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Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Holiday? Flat stomach time.

Follow these 5 easy tips on how to keep a flat stomach and prevent bloating while on holiday. 
Brilliant sunshine, waves lapping on the shore and a beautiful beach are hardly the best time to feel bloated. Discover five easy ways to a flat tummy stomach on holiday.
Fluid & Fibre
When it’s hot you need to keep hydrated so make sure you get plenty of water and soft drinks. Keep active too - a gentle walk when the temperature cools also helps your gut do its job. A change of scene often involves a change of habits and food, which can lead to difficulty going to the loo. But beware fibre overload, little by little does the trick.
New SoulmateFood menu at Virgin Active
Suits you? 
Bloating can come from allergies and intolerance to certain foods. Keep an eye on milk, eggs, wheat, gluten and fructose (fruit sugar) to check they’re not upsetting your digestion. 
Pass the potassium 
Too much salt can cause bloating through water retention, and sodium levels may be higher in processed or restaurant foods. The remedy? More potassium, found in bananas, white beans, lima beans and soy beans. 
Say yes to yoghurt 
Probiotics contain active cultures that encourage good gut bacteria like lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. For sweetness, add a little fresh fruit. 
Can the carbonates 
Bubbles give you bloat. Choose still drinks instead.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Get race ready!

Surely not? If I want to get better at running, then surely the best thing to do is get out there and run... no? 
I don't hold a plank or throw in a mid race burpee, so why would I need to do that in my training?

Follow this running specific training guide that targets the 4 key muscle groups used whilst running to find out why they're important. Then find out the 7 best strength exercises to become an injury free running machine.

4 Key Muscle Groups

Core
Developing good core strength helps your pelvis, abs, hips and lower back to work together when you run. It will also help improve your stability and balance.

Hips, Hamstrings, Glutes
Develop these 3 muscles to improve your running performance. The Biomechanical process of these 3 muscles is called hip extension. The more powerful that your hip extension is, the faster you will go. The hips help to stabilise your landing and the drive in every stride.

Lower Back
Keeping your lower back strong will help prevent any strain on the hamstrings, it will also help to keep you injury free.

Upper Back & Shoulders

A strong set of shoulders will help you to breathe more efficiently when you run. If your upper back and shoulders are weak it will give your arms a difficult job to propel you when you run. 
Treadmills at Virgin Active
7 Quick Exercises To Help You Smash Your PB'S

TRX Core Crunch 
Place both feet in the two available handles. Adopt a press up stance (Hands directly underneath your shoulders) so that your feet are now being held up by the trx. Then bring both knees towards your chest and then back out and repeat. If this is too difficult then simply hold that stance.

Side Plank
Support your body weight on one elbow (directly underneath shoulder) and with the other hand tuck underneath your body and then reach all the way up towards the ceiling.

Medicine Ball Russian Twists
Grab yourself a medium sized medicine ball. Sit on your bum, lift your legs up and lean back to balance yourself. Keeping a straight body, move the med ball from side to side.

Burpees
With a burpee, position 1 is lying chest to floor and position 2 is jumping up from there. How you get between the two is up to you. Imagine you're jumping up after hearing your favourite song.

Kettlebell Swing
Stand with your feet, shoulder width apart. Hold the kettlebell with both hands and make sure your knuckles are facing away from your body. From there you are going bend your knees slightly and push your bum back and keep your chest up. Then you are going to thrust your pelvis forwards to create the swing, and be ready for the return of the kettle bell to then repeat.

Sandbag Overhead Walking Lunge
Lift the sandbag so it's above your head, keeping your arms completely straight. Then lunge forward keeping your chest up, your knee at 90 degrees and your back knee touching the ground and then continue so it replicates walking.

Swiss Ball Leg Curls
Lie on your back, and put your calves (the back of your lower leg) on to the swiss ball. Keep your hands on the floor to help you balance. Lift your hips up so that there is one straight line from your shoulder to knee. With your heels drag the ball towards you until your feet are flat on the ball. Keep your hips up and your bum tensed throughout.

The Workout 
You are going to perform these exercises in a combination circuit. You have 7 stations to work through (using the exercises above) you'll work through each station for 45 seconds with a 15 seconds rest in between each station. You'll do 2 complete circuits, 14 minutes work. Then you'll rest for 2 minutes. Then you'll complete another 2 circuits. So including your rest periods its a quick 30 minute workout. Leaving you sometime at the end of these circuits to jump on the treadmill for 2 x 1k run with a minute rest in between. Aiming to complete the 1k as quickly as possible.

