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Stable as a Table

If you did the stability tests from last week you will know which areas need work.

Shoulders.
Ok, there are few ways to work on shoulder stability, many of which involve the arms overhead and obviously this is how we tested them. Many of them start with the shoulders over head, however I find most people struggle to over ride the upper shoulders lifting in this position and therefore cannot perform the exercise correctly. I want to make it easier for you to feel what you are trying to achieve (this is still not easy if you have particularly tense shoulders). In order to recruit your shoulder muscles more effectively we are going to focus solely on retracting the scapulars i.e using the muscles between the shoulder blades. When we spend hours hunched over desks these muscles become stretched and weak which over time causes us to over use the upper shoulders which many of you will find now sit somewhere just under your ears!

You can do this as a basic version or if you have access to a resistance band you can use that to make it a little more difficult.

Start with arms out in front at shoulder height. Relax your upper shoulders and begin to squeeze between your shoulder blades and draw your elbows back. Your upper shoulders should remain relaxed throughout. If you feel them popping up, go slower, and really squeeze your mid back and stick your chest out a little. I know this one is tough if you struggle with tense shoulders but I promise the persistence and results are worth it! Build up to 2 x 10.

Hips

We are actually going to perform the test we did for hip stability as the fix.

Start lying on your back, feet flat on the floor. Lift your elbows and put your hands on your hip bones to feel what they are doing. Go up into a bridge position and keeping your hips lifted and level lift alternate feet off the floor. If you can’t do this without falling over make the movement smaller and just lift your heel up keeping your toe down. Build up to 2 x 10 each leg.

Ankles.

Again there are many different ways of doing it, however I have kept this simple and no/minimal equipment.

Calf raises can be done on the floor, or off a step on two legs or one-if you like a challenge! If you are on the floor you just lift your heel to balance on the ball of your foot and slowly go back down again. This can be done on two legs or one. If you are using a step, balance on the ball of your feet/foot and drop the heel down and then raise it up. Do this slowly and without bouncing. Build up to 2 x 10 each side if single leg.

Are You Stable?

So far in this little mini series we have looked at flexibility, measured it and then looked at ways to improve it. Now we are going to look at mobility. I have mentioned previously Movement Expert Gray Cook describes mobility as the ability to demonstrate flexibility under load. Basically do you still have a range of movement at a particular joint when it is asked to work.

As we looked at Shoulders, Hips  and Ankles for flexibility we are going to stick with them for stability.

Starting with the Shoulders.

It is actually quite difficult to self test stability of the shoulder so what we are actually going to do is look at its function pattern during movement. The point being if it is dysfunctional in a basic movement pattern it needs work.

Standing up, put one hand on the opposite shoulder. The free arm put out in front of you at shoulder height. Draw that arm back keeping it straight. If your upper shoulder muscle pops up under your hand you failed the test. Repeat on the other side.

 

Hips-

Lying on your back, feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Lift your hips into a bridge position. Put your hands on your hip bones and lift your elbows off the floor (no cheating). Engage your glutes and abdominals and lift one foot off the floor. Does either hip drop, or move around as you do this? You failed the test. Repeat on the other side.

Ankles-

There are lots of different ways to look at ankle stability as there are ligaments going in all directions, and again it can be difficult to completely isolate without the use of a therapist. However I am going to keep this simple and fairly functional, however I should mention if you failed the hip stability test you are more than likely going to fail this one too and it may be due to your hips not ankles. However if your hips were ok and you fail this, it probably is your ankles. If you fail both you should work on improving both as they rely on each other very much for good movement patterns.

Starting feet together stand on your tip toes . Now put on foot directly in front of the other and walk a few steps. Can you do it?

I will leave you with those and next week we will look at fixing your weak spots.

 

If you would like a full screening of your flexibility and stability, and a personalised programme to address any issues book in with me in the studio for a Biomechanics Assessment.

Fix Your Flexibility

Last week we tested your flexibility, so this week I want to give you some help on improving those areas you struggled with.

 

First, your shoulders and upper back. Wall Angels works to encourage you to open your chest and really use your scapulars which in turn improves their mobility.

Stand about 2-4 inches away from a wall and put your bottom and whole back and head flat against the wall. Start with your arms bent just below shoulder height. You should be able to feel your shoulder blades touching the wall-your aim is to be able to keep them touching the wall throughout this exercise. Start to raise your arms up the wall as if going to join your hands over your head, as soon as your scapula moves away from the wall go back down and start again. Build up to 2 x 10 reps.

