Friday, 25 August 2017

Make a Plan “A” and a Plan “B”... and a Plan “C”



 Image result for plan A B and C

Sometimes life doesn’t run smoothly and things come up. But you can’t throw in the towel as soon as the first hiccup or bit of adversity appears.

The same goes for keeping your exercise and nutrition on track.

 

I frequently hear “I’m away with work for a few days so can’t train.” Or “We ate out so my food went to pot.”

But why? Sure, these scenarios are from ideal but they shouldn’t be enough to go completely off-piste. You need a plan “A”, a “B” and a “C”.

 

TRAINING

Plan A – Go to the gym and do your regular hour long session after work                 

You have a meeting after work...

Plan B – You get up at 6am and do a session before work

You live to far from the gym or you’re involved in the morning school and wake up routine

Plan C – You go for a run at work during your lunch break or you run when you get home or do a bodyweight workout once you’re home

 

EATING:

Plan A – You prep your food the night before

You were out late and didn’t have time

Plan B – You get up 30 mins early and cook your food in the morning

You’re staying away for the evening

Plan C – You eat out and make a conscious effort to eat well. You amend your orders to remove parts such as chips in exchange for additional vegetables

 

SNACKING:

Plan A – You prepare all of your snacks for the next day at home

You weren’t staying at home

Plan B – You have protein bars in your car or stored in your desk

You’ve run out of protein bars

Plan C – You visit a proper supermarket (not a corner shop) and purchase real, fresh food on your way to work

 

As you can see: Plan A is the ideal and probably most convenient. Plan C is often inconvenient and may require some hard work or self control but... being healthy often does require these things.

 

If it was easy there would be no obesity and only washboard abs all over the place.

Remember to follow me on www.Twitter.com/MichaelD_PT

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

“You’ve gota live though haven’t you?..”



Recently when discussing lifestyle adjustments for a leaner physique and less hung-over, more memory filled lifestyle I suggested going to the pub less and was me with “Yeah, but you’ve gota live haven’t you?”
Where to start?...
I’ve had this, or words to this effect as a reaction many times when giving lifestyle advice and it always confuses me.
ME: “Stop eating McDonalds every lunchtime.”
THEM: “You’ve gota live though haven’t you?..”
If your definition of living life is food from McDonalds then I suggest you aim a little higher.
I set out at the start of 2017 to make a healthier year with higher quality memories. Not necessarily doing more, but more than likely doing less and investing more time and money into these things. I decided that rather than mindlessly having a few drinks with friends at the weekend on a regular basis I would try to drink alcohol once per month (ideally 1 day, if not 1 full weekend) for a pre-organised event or occasion.
I went through my calendar and marked off some events that I knew about in advance. The first weekend of the rugby 6 nations – February event. The final weekend of the rugby 6 nations – March sorted. Birthday weekend – May sorted. By April I had booked a summer holiday and also a rugby tour had come my way – I soon had nearly every month organised.
This was great for me as I was able to focus my training for set blocks of time with an end goal in mind. It also meant that I wasn’t going out wasting money at pubs on my local highstreet which made the bigger, more memorable events financially viable.
Don’t get me wrong – I wasn’t cooped up ignoring the world for weeks on end. I still saw friends, I still went places with my girlfriend and I still did things with my family; I just didn’t blow my money at the local boozer.
This gave me 2 things:
  1. More money to do better stuff
  2. More energy to be more productive with my gym work and everyday life
So who’s living more? Productive me with something fun and memorable planned for every month of the year? Or Mr McDonalds lunch break and his inevitable gain in body fat and lack of energy which came with it?
I’m not doing this to pat myself on the back and say “Aren’t I great – Aren’t you useless!” I just find peoples definitions of “living” very odd!
Rather than allowing yourself junk food and alcohol which you term “living”, it may be possible, with a little planning and self-control to actually “live” more and make more memories and do more AND be healthier! Imagine that!?...
PS: I did the “drinking once a month” for 6 months, then went on holiday and drank every day. I’ve since kept to once or twice per month but still keeping the fun events and memory makers going.
Don’t forget to follow me on www.Twitter.com/MichaelD_PT


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

How to Make the Most of Your Personal Trainer




Investing in guidance from a personal trainer can be a very sensible thing to do. However for some, the cost may be off putting. Whether you’re already training with a personal trainer or you’re unsure how you’d get the most value from a sessions these tips should be helpful:

1) Get there early and run through a warm up routine – If you can arrive 10 minutes prior to the session and warm up this is ideal. Then, you can hit the ground running and fly straight into the session. If you’re unsure exactly what to then your trainer can you some useful drills to include. If you waste 10-15 mins of each session warming up with your trainer then over the course of a year you’ve missed out on 12 hours of productive time with your PT.

