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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


Overcoming Injuries – Ciara’s Blog

By Ciara Horne of Team USN, the Welsh Cycling Team


Following the UCI Track World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico, our team pursuit squad were straight back into training with a big road block. But an unexpected setback occurred three weeks ago today, on a training ride back from the gym with my Team USN teammate Hayley Jones. I hit a pothole, disguised as a puddle, and hit the ground pretty hard. Immediately I could hear a lot of ‘crunching’ on my right collarbone. Thankfully, Hayley and a lorry driver looked after me until the ambulance came. Hayley was an absolute star and sorted out the logistics of getting my bike home and contacting our coach Darren Tudor and my parents.


At the hospital, X-rays were performed (as shown) and an impressive looking fracture to my right clavicle was revealed. The fracture itself was very nearly an open fracture, which means the broken bone penetrates the skin. Luckily, it didn’t, as I suspect that would have hurt a fair bit. The NHS stated that surgery may take up to six weeks, which would have meant no training for six weeks as there is no way I could have trained with a risk of an open fracture if I was moving around too much. I was extremely lucky and am incredibly grateful for the support of Sport Wales, as instead I was able to have surgery two days post the accident with an exceptional surgeon – Richard Evans at theSpire Cardiff hospital.

My post-op instructions stated that the first ten days had to be no sweating in order to reduce the chance of infection. This was music to my ears as it meant I could train, just not sweat! Two days post-op, I was back on the bike. In the first ten days I did plenty of three hour turbo sessions and also, with the help and guidance from Sport Wales strength and conditioning staff, I was able to start a weights programme five days post op. The weights programme consisted of leg press, sled walks, body weight exercises and a specific core programme.

In order to maximise recovery, under the guidance of our Sport Wales nutritionist and USN – I’ve been ensuring I’m having enough protein in my diet on a daily basis. I personally love the Protein Fuel 25 chocolate cream flavour drink, so have had a supply of these drinks to help aid growth and repair of the bone/muscles injured from the accident.

I’m now allowed to do efforts on the turbo, as pain allows. Three hours on a turbo isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, in fact, it really does test you. But with the Commonwealth Games 157 days away (at the time of writing), how could I not be motivated?

The physiotherapy and physiology team at Sport Wales have been a tremendous help and are working alongside my coach to help plan my rehabilitation. In less than two weeks I will be able to fully weight bear. So I’m currently counting down the days until I’m back on the track and road. For now, it’s a case of putting the work in at the gym and SRM/turbo sessions. As someone wise said to me last week; ‘There are no traffic lights on a turbo’ so hopefully this block will help me.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Sport Wales, Welsh Cycling and USN for their incredible support

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger right?




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WOW – Mondays Workout 24/02/2014

Sprinting is a great workout for your legs and butt as well as a champion fat-burner. Try this workout to get your sprinting fix!

Name: Four by Four
Duration: 15 minutes
Equipment: Treadmill, timer
Method: Using a treadmill or an athletics track run 4 sets of 400 meters, going every 3 minutes i.e. start your stop watch as you begin your 1st 400 meters, on completion rest until the time reaches 3 minutes then go again. The faster you run, the longer you get to rest! If you prefer not to run, this workout can be done on as a rowing workout instead.

M & W running

Posted in Fat burning, Sports Training, Workout of the Week (WOW), Workouts0 Comments


The Fittest Man in the World – CrossFit’s Rich Froning???


The Fittest Man on Earth

Rich Froning Jr

Imagining being able to Google, ‘the fittest man on earth’ and finding your name returned as the first entry. Rich Froning Jr. Doesn’t have to imagine it – he is the guy who wears the T-shirt. Paul Mumford caught up with the multiple Crossfit® Games winner.

Before meeting up with him on a recent trip to the UK I Googled Fronning (26) as I wanted to get an idea of what I was letting myself in for. I got a pleasant surprise when I discovered a character far removed from the formidably proportioned, tattooed, yet well-groomed and handsome American guy that he appears to be on the surface.

PM: Tell me about your background Rich. Did you grow up a sporty kid?

RF: I played a lot of stuff growing up but baseball was my main love. I actually got an offer to play in college following high school but decided not to do it and retired from the sport. I then went on to work as a fire fighter in Cookeville (Tennessee), which paid for my tuition through university.


PM: How did you come across Cross Fit?

RF: I was studying exercise science as my undergraduate degree and one of my professors was the head strength and conditioning coach. He showed us some videos one day on the Crossfit web site and the rest is history. I already really enjoyed working out and doing that kinda stuff so I fell in love with Crossfit from the moment I got started.

PM: What specifically was it about Crossfit that appealed to you so much?

RF: Everything was different every day. Crossfit isn’t really concerned with who is the strongest or who is the best. It makes you good at everything rather than a specialist at just one thing.

PM: So how did your interest develop? What led you to start competing?

