Challenge Yourself

I know we’re in that period where everyone is going exercise crazy, claiming this year it’s a “new me”. You’re apparently going to train 7 days a week full pelt and become a svelte gazelle. Did you also tell yourself that last year??

 

The thing is, when we use exercise purely for weight loss it becomes a punishment or trade off for food and that is an unhealthy relationship.

 

There are way more benefits to exercise than weight loss.

 

Building strong muscles prevents injury and helps to manage chronic pain conditions, back pain etc.and helps to keep you mobile well into old age. Exercise also improves bone health which again you will thank you younger self for when 80 year old you hasn’t succumbed to Osteoporosis.

 

Exercise is also good for mental health too. It has been proven many times to be effective at helping to manage depression and anxiety, and day to day can help to manage stress levels.

 

Exercise is a great way to challenge your boundaries, give you something to focus on and improve your confidence.

 

So instead of falling straight into the pit of all or nothing exercise for weight loss, this year why not train for a an event or challenge and make your exercise routine a training programme for whatever that challenge is.

 

This takes the focus from how your body looks to how it performs. Putting the hard work into training will make you stronger and fitter, you will achieve things and more than likely feel more confident because of it.

 

Now you may be the sort that goes full throttle and is now thinking “great I’ll sign up to a marathon “ which is great but if that’s not your bag you can scale the challenge to whatever level you are at.

 

Maybe you could challenge yourself to walk 7 miles per week every for a year-which could be a mile a day or a long walk at the weekend. Maybe you could aim to climb snowdon, walk some or all of Hadrian’s wall etc. Whatever interests you.

 

I’m back at Dog Agility which means I’ll probably start thinking about sprint training to help me keep up! I’d never normally entertain that sort of training but as it’s focused on an outcome I want to achieve it means I can see the benefit this sort of training will give me.

 

So, what are you going to challenge yourself to this year?.

 

Goal Preparation

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and New Year and had at least a small break to just switch your brain off and spend some time doing what you love.

How did 2018 go for you?

Do you remember those goals you set right back last January? How did you get on with those?

Did you smash them? Did you maybe make some progress but you aren’t there yet? Or did you write them off mid-year and tell yourself next year?

Perhaps your goals have changed? Life throws us curve balls and sometimes your goals can change.

I also think its fine if you don’t have grand aspirations for 2019. I have a mix of clients that have varying goals from completing Endurance events to just wanting to feel healthier and fitter throughout 2019. I also have clients that want to learn how to manage stress better in 2019.

These are all important goals to these people as of course the sense of personal achievement for those competing in events will be massive, however this does not diminish the goals of those wanting to be less stressed and feel healthier. The direct impact this goal will have on their daily lives will actually also be life changing. Imagining not feeling drained, tired and overwhelmed every day?

As I work with both these kinds of clients I actually find the basic system is very much the same.

First sit down with a pen and paper and write down your goals.

Then ask yourself what you need to do to achieve them.

If it is an event you are aiming for, then work backwards from that date and plan your training, as well as including wiggle room for injury, illness and work/family getting in the way. Then look at all the factors that will contribute; of course the training plan is first and foremost but there is also nutrition and recovery to consider. Do you need help with these things? Let me know if you do I can help!

Add all of these things into your plan and then work out how they are going to fit into your normal weekly schedule.

The same system applies if you are just looking to stay mobile, free of aches and pains or less stressed.

What do you need to do to help you achieve these things?

Do you need to take up some exercise? Do you need to improve your nutrition? Perhaps you need to become more organised and set a routine to make sure everything gets done.

Look at all of these elements and plan how you will tackle them and how they will fit into your existing normal schedule. Do you need help with any of these elements? If you do again hit reply and book your consultation.

Goal setting and achieving doesn’t have to be stressful or take over your entire life if you take the time to plan it properly and work out how to fit it around your existing commitments.

Do you know that saying “Proper Preparation Prevents P!*s Poor Performance” well it applies to all areas of your life-even if it’s just time management.

Reflect on 2018

I hope you had a nice Christmas, and aren’t quite pudding shaped yet.

I usually take this time to reflect on my year and most importantly to look back on all the positive things that have happened.

I know it can be too easy to focus on what didn’t go well particularly if some significantly awful things have happened. However I find no matter what downs the year had celebrating the ups no matter how small can reframe you’re feeling about the year gone by.

I feel incredibly fortunate that 2018 has been an amazing year for me both professionally and personally.

I’ve had the best time with my 121 clients this year, seriously we have had way too much fun that I can’t believe it’s actually my job! It’s not all been messing about though we actually got results too and I’m really proud of the part I have played in everyone’s success this year and as I tell new folks “no deaths yet!” I’ve really enjoyed working with you and I’m really looking forward to helping you keep smashing those goals in 2019.

For 2019 I am definitely going all out on the movement, strength, prehab and rehab front so expect more of that from me next year-I’ll try and convince Mr A to write some nutrition stuff for you along the way but he’s not a keen writer……

So firstly I want you to have a think about all the positive things that have happened to you this year no matter how small-maybe you lost some weight, are still doing that exercise class you signed up to months ago or maybe you’ve overcome an injury.

Secondly, how can I help you in 2019? What do you need help with? What would you like me to offer to help you?

 

Let me know and I will do my best to deliver; now I’m off to scoot on my Pony Carriage!

Christmas Balance

Ok, firstly if you haven’t done your xmas shopping stop reading this and go and do it NOW!

If you have so you’re still reading let’s go on to not coming out of Boxing Day feeling more stuffed than the turkey.

I’m not going to turn into a diet obsessed bore as I honestly don’t think you’d listen anyway! Secondly I certainly won’t be “dieting” on Christmas day, or Boxing Day for that matter.

The thing is Christmas is only one day, but I know as happens for me there are social events Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and maybe even days around that.

The thing is of course this can then turn into a fortnight long of eating and drinking.

All you can do is try and create some balance. That is firstly try as much as you can to keep up a regular exercise routine, even if those workouts are shorter or maybe it’s just a walk at lunchtime  just try to do some movement every day.

With regards to your diet and negotiating the constant stream of food that Christmas brings again, just try and keep some order but also tip the scales a little in your favour by considering the overall volume of eating you will do across the day. For example if you know you are going to a social event in the evening either eat very lightly across the whole day or skip either breakfast or lunch-I know I just suggested skipping meals! Then of course be mindful of what you are eating, if you want the mince pie etc. have the mince pie, but don’t fall into the trap of eating food just because it’s there.

Oh and eat all the vegetables, Sprouts are good for you!

So, of course enjoy yourself and have a lovely Christmas, it’s only a couple of days of loosening the buttons and so long as you’re back on track come new year I promise it will be fine-just don’t go nuts.

Above all I hope you have a lovely Christmas

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xx

Let’s call it damage limitation

Let’s be honest at some point over the festive period it’s highly likely you’re going to have too much to drink and have a teensy hang over the next day. Of course yes I’ve been there and I know you start to reach for all the carbs, maybe some serious grease and sugar.

 

Let’s breakdown the symptoms and see how we can deal with them in a more healthy way.

 

Firstly the headache is a sign of dehydration so you need to get some electrolytes in you to sort this out pronto. You could use something like Dioralyte or a Zero Sugar Sports drink (I’m thinking of your calorie content , don’t waste it on drinks!).There will be caffeine in it to perk you up too.

 

Next is the nausea or generally upset stomach feeling which can be a tricky one as obviously you eat what your stomach will allow. However a full fry up is really not the answer,but some toast with eggs and a couple of rashers of grilled bacon is a decent option.

 

A bowl of porridge with a banana and a spoonful of peanut butter is a great option of you feel the need for something warm and substantial (stop it!)

 

If you can’t face food but are going to need some energy to get you through the day make yourself a smoothie and just sip it throughout the morning. You could use whichever milk you like and add Protein powder, banana, peanut butter or use a mix of berries, or cocoa powder and hazelnuts, whatever you like!

 

The tiredness, well just trust me that continually setting yourself up with sugar will only have you crashing back down again throughout the day, so along with the above the only other thing is sleep but obviously that’s not always possible so you’re just going to have to ride it out and try and get an early night.

 

If you can try and get a gentle workout in such as a walk outside as that will help to get your blood pumping and speed up the metabolism of the alcohol, and will also make you feel more awake as the endorphins kick in.

 

I know it won’t stop you getting a hangover but if I can at least stop you inhaling all,the carbs and feeling a lot the worse the day after then my work here is done.

Exercise Snacking

Well stuff is about to start getting busy, and I imagine you’re already thinking of giving up entirely on your exercise routine because you aren’t going to have time.

 

Well I heard a new phrase the other day “exercise snacking” and no it doesn’t mean snacking whilst out for a run….

