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Losing weight or getting fit?

I often spot a little pattern with peoples training and weight loss journeys.

In particular weight loss. We’ll call him Sam. Sam decides he wants to lose weight and improve his fitness and decides the best way to go about this is to eat fewer calories and do lots of exercise.

So, he starts to eat say 1400 per day and then start training with long runs, hiit training and heavy weights for about an hour 6 days per week. According to his Fitbit he’s burning around 3500kcal per day. Sam thinks “great I’m smashing this calorie deficit lark!” For around 4-5 weeks he keeps up this regime and of course he losing weight-Well Done Sam! However Sam is starting to feel increasingly run down and lethargic and he seems to be aching constantly. He starting to struggle in his training and the weights aren’t going up any more and his run times aren’t progressing. Then he gets the flu and its game over.

It’s such a shame as Sam was doing so well.

Unfortunately what Sam didn’t consider when he began this weight loss journey was that in order to train that hard you need fuel.

Which can be a confusing message when you’re trying to lose weight and are quite rightly basing this weight loss on achieving a calorie deficit.

However training for weight loss and training for performance are two different things.

If you ask any Athlete who competes at a weight based sport –Bodybuilding or boxing for example; they will tell you that the serious weight cutting weeks are really tough as the drop in calories combined with a tough training schedule makes them exhausted. These guys also make time to properly relax and recover rather than cracking on with a full time job and a social life.

At its basic function food is fuel. We need it to power our brain, organs etc. along with physical activity. If we restrict calories our bodies decide to try and conserve the fuel for important things like our organs so we don’t have the fuel to be more active. If we push through that’s fine for a few weeks as yes we can burn some fat but continual training like this eventually just leads to burn out.

Now this is not to say you shouldn’t restrict calories if you want to exercise, in fact you absolutely do need a calorie deficit but it is to get you to consider exactly which of your goals is more important and fuel accordingly and therefore train accordingly.

Personally I only ask clients to create a calorie deficit of around 20-30% from their maintenance calories with regards to food. Then if they exercise and find themselves increasingly hungry or more tired add in an extra snack of around 100-200 cals and work from there.

With regards to training it makes sense that Bodybuilders in particular tend to do long slow cardio such as walking, as this is much less taxing on the body than HIIT training but can be done for an hour or so to create a calorie deficit of a couple of hundred calories per day on top of the calorie restriction.

If you’re focus is to improve your physical strength and performance then I’m not saying you can’t also lose weight at the same time, but you will have to make your deficit from food much smaller in order to fuel your exercise performance.

You have to really listen to what your body is telling you. If you are training hard on fewer calories and start to feel sluggish, sore and run down you might want to take 1-2 training sessions out per week or focus more on your nutrition and recovery.

If your primary goal is weight loss, then of course move around more, take up some exercise but there is no need to start the training diary of an athlete.

 

Boost Your Immune System

It is now officially cold!

With Winter now in full swing your body is put under extra stress coping with the temperature change meaning your immune system may be struggling to cope. Add that with being surrounded by people sneezing and sniffling their way through coughs and colds means we need to work extra hard to ensure we don’t get struck down with the dreaded winter flu and associated bugs ourselves.

Here are my top tips for a healthy immune system.

 

The first two really simple things that we often forget are getting plenty of sleep and managing your stress levels. These two things on their own can have a huge impact on your immune system so I would start with nailing these two first. During Sleep your body releases Cytokines which are needed to fight infection and inflammation and also help your body combat stress. We also renew our cells and antibodies during sleep which again help our bodies to ward off and combat infection. A lack of sleep therefore means less Cytokines, antibodies and cell renewal to help your body fight infection.

Eat plenty of leafy greens. Dark Green vegetables i.e. kale, spinach and broccoli are rich in iron which helps our body to absorb vitamin C, which most of us know is vital for a strong immune system. So we need to stock up on iron to ensure our body can absorb the nutrients it requires. Also scientists have found that eating leafy greens stimulates the production of an immune cell called innate lymphoid cell. This cell helps in protecting the body from invading pathogens and help with the balance of good and bad bacteria in the intestine.

