Archives for February 2011

The ‘Quick Fix’

Are you a slave to diets? Since the start of 2011 I keep hearing more and more people talking about diets to lose weight and get back in shape. As a personal trainer I cringe every time dieting is mentioned. I am a true believer that some hard work in the form of good old-fashioned exercise will get your body in a better shape than any diet and in this blog I intend to tell you why.

Many people across the world are after what they think is a ‘quick fix’ by losing weight fast, but in reality losing weight does not necessarily mean losing fat and by doing it so fast it doesn’t mean it will stay off! There are lots of diets out there all with different views, but many of them are about cutting calories. The problem about doing this, is your body goes into starvation mode and becomes less efficient in burning fat, in fact it stores more fat in the long run. When the body goes into starvation mode it actually thinks you are starving it of the essentials and stores fat. The bodies metabolism slows down to save energy, making the process of burning fat harder. Doing this makes weight loss very difficult for most people and over a long period of time can have the opposite effect.

When dieting, the initial weight loss experienced will more than likely be from water loss as the body goes into starvation mode, making it seem like it’s working. More often than not the individual will lose the weight they want then go back to eating the same way as before and will watch the weight creep back on! If the diet is sustained for long periods of time, due to a lack of calories, energy levels drop leaving the individual feeling weaker. The body also uses energy stores from muscle rather than fat decreasing the strength of the body slowly. Eventually the individual is left feeling weak, hungry and many fall off the wagon and binge eat to satisfy their craving of food therefore gaining weight.

I would always recommend a healthy eating programme working alongside regular exercise, where the individual eats up to six meals a day. This keeps the metabolism working at a more consistent level burning fat for longer periods rather than just at big meal times. Six meals should include three main meals, at breakfast lunch and dinner, and healthy smaller snacks in between with some exercise two to three times a week. Fat loss will be noticeable in a more healthy and sustainable way.

Don’t be tempted to try the ‘quick fix’ weight loss when the benefits of exercise are far greater. Here is a list of health benefits exercise gives you:

  • An increase in energy levels
  • An increase in strength, balance, flexibility and fitness levels
  • An increase in the sense of wellbeing
  • Improves your mood
  • Improves sleep patterns
  • Helps control weight
  • Builds stronger bones, joints and muscles
  • A reduction in stress levels
  • A reduction in the chance of chronic diseases such as heart disease
  • A reduction in the risk of high blood pressure and reduces blood pressure for those that already have high blood pressure
  • Generally better health and a stronger immune system

….and many more!

With benefits like these, why would you want a to try a quick fix? No one said exercising is easy, but in life we all have to work for results and the best results come from those that work hardest!

Be a worker, not a slave!

What drives us, motivates us!

Leading on from my last blog, I am continuing with the motivation theme. My last blog had plenty of tips to motivate you when exercising but what motivates us to start exercising?

A lot of people struggle to motivate themselves to exercise but what we forget is the reason why we started exercising in the first place. Whatever the reason may be to start exercising, it was enough to motivate you to make the first step. If you can remember the reasons why you started exercising, this should be the main motivation tool to keep you exercising until you reach your goal and beyond.

Merson & Gazza playing days

When I retired as a professional footballer and stopped the intense training that came with it, I had a big question that I needed answering, how do you train down from a professional career or an intense daily training programme? When we see the likes of Paul Gascoigne, Paul Merson (both ex England footballers) and many more retiring from football and piling on the lbs, it seems not many people know the answer to that question and it shows how the body can’t cope with going from training daily to training occasionally.

 

Gazza after football

My question became my motivation! I realised that if I didn’t continue training my body in the way it was used to, I would gain weight and my health would suffer. Therefore, my drive to stay fit and healthy and keep away from becoming an overweight ex professional footballer, was and still is what motivates me to keep exercising regularly. An important question you need to ask yourself is ‘why did you start exercising in the first place?’ Remember the answer to the question and use it. The moment you forget the answer, is the moment you lose a massive chunk of your motivation!

Another problem many people have is, when they reach their goals, they stop exercising. Why stop, let all the hard work go to waste and reverse the cycle? Why not continue with what you’ve started and maintain a fitter, healthier you and not get back on the slippery slope to becoming unfit again!

What drives us to start exercising, motivates us to continue!

Motivation

As a personal trainer and general fitness enthusiast, I find myself being asked the same question over and over again. This question has cropped up again recently and seems to be one of the biggest hurdles most people have to overcome to get on the right path to becoming fitter and healthier. The big question that I have to answer time and time again is, “How do you motivate yourself?” This blog is all about telling you what motivates me and my tips on how to motivate yourself.

Personally I think the majority of people have the wrong mind set before starting a workout, which can ultimately be the main reason why they talk themselves out of going for that workout. Many people look at the negatives rather than the positives and it is easily done. I’ve heard excuses like “I haven’t got the time” or “I’m too tired” or my favourite, “I can always do it tomorrow” which as we all know can end up being the next day, or the day after that and sometimes just not doing it at all. The longer it’s put off, the harder it is to finally do it!

I believe many people think about how hard a workout will be or how much effort it will take and the more they think about it, the harder the workout becomes in their head and the less they want to do it. I’m a firm believer that whatever equipment or tools you have to help motivate you, you should use them! When I first started running longer distances I could hear two voices in my head, one telling me I’d had enough and just to stop and another telling me not to quit and to complete what I had set out to do. I found some runs very boring until I came across Nike+. Nike+ is my motivation tool! As I am such a competitive person, the Nike+ watch, sensor and website enables me to compete against people all around the world. The great thing about that is, there will always be some better than you, fitter than you, stronger than you, quicker than you etc and for me it keeps me wanting to improve and catch/beat the person in front of me, that has run 5 more miles than I have. When you find yourself chasing and improving it becomes addictive and the adrenalin and energy it gives you is like a drug…..you want it more and more.

The fact of the matter is, we all want to see results with the minimum possible input but I believe if you want to achieve in life you have to work hard to succeed. I have come up with a list of do’s and dont’s that might help you find motivation.

  • Do – Firstly, a big motivation tool is setting goals. Think of a goal which you see as a long term goal, such as, losing four stone in weight or running a marathon. Once you have a long term goal, think of some short term goals which will help you achieve your long term goal. These are like rungs of a ladder or stepping stones and are very important in breaking things down into smaller, manageable goals. This way you achieve results often, which will keep you going.
  • Don’t Don’t push yourself too hard to start with or set yourself impossible goals, as it’s very easy to give up when you feel like you’re not achieving anything or every workout is impossible. Build it up gradually and change your workouts regularly to keep them fun. If you enjoy them, you’ll continue to do them!
  • Do – We all love to see proof but some of us go overboard and it can be demoralising if things don’t happen as quick as you want. When weighing yourself, make sure you do it first thing in the morning and all the elements are the same, such as, with the same scales and on the same surface wearing the same amount of clothing.
  • Don’t – Weighing yourself once a week is enough, don’t get caught up in weighing yourself daily or every other day, your bodyweight can fluctuate daily depending on food and fluid intake.
  • Do – I like to take a photo log of my body every couple of months. This is a great way of seeing changes in body shape that you won’t notice from day to day. If you do this too often, changes won’t be so noticeable. Again remember to take the photo with the same lighting and in the same place etc.
  • Don’t – If you plan on having a workout after work, make sure you just go and do it as soon as you can. Don’t make the cardinal sin of sitting down on the sofa telling yourself you’ll go in half an hour because it more than likely won’t happen. Once your body is relaxed it is very difficult to find the drive to exercise. 
  • Do – Be positive and think about how you will feel when your workout has finished and the sense of achievement it will give you. You will feel more energised by exercising regularly and it will leave you with a buzz after a workout. Use this feeling as a way of lifting you when you need it. 
  • Don’t – Finally, don’t think about working out for too long beforehand as your mind has a tendency to try to talk you out of it, just make up your mind and go for it. Before you know it, it will be finished and you will be happy you chose to get up and make it happen.

Everyone is different with different personalities, so you have to find what drives you and use it. There is enough time to fit in a workout and all the other excuses can be pushed aside too…..only you can put in the hard work to make a difference.

What’s more of a motivator than seeing results from your own hard work?

 (Originally posted on Sunday, 30 January 2011)

Fitness goals for 2011

After a year punishing myself with what seemed like a huge challenge when 2010 started, I managed not only to reach my goal of running 1000 miles in the year, I also ran much more! The final figure was 1318 miles and in that time I managed to drop my average running time from 7.15 min/mile to 6.52 min/mile. That doesn’t sound much, but when running 10 miles at a time it works out quite a considerable margin. At the start of 2010 I was working hard just to try to run 10 miles in under 1 hour 10 minutes (7 min/mile), but by training my body to maintain a quicker pace for a longer period of time I managed to log some unbelievable times that I never thought I could do! In fact, by the end of the year, even on an off day, my times were always below the 7 min/mile marker. The quickest time I recorded was 1 hour 4 minutes and 37 seconds which at the time beat my previous personal best by over a minute.

To some this challenge might seem crazy but it kept me focussed and as a trainer it is very easy to get caught up with clients fitness programmes and neglect your own! This challenge made sure that didn’t happen and it has made me fitter and stronger than ever before. The only problem with the challenge was that it was very time consuming and gruelling on my body, therefore I sacrificed my usual weights programme for the year to see the effects it would have on my body. The conclusion is that physically I have become much fitter, I have lost some muscle bulk from the lack of weights but look more toned than before. Ideally when exercising, mixing cardiovascular workouts and resistance exercise programmes is the way to go, but as I sacrificed my resistance exercise programme, my strength has suffered slightly…..but not to worry, I will be working more on that this year!

So, on to 2011. My challenge this year has changed slightly. I want to keep on with my running as the fitness it has given me, has left my heart and lungs very healthy, but I also want to regain some of the strength and muscle bulk that I had before. As my mileage was so much higher than expected, I know what is possible now, so I have decided to cut my mileage to just complete 1000 miles this year but add in a weights programme along the way. With two to three 10 mile runs a week plus twice a week of weights sessions, four to five days a week of exercise could be a real challenge for even the fittest and I expect this to be a tough year.

Combining the big mileage running and a consistent weights programme could turn me into a machine if all goes to plan, but I’m not expecting it to be easy as staying fit and healthy never is and we all have to remember that sometimes! The effort you put in will be rewarded with results. What do you want out of 2011 and will you put the effort in to get it?

(Originally posted on Monday, 17 January 2011)

Exercise Order

Every individual is different! Some prefer to do their CV exercise before their resistance exercises when doing a full body strength endurance programme and vice versa. There is no right or wrong way, personally I think it depends on your goals and what you see as your priority in your programme. If you are more interested in losing weight or training for a competition like a 10k, then you would probably want to do your CV component first whilst you are fresh, because doing it after your strength exercises might make you feel heavy and sluggish, but not everyone is so concerned about running a 10k race. Some want to build muscle and body mass and in this case the strength exercises would probably be more of an importance than the CV component, so you would probably do the strength exercises first. It is all down to the individuals preference!

One part of the programme that is important is the order of muscles worked during your strength exercises. Some would go to a gym and use whatever equipment is free without thinking about the effects of the order in which they are exercising their muscles. Think about this; when lifting weights, for example performing a basic bench press, the main muscle group you are working are the Pectorals but when you know how the body works in function, you will know you are also using your Triceps and Anterior Deltoids to straighten your arms and push the weight away from your chest. Many other exercises work in this way using more than one muscle group to perform an exercise, so with this in mind fatiguing smaller muscles before larger muscles means you will never get the best possible workout to the larger muscles.

Here are a few tips and things to think about when working out:

  • Make sure you warm up for a minimum of 5 minutes before exercising. Don’t stretch whilst cold, and always try to perform Dynamic stretches(stretches on the move) rather than static stretches. Dynamic stretches that replicate the kind of movements you will be performing in your workout are a good idea. Static stretches should only be performed at the end of your workout. 
  • What are your goals and what is more important to you? Strength or CV?…….when you know this you can decide on the order at which you perform the exercises.  
  • During the strength exercises think about how certain muscles make your body move in different ways. This will help you understand what muscles you are using during different exercises(for example, a seated row to work the muscles in the back. The movement of drawing the arms backwards towards the body makes the arms bend at the elbows. It takes the biceps to contract for the elbow to bend, therefore the biceps will be working during the exercise too.) and help you to choose the order of your exercises wisely. 
  • Start by performing exercises for larger muscles before smaller muscle groups to ensure all muscles are given the best possible workout.
  • Everyone wants a toned flat stomach but you should always perform your core exercises at the end of your workout. Your core links everything in the body and therefore helps stabilise during the exercises you perform for the rest of the body, especially when using free weights or standing exercises. Work the core last so the rest of your body gets the best possible workout first. 
  • If possible, try to use free weights rather than resistance machines. Free weights are better for training the body for function(this means everyday movements) and will also encourage the core to work too. Using free weights will help gain better definition and strength throughout the body.

After completing your workout…remember….you have a 15 minute window to stretch before your muscles start to tighten and you get that stiff feeling. Make sure you stretch thoroughly as it will help in the long run and flexibility is always key in exercising and staying fit.

Try putting these tips in to good use next time you workout and see if you notice any differences in your performance.

