Archive | Misc


Exercise Efficiency – The Cause of Stalled Fat Loss?

Do you use cardio for weight control? Are you one of the many people who run, cycle, swim or do classes to keep your weight under control? Did you find that at first your weight loss was quite noticeable but now it hit a plateau?  If the answer is yes to the above, it’s time to think about ways of kicking your cardio up a notch or two to make it productive again!


So, what’s gone wrong? Why is the training programme that you have been following, be it group exercise classes or running, stopped working? The answer is adaptation. Quite simply, you’ve gotten good at your choice of exercise. Firstly, pat yourself on the back for sticking with a programme long enough for this to happen but then also give yourself a slap for sticking with your programme for too long!

Your body is an amazingly adaptive organism. If a stress (and exercise is a form of stress) doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger and fitter. In addition, repeated bouts of the same stress (class, running speed/distance etc) results in your body becoming more energetically economical. For weight loss, energy economy is the last thing you want.

Consider this example. As a beginner runner, your running technique may not be very good. You might also be overweight. As a result, you use a lot of energy whenever you run and subsequently lose weight for the first few weeks or even months of your new running routine. Your body, smart machine that it is, looks for ways to make you a better runner. Your muscles develop greater endurance, your heart and lungs become more efficient and your body gets very good at making fat go a long way. The result is that, compared to when you were less fit, heavier and an energy inefficient runner, your training runs now actually burn less calories!

RunnerAnother example – you join one of many group exercise classes. For the first few weeks you find it really hard to follow the choreography, you are always having to catch up, your body is heavier and your fitness is lower. In essence, you are also energetically inefficient. Fast forward a few weeks or months and you have learnt the routine, your movements are smoother, you don’t have to try and catch up all the time and the result is you burn less energy during a class.

In both scenarios, the fitter you get, the less effective your workout becomes and, subsequently, your weight loss stalls.

So, what’s the answer? You have to learn to become energetically uneconomical again. You need to choose activities that you are not good at! Do classes that are unfamiliar so you have to work harder, try running on uneven terrain or more uphill than down, strap on ankle weights or a weighted vest, run on sand or soft grass instead of concrete…do whatever you need to do to make your efforts less economical and more energy expensive. Ironically, one of the most uneconomical fitness activities is also one of the most accessible – walking as fast as you can. Walking is by and large a very smooth and economical exercise but when you walk as fast as possible (just shy of breaking into a run) your gait becomes very uneconomical and you waste a lot of energy and remember, if you want to lose weight, you need to waste energy. Strap on a weighted vest or backpack and you have a highly effective fat burner simply because it is an uneconomical activity.

So, bottom line time. Stop doing the same old same old. If your workout isn’t working it’s because you have reached an energy equilibrium and all you are doing is treading water. Make your workouts less efficient and you’ll soon see your weight loss start again.

swimmingStill not convinced? Ask yourself this simple question – who do you think will burn more energy…the swimmer with the perfect technique who glides effortlessly through the water or the person who literally thrashes the water to foam? Inefficient exercise is your key to greater weight loss.

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Functional Fitness

Be Fit for Everything!

Workout Photography:

Model: Thomas Ashby

Functional Training is the new buzz-word in the fitness industry. We take a look at some of the key resistance exercises you should include in your functional training.

Being functionally fit will improve your strength, speed, endurance, power and flexibility – and help you physically live the best life you can.

Resistance Exercises

The exercises selected below are great examples of what to include in your functional fitness arsenal. The key is to select a variety that work all muscular actions (see burpee below) and all your major muscles and energy systems – and target the goals that you have in place for your functional training. We end with a couple of tougher moves that you can use to test your increasing levels of functional fitness in time.

The Exercises

Single leg deadlift 

Numerous times a day we will have to bend down and pick an object up (or pull our socks on!). The single leg deadlift is a great functional exercise in this respect.

Stand on one leg. Keeping your trunk braced, pivot forward over your hip – try to keep your legs and torso in a straight line – and reach toward the floor with the opposite hand to your standing leg. Pull back up to standing using your hamstrings and glutes. Complete your designated number of reps and repeat.






The burpee is a great functional exercise as it targets virtually all your muscles in your body in a very dynamic way and combines a squat and press-up and jump. It also involves a near complete set of muscular actions – muscle lengthening, eccentric ones, shortening, concentric ones and a plyometric muscular action (which dynamically combines the previous two when you jump).

Key points: Brace your core throughout, land lightly from the jump. If you have problem/weak shoulders/knee back don’t perform the jump and ease down into the press-up part.

Variation: Do 2 press-ups after landing from each jump




The Plank

Isometric (held) core exercises are truly functional as they target the deeper back, front and side muscles in the core, as opposed to targeting the superficial abdominal muscles. These are targeted when performing crunches and sit-ups for example. Isometric core exercises have real applicability to everyday life – when we sit, stand, run, jump and so on our core has to be held in place and it’s invariably through an isometric action that this is achieved.

