Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Your Relationship with Cardio. Love it or Hate it?


From my own experience with cardio I can liken it to a bad relationship… when it is good, it is good but if you dare to have a week apart, that absence does not make the heart grow fonder! Having said that, I would still class myself as a ‘cardio kind of girl’ because, like many more out there, I am addicted to the bright red face and sweat dripping off the end of my nose! But trust me, I haven’t always been that way inclined and I was certainly not ‘born to run’! I guess it is much harder when you are almost 14st, like I was, to carry your body weight around.

When I realised enough was enough and I had to lose weight, I decided to start running and entered a 5k race. I thought that it would be too embarrassing if I turned up and barely crawled past the finish line, so I had to train. Bit by bit I built up my distance, literally starting at ½ m!! This meant the weight started to come off and it made it easier for me to run.

This photograph is of me before my first ever race (I have too much dignity to show you a photo of me after the race!) Like everyone who has ever tried to change the way they look or just get fitter, everybody hits that wall where things stop changing. This happens because your body has adapted to what it is you are doing, which is a warning sign that you need to start changing what you are doing to see some positive results again.

Although weights do not give you the feeling that us ‘cardio lovers’ crave, they DO help keep the weight off and can play a HUGE part in weight loss by increasing your metabolism and producing a higher amount a calorie-hungry muscle. If you are doing strictly cardio and feel like you are not getting anywhere this might be the time to start flexing those muscles and do some weighted work! If you don’t know what you are doing or aren’t sure where to start, please come and book in with a member of the Fitness Team for some advice or a programme.

Emma McMahon, Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Turning 31 and the advice I'd give myself if I was 21!

I'm not the young man I once was, but the older I've become, the more I have to offer with regards to experience. This isn't simply telling people what works; it's more about preventing others from making the same mistakes that I did. The trainers who I still look up to are in their late 30s to early 50s with years of knowledge.


If I could do it all again, I'd give myself the following training advice:


Stop worrying. I'd stop trying to find 47 different bicep exercises to maximise the variety of angles at which I'd work my biceps from. Programming is important but not as much as being consistent. Keep your training basic and hard.


Stop asking silly questions about nutrition. Your body won't fall apart if you eat a Kit-Kat. It's all about the bigger picture. Again keep it basic; try to eat the majority of your food from unprocessed varieties.


Track your calories!! Why didn't I build muscle? I trained so hard? Because I was eating about 1,000 calories, walking 8 miles and playing about 3 games of football a day! Don't bury your head in the sand or only track calories on the days you're doing well.


Walking is one of the best ways to keep fat off. Forget all this chat about Tabata training and Metabolic conditioning for now. Drive less and sit less - sitting is the new smoking after all!


Train with high frequency. You're not a pro bodybuilder with excellent genes - forget the routines from bodybuilding magazines. They offer completely the wrong advice from the wrong people. Instead train the big movements two or three times a week and mop this up with some assistance work.


Train with those stronger than you. Don't aim to be the strongest amongst a weaker group; seek out a stronger group and get as strong, if not stronger than them.


Forget the mirror. Train for mental and physical strength.


Crave success in the gym and in life but don't be worry about failure. View it as either a success or a lesson learned.


Have dreams and a passion but don't let these dreams die if you have children. Having children means making sacrifices, but don't ditch your goals because life gets busier; instead teach your children to follow their dreams by keeping yours alive.


Most people are insecure, whether it be about their body or their ability. Take confidence knowing that you are not the only one. Do your best to fight these; we all have weaknesses. Accept them and improve where you can. If you have fears then face them. The more you do this, the more you'll wonder why you feared them in the first place.


Be selfish. If you aren't getting as much back from an investment is it worth it? A job, a relationship, a training routine.


Don't just give up. Work hard through tough times knowing that they won't last forever.


Compete. Sign up for a powerlifting contest, a Tough Mudder, a 10k run. Whatever it is that will keep you under pressure to train and make you feel amazing when you complete it! Again, face your fears!


Don't leave niggling injuries forever hoping they'll sort themselves out. Get treatment and train with balance.


Hard work beats talent 99% of the time. You can't choose your genes but you can choose to work hard. You can choose to be disciplined. You can choose to be consistent. All that stuff smashes talent out of the window.


'Perfect' doesn't exist, either in or out of the gym.


Be optimistic. Try and be positive about your achievements and goals. Every now and then sit back and appreciate how far you've come.


Oli Martin - Health and Fitness Manager.

Saturday, 28 May 2016

24 Hours


We all know that there are 24 hours in a day. This day belongs to you. You own this day and this day is, for the most part, in your control. Most of us have to go to work/school or look after the children/dog/house, but an 8-hour shift takes just 33% of your day. Of course sleeping, eating and travelling are essential and they will consume your time! Now with the 30% (approx.) remaining you have the following options:
  • Stay the same: Do nothing to improve yourself, your life, your job, your posture. Your teeth won’t become more or less stained, your intelligence will not expand nor diminish, you will not become more or less stressed. You will be the same person you were when you woke up.
  • Get worse: Do things in your day to make your life worse; be late for work after missing your alarm, spend money that you don’t have and skip the rent, be rude to the people you love or become more sedentary and unfit. Go to bed a worse version of yourself.
  • Get better: Use some of your left over day to progress yourself. Floss, move more, work harder, get stronger, learn a language, stress less, sort out any debts or expand your mind. Go to bed a better version of yourself.
1 hour is only 4% of your day and 40 minutes is obviously even less, so if you cannot afford to give up less than 4% of your day to better yourself and give yourself the respect you deserve, you need to plan better, prepare better and manage your time better.
During my weight loss experience I wanted to make sure I went to bed knowing that I had done everything I could that day to ensure I woke up fitter, healthier and happier than when I went to bed the night before.
Whatever your goal, even if it is not fitness based, you have to remember that ‘Rome was not built in a day but days were spent building Rome.’
Emma McMahon
Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer

Making the right choices on the High Street


We have all been there, rushing into town with no breakfast thinking we can survive until lunch. Then it hits you. The cake shops are glowing and calling your name, you can feel yourself gravitating towards the donuts and almond croissants, convincing yourself…"that’s breakfast food right?".

This is a guide on how to make the best choices on the high street:

  • First and foremost try not to get caught out hungry; always line your bag with healthy goodies like nuts, seeds and fruit (but don’t forget about them!).
  • The next best bet is the green grocers! You could pick up an apple, banana and satsuma (for less than £1), so if your trip is short this could keep you going until lunch.
  • If you are going to go for a full-on brunch there are a surprisingly wide range of things that will not tip you over your calorie limit or force you to starve for the rest of the day. 
My four recommended choices are:

  • Soup (no bread, but wholegrain if you do). Do check the ingredients as some of them are made with cream - avoid cream of mushroom etc.
  • Eggs benedict; toasted muffin, poached eggs and rocket, or eggs royal (with smoked salmon) but I swap the hollandaise for extra rocket!
  • Coffee shop salad… Coffee shops have now started making elaborate salads with roasted squash, lingonberries and African rain water (kidding). They usually have a good choice of salads with less dressing or sauce and something to have next to it like fish or meat. Just watch out for added dressings and keep portions under control.
  • If you have no time for stopping, a sandwich does not have to be the end of the world. Again just make sure it is not filled with sauces, and that it does contain a good bit of protein like fish, meat or egg. Make sure you pick wholemeal and go for bread or wraps over a baguette.

Well, these are some ideas should you find yourself in this situation, although my best piece of advice from my own weight loss journey is, ‘’don’t let yourself get hungry’’ as this is when you’re more likely to make the wrong food choices.

Emma McMahon

Monday, 25 April 2016

Me and My Fitbit


I was recently given a Fitbit as a gift and was ready to be underwhelmed as I have had a few of these things in the past with little success or longevity. It would be an over exaggeration to say it has changed my life but that wouldn’t be far off.

Things it tracks:

  • Time and date
  • Steps
  • Heart Rate
  • Distance
  • Floors
  • Sleep
  • Weight
  • It works out a BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and tells you how many calories you burn each day.

https://static0.fitbit.com/simple.b-cssdisabled-jpg.h4d3179a5d357d80d7c13a659e6d05f4b.pack?items=%2Fcontent%2Fassets%2Fapp2%2Fimages%2Fscreen-01-all-day-activity.jpgFitbit gives credit to the smaller things you do, like walking to work, or logging your tough gym workouts based on your heart rate zones. On the other hand on those lazy Sundays where you have been catching up on the omnibus, walking to and from the kettle does not clock up many steps. Therefore the step column glows yellow or orange (incomplete) and looks miserable in comparison to the green!

Before the times of a Fitbit you would just pass through that chilled Sunday knowing you had a secret that no one else would know. But not now; I can have relatives living in Newcastle, sending me a message to make sure I am still alive as my average steps drop by 15,000. I simply can’t let this happen and it is all my Fitbit’s fault!

Now my poor boyfriend is being dragged around Tonbridge Park on Sunday mornings in order for me to get my step count up. This has now ensured we get fresh air and feel so much more awake and we are far more productive.

Challenges

You can select friends to take part in challenges, such as seeing who can achieve the most steps in a week. You are then entered into a mini leader board where you get frequent notifications like; ‘Samantha L has just done 14,000 steps, has overtaken you and now sits in first place’. In a recent challenge my friends and I collectively lost about 7lbs from Monday to Friday by taking the long way home, adding on that extra walk in the rain at the end of a long day and volunteering to make all the coffees that week.
Losing weight and getting into shape can be a long road, but every step down that road counts and your Fitbit records each and every one.


Emma.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Posture


Feel Better – Look Better

Poor posture is readily acknowledged but rarely proactively addressed in the gym.  We all know that we don’t stand or sit as straight as we should - when’s the last time you got within a foot of your car’s headrest? What’s more worrying in my opinion is that all too often we accept poor posture and the daily aches and pains it brings with it.

What would you give to get rid of your lower back pain, headaches, aching joints and sore muscles? Some of these things actually become so much a part of life for some of us we don’t even stop to consider how good we COULD feel without them. Of course there are some conditions that will affect posture on a structural level and therefore concessions must be made in your training to work around them.  Trauma, for example, may render a particular joint or muscle incapable of performing certain movements but your best efforts should be made to keep things working as much as they possibly can.

There are all manner of reasons as to why our posture can suffer, not least our deskbound way of life, stress levels (stress and psychology as a whole play a huge part in posture) and a cervical spine more adept at looking down at a mobile phone than holding our head up.

Posture is partly down to awareness and conscious thought but it CAN be trained. I don’t like my clients to try and force themselves into ‘correct’ posture but instead to learn what it feels like through good exercise technique in the gym. This is largely because trying to hold yourself consciously in position every second of every day in the vain hope that it’ll stick usually ends in new problems and an awful lot of frustration.

We inevitably end up avoiding certain movements, activities or exercises that we either find difficult or altogether impossible, rather than questioning WHY we can’t perform them correctly or without pain. By eliminating the movements we struggle with, we inevitably favour exercises that we CAN do (largely because they make use of - rather than conflict with- our imbalances) and often this only serves to exasperate the issue that was hindering us in the first place. Gradually over the course of time we will notice that our progress is slowing and our repertoire is dwindling.

People will also claim that it is a question of what you are trying to achieve through your training and therefore whether a particular exercise is essential in the first place. Are barbell deadlifts and squats essential? Certainly not in most cases, but desirable? Oh yes! They are both incredibly valuable movements that a healthy body should be capable of completing accurately. They will have a positive effect on posture itself (when done correctly), athletic performance and on body composition as a whole.

At any given moment in time you may not be able to complete a particular exercise with proper form to keep you safe, and therefore alternatives must be employed to work the same muscle group in a safer manner.  This should be a means to an end, not the permanent solution that it usually becomes. We should be using these alternatives to help correct the imbalances that forced us away from our original plan in the first place. Yes, you should use an alternative but with a view to improving your posture to a point where the original exercise can be completed safely.

I can fully understand (first-hand, trust me) how frustrating it can be having to take steps backwards to correct an inherent flaw or imbalance with our posture that is preventing us from completing a seemingly non-essential movement in the gym. After all you could just do something else instead right? That, however, is wilfully disregarding what your body is trying to tell you – something isn’t right, help!

In the simplest and most painfully honest of terms – we don’t want to take the time to correct these problems when we could just bypass them and get on with the elements of the ‘fun stuff’ that we can manage.

Diagnosing the causes of poor posture can be complicated and the correctional techniques very particular – even as Personal Trainers it can often fall outside of our level of expertise and more often than not requires the input of more than one profession to get the complete picture. Certainly it is not in the realms of self-diagnosis. It can be confusing as the pain caused can often be referred from an entirely different area of the body and often the reported problem is in fact a symptom of compensation being made to accommodate a less obvious problem.

When injured, the body can make neurological alterations extremely quickly (hours, not days) that will alter how your bodyweight is distributed in order to protect the afflicted area and allow you to carry on with life. This however can instigate a posture-destroying domino effect as one joint/muscle compensates for another and this in turn effects how the next joint/muscle in the chain is loaded. And so on and so on…

Below you will find out about some of the more common postural imbalances we encounter here at TSC. Look familiar?



Kyphosis

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The term Kyphosis refers to a rounding of the thoracic or sacral regions of the spine.  Whilst a healthy spine will have a natural thoracic curve (20-45 degrees) anything beyond 45 degrees is considered as Hypokyphosis and could result in pain, breathing and digestive difficulties as well as neurological compromise (loss of balance/coordination).

