GYM & TONEIC

Importance of a warm up & cool down

Static-Stretching

Warm your muscles up before you work! This is something I’ve wanted to blog about since I passed my PT and started working in the gym. I was guilty of not warming up sufficiently before I understood the importance of it, and as a consequence have had a fair few injuries over the years. Since working in the gym I could probably count on both hands the number of people I’ve seen warm up before they workout (this does not include anyone I’ve trained), I’ve become obsessive about it, that and drinking water… The number of people I’ve seen come in the gym and jump straight on the weights, heaviest weights too… You’re going to do yourself a serious injury, seriously!

If your muscles and joints aren’t warm, supple and ready to work, brace yourself to hear/feel a snap, ping or pull… Research generally agrees that the main way to prevent muscle injury is to raise the muscle temperature, as muscle is more elastic when warm and will stretch without damage.

Warm up

Start with CV. If you’re in the gym jump on a piece of cardiovascular kit – bike, cross trainer, treadmill… for 5-10 minutes, increasing the level/intensity gradually. You could also do a number of bodyweight exercises including jogging on the spot, high knees, butt kicks, star jumps and so on… Starting with CV gets your heart rate up, blood and oxygen pumping around your body which lubricates your joints.

And stretch… Now you’ve increased muscle temperature and got blood pumping around your body, lubricating your joints and limbs, stretch the muscles that you’re going to use in your workout. Stretches should be specific to your goals and workout, a mixture of dynamic (involving motion) and static (no motion).

Cool down 

At the end of your workout it’s important to do a cool down, gradually taking your heart rate and blood pressure back down to near resting rates. Research has shown that performing a cool down can reduce stiffness (DOMS) that can occur 24-72 hours after exercise. It also helps maintain circulation, preventing blood pooling (when exercise stops abruptly the heart continues to beat fast, pumping a lot of blood that pools in the lower legs). A cool down should be done over a 5-10 minute period, gradually decreasing intensity. You can do this by jumping back on the CV kit you used as part of your warm-up, followed by more stretches.

Some of the go-to stretches I do include:

  • Squat to overhead reach
  • Wood chop
  • Standing pectoral stretch
  • Standing latissimus and mid trapezius stretch
  • Standing quadriceps and hamstrings stretch
  • Lying glute and oblique stretch
  • Lying sphinx stretch
  • Cat stretch (my favourite!)

I also regularly use a foam roller, an instrument of torture (until you get used to it!) that I now can’t live without. Read all about the benefits of using one here…

Read more about the importance of drinking water here…

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Life update of late: July

boss-lady

I’m a boss lady! Biggest news in July is that I bought and registered a business…

Brooks Fitness Ltd

Something that I’d been thinking about before I’d even started my level 3 PT course, before I had my mad midlife crisis moment and quit my job at British Cycling. Me being me, I have a tendency to get way ahead of myself, caught up and carried away with the day dreams; in my head I’d created a bestselling fitness brand and business empire before I’d even got the qualifications!

To operate as a PT I need to set up for myself… I wanted to set up a business that had the potential for growth, that a number of services could be offered under, and that my family could be involved with; so naturally I went with the surname. Not exactly original, but using my surname means a few things…

Brooks Fitness - sisters that sweat together!
Brooks Fitness – sisters that sweat together!
  1. The Brooks name will live on; we’re a family dominated by women (strong women) #girlpower! If/when my sisters and I get married the name will cease to exist within my immediate family. Also I want the business to focus solely on women’s specific training and fitness; all that girl power needs to be utilised and maximised to its full potential!
  2. Brooks Fitness will be a sister duo affair, run by myself and my sister Ruth (pictured above, on the left), who is also a qualified PT (amongst other things). This is something we discussed doing before either of us had the qualifications, with us both having very similar ideas and values about how we would want to operate as a business and as personal trainers.
  3. It’s generic enough to be used against a number of different services that both of us, with a list of qualifications as long as our arms, could/can/will offer.
Forget Carlsberg... if Lanson did life-winning Wednesday's!
Forget Carlsberg… if Lanson did winning Wednesday’s!

So on a not so summery July weekday night Brooks Fitness Ltd was established, with a glass (bottle) of fizz in hand. Now there’s lots of business planning, plotting and scheming going on behind the scenes to get Brooks Fitness off the ground – watch this space!

What else have I been up to…

  • The blog content Gantt chart has been created – lots of ideas for things I want to blog about… if you’ve got any suggestions for content you’d like to see featured let me know and post below!
  • Bridesmaid duties; planning and sorting things for my sister Ruth’s hen do next weekend… she gets married on 26 August.
  • Instructing and teaching; I’m still working at various leisure facilities on a casual basis wherever I can, loving every minute of my time in the gym!

5 tips to overcome gym fear!

5-Ways-to-Crush-Your-Gym-Fear

The gym can be an intimidating place. This is felt by many… you’re not alone! The feeling that you’re the novice newbie that knows nothing, compared to the die-hard gym junkies who seemingly know it all! Don’t beat yourself up and put yourself off, before you’ve even begun. Everyone (every pro) was once a beginner, also very often the die-hards are doing it wrong…

I recently devised a gym programme for one of my good friends, Clare, and trained her through it, which made me consider this fitness fear notion in more detail… Now I’m not implying that Clare is scared of the gym, she’s been a member for donkeys! But she is was a self-confessed cardio queen, that didn’t feel confident or comfortable using weights (until last Sunday, when she smashed our session!), and also didn’t have a structured programme to follow. So didn’t really know how to train efficiently and effectively, and succumbed to being a slave to the treadmill.

Here’s 5 top tips to crush the fear

  • Take advantage of your gym induction and ask for help – a gym induction is mandatory in most facilities, for health and safety. This is where an instructor takes you around the gym, showing you how to use the equipment before you go it alone. Now these tend to be quite whistle stop, as in you’re not shown every single piece of equipment and all of the different programmes you can do. But you should come away from this knowing basic set-up of CV (cardiovascular) kit and weights machines. If you still feel unsure of anything ask, and keep asking for help until you do feel confident. That’s what instructors are there for and are more than happy to help.
  • Ask for a gym programme or PT sessions – these are either included in your membership, you get a few free PT sessions or it’s worthwhile investing in that support and guidance. You’re there for a reason, you have fitness goals you want to achieve, make sure you’re training efficiently and effectively to reach those goals. Otherwise you end up wandering aimlessly from piece to piece, not really working or doing anything other than passing time.
  • Focus on you, only you – in a gym full of junkies it’s sometimes hard to zone out and focus on you, you’re watching what everyone else is doing, or are paranoid thinking that everyone else is watching and judging what you are doing. They’re not! They’re in there for the same reasons as you – to workout, get the job done and leave (on an endorphin high!). Zone out and focus on your workout, having a banging playlist can help with this.
  • Bring a buddy – for many it’s the fear of going it alone, safety in numbers is the name of the game. Bring a friend and become the best of gym buddies – support, encourage and motivate each other to smash your fitness goals.
  • Treat yourself to some snazzy exercise clobber – if you look good, you feel good and new exercise clobber or funky kicks can be just the ticket. This doesn’t necessarily mean spending a small fortune either, you can pick up great gear at most supermarkets nowadays, in discount sports shops and online; and with the summer sales in full swing now is the perfect time to bag yourself a bargain!

Fear… forget everything and run… or face everything and rise!

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First day on the gym floor

the gym fat is burned

Yesterday I worked my first gym shift, back where it all began. Living back in Ramsbottom it seemed only right that the first place I work should be at Ramsbottom Pool and Fitness Centre, where I started out as a lifeguard many (many) moons ago!

To be honest I don’t think I ever fully left the leisure centre… once you work in that setting you’re part of it for life. You become family, with generations, siblings and partners working together, and customers that have been regulars for decades – it’s one big happy family. Both my sisters’ work for Bury Leisure, we all started out as lifeguards after swimming for the local club. I still remember harassing the centre manager (Phil) for casual hours way before I passed my lifeguard exams…

I have to admit I was nervous before my shift, despite knowing the people, set-up, procedures and so on. I helped implement a lot of the processes and membership offerings when I looked after the marketing of all three sports centres. Regardless, the gym floor is new territory for me, and putting theory into practice is where the real learning begins… like passing your driving test. I was eased into the role with just one induction booked in, but it was great to chat to customers, giving training tips and advice, getting used to new surroundings.

Lovely to work with familiar friendly faces and catch-up with so many customers from way back when. I’ve missed working on the front line, face-to-face with customers. I’m more certain that I’ve made the right move, coming out from behind the desk, retracing steps to pave new ones.

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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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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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