To perform the exercise, support your body on your toes and extended arms and brace your core throughout, whilst remembering to breathe!






We humans evolved from walking on all fours. This exercise requires you to take a step back in the evolutionary chain to crawl like Spidy! Keep your core braced throughout, back down and Spiderman crawl across the floor. Perform over a designated distance. To make the exercise harder, perform a number of Spidermans – say 6 and then perform 10 press-ups. Complete a designated number of sets or for distance, following this sequence. This exercise is a great all-body strengthener.

Medicine Ball Slam 

The medicine ball slam is a dynamic all-body move. The slam will add power in particular to your torso as you crunch your abs to power the ball into the floor.


Advanced Exercises

Handstand Press-ups 

Squat down and place your hands shoulder-width apart around six inches/15 centimetres from a flat and sturdy wall. Kick up and into a handstand position with your legs resting against the wall for support. Bend your arms and lower your head to lightly touch the floor. Push back up and repeat.


Hints, tips and variations: This is a tough exercise! If, initially handstand press-ups are too demanding you can perform pike press-ups instead. From a normal press up, lift your hips so your body resembles an inverted V, bend your arms and lower your forehead to the floor and then push back up. Once you have mastered these, move on to eccentric (lowering) handstand press-ups – simply perform the lowering part of the exercise and then come out of your handstand, kick back up and repeat. With persistence and practice you will soon be able to push back up and do full handstand press-ups.



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Birmingham City Ladies FC – Champions League Last 16 game – St Andrew’s Stadium, Birmingham, United Kingdom – ©Ville Vuorinen/BCLFC – NO UNPAID USE ALLOWED

Interval Training for Sport

Interval Training for Sport

Interval training has so many adaptations, we take a look at how it can benefit and be specifically applied to sports training.

Specificity is one of the key words in the vocabulary of contemporary sports conditioning and although interval training methods such as Tabata workouts will be of benefit to a footballer for example, in terms of general physical preparedness, there are much more relevant and specific interval based workouts and methods to get players match fit.

Interval training obviously benefits the stop-start nature of field and court sports, such as rugby, hockey, tennis and football.

Interval training obviously benefits the stop-start nature of field and court sports, such as rugby, hockey, tennis and football. Use the example workouts and ideas that follow to shape the right interval training programme for your particular sport.

Football Focus

Football is a fast stop-start anaerobic sport with players required to make runs at various paces, in various directions and over varying distances, often when fatigued and whilst completing various complex skills. Tiring and losing concentration will lose players a ‘yard’ and in the worst case scenario could lead to injury.

Modern football conditioning is light years ahead of the days when pre-season consisted of 5k runs, now much match fitness training revolves around small-sided games, played for example, by 5-8 players on a contained (smaller) pitch, with multiple balls. Multiple balls are used so that a ball can very quickly be returned to play after the one being used has gone out of play, thus maintaining the intensity of the workout. Rather like a runner’s interval workout the protocols of the session and therefore its outcomes can be manipulated for different training affects. You’ll find below examples of these types of workouts and others.

Football Interval Sessions

Session 1: 8 vs 8 game on smaller than normal pitch with multiple balls – high tempo

4 x 3min with 2min jog recovery between each 3min ‘game’

Session 2: 8 vs 8 on smaller than normal pitch with multiple balls – medium tempo

5 x 5min with 1 min jog recovery between each 5min ‘game’

Session 3: 5 vs 5 on smaller than normal pitch with multiple balls – v high tempo

10 x 1 min with 30sec walk recovery between each 1 min ‘game’

Individual/small player number football interval workouts

1.            Pass repeats plus 20m out and back run

Two players stand about 3m apart and perform a series of 20 side-foot alternate foot passes back and forth to one another. The designated (working) player on completion of the twentieth pass, turns and runs 20m around a cone and back to his starting position to repeat the drill. On completion of the drill (40 passes and 2 x 20m out and back efforts) the player can repeat for a given number of reps (or his partner can perform the out and back runs and the two could alternate for a designated number of reps).

The number and speed of the runs can be varied as can the number of passes.

 2.            Shuttle/speed Ladder Runs

Shuttle runs are a staple of football training and with the introduction of speed (Floor SAQ style) ladders these types of agility interval sessions become much more football specific.

a)            Players run through speed ladder one foot at a time and then sprint 30m. They walk back to the start (ladder) and repeat a further 5 times.

b)            Players sprint 20m to side-step through a speed ladder to the left and then turn and side-step to their right in a ladder placed parallel, before sprinting back to the start. This can be done in pairs (or with others numbers of players) with the time taken for the other player (or players) to act as recovery.

Football Fartlek Interval Session

Fartlek is Swedish for ‘speed-play’ and it’s a method of training usually used by middle and long distance runners. A target time is set, for example 30min and the sessions are normally performed on undulating terrain. The runner will run various distances at various speeds, as he feels fit. He might for example, run a 300m rep at 60% effort then jog very slowly for 2 minutes before repeating. He then may also do some shorter 100m runs at 80% effort with a 50m jog recovery. The number and intensity of the reps and their nature in a true fartlek are delivered on the basis of how the runner feels (unless he is part of a group when other runners may lead certain segments or take it in turns to do so).

Fartlek sessions are a form of interval training that could suit footballers and other field/court sport athletes particularly in pre-season, when more basic match fitness is being sought. This type of session would develop lactate tolerance and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max).

Example football Fartlek session

Player Striker – duration 15 minutes

Efforts to include

Jogging, walking, sprints over 5, 10, 15 and 20m. Dribbling and skill work with a ball and various turns and sprints. Many of these efforts could be practised using different types of starts – walking, jogging, faster running and from standing and to the ball. Recoveries could be a walk, jogging or faster paced efforts. Don’t forget to include lateral movements, backwards running and even simulated jumps (for heading).

Consider that the efforts of footballers and in particular strikers are primarily anaerobic (without oxygen and over short distances performed explosively). Thus it would be beneficial to slant the workout so that it has that anaerobic aspect. To achieve this recoveries should generally be long enough to permit this.

The Technological Revolution

Such is the array of technology now available in elite sports players that running speed and distances are meticulously recorded and monitored by systems such as Pro-zone). For an alternative to Pro zone check out adidas Mi coach and there speed cell

Using the information provided carefully constructed interval training sessions (and conditioning games – see above) are designed to reflect the needs of players and their respective positions and physiology. These can include the movement patterns required by the players and the typical recoveries and types of recoveries they get in a match. Centre forwards for example, will often do a lot of work with their back to the opposing team’s goal and will make more turns, whilst wing backs will have to make long forging runs up the pitch of 50 plus metres/yards and then get quickly back into position. Mid-fielders are famed for longer and harder sustained levels of effort.

Here’s a real-world example: in a 2012 match against Burnley, Derby’s Craig Bryson covered 2,373 metres at a high intensity, whilst completing 13km during the match! Armed with this knowledge and more, football conditioning  and manager’s decisions can become very systematic and planned. Arsenal manager Arsene Venger for example – one of the pioneers of sports science-based football, used to substitute Dennis Bergkamp around the 70th minute in matches, as he knew the striker’s pace would drop off significantly thereafter.

The right interval training can make you a much better field/court player, you have to understand your sport’s and your playing position’s requirements, monitor your performance and construct relevant workouts accordingly. Ok, you might not have access to Pro-zone but you can make some very educated decisions vis a vis the type of workouts you should be performing to reach your best match fitness levels (especially if you use simple solutions such as micoach). Hopefully the sample workouts and ideas provided in this article will provide you with the knowledge to do so.

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Beauty, Art and Strength, Evelyn Stevenson

Beauty, Art and Strength

Evelyn Stevenson is an actress, presenter and dancer who is training for the Commonwealth Games in weightlifting. She’s won major medals in this sport and in Powerlifting. Here’s her story as to why she became a strength athlete and much more.

UF: Tell us a little bit about yourself (family/background/career/education and so on……

ES: I am one of six. I was born in Nigeria and my mum is Nigerian and my dad Indian. I grew up in Derbyshire and then studied psychology at Loughborough University and graduated in 2008. Whilst at University I worked as part of LSUTV (Loughborough Student’s Union TV) in media and was part of all kinds of societies, from dance to theatre. Growing up I loved theatre and performance and always will.

 UF: How did you get involved in strength sport?

ES: I’ve played sport from a very young age, swam nationally, played regional level hockey and netball and even did a season for believe it or not England Rounders. However, I randomly fell into weightlifting at Loughborough University. I used to do quite a bit of strength training and I remember the first time I squatted heavy I was talking to a British Powerlifter and he was like, “Eve let’s see how much you can back squat”. So the first time I ever did a proper full range back squat in an athletic environment I did 90kg, to which he was like, “hmmm naturally strong”. To this I just nodded my head and just kept generally strength training. I really fell into weightlifting when I was on a course and the course leader mentioned that I had big legs (Now, I did not feel like that was a compliment at the time) and he asked me what I squatted. I told him about my general training and how I liked strength sports and how at the time I danced and did shows and loved the gym. He invited me down to his weightlifting club and thus my love of Olympic Weightlifting was formed. In 2011 I compete in both Olympic Weightlifting and Powerlifting, these do have a cross-over but I’m now just focusing on the weightlifting. My dream is to get to the Commonwealth Games.

UF: How did you get involved in fitness and PT?

ES: From a young age I’ve always been into my health and fitness. My worst nightmare at school was always getting put forward for long distance events even though I was not so hot at anything above 200m! But I have always enjoyed training in some form and learning about training methods, ideas, and programmes. I moved down to London after living and training to be a PT in Spain for half a year after University. In London I studied part-time at Arts Educational School Acting for TV and screen. I wanted the opportunity to combine and learn more in terms of training and also the flexibility to pursue my love of stage in the ‘Smoke’ – a place that’s a far cry from my little town up North. I currently get the chance to genuinely combine my two passions as I work as a presenter and PT and still when I have the time do amateur dramatics

UF: Do people get surprised when you say you are a weightlifter? 

ES: People are indeed surprised. And to be honest my mum sometimes doesn’t fully get it and my dad has been known to say, “So Evey, you’re going for your ‘1-2-1-2′, by which he actually means me preparing for the English Championships!”

I was filming a show the other week and was asked why I had so many calluses? I explained what I did in terms of training and I watched a glaze come over the director’s eyes, followed by questions such as, “How come you’re not manly, you don’t have bulging muscles.” He then proceeded to fire off quite a few more misconceptions related to any female in a strength sport, not just weightlifting.

UF: What’s the state of weightlifting like in the UK? Did the Olympics give Olympic lifting a boost, have you noticed more women wanting to get involved?

ES: The state of sport in the UK at the moment, if I’m honest could be better. Personally I have seen a surge of interest in weightlifting but not so much from the Olympics, but more so the growth and popularity of Crossfit®. There’s still a stigma attached to women and weightlifting in the general public’s eyes. I believe that this is a result of all the misconceptions and the media. I have been doing some work with ‘Stars of the Future’ introducing the sport to children more and there is still a constant battle against why you shouldn’t train the young with weights, when if done sensibly this is fine. In addition to that because there is not as much financial backing in the sport, if you are lucky enough to find young talent, due to weightlifting’s lack of popularity – in comparison to sports such a football or track and field – getting a young talent to stay in the sport can be hard.

UF: What are the ideal attributes for an Olympic lifter?

ES: You need to be strong, quick and mobile. Obviously these are things one can work on but sometimes you can look at someone and just think…hmmmm I wonder if they would be interested in trying out the sport. Unfortunately for myself I am 5’10” with elbows that don’t fully lock out and I can lack a bit of a lack of self-belief. I also started the sport later on in life … I have an uphill battle to achieve my goals and get to the Commonwealth Games, but I’m on a mission. I will keep climbing and trying, because I’ve fallen in love with weightlifting. I just want others to see what I love so much about this sport.

UF: What have been your career highlights?

ES: Well, 2011 was a good year winning the English weightlifting u69kg category, the British Powerlifting Championshp’s U70kg and also becoming a World silver medallist in Powerlifting that year too. Also this year has been good outside of training. I have filmed a pilot for a kids’ TV programme and have presented on a couple of channels. I also have a couple of pretty interesting projects in the pipeline also.

UF: What are you aiming at now and what are your future plans?

ES: To keep training hard, as always.  However, there are two key elements to my future plans: 1) with weightlifting, I would like to get more projects on the go to grow the sport in this country and I would love to start my own gym further down the line. And 2) Media-wise I an currently just waiting on a new show which could have me doing more acting, but don’t want to jinx anything!

I’m one of those people who when I fall for something find it so difficult to let go and so no matter where my future goes, weightlifting and presenting will always be there.

UF: What type of training programme do you follow?

ES: Currently my training is pretty much sport specific so I do the Olympic lifts the snatch and clean and jerk. I train five days a week and my training includes squatting four times a week, the Olympic lifts, pulls, power snatches and cleans from blocks and presses. My coach and myself write my programme together depending on how I respond to phases, how I’m recovering and volume.


Evelyn Stevenson: Sample Training Plan

Day 1: Full snatch, power clean from blocks, jerks, clean pulls

Day 2: Front squats, push press, stiff leg deadlifts, snatch pulls

Day 3:Clean and jerk, pulls, power snatch from blocks, squats

Day 4: Clean, jerk from blocks, pulls and squats

Day 5: Squat, pulls power cleans power snatch


UF: What are your pbs?


Snatch: 76kg

Clean and Jerk 97kg


Deadlift 165kg

Squat 135kg

Bench 85kg

UF: What tips have you got for women wanting to shape a great body with weights?

Keep a balanced programme, train three times a week above all following a structure. Find what works for you and work with it. And never be afraid to go heavy.

UF: Do you feel that the ‘women don’t do weights’ notion is gradually disappearing?

ES: I do yes, but then again I am in the fitness industry and meet a lot of strong women who weight train and I meet a lot of athletes (not just weightlifters) who also weight train. I also believe that you can see a shift in pop culture and media as to the ‘ideal female figure’ – one towards a stronger image. I use that last thought carefully as I believe that we all have our own strengths. However, having said that there is still a more battle to be fought with many women who have a ‘fear of the weights room’, but we are getting there.

UF: What do you do away from sport?

ES: I write, I love writing – it’s a beautiful bit of escapism for me, just putting random, silly thoughts onto paper. I read and also sometimes – although very rarely nowadays I go back to dance classes.

To find our more about Evelyn go to:

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Don’t Be a Dope! Guide to safe supplementation

Don’t be a Dope!

Safe Supplements & Drug Free Sport

By Karl Bickley

The contentious issue of drug free sport is always a controversial but highly discussed topic across the world, whether it be someone failing a drug test, refusing a drug test or an ‘inhumane’ feet of athletic performance that prompts questions of doping. The sporting world is filled with headlines of high-profile doping failures and accusations of doping that typifies the interest in, and the perception that utilisation of illegal compounds is now widely spread across all aspects of sport. Indeed competitors in a sport often become tarnished by the same brush if one high profile athlete from their chosen sport is found to have used a performance enhancer. Do we think that all elite sprinters are ‘clean” or Tour de France riders….probably not, given recent history.

So is there such a thing as a clean athlete?

The World Anti-doping Agency’s (WADA) code was created initially in January 2004 and was reviewed under consultation in 2006, with final amendments being made in November 2007 for implementation from the 1st January 2009. Its purpose was to provide a set of harmonized rules which could be adopted by sporting associations and disciplines across the globe, the main goal behind them is to “…seek to preserve what is intrinsically valuable about sport. This intrinsic value is often referred to as, “the spirit of sport”, it is the essence of Olympism; it is how we play true”

Each individual athlete is made aware by their governing body or sport of the testing procedure and the list of substances classified as ‘Banned for use by the code’. In the code of Conduct, WADA state that, “Athletes or other Persons shall be responsible for knowing what constitutes an anti-doping rule violation and the substances and methods which have been included on the Prohibited List”. This identifies that it is clearly is the responsibility of the athletes and their individual or collective support structure to ensure they remain free from any banned substance or performance enhancer. Most professional/elite clubs or governing bodies will make the athletes sign an agreement accepting these rules and the ramifications of any doping offense. In addition, regular updates and information on changes to procedures and additions to the banned substances are often communicated to athletes, coaches, officials and medical staff to ensure they are always aware of the latest developments and warning not just to prevent cheating but also for health implications.

The recent weeks have seen three very high profile doping failures in the world of athletics and continual questions regarding the use of illegal substances in the Tour De France. In regard to the later it can seem that not one day passed without the leading riders being asked about the use of drugs. This once again highlights the media and public interest in the subject of doping in sport. While some of the recent failures have seen athletes saying they had been let down by people they trusted or did not knowingly take a prohibited substance and however truthful or valid these statements are, the standpoint on this is clear. WADA states that, “It is each Athlete’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his or her body”. If you compete in a drug free, WADA regulated or drug tested sport then you sign up and are aware of the rules and regulations around using performance enhancing drugs and the substances that are not permitted. A simple google search will produce lists of compounds and sub-compounds that are banned for use and also a list of over the counter medication that should also be avoided (these can contain banned substances).

This is where the questions surrounding doping becomes complicated and so the importance of education and awareness should be at the forefront of every competitor’s mind, “Athletes or other Persons shall be responsible for knowing what constitutes an anti-doping rule violation and the substances and methods which have been included on the Prohibited List”, shows how the collective members of WADA feel about this. There are some or an element to failed tests that are not just based around chemicals designed to unfairly maximise performance but relate to individuals who fail on medicinal compounds found in cold, flu and hayfever treatments for example. This means that each athlete should refrain from the purchase of over the counter medications without researching the medicine and its compounds, or should rely on prescribed medications from a medical professional. This however does mean the athlete is required to put an element of trust in a doctor or medic and their understanding of the code and the need to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) should the required medication be on the banned substance list. If you are bound by the WADA code and in need of more information, you can refer to the UKAD website or the GLOBAL DRO ( database for information on banned substances that appear in medication that also includes a cross reference to check specifically to your sport and governing body.

Safe Supplements…..

The issue of doping and the continual speculation regarding performance enhancers also creates the need for additional security and protections from sports nutrition and hydration companies who work closely with professional athletes. The use of sports nutrition and supplements for enhanced legal gains in strength and power and for preparation, recovery and performance is a common practice at all levels of sport. The formulations of which are designed to help the athletes maximise their human performance. This means that companies such as USN work hard to ensure that products comply with WADA coding. Aside of the huge amounts of time and money invested in research and development and the utilisation the latest sports science and nutrition findings, we have to consider the compliance of the product not just for the now but also for the future based on any forthcoming rule changes.

There are two different programmes that provide extra assurances to the athlete and greater protection to the brand when it comes to ensuring products remain contaminant free and safe to use in conjunction with the WADA code. These both offer assurances that the products are contaminant free based on the list of banned substances quoted by WADA. It is essential to understand that these programmes offer a risk management solution. The first internationally recognised programme is ‘Informed Sport’ (IS) which is administered by HFL laboratories – the programme ensures all supplements and products that have passed the criteria for registration in the first instance and that manufacturing processes are clean and compliant. Following manufacture, products are released into consumer markets on positive release and each product and its batches are randomly selected and tested for known contaminants using a blind test system. This testing is left to the discretion of the IS programme with a minimum number of samples being tested each year. Products (including all flavour variants) listed by IS are required to carry the Informed Sport logo on the label. The logo will give a recognisable reference to a product which has been screened. All registered products and variants are also listed on the IS website.

The second testing programme is a custom testing process that is operated between the manufacturer and the testing facility. The tests are carried out at the same testing facility as the IS programme and offer slightly increased security to both the athlete and the sports nutrition brand. Custom testing covers testing from the comprehensive list of known contaminants that are banned by WADA. The main difference between the two testing procedures occurs during the screening process – the product will remain in quarantine and not distributed to teams, individuals or sold until the test results have come back and the certificate of analysis showing no contamination is issued. This product can then be given to the athlete or team along with a copy of the certificate (COA – certificate of authorisation). The majority of sports nutrition brands will not release this product into trade or to the massmarket and will instead sell or supply the product direct to the coach or individual thus creating a chain of custody that is traceable. At USN we have a separate agreement with the coach and individuals that covers our risk management processes and service level agreement, this is our commitment to ensure drug free sport and shows our dedication to the athlete and team to create a safe, secure and optimised supplementation strategy.

The cost implications of both programmes are extensive but it shows how supplement manufacturers take the issue of drug free sport seriously and provide heavy investment to guarantee clean products get to the performers who utilise their products. However, as the code states the athlete still remains ultimately responsible for any substance in their body. So, if you are an elite performer bound by WADA it is worth taking time to consider where you source your products and medicines from. Ask for the guarantees and assurances for the legitimacy or the screening of the product and contact your supplement company to investigate further what they do to screen for contamination. You should also register to use their websites for batch tested product purchases or check with your coach that the product you are taking has been screened for contaminants.

For more information – refer to the USN UK website and register to use the athlete login section of the website at the bottom of the page.

Karl Bickley – is Athlete Liaison and Nutrition consultant at USN UK



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Being fit and healthy around a busy lifestyle!

Being fit and healthy around a busy lifestyle!

Writing this article comes pretty easily to me as I’m still stuck at work and have had to cancel my planned gym session for this evening. Says USN ambassador Emily Lingard

I always chuckle when people tell me they don’t have time for training or eating healthily. I manage a major high street retailer for a global skincare company, am under daily pressure, work full days and regularly have to drive for 6 hours to and from meetings. But with organisation and preparation in advance I can stick to my food plan, do my morning cardio and train in evenings. It’s even harder when I’m in competition prep but it’s still manageable.

It really is about mental focus – the willpower to say no. You’ll find once you’ve said “No thank you” a couple of times it won’t even cross your mind to look and people won’t bother offering you anything anymore.

The main issue I find with work is temptation – birthdays involve an office bombardment of cakes, team meetings involve sitting in front of a bowl of sweets every month, and overnight stays mean I get to watch everyone eat 3 course dinners whilst I eat out of Tupperware. It really is about mental focus – the willpower to say no. You’ll find once you’ve said “No thank you” a couple of times it won’t even cross your mind to look and people won’t bother offering you anything anymore. And if you do find it hard, keep sugar free flavoured gum on hand to sort the cravings.

A lot of people ask me about whether I come off my plan for special occasions and my answer is ‘yes’. Once a week I allow myself a ‘cheat’ meal and I use this as time to catch up with friends over dinner with a more relaxed attitude to what I eat. I can then work this around customer meetings, weddings and birthdays if need be. It also keeps me motivated during the week as I have something to focus on.  I spend Monday to Friday telling people at work what I’m going to eat on a Saturday night – I’m sure they think I’m slightly insane – but it keeps me going.

So what’s the best way to go about it? Get organised! Work out your meal plan for the week at the weekend and cook your meals in advance so you have your food there ready to eat. If you tell yourself that’s what you have for the day then that’s all you will eat. And don’t be afraid of rest days – see them as a reason to stay a bit later in the office and catch up on work, go home and spend time with family or do any chores that need doing. I have one every 4 days.

But the most important thing to do is make sure you’re enjoying your food and training as no one can stick to something they dislike. Never see it as a chore and allow yourself some flex. It can be easy to isolate yourself away by being rigid and nothing is worth that.

It’s a way of life and your body and mind will thank you in the end.

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Once a week I allow myself a ‘cheat’ meal and I use this as time to catch up with friends over dinner with a more relaxed attitude to what I eat.

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Tabata Circuit Workout

This No Frills workout is inspired by a form of interval training designed by Japanese sports scientist Dr. Izumi Tabata. Dr. Tabata and his colleagues utilized intense bouts of 20 seconds exercise interspersed with brief 10 second rests which were repeated eight to ten times and resulted in workouts lasting no more than five minutes. By the time you factor in a warm up and a cool down, this means that a true Tabata interval training session lasts around 15 minutes.

Amazingly, because of the very high intensity training effect experienced during Tabata intervals, Dr. Tabata reported that his sample group of athletes, already fit and experienced, increased their aerobic fitness by 14% and anaerobic fitness by 28% in just 8 weeks.

True Tabata intervals are killers! The aim of the game is to work as hard as your possible can during the work periods and the 10 second breaks in between efforts are hardly long enough to catch your breath. The accumulation of lactic acid is staggering and, by the end, it’s all you can do to keep going.

In this Tabata-inspired workout, instead of performing only one Tabata interval, you are actually going to use Tabata protocol with four different exercises performed in a circuit format. You might be asking yourself if one Tabata is so demanding, how on earth are you expected to do four? The answer is simple – you are going to spread the stress around your body rather than repeatedly hammer one body part over and over. This will keep the intensity high but make the whole process more manageable.

Tabata Interval Circuit

For this workout you’ll need a programmable timer such as a GYMBOSS or alternatively, there are lots of apps available that work just as well. If you don’t have access to either of these options, you can perform this workout by keeping an eye on a sweep hand of a well placed clock. You’ll also need a skipping rope, an exercise mat and a little bit of space.

Perform 20 seconds of each exercise in sequence and use the 10 second recovery to move to the next exercise. There are four exercises in the circuit and you are going to perform eight to ten laps in total – so 16 to 20 minutes to complete the entire workout. Place the exercises close together so you don’t waste any time in the transitions.

  1. Skipping – knee lift sprints
  2. Press ups
  3. Chinnies
  4. Squats

So your workout will look like this:

20 seconds skipping
10 seconds rest/transition
20 seconds press ups
10 seconds rest/transition
20 seconds Chinnies
10 seconds rest/transition
20 seconds squats
10 seconds rest/transition
Start from the top again with 20 seconds skipping…repeat for 8 or 10 laps

Workout Strategy

True Tabata intervals do not allow for pacing – you go as fast as you can for each and every work period. Despite the fact that by using a variety of muscle groups you are moving the stress around your body, it is unrealistic to perform each of the 32 to 40 intervals at maximal effort. I suggest you work hard but just shy of “eyeballs out” intensity. While this pacing contradicts true Tabata intervals, it will make this workout a realistic but challenging undertaking as opposed to an impossible one!

Make a mental note of how many repetitions you manage in your first lap and endeavour to hit similar numbers in each subsequent lap. The next time you perform this workout, try to add a rep or two.

Exercise Descriptions

Skipping – knee lift sprints
Skipping is a No Frills favourite as it’s simple, effective and can be performed just about anywhere. Make sure your rope is the right length by standing on the centre with your feet together. The handles should reach your armpits. Rope too long? Tie a couple of knots in it to shorten it. Rope too short? Discard it and get another one!

To perform knee lift sprints, simple run on the spot and pump your legs so that your thighs come up to parallel to the floor. Do not lean forwards from your waist but, instead, drive your knees up. Can’t skip? No problem – jumping jacks are a suitable alternative.

Press ups
The humble press up is one of the best upper body exercises around. You can perform your press ups on your on your toes or resting on your knees. Whichever option you choose, keep your abs tight, lower your chest to the floor and do not let your head drop or lower back sag/arch.

I first saw this exercise being performed by Scottish sprinter Alan Wells back in the 80’s and it’s been a favourite ever since. Using both the rectus abdominus and obliques at the same time, it allows you to really crank out the reps at a decent pace.

Lie on your back on an exercise mat with your legs straight and your hands resting on your temples. Sit up, bend one leg and take your elbow to your opposite knee and then return to the starting position. Perform an identical rep on the other side. Try to establish a brisk rhythm maintain it for the duration of your set. This exercise can be performed so that your feet are just off the ground all the time (sometimes called a bicycle crunch) or with one foot resting on the ground.  I prefer the latter. Do not pull on your head as this can result in an injury to your neck.

No workout is complete without squats! Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands clasped so that your fingers are lightly touching your chin. With your chest up, push your hips back, bend your legs and descend until your elbows touch your knees. Drive up out of the bottom position and repeat. Really pump those legs and don’t pause between reps – imagine your thighs are pistons.

This is a very simple time, equipment, and space-efficient workout that, factoring in a warm up and cool down, will take no more than 30 minutes to perform – everything you have come to expect from a No-Frills workout!







