29 February 2008

How to get rid of that side stitch when you run

Weekend is here and so is the final tip of the week.

If you're going running on Sunday, you may be one of those people who is prone to getting painful side stitches that leave you doubled over in pain. I came across a great article that may just put an end to that pain.

Have a read, there's some great tips offered and enjoy that run.

Have a great weekend.

Some of you may have trouble accessing the site so I have apsted a version of article below:

Sidestepping that side-stitch
Experts don't know exactly what causes that pain in the side, but there are a few methods you can try to avoid one.
By Jay Blahnik, Special to The Times
February 18, 2008
WHEN I walk or run, I often get a pain in my side by my ribs. If I keep going, it sometimes will go away, but other times I have to stop exercising because it's so uncomfortable. Any suggestions?

Phil, Costa Mesa

The pain that you described is often referred to as a "side-stitch." Fitness experts disagree about what exactly causes this phenomenon, what you can do to prevent it -- and how to make it go away once it starts.

One school of thought suggests that this pain is caused by jarring on the ligaments that connect the stomach to the diaphragm. This is perhaps why side-stitches occur more during higher-impact activities such as running than during lower-impact activities such as cycling or swimming.

Other experts say that if you exercise too soon after eating or start exercising too vigorously, the diaphragm may cramp, which can cause pain under the rib cage.

Although there is no guaranteed way to avoid a side-stitch, here are a few suggestions that often work (in no particular order):

* Take a deep breath and then slowly exhale through pursed lips.

* Contract the abdominals while flexing the body toward the area of pain.

* Mix up your breathing pattern and stride pattern.

* Slow down and reduce your exercise intensity until the pain subsides.

* Jog in place and take a few moments to bend, twist and stretch the torso.

* You can also try extending your warmup period and taking more time to work up to your steady walking or running speed. This can be especially important in colder weather, when side-stitches may occur more frequently.

* Finally, drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise, but try sipping your water more often rather than taking big gulps at less frequent intervals.

Everyone is different, so try these suggestions -- and others you may have heard about -- until you find what works for you.

Although side-stitches are one of the mysteries of exercise, you might find your secret solution just by experimenting.

Jay Blahnik, a Laguna Beach- based personal trainer and IDEA Health & Fitness Assn. spokesman, has appeared in more than 25 videos and is the author of "Full-Body Flexibility." He can be reached at jay@jayblahnik.com or health@latimes.com.

28 February 2008

Is there such a thing as too cool?

Just got back from the gym and there was a guy in there wearing sunglasses.


Its not only indoors but it's 8.30 PM here in the UK??!

Boozy Nights

The UK loves a drink. Alcohol is in our culture and it’s in our blood. Literally.

It has benefits and it has drawbacks. Most people know that alcohol has a big impact on their waistline but would rather give up the cream cakes rather than cut down on the booze because they dont quite appreciate just how calorific drinking alcohol can be. Take a look at these sobering figures.

The number of calories in different drinks varies but let’s say for the sake of argument that 1 glass of wine = 100 calories. If you follow the government’s recommended guidelines on alcohol consumption, you could rack up between 1400 and 2100 calories over the week in wine alone. And let’s face it, there are lots of people who regularly exceed the government guidelines. I’ve known people who could drink that amount in one sitting.

So for many people, that's the equivalent of a whole day's worth of calories which means that you are consuming 8 days worth of calories in 7 days. And you wonder why the weight doesn't shift?

This sounds all very anti-alcohol and doom and gloom but that's not the intention. If you are seriously trying to lose some weight and do drink everyday, you're making it all the harder to succeed in your goal. If you think that alcohol is adding weight to your weekly calorie intake, here are the simplest, tried and tested ways to cut back on your intake.

1. Don’t drink every day. Drinking alcohol is an easy habit to fall into. It becomes associated with relaxing and before long the two are inseparable.

2. Make sure you have methods of relaxation that don’t involve alcohol. Exercise, team sports and hobbies like music and dance are obvious choices.

3. Have a favourite non-alcoholic drink and prepare it with as much ceremony as you would your favourite glass of wine. You should choose a favourite non-alcoholic drink for the home environment and one for social occasions so you never hesitate to request these on those occasions when people ask what you’d like and you’ve decided that you’re not drinking alcohol that day.

4. Select the days on which you won’t drink in advance. Enjoy them and enjoy the alcohol you have on the other days. Know the cut off point between alcohol that you enjoy and alcohol that you’re just knocking back out of habit. Just because some is good, doesn’t mean that more is better. Set the limits that work for you.

Start saving calories immediately by deciding now when your next alcohol free / reduced calorie day will be.

Some more tips on sensible drinking and alternative choices can be found here.

Royalty free stock photography

27 February 2008

I Should Go to the Gym, but I Just Can't

Do you ever think that you'd like to do something but for whatever reason, just can't get going?

‘I’d like to eat better but my schedule is just too busy’. ‘I’d like to be fitter but I don’t have time’.

The trouble with listing all the things that you’d like to do, but just can’t do, is that it can lead to a lot of frustration and in some cases a feeling of powerlessness. I prefer people to feel empowered and in charge of their own destiny so I have a couple of rules with my clients.

No one is allowed to mention something they’d like to do without telling me what action they are going to take to make it happen. No one is allowed to complain about anything unless they’re taking active steps to rectify the situation.

Sounds tough I know but it isn't really. Its simply getting them to change their approach without making a huge deal about it.

So, if someone says they want to eat better, they have to tell me the very next occasion when they’ll be having a healthy meal or snack. If anyone complains they didn’t have time for exercise over the last week, they need to explain how they’ll prevent the same thing from happening in the coming weeks.

Staying solutions-focused means never having to say, 'Can’t’ and 'Should'. Get into the habit of always knowing that ‘you can’ achieve whatever you’d like to.

Think of an occasion now when you’ve recently thought, ‘I just can’t.’ Revisit this and highlight the one small step that you could take to move yourself closer to empowering yourself to tackle that situation. Perhaps that small step is to ban the words Can't and Should from your vocabulary - because what you're really saying is 'I have no intention of ..'

Photograph Thomas Hawk (Flickr)

26 February 2008

If You Drink Too Much Water You'll Drown...Apparently

Here's a funny - but true - story.

One of my clients is a new convert to drinking lots of water and is loving the benefits he's feeling already. As all good healthy living converts do, he wanted to spread the word and help others to make change too so, while in his office the other day, he offered a glass of water to a colleague.
She gulped down the water so he offered her some more to which she replied,
‘No thanks, one glass is enough. I’ve heard if you drink too much water you can drown.’

Technically, she’s right.

It is possible to drink too much water creating adverse consequences for the body but you’d really have to go some to find yourself in this situation. What was interesting about her observation was that it highlighted something that I come across day after day. People are brilliant at coming up with reasons not to change.

This particular lady acknowledged that she could do with drinking more water and yet clung to a belief that allowed her a get out clause from making the change that she knew necessary. She’d read somewhere that it was possible to over consume water so she used this as a reason not to take the time to experiment and find out what level of consumption worked best for her.

I’ve heard hundreds of these outdated beliefs and sweeping generalisations:

I’d love to run but I read that it ruins your knees
Too much fruit will rot your teeth
If you stop to take a break, you might never get going again

Yes, these things sometimes happen. But they happen rarely and they happen over time. They won’t necessarily happen to you and there is certainly no reason to let these cases prevent you from taking action. Try these things and see what the results are for you. Find a degree of each activity that works for you without any adverse consequences. Or try something else.

Whatever you do, don’t just trot out these convenient excuses and then live with circumstances that don’t give you great results. Today, if you find yourself thinking about reasons not to exercise, eat well or take a break, pause for a moment and ask yourself if what you’re thinking right now is really true or just an excuse not to make change.

Photograph by Ooodit (Flickr)

25 February 2008

So Simple...But This Works

I've been training with Ellie for 2 years now and she never cancels or skips a session. She's very diligent about exercising on her own in between our runs. Ellie is the size she wants to be and, better still, feels really fit and healthy.

Her secret?

She doesn't 'do' fad dieting; she doesn't sign up for gimmicky classes; she doesn't believe in quick fixes and instant weight loss cures.

Many of her friends seem to however, and bounce from one new obsession to the next. Yogalates, Power Plate Lunging and even Jazzaerobic Swimming. Or ridiculous diets that leaves them constantly feeling hungry, gassy or bloated. Meanwhile, Ellie sticks to what she knows. The result - her friends give up their new regimes after the 4th session or fall off the food regime they are enduring that week and the weight starts to creep back on.

Ellie's lessons to pass on?

1. Buy a good quality pair of running shoes.
2. Invest in some dumbells.
3. Devote time in your diary for exercise and block it out at the same time throughout your diary so nothing else can slip into its place. Its your 'date with your body'.
4. Be vigilant about what you eat during the week. Limit eating out and take out if you can.

That's it. Dead simple.

Ellie says
"I mix up my workouts with some circuit training, skipping, spin classes or longer runs if I have the time.
I keep it varied and fun so there's no danger of boredom. It's simple and it works so I'm always motivated to keep it up"

So there's the secret of success. Ellie decided what she wanted: a fit, healthy, slimmer body. She decided what she was prepared to do to get it: sacrifice 2 hours a week and invest in some basic kit. She decided to get on and do it.

Follow Ellie's example and decide exactly what you want and what you're prepared to do to get it. Take regular action and enjoy brilliant results!

Photograph by Thomas Hawk. Flickr

21 February 2008

Better the Calorie You Know

Counting calories is a bore.

I'm sure we can all agree on that. Watching what you eat makes you crabby and resentful and somehow, it makes you eat even more. I've worked with plenty of people battling with their weight and their energy levels and there are two techniques that really make them sit up and take notice of what they put in their bodies. Two simple tricks that get them changing the way they think immediately.

First - cut back on portion sizes.
As plates get bigger and restaurants go OTT with the amounts they serve us up, it can be hard to keep track of how much we should be eating at mealtimes. Websites like Diet-Blog are a great help here - they have a section of photos showing you what a 300 calorie meal (this is how much you should aim for per meal) will look like.
Another website I like is MyPhotoDiet that's great for showing sample daily meal plans, again with pictures, so you can see exactly what's required to keep you on track and get you great results. Having looked at these photos, you realise just how easy it is to over-eat and it may explain why those pounds have been creeping on..

The second trick is examining the quality of what you eat. Are you eating balanced meals? Calories, sugar, salt and fat content can really stack up throughout the day, even though you may not think you're consuming very much. I send people to the website Calorie King where you can examine thousands of different food and drink items and look in detail at what exactly what's in them. The great thing about this site is that it also tells you how much walking, jogging, swimming or cycling you'd need to do to burn off the calories in each item of food which really helps put things in context. Are you willing to do 22 mins cycling to burn off 1 low fat Latte from Starbucks? Makes you think, doesn't it?

To sum up:
Don't obsess about counting calories - just stay vigilant to the AMOUNT you eat and get into the habit of reading food labels. Visit the sites I mentioned because seeing in black and white just how fattening some foods are may help you make better choices, especially if you are trying to shift some weight.

Give it a go now.

Photograph by Marshall Astor. Flickr

Hunchbacked at your computer? Try this.

When I saw my client Simon last week and he told me he was becoming increasingly worried that he was getting stuck in what he called 'the hunchback' position at his desk simply because he spent so much time working at his computer. He felt he never quite got properly straightened up, felt lethargic as a result of this and often suffered back pain.

As part of his programme I showed him a quick chest stretch that he could do throughout the day that would fix this.

Simply stand upright, wedge one arm against a wall or a doorframe and twist your body away in the opposite direction. Then repeat on the other side. The stretch opens up the chest and the front of the shoulders, both areas that get tight when we work at a desk or spend a lot of time driving.

When we met up again this week, Simon was full of praise for the stretch (well as much as you can be for a stretch!). He claimed that of all the exercises in his routine, this one makes the biggest difference. By practicing the stretch throughout the day he feels taller, energised, more focused and much more comfortable.

Try it for yourself and see how it feels.

20 February 2008

3 Most Successful Ways To Start Winning

Now, Now, Now!

They call us the 'Now generation' because we're all about short cuts and making demands and expecting them to be fulfilled..IMMEDIATELY.

Not attractive but in the spirit of the way we live today, if I had to name the 3 most successful ways to guarantee healthy living and super energy, they would be....

1. Prioritise yourself. The first items onto your schedule should be all about YOU. When you will take exercise, what activities you'll be doing, when, where and what you'll be eating, when you'll get to the supermarket and when you'll be take some time out to relax. Build the rest of your diary around this and not the other way round. Even if you have a family to look after and run around after, you can fit it all in around some me-time.

2. Be flexible. If your first attempt at putting your needs first doesn't quite work, modify your approach. Don't fall back on old habits and run yourself into the ground. You no longer belong at the bottom of your list.

3. Be persistent. prioritising yourself is not a selfish act. If you are feeling good and getting a little more of what you want in life, you'll be the best person you can be for all those around you.

Start this routine today. Stop hoping you'll start to eat better. Stop hoping you'll lose the weight without doing some exercise. Stop hoping you feel less crabby one of these days when you stop feeling eternally exhausted. IT WON'T HAPPEN unless something changes.

18 February 2008

How to Stay Slim? Walk a Marathon A Week.

'People who exercise 60 to 90 minutes a day shed weight and keep it off. It will make unpleasant reading for dieters who have been hoping that light exercise was the key to weight loss.

For it seems the most successful slimmers chalk up a marathon a week, according to research.

A study found that those who exercised for 60 to 90 minutes a day – walking the equivalent of a marathon each week - tended to shed at least two stones and kept the weight off for six years.’

My first thought when I read this article by Fiona Macrae was that it needn't sound so bleak. If you walked 26 miles per week (distance of marathon = 26 miles 385 yards) this works out as 3.7miles a day which shouldn't take 60-90 minutes. A brisk walk could see you cover 4-miles an hour but if you really get a move on you could do your daily allocation toward your weekly maraton in around 45-minutes.

But how do you fit 45 minutes exercise into every day? Easy.

Break it up – do half in the morning and half at the end of the day. Plan it and do it. Don’t start making excuses before you’ve even tried.

Brisk walking requires some serious pavement pounding so make sure you wear the right shoes. Proper support from your shoes can prevent ankle, knee, hip, back and even shoulder problems. A sound investment if ever there was one.

Eat well – Drink plenty. The extra energy and hydration will help to make those miles covered much easier thanks to increased energy.

Walk in the morning, ideally, or during your lunch hour – apart from the safety aspect, its great to get your metabolism fired up early in the day and then again at regular intervals. Much better than sitting still for 8 or 9 hours as many people do in the office.

Take a friend – the commitment is always easier to stick to when you know you would be letting someone else down by not going.

Keep a journal or log of your walks and track your progress against your weekly target. Working backwards is really motivating for seeing how far you've come so keep a mileage log and count down from 26 miles. Ticking off the miles each week will keep you super motivated and will make for good reading. It's also bound to start you competing against yourself to see how many miles you can do each day and how quickly you complete them.

Time yourself – try to break your own records. Wear a pedometer if you have one so you can keep an accurate log on the number of steps you’re taking and gauge your progress.

Get walking – and start to reap the rewards.

How to Feel Calm in 12 Minutes

This weekend, I was giving a presentation to a group of 35 professionals who were all from widely different backgrounds, all busy and all successful in their chosen field.

Unanimously, they agreed that although they love what they do, they often feel that they could be even more effective and all expressed a desire to feel sharper, more focused and experience optimum energy even more of the time than they do presently.

Makes sense, who would argue with feeling great every single minute of the day?

I needed to know what steps they were taking to put themselves at the best possible advantage, mentally and physically. When I asked them who had a fitness routine in place, the response came from around half of them. When I asked who engaged with their food routine and thought about their eating habits, around a third of them responded positively.

When I asked who had a stress management or relaxation strategy in place, only one person put their hand up.

This came as no surprise to me.

For many of us, the emphasis of modern life is on getting more done, squeezing more out of each day, thinking, moving and living faster, faster, faster…

Even those who do try to make some space to calm themselves and nourish their body and spirit often miss the point. Was there ever such an oxymoron as taking a quick ‘power nap?’ Surely if you choose to take some time out to recharge, the most crucial factor is the quality of the experience rather than how quickly you can get it over with. You just can’t aim to relax at the same pace at which you live the rest of your life!

I’ve spoken to one of my Yogi friends, Ameet, about this situation and he recommends using an audio guide to really help you focus on your relaxation. He’s suggested a 12 minute podcast which he often uses from the website of the London Satyananda Yoga Centre. It's free to use so give it a go and see what you think. I’ve tried it a few times and each time it gets easier to clear your head and feel really refreshed in less than 15 minutes.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you have to do, it’s the perfect way to refocus your mind and get the rest of your day back on track.

15 February 2008

Re-Thinking that Friday feeling

'We cannot feel good about an imaginary future when we are busy feeling bad about an actual present. But rather than recognising this...we mistakenly assume that the future event is the cause of the unhappiness we feel when we think about it.

Our confusion seems terribly obvious to those who are standing on the side lines, saying things like 'You're feeling low right now - but everything will feel different next week..'

It is only natural that we should imagine the future and then consider how doing so makes us feel, but because our brains are hell-bent on responding to current events, we mistakenly conclude that we will feel tomorrow as we feel today'.

I thought this would be a great time to share Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert's words from his book Stumbling on Happiness because we're half way through February - notoriously the most depressing month of the year.
New Years resolutions and all your best intentions for the year ahead may have become neglected and it could feel pretty difficult to feel optimistic. But that's February - that's not your year ahead.

Try reading Gilbert's words again and make yourself a shiny, new goal and remember to think positively about it. Spring will be here soon, mornings will get lighter so go ahead and make that goal something to focus on.

14 February 2008

Sometimes, you've just got to get on with it!

I'm a big believer that you don't have to have a gym membership to have a serious fitness regime going. There's the great outdoors for starters not to mention equipment you could use at home. But sometimes, that can go a little too far and you've got to ask yourself, wouldn't it just be easier to go for a short run or a long walk?? Here are my three favourite couch potato workouts that really work hard at trying to convince you you're not doing exercise.

Minimum effort for...unfortunately, minimum results. But they will make you laugh and that's good for the soul surely.

For horse riding fans out there - who needs a horse? $299 if you're interested

My personal favourite, the legendary Hawaii Chair. I love that you can use it in the office! But could you bear for anyone to see you in action? $420

Last but not least, for those who only have 4 minutes
per day to exercise. Looks more like an instrument of torture but a
bargain at $14,615!

These are just a few of the thousands of Shortcut Fitness fads out there - as I said, sometimes, you've just got to get out there and go for a run. Its free.

11 February 2008

Is It Just Me Or Are Sit-Ups A Waste Of Time?

I’ve just been sent a new book to review and its title really brought a smile to my face, so much so that I’ve borrowed it for todays blog entry. I’m sure the author Graeme Hilditch won’t mind! My review will appear soon but from what I’ve read so far, there’s a lot of good advice offered and it's well worth a look.

The issue of sit-ups and their place within a fitness programme has been around for years now – how many sit-ups should you do, which type of sit-up is best, how long should you spend on sit-ups each day?

The amazing thing is that most people still think sit-ups are the quickest way to achieving that holy grail of the washboard stomach. I come across this virtually everyday and even after lengthy explanations to the contrary and lots of nodding and agreeing, they still say the same thing, ‘yes, but I’d be happier if we could still include lots of them in my routine’.

I’m not saying don’t do them at all but I am saying that, as most people are pushed for time to exercise, there are many more efficient ways to spend that time. Try something other than endless sit ups and I'm sure you'll feel the effects instantly. For some inspiration, take a look at an article that I wrote about this recently.

"Let’s clear up one of the greatest fitness myths we hear all the time: hundreds of crunches or abdominal exercises will not get you a flat stomach or a six-pack your friends will envy.

All the stomach exercises in the world are worthless if there is a layer of stubborn body fat covering your perfect stomach. So, if you want your midriff to look shapely, you need to ensure you follow a balanced workout programme that includes plenty of fat-burning cardiovascular exercise."

Read the full article featured in Women's Fitness.

5 February 2008

Getting High on Fitness

Chatting this week with a guy who had recently been persuaded to return to exercise I was reminded how fragile the foundations of a regular fitness routine can be. This person had been in the habit of enjoying exercise up until around 5-years ago when work priorities took over and looking after himself took a back seat. On getting back into the groove of getting his body moving he made two key observations.

Firstly, he was amazed at how great he felt – energised, focused, calmer and more positive. Secondly, he was astonished at how he had managed to forget these great feelings and to actually have denied himself these for so long. He was kicking himself but was at the same time so relieved to feel that he is now back on the right track.

Forgetting just how great exercise can make you feel is something that I come across with clients regularly. Rather than thinking of all those excuses that prevent you from getting active, why don't you do something right now to remind yourself of those great feelings?

Rate yourself out of 10 right now for how you feel. Get outside for a 15-minute walk and then rate yourself again. Your rating will be higher following your exercise. In future when you’re reluctant to exercise, focus on just how great you know you'll feel and get stuck in!