This workout is designed to improve your strength and endurance in a short space of time. I strongly advise to download the a timer app onto your phone. 'Seconds' is a good timer for interval training. That way you can re create race like conditions by working to a strict time scale, and it will help you to push yourself.

I look forward to hearing about you all smashing your personal bests.

Friday, 7 August 2015

The benefits of yoga

Yoga is not about trying to force your body into a pretzel like position, it’s about creating a healthy lifestyle. 
The postures give you the tools to prepare yourself physically and mentally for your daily life. The practice allows participants of all ages, shapes, sizes, and abilities to be still in a world often consumed by chaos. Deep breathing and meditation techniques help foster an inner shift from to-do lists, kids and spouse’s needs, financial concerns, relationship struggles to something a little bit bigger than the everyday issues we all face. Yoga helps to relieve stress, unclutter the mind, and promote a sense of wellbeing. 
Today, yoga is taking over the health and fitness world. With professional athletes like Andy Murray and Ryan Giggs publicly speaking out about the benefits that yoga has brought them in their chosen sports, more people are taking the plunge and trying out yoga classes. Unlike other forms of ‘training’, the practice of yoga unfolds over time to reveal many layers of physical benefits and personal revelations. More and more people are discovering the many ways that yoga can be used to improve athletic performance by increasing mental concentration, improving flexibility and balance, preventing common injuries and fine tuning skills in their particular sport. 
Most yoga classes and practitioners use postures (asanas) to prepare their bodies for meditation practice, much like an athlete would prepare for a sports competition. The posture acts as a vehicle to examine awareness of mind and body. In yoga, perfecting posture for meditation comes not so much by doing but of not doing. We have to put some effort into training the body to be aligned, however after that is accomplished, the next step is to learn to do nothing, and enter a space of stillness. It is an active form of doing nothing, of consciously ceasing to put any effort into the posture. This effort to release any form of effort can be felt internally. This process is the purpose of yoga; focusing on the journey rather than the goal. In its essence, all yoga is designed to unite (yoke) and bring peace and harmony to the body, mind and spirit. 
The benefits of yoga
Yoga focuses on balancing strength with flexibility therapeutically, having incredible benefits for the physical body. The postures are designed to strengthen the body from the inside out, so you don’t just look good, you feel good too. Twists squish and improve the digestive system; backbends strengthen and lengthen the front and back muscles of the torso and legs, keeping our central nervous system healthy; forward bends release tight hamstrings while massaging the digestive system and promote a sense of calm and clarity. There is something for everyone whatever the level of fitness. 
Through regular yoga practice, all fitness and sports people can benefit. This is especially true when injuries occur from pushing too hard. A regular practice can restore a weakened body and build it back up. Postures, breath work and concentration will rebalance, strengthen and restore fatigued, overworked muscles, joints and ligaments. It will also improve concentration, calm the mind, and create a strong sense of focus. Whatever your reason for attending a yoga class, there is no doubt that a consistent and regular practice will significantly increase your sense of wellbeing. 
One of the great benefits of modern Hatha yoga is that you can choose a style that is suitable for you, such as Ashtanga, Hot, Power, Restorative, Vinyasa Flow, Aerial, Acro etc. It’s important for anyone starting a yoga practice to find a suitably qualified yoga teacher you connect with. The possibilities are limitless with a huge variety of options available to suit your goals and needs, so no matter your fitness level, or health history, yoga has a place for you.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Understanding the Macros

