GIRL GET FIT

Part 4: 4 Exercises to get in shape in no time!

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Here’s the final blog to complete the series of 4 exercises to get you in shape in no time!

So far we’ve looked at the lunge, squat and press-up. That’s two lower body exercises and one upper body exercise. The forth exercise is another upper body exercise – The Band Pull-up.

The pull-up is an exercise that works many muscles in the body and is functional to everyday arm movements. It is the extending and flexing of the elbows and shoulders that works muscles throughout the whole of the upper body. The pull-up develops the muscles of the back, shoulders, arms, trunk, and hands.  When working the shoulder, it not only strengthens the large muscle groups, but it also works the smaller muscles that stabilize the scapula, facilitating improved posture. The benefits to the trunk are surprising as the core does get a fantastic workout! Often those who are new to pull-ups report aching abs the day after, even though they’ve done no isolated abdominal work.

Why the band?

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Pull-ups are extremely hard. They are so hard that most normal people can’t even perform one pull-up. In fact, I would suggest that you start with chin-ups (palms facing towards you) and progress to pull-ups (palms facing away from you) once you have improved your level of strength. The band is useful because it assists you in performing the movement. Fortunately you can choose the strength of band, depending on your ability. The stronger you are, the less assistance you will need, so using a thin band that contracts with less force will be fine. If you are new to this exercise, I advise getting a strong, thick band that will enable you to perform a few reps to get started. As your strength increases, the number of repetitions you can do in each set will increase. The great thing about using a band is that it gives the most assistance when it is under most tension. The most difficult part of the pull up is at the start of each pull up, when your arms are straight and the band is stretched. Hence, when you need the most help it gives it! As your elbows get into a more flexed, mechanically stronger position where you require less help, the band offers less assistance.

Here’s how to do it

Loop the band round a stable bar and thread it through itself. Hook the loose end of the band round one or two knees, take hold of the bar and hang with your arms straight. If you have hypermobile joints, do not fully lock out your shoulders and elbows in this bottom position, but keep them very slightly bent. Then bend your knees and cross your feet behind you. Make sure your grip on the bars is narrower than shoulder distance apart if you are doing chin-ups and hands slightly wider than shoulder distance apart if you are doing pull-ups. Pull hard and keep pulling until your chin is over the bar. That is one repetition. Lower yourself down slowly to the starting position, then try to do a second repetition. Repeat until you can no longer get your chin up over the bar.

Progressing your pull-ups

I would suggest starting with 3 sets of 5 reps. As this gets easier, begin to increase the number of reps until you can complete 3 sets of 10 reps. When you successfully manage this, move onto a thinner band that provides less assistance and go back to doing 3 sets of 5 reps and build up again. As you continue to get stronger, add repetitions and change to thinner bands that give less help.  Ensure you take adequate rest between sets (between 1 and 2 minutes), or perform a leg exercise between your sets of pull-ups.

As with the other exercises, try doing this twice a week initially, and you will begin to see improvements. After 6 weeks of consistency, you should see some amazing results!

Let me know how you get on. Happy training!

Miri x

 



Coconut Oil, The Ultimate Health Food…It Can Even Help You Lose Weight!

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Having spent time living in the tropics, I was privileged to observe countless creative uses of coconuts, where it has long been a primary ingredient in food, drink and cosmetics.  Recently, the coconut, and more specifically, coconut oil has made a resurgence in the West as a health food.

Coconut oil is derived from the meat (white part) of matured coconuts, which is the same source as coconut milk. The growing popularity of its many industrial and cosmetic uses have made it a valuable commodity in recent times.  It is solid at room temperature like butter. It is heat stable, making it suitable for cooking at high temperatures, and in my opinion has a wonderful tropical smell. It is slow to oxidise, and thus has a shelf life of approximately two years.

Whether unsaturated or saturated, the majority of fats and oils in our diet are composed of long chain fatty acids (LCFA). Coconut oil is composed predominantly of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) and the effects of the MCFAs in coconut oil are distinctly different from the LCFAs found in other foods. This is important because our bodies respond to, and metabolise each fatty acid differently. It is the MCFAs found in coconut oil that makes it special because these fatty acids do not have a negative effect on cholesterol. In fact, they are known to lower the risk of heart disease and atherosclerosis (accumulation of fat in the arteries). There are only few dietary sources of MCFAs in this world, and one of the best sources by far is coconut oil.