Oats. Oats are rich in selenium and beta glucans which are nutrients that support your immune system. Oats also help to control healthy bacteria in the intestine which again supports your immune system. And I don’t think there is a better way to start a cold, wintery day than with a bowl of hot porridge and some berries-yum! And I will let you in to a secret……..Ready Brek is totally fine-ssshhh!

Mushrooms.  Mushrooms contain immune boosting polysaccharides including previously mentioned beta glucans which support the immune system, they also have anti vital (again good for immunity) and anti cancer properties. Add them to soups, casseroles etc.

Yoghurt and Kefir. Your digestive tract contains around 60 percent of your immune systems cells. This makes it extra important to maintain a healthy gut. Including fermented foods in your diet like natural yoghurt (the plain stuff that doesn’t need an ingredients list!) and kefir can help to maintain a healthy bacteria which helps to decrease the number of harmful bacteria and stimulate immune cell production.  Try having some natural yoghurt and fruit for breakfast or as a dessert.

Orange fruit and vegetables. Butternut Squash, Sweet potato, Carrots, Oranges etc. Orange flesh fruit and vegetables are jam packed with carotenoids, vitamin A and C all essential for immune function. Vitamin A also has anti viral properties and is vital in supporting the cells of the skin, gastrointestinal tract and lungs – your main barriers against invaders.

Citrus Fruits. Citrus Fruits are packed with vitamin C, which makes immune cells stronger and helps the immune system identify and attack invaders. It also helps make interfon (please say this in a superhero style voice!) which is part of your bodys natural defence system enabling you to fight off infection. You should try to up your intake of these through winter as high levels can seriously help to prevent flu. Other good sources include berries, kiwi and red peppers.

Salmon and other Oily Fish. Oily fish contain essential fatty acids which among other things maintain the cells in your gut.  Also, research from the Michigan state university found that omega 3 docosahexaenoic (say that after a drink!) acid increases activity of immune cells specifically white blood cells (the important ones for immunity).  Salmon is also a good source of vitamin D which is again essential in maintaining optimum immunity.

 

Nuts and Seeds. These have many benefits but particularly relevant is the Vitamin E Content.  This anti oxidant protects our fatty tissues and cell membranes from damage whilst fighting infections. Add a handful of sunflower seeds to your porridge or snack on a handful of almonds mid afternoon.

Garlic. Garlic is anti bacterial, anti viral, anti fungal …..and anti social! For optimum immune boosting power garlic should be fresh and crushed  which helps to convert the active chemical allicin to its active form. Add it to soups, stir fries or anything else you fancy (garlic bread does not count-unless you make the entire thing including bread from scratch, in which case I guess we can let it slide)

Coconut Oil. Coconut Oil is a healthy saturated fat which contains monolaurin made from lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride which has been widely researched for its anti microbial and anti fungal properties. Anyone who knows me knows I pipe on about this stuff all the time stating that it is just magic! From my own experience when I worked in an office I used to come down with every cough and cold going until I started putting a spoon of this in my porridge. I became superhuman (well almost) and managed whole winters without a sniffle. It is also very rare for me these days to be struck down by flu considering the amount of training, time outdoors getting drenched, muddy and being surrounded by ill people I do. You can get it in health food shops  and quite often the supermarket these days.

 

And if you do get struck down, Research has also shown that taking Zinc within 24 hours of the onset of a cold can lessen the severity.

Also take 1000mg of vitamin C 4-5+ times per day and your symptoms will clear up much faster-trust me I’ve tried this and my cold ran screaming within a day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Training Through Injury

This issue has come up a few times over the last couple of weeks. Both in a podcast I was listening to from a Physio talking about runners and with a couple of clients.

 

Training with an injury is a common problem, particularly for people who train alot.

 

It is also an issue I discuss with people who have chronic pain injuries and those recovering from surgery.

 

Sometimes exercise hurts a bit and that’s ok.

 

To be honest if I didn’t train everytime a bit of me hurt I would never train!

 

There are of course some instances when your body needs to rest. If it is an acute injury i.e you have just fallen over and your ankle hurts and there is swelling then yes don’t go out for a 10 mile run on it-but you could still train your upper body!

