You Don’t Have to be Fast to be Fit

By Rick Ashworth Sports Science MSc

 

Evening television is awful and if ever there was a reason to do some exercise then you know you’re not going to be missing much by going to the gym, out for an easy jog or just an impromptu walk with the dog, it’s getting lighter so why not make use of it?Unknown

 

That said, my wife and I opted for Netflix and, after a bit of boxset-surfing (because, come on, who doesn’t?), we settled on a film called From Fat to Finish Line about a group of, once, overweight Americans running the Ragnar relay race from Miami to Key West (where else would want you want do it?). It’s a combined distance of 200 miles but each one of ten runners completes three legs across the 48hr time limit.

 

The reason I write about this two-fold. The first being that each participant in the Fat to Finish team of ten had lost an average of about 100lbs prior to starting the race (that’s getting on for about seven stone).  Whilst it didn’t specify how long each member had taken to lose the weight, it was made clear in one-to-one interviews that they had all followed a similar long-term goal rather than diving into crash-dieting or whatever the latest fad was.  I was impressed with their attitude and resilience.

 

Eating, much like anything else, is all about making good choices. All those in the film discussed how they reset what was normal as they became heavier and heavier and began to accept themselves as always being this new size.  One stated how she couldn’t jog down the street as her son learned to ride a bicycle so she asked a friend to help whilst she sat and watched.  It was only the feeling of shame she felt in herself that made her change.  Another couple noticed how they were out of breath climbing the stairs and instead of doing something about it they just accepted that it was how they were now. Then, for various reasons, they took the first step, quite literally.

 

They all said they were scared of the new lifestyle awaiting them at the start. They were scared of going to a gym, scared that people would be looking at them and judging them for being overweight as they jogged down the street, put on their swimwear or pushed a weight.  They struggled to see how they would be able to continue with their new lifestyle and diet in the long-term, which brings me to point two.

 

They said they were worried about putting trust in those around them by telling them what they were trying and how that initial support from their spouses and friends would work; and how to sit in front of a trainer and open themselves up to a stranger, whether they were there to help or not.

 

What I liked most was how they all dealt with one small change at a time and progressed from there. No one was on a fad diet and they were all making small changes overtime and all reaped the rewards.  One of the team said they had started by simply cutting down on the amount of ‘soda’ they were drinking and once that was under control they cut down on the amount of bread and similar products (pastries, pies and the like) and so forth over months and years and had lost over eight stone. They identified the fact that it had taken them years to put on the weight and it was not going to be stripped off in days or weeks. Yes, it took them years and, yes, if you’re in that overweight position you doubtless want it to come off fast but patience and sticking to the short-term goals was what worked.

 

All good research states that a small adjustment here and there and sticking to short-term goals brings lasting results.  In healthy, long-term, weight-loss it is always the case of the tortoise beating the hare.

 

The group came together to run the Ragnar and, with a few difficulties along the 200 mile route, they achieved their aim and supported each other throughout, which is the most important take home message of the film. They all ran three times, competing between 3-10 miles on each attempt, only a small distance for the length of race but together they completed a run that would have been impossible by themselves. Group support is the best way of sticking to your aims, it keeps you on course when you’re wavering and ‘super-praise’ is far more likely to bring results than keeping it all to yourself.

 

If you’re aiming to lose weight and get healthier this year then that should be your aim, support and continual small steps toward your overall goal. Join a club, enlist a trainer, get fit and eat right with your friends and family. Don’t worry about failing, you’re not trying to be the healthiest person on the planet and you are definitely not looking for perfection. You’ll struggle from time-to-time but if you regularly hit small and easy targets you’ll be making progress and that small progress will develop into greater and greater success.

 

You don’t have to run a 200-mile race when you’ve reached your goals but make sure to celebrate how far you’ve have come.

Massive Middle-Age Masses

Massive Middle-Age Masses

You’ve 20 Years of Life Left, What are you Going to do with Yours?

By Rick Ashworth MSc and type-1 Diabetic

If you’re over about 35 years of age then it’s best not to waste anymore time, according to current research you’ve potentially only got another 20 years left.

Over the next page I’m going to quickly try to condense the latest findings and explain why the middle-aged are attempting to bring elasticated trousers back into mainstream fashion.