RF: My cousin and me trained together from when I started out with Crossfit in 2009. We watched some videos of the Crossfit Games and when we tried some of the workouts we thought our times weren’t too bad. They were pretty comparable. So when they opened up registration for the games in 2010, me being a naturally competitive person, I decided to sign up and see how I got on. The first year my whole plan was just to make it to the regionals which I won. Then my goal was not to finish last and I finished second. I was actually in first place right until the last event and just kinda tanked a little bit.

PM: So what do you have to go through each year?

RF: You have to be prepared for anything physically. For instance this year we rowed on a rowing machine for a half marathon but then we also had to do a one rep max clean and jerk ladder in increments of 10lbs. We would go up every minute and have to do a new bar. But then there’s also workouts that involve gymnastics, some handstand push-ups and muscle ups. You really have to be a well-rounded athlete. You can’t just be strong or be in incredible aerobic shape, you have to be a mix of everything. 

Sample our latest issue (Jan 2014), by clicking on the cover

PM: So when you get through to International level, over how many days is the final contest?

RF: For the last two years it’s been four days. It kinda started out as two days and now it’s usually Wednesday, an off-day on Thursday then Friday, Saturday, Sunday.

PM: As you’ve won the CrossFit Games in 2011, 2012 and 2013 – do you have a concrete plan in place and know what you need to do to prepare for the next one?

 RF: I try to surround myself with hard working people who are going to push me in certain areas. I have a good crew of guys that I work out with back home. A lot of people have a set plan but I really don’t. I just base each day on how I feel from the day before and we kinda change things as we go. In the morning I usually work out for around an hour and a half, Crossfit style stuff, metabolic conditioning. Then after about an hour or two I usually do some type of strength work and then at night I’ll do some kind of Crossfit thing again for about an hour or so. Every day is different. You just have to be ready for anything.

PM: Do you know ahead of time what you’re going to be expected to do at the Games?

RF: No, CrossFit always talks about preparing people for the unknown. We train all year to not know what we’re training for.

PM: What about when you’re not training for a competition? You must get a little bored being a competitive person. Do you still set yourself little challenges?

RF: Yes and no. That’s the good thing about Crossfit, every day is a competition really. You’re pushing yourself against other people. You’re pushing yourself against yourself. That makes it more interesting.

PM: So what about diet then Rich? Do you follow the whole Paleo principle that many Crossfitters do?

RF: No. I like food way too much to be Paleo. I’ve tried it before and felt like it hindered me a little bit. I didn’t feel it was good for me. To be honest throughout the day I don’t eat that much. I snack, take some supplements and stuff like that. I train usually in the morning fasted with some Amino X that BSN (His supplement company) makes and then at night I’ll eat whatever I want. If I get a lot of food in my stomach I don’t feel like working out. I try to stay away from breads and pastas though just because I don’t feel good eating them.

PM: So what have you noticed about Crossfit while you’ve been visiting some of the gyms in the UK? Am I right in thinking that it’s more mainstream in the US and still a little underground in the UK?

RF: To be honest I guess it’s similar in the UK to how it started in the US but from what I can tell it’s growing very rapidly here too and all over the world. I’ve been to London, Denmark, Korea… literally all over the World now for Cross Fit. I’m going to Berlin in a few weeks for a competition: Team USA versus Team World. It’s pretty cool to see that at first it was a US thing but the rest of the World is catching up pretty fast.


PM: I know Crossfit gets a lot of bad press here in the UK because people don’t think it’s safe and there are lots of stories of people becoming injured.

RF: There’s a lot of bad press everywhere. Some people don’t like to work hard and like to make excuses. There’s also techniques you need to master if you want to be proficient and able to go at it with incredible intensity but we preach technique. I think if you’re doing something the right way you’re not going to get injured. I do this stuff 3 or 4 times a day and injuries are minimal. I’m sore every day but that just comes with what I do.

PM: Am I right that you’re the only person to win the Crossfit Games more than once?

RF: Yes, Sir.

PM: Does that put extra pressure on you to go for number four?

RF: We’ll see. As of right now I’m going to enter. Number two was pressure, number three was pressure. With number four, sure there’s pressure but … there’s always pressure competing. I always expect more out of myself.

PM: What about beyond number four or have you not thought that far ahead yet?

RF: No, there’s no real plan. I’m pretty strong in my faith and I know that God will point me in the directions He wants me to go and do the things He wants me to do. So I try to be obedient and do whatever it is He’s leading me to do.

PM: I was going to ask about your faith if that’s OK because I’ve noticed you have a reference to the Bible on a tattoo running down the side of your body.

RF: Yes, it’s from the New Testament. Galations 6:14 and it’s ‘May I never boast in anything except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, which the world has crucified to me and I to the world’. It keeps me humble, it keeps me thinking about why I do what I do. My whole role is to glorify him with the things that he’s given me.

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Posted in Fat burning, Fitness, Get Outside, Misc, Sports, Sports Training, Workouts0 Comments


Brooke Stacey Interview Dec 2013 Cover Model

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Body & Life Transformation

Brooke Stacey our ultra-FIT cover model is a prime exemplar of a strong woman. She transformed herself with a training regime that involved free-weights and good old hard work. Now as she says ‘transforming her body has transcended every area of her life in a positive way’. Here’s her story.

UF: Tell us a little about your background (family, location, job, etc)

BS: I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, as a middle child with two siblings in a supportive and loving home with my Mom and Dad.  I was always active in sports and outdoor activities growing up.  My family has been a huge support to me from cheering me on in the sports I played growing up to celebrating my successes as a fitness model as an adult.

About four years ago, I transformed my body and re-assessed my health and fitness goals.  After I graduated college and began working full time in sales I found myself wanting to loose weight – and specifically what I call the infamous “10 pounds” that I couldn’t seem to get off. I hired a personal trainer, Ahmad Watson and went to work adding resistance training, cardio and changing my eating habits. I never anticipated what the end result would be, but after 6 months of training I ended up with a transformed body that I had not even thought possible.  I decided to try my hand at fitness modelling and landed a job with Oxygen Magazine in Canada.  I also decided to get my personal trainer certification so that I could better educate myself and others on my new found passion for health and fitness. Transforming my body has transcended every area of my life in a positive way.  Inspiring others to live healthier, happier lives has been one of the most rewarding things I have been able to do.

Click on image to see Brooke in action on our youtube channel!

I have a full time job in sales that I have done for the past eight years, but in that time I have enjoyed working out, inspiring others and shooting with some of the top photographers in the fitness industry for the last four years as a fitness model.  It is not always easy balancing a full-time job, with being a fitness model and personal trainer, but when you find your life’s passion like I have with health and fitness it makes every moment you do it enjoyable.  I have been blessed with good health and want to maximise that every day by being grateful and by helping others reach their full health and happiness potential.

UF: How did you get started in fitness?

BS: After transforming my body, I decided to try to get into fitness modelling as I mentioned.  I took some starter pictures with a photographer friend at Fall Creek Studios ( and we emulated the pictures in Oxygen Magazine to submit to Oxygen.  After some help from famed, Oxygen staff photographer Paul Buceta ( I was booked for my first modelling job with Oxygen!  It was a dream come true and still is every time I get to shoot with them.  I have since had the pleasure of getting to travel the world from Canada to the Dominican Republic to shoot for fitness. It’s so rewarding and enjoyable.

UF: What has been the proudest moment on your fitness journey?

BS: The proudest moment has been reaching my full personal potential and living a life-dream of being an example of health and fitness to others.  I, like many people, didn’t think it was possible and doubted my own ability to change my life and myself.  Thankfully with God, supportive loved ones and friends, I been able to get through rough times and have reached a happiness from within that I didn’t know was possible.  The fact that my personal journey of self-realisation could inspire anyone else to do the same is amazing and re-inspires me daily.

UF: What are your aspirations?

BS: I aspire to continue to be a positive example of health and fitness for the rest of my life no matter what age or place in my life I am at.  I hope to one day have a family and children and to lead through example and guide my family to a healthy and happy life.

UF: Do you have a trainer or do you set your own programmes?

BS: As I mentioned I have had a trainer from the beginning of my journey that has helped me transform my body and now helps me stay on track to keep my body in top shape. Ahmad helps set my programmes and will train with me to help ensure my form is correct and that I am pushing myself.

UF: What’s a typical week’s training involve?

BS: My training from week-to-week can vary depending on the programme my trainer has me on and the goals we are trying to achieve such as building more muscle or leaning up, whilst always maintaining the muscle I currently have.

We try to switch up my training routine every month to ensure my body continues to be challenged and is changing toward reaching my current goal.  My workouts are set around my current lifestyle obstacles, including my work schedule, so the workout I have provided is set around three days a week in the gym lifting (see below).  For this reason, intensity in my workouts is crucial to the success of my body responding.  We can’t always get into the gym five days a week.  This is also the beauty of a great workout programme, it can have some variability and still be successful. Consistency in clean eating helps me stay on track with achieving my goals in the gym no matter if I’m lifting three or five days a week.

This particular workout routine consists of three days resistance training and two days cardio training.

My cardio days consist of outdoor trail running, stair-stepper or sprint intervals depending on the weather for 30-45 min.


I’ve provided what’s more of a strength and endurance workout – it uses 4 sets with reps ranging from 8-12




Foam Roll
Static Stretch



  1. Dumbbell Squats
  2. Stationary Lung





  1.  Seated Cable Pull Down
  2.  Dumbbell Bent-over Row





  1. Dumbbell Chest Press
  2. Stability Ball Press-ups (hands on ball)





  1. Standing Barbell Biceps Curls (EZ Bar)
  2. Single Leg Standing Hammer Curls





  1. Scull Crushers
  2.  Bench Triceps Dips

(Body weight)





  1. Standing Dumbbell Front Raises
  2. Single Leg Standing Dumbbell Lateral Raises






UF: What areas of your body do you need to work on the most?

BS: My legs are definitely the area I have to work the most.  My definition of most is defined by hitting them from all angles with resistance training, plyometrics and consistent cardio to keep them lean and toned.  My body tends to hold onto fat in my legs

UF: What are your favourite and least favourite exercises and why?

BS: My favourite exercises are always with free weights.  I enjoy lifting heavy and engaging my entire body during my lifting … so for me it’s standing shoulder press and dumbbell chest press because I am strongest in my shoulders and chest and love the adrenaline rush I get from lifting heavy!

My least favorite exercises are biceps curls and sit-ups.  My biceps are my weakest muscle and are most challenging.  I just like to train my abs by engaging during all training activities, so I don’t have to do sit-ups.  I get bored just doing sit-ups.

UF: What advice do you have for anyone wanting to get into the best shape that they can?

BS: My advice is to get started, keep going and never limit yourself to what is possible.  The body is an incredible thing and can achieve beyond what our mind would otherwise limit us to.  If you consistently train and eat healthily the end results are limitless.  Transformations are possible and happen every day.  It’s a matter of how important it is to you and what work you are willing to do to see the results.

UF: What type of diet do you follow and how strict are you at following it?

BS: I truly don’t follow a diet.  I focus on eating clean all of the time.  When I transformed my body I slowly began to make changes to my eating habits like cutting back on fast food, limiting fried foods, incorporating more vegetables and taking out processed snack foods like chips, crackers and cookies.  I avoid processed foods and try to eat natural, organic foods as much as possible.  I have never been on a diet for a show or shoot.  I eat the same all-year round and adjust my workouts and clean up my eating when I get closer to a shoot date.  By applying a holistic approach to eating I find it is easy to follow and maintain my clean eating and I don’t feel like a have to deprive myself.

UF: What tips do you have for women (and men) who struggle with their diets? How do you avoid cravings?

BS: My tip for anyone trying to eat better and avoid cravings is look at the whole picture when preparing a meal or eating out.  Try to make every meal as healthy as you can, like baking instead of frying, lean meats and veggies instead of white starches, utilising healthy fats to cook like olive oil and coconut oil, instead of lard or butter.  This approach has worked for me from the beginning and makes it a lifestyle I can maintain long-term versus a diet that comes and goes.  When you don’t deprive yourself or go on strict diets you will be less likely to crave and binge-eat foods that will sabotage your health and fitness goals. Drink a ‘skinny’ cocktail instead of the high calorie one and say, “Cheers” to a happy and healthy life!”

UF: What are your future goals and plans?

BS: I hope to continue to spread my message about health and fitness and to reach and inspire as many people as possible.  Every day creates a new opportunity for me with magazines and I hope that could lead to some TV personality opportunity so that I can reach even more people and brand ‘Brooke Stacey Fit’ as a happy and healthy lifestyle that is possible for everyone to achieve and live,.

To find out more about Brooke go to:

Images by James Patrick



Posted in Fat burning, Fitness, Fitness models, Misc, Nutrition, Personal Trainer, Sports Training0 Comments

exerciser 2

Fitter, Faster, Stronger, Leaner part 2

exerciser 2Aerobic Training Variables – things we can change about the way we do our cardio.

As with resistance training, there are a number of things we can do to make our cardiovascular exercise more productive and therefore improve our aerobic fitness to new higher levels. By implementing the following, we can make sure that the dreaded plateau is a thing of the past.


  1. Frequency – exercise more often
  2. Intensity – work at a higher percentage of maximum Heart rate
  3. Duration – exercise for longer periods of time/cover greater distances
  4. Speed – run/cycle/swim/step/row at a faster rate
  5. Intervals – employ interval training in place of steady state cardio*
  6. Terrain – run/walk/cycle on different surfaces
  7. Hill work – purposely seek out hillier routes to walk, cycle or run
  8. Modality – select different aerobic training methods e.g. run instead of swim
  9. Add resistance – use weighted vests, ankle weights or back packs
  10. Employ an aerobic training method – e.g. fartlek, FCR or LSD)**

*Interval training – periods of high intensity work interspaced with periods of low intensity recoveries e.g. run hard for 60 seconds, jog for 120 seconds and repeat

**Fartlek – mixed speeds within a training session performed randomly, FCR – Fast Continuous Running…aerobic exercise performed  at high levels of intensity for shorter periods of time, LCD – Long Slow Distance…Continuous aerobic exercise performed at a comfortable pace for extended periods of time

As with our resistance training variables, it’s a good idea to focus on one or two of the above options for a few weeks before selecting other variables from the list. Trying to make too many changes at once is likely to be too dramatic a change and result in exhaustion and possibly injury. It is also worth bearing in mind that it is recommended that increases in duration/distance per workout and per training week be limited to approximately 10%. In other words, if your current longest run is 3 miles, don’t increase your mileage up to 4 miles over night but increase the distance to by around 400 – 500 metres to avoid potential overuse injuries.

“If we are going to succeed, we need to plan for success” & “Failing to plan is planning to fail”

Improvements in physical fitness don’t happen by accident. They are a direct result of the application of consistent and sustained effort, good eating habits and appropriate rest. If we have no real plan, we have much less chance of making the progress we are looking for.

When thinking about exercise, it’s necessary to think long term – not just tomorrow, next week or next month, but next year and the year after. How are you going to take your current level of exercise and fitness on from the here-and-now to your ultimate fitness goal? The answer is to make a plan.

They say a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, but if those initial steps are in the wrong direction then we’ll never get to our destination. It is necessary to “reverse engineer” our journey from where we want to be to where we are now so we can plot our route to ultimate success.

So – a few questions…write down the answers:

  1. What is your ultimate fitness goal? (lose fat, run a marathon, make it to the 1st team etc)
  2. Where are you currently in relation to your ultimate fitness goal? (score out of 10)
  3. How committed are you to achieving your goal? (score out of 10)
  4. How much time can you dedicate to your goal? (list the hours per week)
  5. What are the possible barriers you might encounter during your quest for success? (make a list)
  6. How can you remove those barriers? (write down solutions to the above list)
  7. What/who are your allies in reaching your goal? (Who can help you?)

Once you have answers for the above questions, you are well on your way to making a plan of battle to take you to your goal.

Next – we need to break down the ultimate fitness goal into smaller bite sized chunks. Our ultimate goal is probably a long term goal…months or possibly years away. That’s a very long time to remain motivated. To help keep us focused on the prize, it’s worth breaking our main goal down into several sub-goals which are more readily achievable.

To give you an example – let’s say your goal is to run a marathon (26 miles) but currently your longest run is 6 miles. That means you have to run a whole 20 miles further to reach you goal. For many people, that might seem like a daunting if not impossible task! Instead, let’s break that ultimate goal down into more manageable chunks…

1st sub goal – run 10 miles

2nd sub goal – run a half marathon (13 miles)

3rd sub goal – run 17 miles

4th sub goal – run 21 miles

Ultimate goal – run a marathon

By breaking down our ultimate goal into smaller bite sized chunks, we will experience numerous minor successes on the way to realisation of our end goal. This promotes adherence, maintains enthusiasm and improves our success potential dramatically.

To train smarter, think SMARTER!

Once you have decided upon your goals, apply the acronym SMARTER to them.

SMARTER stands for:-

Specific – put a numerical value to what you are trying to achieve

Measurable – make sure you can prove success by hitting numerical targets e.g. body fat %

Achievable – is your goal feasible?  Do you have the necessary resources to allow success?

Realistic – can it be done in the time available? Are there many barriers to overcome?

Time bound – set a dead line when you expect to achieve success

Enjoyable – if it’s not you are less likely to stick to it

Recorded – write it all down, tell your friends, make your goals public property! It makes it much harder to drop out if you know people are interested in your progress!

By applying SMARTER to the goals we set for ourselves we improve the likelihood of succeeding massively.  

Training Diaries – No more wasted workouts!

I am an absolute believer in the power of a training diary. I have kept training diaries for my entire exercising life and rely on them constantly to help me plan my next phase of training. A training diary will provide you with numerical evidence of previous workouts performed, allow you to track improvements, see what has worked well for you and what has been less successful, show consistency and highlight lapses as well as improving focus as you record your performance from workout to workout.

By making use of a training diary, you’ll never go into the gym and be saying to your self “Now, what shall I do today?” Every workout will be productive and specific to your goals.

Personally, I use A5 sized ring bound note books as training diaries although I know you can buy fancy programmes for your computer. Alternatively, if you are so inclined, you could even design excel spread sheets. Regardless of what method you choose, keeping a training diary is one of the most useful tools we have available to keep ourselves motivated and focused.

By utilizing the information in your training diary, you can plan your next workout based on how your previous workout went. Make a note of which exercises you performed, which exercises which need increased resistance, reps achieved with a given resistance, number of sets performed, rest intervals used, settings on cardio machines, durations and heart rates of CV exercise, total duration of each workout, how you felt etc. By having all this information to hand, we can use the training variables discussed earlier to push our selves onwards and upwards towards out ultimate fitness goals.

So, the take home points for continued exercise progress are:-

1)    Whatever you are doing now, you need to change in the near future

2)    Manipulate the training variables regularly to promote progression

3)    Set goals and work towards them

4)    Make long term plans for success

5)    Keep a training diary to measure your success and keep you focused


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Fitter, Faster, Stronger, Leaner part 1


progressionIt’s Monday, so it must be chest day…5 sets of bench press, 3 sets of dumbbell flies, 2 sets of dips and a couple of sets of press ups to finish the workout – same workout as last week, and the week before, using the same weights you always use and the same rep scheme. Or is it cardio day? Run 3 miles in 30 minutes, just like last week and the week before. Or is it Body Pump class today? Same work out as always, same weights, same exercises, same duration? Maybe you don’t even know what you did in last week’s workouts? Do you go to the gym and do whatever your training partner suggests or just do what you feel like doing?

If any of these scenarios sound familiar to you you’re not alone. Look around the majority of gyms and health clubs and you’ll see vast numbers of people doing the same training, week in and week out. When they look in the mirror they see the same old reflexion staring right back them…their physiques or figures haven’t changed in ages, their fitness improvements have stalled and they have the same strength today as they did this time last year.

There is an old saying in exercise – “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got”.

When they started their current workout routine what they were doing will have worked. It provided overload and sufficient training stimulus to force their bodies to adapt, to change, to improve. The thing is the human body is lazy! Once it can comfortably perform the activities it is being asked to do, it ceases making adaptations and we stop getting the benefits we seek from exercise. If we don’t try to progress our workouts, the very most we can expect is to maintain our current physical condition and the worse case scenario is that we actually lose fitness as our body becomes ultra-efficient at the exercises we perform which in turn lowers the training effect of our training sessions. It takes the body 3-6 weeks to adapt to a stressor like exercise. After that, it takes a new stressor to keep the body adapting and improving.

People stay with the same exercise regime for a number of reasons – partly physical and partly psychological. Examine this list and see if any of the points relate to you and your current workout situation:-

  • You’re good at all the exercises and don’t want to be seen doing things you aren’t good at
  • The programme you are on was written by an expert so it must work.
  • Your current programme worked initially so it will work again if you stick with it long enough
  • You only know a handful of exercises and have limited knowledge of programme design
  • You are comfortable with your routine and are reluctant to change it

Whatever your reason for not changing your routine I can’t stress enough that unless you do something different from time to time you are doomed to little or no progress!!! You are literally wasting your time in the gym! So if you want to get fitter, faster, stronger or leaner we have to force our bodies to adapt and improve – and that means we have to shake up our workouts on a regular basis.

I’m often asked “does it (exercise) ever get any easier?” The answer is a resounding “NO!” To see progress in our fitness levels, there needs to be a consistent trend of increased workload/work rate. Exercise isn’t easier the fitter we get – we just develop a greater work capacity.

In the rest of this article, I want to tell you about the “training variables” you can use to keep your workouts fresh, interesting and above all productive and discuss the importance of record keeping to keep us on the road to improved performance and appearance. So, grab your shovel because we have a rut to dig our selves out of!

Progression – the key to long term progress.

Making progress in our workouts requires the manipulation of the “training variables” – the characteristics of our workouts. By making changes to one or more of the training variables on a regular basis we can keep making steady progress towards our genetic potential for physical fitness. Let’s look at each of the training variables in turn:-

Resistance Training Variables – things we can change about the way we train with weights.

  1. Number of exercises per muscle group – can be increased or decreased
  2. Number of sets per exercise and per workout – can be increased or decreased
  3. Target repetition range – higher reps/low weight = more muscular endurance specific, lower reps/greater weight = more strength specific
  4. Loading – increasing the weight used for each exercise to develop greater strength
  5. Recovery period between sets – can be lowered to increase workout density (more sets possible per workout) or to challenge recovery ability
  6. Workout frequency – train more often
  7. Workout duration – train for longer
  8. Movement speed – can be increased to promote power development or decreased to extend the duration of a given exercise (referred to as Time Under Tension or TUT)
  9. Different exercises – e.g. trading barbell bench press with dumbbell bench press
  10. Stable based exercises to unstable – e.g. from machine based exercises to free weight exercises to challenge co-ordination and balance
  11. Simple exercises to more complex ones – e.g. from single joint exercises to multi joint exercises
  12. Exercise order – change the order of exercises performed in the session and training week
  13. Training systems – employ drop sets, super sets, forced reps, pre/post exhaust etc
  14. Split routines – split body parts up differently on a regular basis e.g. legs on Monday and not chest!

Changing any one of the above variables will result in a new stimulus which our bodies will have to adapt to resulting in improvements in fitness. With so many variables to choose from some restraint needs to be exercised so as not to change too much at the same time. Rather than randomly shake our workouts up, we want to employ a couple of the exercise variables for a period of 3-6 weeks and then, once we have adapted to the new stresses of our modified work out, make use of a couple more of the variables thereafter. For example, for 3 weeks focus on increasing the amount of weight used in each exercise, then for a further 3 weeks try to perform more reps with the weight constant, and then reduce the rest intervals gradually over the next 3 weeks and so on. By making small but significant changes on a regular basis we guarantee continued improvements in our fitness levels – up to our genetic potential.

In part 2 of this series, we’ll examine the training variables we can apply to cardiovascular exercise…

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Getting the most from the indoor rower

RowerThe rowing machine is an effective and popular cardiovascular exercise that uses the entire body in synergy. You need to use the proper rowing technique if you want to get the most from your workouts and avoid injury. Your lower back is particularly at risk if you fail to use good technique. Rowing is more technically demanding than using an exercise bike or jogging on a treadmill so it’s worth spending some time becoming a proficient rower so you can enjoy this piece of training equipment as much as possible. The rowing stroke is broken into numerous phases.

The Start/Finish Position
Making sure your feet are securely fixed in the foot rests, extend your knees until they are straight. Sit up as tall as you can and pull the oar handle into your midsection. Keep your wrists straight, your forearms horizontal and your arms tucked close into your sides while looking straight forward. This is your start and finish position for every stroke.

Arm Extension and Hip Bend
From the start position; smoothly extend your arms so they are fully straight. Lean forwards slightly at the hips whilst keeping your spine neutral. You should still be sitting tall so make sure you don’t round your lower back. Your arms should be relaxed; your wrists straight and you should be looking forwards.

The Slide
Immediately after the arm extension and hip bend, begin to bend your legs and slide your body forwards. Your arms should remain extended. Slide forwards until your knees are bent and your shins are vertical. Your hands should be slightly in front of your legs. You should still be trying to sit as tall as possible-avoid rounding your back too much. This is the point in the stroke where you will transition from moving forwards to moving backwards. This is called the catch in water rowing as it is the point your oar blades catches water.

The Drive Part One
Reverse your direction by pushing off with your legs. Focus on pushing through your heels and not your toes. Your upper body should begin to lean back from the hips as you initiate the drive but you should not begin pulling with your arms just yet! Keep your torso rigid during the drive so that none of the power generated by your legs is lost.

The Drive Part Two
Once your knees are almost straight, you should begin pulling with your arms. Your stronger leg muscles initiate the drive and your weaker arm muscles finish the stroke off by pulling the oar handle into your midsection. Keep your wrists straight, your forearms horizontal and your elbows tucked in close to your body. Pull the bar all the way back into your midsection. You should now be back in the start/finish position.

Learning the correct rowing technique may take time but the benefits you will experience as a result will make your efforts worthwhile. There is a lot to remember when rowing but, like any skill, with practice and repetition it will become unconscious and automatic. From the start position remember: Arms-Legs-Legs-Arms. This sequence is a large part of your rowing. Try reciting it to yourself as you row, which will help you perfect your rowing technique.

For more on rowing technique check out

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running legs 2

A beginner’s guide to running part 3

running legs 2Progression
Now the first workout is completed, we have a bench mark to compare all subsequent sessions to. The aim of the next few weeks or months is to walk less and run more, until we are able to run for 20 minutes without having to take any walking breaks. YOU are in charge of how you progress your workout. You can use a stop watch and time your run/walk intervals and add a few seconds of running while walking a few seconds less, or you can use lamp posts as indicators of distance travelled…it’s really up to you. However you decide to monitor your progress, it is essential that your regularly increase the time spent running and minimize the time spent walking, working towards our initial goal of running for 20 minutes straight. Once you are able to complete 20 minutes of running without having to take a walking break, stay at this level of activity for 1-2 weeks and really get used to performing that amount of exercise.


Once we have consolidated our progress and have regularly run for 20 minutes, 3 times a week for 1-2 weeks, you should be ready to push on to new levels of fitness. There are a number of options that can utilized to make your workouts more demanding and you can use one or more of these as you see fit.

Option 1 – run more often. (e.g. 4 times a week)

Option 2 – run further (e.g. for 25 minutes)

Option 3 – run faster (e.g. run the same route but aim to do it quicker)

As a general rule, it is suggested that we never increase the duration of any single run, or our weekly mileage total by more than 10% at a time. This means if you are running for 20 minutes; don’t suddenly increase the duration of your next run to 30 minutes, but to 22 minutes and so on. Increasing mileage/duration in jumps greater than 10% can lead to overuse injuries. Also it’s a good idea to restrict running to no more than 4-5 times a week and make sure you have 1-2 days free from physical activity. The body is a wondrous thing, but does need time to repair itself from the rigours of regular exercise.

The finish line
It might well take weeks or even months to go from the initial walk/run/walk programme to running for 20 minutes plus without stopping…but once you manage it you’ll feel an amazing sense of achievement and satisfaction.

And, once you have a basic level of running fitness, why not consider joining a friendly running club or entering a fun run? You might have lofty aspirations of running a marathon one day, or merely running to stay fit, slim and healthy. No matter what you choose to achieve with your running, continue to enjoy your running for a very long time to come.

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Running legs

A beginner’s guide to running part 2

Running legsPhase two – Setting a schedule.

The UK’s Health and Exercise Advisory board (HEA) recommends performing aerobic exercise 3 times a week for a duration of not less than 20 minutes to make improvements in aerobic fitness. It’s suggested, where possible, that these workouts are performed on non-sequential days e.g. Monday, Wednesday & Friday.


Before we even take our first running step, it’s a good idea to plan when we are going to run. Certainly we need to meet the minimal requirements set down by the HEA if we are expecting to gain benefits from exercise. Look at your schedule and make 3 “running appointments” per week so you know when you are due to workout. Treat these like any other appointment – just like a meeting with a work colleague. Do your very best not to break them, and soon you’ll be on the way to making exercise a life long habit.

Avoid over committing your self in the early stages of your new running endeavour – stick with the 3 sessions of 20 minutes a week initially. This way, you are less likely to miss a session, whereas, even with the best will in the world, those 6 sessions of 45 minutes you planned out will fall by the wayside and your dreams of becoming a runner will be over before they have begun. Once we have established out schedule and feel comfortable with it, we can then add to it.

Phase three – Let’s get started!

Running for 20 minutes can be a daunting prospect for a novice runner, whose last experience of running was doing laps of a football field in the rain while at school! Because of this, we are going to break down our 20 minute minimum session time into running and walking. Our aim, over the next few weeks is to run more and walk less until we reach a 20 minute total of running time with no walking. Once we can run for 20 minutes in a single session, we’ll start to increase the length of our runs, run faster or more often. We’ll cover running progressions a moment…

Warming up
Before we head out the door and start hitting the pavement, we are going to spend a few minutes getting our bodies ready for the exercise to follow. Chances are, your body is about to go from a dead stop (having been sat in a car or at a desk, or even laid in bed for an extended period) to exercising so we need  make the transition from non exercising to exercising gradual. This will enhance your running experience by making the first few minutes of your run less stressful, may prevent injuries and helps get your mind ready for exercise as well as your body.

Because running is essentially a whole body exercise, it’s well worth spending a few minutes warming up all the major joints…the ankles, knees and hips. One of the best ways to do this is by performing some step ups at the foot of your stairs. After a couple of minutes of step ups, you should feel a little warmer and your breathing and heart rate should be elevated. Next we need to gently stretch out the muscles of the lower body, especially he hamstrings, quadriceps and calf muscles. If you are unsure of what stretches to perform, do a search on the internet or seek advice from a fitness professional. Spend a 10-20 seconds on each muscle group in the lower body before heading out the door. We’re now ready to head out the door…!


Our first few sessions are going to begin with walking rather than running. Walking will contribute to the warm up and overall workout but will also act as a recovery when we get tired from running. When walking make sure you stride out purposely with your head held high, shoulders held down and back and arms relaxed, swinging freely. Drive your heels into the floor and push off your toes, walking briskly. You should feel slightly out of breath, having to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose and you may even begin to sweat lightly. For many exercisers, this “power walking” will provide workout enough in the early stages of our new fitness regime. If this is the case for you, keep with the walking 3 times a week for 20 minutes per session until you feel ready to attempt running. I suggest heading away from your start point for 10 minutes, then returning along the same route for your first few sessions until you have an idea of how much distance you can cover in the allotted 20 minutes.

If, after a few minutes of walking, you feel comfortable I want you to break into a run. When running, concentrate on a heel/toe action, light foot falls and keeping the upper body relaxed as well as a regular breathing rhythm. Don’t set off at a sprint, but a comfortable run which you can maintain for at least 1-2 minutes. After you have run for 1-2 minutes (more or less depending on your individual fitness level) slow back down into your power walk. You should aim to stride out as you did before and do your best to maintain the good walking technique we used a few moments earlier.

Repeat this walk/run/walk sequence until you have been exercising for 20 minutes. The intervals of running and walking are completely intuitive – run or walk for as long as feels comfortable. If you are feeling tired walk more, and if you are feeling okay run more. Remember we are only just starting out and we have plenty of time to increase your speed and/or duration.

Once you have completed your 20 minute session (well done by the way!) have a gentle stretch to try and minimise any post exercise muscle soreness. Mildly sore muscles are to be expected after performing a new exercise routine – at least in the early stages. Don’t worry if your muscles feel a little bit sore for a day or two after your workouts…you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s merely your body saying it has done a bit more work than usual.

In part 3 of this series, we’ll look at how to progress you workouts…

Posted in Fat burning, Fitness, Get Outside, Sports Training0 Comments

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