Posts tagged 'core strength'

PLAYING FOOTSIE ???

I’m a big fitness fashion junkie, and am especially a bit of a fiend when it comes to trainers (i’ll post a shot of my collection one day!). But aside from being spoilt for choice in terms of prints and colour, these humble gym-slippers also serve a far more functional purpose – to look after our poor old feet, knees and posture! Far too often, feet get neglected and suffer because of it. They work so hard for us every day, yet we pay very little attention to them – aside from the occasional indulgent pedicure. ‘Fashion over function’ doesn’t serve your long term interests with feet – if you exercise as regularly as I do, appropriate foot care is critical as the skin and bones are put under so much more stress. Above all, I think it’s worth paying extra attention to what kind of shoe you buy and for which occasion. A little gem that I’ve used for some time is ‘Runners Need‘ – they always have good descriptions, specs & reviews alongside the brand products, so I can be pretty sure that I’ll end up with the right shoe for the right purpose.

Another one I’ve recently stumbled across (no pun intended!) is Simply Feet. Due to an old knee-based running injury from a long time ago which flares up every now-and-again, I’ve been wearing ‘Rhythm shoes’ from Weil footwear recently. They’re super comfy – perfect for trekking around London – lightweight, breathable, with technical fabrics – but most importantly they’re podiatrist-designed, and feel like they support & stabilise my foot every step. Crucially for me, they don’t look like a piece of ugly medical technology; they look just as good as, for example, the Nike Lunarlon – my pair of Rhythm’s in the pictures here even have some coral pink girly detailing so I can coordinate them! If you have any back, heel, knee or leg pain when you run, or if you simply over-pronate, these relieve pressure & naturally re-align the foot.

I’m going to write a post on running socks too, as I think that completes the fitness-ready footcare regime! Keep your eyes open!

WEARING?? Nike Limitless Leggings, Bershka hooded waterproof jacket, Weil Rhythm Shoes in Silver / Coral, Mulberry ‘Henry’ gym bag. See all the pics from this shoot HERE.

Faya x

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MY CHEAT TREAT ???

I was recently invited to try out the Gym at London’s Corinthia Hotel, which recently opened at a reputed cost of £300m. Given that level of investment, I’d assumed the fitness facilities would be excellent, and unsurprisingly, I wasn’t disappointed. It’s invariably the largest and best equipped hotel gym I’ve been to, with an ample supply of soft fluffy towels and refrigerated bottled water on hand at a moment’s notice. Fantastic, great workout, good…

… But it’s not the gym that blew me away, unsurprisingly, since I spend most of my days in one! That was reserved, instead, for the Spa. Or more specifically, Espa Life at Corinthia. Living in a ‘never-sleeps’ buzzing city like London, it sometimes seems impossible to stop moving and take a deep breath. That’s never more apparent, I think, than when you go on holiday only to realise how exhausted you feel. But there are things you can do in the meantime to mask that dilapidation of the soul, and to ensure you don’t turn into a ball of stress and combust before you reach the beach!

Aside from the obvious – eating healthy, training regularly, sleeping well etc – spending a day at a spa is the ultimate indulgence for both man and woman! The mood is boosted by endorphin, dompamine and seratonin release, it promotes regeneration and healing, muscular relaxation as well as invigorating & energising, and expunging toxins in your body through the cycles of sweating and re-hydration. Plus it’s likely to make you sleep like a baby later that night! Espa Life is impossibly relaxing, blending outrageously ‘cool’ design (e.g. a sauna with no perceptible walls, sleek lines and fibre-optics) with all sorts of fabulous spa innovations, from heated-stone ‘anatomical loungers’ to effervescent ‘vitality pools’ and regenerative ‘sleep pods’. This hotel basically bisects Trafalgar Square and Embankment – both frantically stressful parts of the City – but you wouldn’t know that you within 500 miles of the nearest ‘Nelson’s Column’! The cavernous (but always intimate) 3,300 square meters of uber-luxurious spa space are spread over 4 floors (!!) which has to be verging on excessive indulgence! You can literally watch the stress receding.

