Posts tagged 'core strength'

A SKINNY *WHAT* … ???

Sometimes it’s hard to motivate yourself to go to the gym solo, especially in these cold winter months. When I feel like that, I go along to group classes, to up the motivation-factor! This week, I was invited to an all-singing, all-dancing, all-sweating, all-girl fitness class in London’s West End. With a catchy, cheeky name like The Skinny Bitch Collective how could I decline?! The class was held just off Baker Street, and is led weekly by the founder, Russell Bateman. Under his enthusiastic guidance (and stern yelling!) all ten girls had to put in 110% to keep up with this very demanding routine. The class is basically an intense metabolic workout including some unusual ‘primal movements’, and is set to classic Ibiza house mixes, which marks the aim and tone of the session!

Here are just 6 of these primal movements included in the ‘Skinny Bitch’ session – they definitely got my poor legs bitchin’!!

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SHAKE THINGS UP !!!

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Be inventive and make your own protein powder recipes! But rather than some horrific chemical-tasting ‘banana’ concoction, why not try adding almonds, oats, chia seeds, hemp seeds, frozen or fresh blueberries, blackberries and plain yogurt to thicken the texture, diversify the flavour and inject some nutrients! In this post, I run through my two personal favourite protein recipes. They’re a great way to start the day, a strong boost before/during a workout, as well as an excellent reload after a tough session!

WHY PROTEIN?
Protein enables so many vital functions in our bodies; it helps to regulate hormones (e.g. insulin to control blood glucose levels), maintains and repairs the body, regulates enzyme release (including that for digestion), and stimulates antibody production and muscle growth, to name just a few. In that light, it’s worth making sure you’re consuming not only the the right amount but also the correct quality of protein on a daily basis. If you’re a veggie it’s worth taking particular care to ensure you have enough ‘complete proteins’ in your diet (most plants are incomplete proteins meaning one or more of the essential amino acids are missing). One way to tackle this is to combine certain plants as they aren’t missing the same amino acids, and thereby forming a complete protein (such as beans, lentils, grains, nuts & seeds). If you’re not a veggie, then apart from what I just mentioned, then meat, dairy and eggs are the obvious sources of protein. A foodstuff will never be absolutely pure protein, so check into the quality quantity and saturated fat content of the product.

HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
Your daily protein requirement will depend upon your body weight and lifestyle, upon how active you are, and upon what type of training goals you have. Training puts the body under an increased amount of stress, following which it’s in need of repair and recovery. Almost all muscle growth takes place outside the gym (especially whilst you’re sleeping) and depends upon what and how much nutrition you provide your body with to initiate muscular repair. This is the time to ‘up’ the protein intake. I often get healthy stuff from the store next to my gym, Holland and Barrett. They have a vast selection of protein powders and offer good deals with things like their penny sale (buy one, get another for a penny). I do want to emphasise that these powders are supplements, meaning they are additive to an already existing complete and healthy diet – they are not replacements for meals! There is no precise science, but typically, nutritionists will calculate the min. daily protein requirement by taking your body weight in kg and multiplying that by 0.8 (if lbs, it’s x 0.37). The number you get is the number of grams of protein you should be eating as the daily minimum. So if I weigh 55kg, I should be consuming a minimum of 44grams of protein every day.

See my two favourite protein powder recipes here!

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HIIT ME AGAIN !!!

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What a stunning day it was in sunny London – to celebrate it, I did a high intensity interval training (HIIT) session this morning in lovely Primrose Hill, which almost killed me! This workout is not for the faint-of-heart (literally). It involves alternating between intense bursts of activity and relatively relaxed action – the constant motion keeps your heart rate elevated. You set the level, but the main point is that you push into the anaerobic zone. Listen to your body; if you haven’t trained for a while you may find that your interval training may be alternating between power walking and jogging. Others will sprint and run. Finding your level and then slightly exceeding it is the whole point of HIIT for me.

