It always sucks at the start…

…of an exercise plan!

The pain, the poor fitness level, the self consciousness!
Whether you’ve been in the midst of a prolonged hiatus or never exercised at all, the truth is beginning a new exercise routine can be uncomfortable.

First of all your body is going to be ‘shocked’ by the new demands being put on it and the initial ‘DOMS’ [delayed onset of muscle soreness] particularly after a resistance based workout, can sometimes be so sore it’s almost debilitating. It’s fair to expect some element of muscle soreness when you exercise, especially at the beginning, but if you worked out too hard too soon, this soreness can be very off-putting – so build things up gradually in terms of weight, repetitions and frequency and always stretch out afterwards.

Having poor cardiovascular fitness is an important reason to start exercising, so never give yourself the excuse that you need to “get fitter” before joining a class or sports club, or guaranteed it will never happen. Join the class or the sports club anyway regardless of your fitness level, if it’s a decent outfit there will be different options you can do ‘to’ develop your fitness from where you’re at and as time goes by, with continuous commitment and participation, your body ‘will’ adapt and you’ll reap the rewards of improved health and wellbeing.

As for feeling self conscious – maybe your gym kit is much tighter than when you last put it on, or you can’t do what the instructor seems to do with ease; and that 30 minute ‘run’ you spent all day psyching yourself up for actually only lasted 5 minutes – so yeah, it does kinda suck to start with – but it won’t stay there. Just prepare yourself for the awkward beginning and know that things will change, because our body is an amazing creation designed to adapt & change to whatever is being required of it and that part is awesome!

– This article has been published in the September edition of Life Magazines –

Love Exercise!

This title may be far from your truth but it’s meant as a motivational statement more than a literal one – a notion to aspire to ‘love the exercise you personally do!’

As human beings we are all designed to move. We are not mean’t to be sedentary but alas we are becoming more and more inert, in a time where computers, cars and labour saving inventions take away the need to use our bodies, we perform fewer and fewer tasks manually and many occupations require us to do little more than look at an LCD screen.
As amazing as technology is, nothing has changed our innate biology and the need to move physically, so while we may not be getting much exercise from our jobs, it’s important to find activities to maintain our health and wellbeing in our time of recreation.

Good news for people who find it easy and enjoyable to be active, who are naturally motivated to exercise and feel out of sorts if they don’t. Not so good news for the many others who lack the desire to go and be active after a days work. The idea that the only choices of exercise is the gym or running, is enough to discourage most people. This is where a bit of lateral thinking is needed to come up with an activity that is of genuine interest or excitement, as this is the surest way to stay committed and to reap the rewards of being physically fit and healthy.

You’ve gotta Love your exercise activity to ensure you stick at it and it becomes part of your lifestyle, so spending time trying different things until you find the ‘one’ is a must. It may take several months, even years, but like finding any true love, it’s worth the effort and who know’s – something like Belly dancing might ignite a passion for movement you never knew you had and a dimension to your life you couldn’t live without.

– This article has been published in the August edition of Life Magazines –

Is it a Hamstring thing?

Having tight or weak hamstrings can be the sneaky culprit for a number of issues that may be causing your body some grief or limiting your abilities. It is therefore hugely beneficial to learn how to develop the flexibility and strength of this particular group of muscles and by including consistent toning and stretch work into your weekly fitness schedule, you could be a whole lot healthier in a number of areas for it.

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles that run down the back of your thighs, called the Semitendinosus, the Semimembranosus and the Biceps femoris. Tightness and shortening of the hamstring group can reduce the mobility of the pelvis, causing lower back pain and if you are one of the many sufferers of lower back pain, particularly non-specific (where no obvious reason can be found as a cause), it could potentially be relieved by giving your hamstrings some focused stretch work.
On the contrary, pelvic instability can be due to weak hamstrings. In this case toning and strength work is needed to develop control and stabilise the pelvic joints. A programme of resistance exercise, using either your own bodyweight or weighted machines & equipment in the gym will provide this.

The other big issue healthy hamstrings is crucial for, is protection against injury. If you are already a regular exerciser or sports person, it is imperative to maintain a balance between strength and flexibility work, as this will stave off the potential of future injury, and if you are already nursing one (or two as if often the case!) factoring in a good routine, on a regular basis that focuses on this equilibrium is a must.
Classes such as Pilates and stretch specific sessions are excellent for working on flexibility; and strengthening can be achieved in classes that focus on toning the body such as kettlebells or Pump. Remember a successful fitness regime will always incorporate a balance of both types of exercise disciplines.

– This article has been published in the July edition of Life Magazines –

The thinking persons exercise!

It’s fair to say ‘Pilates’ is not the easiest exercise discipline to practice. There is a lot going on coordinating the breath, core engagement and the movement pattern; but like anything else that has true value, it’s well worth the investment of time, energy and brain cells, to master and get the most benefit from the system. If Pilates is approached mindlessly, frustration and even boredom may well set in, not to mention the risk of injury or the disheartening result of no results. Which is why your mind must be as much involved in your practice as your body.