 

If it is an acute injury, perhaps you’re already seeing a Physio for treatment then instead of becoming a couch potato for a few months, look at exercises you can do. Maybe you can switch to machines and non weight bearing, or just training other body parts than the affected area. This keeps up the exercise habit and also makes it easier to get going again when you are ready as the rest of your body is still capable of playing a supporting role.

 

Those little niggly aches, pains and tweaks, the ones that you notice but they don’t stop you in your tracks, in most instances it’s fine and most probably beneficial to at least do some gentle exercise. I tend to suggest starting and if after 20 mins the pain has gotten significantly worse then stop and get it looked at by a Physio.I reckon most of the time it will have gone away.

 

Chronic pain Science has shown time and time again the benefit of exercise, in particular strength training but if you aren’t up to that yet start with walking, Pilates etc and build up to it.

 

For those post surgery I’m going to be brutally honest-for a bit exercise is going to hurt a little bit at first. It’s the same thing as already being a good runner and then one day going for a cycle-it hurts because your muscles aren’t used to it. Post surgery there will be a lot of scar tissue and muscle atrophy (weakness) and it will therefore take a little time for your muscles to get back into the exercise game. Start steady but don’t be put off because it is uncomfortable, it’s completely normal but if you persist it will get easier-and probably quicker than you think.

 

Finally if you really think walking or Pilates is out of the question…..there are very few things that can stop you from Swimming or in fact walking in water so no excuses!

 

Glute Gains

Bums are seriously big news at the moment. It started with J Lo, then Beyonce and then it went crazy with Nikki Minaj and the Kardashians.

I think the celebration of a shapely derriere is a good thing-not just because of course they look great in those skinny jeans (lads) but because a strong set of glutes can help to ward off back, hip and knee pain and being the biggest muscle in the body burns a lot of calories when you train it.

The problem is of course that we tend to spend a lot of time just sitting on them and they don’t always get a huge amount of work just walking around.

So lets get to building that bum like Beyonce whether you want it for injury rehab/prevention reasons or just so the person behind you can bounce a ball off it.

My first super easy life hack to help is to always go up the stairs two at a time. I promise you just doing that a couple of times per day as and when you climb stairs will start to add up-and you get up the stairs faster.

For some serious reshaping though they are going to need some work.

10 reps x 4 sets.

 

Can be done with weights or without.

Bridge Half Lifts

Hyper extension

Kneeling Squat

Sumo Squat

 

Are You In A Funk?

Are you in a bit of a workout funk?

Maybe over the summer you spent more time exercising outside and now you are back in the gym you’ve kind of lost your enthusiasm.

Well, I like to tackle this a couple of ways.

  1. Keep your workouts short. If you only know you need to do 30mins then it doesn’t seem so daunting.
  2. Keep it really simple. There’s no need for a split body part, high days, low days 6 days per week if you really aren’t even feeling like turning up at all.

Short, doesn’t have to mean HIIT training. Just doing 30 mins gentle job or cycle or a simple circuit of exercises to target a couple of body parts just a couple of days a week will be enough to at least keep you in the habit and feeling fairly fit and hopefully help to bring back your motivation long term.

I particularly like to keep it simple. Although of course there is a place for some of the more adventurous workouts, I do find it really off putting to do a workout that requires setting up lots of equipment etc. when I’m short on time. So instead I pick a couple of more bang for your buck exercises using easy to access equipment such as machines, dumbbells or kettlebells.

Here’s a couple of workouts you could try to help you get back into your routine.

10 x 4

Squat (Bodyweight, Hold a Dumbbell/Kettlebell, Use a Barbell)

Lat Pull down-Machine

Reverse Lunge (off a box if you have one nearby)Hold a weight if you want to.

Chest Press-Dumbbell or Bar

Plank-1min

Side Plank Dips

 

2.

4 Turkish Get Ups (2 each side)

10 Kettlebell Swings

10 Mountain Climbers

X 5

Up Your Energy Levels

We all rely on Caffeine-me included and of course carbs and sugar (guilty again!) but is there a better to way to sustain our energy levels.

Not just in the get more sleep and exercise way, but day to day how can we remain bright and perky all day without resorting to quick fixes.

First up and in my opinion the most over looked and important one.

