Sleep.....and 7 ways to improve it

 

Sleep is absolutely essential to good health and fat loss. Anyone who has suffered from sleep deprivation or insomnia knows that lack of sleep can affect every aspect of your life from your work, your relationships and most definitely your health.
Every person needs different amounts of sleep but it is recommended that we get 7-9 hours a night (all the new parents that are reading this are laughing at this figure!!!)

So here are my top 7 tips to getting a good nights sleep:

1. Make your room as dark as a cave. Turn all lights off - even the standby light on the TV. Make it as dark as you can. Use black out blinds if necessary

2. Try using a Magnesium oil before you go to bed. Spray a small squirt on your neck and shoulders and massage it in. 

3. No electronic devices near your bed. This means turning off your phone, computer, digital clock - anything that has electrical interference. If needs be, go and buy a good old fashioned alarm clock, or worse case scenario use your phone but don’t leave it charging by your bed and make sure it is on airplane mode.

4. Don't go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet. Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night

5. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces your body's sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. There's a caveat, though. If you don't fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you're tired. If you agonise over falling asleep, you might find it even tougher to nod off.

6. When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start with the basics, such as getting organised, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend. Before bed, jot down what's on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.

7. Bathe in Epsom Bath salts. Epsom bath salts are Magnesium Sulphate which has numerous health benefits, one of which is decreasing stress. Stress drains the body of magnesium and increases levels of adrenaline. When dissolved in warm water, Epsom salt is absorbed through the skin and replenishes the level of magnesium in the body. The magnesium helps to produce serotonin, a mood-elevating chemical within the brain that creates a feeling of calm and relaxation.

The occasional night of bad sleep happens to all of us but if your sleep is consistently poor it is worth taking a visit to your doctor to check for any underlying causes.

Wishing you all a very good nights sleep!

Holistic Core Restore® Express

Holistic Core Restore is a truly unique core restore program designed for women of any age, shape, size or circumstance. It educates women on their pelvic floor and core muscles and gives them life long skills to remain strong in these areas. The 'Express' part is truly magical! All the wonderful things from the HCR program are transferred onto the Power Plate. The Power Plate is a Whole Body Vibration device that strengthens muscles, increase bone mineral density, improves flexibility and improves circulation.

To try out the Power Plate or the Holistic Core Restore® program then please get in touch

Kettle bells

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Kettle bells really are nothing new so I’m not here to introduce a fantastic new piece of fitness equipment, however they are most definitely having a comeback! With Interval Training being such a big deal in the fitness industry the kettle bell has become a firm favourite of many personal trainers and group exercise instructors across the UK. The kettle bell originates from the 1700s in Russia, the soviet army used them as part of their conditioning and training programs. Now there are international kettle bell lifting competitions and it is regarded as a sport. The kettle bell is usually made out of cast iron, although recently sports manufacturers have started to use plastic and rubber. It has a unique shape where the majority of the weight is at the bottom of the object unlike dumb bells where the weight is more evenly distributed. It’s this shape that gives the kettle bells a unique workout, the shape allows for a swinging movement as the weight is as far away from the body as can be.

There are 7 key moves or ‘lifts’ that can be performed with a kettle bell and thousands of variations on these moves so one can never get bored of a kettle bell workout! The key moves are The Swing, The Front Squat, The Windmill, The Clean, The Snatch, The Press and my ultimate favourite The Turkish Get Up! By doing a combination of these 7 moves you can guarantee fast results.

Most of the moves involve your legs, back, arms, shoulders and abs which equates to a whole body workout. Due to the this ‘whole body’ approach kettle bell training is a great way to get strength training and cardiovascular training in one workout. Which is ideal for people with busy lives and limited time to exercise.

The kettle bells range from 4kg - 64kg and can now be purchased from high street retailers. As far as fitness equipment goes they are inexpensive baring in mind their versatility. The same kettle bell can be used for almost every body part so one bell (or two if you want a tougher workout) is all you need. The workouts can vary each session and are always fun to do. Once you perfect a move with a lighter weight it leaves you desperate to try the same move with a heavier weight. Within 6 weeks you should see some great results.

A lot of the movements using the kettle bell originate from The Swing so getting the technique right for that is absolutely key. Due to this swinging motion it is advised you seek out the help of a fitness professional who holds a kettle bell qualification. If the movements are performed incorrectly then you will increase the chance of neck, shoulder and back injuries.

Happy kettle belling!

Cortisol, Stress and Post Natal Fat Loss

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A few important factors to consider when seeking fat loss in the Post Natal period.