With the emergence of nutritional approaches such as the ketogenic and paleo plans (both high in Low Carbproteins and fats, and lower in carbs), carbohydrates; macromolecules often beneficial for good health and performance and at one time an integral part of any good bodybuilder’s eating plan, are not as readily consumed as they once were. With much confusion concerning the role carbohydrates play in producing energy and keeping us supplied with a full complement of valuable vitamins, minerals and fiber, many are uncertain as to how and when to include carbs in a diet conducive to sustaining health and wellbeing and building muscle mass. 
Increasingly maligned and neglected, carbohydrates are being used more strategically than ever: fearing they will lead to unwanted weight gain, many lifters are replacing a percentage of their carbs with additional proteins and fats, only eating them at certain times, and often dropping them completely. 
Over-consuming certain carbs at the wrong times can result in more adipose than additional muscle weight, but this problem can be rectified by knowing which carbs do what and when they may be eaten for maximum results. But we must first try to determine how many carbohydrate grams are needed per day to produce more beef than a Texas cattle ranch. 
A bodybuilder’s carbohydrate RDA 
RDAThough not essential for survival, as the body may draw from both proteins and fats for energy purposes, carbs do provide the most efficient energy source for hard training athletes and, importantly for bodybuilders, may ensure that protein is spared (low carb diets can (not necessarily will) cause the body to leach protein from muscle to produce energy via gluconeogenesis).
However, achieving the correct carb consumption is complicated. When eating for performance and lean muscle gains, our activity level, the types of carbs we eat, our hydration status (it is crucial to be well hydrated when consuming a high carb diet), and many other mediating factors including rest, recovery, fat and protein consumption and our genetic makeup will affect how we respond to the carbs we consume. So closely monitor how your body adjusts to a particular carb regime and scale their intake up or down accordingly. Furthermore, even the best of carb ratios may result in poorly balanced blood sugar levels if not properly balanced with an adequate complement of protein and fat (see the previous articles in the series for recommendations on those).
So which carbs are best, how they might these affect performance and body composition?
Which carbs are best?
CarbsWhile all carbohydrates are classed as sugars and are ultimately converted into glucose before immediately being utilized for fuel or stored, primarily in the muscles or the liver, as glycogen, different carb sources, though possessing the same caloric composition per gram, can have vastly different effects. 
The two main types of carbohydrate are starches (polysaccharides, or complex carbs, which also include fibrous carbs such as leafy green vegetables) and sugars (monosaccharides and disaccharides). For athletic performance and general health and wellbeing (which is fundamental to ensuring optimal athletic performance), both carbohydrates types have their place, but it is the complex, starchy carbs that are most desirable. Some vegetables, grains, certain breads and pasta can be classified as starchy carbs, while sweets, cake, soda and many convenience snack foods comprise the sugars (there are also sugars – lactose and fructose respectively – in dairy products such as milk and, though often considered a healthy food option, fruits, and especially fruit juices). 
The aim for health conscious people, including bodybuilders, is to select only those carb sources that will provide the highest spectrum of nutrients and to avoid those ‘empty’, concentrated carbohydrates which include table sugar, soda and other nutritionally deleterious fare.
Not all carbs are created equal. Complex carbs release energy slowly and are more sustaining, whereas simple sugars are rapidly assimilated, which may cause an overabundance of insulin to be released which in turn may result in fat storage and hypoglycemia (low energy due to diminished blood glucose resulting from excessive insulin release). 
Aside from selecting carbs based on the rate at which they are processed as energy (which can be determined in part via the glycemic food index – see below), we must also choose them for their Vegnutritional benefits and fiber composition. For the most part, vegetables (all varieties, in particular fibrous types such as broccoli, spinach, and Brussels sprouts), whole grains, and certain fruits (for example, bananas, apples and blueberries) are superior, micronutrient dense carb choices which also contain phytochemicals (naturally occurring chemical compound which have specific health-boosting nutritional properties) and fiber (the indigestible part of plant foods which boosts digestive health, can offset diseases such as cancer and diabetes, lower cholesterol levels, and produce feelings of satiety). 
(Note from Ben: I would personallly recommend you consume the majority of your carbohydrates during your workout, immediately post, and in the hours following, when attempting to maximize body composition).
Simple sugars are not inherently evil from a nutritional perspective. Though nutritionally inert (relatively speaking) junk foods should be avoided, high sugar fruits and some high grade simple sugar based supplements such as Vitargo can be consumed directly after intensive weight training sessions to promote faster recovery and to rapidly top up our depleted energy reserves.
Sweet PotatoFinally, a good rule of thumb when choosing quality carb sources is to opt for brown: rice, potatoes with skins intact and so on; excellent energy-sustaining carb options, which also provide a generous serving of fiber. Refined carbs, which are heavily processed and stripped of their beneficial fiber like white bread, are largely to be avoided. 
How glycemic are your carbs?
The glycemic index (GI) numbers food items according to how fast blood sugar levels rise after consumption. Ranging from 50 (indicating a marginal effect on blood sugar levels) to 100 (indicative of a rapid rise in blood sugar, as would occur when ingesting pure glucose), the glycemic index ranks a wide range of foods but does not take into consideration additional factors which may influence how fast blood sugar may rise after carb consumption (such as any dietary fat consumed with this carb source, which may help to stabilize blood sugar levels). Low GI foods include: most sweet fruits, vegetables, beans and small seeds. High GI foods include: white bread and rice, potatoes, pretzels, bagels, and glucose. 
Carb up wisely
Don’t ditch the carbs completely; just try to ensure they are comprised of low glycemic, healthful items, and that we supply our muscles with sufficient glycogen with which to power through the toughest workouts (note from Ben: this doesn’t specifically mean that you need to eat them pre-workout, I’ve discussed this before in other articles). We also ensure that enough health-giving nutrients, including fiber (of which most adults get nowhere near enough), are available to support the building of stronger and larger muscles. Forgo the extreme low / non-carb diets in most cases, unless specifically carb cycling (another article) pre-contest or otherwise.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Everything You Need To Know About Carbs

Carbohydrates are our bodies’ most important energy providers. We need carbs for our brains, for sports and weight loss. As they say, fat burns in the flame of carbohydrates.
In Frank Personal Training, you’ll learn everything you need to know about carbohydrates. Read on!
Runtastic Carbs

Carbohydrates are contained in…

Rice, wheat, corn, millet, rye, oat, barley, potatos, legumes, fruit (fruit sugar), as well as processed foods like bread, pasta, cakes, cookies, dough, sweets, etc.

Does sugar count as carbohydrates?

Yes. Glucose is the smallest and most frequent form of carbohydrates. It’s also often called dextrose, corn sugar or simply sugar. Our brain and nerve cells depend on the intake of glucose – only with glucose are we able to concentrate.
Runtastic Carbs

Empty carbohydrates or sugar

Carbs from foods made of white flour, from lemonades or pure sweets are called “empty carbs” as they don’t provide any benefits except for the sweet taste. Unlike complex carbohydrates, empty carbs go directly into our blood. As a consequence, blood sugar levels skyrocket, then drop quickly again, which makes us either feel tired or experience cravings.

Complex carbs or fiber

Whole grain products, lentils, beans, peas, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat,… they all not only contain B Vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, iron and protein, but also fiber. The fiber contained causes blood sugar levels to rise slower, optimizes digestion, keeps us full longer and, therefore, helps prevent cravings.

A rule of thumb for your carb consumption

Carbohydrates should account for approx. 50% of your food intake.
Rule of thumb? Rule of “hand”: Depending on how active you are, you can include 1-2 handfuls of carbs in the form of pasta, rice, bread, etc. in every meal. Best choice: whole grain products.

Runtastic Carbs

Can carbs be stored?

Yes. Glucose is deposited in our blood, liver and muscles in the form of glycogen. “Carboloading” is based on this effect, too.

Carbs & sports

An experiment conducted by Dill, Edwards and Talbott demonstrated that carbs play a vital role as energy providers in sports: Dogs had to run without carbohydrate intake; after 4 – 6 hours they were tired and hypoglycemic. In the second round, the dogs were fed carbs while running and were able to keep going for 17 – 23 hours.
Therefore, it’s important to plan on ingesting carbohydrates before, during and after your training. Plus, if we just fill up on protein WITHOUT any carbs, the body might be able to use only 10% of the protein because of a lack of insulin (which is procuded by the body as soon as we eat carbohydrates).
So, carbs are just as important as protein when it comes to a balanced diet for athletes.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Sleep Mistakes That Cause Weight Gain

It seems too good to be true that sometimes the best thing for your waistline is your bed and not the gym, but it works. Proper sleep is an essential component of any weight-loss program — especially when you need to have enough energy to fit in all those workouts! Stop the self sabotage and set yourself up for weight-loss success tonight by avoiding these mistakes.
  1. You don't make sleep a priority: Research has shown that those who are sleep-deprived tend to eat hundreds of calories more, not just because they are awake longer, but because sleep affects levels of hunger-regulating hormones. If you're constantly saving sleep for the weekends or always surviving on too little sleep, you could be causing your body to crave more food than it needs.
  2. You never get quality sleep: Even if you hit the hay at a reasonable time, if you're constantly waking up at night, it could cause your body to hold onto more belly fat, since you're more likely to feel stressed and anxious when you don't have quality sleep. Help ensure you fall asleep and stay asleep by creating a comfortable bedroom environment, turning off electronics at least 20 minutes before you go to sleep, and avoiding alcohol.
  3. You can't go to sleep without a snack: An ice cream nightcap may help lull you to bed, but even a little indulgence can add on thousands of calories by week's end. However, remember that it's not the best idea to go to sleep starving — you'll be more apt to give into cravings in the middle of the night or the next day — so be smart about your nighttime snack. These tips for preventing unhealthy late-night snacking will help you get on the right track.
  4. Instead of working out, you hit the snooze button: If mornings are the only time you have to fit in your workout, you won't make going to the gym a habit if you constantly choose the snooze instead. If you find yourself swept up in mindless TV and Facebook time before bed, cut out the distractions so you can be sure you go to bed early enough to feel ready for a 6 a.m. sweat session.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Training While Pregnant

Being pregnant can be an amazing time for mothers to be and there's no reason why you should stop exercising or training during the pregnancy. Here's our top tips for staying in shape if you're expecting.
Olympic gold medallist Jessica Ennis-Hill taking a group of lucky competition winners though some exercises and answering a few burning questions.
Jess is currently heavily pregnant but continuing to stay in great shape so that when she gives birth she can hit the ground running – literally – with her training plans.
With that in mind, I thought it would be great to share some top tips for you to bear in mind if you’re currently pregnant and looking to stay in shape – or if you’re lucky enough to be expecting in the future.
Before you begin exercising, remember that it is important to talk to your doctor. Exercise and pregnancy usually work well together, so they should be able to give you some excellent and specific advice to you.
If you exercised regularly up until your pregnancy, the chances are you can continue what you're doing, unless your activity is classified as high intensity. However, if you don't usually exercise, this is still a great time to start and your baby will definitely thank you for it. But, be aware of the changes your body is undergoing.
Being pregnant doesn't mean you have to stop exercising, and it doesn't have to mean being tired all the time.

Research shows that training while pregnant has numerous benefits, including: -
• Greater ability to handle the discomforts of pregnancy and labour.
• Easier to get back into shape and regain your normal weight after pregnancy.
• Faster labour, with less likelihood of induction.
• More positive, healthier feelings about pregnancy.
Training while pregnant helps you to be more prepared for the physical stresses of carrying a baby and labour. However, inappropriate exercise can be harmful for the mother or baby, so be sure to get your doctor or midwife's approval before beginning an exercise programme.

Top Tips to Exercising While Pregnant 

• Drink plenty of fluids, before, during and after any exercise, and avoid overheating. Be sure to always warm-up and cool down
• Wear loose fitting clothing, and comfortable non slip supportive shoes.
• Keep your heart rate under 140 beats per minute
• Past the first trimester, avoid exercising flat on your back – the weight of your uterus reduces the blood and oxygen flow to your baby.
• During aerobic exercise, you will find that you have less oxygen available, so lower the intensity of your normal routine.
• Your metabolism speeds up during pregnancy, so remember to eat a well-balanced diet.
• Your body produces a hormone called relaxin during pregnancy. This hormone softens joints and ligaments to make the birth process easier, so be careful not to overextend joints that may result in injury
• Do pelvic floor exercises every day and you'll help keep your back and spine strong, flatten your tummy post birth, and alleviate the problems with bladder and bowel control that are common after childbirth ( How to do Pelvic floor exercises below).

Pelvic Floor Exercises

The pelvic floor muscles form a sling-like band that surrounds and forms the base of your vagina, anus and urethra. These muscles also support all your abdominal contents, and your baby will pass through them as he or she is born. Strengthening these muscles is an extremely worthwhile and important activity.

How to do Pelvic floor exercises: -

1. Gradually tighten the muscles that you use if you want to stop the flow of urine when going to the toilet.
2. Try to do it without holding your breath, squeezing your buttocks together,
3. Hold the squeeze for several seconds and then relax slowly.
4. Now pull the muscles up tight and fast. Then relax. Then tighten them quickly again. Use clenching and opening your fist as a visual tool to help you imagine the movement.
While pregnant you must make sure you listen to your body and if at any time during exercise you feel extremely fatigued, faint, dizzy, light-headed or clammy, stop exercising and cool down.
The key tip here is that you need to listen to your body and based on what your body’s telling you, figure out a level of activity that works for you.
Most importantly this is a magical time in any woman’s life, so enjoy it!