Training for Performance

I’ve recently trained a wide range of clients wanting very different results, but they are all linked in one way without them even realising! We all train for better performance no matter what it is we do. I’ve trained marathon runners, tri-athletes, cyclists, clients wanting to build muscle and those that just want general fitness and a weekly push in the right direction. Whether you want to become a stronger cyclist, a quicker runner or just to have a healthier heart, lungs and rest of the body, the first thing you need to do is train to cater for what you do! This is where so many people go wrong. For example, if you are a sprinter, you wouldn’t train by running marathons, you would perform speed drills and power exercises for short bursts.

I recently played a round of golf (which was long overdue!) and I realised how much the sport is based around technique and flexibility. If you get both right, the power seems to come naturally. The twisting motion of a golfer needs a lot of core strength, especially the sides(obliques). This made me think about sports in general and what we do to train for them. The more I thought, the more questions I came up with. After playing football for so many years, the obvious thing was to relive the training I had taken part in day after day and question its methods. One example is; a footballer is constantly on the move but it is not all one paced, there are changes in speed and direction. Obviously endurance is necessary but why are so many teams pre-seasons based around long, one paced runs for miles on end. How many footballers run at the same pace continuously for a full 90 minutes? So is this kind of training necessary? One question that really stands out in my mind is…If most football matches are played at 3pm, why do English clubs train at 10-10.30am? A lot of european clubs have been known to train at the time a match would be played, helping the body get used to performing to the best of its ability at that time of day. So why do we insist on doing things differently? Is it small details like this that prevents us being the best at a national level? Do we do enough homework about the sport we play and how to achieve success?

It’s not just about sport, it’s about those that want general fitness. You might think “How can you train for performance when it’s general fitness?” Well, when you are training for general fitness, your performance is your every day life and the functional movements you do with every step you take or every time you stretch to pick something up off the floor. The majority of people don’t play a sport, so training to stay fit and healthy in a functional manner is key. Flexibility is so important, especially later in life when bones start to fuse and muscles get used less and tighten up. So with this in mind, when we exercise why do so many people neglect stretching the body before and after a workout? It is so important to stretch straight after a workout to prevent the muscles tightening up and losing flexibility in the long run.

So next time when you enter the gym, park or even your own front room for a workout, think about what you want to get out of it and what the main reason is for you exercising. Once you understand why you are exercising, then you can train specifically for what you need, to enhance performance.

No Pain, no gain?

Throughout my football career I put on a brave face through many injuries, some minor and some more serious, but in a competitive sport like football, it is important to play through what you can so you don’t lose your place in the team………or is it? I believed, when I was young, that I would be frowned upon from pulling out of training or competitive games because of an injury. Unfortunately, there were times when this was true because some of the managers in football only want one thing……to win! Most only care about what happens right now and don’t really worry about what an injury might mean to your future.

The more injuries I had and the older I got, the more I realised it was up to me to protect my body when it needed protecting, or my career would not last the distance. Unfortunately, the damage was done in my early years, by putting my body on the line one too many times for people who weren’t concerned with my future and in the long run I paid the ultimate sacrifice, an early retirement. The injuries I sustained over the years were just too much to continue playing a professional sport and that is why I am where I am today. Hopefully my experience of injuries and playing through the pain of broken bones, cartilage tears, arthritis to name a few, can help others not to make the same mistake. So, there are times when the saying “No pain, no gain!” couldn’t be further from the truth.

This picture shows a head injury that has left me with a scar across my forehead for the rest of my life! I was also playing with a broken hand!

Recently I’ve had a few people ask for my advice about injuries they are having problems with. It seems that a lot of people don’t know the basic protocol after the initial injury, so this blog will give you all you need, to help you speed up the recovery period of less serious injuries, such as sprains and strains(if in any doubt over your injury, medical advise should be sought).

Here are a few simple pointers that will help speed up the recovery process. When ever possible always follow the PRICE protocol:

