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 🙂
‘FITNESS CAPRI’ 3/4-length training pants in Turquoise and Black.
‘SUSIE’ TOP in Turqoise.
‘SUE’ TOP in pink.
‘LEA’ TOP in Black with Pink trim.
‘KATIE’ TOP in Orange.
‘DENISE’ SHORTS in Black and Pink.
‘DARLA’ TOP in Pink with Turquoise trim.
‘CSENGE’ TOP in Purple.
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
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!).
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!
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“.
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!
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.
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!
STEP A – TECHNIQUE:
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…
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…)