The liver and gall bladder do not need to digest MCFAs, so as a result, anyone with an impaired ability to digest fat, IBS symptoms or a removed gallbladder will benefit from coconut oil as this oil is easily digested. This digestion process provides instant energy. It increases metabolic rate as well as improving circulation. A study carried out in 2009, found that women who consumed 30 millilitres (about 2 tablespoons) of coconut oil daily for 12 weeks not only lost weight, but actually lost abdominal fat. Knowing that abdominal fat is probably the hardest to shift, and is one of the biggest contributing factors to metabolic syndrome, surely it would be worth a try!

 

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Lauric Acid

A number of the health benefits from coconut oil are attributed to the presence of lauric acid. In the human body, lauric acid is converted into monolaurin, a compound that is highly toxic to viruses, bacteria, funguses and other microorganisms. It has an ability to disrupt their lipid membranes and virtually destroy them.

Monolaurin has many valuable uses and is effective for treating candida, and fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. It also targets bacterial infections and viruses including measles, influenza, hepatitis C and even HIV. In the Philippines researchers are continuing to study the effectiveness of lauric acid against HIV/AIDS due to its strong anti-viral properties! In addition to this, being non-toxic, lauric acid is a great alternative to modern drugs that are typically prescribed for viruses as well as fungal and bacterial infections.

It has been widely observed that the consumption of coconut oil has the effect of boosting immunity and reducing the incidences of many diseases. Without lauric acid, the body cannot produce monolaurin. Breastmilk is one of the few other sources of lauric acid, helping to protect babies while their immune system develops.

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Some of the incredible uses and benefits of coconut oil

 1. Hair conditioning and dandruff remedy

Due to their small molecular structure, the fatty acids that make up coconut oil pass freely into the hair’s cell membrane. The oil is thus able to penetrate the hair’s shaft and bring about a deep conditioning effect from within whilst most other conditioners work from the outside, in.

Dandruff is a fungus on the scalp that causes the flaking of the skin. Regular massaging, of a teaspoon or two of coconut oil into the scalp can kill the fungus and eliminate dandruff, bringing relief. Because it can make the hair oily, try massaging into the scalp before bed, and leaving it in overnight. This can also give a really deep hair conditioning treatment, leaving hair ultra-shiny, after being washed out the next day!

2. Skin

Coconut oil can be used as an excellent skin treatment. It can penetrate deeply, moisturising and acting as a protective barrier against free radical and environmental damage. It absorbs quickly and doesn’t leave an oily feeling, but makes the skin incredibly silky. Bonus! Coconut oil is busting with natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.  Its ability to smooth the skin while infusing with anti-oxidants makes it a perfect anti-aging moisturizer. It also contains vitamin E, another antioxidant popular for hastening the recovery of skin abrasions, burns and other skin traumas. It can even be used as added sun protection, screening 20 per cent of the exposure to ultraviolet light.

Regularly rubbing it into your hands will stop them from getting dry, even in the winter. Adding a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil for scent is a great natural way of making your own, natural hand lotion.

3. Weight loss

As mentioned above, the medium-chain fatty acids found in coconut oil can speed up metabolism faster than long-chain fatty acids because they are easily digested and converted into energy. In fact, a study reported medium-chain fatty acids to be three times more effective in raising metabolism than long-chain fatty acids. This has led researchers to conclude that effective weight loss can be achieved by replacing long-chain fatty acids with medium-chain fatty acids.

4. Other cosmetic uses

- Using coconut oil in the shower as a shaving soap gives a smooth shave with no irritation. It’s best to rub on before getting in the shower and then shave in the shower. It also moisturises, leaving legs feeling silky soft!

- Coconut oil makes a great tropical smelling massage oil giving many of the above benefits to the skin!

- Believe it or not, coconut oil is an excellent eye-make up remover and has been reported to help lessen the appearance of wrinkles and help restore elasticity to the skin.

Other than the benefits of cooking with coconut oil, it can also be added to other foods such as smoothies, homemade mayo, tea, coffee, hot chocolate, porridge, and homemade snacks to create a wonderfully creamy texture and great taste. Due to its nutrient density, healthy fat content, and rich flavour it’s a great addition to lots of foods.

Here are a few more medical benefits:

  • Can help restore thyroid function
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Stabilises insulin
  • Enables absorption of fat soluble vitamins
  • Boosts immunity
  • Reduces joint and muscle inflammation
  • Believed to protect against cancer and HIV and other infectious diseases
  • Kills bacteria and parasites
  • Eases acid reflux, aids in proper bowel function
  • Lowers incidence of haemorrhoids
  • Heals and relieves intestinal problems
  • Soothes earaches
  • Deals with symptoms connected with prostate enlargement
  • Strengthens the liver and protects against degeneration
  • Reduces incidence of epileptic seizures
  • Eases neuropathies and itching from diabetes

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It is fascinating to note that in countries such as Thailand, local people eat high amounts of saturated fats, particularly, coconut oil, and on average have very low levels of disease.  Research by the World Health Organization showed that the people consuming a traditional diet in Thailand have less instance of heart disease and the lowest rates of cancer of all 50 countries involved in the study. Interestingly, diabetes is 10 times more frequent in the United States than in Thailand, despite (or perhaps because of) their high saturated fat consumption. Sadly in more developed areas of Thailand where there is a greater exposure to Western foods, containing higher amounts of refined sugar, metabolic disorders such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease have dramatically risen.

