23 March 2008

5 Gym Commandments for People Who Have No Time

Many people believe that when it comes to exercise, it has to be all or nothing and they think that all means 60-90 minutes for every gym visit. Well, that’s just too long. If I thought I was going to spend 90 minutes in the gym every time I went, I doubt I’d ever get there. 90 minutes is a long time! Here are 5 secrets to making the most out of every minute you're at the gym so no visit is wasted.

1. For a great workout, you only need to spend 30-40 minutes at the gym. Maximum. And if you’re in a hurry, you can cut this down to 20 minutes for some visits. All you need to do is make sure you exercise regularly and exercise effectively and you can cut the time you spend working out in half.

2. The secret to quick workouts is to keep moving. I see too many people in gyms sitting doing nothing, chatting on their cell phones or chewing the fat (!!) with a friend. They’ll tell you they’re recovering from the previous exercise or preparing for the next one but I say they’re just slowing down their workout. You can sit around and recover back at home.

3. Sweat. While you’re at the gym you should aim to keep the intensity of your workout high throughout your visit. Begin with a 4-5 minute warm up and then plan your routine so that you can move smoothly from one exercise to the next without resting along the way. This is really important to maximise your workout.

4. Get the right mix. Aim to include approximately 15 minutes of Cardio training and 15 minutes of strength / core training and vary the format of how you mix your training up so that you always have a new and challenging workout. This will keep your results consistent and stop you from getting bored.

5. Here's a quick routine to try: 5 minutes on the treadmill, 5 minutes upper body training, 5 minutes on the stepper, 5 minutes lower body training, 5 minutes on the Elliptical trainer and finish off with 5 minutes core work. Stretch and out the door.

The combinations are endless and will keep your gym visits fresh. And remember, the more you go, the less time you need spend there each visit. I'm sure you've got other stuff to do.....

Photograph by targophoto.com (Flickr)

17 March 2008

What to Do When Your Fitness Plateaus & How to Break Through It

Often when people get started with a fitness programme, there’s an initial flurry of activity and results as the body adapts to new challenges. Somewhere along the line you hit the 'wall' and progress seems to slow or even stall. This is frustrating physically and mentally. It’s always important to feel that you’re getting closer to reaching your goals so to stick in one spot with your fitness or, even worse, feel like you’re falling backwards, is de-motivating and extremely frustrating.

I know because it’s happened to me and I’ve seen it happen to many other people. So I’ve done some research with my own training and with a number of clients and together we’ve developed a fail-safe way to boost your fitness in double quick time.

We’ll use the rowing machine as an example but you can follow the principle for any type of cardio training.

The Problem

A few years ago, I took part in a competition at a local gym to see who could row 2000m in the fastest time on the Concept 2 rowing machine. Like everyone else, I had a few attempts and the quickest time I posted was 6-minutes 43-seconds. It wasn’t the quickest and it wasn’t the slowest but I was pleased as I’d managed to work my time down from around 7-minutes 30-seconds a couple of months before.

Shortly after this I moved house and didn’t join a gym as I was training mostly at home and going out running so I didn’t use a rowing machine until about 8-months ago. When I got back on it I tried the same 2000m challenge, and again started at around 7- minutes and 30-seconds and worked the time down to 6-minutes and 53-seconds.

But then I got stuck. Having got within 10-seconds of my previous best time, I couldn’t get the time down any further and then, the more I tried, the more it started to creep back up towards and then over 7-minutes again. I felt demoralised. On each attempt at my ‘record’ I was starting out OK but then running out of steam earlier and earlier in the attempt. Psychologically this was tough to deal with.

So I tried something different.

The Solution

This is the simple but essential method to reaching peak fitness as quickly as is possible. I looked at how far I could get through the challenge with a full intensity performance before I ran out of steam and it was around the 1100 / 1150m mark. So I shortened the challenge to a distance I knew I was comfortable with in my mind and set a target time for 1000m. The time I posted was 3-minutes 22-seconds.

