Since January 1st 2016 I haven't eaten any ketchup.
What a great achievement! Well not really. I've had other condiments on some occasions such as brown sauce and mayonnaise.
So what's the point?
Well, I wanted to see if I could make conscious decisions and replace habitual eating with conscious eating.
To put it into perspective, I was not exactly a ketchup addict. But, it did find its way onto eggs occasionally in the morning when they seemed a bit dry and onto some dinner plates too. It was becoming unconscious and I wanted to see what I could do about it.
What about you?
Many people will eat or drink certain things at certain times just because "that's what I've always done."
But what if these things are benefiting them? In fact, what if these small things are regularly steering them away from their goals.
What do you do unconsciously? Biscuits with your daily cup of tea? Sugars in your tea? Pudding after dinner? Alcohol after work?
What should you do next?
Try to remove these habitual things that are taking you further from your goals for 3 weeks or more. Know that you're not going to go without them forever.
Then, as you choose to, gradually re-introduce some of the things on a less frequent occasion.
Building these conscious habits with your eating can be a great way to increase your awareness of the foods you consume and in doing so, strike up a much more beneficial balance between "good" and "bad".
If you're not sure where to start then perhaps write a food diary and look through it after a week to find recurring detractors that keep reappearing such as foods that are high in sugar.
Wednesday, 13 July 2016
Wednesday, 8 June 2016
Often people will say things like:
"I don't want to spend hours on end in the gym."
"I can only put aside a short amount of time for the gym." (perhaps a lunch break for example)
"When I get in the gym, I don't know how to best spend my time."
"I only have a short time to exercise so I end up just doing the same things that I already know."
"I only had 30 minutes so I just went for a run."
Or perhaps a combination of these things.
So what if you have these, or a combination of these problems? Well, I'm here to help you.
Below is a list of just some of the ways that you can structure a quick gym session in order to make the most of your time and get a short, yet effective workout.
First Things First...
Write it down BEFORE you get to the gym! You already have a limited amount of time so don't waste gym time walking around, thinking what you'd like to do. Take time to structure a session before hand, enter with a plan and follow it.
Now try these:
Timed Circuit Training
The most straight forward and traditional method of all. Simply set your self a few exercises (probably 5-8) and perform them for an allocated length of time. Use an interval timer to do time the exercise time and also your pre-allotted rest time. Don't cheat yourself and take extra rest; when the buzzer goes, you go.
One of the great things about this is you know exactly how long you'll need to exercise for; ideal when you're on a tight schedule. Two things to be aware of when planning your circuit 1) Logistics: Make sure the equipment and area you need to use at the gym is positioned near each other or able to be moved near each other. 2) Popularity: Don't design a circuit that has you using a mixture of equipment that's likely to be used as you move from one area to the next. Better still, use some bodyweight exercises then you'll always be able to include them and shuffle the order on the go should someone jump on to your equipment and muck up the circuit.
An easy example would be: 30 secs work, 30 secs rest x 5 laps (25 mins total)
A1) Press Ups
A2) Kettlebell swings
A3) Kettlebell Goblet Squats
A4) TRX Rows
A5) Jumping Lunges / Switch Lunges
Progressions: Reduce rest time, add more exercises, add more laps.
Combine Cardio and Resistance Work
This is one of my favourite ways to get your heart rate elevated and use your gym time wisely. Pick a cardio exercise and a resistance exercise that, given the layout of your gym, can be done with relative ease (either near to the cardio equipment to ensure you can keep an eye on it while you do the resistance work, or on a piece of cardio equipment (like a treadmill) which there are plenty of in your gym so you're happy to walk away from to perform the resistance exercise.
A session structure might look like this:
A1) 1 min high incline treadmill jog
A2) Pull ups to failure
B2) 200m Row
B2) 15 x Kettlebell Swings
C1) 30 Sec Bike Sprint
C2) 10 x Dumbell Curl and Push Press
Or Perhaps you'd prefer to stick with one piece of cardio equipment that you're more familiar with so something like:
A1) 5 x Burpees
A2) 5 x Medicine Ball Slams
A3) 5 x Double Kettlebell Clean and Press
A4) 30 Second Hill Run
Or, from a psychological point you might like to shorten your cardio effort as you go. Therefore knowing that after the first set, the cardio part gets shorter and shorter.