Next up your hips. Now as we went though 3 different areas on the hips I have 3 different fixes depending on where you felt you needed work.

So if you remember we looked at the front of the thigh first. Here is a stretch that has a basic and more advanced version depending on what level you are at.

Start kneeling up and then put one foot out a good stride length in front of you with the knee bent. You can just bring your hips forward here if that feels like a deep stretch to you, or if you need to go deeper you can put your back lower leg up against a wall (or gym ball as I have done) Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds

If your leg rolled in on the hip test you need to work on your inner thighs. Stat kneeling and take one leg out to the side as far as it with comfortably go. Put your hands out in front of you for support, and start to gently rock forward and back and then hold the stretch for 30-60 secs.

If your leg rolled out you need to work on your outer thigh. Start lying on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee. And then take hold of the leg underneath and lift it up. Hold for 30-60 seconds.

And finally the ankles. Start kneeling and put one foot out in front of you and keep your chest low on top of the thigh. Keeping the heel of the front foot down use your body weight to press the thigh gently forward and back and then hold for 30-60 secs where you feel a stretch. You may need to experiment with the position of your foot.

Get to work on these before we start looking at your stability next week!

 

I still have space for 121 clients in the studio, so hit reply if you want help hitting your goals this year.

How’s Your Flexibility?

After last week’s discussion about feeling fitter let’s start with addressing your flexibility.

We will look at some key areas and I will take you through some self-tests that you can do to find out where you maybe need to do some work.

Remember these are just starting points, don’t be disheartened if you don’t get great results, I’m here to help you improve them. We just need an idea of where you are starting so that will be able to measure how much you have improved.

Here goes then. Obviously this would be ideal if you could get a friend to help with the readings and take pictures but doing them alone is fine and just writing notes on how things felt etc. will be equally beneficial.

Upper Back/Shoulders.

Lying on your back, knees bent feet flat on the floor. Find your neutral spine and have your hands down by your side. Now raise one arm above your head whilst maintaining neutral spine.

  • If you can touch the floor behind you-Great work you have excellent upper back and shoulder mobility.
  • If your back begins to arch before you touch the floor then your upper back and shoulders need some work.

 

Hips-

You will need a sturdy table for this, or you could stack up some bales of hay or shavings. Anything that you can safely lie on without your feet touching the floor. A friend to help and validate the results is useful is possible but if not you will get a good idea of how you score on your own.

Sit yourself with your seat bones on the edge of the table. Bring one knee into your chest and lie back with the other leg still hanging off the edge.

There are three things to look for in this test.

  1. Is the hanging leg lifting off the table, staying level with the table or does the knee drop lower than the table? If it does not drop below the table your Psoas needs work.
  2. Is shin hanging less 90⁰? Hanging at 90⁰ or is it feely swinging past 90⁰? If it does not swing past 90⁰ your Quads require work.
  3. Is the thigh rolling in or out or has it stayed straight? If the thigh rolls in your adductors need work, if it rolls out your abductors need work.

Ankles-Stand about 10cm away from a wall. Feet flat on the floor. Bend one knee towards the wall keeping the heel down and ensuring that the ankle does not roll in or out.

  • If you can touch the wall-Great you have excellent ankle mobility!
  • If you were nowhere near the wall-You need some work on your ankle mobility!

 

I want to feel fitter

When I am speaking to new clients at this time of year and I ask what their goals are, I often get “I want to feel fitter.” That’s great but what exactly constitutes fitter? In reality this answer would be different for everyone. If you led a very sedentary lifestyle this could mean being able to climb the stairs at home without being out of breath, whereas if you were already fairly active it could mean being able to run a better 5k or 10k time or many other things, as I said it comes down to the individual as to what that means.

However, I think most people would agree they would like to move more freely, ache less and generally feel like day to life tasks were a bit easier. This comes down to having better all over movement and function.

In order to achieve this we need better flexibility, mobility and stability.

I think most people are aware of what flexibility is; the range of movement at muscles. Mobility is the range of movement at joints, however I tend to class flexibility as both muscles and joints so I will just refer to flexibility from hereon.

Stability I think is less considered by most people. So, what is stability? Well firstly it is what helps you to stay upright!

It is certainly not stiff, restricted movement.

