31 July 2008

How to get rid of cellulite

For anyone who doesn't know, cellulite is the knobbly looking 'orange peel' type skin that can appear on your legs, arms, bum and stomach.  It spoils the smooth appearance of a sleek, toned body and, needless to say, is not something than any woman likes to see. (unless its on a celebrity of course!)

If you find yourself stuck with a case of cottage cheese skin, here are a few ideas of how you can get reduce the appearance of it and if you are super strict with yourself, get rid of it completely.

Remember, cellulite can happen to anyone, regardless of your weight or body shape. The only way it seems to prevent it from appearing is a life of constant activity and fitness. Have you ever seen an olympic athlete with cellulite?

Get active
Cellulite can be caused by the way fat cells are sitting under the skin.  Getting active with some high intensity cardio work such as interval training on the bike or sprint or hill running outside will burn some fat ensuring that any fat cells won't contain much that will show on the outside. This is why expensive creams don't work. The effort of getting rid of cellulite takes place beneath the skin.

Get hydrated
Your body is mostly made up of water so if you're dehydrated, strange things can happen.  Drinking your eight glasses of water each day will keep your metabolism running efficiently, including burning fat instead of storing it.

Get brushing
A healthy circulation will keep your skin looking smooth so invest in a good quality skin brush and use it every day. Brush thighs, tummy, bum etc. in a circular motion always towards your heart.

Get healthy
When it comes to eating to avoid cellulite you need to think natural and avoid toxins.  Maximise fruit and vegetable intake and minimise coffee, alcohol and processed and fast food.

Get started
There's no time like the present to begin your cellulite busting programme.  Here's what to do today:

1. Make part of your workout really tough.  Spend 10 minutes working at a 9 out of 10 effort level.  The easiest way to do this is to get warm and then alternate 1 minute of maximum intensity exercise with 1 minute of recovery for a total of 20 minutes.  This is easier than trying for 10 minutes straight at a really tough level.

2. Drink water right now.  Then buy a big bottle and make sure it's empty by the end of the day.

3. Make a date with yourself to get to the store and buy a skin brush.  If you can't get out today, order one online and use it everyday.

4. Eat two pieces of fruit within the next hour.  Avoid caffeine, pastries, muffins and chocolate for the next 3 hours.

There you have it. Good luck.

Photograph by petname (flickr)

28 July 2008

How to Stretch Properly Part2

Naturally, you've all been doing plenty of stretching since I posted about it last week.;-)

Here's part two in our series to keep your lower limbs flexible and keep you on the road to fitness without any breaks for injury.

I've chosen these two fitness tips particularly following a recent conversation with someone who used to suffer a lot of lower back pain. It turned out that tightness in the front of their legs was causing their pelvis to be pulled out of line and the solution to fixing the back was to loosen off the muscles at the front of the hips and the front of the thighs.

So here are the key stretches.

This one is to stretch out the muscles that run along the front of the thigh. This area can become very tight if you train your legs a lot or take part in dynamic sport with quick bursts of speed in a variety of directions. Do this after running and cycling. Also great if you have problems with your knees after workouts.

quad stretches for thighs

Stand upright with a bench or wall next to you for support
Bend your right leg up behind you and grab the laces of the trainer on this foot
Keep your supporting knee bent and knees together
Still standing upright, push the right side of your hip forwards and you'll feel a stretch along the front of the thigh
Hold for 10 seconds, relax and repeat on the other leg

Hip Flexors
The hip flexors and small muscles at the front of your hips. If you sit down a lot these muscles can become shortened and tight which can result in them pulling your pelvis and spine out of natural alignment. To keep them loose:

hip flexors to stretch muscles at front of leg

Stand next to a bench for support
Step your left foot forwards into a half lunge position
Keep your body upright and tilt your pelvis backwards on the right side
Because this muscle can be tight it's best you move very slowly into this stretch - it can feel quite acute
Hold for 10 seconds, relax and repeat on the other leg

24 July 2008

Bored of the Gym?

If you sometimes find yourself dreading a visit to the gym don't panic. Even the most dedicated of fitness fans has off days when they just can't face their usual workout. So what do you do if you want to keep getting results but can't be bothered to plod through your routine?