There can be several causes of an excessive kyphosis namely:

  • Poor posture (postural kyphosis – most common).
  • Malformation of vertebrae (Congenital Kyphosis).
  • Degenerative diseases (Arthritis).
  • Developmental problems (Scheuermann’s disease, Osteoporosis).
  • Trauma of thoracic vertebrae.

Most of these conditions require medical intervention depending on the severity and cause of the curvature. These could range from corrective braces to surgical procedures and - in the instance of degenerative conditions - specific exercises to prevent stress fractures of the vertebrae that can worsen the condition. As a general rule, these cases are best referred to a specialist, and those suffering from osteoporosis or arthritis should be advised to avoid any exercise requiring ANY degree of spinal flexion. For this reason we will concentrate on remedial exercises to address postural kyphosis only.



Forward Head Posture (FHP)

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Forward Head Posture (FHP) can result from muscular imbalances in the cervical flexors and extensors that require redressing in order to return normal position as well as range of movement.

FHP can also be caused by of more widespread tightness in the both anterior and posterior thoracic musculoskeletal system (tightness of the pectorals, latissimus dorsi, anterior deltoids and abdominals, as well as elements of the rotator cuff or reciprocal weakness in the rotator cuff and rear deltoids and rhomboids). In other words it is often a product of underlying kyphosis.

 

 

Anterior and Posterior Pelvic Tilt

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An anterior pelvic tilt occurs when the hip flexors (iliopsoas, illiacus and rectus femoris) shorten and the hip extensors (gluteus, hamstrings, and adductors) lengthen causing the front of the pelvis to drop and the back to rise*.

It should be noted that this, in my experience, is the most common postural issue we see in the gym due to the sheer amount of time we spend sitting down – stretching the extensors and tightening the flexors for hours at a time almost every day of our lives.

Inversely, posterior pelvic tilt occurs when the hip flexors lengthen and the hip extensors shorten causing the front of the pelvis to rise and the back to drop**.

The pelvic angle can be assessed simply by finding the anterior superior iliac spine (ASIS) and posterior superior iliac spine (PSIS) processes of the pelvis and measuring their relationship to one another.  Without radiography, it is impossible to calculate the precise pelvic angle, but with a normal tilt using this method the ASIS should be 6-13 degrees below the PSIS and the angle tends to be slightly greater in women and slightly more acute in men.

*It should be noted that in the instance of an anterior tilt the muscles affecting the hip joint form a ‘force couple’ with corresponding muscles of the abdomen (rectus abdominis, obliques) to produce the position and therefore both must be taken into consideration when attempting to correct posture.

** The muscles affecting the hip joint during a posterior pelvic tilt with form a ‘force couple’ with the erector spinae in precisely the same manner. 

The Road to Recovery

So how can we improve our posture and get our bodies back to working the way they should do? In essence it is a very simple and methodical process:

1. Acknowledge your limitations. To start with, identify the exercises or activities you can do, either at all or with perfect form. If there isn’t a traumatic or structural reason as to why this is the case then we may be on to something.

2. Yoga. Taking a Yoga class is a pretty good way to find out how your body moves – or not as the case may be. Since being injured myself, I cannot advocate this discipline enough, and there is good reason why Yoga has been adopted by more and more sportspeople the world over.  Even if it’s not something you continue to use as part of your overall program, it might just highlight something that is clearly out of place.

3. Don’t accept the aches and pains. If something hurts – get it looked at! Too often people carry on with training whilst injured and just try to work around it. Stop it - it may well lead on to bigger issues if left unchecked.

4. GPs are not your best port of call for musculoskeletal problems. GPs are brilliant professionals but this isn’t their area of expertise – they can refer you to someone (and more often than not should do) but I can’t accept the “go home and rest” response when they can’t work out what’s wrong with you in the measly 10 minutes they get.

5. Don’t disregard a diagnosis because it doesn’t correspond with a previous one. Different professionals come at things from different angles, this means that they often cite different reasons for the same overall problem. Sadly they may all be right!

6. Do not give up. I have trained for years for various different reasons. I’ve done a bit of everything from training for aesthetics (we were all young once) to sporting performance and I can honestly say that this is by far the most rewarding use of my time. You will still have bad days from time to time but the days when that pain isn’t there are worth every second of toil in the gym.

 

I hope that from the sheer size of this article you can appreciate the complexity of the subject in question. I hope you can also tell how passionate we are here at TSC to helping you be the healthiest, happiest, pain-free version of yourself. Please feel free to make an appointment with one of the team to discuss your posture and the best course of action.

 

Patrick Latter

Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor