Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Mobility made easy

Let's face it, for many of us mobility and stretching is boring. We don't immediately sweat like we do when lifting weights, playing sport or when generally active. We can't see immediate benefits and our flexibility routine goes out of the window.

However, as you get older, being more mobile is a huge piece to the fitness puzzle. Without it, performing certain exercises in the gym, sport and in life becomes more difficult. This can lead to imbalances in the body, compensation and potential injury. At the same time, recovery is a huge part of progression. The more quickly you can recover, the sooner you can return to your chosen form of exercise to go again. Soreness, tightness and injury can delay this return and progress will stall.

When the Australian Athletes were here at our facility during the build up to the London 2012 Olympics, so much of what they worked on was based around mobility and recovery. They may have trained for 1-2 hours in the morning and afternoon, but following this, they had an ice bath, sports massage, assisted stretching and they did their own foam roller work.

Unfortunately we won't get the same treatment as an Olympic athlete! It would be great, but we probably don't need that much. What we do need is at least some mobility work. The number of people who have been advised by a specialist to stretch certain muscles following an injury, but never do, is very high.

The problem is, when do we fit another 10 - 20 minutes in to our busy schedule to do this? Trying to fit training in to our day can be hard enough.

Something that has worked really well for me, is doing small mobility movements throughout the day at any given opportunity. Here are some of my favourites:

Squat Stretch

This could be done at your desk. Hold on to something in front of you, drop to a deep squat position (comfortable to you). Hold this here for up to 30 seconds. Repeat sporadically throughout the day.


Chest Stretch

Use a doorway. Press in to this with your arm until you feel your chest and shoulders opening up/stretching. Aim for 15-30 seconds per side. This is a really good postural stretch to do throughout the day if you are desk bound.



Hip/Quad Stretch

Place a cushion on the floor. Rest your knee on the cushion with your back leg up against the edge of the sofa. Bring yourself into the upright position. Aim for a minute per side or for as long as you choose whilst watching TV!



Calf Stretch

When going upstairs, drop one heel to the floor and hold for 30 seconds. Do this on both legs.


The key with anything in training is adaption. If you can't commit to a stretch class, yoga or a dedicated stretch session at home, then start by adding in these moves. Do them regularly and whenever you have the opportunity or when you remember! You'll feel the benefits overlap into life and training.


Saturday, 17 June 2017

Ask the Trainer

We interviewed our Personal Trainers to see how they responded to some quick-fire fitness and nutrition questions. Let's see how they answered when we put them on the spot:

Current training Regime

Monday - Weight training, upper body push/pull movements.
Tuesday - Weight training, leg workout.
Wednesday - Rest.
Thursday - Weight training, upper body push/pull movements.
Friday - Some form of conditioning, e.g. teaching spin/sprints.
Saturday - Weight training, lower body with additional strongman training exercises (atlas stone lifting, farmers walks). Sprints at the end.
Sunday - Rest.
Daily mobility work of 5-10 minutes.
Monday -  Weight-training in the morning (upper body pressing movements) / Stretch in the evening.
Tuesday - Weight-training in the morning (upper body pulling movements) / Climbing in the evening at a local club.
Wednesday - Weight training in the morning (leg workout) / stretch in the evening.
Thursday - Climbing in the morning at a local club / Climbing with the school boys during PE in the afternoon / Weight-training in the evening (upper body pressing movements).
Friday - Plyometrics in the morning (power training) / Stretch in the evening.
Saturday - Climbing at a local club.
Sunday - Rest.
Four weight training sessions a week (push/pull/push/pull), two interval training sessions a week on the treadmill (30 second sprint with 60-90 second recovery x 5-7 sets), 3 mobility sessions a week consisting of 20 minutes.
Golf 1-2 times a week. Several core workouts based around bodyweight training. Regular daily mobility work.
3-4 runs a week of 6-8 miles. One day a week dedicated to mobility with the use of a foam roller and resistance band. One weight training workout a week for lower body, including squats and lunges to support running. One core workout a week.

Best Fat-Loss training technique

Oli: Sprints, or simply increase your walking.
Dan: Weight Training.
Sam: HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) sessions on the treadmill.
Paddy: Circuit training and HIIT Sessions.
Emma: HIIT training or Tabata training (20 seconds hard/10 seconds rest x 8 rounds), using exercises like burpees, squat jumps, jump lunges, etc.