There are several variations of the meaning of stability. The most relevant are.

  • The strength to stand or endure
  • The property of a body that causes it when disturbed of equilibrium or steady motion to develop forces or movements that restore the original condition
  • Movement specialist Gray Cook describes stability as “The ability to demonstrate our flexibility under load.”

I particularly like Gray Cooks’ definition as I think it highlights that flexibility and stability are aligned.

If we have true stability we will have good movement patterns overall  from a good squat and deadlift pattern to then carry over to everyday tasks like picking things up off the floor, carrying bags of shopping etc. It is these daily activities that we often do in a less than ideal pattern that contribute to our aches, pains and injuries.

As part of your “new year new you” goals perhaps we should all address our flexibility and stability and begin to fix any areas in which we fall short.

You can ponder that idea for a week and then next week I will take you through some self tests for flexibility.

 

Just 4 spaces left for 1 2 1 training at the Studio so get in touch if you want some help to achieve your goals this year.

Dieting Mind Tricks

Following on from last week’s mindset newsletter, I’m going to stick with the theme but this week more closely related to how our mind works around diet and weight loss.

I read an interesting study in which one group of participants were given a 380 Calorie milkshake and told it was either a 640 calorie milkshake or a 140 calorie milkshake. The levels of Ghrelin (the hormone that tells you when you are hungry) were tested – Before whilst reading (the misleading) label, whilst drinking and after drinking the milkshake.

Now remember everyone has had the same milkshake it is just their perception of the calorie content that is different.

Those that thought it was a 140 calorie milkshake showed a fairly flat Ghrelin response, whereas those that thought it was the more indulgent 640 calorie milkshake showed a steeper decline in Ghrelin-meaning they were more satiated and not hungry. Interesting……

“The study therefore concluded that the effect of food consumption on ghrelin may be psychologically mediated, and mind-set meaningfully affects physiological responses to food.”http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21574706

So, in the real world obviously it would be quite difficult to lie to yourself about that “indulgent lettuce” and I’m sure you have all had that feeling when you’ve eaten a low calorie cake and still had a cake craving afterwards………………………..so you eat more of them……………….

Whereas if you have the full fat cake and really enjoy it, you still say in your head “ooh I could eat that again” but you tend not to because you’ve already subconsciously told yourself that you’ve had enough cake (like Enough cake is a thing…..sniggers). Or think of it this way, when you drink really good wine, you tend to savour it, enjoy the flavour and therefore drink less whereas if your cracking open the Blossom Hill (c’mon I know you’ve all done it) well let’s just say you don’t really savour that so much.

So once again it appears I’m telling you to eat all the cake, drink all the wine………………….but what I’m actually saying is eat food you are going to be really satisfied with and enjoy eating. If you force yourself to eat “diet” food that you don’t enjoy your head will keep telling you to seek out more food until it eats something you enjoy and is therefore satisfied.

So Eat less of More Taste, not Eat more of Less Taste. Your brain knows what you’re up to and it isn’t fooled.

 

Whether You Think You can or You Can’t You are Right – Henry Ford

Whether you think you can or you can’t – You are right. Henry Ford

This really is true in health and fitness. What your mind tells you has a huge impact on your actions and therefore the outcome of your goal. I think this is seen most in Endurance events, no matter how much you train for a marathon, triathlon, iron man etc. at some point during that race even the elites are going to feel like their legs won’t carry them any further. It’s at this point their mind tells them they can and will finish. If their mind tells them they won’t finish there is a good chance they are going to stop and call it a day.

So on your weight loss journey what are you telling yourself? If you start with a negative mind-set telling yourself that you will always be overweight, you will never fit into your skinny jeans then your actions will reflect that.

What is Mind-set and can you control it?

Your Mindset is the beliefs you hold about yourself.

Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, wrote in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, that there are two different types of mindsets: fixed and growth-oriented.

  • People with a fixed mindset think talent alone creates success. When faced with a challenge, they tend to take the easy way out to avoid failure and embarrassment. This is a psychological principle known as self-handicapping.
  • People with a growth mindset believe they can improve their abilities and create successes by working hard, practicing, and learning. They take on challenges even at the risk of failing. They embrace failure because they know they’ll learn valuable lessons from it.

So which Mindset are you?

If you are growth mindset then I imagine you are already telling yourself you will succeed, you can lose that extra half stone and you will keep it off. Your right, you can and will!