  • P = Protection. Protect yourself from injury as best as you can (eg. wearing shin pads etc) but if the damage has already been done, the same principles apply; Protect the injury from further damage by stop playing or using padding to support the area.
  • R = Rest. Being brave and playing on is not always wise! Rest is important to let the injury heal no matter how big or small it may be. This can be the difference between a speedy recovery or making the injury worse and adding weeks or months to the recovery period.
  • I = Ice. Applying ice to an injury reduces pain and inflammation/swelling. It should be performed for 15-20 minutes maximum every couple of hours. Be careful not to ice for longer than 20 minutes as it can damage the tissue further rather than help it. Also, it is advisable not to put ice/ice packs direct to the skin to prevent ice burns which can be very painful! The next two steps can be performed at the same time as icing an injury to aid recovery.
  • C = Compression. Keeping an injury compressed with bandages will reduce swelling or prevent the injury from swelling further, if swelling has already occurred. You can compress at the same time as icing for added benefit. If the compression causes pins and needles, throbbing or cuts circulation as it feels too tight, take the bandage off and compress the area again but not as tight.
  • E = Elevation. By keeping an injured area elevated above the level of the heart as much as possible, it reduces swelling and lets any swelling already built up in the area track away to the nearest glands making the area less stiff and helping recovery. Again, it is a good idea to elevate an injury whilst icing.

This is a sight no one wants to see. One I can't actually remember!

So there is the basic protocol. Obviously more serious injuries will need medical treatment but this protocol will always be used along the line at some point.

Remember, no pain, no gain is not always the answer when it comes to injuries. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong, so ignoring it can only make an injury worse. Don’t let a pain you have ignored turn into an injury that can cause more serious problems later in life!

What motivates the motivators? London Marathon 2012?

In my blogs I normally give tips, statistics and ‘do’s and don’ts’ about exercise, but this time I have decided to let you in to my own recent exercise programmes and what has driven me to do the routines I have over the last few weeks.

After a couple of clients achieved the amazing goal of running the London Marathon and running it in a very respectable time, I decided to enter it myself for 2012. It has been a dream of mine for many years but has always taken a back seat because of my football career. Since retiring from football through knee injuries and being told I should avoid certain things(like running on concrete), the dream of running a marathon faded too. Although, being stubborn and wanting to prove my mental strength has made me believe anything is possible, even the impossible! So, when the ballot opened on April 26th I woke up and the first thing I did was grab my phone, entered ‘London Marathon entry 2012’ into Google and typed my details in to enter the ballot. From this moment on, all I have had in my mind is ‘what time do I want to finish the marathon in and what pace can I sustain?’ There has never been one thought of ‘can I get through the marathon?’ My fitness thoughts have been taken over by running 26.2 miles!

The next step for me was to think of a target that I would be happy with and come up with a strategy for running it in that time. So, I have two targets:

  1. I have always said anything under 4 hours is fantastic but I want better than that, so the first target is 3 hours 45 minutes. I would be very happy running 26.2 miles in under this time which is roughly an average of 8.55 min/mile. This is a good pace to sustain for such a long distance, but the competitive nature inside of me always wants to push for more, which leads me on to my next target………
  2. The second target is 3 hours 30 minutes. Now this is what I call pushing the limits! To get this target I would have to sustain an 8 min/mile for the duration of the race, which if you run a lot, you will know is a tough pace to run at for such a long time, especially if you are 90kg like me! It could also be harder if the heat is as gruelling as it was for this years marathon.

As a personal trainer I always look at things with a positive mental attitude (PMA, the old cliché!) and when I put my mind to it, there is no turning back. I currently run 10 miles 2-3 times a week between 6.45 – 7 min/miles, so slowing my pace to roughly 8 min/mile is possible! Isn’t it?

The next step was to add a few miles to my regular route and slow my pace to see if my theory could become practice. Since then I have had two longer runs in amongst my usual 10 mile runs. The first being 15 miles in 1 hour 54 minutes and the second being 17 miles in 2 hours 7 minutes(through the empty streets whilst our future King was getting married!). What I found is, it is quite tough to slow the pace that I am used to running at, hence the quick times for both longer runs. It has given me a strategy that I think will help me achieve my goal, but neither of these runs were easy, in fact the last few miles were draining!

In conclusion, I have realised that I can maintain the pace needed to complete my goal and the new strategy will help me towards that. Obviously(unless you are a professional runner), running for that many miles, everyone will slow naturally as they fatigue, but what I want to do is to get to 16 miles in roughly 2 hours. This will leave me 10.2 miles to run in 1 hour 30 minutes (roughly 9 min/mile), which will hopefully leave me enough time to cover the miles at a slower pace once fatigue starts to set in. The only thing left to do is actually run the marathon!

That’s if my entry is successful, ha ha, it could all be for nothing! Or would it?

Some might say why train until you know if you have been accepted or not(which is early October)? I say, why not? If it inspires you to push harder, get fitter, stronger and healthier along the way, is it a bad thing or a good? Many people struggle with motivation and dreams like this are a great way of motivating anyone, so the answer is…..becoming fitter, stronger and healthier can only ever be good no matter what your goal is. Even if you don’t quite achieve it, your body will always benefit from the training you have done.