Brilliant I thought. All I need to do is maintain that speed for the second 1000m and I’d achieve a time within 1 second of my best attempt in the competition. I’d be more than happy with that. The programme I chose to help me make this happen was simple. Aim to row at the same speed – a 500m average speed of 1-minute 41-seconds – and add 100m to the distance on each visit until I got back to 2000m.

It was a push but mentally, knowing that I could row each distance at the right speed was crucial to going the extra metres. After all, it was only a matter of holding the same speed for roughly an extra 20-seconds each time the distance increases.

Here’s how progress went.

Average 500m Speed over Distance

1000 metres ------------ 1m 41
1100 metres ------------ 1m 40.5
1200 metres ------------ 1m 40.8
1300 metres ------------ 1m 40.7
1400 metres ------------ 1m 40.6
1500 metres ------------ 1m 40.9
1600 metres ------------ 1m 40.9
1700 metres ------------ 1m 40.8

Then a strange thing happened. The day I went to the gym to go for 1800m at the target pace, the place was really busy. I was focusing really hard on the job ahead of me and visualising keeping the right intensity up so that I could complete my row having successfully done the job I set out to do. But because of all the noise in the background I got distracted and accidentally set the machine up for 2000m instead of 1800m.

I pressed go and got stuck in, only realising what I’d done after I’d rowed a couple of hundred metres. It crossed my mind to pause and reset but then I thought no, just get on with it.

Amazingly, I kept pace and finished with an average pace for 500m of 1m 40.8. A total time for the 2000m distance of 6m 43.1.

I had matched my record and done it in a shorter time frame than I could ever have imagined.

I was delighted with the results. I’d leapt off the plateau that I’d been stuck on with my progress and got back to a level of fitness that I hadn’t achieved for years. And it only took three weeks.

Over To You

I used the rowing machine but you can follow the same routine for your preferred training plan. If you use the bike regularly, post a time for your usual distance, half the distance, set a blistering pace and then gradually work back to your chosen distance at your new, faster pace.

If you like to run outside pick one of your favourite routes and see how long it takes you. Then pick a point half way around the route and up your pace to this point. Then progressively add distance to the point to which you run quickly until you’re completing the whole route at the quicker pace.

The same principle can be used to boost your strength training results and pack on muscle. If you’re stuck on particular weights for your usual sets of 10 or 12 repetitions, pick a heavier weight and, observing good posture and technique, aim to complete just 4 or 5 repetitions to begin with and then add a rep each time you tackle this exercise in your routine. You’ll quickly see that it was just a perception of what was possible that caused you to stick with a particular weight and that tackling it in a new way pushes you on quicker than you’d have thought possible.

The method is tried and tested and never fails.

Photograph by mclgreenville / memorymotel (Flickr)

14 March 2008

How Celebrities Stay So Skinny

The quickest way for a female celebrity to get lots of column inches is to be photographed looking super svelte after having a baby. Its the headline the editors love the most and readers seem to lap it up. Sure, in some cases, the weight has come off due to hard work in the gym and a rigorous diet but some of the time, all isn't quite what it seems. Sometimes celebs lie about how they stay so skinny. It’s a modern phenomenon whereby shrinking women seem to be the norm and the skinnier you are, the more famous you'll become. Being overweight is simply not an option and having curves is no longer appreciated as an attractive thing.

The reason I'm posting about it now is because a few celebrity personal trainers have gone on the record talking about some of their famous clients and the secrets tricks they use to stay slim and the lies they tell to deceive the public about how they keep their size 2 figures.

I stay slim from running around after the kids or the weight fell off after the baby sound familiar? That's the kind of soundbite you hear after an actress has returned to her pre baby weight a whole week after giving birth! okay, I'm exaggerating but not much..

