GYM & TONEIC

Endorphins: the best high you’ll ever have!

Credit: BBC http://bbc.in/1ZkGxrd

Endorphins – the legal high that’s backed and most definitely won’t be getting banned any time soon! Want to get high, euphoric, feel good AMAZING, de-stress, IMPROVE your health, fitness and general wellbeing? EXERCISE is the answer! It’s the miracle drug we’ve always had, but all too often people fail to take the recommended dose, and the effects of that can be fatal.

We know this… it’s not new news. So why is it that so many people are still missing out on this awesome high?

When you exercise your body releases endorphins ‘happy hormones’, morphine-based pain-relievers that are essentially like heroin… but so much BETTER… as an endorphin molecule is a hundred times more powerful! Note: I’ve never tried heroin! But that’s what the health experts say. When you take morphine, you feel dreamy and pain-free, this is what endorphins do too and that’s why people get addicted to exercise.

5 benefits of exercise

  • Relieves stress – healthy body, healthy mind. Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress, a big motivator for me personally at the minute. It can also reduce risk of depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Reduces risk of major illnesses – such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, some cancers by up to 50% and lowers your risk of early death by up to 30% (ref NHS).
  • Boosts self-esteem – get high on those happy hormones! Exercise boosts self-esteem and confidence, who doesn’t want to look and most importantly FEEL good.
  • Improves sleep – a biggie for me as I LOVE sleep. In my mind there’s nothing worse than a bad night’s sleep, I should be avoided at all costs if sleep deprived.
  • Increases energy levels – increasing your heart rate and working up a sweat will increase your energy levels. Activity fuels more activity!

There’s literally hundreds more!

Laziness fuels more laziness

It’s time to quit with the excuses… lack of time isn’t good enough! Make time, make the effort and you’ll reap the rewards. You are the one holding you back; you will be the one that suffers as a consequence.

Baby steps can lead to big changes!

What benefits do you get from exercise?

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Bury Breeze Ride

Impromptu snap stop with men in uniform!
Impromptu snap stop with some men in uniform!

On Saturday 12 March I led my first Breeze bike ride, in celebration of International Women’s Day. Breeze is a women’s cycling initiative by British Cycling, aimed at encouraging more women to take up cycling for fun! It’s a volunteer led programme, where everyday women (like me) train as Breeze champions and organise free guided bike rides.

This is where I could go off on a corporate tangent… spouting stats and facts about the programme, because I work for British Cycling – but I’ll try my best to give this an outside in view. The reason I decided to become a champion was because I was/am genuinely inspired by all of the women involved in the programme, champions and participants, and the support that they give one another, it’s a sisterhood in every sense of the word. Going out on a bike ride, meeting new people and having a laugh – what’s not to love about that. After sitting behind my desk for 2 years watching them have all the fun, I wanted in on the action!

Back to the bike ride…  5 champions, 9 participants, 10 miles! We did a loop around Bury (my hometown), that was predominantly off-road and pretty easy going. We had 3 pick-up points with champions based at each start point, so women could join in along the way. The ride started at Clarence Park in Walmersley, headed to Burrs Country Park (where we had an impromptu snap stop with some men in uniform), and then down Totty lines to Greenmount for the final pick-up, and back again – a great little route, suitable for all abilities.

Back at Clarence Park we had coffee, cake and a good old chinwag, dished out Breeze goody bags for our participants, and us champions were given a goody bag each for organising the ride in partnership with Bury’s I Will If You Will project.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first taste of Breeze as a champion and Ride Leader, and am looking forward to spending more time on the other side of the desk! #getwomencycling

Sticking my work hat on for just a second, there’s a number of recreational cycling programmes offered by British Cycling for men and women to get involved with, if you’re reading this and wanting to find people and groups to cycle with – find out more here!

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5 top tips to maintain your mojo

Austin-Powers-Mojo

Mid-January sees flocks of new faces hitting the gym, come early March it’s only the reliant regulars that remain. A cycle you see year in and out – great for sales targets, but that membership is an expensive piece of plastic in your wallet if unused.

Maintaining your mojo can be tough at times! We’re all human, have off days, weekend binges and fall off the bandwagon. The important thing is not to beat yourself up about it and throw the towel in.

Writing a list of New Year’s resolutions as long as your arm probably wasn’t the best idea, as was thinking you would tick them off in quick succession. Don’t despair, take stock and review your goals.