Here are a few tips and things to think about when working out:

  • Make sure you warm up for a minimum of 5 minutes before exercising. Don’t stretch whilst cold, and always try to perform Dynamic stretches(stretches on the move) rather than static stretches. Dynamic stretches that replicate the kind of movements you will be performing in your workout are a good idea. Static stretches should only be performed at the end of your workout. 
  • What are your goals and what is more important to you? Strength or CV?…….when you know this you can decide on the order at which you perform the exercises.  
  • During the strength exercises think about how certain muscles make your body move in different ways. This will help you understand what muscles you are using during different exercises(for example, a seated row to work the muscles in the back. The movement of drawing the arms backwards towards the body makes the arms bend at the elbows. It takes the biceps to contract for the elbow to bend, therefore the biceps will be working during the exercise too.) and help you to choose the order of your exercises wisely. 
  • Start by performing exercises for larger muscles before smaller muscle groups to ensure all muscles are given the best possible workout.
  • Everyone wants a toned flat stomach but you should always perform your core exercises at the end of your workout. Your core links everything in the body and therefore helps stabilise during the exercises you perform for the rest of the body, especially when using free weights or standing exercises. Work the core last so the rest of your body gets the best possible workout first. 
  • If possible, try to use free weights rather than resistance machines. Free weights are better for training the body for function(this means everyday movements) and will also encourage the core to work too. Using free weights will help gain better definition and strength throughout the body.

After completing your workout…remember….you have a 15 minute window to stretch before your muscles start to tighten and you get that stiff feeling. Make sure you stretch thoroughly as it will help in the long run and flexibility is always key in exercising and staying fit.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwqoA39RoNs]

Try putting these tips in to good use next time you workout and see if you notice any differences in your performance.

If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail!

(Originally posted on Wednesday, 6 October 2010)

Are you exercising right?

Many people in the world work very hard trying to keep fit and reach their goals. The fact of the matter is the majority are doing something wrong without even knowing it. The key to exercising and becoming a healthier person is to let your diet and exercise programme work hand in hand. What I mean by this is, if you work hard in a gym three times a week for an hour but decide to have a pizza, kebab or any other take away as a regular food in your diet, you will not get the results you want. Not only is diet important, the type of exercise you do is just as important.

Here are a few tips that can help you on your way:

  • Always stay well hydrated before, during and after exercise – A dehydrated body will not perform to it’s best. Cramping can occur, a lack of energy will be noticeable and fatigue can set in very quick. If you feel thirsty the damage is already done!
  • When exercising regularly it is important to fuel the body right. A car will not run without petrol or diesel and the body is exactly the same without food. It is important to eat a high carbohydrate food at least two hours before exercising to enable you to work to your maximum.
  • When doing an exercise programme, make sure to mix things up a little. Your body will easily get used to doing the same repetitive programme so make sure you try something new every so often to keep your body on its toes! Don’t always stick to what your good at, try the things you’re not so good at and watch the progression.
  • A warm up and cool down is very important. Not only will the warm up stretch your muscles ready for exercise, it also helps the blood vessels in the body expand to allow oxygen round your body quicker. A warm down including a full body stretch can shift some of the lactic acid build up that occurred during your workout which causes stiffness in muscles. A cool down can reduce this stiffness helping you feel better the following day.
  • Finally, don’t over do it! It’s great to push yourself, but doing too much will just exhaust your body increasing the chances of pulled muscles or other injuries. REMEMBER….recovery/rest is just as important as your workout.

Put these five tips in to practice and you will notice some differences. Once you become more accomplished with exercising, you will then need the knowledge of exercise order and how to work each area of the body with the right exercise.

Enjoy your workout!

(Originally posted on Thursday, 15 April 2010)

Life after Sport – A New Path

Since retiring as a Professional Footballer after a 10 year career and 285 professional appearances to my name it was time for a new chapter in my life. With my love of sport and fitness and having to maintain my body and personal fitness for the majority of my life, the obvious choice was a physical job. I decided the experiences I had during my football career could help and hopefully inspire people in need of changing their life for the better, giving them a healthier, happier life.

                        

Personal Training and Sports Massage Therapy it was! After Qualifying with Premier Training, the elite training provider in the field, I could think of nothing better than setting up my own business to help others in reaching their fitness goals. FLEXERCISE was born!

Since that day I have strived to create fun, challenging workouts, tailor-made for the individuals needs, to get the best out of my clients and guide them to reach their goals. I have met clients in need of a sports massage after injuries or running marathons and gladly helped improve their posture or relieve pain. My own experiences of injuries and my knowledge of the anatomy has helped train clients with knee, hip, shoulder and back problems and work around those problems to still achieve their targets.

I have learnt that helping others train their bodies for a healthier lifestyle is more rewarding than I ever imagined it would be and I hope I can continue to help more people for years to come. I always say to clients “I can show you what you should be doing and give you my knowledge, but the hard work to achieve comes from you, I cannot give you that!” I suppose what I’m trying to say is……what you put in to life, you get out!

I’ll leave you with a favourite quote of mine….

“If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.”     William Arthur Ward 

(Originally posted on Thursday, 18 March 2010)