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Guide to running for beginners

Guide to running for beginners

Running is probably one of the simplest of sports to take up as all that it requires is you and your motivation, your trainers and the great outdoors!  Whether you are running for fitness, weight loss, enjoyment, or to overcome chronic illness, it is a sport that you can do in all weathers, in any environment and you can cover the key aspects of fitness: from strength & speed, to stamina and coordination, you can address it all without the necessity of a gym membership. It really is that simple so if you are ready to get started, here are a few tips for beginners:

Starting tips


  • The main reason that beginner runners do not persevere is that they start too quick and do too much too soon which can make for a very uncomfortable experience. To avoid injury and enjoy the experience, it is essential to ease yourself into it slowly and increase your pace and distance gradually over several runs. If you do not already have a good base level of fitness, start by walking for up to 20-30mins and if this is comfortable, start to include some short intervals of jogging for 1-2mins.  Gradually increase the intervals until eventually you are able to run for the duration.
  • When you do run, do not start running too fast – have a slow progressive warm up of 5-10mins to allow the body to prepare and utilise the most efficient energy system.  In the initial stages of a beginner’s running practice, it is important to exercise at an intensity whereby you are able to hold a conversation comfortably in short sentences as this shows that you are working aerobically. Also ensure a gradual cool down and a good stretch routine post run.
  • With regards to distance, the 10% rule is good to abide by for progression and to avoid injury.  Basically this means that you do not increase your running mileage by more than 10% for your single longest run from week to week, or for your overall weekly mileage.
  • Think about your posture and form when running.  Aim to maintain an upright running posture with relaxed arms and shoulders and a smooth efficient running stride.  A good goal cadence to aim for is 180 foot strikes per minute so you may want to count the number of one leg foot strikes over 15secs at various intervals of your run and if it is 22-23 then you know you are achieving this.
  • There is currently a lot of varied opinions on choice of trainer with debates on cushioned versus minimalist trainers.  It is important to do your own research and follow the path that feels natural to you.  You may want to have a thorough running gait analysis to give you an insight into your personal running style and areas that you may need to work on.  Running is a very pure experience and so therefore don’t be drawn into fashions and gimmicks that some manufacturers may use to persuade you to buy their product.
  • Once you start a running routine, try to be consistent – it is better to run 2X per week and progress from there rather than run every day and then not run for a week.  You may also consider some cross-training, such as cycling, which will also benefit your general fitness without the impact of running only.
  • You may prefer to run with company for motivational or safety reasons so you could arrange to run with a friend of similar ability.  Alternatively, consider joining a local running club as most clubs now have enough members to split into ability groups enabling the runners to run with others of the same pace.
  • Goal-setting is good practise and it will keep you focussed so once you have developed your base running fitness, think about entering a short charity run or a 5k race/ Park run as a personal challenge. Also keeping a training diary can be encouraging as you look back and enjoy seeing how you have progressed and what you have managed to achieve.


  • As you develop and progress, you may choose to take a more scientific approach to your training.  This could include working in various heart rate zones using different energy systems or running to individually calculated run paces based on run tests.  In this regard, training tools such as a heart rate monitor and/or GPS style device may become a valuable piece of equipment.
  • There are numerous running races in the UK and worldwide of all distances and all terrains whether you enjoy racing for the experience or for the competitive nature, there is an event out there for all.
  • As running becomes part of your weekly routine and you become more serious or competitive, you will need to consider the use of supplementation to meet the additional demands being placed on your body as diet alone is not always enough.



  • You will perform better in your run training if you eat good energising foods and it is up to you as an individual to find which foods you perform well on and which foods to avoid.  Most people suffer if they eat solid foods within a couple of hours of running as your body will divert the blood to the working muscles and therefore the digestion of food will not be a priority and it will sit heavy in your stomach.  One way to fuel your running is to supplement with liquids or gels which are easily absorbed into the bloodstream: a carbohydrate drink with electrolytes (lost through sweating) such as USN Cytopower, or a Vooma gel, provides a good training or racing fuelling strategy. If you tend to sweat a lot, an electrolyte tablet such as Acti-Fizz dropped in 500ml of water will help with re-hydration and replenishing of important electrolytes.
  • Equally important to consider is your recovery after a hard training session and a drink such as R3 Xcell which contains carbohydrates, electrolyte and protein will help to replenish after a long or hard run so that you are ready to go again next time!
  • Ensuring a good source of protein on your rest days will further assist the body to repair and develop as the training effect takes place– Protein GF-1 is a useful addition to anybody’s diet.


Happy running!



Posted in Fat burning, Get Outside, Misc, Personal Trainer, Sports Training, Triathlon, Women's Fitness, Workouts0 Comments


Free Workout Video


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WoW – Mondays Workout 07/04/2014

Todays workout requires nothing more than a single kettlebell, a few meters of space and the ability to count!

After your warm up, perform three to five laps of the following sequence. Do not rest between exercises but take 1-2 minutes after the burpees at the end.

  • 50 bodyweight only squats – thighs down to parallel people!
  • 40 lunges – that s 20 on each leg
  • 30 two-handed kettlebell swings -  drive with the hips and keep your lower back tightly arched
  • 20 press ups – chest to the floor, core held tight
  • 10 burpees – press up and jump are optional

Each lap should take between three to five minutes to complete.

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