Here’s 5 top tips to get back on track…

  1. Tone it down

All too often people go from doing no exercise, to training every day. It’s New Year and you’re on fire – but it’s only a matter of time before you burn out. Tone it down, build it up gradually over time. Create a routine that fits in with your work/life schedule, this may mean making a few changes here and there, but it shouldn’t be so drastic that you can’t stick at it.

  1. Try something new

Mix it up, try different exercises, classes, sports and activities; the gym isn’t always the answer for everyone. Exercise should be fun and enjoyable! Try out as many different things as possible, until you find your mojo.

  1. Review your goals

Be honest… Are they realistic? Are they achievable? Do you actually want to do them, or did you get caught up and carried away with the new you notion? It’s OK to change track and review your goals – that’s life!

  1. Prep like a boss

I feel like a bit of a hypocrite saying this… This is my first to do to get back on track. Plan your weekly exercise sessions in advance, so you know what you’re doing on what day of the week. Create a workout log to track weights, reps/sets, distance and time, to show your progression.

  1. Ask the experts

Ask a fitness instructor for tips, guidance and support, that’s what they are there for. In many gym facilities you can get tailored exercise programmes or a PT session as part of your membership package – take advantage of this! They’ll talk you through and show you exercises suitable for your specific areas of focus, to meet your personal goals.

Got more top tips to get back on track? Share your suggestions in the comments link at the top of the page…

#MaintainYourMojo

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Studio Cycle Instructor Training

Spin course

Second course of 2016, second success – I passed YAY!

On Wednesday 2 March I headed back over the Yorkshire moors to take part in studio cycle instructor training, another one day course delivered by Premier Training International. I booked it at the same time as the kettlebell course and took advantage of half price fees, getting two qualifications for the price of one – winner!

There were 11 of us on the course in total, ten women and one man (he held his own), a good mix of ages, backgrounds and experience levels. Despite my misconceptions being dispelled on the kettlebell course, I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive beforehand thinking I would be the newbie novice that knows nothing. This wasn’t the case at all, yes there were people with more experience, but equally there many on a similar path to me – retraining, upskilling and making changes to their career. In doing both courses I’ve found this to be really motivating and inspiring, meeting such lovely groups of people.

The day started with round the room introductions, an overview of studio cycling and the benefits, we then moved into the spin studio to go over cycle set-up. We were shown all of the elements of the bike and told how to set someone up correctly (most important part of any class), each taking it in turns to instruct bike set-up in small groups.

Throughout the day we discussed positioning of hands and body on the bike, pedal strokes, cadence (resistance), riding techniques and how to structure a session. We took part in a full spin class delivered by Jamie our course tutor; she showed us how to structure a full session, including warm-up, cadence building, main session with different riding techniques and a cool-down. Before it was over to us, to devise and instruct a 10 minute class as part of our final assessment.

spinning
Me (sweaty one at the front) being assessed delivering a class.

Doing these qualifications has given me an even greater appreciation of fitness professionals, and the level of effort, thought and planning that goes into structuring and delivering a quality exercise class.

The qualification (course and certificate) is only the first step… it’s like learning to drive, you don’t learn until you’ve passed your test and you’re on the road. I’ve got the qualifications, now comes the hard part – devising routines, planning and structuring sessions and of course getting my foot in the door, bagging instructing hours!

To anyone thinking about doing a fitness course, go for it! Don’t doubt or question your ability, if you’re passionate about it, motivated and determined to do it, you will do it! There are people from all walks of life that you’ll meet on these courses, many that are in the same position as you. I’ve really enjoyed all the courses I’ve completed and I’m excited about the doors they will open. I’ve no more courses booked at the minute, but I’m already considering my next… watch this space!

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Roll & relieve: benefits of using a foam roller

Foam roller meme

I’m not going to lie, the first time I used a foam roller in the gym I thought my back was going to snap. The love/hate I had for my PT reached new levels that day – it was a sure sign that my muscles were tight as hell and using one was long overdue.  

Despite initially regarding them as an instrument of torture, I sucked it up and continued to use it before and after workouts as advised.  I’m now a complete convert come preacher, and cannot recommend using one enough – to everyone and anyone who’ll listen. So much so, I bought my dad one for Christmas (he was less than impressed), but he’ll thank me one day!