Best Nutritional advice for Fat-loss

Oli: Track your calories on the MyFitness App.
Dan: Consume the majority of your food from unprocessed options.
Sam: Consistently count calories.
Paddy: Learn to cook, so foods can be enjoyed.
Emma: Don't let yourself get hungry.

Favourite form of exercise

Oli: Strongman/odd object training.
Dan: Climbing.
Sam: Weight training.
Paddy: Martial Arts.
Emma: Running.

Best core exercise

Oli: Weighted carries e.g. farmers walks.
Dan: Climbing.
Sam: Plank.
Paddy: Mountain climbers on a fitball.
Emma: Hanging knee raises.

Favourite food

Oli: Anything on the Barby!
Dan: Porridge with sultanas and nuts.
Sam: Pizza.
Paddy:  Italian beef casserole.
Emma: Curry.

Rest and Relaxation techniques

Oli: Walking / Stretching.
Dan: Reading / Music / Walking / Holidays
Sam: Retail therapy and coffee breaks.
Paddy: Long walks / Meditation App called 'Headspace'.
Emma: Reading

Best Gym Quote

Oli: Discipline over motivation.
Dan: There are 168 hours in a week. If you spend 5 hours in the gym, ask yourself "what am I doing with the rest"?
Sam: Exercise is a celebration of what you can do, not a punishment for what you ate.
Paddy: Whether you think you can or you can't, you are usually right.
Emma: In life we are not simply given strength, just opportunities to become strong.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Five ways to improve your running

Many people think that in order to improve your running you just need to put in the miles. To a certain extent this is true and practice can make perfect. There are, however, many other things you can do to help improve your running, whilst reducing the likelihood of injury, without pounding the pavement every day.

1. Strength

By putting together a programme that focuses on the lower body and core, you can strengthen all the muscles that you use whilst running to improve your speed and stamina.

2. Mobility and Stretching

By making sure your joints and muscles are as supple and mobile as possible, your movement will become much easier. This will not only improve your stride but also help you to avoid injury.

3. Hills

If you have less time to train and can’t get in the long run you wanted, find yourself a hill and run up and down it. It sounds simple but hill training is extremely effective as it trains the forward running motion to the next level. When you are back on the flat you will feel like you are flying along and when it comes to hills you will hardly notice the climb as you will be so used to it.

4. Intervals

Short intense bursts followed by a resting jog/walk which can be done in time or distance. By using intervals and training over and above the speed you are used to, your heart and lungs will become more efficient and your stamina will improve over time.

5. Multidirectional Drills

Training in all directions gives you more well-rounded strength. Improving your strength all-round will not only improve your stride but also help you to avoid injury.


For any further help or guidance please come and speak to a member of the gym team who will be happy to help.



Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Gaining weight without the use of supplements

Weight-loss or Fat-loss is probably one of the biggest reasons people venture into a new gym regime. But on the flip side, gaining weight, hopefully through increased muscle mass, is almost an industry in itself!

I know many young men, myself included, that have worked hard to build muscle and gain size. However, it is very easy to fall victim to the clever marketing that the industry throws at us!

Last year I visited FIBO, Europe's biggest fitness exhibition in Germany. There was a whole array of new exercise classes, fitness equipment and clothing on offer. But the most visited section, by far, was the supplement area. The crowds were so big that you could barely move. All the famous fitness models were there, promoting their latest supplements, and people were queuing out of the door to meet them and buy the products they endorsed.

Unfortunately, the fitness industry is filled with 'quick fixes' and 'magic pills'. Vibrating abdominal pads to give you a six pack, weight loss pills, muscle building shakes.... What the fitness models don't tell you is the fact that they probably train hard 6 times a week. They'll often diet year round. They will have complete control of their calorie intake and the foods from which these calories come from. All this, normally combined with great genetics, gives them the physique they have on show. Drinking some form of powder does not.

The industry sells us a dream. Many of us are easily influenced by this; it is human nature. Hard-work and consistency with training and nutrition is a lot harder to 'sell' than simply buying a product that will hopefully answer your prayers.

You do not need supplements to gain weight. What you do need to focus on is consistently being in a calories surplus. Below is a formula to work out your calorie goals:

Bodyweight in pounds x 15. From there your need to add 500 calories a day to this, every day. If that doesn't work, add 1000. As you start to gain weight you will need to recalculate your requirements, as these will increase the more you grow. Again add 500-1000 calories to this.