  • During Pregnancy and the early Post Natal period, Cortisol is NATURALLY ELEVATED! In the Post Natal period the thought is that the elevated Cortisol and other stress hormones have the effect of keeping the mother alert and aware of any possible dangers to the infant and may have a role in the attachment process.
  • The physical stress of labour and birthing, alongside the stresses of adjusting to early motherhood and poor sleeping patterns/lack of sleep means that Cortisol levels may remain high well into the Post Natal period making it difficult for mothers to lose weight post birth.
  • During pregnancy, the hormonal signals have been set to ensure fat is stored in preparation for feeding the baby.
  • Being an older mother is also a factor in holding fat as sadly, by the mid to late 30’s the body is preparing for menopause. And the ultimate paradox........as women head towards menopause the body will automatically be reluctant to let go of fat around the middle as this is where Oestrogen is mainly manufactured. This happens because the body knows that Oestrogen will help protect our bones from Osteoporosis so the body tries to hold onto the fat to hold onto the Oestrogen to prevent Osteoporosis which it obviously deems to be a greater threat than having a fat belly!
  • The ULTIMATE blow comes in the fact that.......abdominal fat cells have four times as many receptors for Cortisol than anywhere else in your body so if you’re continually too stressed, your abdominal fat cells will be calling out for Cortisol and encouraging the body to store fat around the abdominals!
  • Adrenaline & Cortisol are the two main stress hormones produced by the Adrenal glands. Totally useful when we need to get out of danger, not so great when our modern life and stress levels keep us chronically in a state of over-production.
  • Both hormones circulating in the system increase appetite and then drive the stressed individual to consume – guess what? More carbohydrate and fat!
  • Fat is stored around the middle simply because there, it’s closer to the liver where it can be quickly accessed to be converted back into energy if needed.
  • Natural Cortisol levels that we need to wake us up and go about our business in the daytime can remain elevated by STRESS! They can also be elevated by a house too brightly lit in the evening time, and overstimulation via watching TV and working late.
  • Excessive production of Cortisol leads to adrenal fatigue which presents itself as chronic fatigue syndrome, infections, musculoskeletal aches and pains and headaches, the list goes on....and on.
  • Obeying our natural rhythms of sleep and rest - our CIRCADIAN RHYTHM allows the adrenals to rest and Human Growth Hormone to be produced - vital for optimal fat metabolism.
  • Caffeine, sugar, tobacco and LOW BLOOD SUGAR create EMERGENCY situations within our systems and signal STRESS, they are ALL best avoided!

Cauliflower and coconut mash - your fight against starchy carbs!

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Cauliflower and Coconut Mash YOUR MOST IMPORTANT WEAPON IN YOUR BID TO REDUCE YOUR CONSUMPTION OF STARCHY CARBS!

1. Steam or boil 1-2 large heads of cauliflower.

2. When tender, put in a big bowl and add 1/4 teacup of coconut milk, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and apply masher until you get a consistency that looks like mashed potato.

3. That's it!!! Then put in a Tupperware and keep in the fridge ready to replace the rice, potatoes, pasta that was previously on your plate.

4. This can be used to top your normal 'home comfort' foods such as shepherds pie, fish pie, cottage pie etc instead of white potato.

Shhhhhh.....It's Your Pelvic Floor

Shhhhhh......it’s the muscle we don’t talk about.....Your pelvic floor!I know some people won’t even have finished reading the title of this piece before clicking the backspace key on to something less ‘embarrassing’,  but for those of you who are still reading I thank you!

Your pelvic floor is one of the most important muscles in your body but we don’t dare talk about it. It seems we just hush over it and in reality we really should talk about it more. We all have one and at some point in our lives we are all going to need to know a bit more about it. So before you need to know I thought I’d share some info with you.

Your pelvic floor muscles are located internally between your legs and run from your pubic bone at the front of your body all the way to the base of your spine. They act as a sling between the legs supporting your bladder and bowel movements. As you get older your pelvic floor can become weak which can lead to incontinence and can also cause reduced sensitivity during sex.

The reason I’ve chosen to write about this, is because no-one ever dares talk about it yet incontinence pads are taking up more and more of our supermarket shelves, more pages in our glossy magazines and more advertising time on our TVs so someone must be buying them!

Anyone can be affected with pelvic floor issues, however the older you are and if you have given birth then your chances of having pelvic floor problems are increased. Another issue that can affect your pelvic floor is if you are overweight which unfortunately is on the increase also.

Your pelvic floor supports your bowel, bladder and uterus (womb), so your pelvic floor controls when you empty your bladder or bowels. If you have a weak pelvic floor you may find you accidentally leak a little wee when you cough, sneeze or exercise, or you may have difficulty holding in wind.

As you get older, if your pelvic floor is weak it is possible for your uterus to ‘sag’ down. This is called a prolapse. Some studies show that four in ten women have some degree of prolapse. Now there is no need to panic - there is something really, really simple we can do about it.

How to train our pelvic floor.

We can do Kegels named after the gynecologist Dr Arnold Kegel who invented the exercises. Imagine you are trying to stop yourself from passing wind and trying to stop your flow of urine mid-stream at the same time. You should feel a squeeze and a lift from your front passage to your back passage.

It sounds easy but please make sure you are getting the lift without clenching the buttocks, pulling in your tummy, squeezing your inner thighs together and holding your breath. Hold the contraction for a few seconds and then let go. The letting go part is just as important as the holding on part. Try and repeat this 8-10 times. You can do this a few times each day, no-one will know you are doing them so you could even do them at your desk at work!

Once you have mastered the ‘lift and squeeze’ try and vary the speed so try 10 fast contractions. You can do these throughout the day and try to make pelvic floor exercises part of your daily routine. You’ll be so grateful you did when you sneeze! Although this article does talk a lot about women and female pelvic floors, there is no reason why men shouldn’t do pelvic floor exercises too. There are many leading sex experts that believe a strong pelvic floor can increase awareness of sexual sensations and enhance enjoyment in both men and women.......now there’s a good reason to do your pelvic floor exercises!

