Tag Archive | "exercise"

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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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 http://www.concept2.com/us/training/technique.asp

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Paleo Eating – a Personal Voyage

cavemanA few weeks ago we posted an introduction to the Palaeolithic diet. This mini-article stimulated a lot of lively conversation! On one side of the fence, fans of Paleo eating expressed joy at the fact that we highlighted this often misunderstood and maligned nutrition plan whilst others expressed concerns over the lack of obvious carbohydrate and the effect this might have on your ability to exercise. It so happens that all of this Paleo talk started just after I had returned from a brief holiday from training and my usual restrained eating patterns and felt like I needed to “spring clean” my diet and so, after having done some research, opted to give Paleo a try for myself. This article is a brief outline of my Paleo experience to date.

What is the Palaeolithic Diet?

In very simple terms, the Paleo diet is based on what experts believe we used to eat 10,000+ years ago – a period referred to as the old Stone Age. That means no grains, sugar, minimal dairy and no processed foods. In a nutshell (and yes – you can eat nuts!) if you could catch it, kill it or pick it you can eat it. To help you with your food selections, try this – if you can picture what you are about to eat in the wild then it’s fair game. If you can’t imagine your intended meal roaming the plains or sprouting from the earth (is that a herd of donuts I see in the distance or maybe a Snickers tree??!) you can’t. Grey areas include dairy and grains. Both of these foods only really entered our food chain when we started to domesticate animals and raise crops so these are technically Neolithic or new Stone Age foods so they are therefore excluded from the Palaeolithic diet although some proponents allow small amounts of wild rice, quinoa and fermented dairy products such as natural yogurt and kefir. As with many types of diet, there are degrees of compliance and I have opted to include natural yogurt, quinoa and the small amount of milk I have in my daily coffee. Other than that, I’m grain and dairy free and have eliminated virtually all processed foods and sugar.

What happened next…

Unlike many of my friends, I generally do very well on low/no carb diets and have followed variations of the Atkins plan, Cyclic Ketogenic Diet and other high protein/low carb approaches before so I knew I wouldn’t experience any noticeable ill affects by going caveman. I was also coming off a period of overeating from my holiday where everything I ate was a yummy wheat-based carb and while I wasn’t fat, I was not as lean as I normally am. In truth, I was ready to embrace some cleaning eating as the novelty of rich, sweet, grain based foods had well and truly worn off!

I spent the weekend preceding my caveman conversion emptying my cupboards of bread, rice and cereals (and putting them in my belly) to eliminate temptations and encourage compliance figuring that if I didn’t have it, I couldn’t eat it. As a side note, I am a firm believer in the law of possession…if you have it in your cupboards, you will eat it! Not today, and maybe not tomorrow but at some point that high calorie “just for emergency” snack will end up being eaten and, if like me once the carb gremlin comes calling you find it hard to say no, this can throw a real spanner in the works of all your best intentions.

A Typical Paleo Day…

I start most mornings with eggs which I either scramble, fry or have as an omelette as well as fruit and/or vegetables. One of my favourite breakfasts is finely chopped courgette which I stir fry and then mix into my scrambled eggs and sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt. Tasty and filling!

Lunch consists of a large salad and some form of meat. Maybe it will be chicken drumsticks, homemade chicken liver and bacon pate, cold pork or beef; whatever else I cook the day before. I make sure my salad contains as many mixed leaves as possible plus tomatoes, cucumber, onion and olives as well as some grapes for added sweetness. For dressing I use extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Apparently sweetcorn is a grain so I don’t add these to my salad but do sometimes add some nuts if I feel like I need to bulk up the calorie content of my lunch.

Dinner usually consists of a big plate of roast vegetables (courgette, peppers, aubergines and tomatoes) served with a large portion of either meat or fish. Although not strictly a Paleo food, I may eat a few potatoes once a week and quinoa once or twice a week if I feel I need to eat a little more than usual. Quinoa is considered an “ancient grain” so I figure if it was good enough for the Aztecs, one or two servings a week won’t derail my efforts. After dinner I usually have a big bowl of homemade fruit salad with natural yogurt, honey and flaked almonds as I have a bit of a sweet tooth and enjoy deserts generally. For snacks, I usually consume a couple of pieces of fruit – mainly apples – and plenty of nuts with my favourites being Brazils and almonds which I eat with a few raisins for added sweetness. I also snack on cold meats, homemade beef jerky, coconut and raw vegetables. If I run low on snacks, I may have a whey protein shake but this is a rarity and whilst I realise my caveman ancestors wouldn’t have access to this type of food, I believe it’s a fair compromise and better than resorting to a candy bar.

