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…

Cameron

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

rickashworthpt@gmail.com

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.

Stretching and posture for strength gains

A very common thing in the fitness industry especially amongst people who do more strength building techniques for example lifting heavy weights, common also with younger people is after a session no stretching is done. It is vital after a strong weight lifting session especially to stretch the muscles out, why is this important? images

This is highly important due to the fact as when you train you are contracting or shortening those muscles. Pumping a lot of blood into the working muscles, this in turn will cause the contracting or shortening effect which most weight lifters know as a good ‘pump’. It feels great yes, you are working and growing those muscles to full effect during exercise. It is then afterwards where most people go wrong.

The benefits the body will have from a good stretch after a workout will be fantastic for your muscles, after a workout you need to lengthen those damaged muscles out. A foam roller is one way to do this, it is pretty much like a rolling pin, your rolling and flattening the muscles out. The damaged muscles are in a way being replenished for your next workout, not stretching can lead to inflexibility and cramp, having longer muscles will make you stronger, being more flexible will increase your strength and huge amount.

Done everyday especially hitting the muscles that you have trained is vital, but with a foam roller it is good to roll out the whole body to really keep your body in a good strong state. Muscles can be compared to elastic bands, the longer they can be stretch the more efficient they are. You’ll find that not even your strength will improve but your overall form and technique will massively improve, especially on the most important compound lifts such as the dead lift, squat, bench press and overhead press.  Unknown

Posture is also a key factor in stretching and efficiently looking after the muscles, the postural alignment of somebody who trains very hard is an interesting to look at. A reason being is that you will be able to see if any muscles are being overworked or underworked also if any are not being stretched in the right way. It is common place in younger more inexperienced people who train, if you are to train one muscle the other muscle should be trained exactly the same way.

One example I have seen a lot in the weight training side is young guys who only train chest biceps, triceps and shoulders. Most youngsters want that big chest and big arms look e.g. Looking good on the beach. Only training these muscles and hardly working the back, legs and core is horrendous for your physique and posture. I know this because I used to be one of those young kids. My back and legs were so weak compared to my chest and arms it created this hunched over effect in my body. My posture was all over the place with no core strength what so ever.

What I learnt is that if you work the largest muscles in your body, you will get the best results, so beginning to train your back, legs and working the core will completely change your physique, training larger muscles releases more hormones throughout the body stimulating muscle growth and strength throughout your core, this will in turn create much better posture and flexibility with in the body. Plus all the muscles we love to train like chest, shoulders and arms, the strength in those areas will be increased dramatically.

If your goal is to put on serious amounts of muscle, well just go and look at how flexible and bodybuilder is, that’s the common stigma in the fitness industry that strength athletes and bodybuilders are big stiff meat heads, this is totally wrong. The flexibility in their bodies allows them to achieve incredible amounts of power and strength with especially compound lifts, also their form is near enough perfect, this is all due to the flexibility and elasticity in their muscles, so the moral of this story is, do not judge a book by its cover, stretching is vitally important as I said especially for that sort of strength training, the damage your putting onto your muscles is massive so they need to be looked after and kept in the best condition possible because if you don’t rehab your physique properly.. You will feel the next day and the days after that.

Give Your Fitness A Boost!

 

By Rick Ashworth MSc Sports Science

Hopefully, you’ve pushed through the January blues and have your New Year resolutions firmly back in place and you’re feeling better and exercising hard? If not then have another read through my last post about re-starting your New Year’s resolutions, however, if you’ve taken heed then this post will give you fresh impetus to train hard to maximise your results. This post is all about your metabolism and how to charge it up!

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Of course, you’ve heard the term metabolism before and I’m equally sure you’ve decided on whether yours is slow or fast and you know that you can speed it up by taking various legal substances. So, perhaps you already know that your metabolism is the chemical process occurring in each and every cell to give your body energy and the more cells you have then the more processes and the higher your metabolism, which is why the bigger you are the higher your metabolism will be.

 

Hence, your metabolism is the base level amount of calories you need to burn each day to function normally; to keep simple processes functioning like breathing and keeping your heart pumping. It is also governed by the amount of exercise you do, which is any movement at all, whether that’s walking, running, doing the gardening or anything else that gets your butt off the sofa.

 

Although your base level metabolism is set by your weight you can burn more calories and, therefore, have the best possible attempt at either weight-loss or body-shape through appropriate training and exercise.

 

First off, what is your base level metabolism? Your metabolism is based upon several factors:

 

Age

How old you are affects the speed of your metabolism. The older you are, the slower it will be, which is specifically true after the age of 40. Research suggests that you can expect your metabolism to slow by about 10% each decade over 40, which means the amount of calories you eat should drop or the amount of movement should increase; and, clearly, the latter is harder to control and achieve as you age.

 

Genes

Like it or not, your genes affect your body massively. If your parents stayed slim despite stuffing their faces at any given opportunity then you’re likely to have the same good fortune. Some people just absorb nutrients better than others, harsh but true.

 

Gender

Women have slower metabolisms than men due to them carrying more fat than their male counterparts and less muscle mass. Muscle mass requires the body to burn more calories at rest than fat and, hence, men require more calories than women to stay in the same shape.

 

So you’re looking at the above and either thinking: ‘great, I’m off to the fridge’or ‘that’s not good, I can barely eat a thing!’However, there are ways and means to give your metabolism a little boost in the right direction.

 

 

Crank It Up!

 

Below are three researched and proven methods to increase your metabolism:

 

Lift Weights

As we just went over with the difference in gender, the more muscle you have then the higher your metabolism is going to be. Think of it this way – every pound of fat (about 0.5kg) burns approximately two calories each day, whereas, the same amount of muscle burns six. Imagine if you could put on 2 or 3kg of muscle, for one you’d look great and, for another, you’d be burning about an extra 30 calories-per-day. It might not sound much but that’s about 8 strawberries or 3 Pringles crisps if you’re thinking what nutritional rubbish you could opt for instead.

 

Interval

Not only is interval training the fastest and most effective way to get fit but exercise that works your heart rate from high to low will make your metabolism work hard well after you have. Studies suggest that vigorous exercise can make your metabolism stay elevated for up to 14 hours after training has finished; you have to be working pretty damn hard for that but, put simply, the harder you work, the greater the benefit afterwards. Sprint!

 

Eat Scheduled Small Meals

There is some research that eating a little and often is slightly better than the usual three-main-meals-a-day. This is due to the metabolism having to fire up and actually burn calories to help you digest the food you’re eating; mind you these small meals need to be of good quality, your metabolism might increase just after you eat but it still won’t burn anything to significantly dent the fat laid down by eating a chocolate bar.

 

 

Don’t Believe The Hype

 

Super Foods

There are foods that give you a great nutritional kick for the amount eaten but there really isn’t anything out there that will give you a magical metabolism boost. People extol the virtues of spices such as cayenne pepper or cinnamon and drinks such as green tea but just because it’s hot and makes you sweat does not mean it’s doing anything to your metabolism. That’s right, a vindaloo will not help you lose weight and, unless you’re planning to have it intravenously 24/7, the effect of green tea on your metabolism is so slight as to be worthless.

 

Caffeine

There’s a slight increase in metabolism through caffeine but the effect is slight and studied results inconclusive, if you drink it do it because you like it and don’t kid yourself there’s a health benefit…wait, that sounds very much like the advice for another drink at the moment…!

 

Dieting

By significantly reducing your calorie intake for a couple of months or more you can reduce your body’s metabolism substantially due to your body going into what is called starvation mode whereby calories are used to preserve vital functions such as circulation and breathing. After this, when you return to eating normally it can still take several weeks to normalise function; a window in which you can easily put weight on. Dieting is fine but do it right and appreciate the amount of calories you really need.

 

The take home message, as ever, is to burn more calories than you consume. If you eat more than you burn then you’ll be putting on weight, it’s actually as straight-forward as that it just doesn’t seem like it.

 

By Rick Ashworth MSc Sports Science

Now Is The Time For Making Some New New Year’s Resolutions?

How long did it take you to break your new year’s resolution to exercise more and drop the excess weight from Christmas? Did you manage a week, two? If you’ve yet to feel your motivation slip then you deserve to be seeing some progress and I hope you are because the statistics show that by the third week of January most of us are beginning to lose the passion we had, some have lost it altogether.

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Psychological research suggests that it takes between four and six weeks of continuity to form a habit; some studies suggest up to 9 weeks. That’s not going to the gym three times the first week and once the next but marking the diary several times every week and sticking to that throughout those formative weeks. Habits are not formed out of sporadic behaviour but consistent application.

 

Check out your Facebook buddies and those you follow on Twitter (personal trainers and professional athletes should be exempt but the rest…?), how many are still knocking out gym-selfies and posting about how many steps they managed on the Stair-Climber? The decline is starkly against the surge in posts pre-christmas from people vowing to have ‘just one more week’before the weight comes off.

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The good news is that it’s only the start of February and if you’ve begun to feel that struggle (or have given in to it already) then don’t beat yourself up, I’m here to tell you how to get going again The best strategies involve planning. This means writing down a chart that specifies when, where and how you will do what you plan. For an exercise plan it involves writing down a time (the full duration) and what you intend to do in the gym. If you have a personal trainer then that’s all taken care of but if you’re doing it yourself be sure to have a good idea in mind, otherwise, as is often the case, you can find yourself wandering between equipment and getting bored quickly and, without knowing what you plan to achieve from a session, you will struggle.

 

However, a plan can be as simple as saying: ‘every Saturday morning I’ll get up 30 minutes earlier and go for a run before the kids get up’. So you set the alarm and eventually every Saturday it becomes an automatic action to get up and run, there’s no thought or dilemma, no should I or can I be bothered, the action is triggered by the external stimulus: alarm sounds, you go running. Don’t worry you’re not one of Pavlov’s dogs, if any other alarm goes off at any other point in any other day you shouldn’t feel the urge to start doing laps around the local shopping centre or charging down the sideline doing interval sprints as your son plays Sunday morning football; this doesn’t mean you can’t should you feel like it though…!

 

If you’re still feeling disappointed that you’ve fallen off the bandwagon already just think about this little statistic: last year new gym memberships in the US were higher in March than in January. So it seems that many people suffer through the winter blues before setting off in search of their summer shape.

 

Sometimes it’s not you but those around you who prove to be a barrier to a new you. If you’re getting stick off others for not training then it’s simple: don’t tell them you’re going to start.

 

Despite it apparently going against every piece of advice you’ve ever been given, telling others you’re about to embark on a new exercise program to get support and increase motivation could be the worst thing you could do. Certain studies have found that by blurting your intentions out to everyone it could actually make you feel like you’ve already achieved most what you set out to. Unfortunately, talking a good game is not the same as playing one; most of us would already hold a World Championship medal in something or other if that were the case, I know I would.

 

When you finally get into the gym it’s equally important not to worry about gym-members who look great or are hammering out a high speed on the treadmill. The gym isn’t about the person next to you, it’s about you and Johnny Barrelchest has no more right to any equipment or gym-space than you do. However, what you should respect Johnny for is his ability to stick to a schedule, he doesn’t look the way he does by chance and you won’t look any better by staring as he knocks out another chest press either.

 

Have a plan. If the equipment you were going to use is occupied then, guess what, use something else, don’t just moon-about on the gym floor hoping someone will finish up on the treadmill in the next thirty seconds. Use the X-trainer or bike. Can’t get on the bench press then do a press-up. If you’re struggling then any fitness instructor or personal trainer with a cell in their brain should be able to give you about ten alternatives without pause for thought and they won’t charge you for the information; in fact, they should show you how.

 

Regardless, here are ten tips to help you stick to your new New Year’s exercise resolutions:

 

Be realistic

 

 This is just as relevant to dieting too. If you’re starting a new running program don’t plan on running 10k in 35 minutes in the next couple of months, aim for increases that are attainable; run 0.2km/hr quicker on the next run or run for two minutes longer, neither will feel greatly harder but, clearly, you’re doing more. Much like dieting, don’t say that you’re never going to eat a chocolate bar again because you’ll only end up feeling guilty and depressed when you do. Aim to eat more healthily and, maybe, cut down your portion size too, Government guide-lines overstate the amount of calories the average man and woman require each day.

 

Plan

 

Make a plan for the week ahead not the next day. Sure, sometimes things change and you might have to miss a session or eat out rather than have the mackerel salad you were going to but by having a plan ahead of time then you’re less likely to blow it off and others will be more inclined to take your plans seriously and support your efforts if they know what times you’re free or what your goals are.

 

Be Determined

 

You’re not up for training today…so what’s going to make you? Did you leave your kit in the car so you don’t have to go home to get it? Did you book yourself into circuits for next time so you know you have a place?

 

Think about why you wanted to do this in the first place, what were your goals, do you want to be fitter, healthier and live a longer and more active life? What is that going to take? Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself out loud why you’re going to miss training and see if those excuses still seem good enough.

 

Talk to your friends

 

Don’t tell them you’re going to be the next Mo Farah but just tell them you want to start going to the gym a few times-a-week and these are the times and the reasons why. Those close to you will understand why and support you, tell them how to do that best.

 

Reward Yourself

 

To take all the ambiguity away, this does not mean a cupcake after each session, it means setting a goal that takes some achievement, maybe going to the gym three-times-a-week for three or four weeks should be rewarded with a trip to the cinema or a new pair of gym shoes, something fun or something that can help you focus on continuing your good work, after all, everyone loves new kit or is that just me…?

 

Track your progress

 

You’re doing well but how well, can you remember how much you lifted two weeks ago or do you just have a vague guess and if it feels difficult then it must be an improvement?

 

Equally, are you keeping a food journal? Are you eating less or are you having more snacks because of your new exercise regime? It might not be a bad thing, you might need more calories for all the energy you’re expending or, alternatively, you might feel that because you’re working out you can eat more, which is not always the case at all.

 

Make a list, keep a journal, whatever it is you need to know.

 

Don’t worry

 

If you fall off the bandwagon and stuff your face for a meal or even a day, if you can’t make the gym because of work or family commitments then that’s OK. The gym shouldn’t be the be-all-and-end-all of each day. As we discussed earlier, it’s about habits and if you’re eating well and working out to a fairly regular pattern then your body is not going to be derailed by the odd day off. Be consistent.

 

Keep on keeping on

 

Just reinforcing here. Struggling to keep going after a few weeks? Then have a few days off to eat a few ‘bad’things and put your feet up. If you’ve worked hard for a few weeks then a couple of days are not going to destroy everything. Sure, the more effort you put in and the healthier you eat then the better and the quicker you’ll reach your target but don’t be miserable about it, you’ll never succeed if you don’t like what you’re doing.

 

Make February the month to keep your resolutions, it seems to be what everyone else does!

 

By Rick Ashworth Msc Sports Science

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