If you are a fixed mindset don’t worry. The mind is like a muscle, the more your work it and feed it the more it will grow.

First, start to acknowledge your negative thoughts. Then start to reframe them, if you hear yourself say “I can’t lose weight I will slip up eating out” say to yourself “There will be obstacles along the way but as long as I keep getting back on track I will succeed”. The more you practice talking positively to yourself the easier it will become.

I also find surrounding myself with positive images/examples helps me to believe my dreams are possible. I have read autobiographies of successful people; I listen to podcasts showcasing ordinary people who achieved incredible things. I have no time for listening to studies and statistics that say according to the numbers the odds are against me, so what if out of 100 people only 2 people succeeded at………………….what if I’m one of those 2? What if you ran the study again and nurtured all 100 on their mindset of achieving? How many would succeed then?

So whatever your goal, have a look at your mindset on the chances of your success? If your mind isn’t telling you that you are absolutely going to smash it, work on your mindset first and the road to success will follow.

Exercise Habit

Well I think the little bit of sunshine at the weekend reminded us all that summer is on its way (well I sincerely hope it is!) Suddenly everyone has started upping the exercise routine, jumping on new programmes, new diets and planning their summer bodies.

This is all great but unfortunately many people will give it everything they’ve got for a couple of months and then fall off the wagon just as the sun comes out.

Usually this is because they don’t make a plan that is sustainable in their lifestyle. Sure in 6 weeks going hell for leather you can make some drastic changes, but then you hit burn out or boredom and you can’t maintain it; and as one of my very wise clients once said “why would you want to borrow your ideal body to then hand it back?”

So how can we create an effective exercise programme that will get the results we are after but we can also stick to long term?

  • Pick exercise that you enjoy! I say this all the time there is no point forcing yourself to take up running or heavy weight lifting if you hate it. Of course if you want a bodybuilders body then you have to train like one, but that’s for you to decide. If you’re just after fitting in your jeans a bit better or feeling less harpooned whale in a bikini on the beach then doing something you enjoy 3-4 times per week will make a huge difference. A bigger difference than those 2 visits to that HIIT gym class that you hate.
  • Don’t overdo it. I know, I know you have all of this new found enthusiasm and want to go to the gym and lift heavy stuff every day but in a few weeks you will feel tired, drained and potentially injured. So make sure you also take time to rest and recover properly from your new routine, especially if you are new to exercise. You could treat yourself to a massage, get friendly with a foam roller or some gentle yoga, this will all help to keep you in tip top condition to keep that summer body in sight.
  • Consider what you want to achieve long term. This follows on from point one. If you want to look like a bodybuilder or get on stage in a fitness competition then Zumba ain’t gonna cut it. Do you want all round strength and cardio fitness or do you want to be more flexible – (I’m still hoping to get in the splits one day!)Think about this when you decide what kind of programme you are going to start. Does it fit with your long term goals?
  • Following on from that. Be realistic and consider whether you goals conflict and may need to be split. For example it is quite difficult to build serious muscle and lose body fat at the same time. Sure training more and losing body fat will help to make you look more muscular ( or “toned” ladies) but if you want to get seriously stacked and have a couple of stone to lose, you will need to shift the fat first and then move on to bulking.
  • Nail your Nutrition! I’m sorry no matter what your wiry friend who eats crisps for breakfast says, for us mere mortals you can’t out train a bad diet! So clean up your diet and eat right to support your training and results will come.
  • Consistency is key, so get a programme and stick to it. I don’t care if its Joe Wicks lean in 15 or bodybuilding.com get hench on your bench. Get a programme to match your goals or get a trainer to write one for you and follow it. Don’t mix it up with 3 different programmes or just wing it round the gym. To get results you need a structure and progression and most importantly you need to stick to it!

So off you go and join the summer panic pumping…………………………..

Forming Good Habits

The key to successful weight loss and long term health is establishing healthy habits. That is things to aid your health and/or weight loss that you do every day as part of your ongoing lifestyle.

Unfortunately maintaining these healthy habits can be the toughest part of our journey.

So how do we make them stick?

Firstly don’t take on 10 new habits all at once. Pick one new healthy habit just a small one and achieve it daily. This could be anything from aiming to drink 2 litres of water, eating protein at every meal or doing something active every day. 

Plan how you will achieve this new habit. Will there be a trigger to perform it like waking up, leaving work etc. Or will you need to set a reminder on your phone, leave a note out etc. To make it a habit you need to have a trigger to make you perform it.

Plan how you will overcome obstacles, who will support you and what is your motivation for this habit. It can sometimes be useful to have someone hold you accountable, whether that be a friend or family member or a coach. There are also some great forums and online groups that you can share your journey with other people with similar goals. This can give you a sense of accountability but also support.

How will you log this habit? You could use an app on your phone (there is literally an app for everything including how much water you drink) or you could print out a chart on your wall.

Stick to this new habit for 30 days. Hopefully after that it will actually be a habit! This is when you can add in another habit

Reward yourself for achieving your new habit every day for a month. However make sure the reward doesn’t counteract the habit i.e. don’t reward yourself for staying off chocolate for 30 days with a big bar of chocolate! I rewarded myself with new workout/work clothes for losing a stone on my weight loss journey, and I also have rewards planned for the next half stone mark and the next full stone mark. None of the rewards are food related though!

Be open to adjusting your habit if you feel it isn’t sustainable long term. There is no failure in deciding that 20 mins exercise every day is more manageable than an hour. It has to work for you long term. Just tweak the goal and keep sticking to it day in day out for 30 days.

So in 30 days’ time you could have a whole new healthy habit…………………………what is yours going to be? Let me know!

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Exercise Equivalent Labelling

So last week a new initiative was discussed in that food manufacturers should put exercise equivalent to burn of the calories in their products. Apparently this will make us all do more exercise and solve our weight problems…………………….

It has become more common on recent years for restaurants to put the calorie content next to menu items so I guess this is just upping the ante.

Like would you like a chocolate muffin and 500 burpees? Would it make you think twice? I’ll be honest it probably would for most people. I know I definitely look at calorie content on certain foods but I do have concerns with this new scheme.

You see at the end of the day we do need to eat, we need food for fuel for all of body systems, organs, cell renewal alongside moving round and using our brains so we don’t have to burn off all of our food! There is also the fact that the nutrient density of food will determine how many of those calories your body actually uses for cell repair and/or energy and how many it will deem useless and store as fat. That big calorie Avocado will be burnt much easier than that small calorie low fat (read pointless) yoghurt.

Yes in its basic form calories in and calories out does determine whether we lose or gain weight, but how long it takes us to burn off a mars bar is actually going to be different in all of us.

Firstly because of our current weight and metabolism, my rate of burning calories is not the same as say Mr A’s-he is bigger and more muscular and therefore will burn it faster than me. Secondly, say the suggestion of 20mins on a bike, how fast is it? What does my heart rate need to be? What is the resistance, uphill or flat? Do you see what I mean? I could burn 200 calories in a very short of long space of time.

I know this from personal experience of my riding lessons. I wear my Fitbit and sometimes will look how many calories I burn from start to finish in the 45 minute lesson. Despite them being pretty similar in terms of content the calorie burn is actually going down each week. As my body has got back into the swing of it I’m not working as hard, it also hasn’t been as cold, nor has it been particularly hot so this may also influence it. I have had readings from 300 to 600 calories so quite a big difference! That’s from the same person, doing the same activity on the same horse! The Fitbit itself is not 100% but most studies have shown up to 20% variants so although still not 100% it’s as close as I’m going to get without a sports science lab following me around.

I think what worries me is the unhealthy relationship this could cause with food. It essentially gives us the mind-set that is common in people with eating disorders-food is bad and you must be punished for eating it! Food is not bad, in fact chocolate and prosecco are not “BAD” foods, are they nutritionally optimal-no but including small amounts of them in your diet should not mean you also have to run a marathon that week-unless you really want to!

It also puts me in the mind-set of what is predominantly women (sorry ladies) who will go to the gym spend half an hour dawdling on a cross trainer watching the kardashians and then have a piece of cake afterwards because they “earned” it. Said women then wonders why she does not lose weight despite all these hours spent on the cross trainer.

So I get what they are trying to do here and maybe it will make people think twice before eating higher calorie foods if they do not currently have a disposition to exercise. But I think most people know they shouldn’t be eating fast food and cake every day the reason they do it runs much deeper than lack of knowledge or laziness and continuing along the trend of eating food should be punished I think will only compound those behaviours further.

I’d like to be completely proved wrong on this

and suddenly see people shunning junk food but …………………………….