Gaining weight doesn't need to be complicated. You can use the 'My Fitness Pal' App to track your progress. But forget the fancy protein shakes. Instead up your food intake. It sounds simple but if you have two slices of toast and two eggs for breakfast, have 4 slices of toast and four eggs! If you have one large jacket potato for lunch, see if you can squeeze two in! Doubling up at every meal is simple and effective.

                                                         Image result for pictures of a big glass of milk

Other great weight gaining foods are lots of carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice). They are also cheap and are great for gaining weight when eaten in large amounts and combined with weight training. Also whole milk is a fantastic form of calories. If you have a son looking to gain weight, a pint of whole milk with a peanut butter and jam sandwich between each meal and before bed is a great technique and it won't break the bank! Other high calorie foods include eggs, red meat and nut butters. All include great sources of protein and fats, with high calories to match.

So the next time your son, your friend, or even you are looking to gain weight, forget the fancy tub of supplements. Instead, calculate your needs, eat for that goal and train hard!

If you need any tips or meal plans please email Oli Martin on orm@tonbridge-school.org

Friday, 10 March 2017

Back on form

Around a year and a half ago I got some bad news.
I had recently injured my back and I couldn’t walk for nearly three weeks. It took me a long time to recover and eventually return to work but by this time I had been off for the best part of two months and questions as to whether I was up to the job anymore were quite rightly being asked - not least by myself.
I had to know what I was up against so I had an MRI scan that sadly revealed a congenital degeneration of the vertebral discs throughout my spine. To all intents and purposes they were slowly dying.
A rather damning letter told me that I couldn’t play any of the sports I loved anymore and due to the apparent severity of the condition I didn’t even know if I’d be able to continue working here Tonbridge after it was diagnosed. 
Upon arriving for my appointment with the consultant following on from the scan I was even presented with a wheelchair - which I politely declined.
That was when I started to ask questions. They were seemingly dumbfounded that I had arrived under my own steam, from work no less and having taught a spin class that morning. If I was able to do all these things the MRI said I shouldn’t be able to then how could it possibly be as bad as they thought it was?
Long story short I educated myself. I went from seeking the best way to increase my strength in the gym or trim my body fat down to learning about the spine and how it worked.
Not only did I read everything I could find (and Google everything I couldn’t) but I practiced training my spine, experimented with how it moved and (more painfully) how it didn’t!
Now a year and some odd months later I have had the first major setback with my back.
That happened on a Friday and put everyone in a panic thinking it was all going off again. Everyone but me I think. I was quite calm this time around.
I knew what to do this time and it took till Sunday afternoon to convince my spine to move correctly again. The following Monday I took all my classes with full participation.
What I have come to realise is that I learnt more than just how the spine works during that time. I learned the art of deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is when you don’t just show up. It’s when you absorb yourself in something, become aware of every variable and the adjustments you must make in order to improve yourself. It’s what separates the great sportsmen, musicians, artists and scientists from the almost made it’s. The Chelsea’s from the Arsenal’s if you like.  
Sometimes it’s called natural talent – but I’m sorry it’s not. Whether that gifted 9 year old knows it or not they will have gained an understanding through the process of conscious trial and error – deliberate practice. They might not fully understand why they are getting it right but they’ve found countless ways to get it wrong.
There is a vast difference between knowing that you’re good at something and knowing why you’re good at it! It’s like turning up to class knowing you’re good at maths but repeatedly getting one question wrong and then trying to solve it the same way again and again. You wouldn’t do that but for some reason we don’t always take the same approach to other subjects.
Interestingly, I find this flaw most apparent in the practice of skills involving movement of the human body.
This I believe is because it can be at one time by far the most complex and difficult piece of equipment to control and yet the most simple, almost thoughtlessly easy at another. If you’re moving correctly it is seamless and effortless and if you’re not performing even the most basic skill can feel nigh on impossible.
There is a theory called the 10,000 hours that some of you may have heard of already.  This simply puts a figure on the number of hours required to master a particular skill...apparently.
But I can believe it based on the time it has taken me to get just a fraction of the way to where I’d like to get to with regards to my understanding of the body as a whole.
Now unless you can dedicate 5.5 hours a day to something over the next five years you won’t master anything entirely any time soon – but you can certainly start or maybe even finish mastering something.
Maybe you’ve been playing a sport or an instrument since you were young, maybe you’ll learn to master the language you’ve spoken since the very start and go on to write an incredible book, become a world-renowned speaker.    
You can achieve anything you want to achieve.
But you have to apply yourself. You have to practice deliberately.
You have to want to know something down to its very essence.
Now for me it took for it to become a matter of necessity before I learnt this invaluable approach to learning (and as it turns out life as a whole). Don’t wait for it to get to that stage for you. Don’t wait until exam time – don’t wait until you HAVE to know it. Enjoy the process and the rewards will be that much more fulfilling.
Do not practice until you get something right – practice until you can’t get it wrong.
Patrick Latter.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A Different Take On New Year Resolutions

So during the festive period we spend two weeks expanding our stomach; from selection boxes to stinky cheese, anything goes. I know this all too well as I fancied some Yule log the day after Boxing Day... for Breakfast!