Why HIIT?
If you’re bored of endlessly running on a treadmill HIIT is for you! 15 minutes is all you need – it’s time efficient, burns more calories in a shorter amount of time, maintains muscle whilst toasting fat, and it stimulates the production of human growth hormone (HGH) which increases calorie burn even further! You don’t even need a gym membership because it can literally be done anywhere and doesn’t require any equipment. Finally if you’re looking for a challenge this heart-healthy session will push you into the dreaded anaerobic zone leaving you huffing and puffing (probably not for more!).

My Workout:
I did a sprint up the (steep) hill followed by a super light jog back down the hill. I did 8 rounds which took c 15min. That was c. 30 sec up the hill, and then 60sec down the hill. The last bit of the hill getting up is definitely the worst!! I would love to hear what you guys think about in those seconds when all you want to do is give up. For me, it’s cupcakes!

Motivation?
One thing that really gets me going is listening to awesome music. I’m really loving Disclosure at the moment especially the songs “What’s in your head“, “Running” and “Latch“.

Wearing?
Check out this extremely fluorescent H&M pink top I’m wearing. I think it’s quite fun, great value and plus when else can you get away with wearing Barbie pink ?! Also, H&M running tights looks fitted, feel comfortable and breathable, and won’t break the bank too!

FIND YOUR LEGS !!!

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I see it all the time – guys in the gym who have colossally sculpted upper bodies and miniature chicken-legs. Not only does this look absolutely ridiculous (no symmetry whatsoever), but failing to train your legs is a physiological mistake. Yes it’s true that the glutes are the largest muscle in the body, but being the largest muscle group in the body, skipping over your legs just won’t do! I’m not going to talk about the muscles you train in this post, rather my reasons for training them in the first place:

1) Aside from the cosmetic reason of creating body-symmetry, legs are worth keeping conditioned (something your body will thank you for as it matures). Strength training of the legs stimulates bone re-calcification, enhances tendon and ligament durability and improves overall joint strengthening.
2) Larger muscles boost the metabolism and burn more calories, so legs therefore can potentially burn the highest number of calories at rest. Most serious bodybuilders seem to believe that a 30min leg session will burn anywhere from 500-1000 calories depending on intensity (that’s 25-50% of your recommended daily calorie intake!). Also, a lot of cardiovascular exercise involves using your legs so by increasing strength and/or size, you’ll help fuel your workouts while burning more calories too!!
3) Being the largest muscle group in the body, training your legs encourages the release of natural testosterone and other growth hormones, promoting overall strength and mass throughout your whole body, not just the legs.
4) And finally it’s good to keep your body guessing. By training your legs, it’ll add yet another important variation to your regime, stimulating optimal muscle adaptation and growth.

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Click here for photos and descriptions for part of the leg session I did earlier today… Faya x

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FATIGUE MUSCLES WITHOUT WEIGHTS ?!?

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I trained on sunny Primrose Hill today (click here to see the pics)! If like me, you love the outdoors & don’t always feel like going to the gym – but still want a proper workout – first consider the following 3 different training techniques, and then check out my suggested routine to put the techniques to use, which requires no weights!
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STEP A – TECHNIQUE:
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1) CONCENTRIC CONTRACTIONS: A concentric contraction takes place when a muscle contracts, develops tension and shortens. When you stand up, the quadriceps shorten and contract – this is concentric activity.
2) ECCENTRIC CONTRACTIONS: Now sit back down; that’s an eccentric contraction (the opposite), when a muscle contracts, develops tension and lengthens. This eccentric phase is often forgotten in training, because people put a lot of effort into lifting a weight, but just let gravity do the work when lowering the weight. By embracing eccentric activity, you can transform your set, and get so much more out of it.
3) STATIC CONTRACTIONS: Static contractions (also called isometric contraction) are when a muscle contracts, develops tension but the muscle length doesn’t change. For example, sit-up, if you stop half way point and stay in that position, then only static contractions will take place in the abs – you’ll feel fatigue setting in, but there will be no lengthening/shortening.
Combining all three of the above is the park-workout holy grail! Click ‘more‘ for my suggested routine…

SNOW BIGGIE, JUST RUN !!!

All the magazines I read try to sell me aspirational premium sportswear, which is great, but sometimes I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg on a new training look. With that in mind, I’m loving H&M’s new sporty range at the moment!