I’ll give you the highlights here but the full article is worth a read if only for you to feel wonderful about yourself afterwards.
“Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson, who has trained Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, and Penelope Cruz, says: "I had one actress training with me four times a week in addition to daily exercise bike classes.
When the Press asked how she'd 'transformed' her body, she said: 'Oh, I do yoga and hike with my dog.' It makes me laugh.":

According to this report, the road to size zero isn't as easy as they tell you in the celebrity magazines. Here are some of the most popular short cuts used by celebs to stay skinny:

*Drugs: Adderall - It keeps you awake while killing the appetite;
Cocaine - Ditto;
Clenbuterol - prescribed to treat respiratory problems in horses but happens to cause fatloss in humans - Neigh!
*Diet Pills
*Extreme faddy diets: Boiled eggs and boiled eggs only
“Celebrity trainer David Kirsch says: "I had a client who was getting ready for the Oscars and all she ate was one meal a day - of two boiled eggs! I was able to persuade her to add some almonds and a protein shake and some vitamin supplements.
"It's a self-defeating strategy, you need to eat enough, and particularly protein, to build lean and toned muscle in the first place."

*They fast (lets call this what it is - voluntary starvation)
*They Master Cleanse, otherwise known as the lemonade diet: water mixed with maple syrup, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. Beyonce made this famous after swearing by it to help her shed some weight for her roles in Dreamgirls.
*Laxative teas - many actresses are taking laxatives in the form of "dieter's tea".
*Guzzling Coffee
*Wearing a smokers patch
*Living in the Gym - Literally. Three hours a day, every day for three months anyone?

Can you imagine living your life with the pressure (self-imposed) to be so underweight all of the time. To keep starving yourself and working yourself so hard and damaging your health in the process. Just so you can be super thin? Its simply not worth it.

Celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson believes "There's no straight guy in the world who knows the difference between a size 14 and a size 4."

But sadly, I don't believe these women aren't staying super skinny for men, they are more likely doing it to show other women.

Read the full article here.

Photograph Christi Nielsen (Flickr)

12 March 2008

Are You Heading For Burn Out?

If you had to think about the answer to that question then chances are that you need (and deserve) a break.

It's an easy trap to fall into. You're so busy, working so hard that you struggle to find time to take a holiday. I actually found myself in the same situation last week. Having managed to fit in booking a trip to go snowboarding, the departure date was fast approaching and I started to feel panicky about the trip. I was leaving a lot of work behind but could I afford to put it on hold for 4 days? Would everything fall apart? At one point I even considered canceling the trip.

Thankfully I didn't cancel. There came a point the day before I was due to leave when I said enough is enough. You have to stop now and get ready to leave in the morning. What you're in the middle of will have to wait.

And it was the best thing I could have done. I thought I needed to stay and work through the projects on the go at the moment. In actual fact, I reached better conclusions on every single one of these projects while I was away and not focusing on them. When I thought I needed to stay in front of a computer screen, I actually needed to be away from it. And the fresh mountain air of the French Alps was the best sharpener of the mind I could have asked for.

So let me reiterate what you already know deep down. Time off is essential for productive thinking. A change of scene can bring you all the answers you need. I've made a concerted effort to book my next trip in before work gets busy again and days turn to weeks without a proper break. Make sure you do the same. And if you're feeling really organised, take a moment to decide how much time off you'd like this year and sketch out exactly when you'll take it.

7 March 2008

Take a look at this

A while ago, I posted about the crazy (lazy) exercise equipment on the market that could make exercising easy. The Hawaii Chair was a particular favourite. I've just found this great video....

Take a look at this.

And to think the infomercial suggested you use it in the office. Brilliant!

Don't throw out those trainers just yet.

6 March 2008

Back Pain? 3 Moves to Unlock your Back

I come across too many people suffering with painful backs from spending hours at their desk or traveling in cars, trains or planes. All that siting can cause your back to tighten up and can become really uncomfortable. Here are three moves guaranteed to keep your back flexible and prevent any long-term pain or injury and they only take a few minutes each day.

1) Cat Breath – Curving the Spine
Start with a flat back, inhale, as you exhale pull up pelvic floor muscle, navel to spine, lower head and tailbone and curve spine.
Added Benefits – this move strengthens and tones abdominal muscles and massages internal organs.