After the fortnight of expansion, we don't just return to normal eating, we have the tendency to go completely the other way and deprive ourselves. No more 'Junk food', far fewer calories and restriction at every turn.

Then comes the new training routine; something copied from a C-list celebrity, a six-day-a-week plan, when you normally train on two or three days (on a good week). Then include the cold mornings and the darkness at 4pm, and we wonder why the system doesn't last.

What could we actually achieve if we switched our mentality, started more slowly and continued to eat to satisfy our needs? What if we did a little less exercise than we needed to, so we actually wanted to return again for the next workout?

Going full throttle for two weeks only to return to our normal ways or even less than before doesn't work; slow and steady with consistent application always wins. Be the tortoise not the hare!

I've stripped back my intensity in the New Year. I've taken weight off the bar to improve my form. I've added in less sets but more mobility work to address the niggles. I'm eating to support my training rather than going without.

If you're unsure, seek advice from a trainer who can tailor a programme for you - don't 'go in blind'!

Remember to commit; make the commitment small to start with and increase your goals as your confidence grows.

Happy New Year,


Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Keeping Fit at Chrsitmas

Now the festive season has arrived, we are surrounded by ‘junk food’ that seems to be more appealing around December. Is it all of a sudden acceptable to have a piece of chocolate before breakfast? It does not have to be all bad, here are a few simple ways to avoid over indulging around this time of year:

  • Take advantage of the colder nights warranting hearty soups full to the brim with veg!
  • Keep your hands warm and suppress hunger with plenty of fruit teas.
  • Roasts do not have to be full of calories, make sure you fill your plate with 50% veg and the remainder with leans meats. Why not try boiled potatoes instead of roasted?
  • Use gym time wisely, now mornings and evenings are darker, head to the gym and start trying to maintain/build muscle. This will help you burn more calories day to day which is ideal to counteract that extra mince pie. 1kg of fat burns 3kcals per day whereas 1kg of muscle burns 60kcals!
  • If you know you are having a dinner party at friend’s house, where there will be lots of tempting foods on offer, make sure you have a small breakfast and lunch. This will ensure that if you choose to indulge it will have less of an impact!
  • Finally, try to stay clear of the sugary drinks on offer - if you are eating more anyway try not to tip over the edge with a 400kcal cocktail! Stick to flavouring your drinks with fresh fruit.

You may have to accept that over the Christmas period you might not make as many steps forward as you would like. But stay positive and make sure that the steps backwards are minimal so the road in January doesn’t seem so long!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Emma McMahon, Fitness Instructor & Personal Trainer

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

'The Little Things'

When it comes to weight loss and fat loss, it is true to say that ‘every little helps’. Parking in the furthest space from the supermarket, taking the stairs instead of the lift and cutting out extra snacks all help and all add up. Let’s face it, everyone is looking for that little tip or secret to help them achieve their goals, but make sure you are selective with the tips you choose to believe and consider where they are sourced. Here are a few examples of ‘tips’ that I have found:

‘Sniff a banana, an apple, or a peppermint when you feel hungry’

‘Stare at the colour blue’

‘Eat in front of mirrors and you’ll lose weight’

‘Eat cereal for breakfast five days a week’

‘Brush your teeth after every meal, especially dinner’

‘Sleep in a cold room’

All of these ‘tips’ have sketchy, or no scientific research behind them. They may be helpful for a select few people, or may suppress your appetite for a short while. So eating Coco Pops for breakfast, in front of the mirror, while sniffing a banana in a cold room, followed by brushing your teeth in a blue room might help you lose an extra pound or two. Or, more realistically, adding a 15 minute, 10 press ups, 10 squats and a plank or two to your daily routine will be more beneficial by building a bit of muscle.

Here is a fact- 1kg of body fat burns 3kcal per day whereas 1kg of muscle burns 50kcal per day!