10 dumbbell thrusters, row 500m, 10 dumbbell thrusters, row 400m, 10 dumbbell thrusters, row 300m, 10 dumbbell thrusters, row 200m, 10 dumbbell thrusters, row 100m.
Beware: This might take a little bit of playing around with to get the correct difficulty level to match your abilities. Try not to completely fatigue similar muscle groups in both the cardio and the resistance work. For example: Don't pair high repetitions of walking lunges with hill running.
Ascending Ladders or Pyramids
Using "Ascending Ladders" is a challenging way to gradually improve your fitness as your progressively increase the volume of work that you're able to perform.
If you're doing it for the first time, pick 4 or 5 exercises (again, pick things that can be done relatively closely to one another) and do 2 repetitions of each exercise for the first lap, then on the second lap (without any rest) perform 4 repetitions of each, then on lap 3 do 6 reps, lap 4 do 8 reps of each and on your 5th and final lap you perform 10 reps of each. Try to do the entire 5 laps as quickly as possible without resting. It starts easy but creeps up on you.
An example could be:
A1) Kettlebell Swings
A2) Press Ups
A3) Jump Squats
A4) Plank with a hip drop (each side)
Progressions: Increase the number of exercises, go higher ie: up to 6 laps (12 reps) or 7 laps (14 reps) etc, use larger increments such as 3,6,9,12,15 reps for example.
Alternatively, perform a Pyramid and do 2,4,6,8,10 reps, then immediately 10,8,6,4,2 reps. Sometimes however the final lap of 2 reps might feel like an anti-climax so I you're feeling particularly motivated you might try another lap of 10 reps just as a final blow out... maybe!
On the Minute / Every Minute On The Minute (EMOM)
This is another great way to ensure that your session doesn't over-run. Simply set your interval timer to sound each minute. When the timer goes perform your pre-decided exercise for the number of pre-decided repetitions.
Remember: You will need rest times so make sure that the exercise doesn't use up the entire minute. Ideally work somewhere between 30-50 seconds.
An example workout could be:
A1) 15 x kettlebell swings
A2) 10 x Incline Dumbell Chest Press
A3) 15 x Lat Pull Downs
A4) 45 secs Bike sprint
x 5 rounds = 20 minutes exactly.
Progressions: Add more repetitions/ cut your rest time, Include more cardio vascular work, add more exercises, include something heavy like 3 x heavy deadlifts/push presses/ farmers walks etc.
You Go - I Go
I like this as a format for partner workouts as it keeps you working at a decent tempo and you push one another to keep working. You also get varied amounts of rest so you don't adapt to the timing protocols which you can do sometimes when you use the same interval variations week after week.
With a partner, select your exercises and select a high volume of repetitions. Then go about completing the target reps by taking it in turn.
A workout might be:
50 x Burpees (1 each, until you complete 50. 25 each total)
3000m row (sat on two rowing machines, row 100m, then the partner rows 100m while you rest, repeat until you have each rowed 1,500m)
220 kettlebell swings (partner A does 20 swings, partner B does 20 swings, then A, then B and so on... 6 sets each).
40 Barbell Push Presses (1 rep each, pass the bar back and forth between each other without putting it down)
Safety First: Don't be a hero! If, part way through you notice between you that one person is struggling and they are at risk of losing good form, then you may agree mid-workout that one of you will do more eg: 2-3 reps to the other persons 1.
Note: You can do this wih two people of unequal strength/fitness if you're smart about it by selecting exercises that you can set up two of and using different weights such as 2 different kettlebells or barbells side by side. This means that men and women may also use this structure to train with one another.
This is just simply an interval variation that was designed orginially in conjunction with the Chinese Olympic cycling team. The design is 20 secs work, 10 secs rest x 8.