2) Cat Breath - Arching the Spine
Return to a flat back, inhale, as you exhale raise head and tailbone.
Added Benefits – this move strengthens spine and relaxes the neck and shoulders helping to combat stress

3) Hip Rolls
Arms out at shoulder level, knees bent with feet flat on floor. Inhale, then exhale while lowering your knees to the right and turning your head to the left. Return to the centre and repeat on other side.
Added Benefits – this move aids digestion and relieves tension in your neck

4 March 2008

The Gym is Dead; Long Live the Gym

..."The death of the treadmill has arrived. For the first time since gyms muscled their way into the public consciousness in the Eighties, there has been a sharp decline in the number of people joining them."

I read this this morning and thought...there's much more to that story and it isn't all bleak.

True, the figures for new gym memberships may be down, but that's partly because there is a much greater variety of ways to keep fit now and I think that people are much more willing to experiment with different ways to enjoy their fitness, rather than just dragging themselves to the gym in order to shed pounds.

Exercise has become a bit more of a way of life than simply going along to pump iron three times a week.

So let's not worry too much about how many of us are going to the gym.
If you like the gym, then you carry on.

I have a gym membership and I enjoy my visits there and make use of a variety of kit to keep my workouts fresh. I also love running by the river and cycling out on the open road. Until recently I had a rowing machine and some weights at home as this was the easiest way to ensure I could fit in my workouts ('til my wife made me get rid of them after stubbing her toe for the hundredth time!). I also enjoy yoga and certain elements of Pilates. Variety is the spice of life and I go with what I feel I most want to do for any training session.

If you prefer the competitive nature of training for and playing team sports then you might never need to set foot inside a gym. If dancing is your thing then you're better off in a club than a gym. So whether you prefer to swim, climb, ski, paddle, hop, step or jump, just find something you enjoy and you'll be sure to keep it up and continue to experience the many benefits of regular exercise.

And if that doesn't require a gym membership card, don't hesitate to get rid of it.

Finally Fed Up of Feeling Fat

A great result today as one of my clients has reached her weight loss and fitness goal. She's allowed me to share it with you.

Carole has had a brilliant beginning to 2008. She’s managed to shift almost 14lbs already and it’s only the beginning of March. This is how she did it:

• Divide your usual three meals a day in to three smaller meals and two snacks
• Eat early in the day, always have breakfast and spread your food evenly throughout the day
• Don't eat anything after 7.30pm
Never skip meals
• Drink lots and lots of water
• Cut right back on alcohol or give up all together for even faster results.
• Be active everyday - walk, jog, skip, run up stairs. Add activity to every part of your day where it can be done.
• Most importantly, stick with this routine and give it time to get working

Basically, really simple stuff.

You're disappointed now aren't you? You wanted to hear something outlandish and radical but I'm afraid, the simplicity of this is what makes it so effective. And that's what Carole finally realised. She had made many attempts at shifting her excess weight before but decided that this time would be different. This time it would be a true priority. Not that she suddenly found she had more time on her hands, just that she was going to use her time differently.

One part of her approach was really different this time. She set aside most of an entire day to focus on what she wanted to achieve, think about why she’d not been successful in the past and make sure this time she would have her success.

She emerged from her day of planning to be confronted by her 4 children asking what she’d been up to all day. They thought she hadn’t been her usual busy self for the day and hadn’t achieved anything. Ironically, she’d achieved more in those few hours than she had done in months! She’d changed the way she thought about food, exercise, her weight and her approach to life. She had made a bigger difference in that one day than ever before. She felt elated and relieved. She knew she was going to be successful because she felt different. She felt focused. She knew what she was doing and she knew why she was doing it.

And she hasn’t looked back since. She's one stone lighter and fit.

She only truly realised the magnitude of her achievement when it dawned on her last week that the dumbbells we were training with weighed the same as the weight she’d lost. She couldn’t believe that just 7-weeks ago she was carrying this amount of extra weight around with her everywhere she went. This has spurred her on towards losing the next stone by the end of April.

And I don't have a single doubt that she'll do it.

Photograph by Nico (Flickr)