There are six principles the founder of Pilates ‘Joseph H. Pilates’ impressed upon his students as being essential to the system, these are Breathing, concentration, control, centuring, precision and flow. Other principles added over the years include, alignment, relaxation and coordination, that are no less crucial to a good Pilates experience. There is much to consider and it may seem a little overwhelming but with the guidance of a good teacher all these aspects can be developed over time – and that is the other key element here – Time – because so many people give up their Pilates practice prematurely, right before they are about to reach that sweet spot when everything falls into place!

So here are a few practical tips to help you reach that Pilates utopia…
First of all arrive to your practice on time, it’s no good if you arrive late, all flustered and tense, the session will be over before your body relaxes enough to get deep into those muscle fibres.
Next, engage mentally, leave everything about work, or the kids or what to cook for dinner at the door, keep your mind on your muscles and your muscles on your mind!
Finally, give it time and commitment, you must practice regularly, every week for several months to truly connect but once you start seeing and feeling the benefits, you’ll be so glad you persevered.

– This article has been published in the June edition of Life Magazines –

Love The Lunge

Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, Lunges are by far one of the best lower body toning exercises on the planet; and those who’ve participated in my fitness classes or PT sessions over the years will know how much of a fan I am!
These beast mode exercises create lower body beauty as the pay off for your hard earned work, as you see stronger, shapely legs and a firmer bum develop.

They are a compound exercise which means they work several muscles or muscle groups within the movement and in the case of a lunge the list of muscles used is quite extensive and why they are such a challenging manoeuvre, taking lots of energy to complete – ‘butt’ so worth it!
The muscles used include the hamstrings and quadriceps on the back and front of the thighs, the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus in the buttocks and toward the side of the hips, also the calves, and the lower back and core stabilising muscles all play their part.

The correct technique must be mastered to gain full benefit and to stave off the risk of injury, particularly to the knees and anyone with existing knee injuries or contraindications should seek professional or medical consultation.
Personally I favour the walking lunge, not only do they produce incredible toning effects but also increases the heart rate and boosts metabolism, helping to burn fat. You certainly know you’ve done them – jelly legs is an immediate side effect, grumbling another and then the DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) may come along, not being able to sit on the loo without holding onto a rail or struggling to walk upstairs for a few days are often par for the course, initially anyway until your muscles get over the shock!

Don’t let all this scare you off though, Lunges are a bit like marmite but once you realise the good they can do, you might learn to love them that little bit more.

– This article has been published in the April edition of Life Magazines –

Commitment v Motivation

If your initial flurry of New Years motivation to get fit, loose weight, get healthier etc, is starting to wane, then maybe its time for a re-think.
The fact is we don’t always feel motivated to exercise, it’s a transient notion affected by so many variables like your current energy levels, the weather, work schedules or even a better offer. Therefore relying on your motivation to get a task done, such as going for a run, can become a very unstable state of affairs indeed.
Instead we have to dig deep into our ‘commitment to the cause’.

It’s like anything in life we have to do because we’ve made a commitment, when sometimes we don’t necessarily ‘want’ to do what it takes – but we gotta! We’re in!
Getting up for work, school runs, nappy changes, walking the dog and even cleaning our teeth… are all examples of things we’re committed to doing to keep a situation going or maintain the health and welfare of ourselves and others. If we look at our fitness with the same mentality and become ‘committed’ to it, our bodies will thank us, ultimately with better vitality, long term health rewards and maybe a nicer looking physique in the process too, if thats what you want.

So next time you’re struggling to get out the door to go to your circuits class, or you’re sat thinking of a million excuses to tell your running buddy why you have to cancel todays session, remind yourself that it’s just that pesky de-motivation demon trying to trash talk you away from maintaining your wellbeing and instead turn your attention to the angel of commitment and value the importance of exercise, especially if you have a sedentary occupation, it really is essential to move your body.
Rarely a week goes by without one of my clients declaring how they didn’t feel like working out but were so glad they did because afterwards they felt great!

– This article has been published in the March edition of Life Magazines –

Riding the wave of temptation

If you’re on a weight loss or healthy eating campaign and find yourself fighting the temptations of foods that could jeopardise your success, it might be time to do a bit of Urge Surfing!
Never heard of this phrase before? – neither had I until a few weeks ago, although I was already familiar with part of the principles.

Years ago one of my roles as a PT was presenting workshops for an organisation designed to give practical solutions to family’s dealing with obesity. Part of the course provided ways to manage the cravings that adverts on TV or in magazines for snacks, confectionary and ready meals induced. One of the solutions was to create a distraction for at least 20 minutes with some other activity to avoid acting on the impulse to eat junk. In theory this time frame was enough for the desire to fade and eventually pass.

‘Urge Surfing’ is a similar idea. Attributed to the late Alan Marlett, Ph.D. A pioneer in his field of Psychology, he used the method for the treatment of addictions but the principles can easily be transferred to managing food cravings as well. The idea is that urges are like waves, they rise in intensity, reach a crescendo and eventually crash. Managing these urges by ‘surfing’ them, helps you to harness and override the desire and ultimately eliminate it altogether.