Admittedly, maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle takes planning, dedication and hard work; the pay back is without a doubt worth it, but sometimes a little reward to pat yourself on the back isn’t just allowed; it’s compulsory. Many find that staging a ‘cheat day’ once a week is a great option to keep you on track, especially knowing you’ve earned yourself some extra chocolatey calories. But for me, given that I spent 1 hour in the gym and 3 at the spa, there can be no better treat than this place!

Faya x

SOME FITNESS FASHION ???


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Before you read on; boys, I’m sorry this is NOT a post for you. Girls; I’m a big follower of fitness fashion and always love to try out new brands, the latest discover being this new UK-based online fitness retailer – TrulyFit.co.uk.

They’ve only been around for a mere 4 months (making them just about as old as Fitness On Toast) but a browse through the website confirms that there’s a surprising proportion of clothes I’d actually consider buying & wearing at the gym! What I like about them is that they’re very feminine, figure-enhancing / supporting, and perfect for days when you just want to ‘pink-out’ & feel girly whilst training. If pink’s not your colour, there’s plenty in yellow, red and blue – like the top I’m wearing in the pictures above.

I now have my very own ‘Katie’ and ‘Susie’ tops and the ‘Fitness Capri’ pants, and can vouch for the fact that they are super comfy, technical and look great too. Also they don’t cost an arm and a leg, unlike many of the more stylised fitness clothing retailers in the UK. The colours range from bold pinks and turquoise to subtle tones of pinks and greys – all my favourites. Below are some of the ones on my wish list, with links attached if you feel like some retail therapy 🙂

Faya x

“IS THAT HOW YOU ROLL ???”

These days you’ll find ‘Foam Rollers’ in pretty much every gym, generally in the ‘stretching mats’ area. This is great news as it suggests we ‘exercising types’ are becoming more aware of the importance of taking time to stretch, which helps us to stay flexible and prevent injury (as you might remember from my previous post on stretching, here).

WHAT DOES IT DO & HOW DOES IT WORK ???
I had key-hole surgery on my knee a few years ago and my doctor recommended I use a foam roller, as it’s a fabulous tool in the physiotherapy industry – it massively helped my recovery by encouraging correct and supple muscular rebuild. By applying pressure using your own bodyweight on sore spots, it’s a kind of self-accu-pressure technique (self myofascial release) – or simply a nice self-massage! Manipulating the soft tissue will support and massage muscle groups whilst improving balance, stabilisation, flexibility and core strength. It’s a valuable part of any workout and I recommend incorporating it in a warmup (to help increase blood flow, and relieve muscle tightness to encourage better training) and likewise in a cool-down (to flush out toxins and help soften muscles for faster recovery).

They are available in different densities from relatively soft foam, to high-density rollers that are like granite. The more accomplished, athletic and muscular the user, the more dense the roller should be. Try out a few different ones and see which one’s for you. Work your way up from the softest as a beginner. If one of this blog’s goals is to share great tips that help you train smarter, this intermediate Foam Roller from Myprotein (which provides unlimited self-massage for under £15) comfortably ticks that box!!

HOW TO USE IT ???
This collection of pictures I shot in Regent’s Park below should help to demonstrate some of my favourite exercises with this training aid. Try to target the areas that are more tender, then roll them out to release & decrease some of the over-activity. It can be hard work and can even border on being painful or uncomfortable, much like stretching. It’s important to distinguish between a moderate level of discomfort and a discomfort that can lead to injury – your body will tell you this loud & clear! Below are just a handful of many exercises to try!

Wearing: Grey cotton leggings from H&M, white canvas Converse, MyProtein cotton woman’s hoodie in black

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SLEEP YOURSELF STRONGER !!!

Sleep

One of my favourite feelings in the world is collapsing into my bed, physically and mentally exhausted, knowing that I have a long, deep, deserving sleep ahead of me. But that’s not just lazy indulgence, as a good night’s sleep isn’t a passive activity, but rather, I think it’s just as actively valuable as regular exercise and quality nutrition. A good night’s sleep can improve overall health and make every aspect of the following day more productive. This post is my take on why and how sleep matters in your healthy lifestyle.