The Battle Of The Diets

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It’s January.....Let the diet begin!How many of you have said that in the last few days? There’s something about the start of a new year that make us want to have a fresh start with our health and fitness and why not? If the turning of a year is what you need to kick start a diet then so be it. But what diet to choose?? There are so many diets out there it’s hard to know what is going to work for you. I’ve compiled 4 of the most popular diets and broken them down for you.

Atkins Diet How it works: The Atkins diet, named after it’s creator Robert Atkins involves limiting carbohydrates in your diet to alter the body’s metabolism to burn fat. It has been highly publicised with many celebrity endorsements and most famously by Robert Atkins himself. It has a four stage approach; Induction, where you have an intake of less than 20 grams of carbohydrates  per day (12-15 grams of which must come in salad, fruit or veg), Ongoing Weight Loss which allows for an incremental increase of carbohydrates, Pre-Maintenance, which allows some of the previously ‘forbidden foods’ to creep back in and finally Lifetime Maintenance.

The pros:

  • The diet works. Thousands of people around the globe have lost weight following the Atkins plan.
  • Easy to eat out. Many restaurants are used to people asking for their meals minus the potatoes of the bread etc.

The cons:

  • Questions asked whether it is ‘healthy’ A lot of meat is consumed in this diet so there is a potential risk of eating a lot of fat, raising your cholesterol and in very severe cases causing kidney disease and gout.
  • It’s expensive. Analysis shows that the Atkins diet was 80% higher than the average shoppers food bill.
  • Not ideal for vegetarians. Due to the restriction on carbohydrates and encouragement of eating meat, a vegetarian or vegan would find this diet near enough impossible.

Weight Watchers: How it works: Each dieter is given a number of points per day and the goal is to stick to the points you’re given. Each meal has a number and it gets deducted from the daily total. You can earn extra points by taking part in sport and exercise. It’s basis is a low calorie, high fibre diet where you burn more calories than you consume.

The pros:

  • Tonnes of support. Weight Watchers have really emphasized the ‘we’re in it together’ aspect of dieting which works brilliantly.
  • You can still have cheat meals as long as you are within your points. So if you know you have a big night out or a fancy dinner you can exercise to gain more points
  • If team meetings and weekly weigh ins are not your thing then everything can be done online.

The cons:

  • It can get pricey. Once you have paid for your joining fee and weekly membership it soon adds up. Especially if you buy the Weight Watchers branded food too.
  • From feedback from members I know say a lot can depend on the Weight Watchers leader. Some leaders are born inspirers, some aren’t. So if you don’t get on with your particular leader then switch (or use the online service).

Paleolithic diet: How it works: This diet takes us back to basics. Eat like our ancestors: meats, nuts, seeds, fruit and veg, drink plenty of water and exercise in short bursts. This diet can seem a little extreme but if we refer back to our history books it is eating exactly as our ancestors did thousands of years ago. The theory is that our bodies haven’t evolved as much as our diets have and we can’t keep up. We’re not designed to eat processed foods, complex, starchy grains and hydrogenated fats, we were designed to eat fresh meat and fish, fresh fruit and veg and drink water - lots of it!

The pros:

  • Body fat drops almost instantly. I had one client lose 13 pounds in 2 weeks following this diet and he has kept every ounce off (and lost a lot more since then too!)
  • Less prone to illness and disease as you are eating clean, healthy food. Lots of vitamins and minerals absorbed due to high amount of vegetables and fruit.
  • Once the routine is established it’s really easy to maintain.

The cons:

  • Expensive. Meat, nuts, fruit and veg are probably double the price of starchy carbohydrates and fatty foods
  • Difficult for vegetarians to follow but not as much so as the Atkins diet as there is no restriction on the amount of veg you can eat.
  • Can be difficult to follow if you are used to a high carbohydrate diet (sandwiches, pasta, jacket potatoes etc)

Jenny Craig: How it works:

All your meals and snacks get delivered to your door in pre-sealed containers that you either put in the fridge or freezer and follow the diet plan they have set you. It’s based around a low calorie, high fibre diet. The meals are balanced and follow a calorie intake of between 1300-2300 calories per day depending on age, gender and physical activity levels. You receive a weekly call from your counsellor where they discuss how you’re feeling and make any alterations required, they offer motivation and support.

The pros:

  • Everything is done for you. The planning, food preparation, snacks - everything!
  • A good variety of foods on offer so would be hard to get bored following this plan
  • Support from a weight loss counsellor

The cons:

  • It’s very expensive. Prices range from £9-11 per day. Their website states that “Jenny Craig isn’t anymore than you would spend on food in a month normally” If I’m honest I’m not so sure.
  • It doesn’t teach you good habits. If you rely solely on eating the food that is prepared for you then you aren’t learning to cook healthy foods or choosing healthy foods when you’re out and about on you own. I’m sure it’s great to follow but in the long term I think it would be difficult to come off the program (I guess that’s what they want though!)

Conclusion: For me I always believe a diet is only as good as the person doing the diet. People will lose weight with any eating plan because they are sticking to a regime, whether it be low carb, low fat, high protein, high fibre - if you are controlling what goes in your mouth then you will undoubtedly lose weight. Personally I follow the paleolithic diet. I lost 4 stone after the birth of my first baby and 3 after the birth of my second and am now pre-baby weight. I believe the key to good health and good weight loss is to eat clean, healthy food and most importantly..... eat enough of it. If you reduce your calories too much you will of course lose weight but when you get bored of feeling hungry or have a bad day and binge eat, your weight is going to ping right back where it was (and perhaps even heavier!)

Want Flat Abs.....Read This!

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Want flat abs? Are you wasting your time doing crunches? I get asked pretty much on a daily basis “how do I get flat abs” and I’m sure I’m not the only personal trainer in the country who gets asked this. Often people tell me they are doing 500 crunches a day as if seeking approval from me and I’m afraid all I can say in return is “why?” and follow that up with “is it working?” I have yet to meet anyone say ‘yes it is’. So why do we insist on doing these ab crunches? I know it makes sense ‘if you want to tone your tummy then work your tummy’ but sadly our body doesn’t work in that way.

The abdominal muscles are a complex muscle structure, they provide us with movement throughout our torso and work in conjunction with the muscles in our back to hold us upright and to help us go about our daily movements with ease.

There are many factors that can affect the size and shape of your tummy including age, gender, stress, hormones, food and exercise, so an ab crunch or sit up is not the answer at all. A much more rounded approach is certainly the key.

Everyone has a ‘6 pack’ but unfortunately for most people it is hidden under a layer of excess body fat or in some cases excess skin (especially where a substantial weight loss has occurred or post pregnancy), if we were to do hundreds of ab crunches then it would still be hidden under that layer of fat so this is what we need to address before anything else.

How to lower your body fat.

First and foremost, diet. To unveil those beautiful abs we need to lower the amount of fat in your body and the best way to have the biggest impact is the food you eat. As mentioned in previous blogs the best way to do this is to eat clean and fresh food. Ditch the processed foods and opt for lean meat, fresh vegetables and fruit and avoid foods such as bread, pasta and rice.

Secondly, exercise. I know I’ve said a hundred times already, ab crunches aren’t the answer but I’m going to say it again - ab crunches aren’t the answer, don’t waste your time! We need to look at whole body exercises such as lunges with the arms going over head, squats with the arms going over head, even exercises such as sprinting short distances or speed cycling short distances can all help with losing the excess tummy. We need to get your heart rate elevated for short, sharp bursts rather than long, endurance style training.

Finally, stress. I know we all deal with different levels of stress on a daily basis and the majority of the time we can address it and deal with it but the amount of stress in your life can have an impact on the size of your tummy.

Cortisol is an important hormone in the human body, it is commonly known as the “stress hormone” because it is secreted when the body is in a fight or flight situation. When you are put in a stressful situation your body secrets more cortisol to deal with the situation facing you. It has some very positive effects on the human body including a quick burst of energy for survival reasons, heightened memory function and lower sensitivity to pain. Whilst this response is a helpful way of dealing with short term stress we often forget (or don’t have time) to allow our body to return back to it’s state of relaxation therefore our cortisol levels remain high.

High cortisol levels have been shown to have negative effects such as higher blood pressure, decreased bone density, decreased muscle tissue and increased abdominal fat. So if we want to get our tummies looker trimmer then we need to find a way to relax, unwind and allow our cortisol levels to be reduced.

For those of you who have been crunching your way to flat abs, please, please stop as now you have the secret formula!

Be Fit For The Slopes

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Every years thousands of us hit the slopes for a bit of winter ski therapy but unfortunately there are many injuries to be had on those slippery slopes. Let’s avoid being a statistic and prepare our bodies for the slopes........ I’m sure you have all the equipment you need, new skis, new coats, gloves, sun visors and new boots, you feel ready, but is your body really ready?

Skiing is a fabulous, exhilarating sport but it is just that, a SPORT and should be taken seriously or injury can easily occur. One third of all ski injuries are knee related, ranging from minor bruising to torn ligaments.

A pre-season ski program should consist of cardiovascular, flexibility, balance and agility exercise and should also include plyometric/explosive training.

The cardio training ideally needs to start as soon as you book your trip. These cardio workouts can be anything that gets your heart rate up to a slightly uncomfortable level but where you can still maintain conversation (around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate) This can be done by walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, anything that elevates your heart rate. This should be done 3 times per week for 30-60 minutes at a time.

It would be a great idea to include some anaerobic (literally meaning without oxygen) into your cardio training as there will be moments on the slopes where you can’t catch your breathe. Do this by adding in some sprints for 30-60 seconds then ease back down to your normal pace - do this 5 times.

The next training component is strength and stability. Throughout your ski trip you will undoubtedly feel muscles you’ve not felt for a while but the last thing you want is to be is in agony for the first 3 days of a 5 day trip. So you need to condition your muscles accordingly. It’s obvious you need strong legs for skiing but it’s also imperative you condition your core and upper body too. A strong core will help with balance and agility and could, in a worse case scenario, save you from a rather nasty fall.

All your exercises need to work in different planes of motion; Frontal (side-to-side), Sagittal (front-to-back) and Transverse (rotational), there are thousands of exercises that can be performed but a few of my favourites are:

Squats - using a weighted bar or dumb bells, lunges in different directions and dead lifts as these strengthen the lower back too.

You can also start to incorporate stability training devices such as the stability ball (also known as a Swiss ball)  or a Bosu ball (a half ball). The instability of these pieces of equipment make your stabilising muscles work harder so they are more conditioned for the slopes.

Core work is essential, as I mentioned earlier, it could save you from some unpleasant injuries should you fall but it can also help increase your speed and ability to change direction AND help you balance better. Exercises such as the plank, oblique twists and side planks will all help to strengthen your core.

The next component and normally the most forgotten, is flexibility. Tight muscles are unhappy muscles. It’s important you have flexibility in your hip flexors (the muscles that run across the front of your hip), your hamstrings, your calves, gluteals (bottom) and core muscles, in particular your lower back. A good flexibility program can be performed up to 5 times per week and should be done when your body is warm. An ideal time would be after your workout when your muscles are at their most pliable. Static stretches for 20-30 seconds will be ideal.

The final component of your pre-season training will be explosive training. This is not to be done until you have done a strength program and are competent at it for at least 6 weeks. Your explosive program should include plyometric exercises which are jumping, bounding, leaping, springing style exercises. These exercises have a powerful take off and a controlled landing - much like that on a ski slope. It is designed to improve reaction time and co-ordination of fast movements, which in turn should make you a better skier.

The first thing to do now is work out how much time you have until you hit the slopes and how much time you can commit to training. Write it down - what you’re going to do and when and STICK to it. You don’t want to regret not doing anything on the first day of your holiday. Better to have a bit of sweat and tears now than blood and tears on the slopes!

Avoid Winter Weight Gain

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There is no denying that summer is officially over (pretty much before it even began!) and with the colder winter months generally comes the stodgy winter warmers and reduced exercise. With this reduced exercises and tasty food an average Brit will gain weight or ‘winter padding’ as some might like to call it. Let this year be different! Follow my top tips to avoid that winter weight gain and enjoy the colder months being healthy, lean and fit!

Get outside whenever you can. Natural day light triggers messages in a part of your brain called the hypothalamus which controls your mood, your appetite and your sleep so during the winter months you have a double hit; increased appetite but less inclination to exercise so weight gain is an obvious result. Get as much daylight as you can. I know it’s cold outside but you will feel so much better for getting 30 minutes fresh air and natural light each day. Another way to help increase daylight is phototherapy, a form of light therapy. Light therapy has been shown to be effective in up to 85 percent of diagnosed cases. Special phototherapy lamps can be purchased online on sites such as Amazon and John Lewis for around £30-£70.

Avoid the stodge This time of year generally means goodbye to the healthy salads and hello to comfort foods such as stews, creamy soups and puddings with hot custard. However it needn’t be like that. You can still eat really healthy food throughout the year. Some of our seasonal winter vegetables are packed full with vitamins and minerals. Try this delicious healthy carrot, orange and ginger soup with chicken:

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons of coconut butter, 1 onion chopped roughly, 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated 1 tsp chili powder Approx 12 carrots, roughly chopped (medium sized) 3/4 cup orange juice 1/2 can coconut milk 3 cups milk salt and pepper to flavour. Cooked chicken (added afterwards)

Directions: Fry off onions until soft in coconut butter, stirring frequently, add ginger and chili powder and fry for 1 more minute. Add the carrots, coconut milk and milk. Bring to the boil, ensuring it doesn’t froth over. Simmer for approx 10 minutes until carrots are soft. Leave to cool for a few minutes then puree with a blender or food mixer. Now add sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste and stir in some chunky pieces of chicken. There you have a delicious healthy winter warmer.

Water, water everywhere During the summer we’re generally pretty good at drinking our 2 litres a day but during the winter it seems to drop down. Remember your body still needs at least 2 litres of water a day. A 5% drop in hydration can cause fatigue, head aches and can cause you to eat more so keep topped up with plenty of fresh water. A tasty alternative to plain water all the time is to add a squeeze of lime juice and some mint leaves. Mmmmm delicious!

Wash your hands The last thing we need over the winter months is stinking cold, or worse still the ‘flu’ so wash your hands regularly and avoid people who are ill. Lots of fresh air will help keep the bugs away too so get outside whenever you can to enjoy clean air. Those who are at a higher risk of getting the flu are entitled to a flu jab, these include people aged over 65, pregnant women and healthcare workers. Speak to your GP surgery for more information.

Be drink smart Swap your hot chocolate for a green tea. By making this simple switch with your drink can save you over 12,800 calories over the next 3 months which equates to 3 and a half pounds in body weight.

Exercise more not less When the outside temperature drops it’s so tempting to come straight in from work and snuggle up on the sofa rather than go to the gym or out for a run. This leads to inactivity and weight gain. Here are some ways you can stay motivated:

  1. Sign up for a winter charity event, it’s a brilliant way to stay motivated if you know you have an event to run - A great 5km run is the Keech Hospice Santa Run. The Bedford run is on Sunday 9th December. The event is run in full santa costumes and raises money for a fantastic cause.
  2. Some leisure centres do month by month gym memberships or Pay-As-You-Go passes so if you normally run or exercise outside but it’s too cold for you then sign up for the winter months and you can keep your exercise up inside without committing to an annual contract.
  3. Try an new ‘indoor sport’ such as badminton, squash, indoor tennis or even swimming is a great way to keep fit....in a lovely heated pool (and perhaps a sauna or steam afterwards!)
  4. Try workout DVDs at home. If you really can’t face the thought of leaving home to exercise then bring the workout to you. There are some great exercise DVDs for you to try out.

I hope my handy tips will keep you active this Winter and avoid those awkward pounds creeping on so we can start 2013 with a BANG!

Vibram Five Fingers

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The human foot is a biomechanical marvel. If we were to ‘build’ a foot from scratch it would take years of research and development and even then we would still not get it right. The way the foot is created helps us to absorb impact, increase speed, decrease speed, control balance and move in any direction we wish. Each foot has 33 joints, eight arches, 26 bones and more than one hundred muscles, ligaments and tendons that all work together.

Unfortunately many people don’t pay any attention to their feet until they feel pain. It is estimated that 75% of people will experience some kind of foot problem in their lifetime. We need to look after our feet the same way we look after the rest of our body and not neglect them.

A great way to look after our feet is to train them how to work properly, we can do this by wearing shoes that allow the foot to be free yet supported where necessary, the perfect shoe for this is the Vibram Five Fingers. This unique shoe protects the soles of the feet whilst allowing each toe to move freely. They give the arch of the foot just enough support to keep the foot from flattening too much but help train the arches to work harder to help keep the absorption of impact strong.

I know they look a little strange and I must admit they don’t look very comfortable but believe me they are. They are literally like wearing a pair of slippers. They can be worn for your weights work out, running climbing, yoga, any activity really. They have a non-slip sole that protects the base of your foot and an easy elastic pull tab so they can be put on in an instant.

When you first start wearing Vibrams you may find you get foot pain - this is perfectly normal. This means muscles in your feet are beginning to work properly again. I would advise you introduce wearing them gradually, start with an hour a day for a few days then 2 hours then 3 and so on. You will begin to notice your feet feel more flexible, stronger, your balance will be improved and you may even notice things such as knee pain and back pain have been reduced.

Product Review - TRX Suspension Training

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The TRX Suspension Trainer was created and developed by Randy Hetrick, a US Navy SEAL which instantly makes you think it’s going to be a grueling workout but not so true. The TRX was an invention of necessity; in warehouses, inside submarines, on board ships, Randy and his fellow Navy SEAL team mates needed to stay in peak condition with limited space and very limited equipment so one parachute and a few belt buckles later - the TRX was born!

The six foot long straps can be attached to a hook on the ceiling or wrapped around a tree so is the ultimate ‘anywhere, anytime workout’. It fits in a small carry bag so can easily fit in a suitcase and there is no need for any other equipment to use with it - your body is your machine! This makes it the ideal piece of equipment for people who travel or those who can’t always get to a gym.

Your TRX workout will consist of lots of total body exercises that will strengthen, shape and tone your muscles but will also help increase flexibility and improve core stability and strength. From the absolute beginner to the professional athlete you will find levels to suit all. The TRX is being used by major sports teams, such as Liverpool FC, Manchester City FC and numerous US National Football League teams. It is also used by physiotherapists and sports therapists around the world to condition, rehabilitate and strengthen their players and clients.

I’ve been using the TRX now for 4 years, both in my own workout and with my training clients. I even used it throughout my pregnancy as I could adapt the intensity of the  sessions as I needed to. Each time I do a workout I find even more ways to challenge the human body using the TRX and I feel like I’ve only just touched the surface. The opportunities are literally endless.

Visit www.trxtraining.com to see the TRX in action.

Product Review - ViPR

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The ViPR is simply a long rubber tube with handles varying in weight from 4kg up to 20kg. It is the simplicity that makes this tool so special. ViPR stands for Vi = Vitality, P = Performance, R = Reconditioning

so can be used for any level exerciser with any goal in mind. It can be thrown, flipped, lifted, pushed, carried, rolled and dragged in all different directions which simulates real life movements. I have clients in their sixties and seventies using the ViPR as well as a triathlete, a long distance cyclist and a water-skier. Their programs differ hugely but the movement patterns are all easily achieved with the simple tool.

In day to day life we move forwards, backwards, sideway and we turn so by using the ViPR we can train in these different directions to make us ‘fit for life’. This is the complete opposite to the machines you see in the gym that are very stationary and only move in one direction. The ViPR has the ability to load muscles in a way that can’t normally achieve with traditional weight machines.

The ViPR is known to reduce injuries and improve movement which in turn reduces the normal aches and pains we deal with on a day to day basis such as back pain, restless legs and knee pains.

Michol Dalcourt, the creator of the ViPR, is a lecturer at the University of San Francisco on Human Movement and Performance Training so has an enormous amount of experience  and knowledge on how the body moves and why it moves in such a way. He has applied this knowledge to the ViPR, which is what makes it such a great tool to include in your workout.

Although the ViPR is fairly new to the fitness industry it is already making appearances in the training rooms of many sports teams such as London Irish RUC and Esher RUC and no doubt we will see it entering the English Football Premiership very soon.

For more information on the ViPR visit www.viprfit.com.

Training Shoes Versus Running Shoes

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When it comes to choosing trainers it is really important to decide whether you need a training shoe or a running shoe. If you pick the wrong style shoe you are opening your feet up to a whole world of problems.

A running shoe is designed to be just that  - a shoe for running. Running shoes have a thicker heel and mid section and a more flexible toe section to allow the foot to move in a forward motion better with maximum shock absorption. The toe of a running shoe points slightly upwards so when the runner strikes one foot on the ground, the back foot rolls forward easier.

Whereas a training shoe is designed to let you move forward, backwards, side to side and to support your feet when you lift weights. The training shoe has supportive sides near the laces to aid the foot when doing lateral movement, the toe section is flexible but not tilted upwards like a running shoe. Also there a specific points around the shoe where there are cushioned sections to allow for shock absorption rather than just the heel of a running shoe. This helps whether you are doing a high impact aerobics class or kick boxing.

So pick your shoes wisely. If you’re running then your need a running shoe (there are different types of running shoes  - check out my other blogs - Which running shoe is best for you?) but if you’re doing lots of different activities then your need a training shoe.

Happy trainer shopping!

Spring Into Action

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At last the sun is coming out and the spring flowers are making an appearance. I don’t know about you but this time of year makes me want to get outside, enjoy fresh air and feel healthy. As the warmer weather approaches lots of us think about trying a new form of exercise or picking back up where we left off last year. I know lots of my clients get back into running in the evenings especially as the nights get longer. Running is a great form of exercise, it helps improve your cardiovascular fitness keeping your heart and lungs strong, it can help with weight loss and can be a fantastic form of stress relief.

I know getting into running can be a daunting task but here is my step by step guide to running a 5km run. In July this year the Race for Life takes place in Bedford so ladies why not set that as your goal?

Get the right kit.

Well fitting trainers are essential for running. The amount of times I see people out running with fashion style trainers on frightens me. Our feet are so important when running, they absorb so much impact that they need to be well looked after. There are lots of sports shops that do a gait analysis, they will look at whether you pronate, supinate or have a neutral foot position. They will then give you a shoe that fits your foot perfectly offering the correct amount of support in the right places.

Ladies you will need a good sports bra, you can do permanent damage to the breast tissue and ligaments without good support. Check out www.lessbounce.com for a great selection of sports bras.

Running kit. There is no need to go out and buy specific running kit but you may decide once you get into it a bit more you want some proper running tops that allows your skin to breathe better. In the meantime leggings or shorts and a t-shirt will do just fine

Your first run.

The biggest mistake people make when going running is they expect to be able to run the whole distance in one go at a fast speed and then get hugely disappointed when their chest burns and they have to walk within 2 minutes. So don’t set out too hard or too fast. This is a lovely 5km program to follow that will start you off gently and build each week:

Be injury free.

Unfortunately with running there comes a risk of injuring yourself but you can hugely reduce the risk of injury by following some simple guidelines. Always warm up with an easy walk and stretch before you run, then after your run it’s important to do stretches for your legs and hips. There are some great online images on the Runner World website.

Day Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
Monday Run 1 min, Walk 1 min x 8 times Run 2 min, Walk 1 min x 7 times Run 3 min, Walk 1 min x 5 times Run 4 min, Walk 1 min x 5 times Run 6 min, Walk 2 min x 4 times Run 9 min, Walk 2 min x 3 times
Tuesday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Wednesday Run 1 min, Walk 1 min x 8 times Run 2 min, Walk 1 min x 7 times Run 3 min, Walk 1 min x 5 times Run 4 min, Walk 1 min x 5 times Run 6 min, Walk 2 min x 4 times Run 9 min, Walk 2 min x 3 times
Thursday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Friday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest
Saturday Run 1 min, Walk 1 min x 9 times Run 2 min, Walk 1 min x 8 times Run 4 min, Walk 2 min x 4 times Run 4 min, Walk 1 min x 6 times Run 6 min, Walk 2 min x 5 times Run 10 min, Walk 2 min x 3 times
Sunday Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest Rest

Runner’s World Complete Guide to Stretching into your search engine and it is the first link.

I would also advise you get regular sports massages. If you are running regularly then every 4-6 weeks would be great (more frequently if possible). A good sports massage will keep your muscles in good condition and will reduce your risk of injury and aches and pains.

Rear Of The Year

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And The Prize For “Rear Of The Year” Goes To........ Last April saw the wedding of the decade - the Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton but something seemed to be the highlight of the beautiful wedding day - Pippa Middletons bottom!

Everyone was talking about it and how perfect it was - myself included if I’m honest but what has followed has surprised me no end.

Her ‘perfect bottom’ is apparently the result of Pilates classes with Pilates instructor Margot Campbell. Pippa claims these classes are ‘something of a weekly necessity’ but I can’t help feeling a little skeptical.

I totally agree, Pilates is a wonderful form of exercise that can change a persons body shape. I have done Pilates for years and years having trained as a professional ballet dancer before becoming a personal trainer but the key fact everyone seems to forget is Pippa’s amazing genetics. Her father is slender, her mother is slim and tall with a beautifully pert bottom as is her sister Princess Katherine so is Pilates really the answer to it all or are genetics giving a huge helping hand?

Most of us haven’t been gifted with Roman Goddess genetics so what can we do to earn ourselves the title ‘Rear of the Year 2012’??

Diet of course is a big issue when it comes to body shape - we could have the pertest little bottom but if we are carrying too much body fat then you will never see the beautiful shape.

