and improve range of motion.
3. Builds your core. Pilates exercises all focus on core stability and what Joseph termed the ‘PowerHouse’ (manly phrase there!) from this centre of power your limbs can generate great dynamic strength. It also Lays the foundations for creating the best abs possible.
4. Stress relief. You have to focus mentally during Pilates, this can take your mind off work for an hour, helping you to feel more refreshed and the deep lateral breathing rejuvenates your body like a walk by the sea.

There are many benefits of Pilates for men so factor it into your workout schedule, whether you’re fit as a men’s health magazine model or recovering from a prolapsed disc.

– This Article has been published in the May edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

Zzz’s affect Kg’s!

Sleep is a serious business! We all know not getting enough sleep is bad for us but it can have detrimental effects to your weight loss goals too.

The obvious reason of course, is that a lack of sleep will make you feel less likely to go and do your exercise workout because you just don’t have the energy. However there is a much deeper problem that will occur within only a few days of experiencing sleep deprivation. Let’s look at an example of two individuals trying to lose weight – they both exercise 3 times a week, combining cardio and resistance workouts and both try to observe a healthy balanced diet with the right amount of calories for their energy expenditure, yet one continues to consistently lose weight and the other struggles, why? Quite simply the successful weight loss candidate is getting enough sleep at night and the other is not.

The ‘science bit’ is extremely detailed, so to put it on a very basic level, not enough sleep wreaks havoc with your hormones! The body goes into a flat spin with several hormones becoming out of whack, impacting a number of systems. The seriousness of that goes far beyond the aesthetics of just weight loss alone, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting the right amount of sleep for you. This varies for each person but studies show that for most of us, between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night is optimum.

Another aspect of being over tired is it often leads us to make poor food choices with larger portion sizes than usual, increasing the likelihood of weight gain and sending us further into a hormonal state of flux. Overall sleep really should be made a priority for our general wellbeing and to support our fitness and weight loss goals. There’s even an entire celebrity endorsed movement called ‘Clean sleeping’ and as funny as it sounds, I urge you to get involved and get some quality Zzzz’s!

– This Article has been published in the April edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk

#Bodygoals

If you’ve got an instagram account or ever browsed through other social media sites like twitter or Facebook you’ll no doubt have come across #hashtag slogans such as #fitnessgoals or #summerbody, etc, etc.

These punchy little sayings and their cute motivational intentions usually go along with images of awesomely toned abs or pert derrieres, which is all good but seldom can one achieve those #dreambodies without #hardwork. These things also takes time to achieve, so forward planning is essential or it just becomes a #pipedream!

Realistic time frames for healthy fitness gains or weight loss goals are needed right from the get go. Forget quick fixes if you’re serious about your plans. Set out a period of time and then factor in life.
Unless you’re a professional athlete, Hollywood actor or Victoria secret model you’re unlikely to have the luxury of spending all your time and energy living in the gym. Plus it’s not common to have your own personal chef providing perfect nutritious meals, while you train for your next competition, movie or fashion show.

Now I’m not saying the rest of us can’t look as good as these iconic images that we enthusiastically collect on our ‘Pinterest’ account, anything that creates positive motivation is great, especially if it inspires you to change or develop your health and wellbeing but for the majority of us life happens in a far less glamorous way, so we have to factor in what might hinder our goals along the way with all the usual temptations and setbacks such as busy work schedules, family life, parties and special occasions , illness or injury, lack of sleep or that general apathy that can hit anyone of us at any time. It’s never plain sailing and usually a challenge on top of our challenge occurs.

So since we don’t all have our own entourage organising our lives may I suggest employing patience and perseverance in achieving your #bodygoals and as an old Ghanaian proverb says -#sofltysoftlycatcheemonkey!

– This Article has been published in the March edition of Life Magazine – http://www.lifemagazines.co.uk