2) Get a good night sleep prior to sessions – The saying goes: “an hour before midnight is worth 2 hours after midnight.” This is so true! To improve your quality of sleep, check make sure you have a sleep routine that you start as early as possible. Basic things include avoiding a TV, phone or illuminated screen before bed, try to brush your teeth as early as possible and pack your bag the night before.

3) Don’t drink alcohol the night before sessions.. AT ALL! Even a small amount of alcohol can have a significant impact on sleep, food choices and energy so if you want to make the most of your session with a trainer then you need to go completely without alcohol during the 24 hours before training.

4) Listen and try to absorb/learn – Use the sessions as lessons. Try to absorb as much information as you can. If you don’t understand what your trainer is telling you then let them know and ask them to explain it in a different way. It’s important that you learn over time and feel more confident in your own knowledge and abilities week-on-week.

5) Stay active between sessions – An hour in the gym with me will do you good; but it’s important to stay active throughout the week. Major activities such as gym sessions, sport and group exercise classes should be part of your weekly routine. However, smaller efforts such as taking the stairs every day, walking in your lunch break and walking instead of driving short distances will all add up to make a significant impact no matter what your goal. Activity is key.

6) Foam roll after a session – The foam roller is a great way to improve recovery and aid performance. It’s important to make this part of your routine and mobilise major muscle groups and joints that have been worked during the session. Once you understand the fundamentals of this you can probably do this in your own time before and after sessions.

7) Ask your PT for session plans  - Guidance from your trainer shouldn’t be limited to an hour at a time within the gym. As your trainer for specific, tailored programs to follow in your on time in order to compliment the 1-2-1 sessions.

8) Give feedback – It’s important that you’re not only making progress but that you understand what we’re doing and (hopefully) enjoy it too in some part. Tell your PT if sessions are too hard, too easy, causing you pain or you just hated them. They may not change everything but they should at least listen.

9) Leave your lack of enthusiasm at the door – We all have good days and bad days and part of the trainers job is to listen and develop a relationship with you so they’re open to hearing about your life outside of the gym. However, once you’ve made the effort take yourself to the gym, you might as well make the most of it. It’s only an hour after all!

10) Be honest – Its essential that you’re honest with your trainer! In fact, this should probably be the 1st point. Honest about what you’re doing outside of the session, what you’re eating in your own time, how difficult sessions are, what you can and can’t do, how you’re feeling, if you’re ill, your mood, any injuries all of it! Tell them everything! 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Thing you (probably) DO need to focus on



This is a follow up to last months blog. It’s a handy 5 pointer for things you should focus on if you want to make progress on your fitness journey.

1) i) Consistency with training
The two biggest short falls when it comes to making progress in the gym is consistency with food (see point ii) and consistency with exercise. Too many people are in too much of a rush to see results and when it doesn’t happen in 6 or 8 weeks (or less) then they pack it all in. Either this or people dip in an out: “I’ve been to the gym every day this week!” (having not been to the gym for 3 weeks previously).
  1. Consistency with eating
    Just as above, if you want to make significant improvements to your physique and life then significant, consistent changes are needed. If you’ve eaten well all day, you haven’t “earned” a pudding. Stick at the healthy eating, be consistent and manage all areas. For example improve portion control and protein intake rather than solely focusing on “going without”.
     
    2) General Activity Levels
    An hour in the gym is great, but it probably won’t out-do 23 sedentary, unhealthy hours. Try to incorporate activity in your day whenever possible. This doesn’t men high intensity workouts; you don’t even need to wear gym gear most of the time. Walk more, play more, take the stairs more, get out of the chair more and just move round more!
     
    3) Tracking Progress
    Having an ideal in mind and then looking at yourself and feeling a million miles from it can be down heartening and make you want to give up. But if you’re tracking progress then you can feel confident that you’re moving in the right direction and what you’re doing is working. Remember to track progress in a variety of ways in order to be sure that you’re improving. Body fat measurements, tape measures and gym tests (cardio fitness and strength checks) can all be useful yard sticks to make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
     
    4) The 6 major movement patterns
    Rather than spending endless hours on bicep curls and for big arms of glute bridges for a round bum make sure you learn to move correctly and effectively through the 6 major movements. Be sure you know how to push, pull, squat, hinge, lunge and rotate effectively. Understand their uses, variations , progressions and regressions and incorporate all of them as part of your weekly exercise schedule.
     
    5) Recovery
    I’m not suggesting that you should do an hours gym session and then spend the rest of the day sleeping and sitting on the sofa for recovery. Instead make sure that you stretch regularly and learn to foam roll effectively. This will help with recovery, robustness, injury prevention and mobility. Do it regularly and make it part of your gym sessions. Don’t wait until this are broken and then fix them. Think prevention – not cure!
     
    Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@MichaelD_PT)  
     

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Things you (probably) DON’T need to focus on




When it comes to the fitness industry it can be hard to know where to get your information from. Who’s giving you some good, intelligent information and who’s just a random egg from Geordie Shore trying to make some extra coin?

 

Unless you’ve been exercising regularly and consistently for lets say... 5 years or more, here are some things that you probably don’t need to be focusing on.

 

  1. Supplements:
    Supplements are exactly that, they are a “supplement” to things that are lacking in your diet. They are not a miracle cure, quick fix or replacement for hard work and consistency. If you’ve been training regularly and for a prolonged period AND you have everything in place from next months blog: “Things you (probably) DO need to focus on” then go for it, do some research. Some of the may (MAY) help, many won’t. You’re now entering a whole new minefield of confusion and contradiction.
     
  2. Isolation:
    While you may think your number one concern is bigger arms or a rounder behind, in reality you’ll get a lot more bang for your buck avoiding isolation movements and doing larger, multi joint, multi muscle movements. This will ultimately burn more calories and lead to a much improved, balanced physique.
     
  3. The Clock
    Unless you’re “peaking” for an on stage body building show then you shouldn’t be in a rush. Fitness is a never ending journey. Sure, we’ve all upped our efforts a bit in the run up to a big day (weddings, holidays etc) but generally don’t rush! Consistency will bring results. Track your results and compare every 2-3 months for an accurate measure of progress. Stick at it and don’t overload yourself with pressure to get what you want immediately.
     
  4. Professional Models and Athletes
    Due to social media and online information it’s easier than ever to see multiple pictures and videos of professional athletes, their bodies, their achievements and their life which is MUCH better than yours right? Remember 3 things: 1) These people are professional and it’s their job to look and be that good. Aiming to  replicate this is likely to be unrealistic. 2) They weren’t ALWAYS in this condition. They had a starting point to at one point and they used consistency to get where they are now. Be consistent and you too can move in the right direction. 3) Lighting, filters, makeup, photoshop and specific poses are likely to have made these pictures look even more impressive – THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE!
     
  5. All The Gear
    You may be tempted to buy some Olympic lifting shoes, weights belt, chalk, expensive trining clothing etc etc. Don’t! Just make sure you visit the gym regularly (say 3-4 times per week) for at least 2 years, follow the points in next months blog and you’ll make some changes. Buying stuff won’t make any changes other than lowering your bank balance.
     
    Don’t forget – read next months blog on “Things you (probably) DO need” http://michaeldarren.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/thing-you-probably-do-need-to-focus-on.html and...
    Follow me on Twitter (@MichaelD_PT)  

Sunday, 19 March 2017

I find the gym intimidating

One of the most common barriers to exercise is fear of the unknown. Often a gym can be viewed as an intimidating place full of gym-regulars that all know exactly what they’re doing. An environment where you won’t have a clue what to do and you’ll stand out like a sore thumb. If that’s the case, here are a few simple tips that you can try in order to make yourself feel more confident entering the gym and bettering your life.

Get some professional help
Training with a personal trainer is a great way to gain the necessary education you need to improve your gym confidence. During your sessions you’ll learn an array of exercises, how various machines work, how to target specific areas of the body, the best exercises to help you reach your goals and the general workings of a gym floor. Having someone guide you through everything can be a great way to learn firsthand what you should be doing and not, like so many, waste years training ineffectively. It may be a cost that you assume you can’t afford but view it as a short-term investment. Train with a personal trainer for a few months, learn what you need to learn and then make contact with them again from time to time while training on your own and book a few additional sessions for more ideas and to check up on your progress.

Dress down
Just because you’re exercising it doesn’t mean you need to wear tiny outfits or dress yourself head to toe in lycra. Many of these outfits can be very unflattering on the wrong figureand make you feel self-conscious before you even leave the changing room. If you’re unsure what your options are, spend some time browsing sports sections of shops and fitness magazines for ideas and inspiration. If you want to avoid the eyes of other gym goers simply wear something discreet and comfortable that fits you well. If you’ve never bought gym clothing before try it on in store and move around to make sure that everything stays covered as it needs to and you can move freely. If you see someone else in the gym with clothing you like, pay them a compliment and find out how to get something similar yourself, “Nice top – where’s it from?” – simple as that.

Tune Out
You can take yourself to a whole new place if you wear headphones when in the gym. It will not only keep you motivated and upbeat but will keep your mind focused on the job at hand. It seems a simple idea but, if you’re conscious of those around you and the gym environment on the whole, headphones can be a great way to escape it all. Better still, The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine (2005),alsofound that listening to music during exercise not only lifted mood but also helped to improve performance. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/tjem/206/3/206_3_213/_article

Avoid the rush
If you’re worried about being an “outsider” in the gym, try to avoid peak times. Perhaps you work 9-5.30 and can’t avoid the evening rush? Then try first thing in the morning. It may mean you’re out of bed a little earlier which can be hard, but just remember why you’re doing it. By getting up earlier and training in the morning the gym is likely to be less busy than the evenings and you can be happy that you’ve completed your exercise for the day before most people’s day has even started. As you become more confident after a few weeks you can then train during the evenings and be happy that you too are now a “gym regular”.

Bring a friend
Training with a friend can be a great way to boost your confidence in the gym no matter what their level of experience. If you both have little experience then you can learn and work things out together; if they’re more experienced than you are then you can get a guiding hand around the gym from a familiar face. Either way, you’ll no longer be alone on your fitness journey. A “gym buddy” can also help to keep you motivated away from the gym. Together you can make sure that you don’t let your eating habits slip too frequently and that you make each gym session that you have scheduled – a friendly nudge can be very useful from time to time.

Try group exercise first
The gym is full of weights, equipment and fitness “toys” – all of which can, if you’ve never used them before, appear very confusing. If it’s a more active lifestyle you’re looking for then group exercise can be a great inroad. There’s something for everyone and even classes that will incorporate some resistance work in them as a hybrid of traditional group exercise and gym work. You’ll get to build a regular, healthierroutine and class times will mean you start off with an instantly more structured workout schedule. As you become more familiar with the classes, more confident in your image and want some variety you can gradually wean yourself into the gym.

Get out of town
For some the fear of bumping into a friend of work colleague while they’re “not at their best”, covered in sweat, wearing an old gym top and gasping for air is enough to keep them out of the gym all together. Don’t use this as an excuse; find a gym a little further away and you can exercise in confidence that you can remain completely anonymous. If that’s not an option you can invest in a variety of equipment to allow you to train at home. Things such as multi gyms, dumbbells, kettlebellspowerbags or a TRX are all very versatile pieces of equipment that you can use for full body workouts in the privacy of your own home.

The Truth...
The truth is there are plenty of reasons and excuses to not exercise if we look for them; being intimidated by the gym is just another excuse. If you want to change the way you look and feel about yourself then you can’t let it be the be all and end all. Find a way around it. Those who want to exercise will find a way. Those who don’t want to exercise will find an excuse. Just remember, everyone, in every gym had their first day in the gym at some point. Now look at them – that can be you in a matter of months. Leaner, more knowledgeable and more confident – stick with it, remain consistent and these things will come.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

One Limb at a Time


I regularly include training a single side of the body at a time in my own training and my clients training too. But why?..

  1. It often adds an element of balance to your training and increases the level of skill necessary
  2. It often teaches you anti-rotational strength (keeping your body straight and even when the body is not under even load)
  3. It allows you to uncover and address any strength imbalances between the left and right side of your body


So how should you do this? Here are a few of my favourites to include:  


Single Dumbell Chest Press (Option: On Swiss Ball)


Single dumbbell Shoulder press



Single dumbbell Three Point Row



Single Hand Seated Cable Row


Single Leg, Leg Press


Single Leg Dumbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts / Romanian Deadlifts / RDLs


TRX Pistol squats



Cable Wood Chops



REMEBER: Don’t perform any of these exercises if you’re unsure of how to perform them safely.  If you’re confident with these exercises then I’d recommend including these as part of your weekly training program.


Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (@MichaelD_PT