1) “WHY SHOULD I ???”
Getting the right quality and amount of sleep:
– Enhances muscular recovery by speeding-up protein synthesis,
– Restores and maintains mental alertness (by discharging the brain’s accumulated daily Adenosine build-ups),
– Releases Human Growth Hormone – 60% to 70% of daily HGH secretion takes place when you’re in early sleep, following which the deepest sleep cycles often occur! Poor quality sleep can negatively impact human growth hormone levels.
– Restore organs, bones, and tissue; replenishes immune cells; and circulates human growth hormone around the resting body.
– Vastly improves the quality of interaction with other people!

2) MY “SLEEP TIGHT” ETHOS…
‘Get more sleep’ is easily said, but I know a lot people who simply can’t fall asleep, and toss and turn for hours on end. For a while, that was me too, stuck in a catch 22 of feeling too tired during the day, going to bed too late and waking up too early in the morning, only to do it all over again. One way I tackled this was by working out on a regular basis which is proven not only to help you fall asleep, but also to improve the quality of that sleep. Every body is different, so it takes time to figure out what works best for you; I personally prefer a heavy workout early in the morning, a productive day, then a light ‘exercise’ in the late evening (e.g. a power walk which gives my body the final reminder of just how tired it really is!). I wouldn’t recommend doing an intense workout before bed as that energises the body instead of calming it. Afterwards, a relaxing warm bath (I add this lavender bath oil to unwind muscle fatigue) and a mint tea (try to avoid any caffeine or alcohol before sleep, as they’re stimulants). Other things that may help is avoiding oversleeping as it will interrupt your circadian system (‘body clock’), which in turn will set you off later when you need to fall asleep. I’d stay away from sleeping pills as much as possible as they cause the body to develop a dependency, and they don’t get to the root of the real problem anyway, but just mask the symptoms. There are stories of politicians surviving on 4 hours sleep a night, but frankly, that’s unhealthy for anyone in the long run. I’ve always felt 7 hours to be a minimum in order to maximise wellbeing during the day, and I regularly aim for 8 hours. Also a room that’s dark and not too hot helps too. Investing in the largest & highest-quality mattress the room will take can be life-changing, and even fun little apps like the Sleep Cycle alarm clock can help you sleep smarter too!

3) “…AND WHAT IF I DON’T ???”
Not getting enough / high-quality sleep:

– Weakens the immune system,
– Renders you less energetic which will lower the quality/intensity of a workout,
– Affects the concentration of sugar levels in your blood – they’re likely to become elevated, which can lead to development of a pre-diabetic condition,
– Slows the metabolism, leaving it harder to maintain or lose weight,
– Induces a sluggish sense,
– Can increase appetite (certainly does with me!),
– Makes you moody and loose the motivation to workout or do anything!

Hope that helps you to rest up, sleep well, and train harder!
Faya 🙂

INNOVATE TO MOTIVATE !!!

 
I had a wander in Harrods this weekend and came across this shiny fitness contraption, who’s proper name is the Technogym Kinesis

As an aside; to keep the motivation-factor high (and the boredom-factor low!), I love seeking out new fitness-related concepts, be it the latest equipment, a new ‘group exercise class’ or even some novel ‘superfood’ hitting the supermarket shelf! In short, innovation = motivation! However full-on your workout may be, sometimes we all need a bit of variation and inspiration, and regardless of how many years you’ve been training, there’s always something new to learn and take away from a different experience. I regularly have a look around the gym to see what other people are up to and whether there are any exercises I haven’t encountered – then I steal them if they’re any good!

Back to Harrods’ newest toy, the Kinesis. It’s the highest expression of designer gym furniture. It’s only 1sq metre in size. It’s fitted with three handgrips. It operates in total silence. It facilitates over 200 different exercises that target all muscle groups. There’s an electronic dial to gradually & precisely increase the resistance. Each arm has three pivots that the cable slides through, allowing smooth movement in all directions. I think that if I were to have one of these at home, I’d use it to build strength, increase flexibility and improve my posture – amongst many other applications. And all for just £8,980!!! Oh well, it was fun to play with!