My tip for you this blog is; don’t wait to start becoming healthier, we can’t change the past, we don’t know what will happen in the future but we can do everything we possibly can in the present, to help us achieve and be successful when the chance is given to us!

I hope you enjoyed reading how my mind works and just think, whilst your reading this, I might be pushing the limits a little harder on my next run to achieve a life long dream………..the London Marathon!

Marathon Recovery

As I sat down to write this blog I could think of nothing more fitting than a few tips about recovery, on the weekend of the London Marathon. Thousands of runners and walkers will be thinking about crossing the finish line at 26.2 miles but the truth is, it doesn’t stop there! What happens next is just as important as the training leading up to the marathon and the marathon itself. Having a few clients running the marathon, I thought there will be many people out there that don’t know the best way of recovering and could do with a few tips. Many of these tips can be used for recovery after any exercise or sports event not just for such gruelling events as the marathon, so here goes……

  • Cool down: Recovery starts straight away after the event. A cool down is very important to reduce stiffness and muscle soreness created from lactic acid build up in the muscles. A thorough cool down can help flush the lactic acid away and reduce DOMS(delayed onset muscle soreness). A jog, walk and thorough stretch could be the difference between recovering in days or weeks. Once you have stopped running, your muscles will stiffen up, even after a cool down, so it is wise to keep moving every 15-20 minutes on the way home from the marathon, to prevent an uncomfortable recovery period.
  • Rehydration: Replacing lost fluids is vital. You can lose lbs just from lost fluids that need to be replaced for a speedy recovery. Also body salts and electrolytes need replacing and a good way of doing this is to add a dioralyte sachet to each bottle of water that you drink. They don’t taste great but they will help to replace the salts and electrolytes that your body has lost. It is important to drink water throughout the day not just gulp straight after the race. A good way to judge dehydration, is the colour of your urine. If it is dark, you need to continue to rehydrate until it is more of a pale yellow colour.
  • Replacing energy: Eating a high carbohydrate and protein meal will help your energy levels and the protein is great for muscle and tissue repair. If possible, try to eat a good meal within the first hour after finishing the marathon. Chicken and pasta are a good example of a high carb and protein meal.
  • Ice: If you can cope with it and you have somewhere to have one, an ice bath is great for keeping inflammation to a minimum. Ten minutes are all you need to help with your recovery. If you really can’t handle an ice bath, putting an ice pack on any areas with aches or pains will again reduce any inflammation and help speed up recovery. As much as you might want one, refrain from having a warm bath or sitting in a hot tub as they will increase any bleeding in muscles and can impede recovery.
  • Blisters: If you have accumulated some blisters during the 26.2 miles, they can get very uncomfortable after the adrenalin of the race fades. What you do with them depends on if the blisters are in tact or broken. If in tact, I would suggest sterilizing a needle, bursting and draining the blister and get some fresh air to it so it can dry out. If it has already broken and split away from the skin, it can become very sore. Cleaning it with antiseptic will stop infection but it will need to dry out and  heal without further rubbing/friction on other shoes. Try to keep the area open, flip-flops will allow you to air the blister out without rubbing unless it is under the foot.
  • Rest: After all the above, arrange a massage or two to help you rest and move any muscle soreness you still have. The general rule for exercising again is to rest for as many days as the amount of miles you run (26 days) before training again, but each individual is different. Let your body speak to you and if it feels too early, it probably is!
  • Sleep: The following days after the marathon, it is important to get plenty of sleep. This is your body’s time to heal and a good nights sleep can make a big difference in the way you feel mentally and physically.

Now you have completed the marathon and achieved what so many can only dream of, it is up to you to take care of your body and use these tips to help you back to normality.

Congratulations on your achievement.

‘Time’ for a workout!

After an exercise filled week, which consisted of three 10 mile runs and four very different weights programmes, I found myself thinking about how much time the average person actually has, to commit to exercise. As ‘time’ or a lack of it, can be used as a reason not to exercise, sometimes a very valid reason and other times not so valid and more of an excuse, I thought I’d ask the question, is it an excuse for you? There are the obvious factors to take into consideration, so I decided to work out a few statistics to leave one simple question on everyone’s mind. So here goes……

  • There are 168 hours in a week.
  • We sleep on average about 8 hours a night, which is 56 hours a week.
  • If we work a 9 hour day, that’s 63 hours a week.
  • On average we spend 1 hour 30 minutes eating each day, which is 10 hours 30 minutes a week.
  • If you deduct the above from 168 hours in a week you are left with an average 38 hours a week spare for getting dressed, travel, baths/showers etc.
  • In those 38 hours the average person manages to watch 3-4 hours of TV a day, which is a massive 21-28 hours a week and reads magazines/newspapers for an average of 5 hours and 30 minutes a week.

When you look at those figures, ask yourself what your body gains from watching up to 28 hours a week of TV or over 5 hours a week of gossip in magazines or newspapers?

If someone asked you the question….. ‘If you could gain extra years on your life, would you take it?’ I’m pretty sure the majority of people would say yes. By exercising regularly and keeping your body fit and healthy, inside and out, you can have a longer healthier life. With this in mind, think about those 38 hours of spare time each week and the amount of time you sit around watching TV. It only takes an hour of exercise 2-3 times a week to stay fit and healthy, so knowing you can lead a longer, healthier life, the question should be, out of them 38 hours can you really not spare 3 of them a week for exercising? Or, can you not cut down the less important activities, such as computer games and TV, to make time for more important activities to stay fit and healthy?

Ask yourself this……do you REALLY not have time to look after your body or is it just a convenient excuse?

Think about it!

‘Beach Body’ or just Bad Posture?

We’re now at that time of year when we start to think about our holidays and more specifically, how we look in a swimming costume or shorts on the beach! Many of us are concerned by the shape of our bodies and decide now is the time to put it right before the summer starts. But, are we doing the right exercise to achieve our improved ‘Beach Body’?

After spending the majority of my life in and around changing rooms and gyms during my football career, I’ve noticed a worrying habit which is more noticeable in men. The term ‘beach weights’ springs to mind, which is used a lot amongst men that are training to look and feel good about their body in the summer. You might think, “what is wrong with that?” and the answer is……nothing, as long as they are done in the right way! The problem is, most men will only work the muscles that are visible in a mirror and ignore those that they can’t notice any changes in. That means they concentrate on the chest, biceps and abdominal muscles but ignore the muscles of the back. During their training they will more than likely notice the chest getting bigger, biceps bulging more and abdominals looking more prominent and toned, but what is it doing to their posture?

By exercising the muscles of the front of the body, they will tone/tighten up, but without working the muscles of the back this can cause big postural problems and actually looks unbalanced. This causes a kyphotic posture shown in the picture to the left. Whilst the front muscles are tightening, the back muscles are loosening/lengthening and becoming weaker,  by the widening of the shoulder blades. This ends up changing the body into what we see too often in men around gyms; shoulders pulled forwards, arms always bent out to the sides and hunched backs, definitely a sign of weight training gone wrong! If the upper body was treated as a whole and weights were performed equally and balanced between the front and the back of the body, the outcome would be much more beneficial. Not only would the body be defined and toned but the posture would be better with a more natural stance. The alignment of the spine would be more what it should be, holding the shoulders back in place and keeping the upper back upright. This would stop the hunching known as kyphosis. Also the arms would sit straight and nicely down to the sides of the body with the palms facing each other, not facing back causing the rounded shoulders. Overall the body ends up looking unnatural and not a beach body to be proud of!

Here are a 3 quick tips:

  1. Muscles work in pairs. One shortens/contracts (known as the ‘agonist’) and the opposite lengthens/extends (known as the ‘antagonist) to be able to perform a movement (eg. Biceps and Triceps). Therefore, always work both muscles equally.
  2. When training and making sure you are working all muscles of the body, be sure to keep the repetitions and sets the same for both the anterior(front) and posterior(back) of the body, unless you are trying to correct an imbalance, such as kyphosis. For example, don’t think the abdominals are more important than the lower back and perform three sets of ab exercises and only one exercise for the lower back. Equal them out to three sets on each.
  3. Lastly, one major problem most people have is that they don’t work the full length of the muscle and lift a weight that is too heavy for a full range repetition(this is a man thing, trying to prove their strength). This leads to muscles shortening and the posture suffering. The main culprit is the biceps which is noticeable from not being able to straighten the arms fully. Always lift a weight you can perform the full range of the exercise without losing form during the exercise.

Taking short cuts in the gym can have a dramatic effect on the way we move, feel and look and should not be something you plan on doing if you are serious about getting a toned, healthy body that not only looks great but works well in function too. I hope this blog helps you get the beach body you want for the summer of 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.

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.

 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)