 

It actually refers to adding in really short bursts of exercise throughout the day rather than doing one long workout.

 

This makes it more achievable and it doesn’t have to be made up of “proper exercise “. It is more like that 10 min walk to the train station, doing some squats whilst you wait for the kettle to boil, skipping during the ad breaks of your favourite tv show, taking the stairs every chance you get. It also applies very well to gym goers in that if you can’t fit in your usual full routine, just nip in and do a quick 5k on the treadmill (roughly 30mins) and then go home, or pick 4 strength exercises do 3 sets of 10 and then call it a day. Then try to add as much activity into the rest of your day as mentioned above.

 

So basically don’t give up on exercise altogether just try to add 2-3 10 min active sessions across your day and at least call it damage limitation on the mince pie front.

Shoulder Tension

As promised this week I’m going to help you deal with those aching shoulders.

Of course remember that the tension itself may not be caused by the shoulders but in fact coming from your chest or neck, but I know it can still feel great to relieve the tension in the sore bits too in the mean time. Just don’t forget to keep up the work on your chest and neck in order to solve the problem long term.

The first thing I like to do is to get some movement in the shoulders. You can hunch them up to your ears then roll them back and down, make big circles with them ensuring you open your chest as you do and my favourite is to draw a figure of 8-Make a circle in front of your body then take your arm behind you and draw a circle there.

Shoulder Drops.

Lying on your back with knees bent, feet flat on the floor; take your arms up in the air palms facing each other. Reach one arm up to the ceiling and just let it drop back down, and then repeat with the other arm.

 

Again with those cheeky spikey balls (or a smooth ball if you prefer) lie on the floor or you can do this standing against a wall; place the ball between your shoulder blade and spine and put some pressure on-have a wiggle around do whatever feels good. Then move the ball down a little and repeat the process until you reach the bottom of your rib cage and then change sides.

Un-Roll Your Shoulders

Last week we looked at releasing neck tension but before we go further down the posterior chain I want to look at a really important and often missed issue when dealing with upper back pain and that is the chest muscles.

When we sit hunched forward and cause this pain in our upper backs, we have also caused shortening at the front of our chest. If we do not release this shortening no amount of massage, release work will fix the pain in the shoulders as they are still being pulled forward by the chest muscles.

So, if you are suffering with upper back and neck pain try opening up your chest first and allow your shoulders to be drawn back together.

I like to just lie over a gym ball and let my arms hangs with the weight of gravity gradually opening my chest further.

You can also try hanging out of a doorway, but ensure you really roll your shoulders back with your palms facing out.

I also like to get a ball in there to really work on the tension, which can be done just sat up using your other hand or you can lie face down and use your bodyweight to push in to the ball and roll it around to where you feel you need to release tension.

Throughout your day try and remember to un-hunch from your desk and really open up your chest, roll your shoulders back when you drive and you should find it takes the pressure off your tense upper back. But if you still need some work there we will look at that next week.

A Pain In The Neck

One area I see a lot of people struggle with is neck tension.

It’s no surprise really as firstly it has to carry your head around all day, which can be in the region of 4.5-5kg, and we often spend a lot of time hunched forward. This means constant pulling on these muscles.

It is also uncommon for people to train their necks meaning the neck muscles are often quite weak.

Neck tension in itself is uncomfortable but it can also be a major cause of headaches, and even manifest as elbow and wrist pain. This is because many of the nerves originate in the neck and travel either over the skull or down the arms to the hands. Any pulling or pressing in the neck area can then refer pain to these areas.

So, what can you do about neck tension?

Firstly have a look at your posture throughout the day. How is your head lined up over the top of your spine? It should feel like it is set directly on top, and your ears should roughly line up with your shoulders and your chin should be coming out of your neck at a straight line rather than tipped up or down. Just making this your most common posture when at your desk or driving the car will make a massive difference.

However to release the tension I don’t recommend stretching per se as the problem has come from already being in a stretched position. Instead I like to put a little pressure on the tension and just move it through its regular range of motion. This helps to release the tension and re set you back to a neutral position.

 

How do you do this?

I want you to find the two indents at the back of your head at the base of your skull. There should be a little dip and the muscle itself-which probably feels quite hard. Put your fingers in the indent and apply a little pressure. Now visualising your head sat directly on top of your spine start to tilt your head gently forward and back over the top of your spine. Start small and always keep the movement slow.  You should start to feel the tension release slightly and when you stop like you have repositioned your head on top of your spine again.

 

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.