ON YOUR BIKE, MATE !!!


1) WHY CYCLE ?
Cycling is one of my favourite ways to travel around as it not only gets me there, but I can do some bonus cardio training in the process. It burns calories (c. 120calories per mile), elevates the heart rate, lowers blood pressure, eases the risk of cardiovascular disease and it’s pretty soft on the environment too! Compared to running, which puts a lot of strain on the body (especially the knees), cycling is very low impact exercise and is kinder to your joints. It builds stamina and strength, with fewer injuries along the way. If you’re worried about losing precious muscle mass because of the cv, cycling actually develops muscle, especially in the lower body as power is generated by the quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, which will fuel additional calorie burn even after the journey has ended. It will also stimulate the production of HGH (human growth hormone), and remember, muscle burns more calories at rest than fat, so this is exercise that keeps giving!

2) THE BIKE ?
In the pic above, I’m on what I think is the Ferrari of bicycles; the sleek, curvaceous, sexy ‘Pinarello’ FPQuattro. This exceptionally serious road bike is built for speed, it’s ultra lightweight (the frame weighs a feather-light 1.1kg!), and has a carbon chassis honed in a wind tunnel to perfect the aerodynamics! I don’t own it, I was merely lent it for the day, but this is my idea of a dream bike!

3) THE ROUTE ?
These days there are so many gadgets to kit out your bicycle with. There’s the low-tech mudguards / mirrors / bags / bells / comfort-saddles… but I like the more high-tech functional stuff. The Garmin GPS is my way of keeping track of my routes. I think it has enhanced my cycling performance by making my training far more productive; it enables measurement of the heart rate, power, speed, altitude and even position in London’s cafes to remarkable accuracy. Not only will you know where you are but also exactly how far you’ve been or need to go; and you can race your ghost if it’s a regular route, which encourages progress! The GPS is route-tailored meaning it will select the right route for your specific training, e.g. endurance, long distance, hill rides etc. So in essence, I think it helps you to cycle smarter!

And once at home after a long relaxing, hot shower you can sit down with a cup of tea, download and analyse the data on your computer, and figure out exactly how to improve your performance for next time. You can even create an online profile and connect with the social media world to share and receive info, courses and routines etc. They’re not cheap, but I think they’ve revolutionised my cycling experience, and my ability to get a good workout from it!

4) THE COMMUNITY ?
Just as there are running clubs, so too are there cycling clubs! In the same way my motivation is boosted by doing a group class at the gym, it’s the same with cycling; find a cycle group in your local area and go for a trial session. Training in a group will improve your cycling giving you the tools and focus you need whether you’re looking to train in the lead up to an event/race or just for general fitness. I find it’s nice to have a deadline or goal in mind, so why not discover charity bike rides! A friend (and cycling-novice!) took part in her very first charity ride last year – London to Paris – and she absolutely loved it, describing ‘a massive sense of camaraderie’, and ‘feel good you just can’t beat!’ She did add it was a very intense 4days and added that you must, must prepare well ahead of time.

It’s dangerous on the roads, so maybe join an ‘advanced road safety’ group which teaches you how to stay safe in the mental London traffic! It also explains bike maintanence which is crucial for trips and newbees.

Cycle buddy links cyclists up with other cyclists in the same area for training rides or mountain biking. The website encourages you to log your ride to share routes and training experiences.

Happy cycling! Faya x

BARRY ON TOAST ?!?


Hot on the heels of being invited to the ‘Skinny Bitch Collective’ class, I also got the call to check out the newest London workout, straight from the United States – Barry’s Bootcamp. It’s a regime that’s tried and tested by the famous & glamorous, such as Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Kim Kardashian, Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Katie Holmes, not to mention personal trainer Jillian Michaels who’s been bringing all her ‘Biggest Loser’ contestants to Barry’s for years. What could all the fuss be about?