Beverage wise, I drink around two litres of water a day which I sometimes flavour with pure lemon juice in place of the processed cordials I used to use. I also have one or two cups of filter coffee a day which, whilst not strictly Paleo is something I enjoy so won’t be giving up anytime soon! I also drink green tea most days but I’ve have all but eliminated all sodas – diet or regular.

Once a week, usually at the weekend, I indulge in some 70 – 85 percent dark chocolate. Again, not exactly Paleo approved but the lack of sugar combined with a high anti-oxidant content makes it, for me at least, a justifiable addition to my weekly food intake. I suspect my caveman ancestors would have liked it too!

The Results So Far…

Interestingly I haven’t really lost weight but I have lost a significant amount of fat while gaining some muscle. Prior to going caveman I could see my upper abs if I really REALLY squeezed hard  but now I can see all of my abs all of the time plus a whole bunch of muscles that I don’t think I have ever seen before! My energy levels and hunger levels are stable all day long – in fact, I don’t seem to get hungry very often at all which I put down to stable blood glucose and therefore insulin levels. I’m training as hard as ever and not experiencing any performance drop off despite only eating an average 150 grams of carbs a day.

Closing Thoughts…

Am I going to stay Paleo? Yes – I think so. I may choose to lapse for the occasional meal and enjoy some bread when I eat out or, in the near future, a large piece of birthday cake, but I am enjoying eating like a 21st century caveman and certainly have enjoyed the truly effortless fat loss I have experienced thus far. Like any eating plan, there are times when it would be easier to grab a sandwich than make a salad but for me at least, the results – both how I feel and how I look – make the sacrifices well worthwhile. While not for everyone, the Paleo diet does seem to live up to some of the hype surrounding it.

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WOW – Thursdays workout 21/07/2011


Not everyone has hours and hours to spend in the gym so with that in mind here is a great 30 minute workout which will train all the major muscle groups using only body weight exercises.

Warm up by performing cardio for 5-10 minutes and follow with a couple of minutes of dynamic stretching

Perform as many laps as possible of the following circuit in 20 minutes (adjust timings according to your fitness levels)

  • 5 chin ups (Substitute body rows or lat pull downs if necessary)
  • 10 press ups (either on knees or full)
  • 15 squats

Rest when necessary but try to do as many laps as possible in the alloted time. Finish off with some light cardio to cool off and stretches.

With thanks to Crossfit www.crossfit.com

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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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Deck of cards

WOW – Thursdays workout 28/11/2013

Deck of cardsThe deck of cards workout

For this workout you need a standard deck of cards including jokers, a stopwatch or timer and some space.

Shuffle your deck of cards and place it face down. Each suit has an exercise allocated to it…

Diamonds = Lunges
Hearts = Squats
Clubs = Jumping jacks
Spades = Press ups

Turn over the first card and perform repetitions to match the cards face value e.g. 10 of hearts = 10 squats, 5 of diamonds = 5 lunges per leg. All picture cards = 12 reps and jokes = 1 minute of abdominal planks.

Work through the whole pack as fast as you can for a great all over workout.

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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…

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running shoes

A beginner’s guide to running part 1

running shoesRunning is one of the most natural, beneficial and convenient forms of exercise available. It’s relatively cheap, requires very little specialist equipment and can be done virtually anywhere at any time. Running burns calories, strengthens the heart and improve lung capacity whilst reducing the likelihood of suffering from chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and coronary heart disease.

Running has many benefits to offer, but making the successful transition from inactivity to regular pavement pounder can be difficult. This article will show you how to go from complete novice to regular runner in an easy, structured and progressive way.




Phase one – Preparation.

“Prior planning prevents a pretty poor performance” as we used to say in the Royal Marines! All this means is that before we go off half cocked, we need to make sure we are ready to begin our new routine and that any possible obstacles are removed. To make the early stages of running training as easy as possible, let’s address these essential points:

Running shoes
The correct footwear is essential for safe and comfortable running. The wrong shoes can make running a nightmare! This doesn’t mean you need to rush out and buy the most expensive shoes you can afford. Expensive doesn’t necessarily mean best. Sure, you can spend £100+ ($200) on a pair of top of the range shoes, but will they really make you a better runner? Probably not! As a novice runner, we don’t need ultra light racing flats, or shoes built for speed, we merely need shoes that offer good cushioning and support. When buying a pair of running shoes, try them on wearing the socks you expect to be running in, jog around the shoe shop to make sure they feel okay, wear them in your home for a day or two to make sure they don’t cause you any discomfort and don’t be afraid to take your unused shoes back to the retailer if they aren’t right for you. It’s also worth noting that running shoes have an expected lifespan of 4-6 months. After this period the cushioning starts to degrade and the support may diminish. Replace your running shoes often to avoid lower limb injuries. When buying running shoes, make sure you get the advice of a professional sales person but be aware they might well be on commission and their recommendations could well be influenced by that fact.

Running clothes
Whatever you are comfortable in will be fine for running, so long as you can vent when you get hot or add layers when you feel cold. For cold weather running, long sleeves and leggings might be useful, as might a hat and gloves. In the heat, a sun hat is vital, and shorts and a t shirt might be more appropriate. If you run at night, it’s worth investing in a high visibility top to avoid becoming a traffic accident statistic and a light rain jacket might be useful for those damp days. Finally make sure your running socks are snug fitting and won’t rub to give you blisters.

Running routes
It’s worth having an idea of where you are going to run before you head out the door on your first workout. Running on the roads is okay, but would you enjoy running in the countryside more? Is your “home patch” very hilly, and consequently, going to make your early days as a runner harder than necessary? Is your running route relatively free of traffic, well lit at night, avoids passing through any unsafe areas? We want to make your initial foray into running as easy as possible so by eliminating as many potential hazards as possible. Seek out places that will be a pleasure to run in, not ones that make you dread starting!

Added extras
If you are the sort of person who really likes to buy other odds and ends to enhance your exercise experience, the following might be useful, but are by no means essential: A heart rate monitor to measure how hard you are working, a watch with a timer to measure the duration of your workouts (and ordinary watch will suffice) a GPS to measure how far you have run, an MP3 player to entertain you while you exercise, and a Camel Bag – a drinking system worn on your back ideally suited for people who want to keep their hands free while exercising. There are plenty of other running related products on the market, many of which are touted as essential but remember, some of the world’s best runners come from the most impoverished of countries and often run bare foot so don’t feel you have to buy ever running product available to be a good runner!

In part 2 of this series we’ll look at setting a schedule and getting started!

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WOW – Mondays workout 25/11/2013

Looking for a fun and challenging workout to break up your normal cardio routine? Try this…

First, warm up for a few minutes by performing some light c.v. and dynamic stretches.

Run 500 meters
No Rest
Row 500 meters

The idea is to perform each 500 meters at very close to your maximum pace and let the transition (moving from one exercise to the next) be your recovery.

Repeat the paring as many times as you like e.g. 5 time and note the time it took you to complete the workout. Try to beat this time when you do this workout again.

Make sure you do some light cardio and stretching to cool off at the end of your workout.

Selected workouts available to download from FX-sports

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Women, weight & weight training part 3

LadyTrainingIn the final part of this 3 part series, Patrick Dale exposes some common myths associated with resistance training…

Myth number 6)
Strength training makes muscles short and bulky – I want long slender muscles like a dancer so I do yoga instead.

I’ve heard this one so many times now that if I had a pound for every time, I’d be a rich man indeed. I had a huge argument with an ex girlfriend about this very subject…needless to say I stuck to my guns and am now single! It always amazes me how common this misconception is.

Muscles are the shape they are because of where they are attached to your skeleton. These attachment sites are referred to as Origins and Insertions. A muscle is attached to the skeleton by tendons. The point at which the tendon meets the skeleton dictates if a muscle will appear long or short. These attachment sites will not move regardless of whether you engage in vigorous weight training or endless yoga and stretching. It’s just genetics, pure and simple. Some people are blessed with long muscle bellies and short tendons, giving an appearance of long, flowing muscles, whilst other people have shorter muscle bellies and longer tendons giving the appearance of short “bunchy” muscles. There are no special exercises that will magically change the length of a muscle belly. Don’t waste precious time doing weird and wonderful movements alleged to lengthen your muscles. We can make our muscles bigger, firmer and improve their condition, but their length is predetermined – if you don’t like the length of your muscles, blame your folks, not your weight training routine. Flexibility is a completely different matter of course and stretching, whilst having little impact of how a muscle looks will effect how well it functions so stretch for muscle health…

Myth number 7)
Strength training just takes too long and I have to go too often – I don’t have time!