The most important thing is to do something different.

Often it's the routine that's the problem, not the effort of actually doing something physical. The barriers to a good workout are just as likely to be mental boredom as they are to be physical fatigue.

Here's the solution.

No matter what mood you're in, don't hesitate to get to the gym. Don't think twice about it, just go.

When you're there, do not spend more than 5 minutes on any one activity. Here's a suggested routine - I used this with a client the other day. She really wasn't in the mood but ended up loving this programme and working really hard - much harder than she thought she would when she left the house and dragged herself to the health club

  1. Cycling - 5 minutes warm up 
  2. Treadmill - 5 minutes, starting with a slow jog and increasing the speed each minute 
  3. Squats x 15 
  4. Lunges x 15 
  5. Rowing - 5 minutes to row as far as possible and record the distance 
  6. Bench Press x 15 
  7. Seated Row x 15 
  8. Press ups with feet on the fitball x 15 
  9. Treadmill - 5 minutes in 1 minute bursts, moderate, fast, moderate, fast, moderate 
  10. Shoulder Press x 15 
  11. Lat Pulldown x 15 
  12. Rowing - 5 minutes to see if you can beat the distance from the previous 5 minutes 

Cool down, stretch, relax, recover and go home feeling tired, satisfied (smug) and knowing the gym is once again your friend.

17 July 2008

How to Stretch Properly

There's nothing worse than having to slow down your fitness routine because you suffer an injury. I've had a few people recently complaining of tightness and aching in their legs that ends up slowing them down.

A common reason for suffering minor injuries is not taking enough time to stretch as part of your regular fitness routine.

I know what you'll say - stretching is boring and it doesn't burn calories or body fat. Well, think about it this way instead.

1) If your workout is effective, your metabolism will be running fast for a good 30-60 minutes following your activity so if you stretch during this period, you'll be burning calories while you stretch.

2) If you pick up even a small injury that puts you out of action you definitely won't be burning many calories for a while. You only need a little bit of stretching in your routine but if you do it regularly you will be able to keep up your programme without interruption and make sure that your results keep on coming week after week after week.

Here are a couple of simple stretches to get you started. Try doing these right now to practice and at the end of your next workout.

For all stretches, move gently into position, hold the stretch for 10 seconds and then release gently. Think about where you feel a stretch and what you might need to adjust if you're not feeling it where the stretch is intended to work.

The lower legs can take a battering, particularly if you walk, run or use an incline a lot. Wearing heels also makes these muscles short and tight so avoid wearing them too often and do this stretch once you take them off.

Here's how to keep them loose.
how to stretch your calves

Lean into a wall and extend one leg out behind you
Keep your toes facing forwards
Put most of your weight on the front leg and push the heel of the back leg into the ground
If you need to increase the stretch, step the back leg out a little further and repeat the move
Swap and repeat on the other leg

The backs of the thighs spend a lot of the time in a shortened position as we sit down on them all day. Tight hamstrings can lead to lower back pain in the long term so make sure you stretch this area regularly.
how to do hamstring stretchhow to do hamstring stretch

Lie down face up with your knees bent and feet flat
Extend one leg above you
Grab the back of the thigh of the extended leg and then pull it towards you
Make sure you keep a slight bend at the knee
Note - the straighter the leg above you, the more you feel the stretch behind the knee, which can be painful. Bend the knee a little to keep the stretch right in the middle of the back of the thigh
Swap and repeat on the other leg

15 July 2008

Exercises with a Fitball Part 2

Assuming that you're all still in one piece following the first lot of exercises to do with a fitball, here's the second installment.

These two exercises are great for working on:
1. tightening up your stomach
2. toning your bum
3. toning your legs

Try doing these after 20-30 mins cardio work and make them part of your workout 3 times a week. You'll really notice the results.

Ready? Let's get started.

bridge lift on fitball position 1bridge lift on fit ball
Lie face up with your heels resting on the ball
Tighten your stomach muscles and squeeze your butt muscles
Press your feet into the ball evenly and lift your hips off the ground
Form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles
Hold the bridge by squeezing your butt - keep the legs relaxed and avoid tension building up in the back of the thighs by focussing on your butt
Keep the bridge steady for 5 seconds and lower gently
Repeat x 5, holding the bridge for 2 seconds longer each time

Bridge with Leg Curl
bridge lift on fit ballbridge lift with curl on fit ball
Begin in a similar position to the bridge but this time have your knees a little bent and your heels resting on the ball
Lift your hips into a bridge
With your hips up, bend your legs and move the ball towards your butt
Straighten your legs but don't let your hips drop
Perform 5 leg curls and then lower your hips to rest

11 July 2008

Best Breakfasts when trying to Lose Weight

eggsBreakfast like a king - that's what they say and this doesn't mean a fried breakfast or French pastries galore to start your day. You need something low in fat, high in taste and most importantly, a meal that will see you through to your 11a.m. snack without leaving you feeling hungry and unprepared for your day ahead.

Here's My Top 5 Best Breakfasts to have when you want to get your day off to a healthy start and keep the pounds off. Choose one each day - not all!

What to Eat.....

1. 2/3 pieces of fruit chopped up and a large spoonful of fat free plain yogurt on top. Sprinkle some nuts and seeds on top.

2. Scrambled Eggs on wholemeal or granary toast. One slice of toast and no butter needed. Add handful of sauted mushrooms or tomato to the side to bulk it up.

3. Porridge made with fat free milk or water with a handful of berries - strawberries, blackberries or blueberries - on top and a sprinkling of nuts and seeds.

4. Grapefruit and Muesli. The muesli may be filling on it's own but the grapefruit on the side is a great source of Vit C to kick start your day. (check the label for amount of salt and sugar in it - go for healthiest, organic brand you can buy. With fat free or 2% milk.

5. Boiled eggs or Poached eggs on toast. Again, no butter needed on the wholemeal toast. Add the mushrooms or tomato to the side as with the scrambled eggs.

What to Drink...

Green tea would be an ideal hot drink to have if you're serious about your diet and a cup of hot water and a slice of lemon if you are deadly serious. Otherwise, if you are going to have coffee, make it small, black, no sugar. And with tea, not too much milk and no sugar.

Look out for My Top 5 Best Lunches next week.

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Photograph by Zyada (Flickr)

7 July 2008

Kick the bad food habits

Many people come to me frustrated that they just can’t get the results they want with their fitness and their body. Usually this happens simply because they are stuck with habits that don’t help them in their efforts to reach their goals. For example, recently someone approached me complaining they had difficulty sleeping. On further discussion it transpired they were in the habit of drinking up to 8 coffees in a day so it’s no surprise they weren’t able to sleep well. You hold the solution to everything that's stopping you losing weight and feeling fit. Only you - so isn't it time you kicked the bad habits and got on with reaching your goal? Here are some tips to make that easier.

Another common complaint is a difficulty with losing weight which often turns out to be due to a daily treats of cake or chocolate with every cup of tea and a pastry with every morning coffee. Its time to be honest with yourself about whether or not you want to lose weight and get fit and time to stop with the excuses.

Time to be honest.

Think about which of your habits may be slowing your progress, write them down and then apply the following 3 rules to kick the habit.

1. Always have a substitute. It can be difficult just to ‘not have coffee’ or ‘lay off the cakes’ so make sure you have an alternative ready for the times when you’d usually indulge. Green tea is a good alternative to coffee. Nuts are a good alternative to sugary snacks.

2. Mind your language. Stop thinking of yourself and talking about yourself as someone with the habit you’re changing. Don’t say, ‘I drink a lot of coffee’. Say instead, ‘I’m someone who’s happy with one or two coffees a day’. Or, ‘I used to drink a lot of coffee but I don’t any more’. Or even better, ‘I’m a person who drinks the right amount of coffee a day to make sure I feel great!’ Listen to what you say to others and catch yourself everytime you slip up.

3. Plan ahead. Often people picture themselves following their old routines and falling back into old bad habits so this is exactly what happens. You must picture yourself with your new habits as often as possible to make sure they stick. Visualise yourself throughout the coming day saying no to the old routine and yes to the new one and you’ll find it really easy to get through each day with new routines that support you in your desire to get in shape.