You can, if you wish, use it with one traditional cardio vascular exercise (such as cycling or running), a single resistance resistance exercise such as a lat pull down 8 times, a single bodyweight exercise such as burpees or a mixture of up to 8 exercises.
An example workout using the tabata protocol (20 secs work, 10 secs rest x 8)
A) Tabata Press Ups
B) Tabata Leg Press
C) Tabata Lat Pull Down
D) Tabata Walking Lunges
E) Tabata Kettlebell Swings
F) Tabata Plank
Progressions: It's actually harder to use fewer exercises; ideally just one.
Beware: Try not to use anything too technical or towards your maximum load unless you're very experienced. If it's your first time try it with a simple exercise such as press ups, lunges or a plank.
Not all "quick sessions" need to be focused on getting you soaked in sweat and that alone. There are some that can be much more strength focused.
I first heard this concept from Joe De Franco. It's a very straight forward way to utilise just one bit of gym equipment, in a relatively short time in order to focus on strength training.
How does it work? Take a single complex exercise that you're able to perform with a heavy load (ideally a barbell squat variation, deadlifts, bench press, cleans, snatch, push press or jerk). Warm up thoroughly then load the bar with your 5 rep max. Perform just a single repetition. Then start your stop watch. Allow yourself 20 seconds rest and perform another single rep. As you begin to fatigue allow a slightly longer rest period of between 20-40 secs.
Continue this until you have performed 15-20 repetitions.
The idea being that rather than performing 4x5 reps where some of the repetitions aren't as good as the others you'll perform 15-20 single reps so that you can focus on each one in order to make them as good as possible. It should also get your heart rate up by the end. 20 quality, heavy reps and a little bit of cardio work.
Look out: Don't be surprised that as you perform (roughly) reps 1-5 the reps feel very manageable. 6-9 (roughly) they then feel gradually more difficult. Then around 10-13 suddenly some reps may feel easy as your CNS really begins to fire. Then 13 onwards (roughly) the reps gradually begin to get tougher. Keep this in mind when you're gradually increasing your rest periods.
Barbell Complex or Kettlebell Complex
A babrbell complex or a kettlebell complex is a number of exercises performed with the same barbell or kettlebell continuously moving from one exercise to the next without resting the weight down.
Beware: Some exercises are easier than other so the weight might not be suitable for all exercises. One way around this is to vary the repetitions ie: more reps on the stronger movements such as the kettlebell comlex below.
Barbell complex example:
A1) 6 x bent over rows
A2) 6 x hang cleans
A3) 6 x front squats
A4) 6 x push press
A1) 12 x kettlebell swings
A2) 10 x kettlebell goblet squats
A3) 8 x kettlebell push press
A4) 5 x kettlebell snatches
Low Rep Circuits
Put together a circuit using larger, heavier movements for fewer repetitions. An example circuit could be:
A1) 3-5 Deadlifts
A2) 3-5 Bench Press
A3) 3-5 Back Squats
A4) 3-5 weighted Pull Ups
Allow 15-30 secs between sets. Complete 5 full rounds.
Safety First: Be honest with yourself; or better still, work with someone that knows the correct techniques involved in the exercises you're performing. If you form begins to suffer drastically then stop.
Don't attempt this style of workout if you're not experienced in the gym.
Structure is key: Beware not to overload one body part. Make sure you vary the body parts being used in when deciding the order of exercises.
There's loads you can do in the gym if you're restricted for time. There's nothing wrong as such with "just going for a run" but... this shouldn't be your only idea when time is short. not now you have all of these ideas to try anyway...
Monday, 30 May 2016
In this post I want to look at the idea of "De-Evolution."
If you're not sure what I mean, here's the basic idea:
We were designed to move. Our bodies have a number of cleverly designed joints to allow for a whole spectrum of movements through their various shapes and forms (think about how different an elbow joint/hinge joint is to a shoulder/ball and socket design).
However, as children's activities revolve less around a ball in the street and climbing trees and instead more around a computer screen; and adults work longer hours than ever and spend more and more time in other stagnant, often seated tasks (driving to and from work, working at a desk, sitting in front of the TV because you're so tired from all the sitting and working and sitting and driving) this ability to move fluidly and freely is regressing to a more fixed, less supple version of yourself.
While this is true, many people will argue "children are always so supple; we need to move more as they do in order to stay supple. Look at a baby, look how they can squat and sit in a deep squat position easily. We should all still be able to do that." These same people will use this image (or similar) to back up their argument:
While the general thought pattern has some merit ie: we should try to move more in order to maintain our ability to move freely.
There are a few large oversights from those that expect everyone to move in their 40's as they did in their toddler years.
1) Wear and tear:
Inevitably, as the years go on we will pick up more and more knocks, injuries, breaks and strains. Often the body will create alternative ways to move in order to look after these injuries. Think about when you've hurt your ankle or foot you naturally limp without any thought in order to protect your injury. Over the years these injuries and issues may lead to a number of ineffective movements patterns and bad habits for many of us.
2) A quick myth buster:
A new born baby will have around 300 "bones" in comparison to a full grown adult who has around 200 actual bones. Most of the structure of a baby is in fact cartilage based; over time many of these will harden and fix with others so inevitably movement capabilities and suppleness will change.
However... one ethos does still apply to movement...
"use it or lose it"
More and more we lead a stagnant life. From desk based jobs, to endless hours in a car and the ever increasing number of box sets available; there is often a compelling reason to just sit still.
Further still, more and more the pursuit of "convenience" is at the forefront of our consumer mind. We just want to do "whatever's easiest". This is a horrible ethos to live by and one that inevitably leads us to often jump to the easiest option when possible. Whether it's ordering in food, having our food shopping delivered, taking an escalator over just one level or driving to places which are very walkable, we're all guilty of sometimes doing whatever the easiest option is; which is often the least active.
So how should we fix this and what should we aim to do?
Wherever possible, take the option to move more. Make this a conscious choice in your life and this will inevitably allow your body to stay active and more healthy. Walk, don't drive, choose active family activities, carry things when possible, test yourself and elevate your heart rate.
I'm not suggesting you jump around the office like a monkey but... you could always jump around a park like a monkey? Or crawl like a bear, or climb, or roll or jump. Try not to restrict the way you think about movement and look around for inspiration. There's plenty of "primal movement" videos on YouTube or perhaps looks closely at animal movements and children at play.
Observing a child:
I'm very fortunate to have a beautiful 2 year old son named Cassius. Cassius (or "Big Cass") is a ball of energy and, thankfully has taken after me in the height/structure department. He's alarmingly strong and seems to have a strange competitive nature which causes him to want to move any heavy objects, large objects or objects that he's seen me move (including kettlebells that weigh more than him, 3-seat-sofas and even me, his 17 stone+ Dad who he thinks he should be able to push aside when he desperately "needs" a toy or snack).
What I've also observed from "Big Cass" is his inherent knowledge of movement, balance and ability to ergonomically overcome obstacles.
For instance, he can (upsettingly) already squat better than I can and sit in a relaxed deep squat for ages while he plays.
He figured out how to climb on to a sofa using his large head for an anchor while climbing with his legs. How to climb up stairs when he smaller despite their relative height to him. Using his bodyweight to lean forward and run faster or lean backwards and counterweight him down hill.
You might not have children of your own so I can't advise that you spend time watching kids and how they move; you and I could both get into trouble for that! Instead, for inspiration have a look at primal movement videos on YouTube or investigate a company called MovNat.
What CAN we learn from the children?
What we learn is that we naturally know the correct way to move and overcome obstacles with our body. What we don't do is use the body as it should be used and more often than not, pick the easiest/laziest way to move rather than the correct way.
When you pick up things from the floor do you always bend at the knees, keep your heels down and keep an upright torso like Big Cass? Didn't think so!
We ALL need to move more and we ALL need to make conscious decisions to do so. Pick the active option and make your body do more. Don't stay stuck at a desk all day, walk at lunchtime, in fact, walk whenever possible. Test your bodies capability (without being ridiculous) and find out what you can and can't (safely) do.
Move more and move freely. Stay away from the restrictions of machines and use your own body as it's designed to move. Whatever your age, whatever your capabilities and whatever your stage of fitness, it's likely that your body can probably do more than you currently do with it.
Friday, 29 April 2016
A healthy lifestyle and effective training and nutrition routines can be heavily influenced by your perception of problems that may arise and your approach to conquering them.
Picture these two scenarios and how different people react depending on whether or not they see "hurdles" or "speed humps" in front of them.
Scenario A: You usually finish work at 5.30pm and go to the gym before you go home. Today you finish at 6.30pm. What do you see?
HURDLE? "I'll give the gym a miss today otherwise I won't get home until late!"
SPEEDHUMP? "Well I don't want to get home late... so I'll go to the gym and do a quick circuit rather than my usual workout."
Scenario B: You usually train on a Thursday after work. You're obliged to go to dinner after work as a colleague is leaving. What do you see?
HURDLE? "I can't go to the gym Thursday as I'm out and I'll also be too hung over Friday to go in the morning."
SPEEDHUMP? "I'm going to have to get up early and go to the gym before work on Thursday morning. I'll probably drink on Thursday evening so I'd better make sure my food is flawless this week."
So whats's the difference? It's two-fold:
1) Some foresight:
Inevitably "things crop up". So, in order to have a successful routine with your food and training it's essential to look ahead each week, understand where changes are necessary to your standard routine and makes the necessary amendments in order to stay on track and compensate for unavoidable deviations. Create a calorie deficit if necessary when you realise that heavy eating and/or drinking is on your schedule. Train at alternative times when you know your usual sessions aren't all possible this week. Without this forward planning things will always "pop up" and there will be opportunity after opportunity to fall away from your original plans for training and nutrition.
2) Language you use with yourself:
Another important thing to utilise is the language you choose to use with yourself. Be positive and be assertive. If you say "I should..." do something, this already suggests that you're unlikely to do it. For instance "I should go to the gym in the morning before work as I'm out in the evening." Part of you is already planning on not going. Instead try: "I need to go to the gym in the morning...." or "I can't eat badly this week as I'm drinking on Thursday" or "I have to do an extra session this weekend."
There needs to be a level of certainty and positivity in your own affirmations. Make your plans and statements absolute.
So each week make sure that you A) Look ahead and understand your week. Then, make sure you see speed humps, NOT hurdles. Then, where changes are necessary make an amended concrete plan that's air-tight and non-negotiable.
Thursday, 18 February 2016
Recently I have been talking to my clients about what I imagine as an A-Z scale of lifestyles and how these lifestyles usually offer you an exact reflection of your physique.
Or as some people say: "You get out exactly what you put in."
Yes, there are exceptions but also remember: "What you eat in private, you wear in public". Sometimes all is not as it may appear...
An "A Lifestyle" is a clean diet involving no processed foods, no preservatives, no refined sugars, no alcohol and no days off from this regime. An "A Lifestyle" person will train frequently with purpose, intensity and direction with progressive overload. They do not skip days, they do not "just do a bit today" and they do not approach their week without a plan.
As a result, they probably look something like this...
So, what's a "Z Lifestyle" and what do these people look like?
A "Z Lifestyle" has no structure. This person does not exercise, eats what they want and the majority of their food choices are dependent on what's most convenient rather than rich in nutrients. Take away food, instant meals, sweats, puddings, sugars and fatty foods are frequent in their diet.
These people will usually end up looking something like this...
For the vast majority of people, sustaining "A Lifestyle" is not achievable. And you're far from being a "Z Lifestyle" person." However... I like to start the year aiming to move myself close to "Lifestyle A". Take note of changes in my body, mood and energy.
Then not through habit, but through conscious choices I add in things which don't belong in "Lifestyle A" (the odd bit of alcohol, sugar etc) until I reach a point/letter that I'm happy to settle on. THIS is my sustainable lifestyle; ideally closer to "Lifestyle A" than I was before this process.
What I'm trying to say is...
Don't "end up" with a lifestyle, exercise and eating habits accidently. Experience a style of living far "better" than one you intend on sustaining and then consciously set your lifestyle guidelines.
Give it a go and see if you can move a little closer to an "A Lifestyle."
Thursday, 21 January 2016
Many of you may be aiming for a healthier lifestyle in 2016.
More often than not this mean "get rid of X", "stop doing Y", remove all "Z's". Doesn't sound like much of a deal right?
Well, what if instead of taking things away, you could add more to your life and still make progress?
Recently I have been reading about "crowding out". An economic (something about public sector vs private sector spending) which is now being used in a nutritional sense.
In basic (my) terms, the idea of "Nutrition Crowding Out" is about focusing your efforts on good, introducing more "good" so that you are less interested with the "bad" elements of your life.
For example: Rather than seeing clean eating as a task why not put more effort into it so that it becomes more enjoyable and interesting? Do some additional reading, find some interesting recipes, shop for new and interesting ingredients and focus on food preparation and creating interesting tastes and meals. Fill yourself with so much "good" nutrients that you won't have the same cravings for any of the "bad".
With your lifestyle habits why not spend more time and energy on healthy pursuits rather than time and effort thinking about bad foods, lazy habits and activities that compromise your progress.
For example joining an exercise group (fitness classes, walking or running groups, climbing clubs, sports teams etc etc) so that you now have more of your free time committed to exercise.
Soon enough your mind will be less attracted to the "bad" in your life given hat you are applying so much physical and mental energy to the "good".
Give it a go, don't take away from your life but add in and "crowd out".
Monday, 21 December 2015
Merry Christmas etc, etc.
2015 is almost over and 2016 is just around the corner so what's the plan? What's next? Christmas is a brilliant time to take a short break from work, reflect on the year gone by (what you did/didn't like), what you're grateful for, what you achieved and what you'd like to improve and achieve in the year ahead.
Always try to be specific with goals and bracket them into different groups with a detailed timeline for success broken down into specific actions.
For example, here are my goals for the year ahead (I have them drafted in much more detailed and specific stages than this).
- I want to continue to grow my own PT business in order to help more people lead a fuller and healthier lifestyle. This will require regular, targeted content and marketing efforts.
- I want to expand the outreach of my monthly eNews letter to reach more people and offer free fitness related content to a wider wed of people. This will require me to collate more email addresses throughout the year and also rely partly on word of mouth.
There are other "Business" bullet points that I won't be sharing just yet.
- I would like to spend more and more time with my son, Cassius. He will be 2 in February and I am very aware that these coming years can be very influential in terms of progression for him.
- I would like to expand my own personal knowledge and self worth. I will be reading more regularly and also taking at least 2 new qualifications in 2016. In 2015 I booked myself on to 2 courses which were both (annoyingly) cancelled!
- I am going to completely revamp my training structure for the week. In my on-going pursuit of leg gains I am going to focus on 2 x slower, longer gym sessions a week for my legs. I feel that my knee health is at the stage where this is now a realistic aim. I will aim for 2 further sessions each week in a circuit style gym sessions and a final movement based exercise session each week. I am also going to try and include more mobility and swimming this year (though not on a weekly basis).
- I want to get outside! At some stages while travelling and for a period afterwards I had no gym membership. I trained outside regularly whatever the weather and I loved it! I want to make sure that I'm training outside at least every other week. This is likely to compliment my pursuit of movement based sessions so it's likely to be achievable. While I'll always gravitate back to traditional gym exercises I really value outdoor training for enjoyment and clarity of thought. Hopefully it can also be combined with my tinkering's with meditation too and allow regular meditation and relaxation exercises to become a pillar of my training.
I am going to continue to invest in memories and experiences rather than possessions. I have a theory that: many people don't truly understand the meaning of happiness, how to find it or how to embrace it. I am forever grateful for small moments of beauty and happiness: laughing uncontrollably, hearing my son laugh or achieve something that he couldn't achieve a month earlier, sites, views and experiences. Being able to spot these moments, acknowledge them and savour them is a huge part of my happiness and wellbeing. After all: "The best things in life aren't things."
So what are your specific aims and goals for 2016? Think about different subject or pillars that you can group them under.
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