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

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

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.


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.

Five Fabulous Fixes For Furthering Fitness

By Rick Ashworth – MSc Applied Sports Science

What are your expectations when you begin a new training regime, how much time do you have and what are you willing to do to achieve your goals? Wanting to get in shape for Christmas is a great starting point but are you willing to do what’s necessary to achieve it?images

If you’ve not followed a specific exercise plan before or it has been a long while since you did, you may initially struggle to hit the targets you set yourself; a good entry point is to do 30 minutes of exercise each day, which may not sound like a lot but without a good extrinsic motivator you may begin to prioritise other activities or blame other factors such as the weather for not hitting your target.

The ideas listed below are five points you really need to focus on to reach your goals:

  • Exercise Enjoyment – If you are not enjoying yourself then why would you continue? This is one of many reasons why personal trainers are a good investment. A good personal trainer will keep changing the exercise program so you stay motivated and, therefore, engaged in the process; which is, ultimately, to make you fitter and healthier. Also, just having someone there to share in the experience and help you not to fixate on how hard you’re working can be a great help. Further, a personal trainer will design an exercise program around exercises you enjoy and will work hard during but the doesn’t mean that you can’t try different exercises outside of that to find the ones that you like. Not everyone enjoys doing biceps curls until their arm can no longer fit through the arms of their t-shirt, much as others cannot see the joy in running flat out across the hills of the Peak District in mid-December. Finding something you enjoy is key to sustained exercising and should open you up to new experiences and new people who can help develop the talent and enjoyment you have.
  • Your Health & Fitness Needs You! – Many magazines and blog posts suggest joining a gym, which is hardly bad advice, yet, there are many memberships left unused after the first few weeks. Picking a good gym, with fitness trainers who will help and encourage you towards your goals (one such gym is unarguably the Cheshire Health Club & Spa) is worth it’s weight in good salads and protein shakes but be aware that there are plenty out there who are happy to receive your monthly direct debit and do nothing at all in return. Perhaps a better first step would be to hire a personal trainer or join a bootcamp, something that you are only paying for in the short-term but that will certainly provide a benefit for your fitness with not only training plans but advice and personal tailoring for nutrition and overall health – pushing you appropriately to your level of fitness and strength.
  • Steady As You Go – Thinking about the long-term journey ahead is great: have that bikini on the beach body, the full marathon, the doubling of your bench press always in mind but appreciate the shorter-term goals and celebrate them. The first couple of percent drop in body fat, the completion of a 10k run or extra 5kg lifted off your chest. These are the stepping stones that get you the whole way across the river and without them you will never get to the other side. Your motivation will not see you through to a goal that is a year away without any celebration of the milestones reached. A personal trainer will keep you motivated through each week and month and allow you to appreciate the smaller but no less important goals to keep you progressing and keep your motivation high all the way through to the beach, finish line or growl of power that sees the bar bend high above your chest..
  • Don’t Give In To Temptation – The main reason people give for not exercising enough (or at all) is life. Life is full of temptations or, rather, excuses. Time wasted commuting, working, eating, picking up the children, being too tired and many more are all reasons and responsibilities you can use for ducking exercise but all of them are worse for you health and fitness than exercise; a good healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains and so on is great but exercise is the element that will turn all that into making you fit and healthy. So, you can’t fit exercise in after a busy day? Here’s a radical thought, exercise in the morning. Sure, you’ll have to be out of bed earlier, which means you’ll probably have to plan your day the night before but that will only mean you’ll be more productive. Not just because you’ll have your diary arranged better but because exercise in the morning raises your metabolic rate and improves your mood, meaning you’re less likely to have an energy slump and with the whole day ahead and no need to fret about how you’re going to fit in any training you’ll have no reason not to feel amazing!
  • Get A Habit – Habits can take a while to form, give-or-take a month, and even if you can’t stick absolutely fastidiously to it, try and aim to do some sort of exercise every day. If you plan on doing an hour but something urgent crops up then just fit in 15 minutes or half-an-hour; like we said, life happens and sometimes it’s unavoidable but by doing something rather than ignoring it all together you are building habits and pathways that will begin to drive you towards doing exercise rather than making up excuses. Putting off exercise only reinforces the sloth in us. This is not to say that you have to exercise every single day for the rest of your life but it should mean that it becomes a choice not to exercise rather than a hardship to begin in the first place with any missed day meaning you’ll be desperate to exercise the day after.