My 4 top tips for diet and a perfect bottom are:

  1. Ditch the processed foods. Eat natural, eat fresh. Minimise as much as possible the amount of white bread, pasta, rice and processed meats you eat.
  2. Drink 8 glasses of water a day (more if you are exercising) It will flush out unwanted toxins, it will help keep your mind clear and focused and will always help with hunger pains (which often lead to snacking on bad foods)
  3. Eat little and often. Avoid 3 heavy meals a day, instead opt for 5 light meals/snacks. This helps regulates your energy levels and avoids mid morning and mid afternoon energy slumps
  4. Allow yourself a weekly treat. If you cut out certain foods completely from your diet you will begin to resent not being ‘allowed’ them which could lead to a binge eating session. If you allow yourself a weekly treat you can control this.

Another big issue when shaping your derriere is exercise. I know not every one loves every type of exercise which is why it is important to find what you enjoy - you’re much more likely to stick at it if you’re having fun. However if you are looking for bottom perfection I’d say give these a go:

1. The Squat:

Stand with your feet hip width apart, pull your tummy inwards (but don’t ‘suck’ it in) then bend your knees as if you’re sitting down on a chair behind you.

Ideally add weights - you can use dumb bells or if you’re in a gym then use a bar bell.

2 The Lunge:

A great exercise to work the legs and bottom. Start with your feet together then step one foot forward and bend both knees as if you are kneeling down, step the feet back together and repeat on the other leg. As with the squats you can add weights if you wish.

The Dead lift

I know lots of people who avoid doing these because ‘they hurt your back’ but when done correctly the dead lift is the most effective exercise you could ever do. A correct dead lift should replicate you lifting a heavy box with a straight back. The power should come from your bottom, backs of legs and lower back. I do dead lifts with all of my clients as it is one of the most used movements in day to day life - I use it all day long when lifting my daughter up or carrying objects from one room to the other - even if it is just the washing basket!

So get lunging, squatting and dead lifting and you too could be ‘Rear of The Year!’

Product Review - Power Plate

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Introducing the Power Plate!

The Power Plate is a vibration training device that features in gyms, training centres and private studios around the world. The machine was originally invented for Russian astronauts to prevent their muscles from wasting away and their bones from becoming brittle whilst on space missions. The concept was then modified by Guus van der Meer in 1999 and in 2000 the Power Plate was born into the commercial health and fitness market.

Now the Power Plate is found in over 100 countries around the world and is used by professional athletes, medical practitioners, celebrities and personal trainers.

Some of the professional sports teams and athletes using the Power Plate are Chelsea FC, Manchester United FC, Liverpool FC, Lee Westwood, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams and some of the celebrities include Dannii Minogue, Claudia Schieffer, Jonathan Ross, Simon Cowell and Hilary Swank.

So how does it actually work?

The Power Plate platform vibrates up and down by 2 or 4mm, depending on the setting you choose, at a rate of 25-50 times per second. The user would stand, squat, lunge, sit, balance, press up or crunch on the plate whilst the plate is vibrating. The vibration stimulates an involuntary reflex muscle contraction which makes the muscle relax and contract at the same rate the plate is moving (25-50 times per second). This phenomenal muscle contraction helps to shape, strengthen and condition the muscle which can lead to some truly amazing results.

The Power Plate has recently been certified as a medical device manufacturer under the European Medical Devices Directive (MDD) legislation. This means that all Power Plate products are certified as safe, reliable and effective for use in a medical environment. This was a huge step for Power Plate, it meant that people were taking this product very seriously and the gimmick of the ‘wonder machine’ were now actually proving to be true.

I am always asked if vibration training actually works. I know it does sound too good to be true but when the product is used correctly the results speak for themselves. There are research papers from all around the world to back up the claims and I want to share with you my top three health benefits the Power Plate can help you achieve:

1. Increased Bone Density:

Osteoporosis is reaching epidemic levels in our aging population. In July 2006 a study reported that Osteoporosis is expected to triple over the next 50 years. The Power Plate has proven to reduce this risk. Not only does the vibration strengthen our bones, making them less brittle but by using the Power Plate you increase your strength and stability which makes you less likely to have a fall in the first place, which could lead to broken bones.

2. Weight loss:

Of course any kind of exercise can lead to weight loss but we don’t always have time to do 3 hours every week at the gym and if we’re entirely honest not all of us actually enjoy it. However research suggests that three 30 minutes sessions on the Power Plate can reduce your body weight and body fat percentage substantially.

I have been training one lady and she could commit to just one Power Plate session per week and she achieved 41lbs weight loss in 9 months. So if time is an issue then great results can still be achieved.

3.  Increased flexibility:

Personal trainers are always harping on about the need to improve your flexibility but why?  Tight muscles can cause pain and postural problems which in turn can lead to injuries and back problems. If your job requires you to sit for prolonged periods of time then your muscles adapt to that and become tight in certain areas - particularly your hips, lower back and around the neck and shoulders. Some simple gentle stretches can reduce these pains which can also lead to better posture. If you play sports you can notice a huge difference when your body is more flexible especially sports such as tennis, golf and football. By using a Vibration device you can increase your flexibility with a few simple stretches and massage techniques.

There are numerous other benefits to using vibration training dependent on your specific goal.