Based in north-west London on the Euston Road, the entrance to this bootcamp-themed space (think dog-tags, camouflage wallpaper, metal military details etc.) is guarded by a friendly receptionist, and flanked by a FUEL BAR that serves up some very tasty protein shakes indeed! The studio itself, which caters for c.40 people is seductively lit in red and blue, and is equipped with 20 Woodway treadmills, who’s treads are more like the caterpillar tracks on a Howitzer tank than the belt on your average gym treadmill! They’re made from rubber T-slats, which give extra cushioning whilst maintaining the natural bio-mechanics of your stride, and are a pleasure to run on (relatively speaking!).

Though there are about 10 ‘drill sergeants’ in Barry’s London ‘platoon’, my class is lead by the beautiful Icelandic personal trainer Heidi (pictured above) – a former IFBB figure-fitness champion! I expected this class to be tough; Heidi did not disappoint. The Barry’s workout combines strength and interval cardiovascular training, leaving minimum recovery time and maximum exertion. I’d say half the time, the class was on a treadmill (c.10 minutes at a time) and the rest of the time was spent on the floor, tackling strength training. It is remarkably demanding, and you take it to your own level, but the atmosphere (lighting, group, equipment, motivating trainer, military theme) spurs you on to the next level up.

1) WHY INTERVAL TRAINING?
As discussed in my previous post HIIT ME AGAIN interval training is the optimal cardiovascular training to achieve fat burn goals. By not sticking to the same pace for the entire cardio session (whereby the body  would otherwise go into a steady state and tries to conserve energy) HIIT shocks the body by introducing different intensities, maximising time and transforming it into a fat toasting 10minutes!!

2) WHY STRENGTH TRAINING?
I’m told that Barry’s always include strength training in the class. Today was a full body workout class, taking each exercise to failure with good form. There’s very little rest after each exercise, it is either followed by another exercise or some element of additional cardio, e.g. step ups. This keeps the heart rate elevated, gives the body hardly any time to think/get bored, or indeed to object. The additional bonus of not having much rest is that you burn even more calories – perfect for unwanted fat! And muscles burn c. 15 times as many calories as fat (even at rest) which increases your metabolism yet further!

3) THOUGHTS?
Ultimately, the class is exceptionally high-energy, utterly exhausting, satisfyingly endorphine-releasing, and doesn’t allow you time to think, moan or get bored. The equipment is incredibly well-invested (really superb treadmills) and the grouped format brings out a competitive nature, encouraging you to push through those sickeningly tough sprints! Try it out!

Click here for some photos & explanations of what my Barry’s Bootcamp session involved.

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SNACK ON THIS !!!



It’s cold and wet outside and 
if all you want to do is snack – at least graze on something healthy!! Part of my daily goal is healthy snacking, so here is my recipe for heart-healthy ‘Protein Cookies’. These cookies are the ultimate snack for the working day – full of protein (c. 15g per 50g cookie), low in carbohydrates, and the mild sweetness comes from natural fruits and a couple of spoons of immune-boosting Manuka honey. I’d suggest taking two generous protein cookies to work with you, eating one between breakfast and lunch and the other towards the end of the day when you are ready to give in to the vending machine! The four different flavours I make are apple, carrot, banana and peanut. I usually add pecan nuts, raisins and flaxseed to all four different cookies to give them a bit of crunchiness, and to release sustained energy. Experiment and use your own favourite nuts and seeds! I personally LOVE flaxseed (aka linseed), and try to use it in/on almost everything – in my uber-muesli, sprinkled on salads, soups, and broths. It’s one of the richest sources of the fatty acid Omega 3 (c.7.2g per 30g) – it boosts heart health, it reduces inflammation throughout the body, the joints and in the blood vessels. There’s also a school of thinking that suggests omega-3 may help lift depression and ease rheumatoid arthritis. Since the body does not naturally produce omega 3 fatty acid this is such an easy way to make sure you get enough of it on a daily basis. 
 
To get my ingredients, which are all fairly specialist, I usually buy online; the Pea Protein powder is from a relatively new company called Pulsin’, the Flaxseed I use is made by Linwoods, and the Manuka Factor-25 Honey is by Pure Gold. Have a browse, see what other healthy ingredients you think might work in your cookie; you can shop by goal at GNC, here. Make your mid-work snack fun! Here are the instructions: