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!

Wait! There is Never Enough Time

Wait! There is Never Enough Time

by Rick Ashworth

I watched a film recently about what it might take to find yourself, assuming you ever can? It dealt with the confrontation of personal troubles but, to me, it was more about procrastination and leaving things until something significant comes along and forces you into them.

It is far too easy to blame external factors or to use them to deflect the way we feel about ourselves in order to keep us from taking that leap towards changing, regardless of the size of the chasm before us.

I remembered the women with type-1 diabetes who I offered my help to a few years ago but instead of simply talking to me and getting an understanding of whether I could help her she instead decided that though I might be controlling my diabetes well now that I should wait until I had been ‘suffering’ with the condition for as long as she had and then see if I was still controlling it then! Was she scared of giving herself a better life, a healthier life, a longer life with my help? Of course, I couldn’t guarantee that but who knows what each of us might have learnt from the other. The reason, I think, was and is down to control, giving the reigns of your life over to another. Doing so doesn’t mean you have failed it just means you could use a hand and I’m as much in need of that as anyone.images

Yet, it does seem to me that we, in this country, find easier to blame someone else for our failings or assume that those who are doing better than us have cheated in some way rather than look at ourselves and try to make appropriate changes.

In all seriousness, how else can you explain the massive surge in type-2 diabetes or the increase in depression over the past decade? Not one of those who are suffering due to weight-issues woke-up one day and found themselves dramatically overweight with an exhausted pancreas in ownership of an illness/disease that could kill them. For whatever reason they went past the time to seek help when they were free from symptoms and pushed straight-through to thinking it was a lost cause.

Drugs might alleviate the symptoms but they won’t solve the cause and that’s the scary bit; doing something that is so alien to the run of life that you have followed for so long that the habit is set and there’s a massive comfort in that. However, that feeling of comfort will be regained through repetition and if that repetition is on a healthy path then you will remain healthy.


Hopefully, you are not suffering from anything as potentially bad and frustrating as diabetes but even if your goals are increased fitness, slight weight-loss or more confidence and health have you taken steps towards them or are they still ethereal desires that are more likely to come to fruition whilst you sleep?


If you have goals and cannot bring yourself to jump into them with both feet off the highest cliff you can find, then don’t. It is far easier to reach your goals through small steps or by using marginal gains. If your goal is to run a marathon then I suggest your first training session is not a 26.2 mile run (or, indeed, any session you ever do…ever). This is much along the same lines as changing your eating habits should not be to throw away every food-stuff in your kitchen and restock from scratch.


Wanting to be a better you, whatever that might mean, does require a leap into the relative unknown and the leap means you’re probably jumping across to receive help from someone who you’ve never met, you don’t want to open up to and it’s difficult, of course it is, and the hardest thing we do as adults is to say we don’t know something.


Am I the right person to help you become fitter? Can I help you change your diet and live a healthier life free from diabetes and other complications? Can I help you run a marathon? I don’t know but if you’re thinking about making a change to your life remember that there’s never enough time to sit back and procrastinate and that an initial discussion about how I could help you is absolutely free.

So, get on with it: apply for the job, write the novel, buy the new car, train for the marathon, eat Kale and call me; I’m absolutely positive that I can help you on some of those!


Rick Ashworth MSc Applied Sports Science (with Psychology): 07887745773

Main Health Benefits of Regular Exercise

There are many benefits of training and health, the feel good factor you get from training regularly is priceless, but there are a lot of other major benefits you get from exercise, and this blog is for the people who are considering starting, who are on the fringes of just making that extra effort to start up and begin their fitness journey.Unknown

The normal hard working person who has a 9-5 job and very rarely gets time for other activities can sometimes become sedentary with their repetitive lifestyle. Factors can begin to creep in to your life with this way of living such as stress, sleep deprivation, low self esteem, lack of confidence and a general feeling of poor health. Well I am going to name a few of the main benefits that exercise and training gives you, with training regularly the body releases endorphins that stem from the neurotransmitters produced from the brain and spinal cord, these endorphins diminish the perception of pain within the body.

Some of the main factors of regular exercise –

– boosts self esteem
– reduces stress
– wards of anxiety and depression
– improves sleep
– lowers blood pressure
– strengthens the heart
– increased energy levels
– improves posture

These are just a few of the many benefits of exercise, the hardest part is always the start when the pain and aching in your muscles will be at its worst, but once over that first hurdle it becomes an addictive factor in many people’s lives. Training and exercise has the unique ability to change peoples lives who choose to get involved in it, one workout can literally turn you from being in a terrible mood or place in your life to walking out and feeling great about yourself and generally putting you in a much better mood. It takes hard work and dedication and don’t forget it starts with you making the move first, but if you allow yourself to make that commitment and stay consistent with it, it can literally change your life forever.

To make that change today get in touch and we can start our journey together…


Keeping Muscle Proportion and Symmetry Plus Training Splits

The body as a whole must be of a certain proportion and shape, understanding the right training regimes and methods is of paramount importance. For example in a muscle building capacity such as bodybuilding style training, a training split is very important to understand, in everyday gym body parts must be trained accordingly and also given a sufficient amount of rest in between days to recover.. Unless you like to train that muscle group specifically or maybe feel you are lagging in that area. images

Over developing a muscle group is ok but, you have to keep the same amount of muscle on the rest of the body especially a muscle group which is cohesive to the muscles you have over devolve. What I mean by this for example if someone over develops their chest muscles but does not train their back muscles to the same extent you could end up with a slightly Kyphotic spine or hunched over look.

Speaking from my own experiences when I was younger at around the age of sixteen and first started properly getting into weight training, I believed the common stigma in the gym, in which pretty much consisted of having a big chest and big arms. The problem I later discovered is that my back was so under developed in comparison to my chest that it could of possible caused damage later on in life. So I rectified the situation and rounded out my upper body and trained my back a lot more and built it up to then having a much better overall physique.

There is nothing wrong with training a muscle group more than another but as long as you do it in the right way. My own personal training week at the present moment as it changes from time to time is a 6 day programme is –

Monday – legs
Tuesday – chest / biceps
Wednesday – back
Thursday – shoulders / triceps
Friday – legs
Saturday – arms
Sunday – rest

This is a split I have been doing recently and will stick with for a while, the reason I do legs twice a week is they are the biggest muscle group in the body, so I’m trying to promote muscle growth and definition through out the entire body, plus build the most amount of testosterone. I keep back days in between the two leg days due to the lower back and core fatigue which is produced when training legs and back especially. Splitting chest and shoulders up in between days to keep the front areas of the body a day to recover and split the back and front up in the right way, and then arms after the whole body has been trained throughly in the right way. I also want to keep my arms working and slightly isolated on other muscle group days so I finish my chest sessions off with usually 100 reps of bicep work and shoulder days with 100 reps of tricep work.

My core is always being work in a very effective way, I don’t necessarily isolate abs and core because with my compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, bench press, military press you are always engaging your core. An important thing to note is my two leg days are different, the Monday is predominantly a heavy day with a lot of different squatting techniques, stiff leg deadlifts and machine work, Friday is more of a lighter weight day but the weight is still fairly heavy but the exercises are different which include lunging, kb thrusters. The biggest change throughout the body is occurred when the legs are trained due to the sheer size of the muscles the whole body is working.

This training regiment works for me and my body and always train to the highest of my ability and give consistent effort, the training is intense but can be split into a more easier option such as a 4 day for example.

Monday – chest and back
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – legs
Thursday – rest
Friday – shoulders and arms
Saturday – legs
Sunday – rest

A much easier way for people who want to simplify it over a lesser amount of days that they feel comfortable with and easier to maintain throughout their general lifestyle. You can alternate the days as well if you feel this better suits you but as I have laid this training split up you never have more than one day of rest, this the only way you will grow and ultimately get closer to achieving your goals. There is no substitute for hard work.

Maximise your Training!

Often people will start a new training routine and/or exercises and see great results and benefits from these changes which is great as it gives your body a new stimulus to adapt to hence the results you see from changing to a new program.

All this is great and it is what we look to do a personal trainers to continue to progress and get results before our clients hit a plateau so this is where we get all geeky and changing things like tempo, rep ranges, weights etc.

However the common mistake I see is members continuing to do the same routine day in day out for months on end by this time the body has well and truly hit it’s plateau, meaning that your body is not under enough stimulus to adapt- this is when results stop! images

What then occurs people start to do more of the same routine or add time onto their high intense training sessions, as they try to get the same results that they initially experienced when starting the new program.

This is where the problem occurs due to the overuse of these exercises the joints and muscles start to take a toll leading to strained muscles, aching joints and high cortisol levels(which is suicide for recovery and getting adequate sleep).

So if you find that you are starting to experience pains that previously weren’t there or recovery seems to take longer than usual you may well want to take a step back look at how long you have been doing the same routine for and change things up because the reason you are in pain is just the bodies way of telling you to stop what it is you are doing and change things up!

Most of the time the answer is so simple providing you see the signs and listen to the body.

Don’t be a fool and waste your time and effort at something that is not going to benefit you rather ask for some advice from someone experienced or mix things up and try something new after all it is YOUR time that you are either using to your ADVANTAGE or just simply WASTING IT!

Which Period Are You In?


By Rick Ashworth – MSc Sports Science


A couple of weeks ago we discussed how to re-invigorate your new year’s resolutions and, as Spring and the good weather approaches, I hope you’ve managed to make exercise an important part of each week and are making some good progress with your goals?

However, if you are getting in the gym but as hard as you’re trying there hasn’t seemed to be much improvement it might just help to be following a structure to your training and that is exactly what we’re going to discuss.Unknown

 What Do I Need To Do?

To make gains in the gym, and generally, this means increasing your muscle size, whether you’re training to bulk-up specifically or looking to lose weight; as an increased muscle mass will increase your metabolism and force your body to burn more calories at rest. Therefore, you’ll improve your definition, tone, shape, whatever you want to call it, it will make you look better.

 To do this you need to get tired. If you’re not pushing your muscles to failure then you haven’t asked them to do more than they are capable of doing and your body won’t see the need to make them bigger, no matter how much you wish they would. It’s as true for women trying to increase their muscle size by a few percent as it is for body-builders trying to add specific mass.

There are, however, a few caveats to consider before you try and bench press the weight of a small car over your chest.

 Build a Base

 Use a four-week ‘foundation period’ to build good strength, improve your core and learn how to lift correctly and safely. This doesn’t necessitate a session or few with a personal trainer but it would help you understand the reasons why this stage is so important – believe me when I tell you that lifting heavy with a poor posture will eventually lead to injury and that won’t help improve your body shape one bit.

Tight and underused muscles grow at a slower rate than flexible ones. This is not just down to imbalances that cause you to rely on specific muscles during a lift but tight muscles often have a restricted blood flow, which means that nutrients and oxygen that help rebuild the muscle after training will not get to them as easily, therefore, their growth becomes affected. This is as good a reason as any to change an exercise routine every 4-6 weeks; to try and work the muscles that are not receiving the same benefit from an exercise as others, along with avoiding boredom and other factors as well.

 Try exercises that utilise several joints, such as squats, lunges and presses and think about ways to add a functional element to them, try a lunge but twist your torso to each side as you do so; which will bring additional muscles into play at the same time.

 Use a rep-range of 15-20 for 3 or 4 sets and control the lift throughout.

 Time to get Hyper

 This doesn’t mean to drink very strong coffee; though if you don’t drink much coffee then caffeine before a workout may help you lift more and train harder…?

 After base training you should be ready to progress to heavier weights and work more specifically to your goals. This second phase of training is usually referred to as hypertrophy, which essentially means to make your muscles bigger. The rep-range will usually be between 8-12, meaning you’re lifting the weights for a period of about a minute (use a watch if it’s easier) and it’s this minute or time-under-tension that fatigues the muscle. This means no blasting through the reps like a lunatic but keeping a steady movement throughout, lower the weight through the eccentric phase of the movement (when the muscle is lengthening) for 3-4 seconds and push back to the start straight-away without a pause, constantly having the weight-in-motion.

 And Time to Relax

 Lifting heavy weights is not all that’s required. If you have poor sleep patterns, i.e. not enough or irregular hours and different times each night then your body will not recover sufficiently from each session and every subsequent session will become harder and strip the ability of the body to ever fully recharge leading to potential injury and, certainly, worse results. If your diet is poor then results will similarly be affected to the point where a poor diet focused on junk-foods and alcohol may negate any workout that you put in.

 A good diet alongside a low alcohol content and constant sleep pattern will mean your body will suffer less stress, have better digestion and a greater chance of building muscle (a diet should have protein levels of 1.5-1.8g per kg body weight).

 Again, as with the base period, change your exercise plan every 4-6 weeks.

 Hiit It

 Although by following a good diet and lifting weights, whether free weights or on the machines, should reap great results you can make those results even better by hitting the cardio trail…hard.

 Don’t waste your time walking or jogging for half-an-hour on the treadmill, watching the calories used tick up and fool yourself that you’re doing a good effort.

 In conjunction with a weights plan, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) will deliver the physique you want in much quicker time but it requires hard (and I mean hard) effort. A ‘simple’ session would be to warm-up for a few minutes and then perform 10 sets of 1 minute flat out on whatever machine you are using, followed by 1 minute of very easy recovery, which can be a jog ,walk or even stopping to suck in all the air you feel you’ve missed out on during the previous minutes effort.

 This kind of effort will strip fat from your body, improve your sprint speed and, even, make endurance exercise easier, it’s all three-in-one so use it.

 Remember that hard training does require correct nutrition, which means good quality carbohydrate too. If you refuel with soup and salads you’ll most likely feel tired and struggle through your workouts. If you struggle to get the required nutrition from meals alone, which can be several small meals through the day not necessarily the three ‘square’ meals we were all brought up on, then take protein supplements and others to assist your goals and requirements.

 If you work hard you should see a change in as little as a couple of weeks, so get to it.

 Train Hard, Train Happy.

 Rick Ashworth

M: 07887745773

Peanuts or Power

By Rick Ashworth MSc Sports Science

 According to recently published research, the best way to overcome a peanut allergy is to eat more peanuts, which makes a certain amount of sense as, after all, we are constantly being told that the number of allergies is forever on the increase as we molly-coddle our children and grab an antiseptic wipe if little Johnny so much as picks up a worm but eating dirt never seemed to do me much lasting damage (said the type-1 diabetic!).images


Of course, to little Johnny peanuts might not taste great and they might even make him feel a little queasy but his body will adapt and grow stronger against the allergen. His white blood cells will throw-down the bows and arrows they have always relied upon and re-arm with Apache helicopters and Tomahawk missiles so that the next time that same allergen tries to invade it will be vaporised; the training axiom of what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger comes to mind…?


However, this article is not about allergens it’s about exercise and, as it turns out, exercise is rather like fighting allergens, so all you ‘little Johnnys’ take note. Much like never being exposed to allergens will not help your body combat them in the future, if you want to get fitter then you need to start exercising and, maybe, push yourself to a point where you might just feel a little sick.images 1


Much like overcoming an allergen, you should introduce yourself to exercise gradually, not training every day to the point of exhaustion. If you are starting from nothing or very sporadic exercise then just start with a gentle jog or light resistance training; try to jog for a couple or so minutes and then take a breather in the form of a walk, perhaps doing an easy warm-up then 4 sets of 4 minutes walking on a 1 minute walking recovery, cool down for five minutes to help return your heart rate and body temperature down to pre-exercise levels and that will take you half-an-hour. Also, or otherwise, try doing fairly simple weighted exercises for 3 sets each of 15 repetitions with a 30 second or so recovery between each lift. Pick a weight that you can comfortably do for the first set, struggle a little for the second and not quite be able to do for the third. Try a circuit that looks something like:


  • Barbell Chest Press
  • Single-Arm Dumbbell Row
  • Barbell Squat
  • Dumbbell Seated Shoulder Press
  • Dumbbell Alternate Walking Lunges

Each set of exercise should take about a minute at a steady and controlled tempo and, therefore, the session should last approximately 25 to 30 minutes.


Fitness is a very straight-forward concept and if you want to get fitter and stronger then, in general, you must try harder (run faster and lift heavier) than you have done before. If it’s too difficult to do a whole session like that then do some of the session harder and some the same as before; the more you do the better the results but just lifting more for one solitary set is clearly an improvement on what you have done before and you still get a gold star for that.


By working harder you will force your body to adapt, much like introducing small amounts of an allergen to your immune system; given time a continued increase of the stimulus, whether that’s peanuts, heavy weights or a harder run, your body will become used to tolerating that amount of stress and be willing to learn to cope with more.


Hard exercise in whatever form it takes is good and will improve your strength and fitness but, as a final point for this posting, if you ignore a good diet (as has been discussed numerous times before) then you will lose many benefits and put extra strain on your immune system, potentially opening yourself up to colds and other viruses; I think this is where we began the blog but in that situation your white blood cells will have to do more than simply being used as an analogy.


For a more in-depth understanding of how to begin an exercise program or to add more power to your existing one please get in touch or for more information and how you could have a free personal training session at in the South Manchester/Cheshire area call 07887-745-773.


Happy Hard, Train Happy – for the life you want to live

Fit not Fad


By Rick Ashworth MSc Sports Science


In my last blog I briefly discussed that though super-foods do exist, the term is somewhat misleading and that successful marketing campaigns have us all regarding things like green tea with a reverence that is well beyond what research can prove.

All year there have been articles espousing the benefits of various diets, some with a bit of research and some with absolutely none. However, one that caught my eye the other day and has continued to bounce into view over the years is the ‘Alkaline Diet’. A diet that suggests our blood is too acidic. Now, I’ve seen films about having acidic blood and I’m pretty sure that even if this were true (and I’ll lay it down early as a bit of a plot spoiler here that it isn’t), you need not worry about any potential offspring exploding out of your stomach or being run over by an armoured personal carrier driven by a civilian called Ripley. Indeed, it is my limited biological knowledge rather than my epistemological understanding of names that seems to remind me that food is broken down by acid in our stomachs and, therefore, acid is a rather vital component to our existence. So, if acid is a good thing in this respect, what the hell is the point of an alkaline diet? Just what is going on?Unknown


As briefly touched on above, from a biological point of view, our blood is usually always around 7.4pH. Believe me, if it fluctuates more than 0.1 up or down you’re in trouble; of the dying kind. Don’t worry though, you don’t need to dip some pink strips of paper into your blood to find out, if you’re reading this then it’s fair to say that you’re fine and have yet to mutate into H.R. Geiger’s latest creation.


So, my rudimentary biology would seem to stand up. Our stomachs have far more acid in them than can be swayed by eating an orange (even two) or by putting too much vinegar on your chips (not that you eat chips, of course, evil carbohydrate!).


imagesNo food regardless of what the tabloids may suggest is going to change your blood from acid to alkaline, it might change the colour or smell of your pee but your blood will stay the same. If you really want to change the concentration of your bloodstream then just hold your breath. Though I’m not endorsing this practice, the longer you hold your breath for then the more your bloodstream will build up acidity as an accumulation of carbon dioxide in the body cranks the pH level up. Once this acid build-up becomes too great you either breath and the inrush of oxygen displaces the carbon dioxide and everything quickly returns to normal or you pass out; at this point your body decides that you’re an idiot and knocks you out so it can start breathing again, which potentially says something about the creator of the Alkaline Diet…?


Hopefully, none of you are reading this last bit as you pick yourselves up off the carpet whilst trying to shake the dizziness from your head. The message is hopefully clear enough, if someone tells you to go on a diet that will balance your blood acidity then they either have no idea what they’re talking about or they’ve been in a breath holding contest one time too many!


Sadly, it’s never as straightforward as that, as all this doesn’t mean that the Alkaline Diet can’t or won’t help you lose weight, just that it won’t work for the reasons they are telling you it will.


The best diets involve lots of colourful foods, vegetables and protein along with some slow-release carbohydrates such as sweet potato, brown rice, sweetcorn and fruits; I’d even recommend a meal where you eat your favourite foods like pizza once-a-week (we’re trying to get fit and healthy, not boring and unhappy)!


By all means diet but know what you’re eating and why you’re eating it, there are too many people trying to make a quick buck from a lack of knowledge, experience and care for the people they are trying to ‘help’.


Make sure you take your information from a qualified professional who understands what you want and why. For more information and dietary advice for weight-loss, maintenance and diabetes please feel free to call me.

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