According to the experts, an adult can consume 3 ½ tablespoons of coconut oil daily. This amount equates to the amount of MCFAs that a breastfeeding child would receive daily. There are no known side effects of coconut oil, however, if you are used to a low-fat diet, a common adverse reaction would be diarrhoea.

If you are not used to having coconut oil in your diet, it is best to start out with less, spreading out the consumption over the day and see how the body reacts before increasing to the recommended amount.

In coconut-producing countries, it is considered beneficial for pregnant and lactating women to consume coconut oil. Consuming coconut oil has been shown to increase lauric acid content in breast milk – great for baby’s health and immunity! Reassuringly, for those who don’t breastfeed, one of the ingredients in baby formula is coconut oil!

I hope this has given you information and inspiration about the use of this amazing, rejuvenating and healing oil!

Miri x

 



5 Great Reasons to get in the Shape of Your Life BEFORE Pregnancy!

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Generally I blog about all areas that concern post pregnancy mums. I like the focus to be on you and leave the baby advice to others! You are important and valuable and need care! I want to encourage you and offer advice in this particularly difficult period of life, and enable you to make a smooth and happy transition to being a mum. So I write about health, fitness, training, weight loss, diet, beauty, and fashion relating it all to post-pregnancy women.

Today, however, I want to write about getting in the shape of your life before pregnancy as this has great multiple advantages. I meet loads of women who are motivated to get in shape for their wedding day, to look good on photos, to impress the bridegroom and generally wow everyone in the room when they make the entrance! They use their wedding as an end-point to provide them with a goal or target to aim towards, as often, getting in shape is something they’ve wanted to do for ages. In contrast, I don’t meet many women who are getting in shape to get pregnant…arguably a more life changing change! It’s not talked about much, but it can be really beneficial and here’s why.

1. Less physically challenging pregnancy

When you’re fitter everything feels easier. You’re stronger, more mobile and recover quicker from physically demanding tasks. Daily life is full of physical activities such as shopping, working, walking, doing household chores and errands. All these things will become so much more physically demanding when you are pregnant, and if you are overweight, unfit and pregnant then these tasks will really become quite difficult for you. As you get bigger in pregnancy, it’s pretty exhausting. You’re carrying more weight, your lungs work harder, and perhaps you are not sleeping so well. So let’s not allow the extra-unwanted pounds make life even tougher than necessary. Don’t battle against the extra weight of a baby and against your extra unnecessary weight and lack of fitness. Don’t just survive but thrive! The fitter you are, the best chance you have of coping well with the physical demands of pregnant life!

2. Physically easier to get back in shape afterwards

If you haven’t exercised much before, getting back into shape after having a baby may seem like a tough thing to do. If you’ve been fit and your body has been accustomed to exercise pre-pregnancy and during your pregnancy, it’s going to be a lot easier to get these muscles functioning again. If you were fit before pregnancy, then you will have maintained a lot of that during pregnancy, so although you may feel totally different, you will be surprised how quickly you get back in shape. Five weeks after having my first child, I was back training with my Netball club, and played my first competitive match the following week. Did I have to work really hard to get fit again? Not really. I was in good shape before getting pregnant so with a bit of training afterwards, I was ready to go again!

3. Mentally easier to get back in shape afterwards.

If you have seen how amazing your body can be…you are more likely to want to get it back! If you have never seen your body looking lean and toned you will find it even more difficult to believe you could have an amazing body after having a baby and thus find motivating yourself pretty difficult. Most women have the desire to look good and regain a pre-pregnancy body, and for many it may be high on the priority list, but the actual process of getting back in shape brings fear and doubt. Is it possible? Will I be able to do it? If you’ve done it before, it’s always easier to do it again. You know what to expect and you have been disciplined. You have formed good habits of healthy eating and of regular activity. Psychologically it’s always easier to do something you’ve already done before. You know it’s possible. Doing something new or something for the first time is going to be more challenging and difficult.