In all the pics below, I’m wearing a new pair of Hennes ‘sports tights’ as they call them. Printed-pattern pants continue to be a huge trend this spring/summer. These tights come with an elasticated waist, they are super comfy, functional, breathable, and have a funky jungle print (!!). Best of all, they’re just £15 (!).

And yes, it’s minus 3 degrees and snowy in London this morning but this jogger (me), to her surprise isn’t feeling cold at all – rather refreshed and very awake! A run in the snow is twice as peaceful, especially on this picturesque 4.5 mile route around the Maida vale canal – lovely! http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5795165

See all the pics here… Faya x

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DOES MY TUM LOOK BIG IN THIS ???

Ab workout by the pond at Regent’s Park – throw on a hoodie, no excuses and no membership required!

One of my clients’ most frequent questions is how to get the illustrious ‘six pack’. There are of course health benefits to training the abdominal area (reduces risk of lower back pain, promotes improved posture etc.), but when it comes to ‘abs’, health seems secondary to cosmetics! First, if the stomach isn’t flat, there’s likely too much fat being stored; sit-up after sit-up won’t help, as they burn fewer calories vs. proper cardio. ‘Spot training’ simply doesn’t work for this.

The solution is genuinely simple – reduce body fat by increasing activity, whilst controlling calorie intake – abs then will begin to show definition of their own accord. Exercises can improve the shape and bulk of the muscles, but they won’t show unless the fat layer goes first. To do that, above all, engage and work the transversus abdominal muscle, which acts as a muscular corset connecting the upper and lower body, holding in the waist. Try to hit the stomach muscles from all angles. Here’s a 3-point attack plan, with photos! …. (more…)

FEELING STRETCHED ???

WHY STRETCH ?

Alot of my clients don’t (at first) think they need to stretch. Some don’t see the value. Some think they should be lifting something instead, or running somewhere. Some think they’ll (embarrassingly) never be able to reach their toes! BUT by stretching for a few minutes, you will see and feel the benefits. Here are  just 6 (of many) reasons why I consider it vitally important to stretch, in no particular order!

1) Reduces your risk of injury drastically, and keeps you mobile as your body matures.
2) Improves your flexibility, by increasing the range of motion of a joint by stretching out the surrounding soft tissue (i.e. muscles tendons & ligaments)
3) Speeds muscle recovery – after an intense workout, the muscles remain in a partially-contracted state, and by not stretching afterwards, you will feel stiff and sore for longer. Stretching relaxes, elongates and softens the muscles which is important for both strength and endurance training.
4) Creates correct muscle balance – failing to stretch regularly after workouts can lead to problems with posture, & muscle imbalance. Consider someone who sits at a desk for 10 hours everyday, some of his / her muscles will naturally become tighter, others weaker. For example, the hip flexors will be in a mildly contracted state whilst seated, and after a while the hip flexor can tilt the pelvis forward, causing the spine to round, which leads to pack pain. So even if you’re not working out, stretching out the pelvis, hip flexor, back, neck and shoulders for a few minutes every day, will help your body stay conditioned.
5) Improves balance – by increasing the range of motion in joints, it gives the body one fewer reason to impede itself and fall over, as stretching encourages uninhibited movement.
6) Muscular growth – The fascia (fibrous tissue) surrounding muscles is said to limit the amount of space muscles have to grow. By stretching a muscle under a resistance, you can encourage further muscular growth (hypertrophy). Be aware though, Extreme Fascial Stretching (for muscle growth) is very stressful to muscular tissue and can cause injury if not practised properly.

TYPES OF STRETCHING ?

1) PRE WORKOUT ? Dynamic Stretching – always warm up for c. 5 minutes before stretching, making sure the muscles are actively prepared, and then perform dynamic stretches, which effectively means ‘stretching whilst moving’. These stretches should only be held for 3-10 seconds each. Some examples are walking lunges, lunging and reaching, power skipping, knee hugs, quad walks etc.
2) POST WORKOUT ? Static Stretching – these are slow and constant, and each stretch is usually held for 10-30 seconds, during which you’ll consider them mildly uncomfortable. Sometimes they’ll be passive, as someone stretches you out whilst your body relaxes. You should avoid bouncing whilst holding your static stretch, as it can risk tearing muscular fibre. These stretches aren’t designed to make you sweat, rather to lengthen/relax the muscle spindles.

Stretch safe, here are some pics of me having a stretch! Faya x

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SKIPPING – NOT JUST FOR GIRLS !!!

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WHY TO SKIP? Skipping (or ‘jump rope’ in America) is a fantastic way to get fit! 20 minutes of intense skipping can burn 4-500 calories, not to mention the thermogenic after-effects that keep you burning calories all day! Walk into a boxing gym and it’s almost certain that all the boxers there skip – it’s not just for girls! It improves footwork, speed, coordination, stamina, agility, and it strengthens the muscles in your legs as well as your abdominal, back, chest, arms and shoulders muscles. Also it’s relatively low impact on the joints, yet high intensity, which gives a fabulous cardio workout that’s less dangerous and surely less strenuous than running.

HOW TO SKIP?  Beginners, have patience. Skipping is not something you learn the first time so don’t give up in frustration after 5 minutes – stick with it!  If you’re new to skipping, view it as a skill to learn before using it as a tool for conditioning. Once you have learned the skill you can start using it as a full-on workout! I suggest kicking off with frequent ’20-second-then-10-second-break’ skip sessions and extend the duration from there. It helps to practice in front of a mirror, viewed front and side-on. Start with the rope behind you, arms relaxed at your sides and rope on the ground. Use your wrist to turn the rope, keeping the rest of your arms as motionless as possible. As the rope approaches your feet jump lightly (from your toes) over the rope. Stay on the balls of your feet when you jump. Keep your knees slightly bent all along. It’ll feel unnatural at the start, but with a little practise, the technique will come!

WHERE TO SKIP? I recommend a shock absorbing surface – a sprung wooden floor, a gym mat, an outdoor track, or a tennis court. Theses surfaces are kinder to your ankles and feet.

WHAT ROPE TO GET? You’re spoilt for choice! Popular ropes include the speed rope, the digital rope and weighted rope. (Whatever you get make sure the length is correct. The way to measure it is to stand in the middle of the rope, & the handles should come up to your waist, lower ribs – if it reaches your shoulders it’s too long.)

a) The Speed rope: As the name suggests it’s lightweight and great for speed, great for warm ups, it’s cheap, light to carry around, but can make it harder for advanced foot work as it’s unweighted.
b) The digital rope: Through the magic of technology, it enables you to estimate the distance, revolutions of the rope and the amount of calories burnt. It’s similar to the speed rope in the way it’s so light, & therefore harder to do advanced foot work.
c) The weighted Rope:  Weighted handles are great for wrist, forearm and triceps strength.
d) Personal Favourite? I recommend the Nike weighted jump rope – it’s a bit heavier than most speed ropes & it’s great for more complicated foot work. It’s slightly more expensive, but worth the investment I think!

Good luck! Faya x

HIDE UNDER A HAT !!!


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No time to shower after a workout? Need to pick up something at the supermarket? Feel like hiding? Caps are cute and perfect for hiding, and I find the block black and white ones are great as they go with everything in my training wardrobe!

Whilst a cap is a small thing, it’s part of a bigger theory on gym attire; I think it’s worth getting a few key outfits for the gym, including accessories and footwear. It encourages you to go to the gym more, because you’re not going to feel motivated to train whilst putting on a smelly old t-shirt. It’s not a catwalk but you are allowed to look good at the gym, and dedicated training gear can be designed to enhance your performance (e.g. oxygenating, breathable fabrics etc.)! I’ll be posting new gym kit on here…

Back to the cap? I Went to Barcelona a while ago and bought this cap from the Gaudi museum, I think it’s rather fun as it has an F on it (stands for Fitnessontoast, obviously)! These extra photos where taken on the roof spa/gym complex of my hotel.

Happy shopping this weekend, hope you find a great training cap 🙂 Faya x
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