When I here this one, it’s safe to make the assumption that this woman has trained with a man who fancies him self as a bit of a bodybuilder and has been exposed to the multi day split system of training. With the split training system, different muscles are trained on different days e.g. Monday is legs, Tuesday is chest, Wednesday is back, Thursday is shoulders, and Friday is arms (ready for a weekend out in town wearing a T shirt 2 sizes too small!). This type of training is fine for bodybuilders but for the majority of exercisers it requires way too much time in the gym.

The average exerciser should seldom adopt a split training programme and instead stick to whole body weight training sessions where the body is exercised as a single synergistic unit. Whole body training is time efficient, easy to plan and requires only 2-3 hours of gym time a week, leaving lots of time to do other things.

By using exercises which are deemed to be “compound” i.e. there is movement at more than on joint, we can work multiple muscle groups at the same time. By way of an example, to work the lower body effectively using isolation exercises (an exercise where movement is limited to one joint only) you would have to perform 6 exercises … leg extensions, leg curls, hip extensions, hip adductions, hip abductions and calf raises. Or, we could just do squats. Weight training really can be that simple and straight forward.

It is possible to train the entire body using just 6 exercises and still have time to perform some cardio or core work and be finished in an hour or less. Organise the 6 exercises into a circuit and you have an amazingly effective fat burning/cardio workout in the time it takes the average male trainer to do his guns workout!

So ladies, leave those split routines to the bodybuilders. Smart woman do whole body workouts.

Myth 8 )
I can’t strength train because I have back/knees/shoulder pain.

Which came first – the chicken or the egg? It’s the same for this myth. Is your back/knee/shoulder pain because you don’t weight train? Once a doctor has given the all clear and confirmed that any pain is not due to musculoskeletal or neurological injury, it’s not uncommon to find that after a few weeks of corrective weight training chronic aches and pains start to disappear. The body is an amazing machine – far more complex than any automobile. To run at optimum efficiency, it needs to have all its parts working in balance. By balance, I mean our muscles (which are generally arranged in opposing pairs on either side of a skeletal joint) need to be equally toned. If muscles on one side of a joint are stronger than those found on the opposite side, a dysfunctional joint will develop and pain may well be the result. Many of our day to day tasks are unidirectional requiring the use of muscles on one side of a joint only. This means that within a pair, one muscle maybe stronger than the muscle that opposes it.

With prescribed weight training exercises, we can rebalance the muscles on either side of a joint and return that joint to full function. Strengthening the lower back can cure lower back pain, strengthening the muscles of the thigh (the quadriceps and hamstrings) can prevent knee pain, strengthening the muscles of the upper back can improve posture and prevent neck pain.

Some time ago, I had an email personal training client. The deal was I would write a programme and the client would take it to her local gym and the resident instructor would then teach her the exercises. This client was suffering from some lower back pain which had been attributed to muscle weakness so we agreed that she needed to improve the strength of her back and I prescribed dead lifts. The instructor, on hearing about the clients’ bad back removed the dead lifts from her programme and replaced this great exercise with the leg curl machine. Needless to say, when I heard about this I was aggrieved! What the instructor failed to realise was the client had 3 growing children who regularly needed to be picked up and carried and she needed to prepare her back for the rigours of this frequent occurrence and the fact the kids were getting heavier all the time! She NEEDED to dead lift! Weak muscles shouldn’t be favoured or ignored but challenged so that they cease to be weak.

I’m sure many more myths are still yet to be busted so if you know of any others please feel free to drop me a line so I can expose them to the world! I’m sure you can now see, weight training is an essential form of exercise suitable for almost everyone – young and old, male and female. The huge benefits that can be gained from lifting weights (improved strength, bone density, muscle tone, joint stability, posture, fitness etc) far out weight any perceived risks so I strongly urge you to take up weight training and reap the rewards. You body will thank you for it!

Patrick Dale


Posted in Fat burning, Fitness, Resistance training, Understanding Fitness, WorkoutsComments (0)

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