4. Skin recovers better after pregnancy.

Quite simply, if the weight you put on during pregnancy is the only extra weight you have, your skin will be less stretched than it would have been. If you already carry extra weight and your skin is already stretched, then think how much further your skin is being stretched to adapt to pregnancy. The less stretched your skin has been, the better chances of a good skin recovery following birth.

5. Can increase the chance of getting pregnant.

Many people are unaware of the link between weight and conception. A healthy weight improves fertility! Therefore, getting in good shape can increase your chance of conception. A healthy diet of mostly fresh, unprocessed foods and limited refined sugars (honey and fruits are ok) accompanied by exercise is going to help you get pregnant. Nutrition will have a greater impact on weight loss than exercise, but exercise is vitally important for the health and the smooth functioning of many physiological processes, thus a combination of both is the best formula. Moreover, exercise and healthy eating can act as a de-stress mechanism, which in turn can also increase your chances of conception.

Why wait until after pregnancy?

Some people have the attitude that, “I’m gonna put on weight during pregnancy anyway, so I’m just going wait until after to get fit”. Error! Don’t go down that path! It will be harder to loose the extra weight after the birth of your baby. If the benefits of healthy eating and exercise are so clear, then why wait? Why lose out on quality of life, looking good, better sleep, better well-being, healthier skin, heart and lungs, stronger muscles and so on by procrastinating and waiting until a time when you’ll be more busy and when you are not the only person you need to look after!

Go for it…get in the shape of your life and enjoy all the benefits!

Have a happy Easter!

Miri x

Part 3: 4 Exercises to get in shape in no time!

If you’re looking for an effective way to get in great shape quickly, and burn considerable amounts of body fat, then this exercise cannot be excluded from any weight training programme. In my opinion, the squat is one of the most fundamental exercises for a number of reasons.

1. The movements of flexion and extension of the ankle, knee and hip joints are similar to daily activities such as standing up, walking, jogging, and jumping. Therefore, training the body in this movement is functional to daily life.

2. There are numerous muscles used in this exercise, and therefore it really is a whole body exercise. The quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, adductors (inside of thigh) and gluteus (bum!), the muscles of the lower body do most of the work in lifting the weight. In addition to this, the weight is held on the trapezius (below the neck), and the muscles of the trunk and lower back, also known as “core” muscles, are required to stabilise the upper body to effectively, correctly, and safely perform the movement.

3. A much greater amount of calories are burned by doing this exercise compared to many other exercises you could chose. The reason for this is that so many muscles are being used, as mentioned above. Not only are a large number of muscles used, but also the muscle groups that are used are large muscle groups like the quads, glutes and hamstrings. For example, an exercise like this burns far more calories than a bicep curl, which primarily works the biceps, which are a relatively small group of muscles.

4. Due to the fact that a number of large muscles groups are used, testosterone is released. Testosterone is an extremely effective fat burning hormone, which also helps boost energy and libido, and helps sharpen memory and mental focus. It can help keep bones strong too, which is extremely important for pre-menopausal women as bone density can deteriorate during menopause.

5. Finally, this exercise is effective at building lean muscle in the body, which is one of the biggest factors in returning to your pre-pregnancy body shape (or better!) and getting rid of that baby belly. Read my previous post “The Truth about Lifting Weights” to find out why you need to build muscle, and learn why building muscles does not mean getting “big”!

 

Exercise #3 – The Squat Mirisquat2

To perform the squat, place a barbell across your trapezius, hold the bar in your hands with a grip wider than shoulder width, and pull your elbows down and back. Stand up straight with your feet just wider than shoulder width apart with your feet pointing slightly outwards. Lift you head up so that you are looking straight ahead and stick your chest out. To start the movement, bend at the hips and knees and sit back so that the weight begins to transfer from the middle of your foot towards your heels as you go down. If you are able to maintain good form, you should try to achieve a deep squat position where your hips are lower than your knees. Maintaining good form is keeping a good flat back throughout the movement, with your chest up and head looking forwards at all times. To go back up, push your feet into the floor and extend your knees and hips, returning to a standing position.

Prescription

Start with 2 sets of 10 repetitions if you are using weight or 2 sets of 20-30 repetitions if you are only using your bodyweight. Once this gets easy, move to 3 sets of 10 repetitions, making it challenging so that the last 3 repetitions of each set feels difficult.

If you are doing bodyweight squats, build up to 3-4 sets of 20-30 repetitions. To really get the benefits mentioned above, after the first 3-4 weeks of doing 10 repetitions, increase the weight and aim for 5 sets of 5 heavy repetitions. As with the other exercises, you should start by doing this 2 times per week and aim to hit a rhythm of maintaining this on a regular basis 2-3 times per week. You will notice it gets easier the 2nd or 3rd time but you’ll see drastic improvements after 6 weeks! If you have no barbell, but still would like to add weight to the squat, you can hold dumbbells with your hands by your side, or hold a medicine ball in your arms against your body.

 

I’d love to hear how you get on with this, so please leave me a comment.

Happy training!

Miri x

 

Burn that Post-pregnancy weight on this Fitness Camp!

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Join up for my husband’s Fitness camp this April to help burn off some of that baby weight and get fit. This camp is aimed at those who are actively playing sports and desire to learn how to improve their training. It may be that you have some post-pregnancy weight to burn off that you haven’t managed to shift over the last year, or even few years.

Date: 27th APRIL – 3rd MAY

Overview:

Pete hosts this unique and high quality fitness training camp using his experience from 10 years of working with Elite-level athletes. If you are playing sport, especially a team sport, and are looking for ways of improving your training and conditioning to make you an all round better athlete, this week is for you.

Pete will be on hand all week to coach, guide, inspire and motivate individuals to take the next steps towards their personal goals and aspirations. All this is done is a warm, approachable, welcoming, friendly and supportive way, taking your personal goals and aspirations into account.

Enjoy some great running in the mountains, learning how to build your fitness and strength more efficiently through training, design your own training programme, swim and kayak on Lake Annecy and more to get the ultimate week’s workout during your stay.

Insights and training will include:

Discover the secrets of the best training for the best results. What to do, when, why and how. Your week will include;

  • Great workouts every day; fun, challenging, varied for every level of performance, every session personally coached by Pete
  • Eat healthy, natural, nutritious and tasty food; what works to support your training, racing and recovery
  • The best way to warm up, mobilise the body, cool down and stretch to stay injury free
  • How to optimise your recovery
  • Effective core conditioning, dispelling some of the myths of core work
  • Improve your speed and agility, giving you a competitive edge
  • How to plan your own, personalised training programme
  • Best ways of improving strength and power for optimised performance
  • Improve your anaerobic fitness
  • How to train the whole body with limited equipment, when you can’t access a gym
  • Come away with an understanding of speed, agility, strength, power, endurance, flexibility, mobility, and recovery, and how they can be worked together to improve performance
  • Training in a stunning environment surrounded by beautiful scenery
  • Friendly coaching team lead by a top strength & conditioning coach with experience of working with team sports and individual athletes at the highest level

For more info please visit: http://summer.adventuresinthealps.com/fitness-conditioning/

Get signed up and enjoy it!

Miri x




 

Part 2: 4 Exercises to get in shape in no time!

I hope you’re now into the swing of regularly doing the lunges that I described in my previous post. As I said in Part 1, this programme is going to be a quick and simple way to get a full-body workout, which will burn the unwanted fat and tone up your legs, arms and core. This simple, but effective programme should be tried by anyone who is trying to lose that post pregnancy weight and is ready to start exercising again.

This exercise is one of the simplest as it requires no equipment and it is so effective. It is possibly one of the most under-rated and under-utilised exercises that exists. That’s why I love it so much! The press-up really is a great exercise for toning up your upper body, arms and core. Another great facet is that you can vary it and adapt it in so many different ways to make is easier or more difficult, or to work the muscles in different ways.

The press-up predominantly works the chest muscles (pectorals) and triceps, but additionally the shoulders (deltoids) and all the core muscles. The core is required to work hard to keep the body held in a flat ‘plank’ position throughout the exercise.

Exercise #2 – The Press-up

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Lie flat on your belly and place your hands flat on the floor, by your side, slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Keeping your body perfectly flat, push against the ground with your hands and straighten your elbows. Keep your head in a neutral position to reduce any strain on your neck. Lower yourself back down to the ground, but do not rest. Repeat the first movement of lifting yourself up. It is the arms that do the work of moving your body weight. Don’t be tempted to use your butt, stomach or the lower half of your body to heave yourself up.

 

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If this movement is too difficult to start with, try an adapted press-up on your knees. For this exercise, place your knees on the floor and position your body weight forwards and over your arms. In this way, your knees take some of the weight, however there is still enough weight over your arms to make it challenging. Extend your arms and lower yourself back down in the same manner as a full press-up.

 

 

Prescription

Start with 2 sets of 10 repetitions with your knees on the ground. Once this gets easy, move to 3 sets of 6-10 repetitions of full press-ups. As with the lunges, you should start by doing this 2 times per week and aim to hit a rhythm of maintaining this on a regular basis 2-3 times per week. You will notice it gets easier the 2nd or 3rd time but you’ll see drastic improvements after 6 weeks!

Enjoy it, and let me know how you get on by leaving a comment!

Miri xx

Part 1: Four exercises to get in shape in no time!

There are so many fitness fads and so many different diets out there that it is hard to know what to choose. You can get fit in so many different ways, using so many different modes of training – that is the beauty of exercise – it is so varied! As you may know I am a fan of having some form of weight training as part of a fitness programme for several reasons (see my other blogs). I want to show you a great but simple way of training with weights. If you ask a personal trainer to write you a programme, you may be given a list of 10-12 exercises to do over a period of an hour or so in the gym. To get through these exercises, you have to rush through each one, keeping the weight low, as there’s not much time to rest. Sometimes the exercises are so easy that you hardly break a sweat, and other times you find yourself working a small muscle in your arm that you never even knew existed. You rightly begin to wonder if this will really burn the fat off your bum and thighs.

So, I want to offer you a simple but extremely effective programme that, if you follow for 6 weeks, you will see a complete transformation to your body! These 4 exercises will burn the fat and tone you up in all the right areas. I haven’t just chosen any 4 exercises, or even my favourite 4 exercises. I have chosen 4 exercises that will give you the perfect balance of a full-body work out. These 4 exercises encompass the upper body and lower body, pushing and pulling, all of which compliment each other. In addition to this, you are effectively working your core without doing any direct abs work.

This blog is Part 1 of a series in which I will explain everything about this programme! I will give you tips on technique, so that the exercises are executed correctly, as well as justification on why these exercises work so well, and how this simple system can transform your shape. By the way, don’t wait until you have read all the parts before getting started. Why wait? Start today. Start now!

Exercise #1 – The Lunge

 

Miri lunge

Begin standing upright, feet together, holding a dumbbell in each hand and head facing forwards. Take a step forwards of about 80-100cm, and then lower yourself keeping the knee of the front foot over the ankle. Make sure your upper body is upright, shoulders back, your head facing forwards and your core is engaged, not soft. Go as far down until your back knee almost touches the ground. Then, push upwards and back with the front foot and return to the upright, standing position. Repeat this 10 times! I’ve done it today!

The lunge predominantly works your quads, hamstrings and glutes (bum!) in a really effective way. In addition to this, by engaging your trunk area and maintaining and upright posture throughout the movement, you are giving your core a blast at the same time!

 

I hope you enjoy this and I’m looking forward to sharing the next part really soon!

Miri xxx

 

The Truth about Lifting Weights

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I would like to introduce some of the key benefits of lifting weights, and to use this post as a bit of an introduction for some other great posts I have lined up on weight training.

I also want to take this opportunity to dispel some myths about training with weights, and to give you some reasons why, as a busy mum with kids, you should be adding weights to your “fitness regime”.

Myth #1 – Lifting weights will make me big and manly

Lifting weights will not make you big! If it does, you are probably eating too much. It is extremely difficult to gain large amounts of lean body mass (muscle) and this takes a LOT of hard work.  It simply will not happen unless you want it to, as it requires you to take all the right steps to train and eat in such a way that develops this. Furthermore, women have much lower amounts of free testosterone than men, and therefore are not inclined to gain large amounts of muscle mass. Evidently, it’s even really hard for men to gain large amounts of muscle mass, and that’s why so many products and magazines are aimed at giving men the best solutions on ‘how to get big’.

Lets consider sporty women – have you ever seen a large, muscly high jumper? No! Yet women high jumpers lift extremely heavy weights on a regular basis, and train much harder than you or I will ever have time to train (it’s their full-time job to train!),  yet they do not get big. Why? Because they train and eat in the right way. In fact, lifting weights will make you thin and toned, so read on to find out how and why.

Myth #2 – It’s bad for my back, knees, hips…or whatever other excuses you can think of…

Many people think that lifting weights will somehow injure their joints. It’s true that if you attempt to lift really heavy weights on day 1, and you do not know what you’re doing, you probably will get hurt. That’s the same with anything. If you ride a bike as fast as you can on the first day you learnt to ride, you will probably get hurt. This does not mean that riding a bike is dangerous and will cause many injuries!

With weights, you have to progress slowly, increasing weight as your technique improves and your strength increases. (This is of paramount importance if you do have a long term injury).  In this way you will actually strengthen your joints as opposed to injuring them. Your back, knees, hips and other joints will become stronger and more resistant to the stresses of everyday life and sport, if this is something you are involved in. Thus you will be protecting yourself from injury by lifting weights, not causing injury, as some would have you believe. So if you have a weak back or weak knees, maybe now is the time to start lifting weights as this could alleviate your pain and enable you to enjoy life more.

Myth #3 – Lifting weights will make me tight and stiff

Let’s first define tight as “losing range of motion in your joints and becoming inflexible”; and stiff as “the feeling of muscle soreness that you can get after exercise”. If you were to take up bodybuilding and gained a huge amount of muscle mass, then you may possibly lose range of motion in your joints and feel tight. This is a loss of flexibility. However, if you lift weights in the right way, and don’t gain a huge amount of muscle (and as I explained earlier it is extremely difficult to do this) you will actually improve your range of motion. Working your muscles groups through a full range of motion will actually improve your flexibility and strengthen you in the more extreme ranges. One big advantage of this is that you are less likely to hurt yourself if you slip or fall!

You may feel stiff a day or two after training. This is because you have worked your muscles, causing micro tears in the fibres. They simply need a little time to heal and to grow stronger. This is quite normal and shows that you have actually done some work! Great! This feeling lasts 24-48 hours in extreme cases and is not dangerous. Don’t panic, you are not injured, you’ve just asked your muscles to do some work that they’re not used to. Once you are used to your weight training exercises, you will not get this feeling to the same extent.

Myth #4 – I’m too old to lift weights

This is the worst excuse ever! There is plenty of research that has been done that shows the benefits of weight training for all age groups of people, even the elderly. Weight training has been shown to improve daily activities like stair climbing, standing up out of a chair, and other daily body functions and movements. I know I don’t want to grow old and not be able to bend down to tie my shoelaces, or lift my future grandchildren. And I know that weight training exercises will improve my body function in many everyday tasks and movements, thus making me more mobile and able to live life to the full.

One study carried out with 142 older people aged 60-80 years old (!) showed that lifting weights improved stair climbing, treadmill walking endurance, cycling power output and leg strength, when compared with those who carried on doing normal daily activities.1

As a result, it is quite clear that lifting weights properly is neither dangerous nor detrimental to health and function in any way.

Myth #5 – My main aim is weight loss not weight gain so lifting weights will not achieve that

It’s a well-known fact that muscle weighs more than the same volume of fat, so people immediately jump to the conclusion that they are going to gain weight by lifting weights instead of lose weight. There are 2 important factors to consider here:

1. Weight loss is not the same as fat loss. In fact, weight is not directly linked to health so the number that you see when you stand on the scales means nothing. Body fat, however, is linked to health, so if you have too much body fat, you are unhealthy. Furthermore, you look overweight if you carry too much body fat, as it is stored in unkind places, and so has a direct impact on your body shape. Therefore, your goal should be to lose fat, and not necessarily weight. Lifting weights will not make you fat, therefore, it is not unhealthy for you.

2. Lifting weights burns calories and drastically increases your metabolism. You will therefore most likely burn more fat in comparison to the amount of muscle that you gain. As a result, you are likely to lose weight anyway, and will probably shrink in dress-size. So, you will definitely lose body fat and size, and most likely lose weight as a result of lifting weights!

I hope I have successfully given you a number of reasons to add weight training to your list of activities to go get in shape, as well as blowing away some of the myths that exist. Keep checking my blogs for more information and guidance in this area!

Now go lift something  xx

 

My reflections on the Lance Armstrong saga.

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He used banned substances, he lied again and again denying it, and he bullied to keep the truth hidden. He was right at the top, he was the best, he had profile, he was a living dream, an inspiration to cancer suffers and their families. Wow, how he has fallen a long way! Gutted! Lance Armstrong has let a lot of people down. 80 million people have bought the yellow Livestrong bands; even more have been impacted by the work of Livestrong. Millions more have been inspired in their own lives because of him. Yet, he lived a lie for so long. He allowed us to keep believing the dream of not only survival but thriving after cancer. It was a dream he was desperate to keep alive. He represented life to the full! Undoubtedly Armstrong was looking after number one, but he lived with the pressure of knowing the impact the truth would have on others. You and I will probably never understand just how stressful that was.

Evidently, many other professional high profile cyclists where also found taking the same performance enhancing drugs (quite probably in more extreme measures) and received just a 6 month ban. Yes, Lance Armstrong has let a lot of people down, yet I don’t understand why that means he has to live with a life sentence (lifetime ban from sports). It seems because he had status he has to pay a bigger price! Lets remember he has still devoted much of his time and energy to Livestrong. Doubtlessly the foundation would not have been able to do what it has without the face of Armstrong. Is it right that because he was the best, had profile and was the face a massive cancer foundation that he should be treated more severely? I’m not sure.

He still is a cancer survivor; he fought and worked incredibly hard to regain phenomenal fitness. EPO, Testosterone and Growth Hormone don’t just magically make you climb a mountain like he did. It simply allows you to work harder in training. He still trained hours upon hours, endured the pain again and again, day after day. He was determined and focused. He reached a level of fitness that went beyond the other drug using cyclists. Many will disagree and think that I am crazy, but I still think that he is inspiring. If all the competing cyclists during that era, including Armstrong, were clean, he would have still won. Obviously, he should have done everything within him but also within the rules. He made a mistake (a huge one) but who doesn’t?

I believe there is a time to acknowledge the hurt and disappointment he has caused, a time for apologies and consequences. Following all this, I think there is a time for forgiveness too. I hope people can forgive him for what he has done. He is sorry. Understandably, some need more time than others to get to that place, but ultimately we have to get there. Staying angry and hurt will simply eat away at us. Bitterness and hate destroy, but forgiveness wins every time. Lets remember we have all made mistakes, and fortunately most of us make these away from public eye. Without doubt, Armstrong is going to live with the consequences of his decisions and actions for the rest of his life and thus I am glad that he is an optimist and looks to the future. This is exactly what is needed.

I really hope that as an individual he can deal with these things, re-find himself and become a great man again. Perhaps he can rise again and inspire again as a new man, restored, humble, and whole. Lets hope the people around him can help him rebuild his life. I think we too should be optimistic and move on, remaining hopeful for the future of cycling. It is cleaner now than ever before! Lets look forward, and enjoy the thrilling race of strength and endurance! I love it!

Which is best, exercise or good nutrition?

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I often get asked the question, which is the most effective, good exercise, or good nutrition, and I always have to answer that it depends what for. This answer, however, is not ducking the question, but is an opportunity for me to explain exactly why exercise is more effective for some outcomes, and nutrition is better for others. Then I will reveal the secret on what is best for you!

If you are an elite athlete, like Usain Bolt, trying to break the World Record in the 100m sprint, then I believe that training will have a much greater effect on his performance than nutrition. Let me explain. It doesn’t matter how good his diet is, or how many vegetables he eats, unless he trains hard everyday, there is no way that he is going to be able to compete at the highest level. His training will have the greatest impact on his ability to run fast. Does this mean he can eat whatever he pleases? Not really. By eating the right foods at the right time, he can optimise his training and recovery, which will have a direct impact on his performance. The timing of his food is imperative. He must eat the right thing pre, during, and post training to optimise his physical adaptations. So for elite athletes aiming for a particular performance output, training will have a greater impact than nutrition, but it’s impossible to really get the best out of your body without paying close attention to both.

What about weight loss then? Well, for loss of body fat, nutrition will have a greater impact than exercise. You can train all you want, but unless you manipulate your diet in the right way, you will not be able to shift fat in certain areas where it is stubborn and doesn’t want to go! So from an aesthetic point of view, nutrition has a bigger impact than exercise. Does this mean that I don’t have to exercise? Of course not. In this case, to optimise your body composition, i.e. your percentage body fat and lean muscle mass, your have to exercise and be deliberate about planning your food intake in the right way. If you take the extreme case of a bodybuilder, they achieve their defined look through planning their nutrition to the nth degree, and through training hard.

But, what about me, a mum of 3, not looking to break the world record in the 100m or have rippling muscles like a bodybuilder? What should I do to be healthy, feel energised, stay slim, and stay healthy in the long term? First lets look at some of the benefits of the right kind of diet and the benefits of exercise, then I’ll give you the secret to staying slim and being healthy!

Healthy eating of the right foods at the right time can do the following:

  • Reduce cholesterol
  • Reduce risk of heart disease
  • Reduce risk of diabetes
  • Improve hair, nails and skin condition
  • Drastically reduce body fat!
  • Increase metabolism

…and much more!

Exercising in the right way at the right time can do the following:

  • Reduce risk or cardiovascular disease
  • Reduce body fat
  • Improve bone density (very important for pre-menopausal women to combat the risk of post-menopausal osteoporosis)
  • Strengthen ligaments, tendons and muscles
  • Improve mobility and balance (general everyday body function!)
  • Improve psychological well-being
  • Improve mental performance (concentration, learning etc.)

…and much more!

So finally I’m going to tell you what the most important is for you! The answer is both! You cannot be healthy without having both a good diet and participating in regular physical activity. I don’t care what anyone says, this is the only way to be healthy. I have met people who have a terrible diet but exercise hard and they can look good. Or others who have a great diet but do not exercise, and they too can look good. But the only way to look great, feel great and actually be as healthy as you can be is to have a well-balanced exercise programme containing all the key elements, and to have a great diet.

So keep reading my blogs and I’ll keep giving you tips on exercise and nutrition, and all things that are important for post pregnancy weight loss, and busy mums who still want to look great!