Archives for November 2011

Adding ‘lb’s’ Over Christmas!

Coming up to the festive season, many of us start thinking about how much we eat and some of the junk we end up putting into our body. With this comes the problem of standing on the scales and taking a gasp as we see our weight much higher than before the Christmas break. Sometimes it’s not just a couple of added ‘lb’s’ that we end up having to shift with our New Year’s resolutions, it can be much more and not the greatest way to see in the New Year. So what can we do to prevent this from happening and still enjoy the treats of Christmas?

Image

Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that can help us with the problem of gaining weight after eating badly. Fortunately, there is something far better……EXERCISE! In the ideal world we would all eat healthily and enjoy some regular exercise which would go hand in hand to keeping us all fit and healthy inside and out, but we all know this isn’t going to happen! Obviously I would always advise everyone to eat the right foods, drink the right fluids and exercise regularly but there are times during the year when we all want to let our hair down and enjoy ourselves. With that comes junk food, alcohol and lack of sleep. Stress can also be a major problem for the body which is why having time to relax and have some fun is important too. So it’s all about finding a balance!

I personally don’t agree with counting calories as that feels very restrictive and no way to live, but it’s common sense that if you burn off the added calories you put into the body with some of the junk food, it helps to keep the weight off. So the solution to the problem is obvious; if you eat fattening foods you have to work harder to burn them off! There is no easy route in life to be successful, it requires hard work and dedication. Fitness is no different and Vince Lombardi has made some fantastic quotes explaining just that, here are a couple of my favourites….

“Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price”

“A man can be as great as he wants to be. If you believe in yourself and have the courage, the determination, the dedication, the competitive drive and if you are willing to sacrifice the little things in life and pay the price for the things that are worthwhile, it can be done”

I think these quotes typify my views to exercise and keeping fit. If we put the work in, we get rewarded for our efforts! You have two choices……

  • Make sacrifices and restrain yourself around the junk food and alcohol that helps us pile on the ‘lb’s’ over Christmas. Eat healthily and maintain how you would normally live throughout the year.
  • Exercise regularly throughout the Christmas break and be able to eat some treats and enjoy yourself, knowing you are limiting the damage by burning more calories through exercise.

It is harder to lose weight after the damage is done than to maintain it through regular exercise at the time! To give you an indication of how much effort it takes to burn off the wrong foods, here is an example…

Image

A Mars bar contains roughly 280 calories. For a 150 lb person to burn off the calories in a Mars bar they would need to run for about 25 minutes if they were running at a pace of 6mph.

Obviously these figures would change with the weight of the person and speed they run at. This is just an approximate guide but it shows how much effort needs to be put in to burn off one minute of enjoyment from eating that Mars bar, so is it worth it and are you willing to work hard to burn it off?. Now ask yourself this question and the answer will tell you if you should take choice number one or number two above….

Are you dedicated and hard working enough to exercise regularly to burn off the amount of calories you will consume over Christmas?

If your answer is no then stick to choice number one and make some sacrifices, if it’s yes then enjoy exercising over the Christmas period and you’ll have the opportunity to treat yourself too! 

I’ll leave you with a tip to a question that so many people have asked during my time as a personal trainer and one that so many people have problems with already and others will have over Christmas…. “What is the best abdominal exercise to get a flat/toned stomach?”

If you do plan on working hard and being able to have the Christmas treats,  just remember one thing…..you can do as many abdominal exercises as you want but your abdominals will not show if there is body fat over the top! Sit ups, abdominal crunches and any other core exercise will not be enough to burn the fat needed to see visible abdominal muscles, that comes from cardiovascular exercise for about 30 minutes at a time at a steady pace. There is no harm in building your core strength and when the body fat percentage decreases, the abdominals will be more visible.

Time to start planning your Christmas exercise schedule! Have a great festive period.

Fail to Prepare; Prepare to Fail!