To fully understand and practice urge surfing a more in-depth study is needed than I can provide here but as a very simplified overview, urge surfing involves focusing on the sensations felt throughout the body as you experience an urge, then, by concentrating on the breath you move through the sensations until the wave passes, once you reach this stage you have successfully surfed an urge and swerved a potential diet catastrophe!
Keep the technique in your healthy lifestyle kit bag and see it as another way to get a step closer to your 2019 goals.

– This article has been published in the February edition of Life Magazines –

Short Circuit

New Years salutations!

Is it time to switch up your training routine – or maybe even start one?
Then Circuit Training might be the one for you in 2019…

It’s not the latest trend nor a new idea, infact circuit training was developed in 1953 by R E Morgan & G T Anderson at Leeds University but it has remained popular over the years because the concept is simple and it works!
The basic formula is to work through 9-12 stations with different exercises performed at each one within a set amount of time e.g. minutes or seconds. It will challenge both your cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance, burning fat and toning muscles.
Among the many positive aspects of this training system, it allows participants to work at their own intensity levels, making it great for group workouts and therefore a sociable training method, which can help people stay motivated and committed and more likely to achieve their wellbeing ambitions.

Studies have proven the effectiveness of circuit training with Morgan & Anderson claiming it to be one of the most time efficient ways to achieve fitness goals and maintain them longer than other forms of exercise or diet – this is a huge claim and one that I whole heartedly agree with and not just because circuits takes you through a range of aerobic and anaerobic energy systems in one session; but also because the exercise combination possibilities are endless. Couple that with the short time frames for each station and things are constantly kept fresh and manageable. Which is great for exercisers who get bored easily and need to be engaged and stimulated mentally and continually challenged physically. Add the flurry of endorphins whizzing around the body from the aerobic elements and you have a great combination for a fun and ultimately very effective workout.

Bodyworkpt presents ‘Body Booom’ – a full body circuit class for both men and women on Fridays mornings in Southwell. Check website for further details.

– This article has been published in the January edition of Life Magazines –

Jeepers Sneakers!

According to the online Collins English dictionary ‘Trainers’ are ‘shoes that people wear, especially for running and other sports’.

Over the years clients have often asked me what apparel they should buy for their workouts and the two items I advise investing in, is firstly a decent sports bra (females only of course!) and the second is the right ‘type’ of trainers. Ultimately both items are for protecting your assets and enhancing performance but I’ll save the sports bra info for another article!

Trainers have become huge high value fashion items, creating a two billion dollar industry for collectors alone in the US and a rapidly growing trend here too, people will spend thousands of pounds for just one pair of Kicks! Aside from the fashionista aspect though, its important to get the right shoes for your activities.

Running shoes are designed to keep you moving forward in a straight line, so the soles spread out as you make contact with the ground, this reduces the possibility of compression injury in the joints by absorbing the impact. However, this type of shoe is a potential ankle nightmare if used for activities involving lateral movement such as aerobics, Zumba and circuit classes. The wide spread of the sole can cause you to topple over and worst case scenario cause ligament damage to the ankle. So if you’re doing any of these activities opt for a slim fit shoe with narrow, flatter soles, you’ll be more nifty and nimble with a better feel for the floor surface. Weight training in the gym doesn’t tend to need impact support, so lightweight cross trainers will usually do just fine, especially if you use the treadmill for warm ups or short interval sessions.

This article is a quick overview to suggest the best footwear styles for the most common types of structured exercise but it is definitely worth getting expert advice and possibly even a full gait analysis when purchasing shoes for *running.

– This article has been published in the December edition of Life Magazines –

Please be seated!

Exercise is essential for everyone, however sometimes we have to modify the ‘how’ and ‘where’ of it to suit our current situation or physical status. I’ve personally suffered from a number of injuries over the years that have been totally incapacitating and forced me to alter my physical activities for a time. For some people though, a quick recovery may not be the case and alternative forms of exercise may need to be considered.

One option is chair based exercises, this is a great way to stay active for people who are having problems with their mobility, for instance if you are recovering from back, hip or knee surgery, suffer with chronic conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis, or have a long term illness, disability of some kind, or even just a low level of fitness. It helps build activity levels gently without causing stress and strain on the major joints, it will assist weight management and promote cardiovascular wellbeing by raising the heart rate.
You can do this type of exercise at home or if you can get to a class you can enjoy a sociable experience as well. Many local authorities provide classes and certain eligible participants may be able to go for free. Look into ‘Exercise referral schemes’ for information or ask your Doctor about getting a referral.

Another option to try is Pilates. Joseph H. Pilates, the man who invented ‘Contrology’ or what we now call Pilates, developed much of his work by rehabilitating the infirm using the pulleys attached to their hospital beds as resistance apparatus to work the muscles of their limbs. Today this amazing style of Pilates is known as Reformer work.
A popular and more easily applied form of Pilates is Mat based Pilates, which can be adapted to suit different levels of fitness and abilities. It is always advisable to seek out professional guidance for both reformer and mat based Pilates exercise, especially if you have health concerns.

– This article has been published in the November edition of Life Magazines –