Stay hydrated. Tea and Coffee don’t count! Just plain old water but also herbal teas and sugar free squash count too. I am obsessed with Herbal tea! Peppermint and Liquorice, Chai and Spearmint are my current faves.

Take supplements.-Adaptagens such as Maca powder or Ginseng can help –You can have it as a tea or blend it into smoothies or porridge.

Magnesium, although commonly used to calm nerves and muscles can have an effect on energy levels as it has an effect on your circadian rhythm (body clock) meaning adequate Magnesium aids deep sleep quality. Magnesium is commonly depleted from high caffeine intakes so if you are a regular caffeine adding topping up your magnesium might help. It is available as a supplement in a spray, bath salt or it is found in dark chocolate, green leafy vegetables (cabbage, spinach, kale) and in nuts.

Vitamin B6 and B12 are very often deficient in those with low energy levels. If you are really struggling taking a Vitamin containing both of these should help.

If you have got some serious tired, brain fog going on, I find either going outside if it’s possible even just for 10 mins or doing just 10 mins of mindfulness or meditation can help to clear your head to press back on with that to do list.

Do it for your health

Have you been yo yo dieting for most of your life, lost some weight, put it back on; got really fit then not been to the gym for months rinse and repeat? Then you got fed up of this so you’ve just given up and accepted that you will be unfit and overweight forever?

To be honest I have no problem with people who don’t want to be skinny, or who don’t enjoy the gym. The only thing I think you have a responsibility for is to be healthy-and that encompasses both from a body movement and a nutrition sense.

 

How you go about that can take many forms.

If you are overweight then there’s a good chance you aren’t eating as healthily as you could be. However if weight loss just stresses you out at the thought of it, why not instead focus on eating more vegetables, drinking more water but still enjoying your treats. This isn’t because it will help you to lose weight but because ensuring you get all the right nutrients into your body will give you the best chance of staying healthy-eating plenty of fruit and veg is the way to do this.

Ok, in terms of fitness you don’t need to be able to run a marathon but you need to be mobile enough to carry out your daily activities pain free, and to hopefully stay independently mobile into old age.

These aren’t about aesthetics they are about looking after your body so that you can hopefully prevent serious illness and remain independent into old age.

So, if it’s not your thing or you’re sick of the pressure; forget the weight loss and super fit and focus instead on adopting healthy habits to do just that-keep you healthy.

  • Keep a 1 litre water bottle on your desk and try to get through it twice per day.
  • Eat some fruit or vegetables with every meal.
  • Do some form of activity 3-5 times per week. That can be anything from a walk, an exercise class or dancing around the kitchen with your kids, whatever you enjoy doing.

These aren’t unachievable things, and if you can try and incorporate them into your life as much as you can I promise you will feel fitter and healthier, you’ll find carrying those bottles of wine easier too…..

Stop The Stress Competition

I reckon if we polled the country 99.99% would say that they are stressed. It’s become like a permanent state for many people. To be honest I feel like for many people it has become a bit of a badge of honour like if you aren’t stressed with too much to do surely that means you are lazy and not doing enough?

 

I have definitely been guilty of this in the past, and the thing is Stress is actually really bad for our health so why on earth would we celebrate that? It would be like being really pleased with yourself for drinking a lot of alcohol……..

 

So how does stress affect our bodies.

 

When we are stressed our bodies produce the hormone adrenaline. This switches on our fight or flight system as back in caveman times it was needed to help us run away from predators. Now we aren’t running away from something that might eat us,  that predator may be your boss, running late etc. Adrenaline is great in emergency situations it’s what responsible for those people that are able to lift cars off people or other crazy feats of humanity, it basically keeps us hyper alert to help us survive. In the short term adrenaline raises our heart rate and blood pressure and speeds up the metabolism of glucose in the blood. This then returns to normal when the stressful situation ends.

 

However as we are now more and more constantly stressed our bodies are producing adrenaline all the time. We struggle to return to homeostasis. This means we are at risk of prolonged high heart rate (heart palpitations) and high blood pressure, dizziness, fainting and potentially diabetes due to the Glucose metabolism. An over production of adrenaline can also be a contributor to anxiety.

 

Now just because you aren’t at the heart palpitations and fainting position doesn’t mean you don’t need to take your stress levels seriously.

 

If we continually hold stress and tension in our bodies it can cause headaches, muscular pain and stiffness. The constant tension causes us to feel constantly tired and if we then can’t relax we struggle to sleep despite the tiredness-have you ever been so tired you can’t sleep-trust me it’s a thing.

 

So what can we do?

 

Well start prioritising your well being. Stop feeling guilty for turning things down to create more time to switch off.

 

Make an effort to get plenty of sleep-the mantra of I’ll sleep when I’m dead will actually only lead you to being dead quicker than if you’d got that sleep in.

 

Find things that switch your brain off, whether that’s meditation, reading a book or watching rubbish tv-Love Island anyone…….

 

Be kind to your body, for many people the gym, running etc is a stress reliever however they can in the short term increase adrenaline so if you’re already at the burnt out stage of things try walking, gentle yoga and massage to help you relax instead.

 

And finally let’s stop making how much stress we are under and how tired we are some sort of badge of honour. Instead make time to address the imbalance and then when someone asks how you are answer “I’m great” and avoid getting into the who’s busier competition.

 

Right I’m off for some herbal tea and to read my book, Eleanor Oliphant is completely Fine by Gail Honeyman if you’re interested.

Improve your performance

When I tell people that I train athletes ranging from Horse riders, Triathletes and Golfers they presume I’m training them in those specific sports-you know like a riding instructor, running, swimming, cycling and golf coach all into one………….

That would make me a serious jack of all trades and …………….

So, if I’m not training them in their sport what am I doing to improve their performance? Well with many of them I’m improving their specific flexibility and stability needs using Yoga.

I can look firstly at the specific demands of the sport on the body and use specific exercises to improve those areas. For example riders need a flexible front hip to achieve the correct alignment, but also incredibly stable hips to maintain control of their bodies whilst riding. Yoga can be used to both open up the hips and work on stability.

I can then look at the areas which may be over used in a certain posture, over time this could cause problems resulting in injury. For example cyclists spend a lot of time in a forward dominant position with a closed chest and hips. To maintain balance in the body I give exercises to open up the front of the body. They do not need to be overly flexible at the front but a balanced front to back should be an aim to hopefully prevent over use injury.

You do not need to be an athlete of a specific sport to benefit from adding yoga into your training. Even a regular gym goer, weightlifter etc. can benefit from some proper stretching and stability work to prevent imbalances and fingers crossed ward of injury.

It is also a really good way to relax the mind and body, releasing tension that leaves fresh and ready to attack your next session. So why not try adding a yoga session into your exercise routine and see how it can improve your performance.

If you would like some specific help in your yoga routine, or perhaps you are a member of a running, cycling, triathlon club etc. and would like your own class get in touch!

 

Fresh Start September

I’m pretty sure no matter how old you get September will always have a back to school vibe.

I actually find this feeling really useful as September is a great time to regroup and reflect on your goals this year. How have you done? Have your goals changed? Then, what do you want to achieve before the end of 2018.

I don’t want to alarm anyone but there are only 16 weeks of 2018 left!

So you can take this September reboot as either

  1. What do you want to achieve before the end of 2018?

Or

  1. What do you want to achieve in 2019 that you can get a head start on now?

Whichever option you want to take, the best way to ensure success is to spend some time making yourself a plan.

I imagine over summer with holidays and the sun actually came out etc. your exercise and nutrition routine looked a little different to how it’s going to look across September and onwards into winter.

How is that going to change your exercise method and routine? Are you going to keep up those evening runs around the block or are you going to have to find a winter alternative?

Your diet might also change; salads might be swapped for soup, you may be more inclined to seek out comfort foods etc.

So, get a pen ready, piece of paper, laptop, diary whatever it is you want to use.

  • Set your goal. What do you want to achieve before the end of the year?
  • What are the steps you are going to take to get there?
  • Plan your training schedules
  • Plan your nutrition

September is your fresh start, no matter what has occurred in the previous 8 months of 2018 if there are still things you wish you had achieved you’ve still got time to get cracking, and if you’re well on your way with 2018 goals-why not get a head start for 2019!

If you want some help with your training over winter I have spots available at the studio for 1 2 1 training, and I am also available for one off goal setting and planning sessions so hit reply if you would like my help.