After using the phrase ‘Fail to prepare; prepare to fail!’ this week, I thought it would be a great place to start when writing my blog. As I’m in the process of training for the London Marathon in 2012 I find myself back in the same mindset as I was as a footballer, not leaving anything to chance and making sure every training run is prepared for properly. It made me think about how others prepare themselves for their sports or just for training in general. I’ve come up with a few questions and tips that might help you train and perform to your best…..

  • Are you eating the right foods before training or the main performance? 

TIP – What you put into your body prior to training/performing will provide you with the energy you need to perform at your best. If you don’t eat right, don’t expect to perform to your best! High carbohydrate foods before hand should leave you with the energy to perform at a good level without feeling tired/drained. I tend to eat foods like, chicken, pasta, rice, bananas, toast and cereal. The size and type of food depends on the time of day I eat it and how long I have before the performance. Ideally, a big meal should be eaten 3 hours prior to the performance or smaller, lighter foods such as toast for anything closer to the performance. Remember to leave enough time for your food to go down and start the digestion process or it will sit on your stomach and make it uncomfortable to run or move when performing.

  • Are you drinking enough of the right fluids before and during training or the main performance?

TIP – Very similar to the tip above, the fluids that you put into your body prior to and during training/performing, will prevent you from becoming dehyrated and will replace lost salts from sweating. Drinking plenty of water before training/performing will help the body be at its best. If you feel dehydrated the damage is already done! It only takes 2-3% of water loss in the body before endurance starts to suffer and your performance also suffers. A little bit more(5%) and it effects the mind making it hard to concentrate and the body continues to suffer with pace slowing down. Keeping hydrated is vital! Isotonic drinks are a good tool during training/performing as they replace lost salts and also have a high concentration of carbs to keep the energy levels up. If possible, try to take plenty of fluids with you during your training/performance and keep drinking small amounts at regular intervals. It’s easier for sports like cycling for obvious reasons that you can connect a drink to your bike, but I’ve been known to hide drink bottles in a quiet place on a route I plan on taking a long distance run, so that I have a drink at certain stages of that run. Don’t neglect drinking fluids and make sure they are the right fluids, not fizzy drinks, tea, coffee etc as they are diuretics and will only dehydrate you more!

  • Do you have the right equipment and clothing?

TIP – This is a very important tip! Having the wrong equipment or clothing could be costly, not just because of comfort but because you can risk injury. Until you know a sport, it’s very difficult to know what you might need, so make sure you speak to the right people and get advice on the essentials from people who perform in that sport or know their stuff. An example: Until running long distances, you might not have ever thought about blisters, chafing, correct trainers for your gait etc, but all of them can make the difference between performing at your best and a very uncomfortable event. Clothing such as 1000 mile blister free socks, lined shorts, vaseline or other lubricants to prevent chafing and correct trainers(sometimes fitted with orthotics if necessary!) are a must. Sometimes it’s trial and error but there are specific sports shops that can advise you if you need help. How about riding up a steep hill on your bike and the gears keep slipping? Again something that can cause an injury if you’re on a road amongst traffic and can really make your ride much more difficult. Maybe it’s about the right foot wear in a football match. Do you have moulded boots for hard grounds and studded boots for soft weather grounds? It’s not just the equipment/clothing it’s also the colour! I have recently been on a training run in the clothing you can see in the picture to the right which looks fine until you know I went out later in the day and misjudged the time. I ended up running in the dark in black clothing without any reflectors on. I rarely make mistakes like this and there were no problems on the run, BUT there could have been and next time I might not be so fortunate. I have learnt from my mistake and it’s a good mistake to highlight as an example of the title of this blog.

So in conclusion, don’t leave things to chance! There are many more tips I could give you about performing to your best but the blog would go on all day, so I’ll save it for another day. The higher the level you perform at, the smaller the margins are. Not drinking enough, eating the wrong foods at the wrong time, wearing the wrong clothing and using the wrong equipment and generally not preparing for your performance could be the difference between being a winner or a loser! What would you rather be?