By implementing these ideas for a month you should be setting your body and mind new parameters from which to draw strength against excuse and enjoyment against obligation. If you it, you can achieve it. Good luck and feel free to get in touch for a free consultation and helpful hints and tips to get you on track or push you on even closer.

Top Ten Tips for a Tip-Top Tummy

Top Ten Tips for a Tip-Top Tummy

By Rick Ashworth – MSc Sports Science

These days it seems a flat belly is barely enough and that we all should have beautifully crafted stomachs that reveal every muscled curve, so sculptured you could stand shirtless on a plinth in the middle of the British Museum and have a good chance of someone asking whether you were an original Michelangelo. Well, pooh-sticks to that, I’ve never had a six-pack in my life but I have always had a middle with a circumference well below the risk levels associated with poor health, including type-2 diabetes and other auto-immune and health disorders, that’s 37” for a bloke and 32” for a woman, by-the-way.Unknown

However, we all know that excess fatty deposits tend to be held around our middles, there or thereabouts anyway. There can be various reasons why we end up carrying too much fat, generally it’s down to taking in excess calories but more contemporary reasons centre on our increasingly sedentary lifestyles and the elevated stress levels many of us now feel, which is even worse should you have no healthy way of dissipating them.

The following tips will not banish stress for good and nor will they will lead you to a life of extraordinary bliss or allow you to make a deal with God in the hereafter but they will point you towards having better health and all the benefits that come along with that:

  • Rebel Against the Government – this is not to incite an uprising but to pretend there is a sugar tax after all, that sugar is so expensive that you can’t afford it. Cutting down on (or, even, stop taking altogether) calories that have very little nutritional value will improve your health and reduce all the factors that lead to cancer, heart disease and all those other unpleasant and downright ghastly diseases that will put you in a box too early. These foods include but are certainly not limited to: fizzy drinks, alcohol, biscuits, cakes, crisps and chocolate. These foods make you fat and promote disease, the more avoided the better your health.
  • Never Skip Breakfast - skipping meals is a bad thing, studies show that eating within the first hour upon waking helps to regulate insulin levels, which in turn, helps you stay fuller for longer and stops fat storage. Top foods for this are: eggs, fresh fruit, meats and whole grains. This latter food group has been found to be eaten by people with lower belly fat.
  • Stop Stressing - life’s too short or, at least, research suggests it might be if you keep it up. Stress can play a big role in fat storage so avoid it. Try yoga, take up meditation or a morning constitutional through the park. Get away from your desk at lunchtime with a good book (in fact a bad one would probably do). Studies suggest that standing up and pacing around during a phone call causes less stress and tends to lead to better decision making too.
  • Drink - that might be a little misleading, it means water, sorry about that. It doesn’t mean carrying a two litre bottle under your arm all day but just sip occasionally and drink when you’re thirsty. It’ll help keep you feeling full and every cell in your body will work better for it.
  • Exercise Like a Dog - which is to say you don’t need to train for hours on end every day to achieve the body you want but when you are exercising go after that ball with everything you have. Your ball is more likely to be a treadmill or a bike but using high intensity intervals will reap the greatest benefits for the time taken. Train for 1min as hard as you can with 1min recovery for only 5-10mins (include a short warm-up and cool down) to help burn more calories during but, also, after exercise too. Further, if you can throw in a few resistance exercises primarily on your chest, back and legs, e.g. bench press, back row, squat and lunge you’ll make even better inroads.
  • Vitamins & Minerals – all of these are important in your diet, just as an example, vitamin C helps balance cortisol levels caused by stress and helps the body to break down fats into fuel. Other important vitamins and minerals include magnesium, calcium and vitamin B12, at the very least you should be taking a multi-vitamin and Omega-3 every single day.
  • Dump Sugar – really this is just the same as point 1 but it bears repeating simply because it is the chief reason type-2 diabetes is soaring and why so many people are struggling with their weight. There are many ‘hidden sugars’ in many, many foods but by simply cutting back on the obvious ones you’ll be taking the biggest forward step you can in taking control of your diet. It’s all over the news at present and, believe me, it’s going to cause more health problems for the population in the future than, well…anything.
  • Get Fat! - healthy fats are massively important to your health. You need to appreciate that fat contains more calories per gram than anything else but fish, walnuts and avocados will help to keep you fuller for longer and will enable your body to function at it’s best, just stick to one fat source per meal but don’t be scared of choosing the higher fat option, it usually means less sugar than the ‘0%’ fat or ‘low-fat’ options and is, therefore, far better for your overall health.
  • Eat Fibre - more fibre in your diet means slower digestion, which, in turn, means feeling fuller for longer and it slows down the digestion of any sugars into the bloodstream. It’s the basis for the GI Diet and it’ll help clear out your system too.
  • Stand Up Straight! - this one might seem a little silly but it’s true. Due to our sedentary working lives, many of us are slightly hunched and end up walking or standing with our head bowed, meaning our lower backs become stretched and our stomachs become folded. This folding means rather than having our skin stretched tight over our abdominals it sags and makes us look fatter than we actually are. Flexibility is a key issue, which might need professional help with but the taller you stand, lifting your chin from your chest and pulling your shoulders back, then the more toned your middle will look.


Following these ten simple steps will lead you on towards having a toned middle, with good all round health and fitness; for life.

On The Twelfth Week Before Christmas…

My True Love Said to Me: ‘you have to start training right now!

By Rick Ashworth

Christmas might still seem like a fair way off, what with the summer putting in a belated fight and many of us only just stepped back off the plane from somewhere with cold beer, constant blue skies and a world away from calorie-counting, pedometers and the like. However, as far away as it might still seem, Christmas is now only 12 weeks away and it is largely agreed throughout the sports and fitness industry that 12 weeks is a minimum length of time to reach your goals. It isn’t to say that if you have less time than this that you might as well give up before you start but that you will struggle to reach your final goal in less time than that.images

The reason for 12-weeks training isn’t that some maverick or celebrity trainer plucked the number out of the sky in order to give their business three months security, it is a period of time where a new exerciser will make clear progress but also one that allows the trainer to work through plateaus in performance, nutrition and the formation of new psychological habits that will help you embed these new habits and allow you continue either with or without a trainer in the future and also allows you to learn a variety of exercises and how to plan a program for yourself.

And you need to plan in stages. Your goal might be to put on muscle mass but to achieve that you might be better served focusing on dropping body fat and improving overall fitness first rather than attempting to lift the heaviest weight you possibly can from the onset. So, whilst the overall goal remains an increase in muscle mass, the initial goal addresses your current ability; you lift weights that gradually become heavier week-on-week, whilst slowly making your diet more nutritious and adopting a healthier lifestyle. Dropping body fat will push you in the appropriate direction for a leaner more muscular body shape and by making small and incremental changes to your diet you will understand how important the correct foods are to helping you in starting and continuing your progress to your goal.

As stated, this week (w/c 28th September) there are just a few days beyond the twelve weeks to Christmas, so if you are serious about getting in better shape for Christmas then it’s time to get serious right now!

You might look at the next three months and feel scared, after all, it’s a long way off and a long time to stay focused and not fall off the so-called bandwagon. However, the good news is that you don’t have to. Any good plan will have oases placed strategically for recovery and reward upon having put reached a particular goal.



There are a few simple rules that you should do your level best to follow at pretty much all times, which are:

  •  No simple sugars: no sugar in tea, no cakes, no biscuits and, definitely, no chocolate.
  • Lean meats and vegetables should make up a huge proportion of each meal (that could very well include breakfast as well, though porridge would be a good choice too).
  • Make non-processed nuts and things such as raw carrots your snacks of choice but by eating plenty of protein (at least 1g per kg bodyweight per day) at each meal you should feel like snacking less.
  • Find out your required calorie intake for each day and do not drop your intake below 500-700kCal each day as this will impact your ability to lose weight.


You have to stay motivated, the average gym member will make use of the gym for the first four weeks after signing-up and then pretty much just waste their cash thereafter.

There are a variety of ways to stay motivated, however, you might have to try a few of them out to see which ones work best for you. Here are a few to try:

  • Use a calendar to write-up a plan and pin it to the fridge or somewhere equally obvious and update it on each session. You could also objectively assess yourself on, say, a scale of 1-5 and then reassess each month to see if you’ve improved – such as time management to get to the gym, how well you’re managing your diet, are you getting fitter (assessed by doing a timed running circuit…?).
  • Train with like-minded friends or make use of outside resources like apps such as Strava, MyFitnessPal or GPS trackers and wristbands.
  • Book in with a personal trainer even just one session a week to give you a boost and keep an appointment in your diary to adhere to. They can teach you the basics about how to train most effectively and plan a diet more specific to your goals.

Sign-up to a race, much like booking in with a personal trainer, is something that is in the diary and provides you with a point to train towards and, who knows, you might even enjoy it!

For more details on how to flesh-out these ideas and get in great shape for Christmas, whether healthier, faster, bigger, stronger or many others give us a call at Cheshire fitness and we will whip you into shape!

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