Feeling ‘the burn’ after a workout is like a badge of honour, a sign you’ve trained hard and are getting stronger. However, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can hinder your training and increase risk of injury. I’ve learnt this the hard way over the years with numerous injuries (torn intercostal muscle THE worst!), because I didn’t stretch sufficiently or do any form of active recovery.

Self-myofascial release (self-massage) with a foam roller relieves tight muscles by smoothing out the knots and encouraging blood flow to the area, returning them to normal function. It hurts! But works… it’s uncomfortable but bearable and gets easier over time.  Rolling daily or 3/4 times per week could save you a fortune in physio fees if/when your muscles finally give in!

Here’s a few exercises I do…

Hamstring roll – I regularly find myself walking like John Wayne, I do this most days. To roll your hamstrings, place the roller beneath your thigh and roll from your lower bum to your knee.

Hamstring roll

Glute roll  the biggest muscle group in the body, I’m trying to make mine much bigger! To roll your glutes, sit on the roller and rest one foot on the opposite knee. Place your weight onto the side with the resting foot and roll back and forth.

Glute roll

Quad roll – to roll your quads, start in a plank position with the roller below your upper thigh. Place weight on one side of your body, then roll forwards so that the foam roller moves towards your knee.

Quad roll

Back roll – I find this most satisfying, my back is always in knots from the gym, bad posture and sitting at my desk. To roll your back, lie on your back and place the roller below your shoulders, then roll towards your ribs and lower back, back and forth.

Back roll

My foam roller cost around £15 from eBay, they come in all shapes and sizes but ultimately they all do the same thing – a great investment.

foam roller

Happy rolling!

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Kettlebell course

On Wednesday 17 February I kettlebelled and conquered! On Thursday 18 February I questioned whether I was suffering from a severe case of DOMS or dying – filled with dread for the day after, the day after!

DOMS

OK… so I may be overdramatising a tad, but after a full day of swinging, squating, cleans, press and snatch, lifting a pen felt like lifting a ten tonne weight!

Enough with the self-pity and back to the course – it was great! Delivered by Premier Training International  in Leeds, I attended with my sister, Ruth. We booked the course back in December and got lucky with half price enrolment fees, so the one day course only cost £64.50.

There were 13 of us on the course in total, a mix of men and women, some younger and slightly older than me. Before the course, I had preconceptions that everyone on it would be way more experienced and knowledgeable than me, me being a newbie qualified level 2 Fitness Instructor, but that wasn’t the case at all. It was refreshing and motivating to meet a group of people that were on such similar paths – retraining, upskilling, looking to change and enhance their careers, using their personal experiences and passion for fitness to take it to the next level – just like me! What’s more, people doing these courses are generally ‘people persons’, that love to meet new people and find out all your ins and outs, which I suppose is a good thing if you’re looking to instruct – again just like me!

The day started with round the room introductions, followed by a brief history of the Russian kettlebell and the benefits of using them as a training tool. Then we got straight into the practical, no messing around. Another preconception of mine was that it would be mostly theoretical, how wrong I was! We warmed up with a number of dynamic stretches then got started with kettlebell lifts. Throughout the day we practiced a number of lifts and progressions for each lift – adding travel, rotations, lunges and squats. Learning correct technique, teaching points and muscle groups being worked, splitting off into small groups to practice instructing lifts on each other.

Lifts practiced included:

  • Swings
  • Cleans and press
  • Snatch
  • Windmill
  • Snatch to windmill
  • Turkish get-up – I won’t be practicing/teaching this in a hurry!

From 9am-5pm we were throwing shapes with kettlebells, I started out with a 12kg weight and by the end of the day I could barely lift 4kg – despite my feeble end state, I’m thrilled to share that we all passed with flying colours!

I’m very much looking forward to learning more, introducing more kettlebell exercises into my own workouts, planning routines and of course instructing. They’re such a great piece of equipment, with so many exercises you can do for a full-body workout.

The only downside of the day… I committed my first and worst blog faux-pas – I didn’t take any pictures! Kicking myself, it was a great course, with such an awesome group of people and I didn’t capture the moment. You’ll just have to take my word for it that I was there and did complete it – I won’t forget again!

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Workouts: WC 25 January

workout log

Here’s my week of workouts. There’s a saying, ‘your fitness is 100% mental, your body won’t go where your mind doesn’t push it‘. I found this to be completely true this week, every session was a slog! I had pressure and stresses going on in my work and personal life that I couldn’t switch off from, despite my best efforts. I worked out, but I didn’t feel on form – it was frustrating knowing I could’ve done more/better.

Monday – gym

Warm-up…

  • Exercise bike 5 mins
  • Dynamic stretches: squat to overhead arm swing, posterior step with overhead reach, standing dynamic pectoral stretch

Main…

  • 3 x 10 back squats 17.5kg
  • 3 x 10 Romanian deadlift 17.5kg
  • 3 x 8 abductor 50kg
  • 3 x 8 adductor 50kg
  • 3 x 8 lat pull-down 30kg
  • 3 x 10 chest press dual pully 10kg
  • 3 x 8 bent arm pull over 8kg
  • 2 x 8 leg press / calf raise 60kg
  • 2 x 8 bicep curl barbell 15kg
  • 2 x 8 tricep press 8kg
  • 2 x 10 glute lunges
  • 2 x 10 sumo squats

Cool-down…

  • Dynamic stretches: squat to overhead arm swing, posterior step with overhead reach, standing dynamic pectoral stretch
  • Cross trainer 5 mins

Wednesday – gym

Warm-up…

  • Treadmill 5km
  • Dynamic stretches: squat to overhead arm swing, posterior step with overhead reach, standing dynamic pectoral stretch

Main…

  • Cross trainer 1km (0.5km lower body only)

3 rounds

  • 15 x ab crunch
  • 15 x ab crunch extended legs
  • 10 x leg raises
  • 10 x flutter kicks
  • 15 x glute bridge
  • 10 x sit-ups medicine ball 5kg
  • 10 x ab rotation medicine ball 5kg
  • 3 x 10 back extensions

Cool-down…

  • Dynamic stretches: squat to overhead arm swing, posterior step with overhead reach, standing dynamic pectoral stretch
  • Foam roller

Thursday – Yoga

My first class of 2016; the first of many! Surprising how strenuous it was, made me realise how tight my muscles are, and how inflexible I am. I had major yoga envy – people young and old so much more advanced than me, but I will get there.

It was a great class with a good mix of ages, abilities and almost equal number of men to women, which was good to see.

Instructor and class info: Tamara Yoga

Friday – gym

Warm-up…

  • Exercise bike 5 mins
  • Dynamic stretches: squat to overhead arm swing, posterior step with overhead reach, standing dynamic pectoral stretch

Main…

  • 3 x 10 bicep curl barbell 15kg
  • 3 x 10 Romanian deadlift 15kg
  • 3 x 10 leg press / calf raise 60kg
  • 3 x 10 tricep press 9kg
  • 3 x 10 adductor 55kg
  • 3 x 10 abductor 50kg
  • 3 x 10 low row 35kg
  • 3 x 10 chest press 20kg

Cool-down…

  • Dynamic stretches: squat to overhead arm swing, posterior step with overhead reach, standing dynamic pectoral stretch
  • Foam roller

Sunday – home workout

5 rounds

  • 10 x sumo squats
  • 10 x glute lunges
  • 20 x mountain climbers

4 rounds

  • 15 x ab crunch
  • 15 x ab crunch extended legs
  • 10 x leg raises
  • 10 x scissor kicks
  • 15 x glute bridge
  • 10 x sit-ups kettlebell 5kg
  • 20 x ab rotation kettlebell 5kg

Cool down…

  • Stretches
  • Foam roller

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Sisters need support!

Bra gate

This is probably one of my biggest bugbears when it comes to exercise – bra-gate! I cannot understand why/how so many women don’t wear a decent sports bra when working out.

Don’t get me wrong, I am one of the biggest supporters of women in sport, encouraging more women to get involved is what I do! I’m all for #girlpower, curves, real women doing their thing.

As a big girl myself (34E), I know that struggle – I double up! Regardless of size, sport and exercise you do, a decent sports bra (that fits properly) is a must.

Yes breathing may be restricted, and you feel like your soul is being squeezed; but your boobs and back will thank you for it. When I’m in the gym, all too often I find myself staring at unruly bouncing boobs, grimacing with sympathy pain.

Benefits of the sports bra…

  • Minimise movement; unruly bounce is uncomfortable, distracting and hurts like hell.
  • Maintain shape; there are no muscles in the breast, only ligaments. Excessive movement puts strain on the ligaments causing them to stretch – no amount of ‘firming cream’ is going to rectify that.
  • Manage temperature; most decent sports bras are made of moisture wicking, breathable material, to regulate temperature and draw sweat away. You’re going to get boob sweat, that’s unavoidable.

I’ve tried a number of sports bras over the years, the best I’ve found to date are by Shock Absorber. Great bras, but you do need to be hypermobile (double-jointed) to get them on. I’ll often double up, and wear a crop-top style sports bra on top. Decent sports bras aren’t exactly cheap, you’ll pay around £20-£40 for one – but it’s money well spent!

Don’t be Katie…!

Bra

Always open to recommendations on decent bras, so ladies send them my way…

#LoveYourLadyLumps

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Fail to prepare – prepare to fail!

Fail to prepare

It’s that simple… the Scouts know!

We’re almost in February, and it’s only this last week that I’ve started to feel like I’m back in the game. The first week and a bit… was spent trying to remember what it is I do for a living, and getting out of bed without hitting the snooze button 10 times each morning – the struggle was real!

Just as work was a slog, so was the gym! I was there in body, but definitely not in mind. Having two weeks off set me back to square one – I felt sluggish, weak and wobbly!

To top that, I wasn’t organised – I failed to prepare on numerous occasions, leaving myself more than annoyed.

tumblr_nkqupovJCP1sr9vtpo1_500

My week of gym fails…

  • I forgot my headphones; smallest item to forget, biggest annoyance!
  • I forgot my drinks bottle; I own hundreds!
  • I forgot my sports bra; the most essential bit of kit – I didn’t go on the treadmill that day!
  • I packed the most random, mismatched gym outfits; that’s what you get when you pack your bag half asleep.

Moral of the story…

Pack your gym bag the night before – check it twice!

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The Naked Truth!

The naked truth

OK, so not quite naked… but baring some of my wobbly bits! This is my ‘before’ pic, as I embark on my transformation. I took these pics a few weeks ago, at the beginning of January in prep for my blog going live, which took a little while longer than intended – if truth be told I was stalling!

My before pic

One word to sum-up how I look and feel in this is – BLOATED! I wouldn’t say that I’m overweight, there’s just more wobble going on than there was a few weeks ago (I can’t suck it in!). I’m far from beach-body ready, despite desperately needing some vitamin sea and colour!

I took two weeks off work over the Christmas period and didn’t go to the gym. I exercised a couple of times, did a few HIIT (high-intensity interval training) sessions at home. But that wasn’t nearly enough to compensate for the food and booze I was shoveling down my neck, without a second thought!

I didn’t weigh myself before Christmas, but recon I put on around half a stone… I can look at food and put on weight. At the time I took these pics my weight and measurements were as follows:

Dress size: 12

Weight: 66kg

Upper arms: 11cm
Chest:
38cm
Waist:
32cm
Stomach: 36cm
Hips:
39cm
Thighs:
50cm  

I don’t weigh myself regularly and I don’t get hung up on what the scales say anymore, as such I don’t have a goal weight in mind! I’m going off look and feel – I want to lose fat and gain muscle (size and definition). So some of the measurements above may go up / may go down, I’ll keep you posted. It’s often said that muscle weighs more than fat, but that’s not strictly true – one pound of fat equals the same in weight as one pound of muscle. Muscle density is different to fat, it takes up less room in your body and changes your body composition – I’m determined to make noticeable changes to mine.

Problem areas…  

  • Love handles; first place I store fat, last place I lose it
  • Face; my cheeks get chubbier, one of the first tell-tale signs I’ve put on a few lbs
  • Stomach; I’ve got a wobbly one pack at the minute


Areas of focus…

  • Booty; I want more junk in my trunk – just a quarter of what Khloé Kardashian’s got will do! Glute exercises will be a big feature in my workouts.
  • Upper arms; I want to put on a good gun show.
  • Stomach and core strength; I want to increase my core strength and define my abs (they are there somewhere). Yoga will greatly improve my strength and flexibility, and as luck would have it classes have just be added to the timetable at my gym.  

There are so many inspirational women, with fantastic physiques in the fitness industry that I’d love to look like. I follow loads of health and fitness blogs and social media accounts – Michelle Lewin, Emily Skye, Kayla Itsines to name a few. But keeping it closer to home, fellow Lancashire lass and Bury girl Gemma Atkinson is a great role model, in fantastic shape. For me, strong looks much better than skinny!

I’ll keep you updated on my progress, all tips, suggestions and words of encouragement welcome…

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