Don't waste time and energy resenting having to give up cakes / mochas / dessert - you've decided to give them up because you don't like the effect they have on your belly / skin / butt / waistline etc. * delete as applicable.

Good luck.

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photograph by anaulin (Flickr)

3 July 2008

Things to do with a Fitball – Part 1

The Fitball or Swiss Ball or Stability Ball has become a standard piece of kit for fitness professionals these days and I come across loads of people that own one but don’t really know what to do with it. So I thought it might be useful to give you some ideas of just how useful it can be and, starting today, we’ll look at the many things you can use the ball for.

It’s a great piece of equipment to have to spice up your workout and challenge your body in new ways. Here’s a couple of suggestions to get you started.

We’ve talked about the importance of good posture in the past. The two main reasons I think it matters are that good posture protects your back and also makes you look and feel taller, slimmer and more energetic.

Good posture comes from sitting and standing straight and tightening those deep down stomach muscles so here are two moves that really target your core abdominals.

Leg lifts
leg lifts
leg lifts

Sit up straight on the ball with your feet and knees close together
Lock your stomach muscles by tightening your pelvic floor
Shift your weight so you’re mostly balancing on one foot
Lift the other foot slightly off the ground
Hold that position for the count of 5
Place the raised foot back on the floor, shift your weight to the other side and repeat
Continue for 5 leg lifts on each side

Hands and knees balance
Warning - This is a tough one so be patient and make sure you’ve got plenty of clear space around you. You may want to get someone to help you balance to begin with.

hand kneews balance
hand knees balance

Begin with the ball in front of you and your hands on top of it
Press your knees into the ball
Feel your weight pressing into the ball evenly through both hands and knees
Try to feel as little weight as possible through your feet and keep the ball as steady as you can

If you’re feeling brave you can try rolling forward a little until your feet and off the ground and you’re totally balanced on the ball. To dismount from this position roll back until your feet touch the ground. This exercise is excellent for firming the stomach.

1 July 2008

7 Things to Eat That Won't Make You Fat

When it comes to foods that are good for you and those that are fattening and will ruin your diet, we all know about the obvious ones (no cream cakes, fast food etc) but sometimes, it can feel like you just don't know what you are able to eat that won't ruin your diet.

Last week we spoke about the importance of keeping a food diary to help you see exactly what’s going on with your food routine.

Hopefully you’ve had a chance to note down what you've been eating so I thought it would be useful today to offer you some changes to consider following your discoveries with your diary.

1. Water- Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty. Drink water regularly throughout the day so that you always know if you feel hungry, it is actually time to grab something to eat and not your thirst talking. Water is the dieters friend.

2. Fish- A great source of protein which is filling without loads of saturated fat. Oily fish contain essential fatty acids which are good for you as they actually help the body metabolize fat and control weight. Try and eat fish at least twice a week and give your fat burning a helping hand.

3. Raw vegetables- Lettuce, broccoli and carrots are a great way to get lots of vitamins and nutrients and they also require lots of chewing which means you eat more slowly which means you eat less. Try to have greens on your plate for lunch and dinner everyday.

4. Coffee- Can help your body to burn fat more effectively but only if its plain, black coffee. Avoid milk and avoid sugar and stick to one or two cups per day. Don't fall into the trap of ordering a skinny latte - the name is skinny, the impact on you won't be.

5. Apples- Or pears, or indeed any other type of fruit. Eat one portion at the beginning of every meal. This will help you achieve your 5-a-day but will also stimulate your ability to feel full and make sure you eat less at each mealtime. Try keeping 3 pieces of fruit on your desk each day and every time you fancy a snack, grab one instead of heading to the vending machine.

6. Fibre- From bran, beans or wholemeal bread. Plenty of fibre keeps your digestive system in good shape which means that whatever you consume can be processed and broken down efficiently. Remember, better out than in!

7. Nuts and seeds- Almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and flaxseed. High in energy, high in fibre, filling and nutritious, nuts and seeds are the best snack you can opt for in a busy day. Just a few at a time will prevent you reaching for cookies, chocolate, sweets or cakes. Try having a handful of seeds after every piece of fruit.