Cereal is not all that good for you, please be selective with the ones you buy. Do try and have the more nutritious option of poached eggs, grilled mushrooms and wholemeal toast, for example.

Also, when looking for weight loss and fat loss tips, please read the whole article, not just the title. We tend to only hear what we want to hear, like the following:

‘Forget About Working Out’

Some tittles are vague and the sources are poor- so some people would read the title ‘Forget About Working Out’ and think that training won’t help them lose weight. What the rest of the article goes on to say, is that you do not necessarily need to go for a gym session or a spin class to get fit, but you should try other activities, like swimming, group walking and so on.

‘Pop a Vitamin’

Pop a vitamin?! Some people might read this title and expect vitamin tablets to replace the nutrients we get from eating fresh healthy food. This is not the case. Take this extract from the article, for example; “Although no magic supplement exists for weight loss, some evidence suggests that taking a multivitamin may help you burn more calories. Getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals is vital for proper metabolism”; please note the words ‘suggests’ and ‘may’.

So what I am trying to say is, don’t look for a short cut when it comes to weight loss. Do your research carefully. Try using www.myfitnesspal.com to track your calories and your exercise or even write it down. There is no secret answer, just hard work and determination. Trust me! I know!

Emma McMahon

Friday, 23 September 2016

Fat-loss made simple

There is so much information regarding fat-loss in the public domain, so much so that people are often confused as to what road to take for their fat-loss journey. With all the clever marketing around certain pieces of fitness equipment, alongside the supplement industry pushing pills and potions to help you lose weight 'faster', it's hard not to get swept up with all the hype around certain products. My view is that if these products worked, we would all be using them!

When we pick up the newspaper or switch on the TV, one week Fat is ‘the enemy’, the next week it is ‘the saviour’. Carbohydrates have now switched roles; they were set to replace fats a few years back, but now Carbohydrates are frowned upon! We have recently seen the rise in popularity of the 5:2 and Paleo diet. Two of just a few diets that pop up, all supposedly offering you the solution you've been looking for!

Does fat-loss need to be that confusing? No. Fundamentally it's a two-pronged attack. Increase your movement and decrease your calories. So where does this go so wrong? Because as a human race we want instant results! So we often slash calories to an unsustainable amount and train harder in the gym (with less calories in the system), often to a point that isn't realistic or in conjunction with our lifestyle. This is why diets fail. They aren't based on what is right for you. The same applies to exercise. If training just twice a week allows you to be consistent over a period of months or even years, this is much better than training five days a week, only to burn out after a month and never to return.

Two simple measures to swing fat-loss in the right direction are to use a pedometer and to download and use the app My Fitness Pal. The recommended daily step count on a pedometer is 10,000. You can pick one of these up for just over £1 online! Some of you will be shocked at the limited amount of activity that you do, especially if you drive a lot and work in an office. 10,000 steps is the absolute minimum too! As soon as you are aware of this, it forces you to take the stairs, go for a walk on your lunch break and get to the gym.

My Fitness Pal is probably the best app for fat-loss that I have ever seen. Gone are the days of using a book to calorie count. It's never been so easy and there really is no excuse. An easy way to work out the number of calories you should be consuming each day is to multiply your bodyweight in pounds by anywhere between 13 and 16 (depending on your activity levels). To calculate your weight in pounds, multiply your weight in kilos by 2.2. So for a 60kg female this would equate to 132pounds. You then multiply this number by the following:

13 x Calculated weight if you are inactive – (no structured exercise and a sedentary job)

14 x Calculated weight if you are moderately active - (sport/gym 1-3 times a week)

15 x Calculated weight if you are active – (sport/gym 3-5 times a week)

16 x Calculated weight if you are very active – (gym 5 times a week and a manual job)

So if you are inactive it would be 13 x 132 pounds = 1,716 calories. For weight loss you then remove 300-500 calories. So somewhere between 1,216 – 1,416 calories a day would be your target. I would always start at the top end. If you can lose weight on more calories this is a good thing. Not only does this mean you can consume more to keep your energy levels up, but if your weight-loss starts to slow, you know you can drop another 100-200 calories a day and still be within your weight loss 'zone'. This should then reignite the fat loss. On the other hand, if you go too far below this, your metabolism drops and the process slows down. So be sensible and patient. Add in exercise to keep the fat-burning process in full flow. This can be in the gym or by hitting those 10,000 steps a day!

Image result for my fitess pal

Remember, MY FINTESS PAL and a PEDOMETER!! Simple but hugely affective.



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