Current trends state (and bare in mind that these trends have become continuously worse over the past couple of decades and will keep doing so unless some sort of personal responsibility is taken) that more than two million people reaching 65 years-of-age within the next twenty years will suffer from four (4) ‘serious’ illnesses. The illnesses go by the names of cancer, type-2 diabetes, dementia and heart disease as well as arthritis, which is most often caused by excessive weight through the joints.images

So, just a quick recap at this point, if you’re aged 45+ then by the time you’re 65 the Office of National Statistics (as of Feb. 2016) gives you just over a 12% chance of getting all four illnesses (1 in 5 of getting all four). That’s not just type-2 diabetes but cancer, heart disease and dementia together. Not only will you be getting chemotherapy, radiotherapy and be on a diet of vegetables but you won’t know you are – is that an upside?

Just in case you’re seriously doing the math, no, no it isn’t.

What this essentially boils down to is that those of us currently in middle-age (around the age of 40 or later) need to stop putting off going to the gym or thinking that one more biscuit won’t do any harm and put down the biscuit barrel (actually, just thrown the bloody barrel away and don’t buy anymore sodding biscuits) until your waist line is at a bare minimum 32” for a woman and 37” for a bloke. Don’t think you’ll be fine – the thought is irresponsible at best and fucking stupid otherwise!

I know this next comment comes with a ‘who cares’ attitude but the NHS is crippled and it’s only going to get worse if you get any of those illnesses in this timeframe you’ll be getting treated in the car park – the corridor will be a joyous blessing, especially if you’ve done sod all to help yourself in the meantime?

I appreciate that losing weight is hard but it doesn’t stop you doing some exercise, just move! Lying on a bench to do a chest press or sitting down for the leg press requires no cardiovascular ability what-so-ever but will increase you’re lean muscle mass, which will help with weight loss and body image and is, therefore, a huge positive in getting healthier. Also, simple light exercise like walking to the shops is a fantastic start and, these days, swapping to an americano rather than a triple chocolate, caramel latte with fudge sprinkles counts too…it really does.

This research has not just been dreamed up, it’s in the journal Age and Aging, conducted on 300,000 people over 35 years of age and by the time they reach 65 they will have (at a minimum) over a 50% chance of contracting two of the serious illnesses listed and they can kiss goodbye to all the optimism about life expectancy getting longer; believe it, it ain’t gonna happen.

The thing that strikes me most is that those in middle-age now have less than a 50% chance of being able to play with their grandchildren. To me it’s not about personal responsibility but, honestly, most will struggle to walk around the park, many will need support to get out of their own homes and, for some, they won’t even be able to remember their grandchildren’s names. Tell me that a better diet and some exercise isn’t worth that or can you put off until tomorrow.

Running To Barcelona

My Journey on foot from Wilmslow, Cheshire to Las Ramblas, Barcelona (well, sort of)

By Rick Ashworth MSc and Ultra-runner

Week 1

Idly passing the time away on the sofa during the Christmas break looking at training goals for the year, I fell upon the endurance training app Strava and their challenge of running 1,000 miles within the year. A quick bit of mental calculation and I decided that 30 miles-a-week was potentially possible; a quick check on the calculator and I decided that running a little under 20 miles-a-week was even better. Whilst on the site, I checked my stats for 2017 and was confident that the 133.5 miles I’d run in total last year would set me up well (one of those runs 50 miles on the Lakeland 50 so, basically, I was averaging out at a less than impressive 1.6 miles-per-week). I had a feeling that a touch more motivation was necessary. Unknown

Therefore, calling myself an ultra-runner was a little bit grandiose but then but I had completed an ultra-marathon last year, and finished in the top 10% in so doing, so perhaps I wasn’t quite so far off [if you’re not in fits of laughter and wondering quite what the hell I’m doing, yet, then it must take a bit to make you crack]?

I promised myself a run on the first day of the year to get off on the right foot, so to speak, and get that motivation moving; I only really wanted to unzip the tent at base camp and take a slight peak at the snow on the top but I do like a good sleeping bag. So, I didn’t drink more than a couple glasses of champagne leading up to the fireworks and I got my head down shortly after and was even greeted by sunshine in the morning! It was all set up for the flying start I’d wished for. I laced up my trainers, opened the front door…and took the dog out for a good long walk before spending most of the day watching football and saying: ‘I’ll head out in a bit’.

That ‘bit’ turned out to be Wednesday afternoon just as it was getting dark and my calculation of needing to do 20 miles-a-week that seemed so ‘do-able’ was suddenly looking more like 20 miles in four days and 1,000 miles in about 20 months, which isn’t quite the challenge.

Trainers on and a road run commenced in a flattering fluorescent yellow jacket due to the failing light. Eight miles later and at a good pace I was feeling happy; I’d taken it easy and got over the rolling roads and back home in about 50 mins – only 992 miles left.

I stretched, sat down on the sofa and promptly fell asleep. I have a feeling that this is what qualifies as recovery in your forties, not a easy bike ride, swim or walk back when I was nearly a good competitive triathlete. However, upon waking and out of curiosity, I decided to find where 1,000 miles of actual running would take me.

I bit of trawling around a popular mapping app and my course was set: starting in Wilmslow, down to St. Albans, through London and onto Brighton, across the English Channel to Paris, Vichy,

Toulouse, Carcassonne, through Andorra and on to Perpignan before the finish in Barcelona and I’d managed to tac-on an extra 93 miles to do it but with a generous amount of culture too (because, you know, there needs to be something to take in when you’re running on the same roads time-and-again and pretending to be in the Andorran mountains…?).

I was all set, all I needed to do was get out there and plod my way through Southern Cheshire and not mention about the next morning when I wondered whether I’d ever be able to walk again. I’d forgotten the pain and stiffness that a long run can cause, my thoughts on what constitutes a long run had quickly been altered but after using the banister to help me downstairs some movement was possible without looking like an extra from a low-budget zombie horror.

I scheduled the next run for Friday and despite my legs still doing their best impression of 2-by-4s I duly knocked off a 3 miler and as the weather forecast for Sunday was dry and bright but rather icy I cancelled my usual bike ride and decided on another ‘long run’ to catch up the 10 miles I was currently short.

At this point you can pretty much refer back to New Year’s Day except you can add a couple of beers and several glasses of wine to the previous evening and me not getting out of bed until getting on for 10am, not a good start but after breakfast and a dog walk it was still only early afternoon and the day was looking beautiful. So beautiful in fact that I wrapped myself up warm, mentally prepared and spent the next hour slipping between sleep and the FA Cup 3rd round on the BBC.

Week One distance achieved – approximately 11 miles

Distance to Barcelona – approximately 1,082 miles

Virtual Location – Just north of Bosley, Cheshire on the A523

Find Your One Thing

Back in 1991 it took Billy Crystal a rather tough cattle-drive holiday to the American southwest and a somewhat terrifying discussion with the trail boss, Curly, to eventually discover what his one thing was.blog

However, I haven’t written this post with the aim of helping to find the meaning of life but rather to find the one thing that might help getting into better shape as ‘normal-life’ returns after the summer holidays.

Diets. Nobody really likes diets and nobody really commits to them properly either, the proof being the plethora of contradicting guidance repeated over and over every new year and as each summer is just about to arrive. Surely, there’s not anybody out there who doesn’t appreciate that sugar is bad, alcohol’s not great and fast food should be avoided?

So what’s my advice? Don’t diet. Start with one thing.

We already know the problems with what we’re eating or drinking so what’s the point in making a long list of everything that should be cut out? Simply, look at what you’re eating and drinking and eliminate (or at the very least, cut down on) the unhealthiest part of your current dietary intake: takeaways, weekend binge-drinking, weekday glasses of wine, daily chocolate bars…we know them, there are plenty more.

If you drink just one large glass of red wine each weekday evening you’re adding approximately 1,000kCal to your weekly intake (800kCal if you stick to white); it’s even more calories if you’re a chocolate bar fiend and, probably, more still if you eat takeaways rather than cooking at home.

Take just a moment to think and endeavour to cut that one thing from your diet to help manage your weight and overall health better after the summer holiday excess.

Just one thing and take it from there.

Join the Glu-tan Clan

By Rick Ashworth – MSc Applied Sports Science

Now that we’re well into the year it is hoped that you’re all making decent headway towards the health and fitness goals that you identified at the start of the year; you don’t need to have succeeded completely yet and, if you did, then you should have altered your goals to help continue your progress to a fitter and healthier you.Unknown

However, if you’re a bit like me you might have seen your strength and speed improve a little but your weight remaining exactly the same regardless of training volume and intensity so, clearly, it’s my diet that’s at fault or, most likely, my inability to stop snacking as I wait for dinner to cook!

Admittedly, I don’t want to eat so little that my power and strength suffer but a few kilos lighter could see a dramatic improvement in my speed and endurance. Also, I think I might have a slight gluten intolerance and, should I want for another reason, I have been led to believe that cutting out gluten can also help to improve my hay-fever and that’s got to be a good thing as the weather begins to turn (it’s a slow process I appreciate but I’m forever hopeful – still talking about the weather here).

Of course, as far as gluten is concerned, I’ve read about Novak Djokovic putting his great athleticism down to a gluten-free diet but as an amateur athlete who likes his wheat (bread, biscuits, chocolate and even Soreen!) how much of a difference can it really make?

Well, I have decided that there’s only one surefire way of finding out. From the end of this week I’m cutting out bread, the small lotus biscuit I enjoy so much with my multiple coffees, gone is granola and muesli, no more of my mother’s gorgeous fruit loaf, no, the only concession I’m taking is to keep my two pints-a-week on a Friday night and being diabetic, if my blood sugar is crashing during training then I might allow myself something sweet, otherwise, I’m going to do my absolute damnedest to remove all traces of wheat, rye and barley from my diary for at least six weeks – long enough to see what the effects might be.

To succeed I’m going to have to follow a few simple rules and if you want to give this a go then this is what you’ll need to do too:

 

  1. Check the label. I’m hopeful that you do this anyway, checking calories per 100g rather than per serving, looking at added sugar and carbohydrate totals but, now, all allergen information too. This will be on the ingredients list in bold by law. Wheat, rye and barley will be highlighted for you and they will usually be one of the first ingredients listed down to the quantities used but a quick scan will show you whether the product is a yes or a no.

 

  1. Use the 12th Man. Taking a meaningful look at the packaging of your favourite food will probably bring you out in a cold sweat, yep, there’s a lot of wheat in there and if not then the other two will more than likely rise up in its place. However, though it’s a bit more time consuming you can shop around or even bake things yourself with gluten-free substitutes like gluten-free flour that can be found in many supermarkets (in fact most have an area dedicated to gluten free food these days). Gluten-free did use to mean swapping lovely, nutty, granary bread for a sheet of cardboard but there is far more variety and many more suppliers who have taken the time to create good tasting gluten-free foods and ingredients and you don’t even need to be gluten-free to try!

 

  1. Paleo? Settle your heart rate down and remember that fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, and a large number of diary products are all gluten-free. You can quite comfortably make a full meal, dessert and snacks out of the food just listed so going gluten-free is hardly like putting your head in the noose. Just don’t go with breaded fish or hams and other such altered meats, fish and poultry.

 

  1. Grape & Grain. Basically, beer is out (yes, I know that I’m cheating but it’s only two pints-a-week, give me a break…). However, wine, spirits and cider are all in and there are gluten-free beers out there too if you’re prepared to dig them out. Let’s face it, six weeks without beer is hardly a long time and you’ll soon realise if it’s the booze that’s preventing those pounds from shifting.

 

On a different note, bulgar wheat might be popping up in a variety of celebrity diets at the minute but to be gluten-free you need to set that aside and go with quinoa, polenta or millet (to name but a few of the gluten-free grains available). Rice noodles, too, are fine as is normal rice in place of pasta and if you really can’t cope without spaghetti bolognese then buckwheat noodles can be used instead.

 

  1. It might sound ridiculous but a great many sauces contain wheat flour (Soy sauce being one of them). Always check the label on pasta sauces, gravies, stocks and general condiments. You could make your own sauces and thicken them with cornflour if needed?

 

Those five are really the only things you need to think about if you want to try going gluten-free. If you’re Coeliac on-the-other-hand then you need to make sure there is no factory cross-contamination and you might need to be a little more creative in the kitchen but to just try a slightly different outlook on your diet and see what happens to your weight, body composition and energy by cutting out wheat, rye and barley then just follow the above steps and see what happens? I’m not offering any magic success to health just another way of trying; stuffing your face on a gluten-free diet can still make you put weight on but it does strip a fair few calorific foods from your diet.

I’ll let you know how it goes…if only a could tolerate cider (it’s not an allergy just a dislike)…

As a final afterword, for the vast, vast, vast majority of people eating gluten will make absolutely no difference. Your body is perfectly capable of processing the gluten protein and, indeed, I’ve lived for forty years without really thinking too much beyond calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fat and if you can do that then you’ll have a decent understanding of what you’re eating and why your body looks the way it does. However, for some (a seemingly larger percentage of the population than originally thought), a mild gluten intolerance can promote (in no particular order): bloating, skin rash, constipation and fatigue after eating. Don’t take my word for it, I’m not a doctor and, really, you need to eliminate gluten totally for about a month and then reintroduce it and see what happens but even a month might be far too short a timeframe but it’ll give you an indication or whether you’re feeling better off gluten than on.

Don’t Feed the Tree

By Rick Ashworth – MSc Applied Sports Science

Is your vision being obscured by the very thing you’re trying to get away from? A huge reason for many of us never making that transition from dream to reality is what goes on around us. Family, work and any number of other commitments present barriers to what we want in the guise of time management and financial need. How good would it be to have the same responsibilities as we had when were kids but without the pressures that we feel build with any potential mistake we make as we get older. The saying is that time waits for no man and without any clear direction or understanding how to change it many of us repeat the same patterns in all areas of our lives, barely noticing the days flying past. We do this not necessarily through any burning desire to do, for example, the job we do but because it provides some financial security and structure, which can become horribly burdensome if we decide we’re not happy and want to do something else. In-stead of fighting for what we really want we use our energy moaning about what we have.Unknown

Productivity. This word is the key, it’s your chainsaw, the thing that will give you the ability to chop down that massive redwood that’s cutting out the light from where you’re standing now on the forest floor. In an ideal world every project you ever did would be done at full capacity, full focus and produce the results you wanted in super-fast time but we are never going to have the same dedication for everything whether that’s because of the time available, fatigue, how you feel about the task at hand and so on and so forth.

So what do you need to ask yourself? The first question is which one of your listed goals would please you most to complete? How clear are you on this point, do you have a specific end in mind? If you’re just blindly pouring all your ambition and energy to the wrong direction then you’ll at best end up frustrated and disappointed and, at worst, even farther away than when you wrote up your goals in the first place. Don’t fret about how you have ended up where you are, your past is set ad cannot be changed but your present will shape what’s ahead. Unless it’s an absolute ne-cessity, don’t get up earlier or work through lunch and forgo evenings with family to beat yourself to death working harder if you’re not working in the right way and down the right path. You have to plant a structure to your day and produce the work you want towards the goals you want. Sure, you’ve got a job to do and that’s going to take some of your time but if that’s not what you want then you shouldn’t be pouring your productivity into it for any longer than you must.

So how can you focus better and produce better results? I’ve listed a few points below that I think will help you do just that and carry your plans forward:

* Get a journal and/or make sure you transfer notes from your mobile device into a more concrete note. Clear thinking on a subject seems to be becoming less obvious with the pace of life and

the seamless ability to tune into a wide variety of unproductive media. Studies prove that trans-ferring thoughts onto paper play a significant role in their fruition.

* So you have an idea, switch off the TV and the radio, close-down YouTube and your Facebook account, put your phone on silent and out of reach and give yourself time to think. For some of you that might be a few days out of your normal loop, it might be just sitting in a quiet and com-fortable place, you might even be able to get these thoughts in as you take a run or cycle but it’s got to be ‘you time’ not chatting with others just you.

* With a plan fired up it’s now time to bring in others. Spread the word, help them get momentum; if you’re inclined to pray then go for it, call in any help you can get your hands on, this is when you need it.

* You’ve spent a few days going over what you want, you’re hungry and desperate to start but you’ve got to be honest first and figure out where you are now. If your goals are big enough then this part might hurt because you’ll realise you’re not that close to them right now…but you will be.

* The time has finally come to join the dots. The most important part of the process is to work out what you really want. It can’t be an arbitrary goal, something you’d kind of like, you need to want this thing now, in five minutes, five days, five months and years from now. When you have that down pat, no sway or movement then start acting ‘as if’. Think about it as if you’ve already achieved your ambition. What would it feel like, how would you act? I don’t mean you need to start driving around in a car with blacked out windows (though if that helps you reach your goal as a celebrity footballer then don’t let me stop you) but how confident would you feel, would you smile more, would you approach opportunities more readily?

* This vision needs you to be buzzing, don’t hold it back, don’t be embarrassed, tell others about it. If you harbour enough passion about it then it should be oozing out of you and you should be desperate to tell others.

* Finally, remind yourself about what you’re doing on an at least a daily basis. Life doesn’t al-ways lie down in front of you and simply give you the free time to achieve it. Have your goals available to see, by all means pen them down in a notebook but don’t just close the book and never review them again. Put them in your diary, rewrite them everyday, pin them on your no-ticeboard in the office, stick them on the fridge, attach them to the dashboard of your car and review them so often that you can recite them off the top of your head. Stay on track with your to do list, you’ll deviate off target every-so-often but you’ll be able to get back on again as soon as you get in your car or think about preparing something to eat because the list will be right in front of you. Everyone gets distracted and everyone loses focus and confidence from time-to-time, it’s that getting back that will take you to your goal not the worry about how far you’ve drifted.

Remember, this is for the live you want to live; so…go live it!

How to Stop Drifting & Get Back on Track

By Rick Ashworth – MSc Applied Sports Science

The last couple of posts have been about how to plan a future path, from a relatively short 3-month period up to and beyond a year and, hopefully, you have at least begun to write up a plan and working conscientiously towards those identified goals. However, sometimes, it can be hard to continue unerringly on course day-in and day-out. Forgetting to scribble down your goals for the day and it’s just possible to end up drifting slightly off course and spending the day chasing around after something that doesn’t have anything to do with your priorities.images

So what if this happens? How do you do to get yourself back on the up if you feel a little disappointed with your progress? There are two best options in my opinion but there are others that can help to:

  1. The first is having someone who you can talk to, confide your fears and bounce your more outrageous ideas off without worry that you’ll be laughed at or ridiculed. Someone allows you to get a better perspective that helps cast everything back into that bright light again, the one that had you feeling all positive and fired-up in the first place.
  2. The next, for me, is to go for a run but a stiff walk will do too. If I haven’t done this for a while then it always surprises me what a difference it makes to my mind set. Running (or any cardiovascular exercise) has the benefit of being able to shift your emotional state not just by removing you physically from any stressful situation but from the release of endorphins as you push yourself along the streets or, better still, a peaceful woodland trail. It’s quiet and just you (I never take my mobile phone with me), your time to relax and unwind without the opportunity to be distracted or pulled back into the anxiety that the run is designed to escape you from.

It has been well researched that simple things such as sitting up straight, taking a phone call on your feet, having a moment to draw a long, deep breath can all help you re-focus and get out of the drift that slouching in your seat or even just frowning can lead to. Think about the remarks you (might) receive: ‘you look tired’ compared to: ‘you look great.’ One leads you into a state of drift the other can lift your day and push you onto better things, regardless of your mental state beforehand.

But let’s say you’re friends are busy and there’s no chance you can get out for a run or even a brisk walk, here are a few other ideas that can help put you back on the right track:

  1. Music Put on some upbeat music or some music that rekindles happy memories. If these memories are those of you and your friends, partner, kids laughing and smiling then there’s every chance you’ll follow suit as well. Put a short playlist on Spotify or a CD and listen to it during your commute (just don’t start identifying the music to the car driving an inch off your rear bumper!). Better yet, for those of you who have a baby or grandchild and you have a video of them giggling away then I defy you to watch it without smiling, it’s simply impossible not to.
  2. Meditate It’s something that I used to think of as a little ‘hokey’ but taking a moment to be appreciative of all the good in your life, whilst taking the time to just breath slow and deep and to feel the stress pushing out of you as you do is a great way to just feel settled in a short space of time. Take several seconds to breathe deeply, trying to fill your whole torso with air, and then take a similar time during the exhalation.
  3. Get Up If your body is beginning to mimic your thoughts there’s every chance you’re slouching and your shoulders are hunching and you’re doing your posture no good either. Just stand up, take a few paces and throw your shoulders back. Stretch to the ceiling and down to the floor, even jump up and down and shake yourself loose. There’s a reason that stand-up hot-desks have become more common in the workplace. Movement is good for you.
  4. Enjoy Do something you like to do. For whatever reasons we all have certain actions (or addictions) that make us happy. Maybe it’s a cup of coffee (yes, that’s what I meant), looking at the pictures of your children or thinking about what’s coming up at the weekend? Remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. Just stop for a moment and remember that the next hour at work will pay for the petrol to allow you to drive away for the weekend, this week’s salary will pay for that new curved-screen TV. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy work (that’s exactly what you eat to be doing) but it’s nice to focus on the other aspects of life during that time too.
  5. Be Positive This is a bit of a rehash of the other points but it’s a reminder that it’s you that has the power to change your thought processes. I know well that it can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that there’s nothing you can do when a few things seem to conspire against you in quick succession but you can choose to dwell on that or focus on how to get back on track. Don’t drift, make your plan and continue to work towards it, just one thing each day will keep your direction. If you’re struggling to lose the anxiety then set the alarm for five minutes time and worry and worry and worry until the alarm goes off and then stop! You’ve given yourself time, now move on. A good way of doing this is to have a ‘worry chair’ or a place where you are free to worry as much as you like but you don’t do so anywhere else.

You can choose to use these ideas everyday or just dip into them when the time calls but try not to be beholden to your emotional state, it is very powerful but you now have the tools to alter it for your betterment.

Be Where Your Feet Are

By Rick Ashworth – MSc Applied Sports Science

After only a few days it’s a little too early to start contemplating the success or not of your 90-Day plan, which you clearly began implementing immediately upon stumbling across my last blog…didn’t you? However, even after such a brief period I hope you’ve made some progress; whether that’s just the visualisation of a positive outcome or simply feeling good with the path you’ve begun to plot.images

Now, I’m not into bursting bubbles too quickly but new research from the University of Utrecht, Netherlands, has looked at how those of us with a sunny and positive disposition fare against those who carry a dark, brooding, cloud overhead. Take a moment to reflect on how you’ve approached things recently what achievements you’ve made and, with that in mind, which set do you think tend to do the best in life?

Clearly, it has to be the positive group, surely, I mean that’s a given, focusing on the negative is something we are told never to do? Well, actually, and don’t collapse into floods of tears here because that would be a little too sycophantic but, of those who participated, it was the negative, miserable types who outstripped their bubbling peers. I’ll explain to you why.

Now, granted, the research appeared to focus on younger participants and, more specifically, on those approaching examinations. However, and I think this can still shed valid light onto how the successful approach their lives, the conclusion was that the more negatively we value our ability then the harder we work at it to make it a better skill. In a sporting context think Johnny Wilkinson, who obsessed so much over his penalty kicking that he would stay back for hours after training, not leave at the end of the extra session until he had kicked six consecutive kicks and who spent the whole of one Christmas morning during his career at the training ground, alone, just kicking and kicking and kicking. Of course, that obsessive compulsion is another post about psychology altogether but for our purposes here it shows the dedication required to reach the top.

Talking of Christmas, Sebastian Coe used to do a double session on Christmas Day, driven by the worry that Steve Ovett might be doing more training than he was…he was right, Ovett was doing double-sessions at Christmas too!

Sport is laced with tales of those at the top staying behind to train more than their peers: David Beckham, Chris Hoy and the British Olympic Rowing team to mention just a few. In business a similar work ethic was parodied by Michael Douglas in his portrayal of Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s famous 1987 film, Wall Street: “lunch is for wimps” a mantra that continues to be worn by many as a badge of honour today.

I’m not about to advocate working extra hours, exercising an extra 30 minutes or cutting your sleep down by half to create more available time and neither am I suggesting that you shouldn’t celebrate your victories (after all, the aforementioned sportsmen all gloried in victory), however, when you look at your three-month, 90-day or year plan then realise that if the dream goals you’ve written down are really worth being on that piece of card then they should require hard work to get to them. The old adage of nothing worth having comes easy is absolutely bang on.

Thinking things will come to you because you’ve simply taken the time to write them on a list is folly. Writing a list is a way of transferring your thoughts into tangible concepts, making them feel more real and showing others what your goals are – it is not a substitute for hard work. You are writing down your dreams, you are not dreaming.

You can take Christmas off, hell, you can take the whole weekend off if you really like but make sure you work hard when you’re supposed to be working, as a new favourite phrase puts it: be where your feet are. That is to say that when you’re working towards a goal then you’re doing just that; you’re not watching TV or YouTube when you should be writing up that report. You’re not shooting the breeze when you should be training hard in the gym and when you’re having a conversation with your family then you’re not checkin your texts.

Be where you’re feet are and they’ll take you towards your goals.

New Year but still the Same Old You?

5 Tips to Make You More Productive in 2016

By Rick Ashworth MSc Applied Sports Science (Psychology)

Now it’s early February it’s a good opportunity to look back at the start of the new year to and decide how my 2016 goals are progressing and if they are not then to find out why.images

At the start of the year I made a quick list of the things I wanted to achieve this year. It’s something that I do at the start of each New Year but something that could be done just as easily at any time. Studies clearly prove that written goals reach fruition far more regularly than arbitrary thoughts; it’s not so easy to dismiss a goal or idea that you’ve taken the trouble to commit to paper and, therefore, given greater impetus to committing to long-term memory than a brief moment of contemplation soon brushed away by the next random action that fills your mind.

Despite having hit many of the things I’ve noted down over the years, I realise that it’s the goals written without any real insight into how I might reach them that have let me down. It’s a good to dream big but it’s better to have the big goal broken down into manageable chunks at the start and allow them to develop as you progress through. So I structure my goals into chunks or slices that will lead me towards the whole piece of pie

If you haven’t already I recommend writing a short list of approximately 5 goals, big enough goals that will take some work and drive and, possibly, goals that you don’t yet know how to achieve or, even, if you can! Goals outside your comfort zone are great but don’t write a huge list that will have your focus switching between each too often. The more points the less you are going to focus and the more likely your motivation will wane.

In my humble opinion, don’t use a plan that lasts for more than 90-Days. This is plenty long enough to allow you to work towards a certain stage of each goal, allowing you to celebrate reaching mini-milestones fairly regularly, which should help you stay motivated and always moving forwards.

To help you with this planning process you can (ideally, should) use S.M.A.R.T. goals. That is to say make your goals specific to what you want to attain; measurable, you have your goals but now you need to break them down a touch to create a path to the main goal (want to become a self-employed fitness blogger, the first step is to write a relevant blog or attend a writing course or, even, do both!); achievable, you want a Rolls-Royce in the future but are you going to be able to afford one in the next three months? Best start a savings account specific to the Rolls-Royce and nothing else. Be realistic, you want to save-up to afford something new but you’ve still got bills to pay, food to buy and other outgoings so how much can you actually put back whilst still being able to live your life? Finally, Timed, well, that’s 90-Days, that bit’s easy!

List your 5 goals by priority and write them on a card or a piece of paper and stick it somewhere you will see it regularly, at least daily and place it somewhere that cannot be ignored. Better still, stick it somewhere other people can see it and bring others into your sphere to help influence and direct you. However, the list must be something you really want and if you’re not comfortable sharing it with everyone and then don’t but do try to involve others.

These goals don’t have to be purely business goals, they could be personal targets or even just health and fitness but, in my experience, I would keep it to a maximum 5 goals in business and 5 goals in your personal life, otherwise, the lists become too unwieldy.

My list? Well, in the next three months I will…

Train an average of … clients-per-week on average

Use my diary daily to plan ahead and hold myself accountable (something I’m not great at)

Complete three meal guides to help clients nutritional goals

En-role on a relevant business course that will directly help my career

Be in the gym whether clients booked in or not at least 3 evenings every week

I have tried to see where there are gaps in my knowledge, ambition and diary and attempted to fill each area with relevant and specific ideas that are easily measured and that will provide a springboard towards furthering my career and interests. They are stuck on the front of the fridge so I can keep them clearly in mind and my partner and family can help and support me towards them because reaching them will not just benefit me.

Let 2016 be your most productive, pro-active and promising year ever. Good luck!

For further information and advice feel free to call me on 07887-745-773 or email me at rick@cheshirefitness.co.uk

Walking… Like Running, Only Easier!

By Rick Ashworth MSc Applied Sports Science

Walking. It’s not exactly fashionable but it’s hardly going to be seeing as it’s something we all do everyday. On its own it’s not going to help you drop a dress size within a week and neither is it specifically something that’s going to light a fire underneath you as far as an extreme challenge is concerned. However, walking is one of the best exercises you can do and should not be overlooked in the pursuit of great health and fitness. Need to be convinced? No problem, recent scientific research into obesity concluded that for those who regularly walked an average of 30mins each day were likely to see their BMI a whole unit lower than those training regularly at the gym.

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Personally, I love walking, I love getting anywhere in the outdoors and even a walk in the rain is preferable to a short car journey to the shops . For better health, walking should be embraced and enjoyed, it is the most fundamental activity that the body is designed to do and due to such it reaps the following benefits in spades:

 

  1. Regular walkers have been found to have stronger hearts and better cardiovascular fitness than their less sedentary peers along with a lower incidence of high blood pressure and, therefore, less risk from type-2 diabetes, asthma and certain forms of cancer.

 

  1. A brisk walk has been empirically shown to improve mood and, hence, reduce anxiety. Finding others with whom to share the experience only improves this further and this engagement also makes it more likely that you will continue the activity in the long-term. There are many walking groups in your local area and having been a member of one such group I can recommend buying a pair of sturdy walking boots and signing up, check out: the rambling association for further details.

 

  1. Regular walking strengthens the muscles in the legs and hips and hill walking in particular will work your butt and core as well as the shoulders and back. Keep a good posture as you walk, looking periodically to the top of the hill rather than staring constantly at your feet and think about pulling your navel tight in towards your spine throughout, in time this will become second-nature anyway but in the meantime it will help your core carry the burden of a backpack or help your legs up an incline.

 

  1. The fitter you become the more energy you will feel. Of course, I’m not advocating never drinking coffee or tea again but you shouldn’t need it for an afternoon kick. Walking aids good blood flow and a better supply of oxygen to your working cells, which should mean a better attention span and increased stamina – both physically and mentally.

 

If all this sounds good and it should as there’s not a negative in sight, then there’s no induction course, just buy a decent pair of shoes or trainers and open the door. 15-20mins a day is a good start that you can probably fit in straight away with a walk to the local shops?

 

A pedometer might be a good investment if it’s something that will help motivate you to move and walk more but just a brisk walk around the block will do a great deal more for your health and well-being than slumping in front of the TV.

 

Finally, if you decide to take the plunge and go walking in the great outdoors, remember to carry a waterproof, have your mobile charged before you leave and take food, water and make sure you know where you’re going. Walking is great fun but getting lost is not, take care and enjoy the view from the top, you’ll deserve it.

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