Monday, 30 July 2012

Stability Ball Workout

I'm so sorry for the wait, what with insanity, (more on this later), Olympics and my free 'Bootcamp' taster on Sunday, where 10 victims, sorry I mean willing participants came out to join me and worked with tyres, sledgehammers, ropes, suspension trainers, kettlebells, sled drags, and a host of fabulous unconventional tools, a very big well done to all who joined me.  Keep watch for details of my 'Spare Tyre Boot Camp' coming soon!

So as promised your stability ball workout that can be done easily at home or in the gym.  You should perform a 5 - 10 minutes mobility and warm up drill.  This could be performed without the ball, example a few minutes doing some range of dynamic movement at your joints such as elbow circles in both directions, this can be made bigger by performing some front crawl and backstroke type movements for the shoulders.  Moving down the body, perform some hip circles in one direction then the other.  Then incorporate both upper and lower body with a full body extension; start with arms up over head, now bring arms down and behind you as you push your bum and hips out and down behind you.  Your finish position will feel like your a down hill skier!  There you have 3 dynamic moves that mobilises all your major joints, prepares your muscles and mind and warms you up a little.

If you are warming up with the ball, try this;

Sit on your ball with legs hip width apart, sit up tall with your tummy muscles engaged.  The shoulder bit from above can easily be performed seated on the ball.  Now start to bounce softly on the ball, so you get a little bit of knee bend.  Keep your fingers lightly touching the ball on both sides to aid stability.  Now start to make this bounce bigger, you should feel that you nearly want to stand.  During these their should be some space between your bum and the ball!  Next bounce for a count of 10 then quickly stand, walk around your ball and repeat for 10 bounces, stand and walk around in the other direction.  Repeat this sequence 6 times.  Your heart rate should be increasing at this time.  So again in not so many exercises you've still mobilised your shoulders, back, knees, ankles and warmed you up.

So to the workout.  Again make sure you've taken precautions as suggested in the previous blog, have some water available, then your good to go.  Try this circuit 2 or 3 times, taking rest and water as and when needed.

1.  Plank - hold a full plank if possible, so your forearms are on top of the ball, engage your 'core' muscles, your knees should also be off the floor, push your heels away from you and hold for as long as possible, best technique.  If someone was looking at you, they should be able to draw a line from your ear to your shoulder, to your hip to your heel.  (If difficult you may put your knees down, but I believe holding a full plank for 10 seconds is better than holding a on knees plank for a long time, if unsure speak to an instructor or me!)

2.  Next wall squats, you'll need to put the ball behind you on a wall.  The ball should sit quite comfortably in your lumbar curve.  Take a little step forward, so that when you squat your knees shouldn't go directly over your toes.  If you get knee pain, step forward a few inches and that should make a difference.  Place your arms crossed in front of your chest, then sit back and down like your sitting in a chair.  Go as low as you comfortably can, go slow on the way down, say a count of 5 seconds, then come up on a count of 1 / 2 seconds squeezing your butt at the top.  Repeat for 12 - 16 reps.  Any hard core people could half way through their set sit at the bottom and pulse (short tiny quick movements), see how many you can do:)

3.  Next woodchops  -  stand with legs hip to shoulder width apart, feet facing forward.  Hold the ball above your right shoulder, now like you would in a woodchop motion, bring the ball down towards the outside of your left lower leg.  Try and keep your legs straight.  Go easy if you have back pain, try the motion slowly.  Do 12 - 16 on one side, then repeat on the other.

4.  Hamstring curls  -  lay on the floor with the ball under your heels.  Engage your core and slowly bring your mid, lower back and butt off the floor.  This in itself is quite challenging.  Now use your heels, core strength and hamstrings (back of thighs) to drag the ball towards your bottom, try and not let your hips sag to the floor.  Repeat for 12 - 16 reps.  Extra challenge, do this with one leg at a time or regression, keep bottom on the floor.

5.  Russian twists  -  from seated position on the ball, slowly with control bring yourself into a supine bridge (walk away so you eventually end up with your head and shoulders supported on the ball, feet underneath knees at the other end.  Reverse the whole motion to get yourself back to your seated position.  I'd suggest practising a few times if you've never done this before).  Take your hands directly up over your upper chest, clasp hands together (think holding a gun position).  Okay the movement is to twist with control to one side so you feel the weight on that one shoulder, the other one will be off the ball slightly, repeat on the other side.  Easier done than explained I fear!  Any problems a good instructor should be able to show you this exercise.  Again repeat for your 12 - 16 reps.

So there you have it, repeat the above circuit 2 or 3 times, you should definitely feel that you've accomplished something at the end.  Obviously finish with 5 - 10 minutes of stretching all your major muscle groups, in particularly, back, shoulders, and legs.

Give it a go, let me know your comments.
Till next time, all the best

Monday, 23 July 2012

Why go out for a curry when you can stay in and make your own, follow this delicious easy recipe.  Enjoy with a DVD and a glass of wine, well why not, once in a while won't do you any harm!

800g diced lamb stewing steak
1 red and 1 white onion
2-3 teaspoons of chopped garlic
2-3 teaspoons of chopped ginger
2 tablespoons of tomato puree
150g unsalted butter
coconut oil
200ml of natural yoghurt
200ml chicken or vegetable stock
3 teaspoons of mild curry powder
1 teaspoon of garam masala
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ - 1 teaspoon of chilli powder (to your liking)
salt and pepper

1.    Finely chop the 2 onions and fry gently in a combination of coconut oil and a small  amount of the butter. Whilst that is frying prepare the curry paste by adding chopped garlic, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, turmeric and chilli into a small blender and mix with a small amount of water until it is pureed into a smooth paste.

 2.    Add the freshly made paste to the onions and continue to fry for a few minutes until the flavours are fully released but before the onions become browned.

 3.      Add the diced lamb and cook through until the meat is browned and the flavours have drawn into the meat. Add the stock, tomato puree, natural yoghurt and remaining butter to the pot and let it simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the meat is tender.

4.      Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a bed of basmati rice.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Do you have to be insane for insanity, well I'm about to find out!

The Insanity Workout might be the hardest workout ever put on on DVD.  Your personal trainer Shaun T will push you past your limits with 10 Insanity workout discs packed with plyometric drills on top of non stop intervals of power, strength and resistance and ab and core training moves.  No equipment or weights needed.  Just the will to get the hardest body you've ever had!

That's how they sell it to you, you can get the body you've always dreamt of in 60 days! 

Well I'm usually up for a challenge, so thought would give it a go (along with my husband who kicking and screaming eventually said he would try as well)!!  In the process of reading the accompanying manual, so should be good to go this week (if I don't chicken out). 

Will keep you all posted, wish me luck!?!

Choosing your Stability Ball

Your Stability Ball comes in a variety of colours, sizes and textures, believe it or not, but you can now get yourself a ‘furriball’!  A few things you should keep in mind are;

·         It should be made from ‘anti-burst’ material, this will help it retain its shape and last longer.  It should also have a non slip surface.  Please note Anti burst doesn’t mean that it will not burst, but means, should it burst, it will go down slowly rather than pop.

·         The following sensible precautions should also be taken; check the floor area to make sure it is free of sharp objects or furniture before you begin.  Do not let animals or children play with your ball.  Don’t use your ball outdoors. And don’t place in direct heat or by a hot radiator.

·         You will need to inflate your ball with a hand or foot pump.  Ideally leave your ball to reach room temperature before inflating.  Make sure you have the stop valve to hand; there is nothing worse than exerting all that effort in pumping it up, to then find you’ve lost the valve!

·         When seated on the ball, your knees should be level with or slightly below your hips, with your knees bent at 90 degrees.  Your feet should be flat on the floor.  The following guidelines will help determine the correct ball size for you.

Height: Under 1.57m (5ft 1”)                                                         

Ball size: 45cm (18”)

Height: 1.60 – 1.73m (5ft 2” – 5ft 8”)

Ball size:  55cm (22”)


Height: 1.75 – 1.90m (5ft 9” – 6ft 3”)

Ball size: 65cm (26”)

Height: 1.93 – 2.06m (6ft 4” – 6ft 9”)

Ball size: 75cm (30”)

·         If you have never used the ball before, or you are trying new or more
        difficult exercises then it may be sensible to have the ball slightly under

·         And also note that a smaller firmly inflated ball is more challenging to balance on than a larger, softer ball.

So now you’ve bought your ball, you need a programme.  Stay tuned for a stability ball workout next blog.

Till then, all the best


Ladies why we should be grabbing our balls!!

Obviously I’m talking about the bouncy variety you find in the gym.  The Stability Ball goes by many names, such as the Swiss, Exercise, Gymnastic, Flexi or Fitball. But whatever we call it, one thing is for sure; it’s fun, versatile, amazingly effective and facilitates a workout that is so enjoyable that we could almost forget you are exercising!  Even those people that are normally reluctant to exercise will become hooked on this comfortable way of achieving great results.

     So why is the ball so good for us; here are some of the benefits:

·       The Stability Ball can be used in an extraordinary range of exercises that are suitable for all levels of fitness, from the unfit and overweight to sports men and women.

·       The Stability Ball has the unique quality of allowing a huge range of movement that you simply cannot achieve on the floor.

·       Working with the ball allows you to concentrate on every muscle group,   with the bonus that your postural muscles are constantly challenged.  You can then target specific areas for firming and shaping.  Enabling you to achieve fantastic toning results for a leaner more youthful body.

·       Using the ball will improve your posture and strengthen your abdominals and back muscles.  This enhances your overall core strength by continually training the deep stabilizing muscles that support your lower back.

·        Also when your posture is improved, it gives the illusion of making you appear taller and thinner.  Think of it as the difference between a dancer and a bodybuilder – you will have the grace and poise of a dancer. 

·       Greater flexibility is a major benefit.  When particular muscles are stretched during an exercise, other muscles (stabilisers) have to work hard to ancho you on the ball.  You can also achieve exercise positions unique to the ball that gives a natural stretch to the spine and allow it to relax.

·       The cushioning support provided by the ball enables you to perform exercise variations that you may not have been able to attempt before, due to discomfort or underlying weakness.

·       Training your body to respond quickly to ‘imbalance’ as we do by just alone sitting on the ball is a skill that could, at some time in your life, save you from a potentially nasty fall.

·       The fitness training benefits of using the ball were originally recognised when it was used for treating patients with orthopaedic and neuromuscular disorders and was also (and still is) used for preparing women for childbirth.  Thankfully it is now widely acknowledged as a unique tool for developing strength, increasing flexibility, improving balance, postural awareness and enhancing co-ordination.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Menopause & Diet Part 2

As we know many symptoms of the Menopause are brought on by the result of falling levels of oestrogen.  One way to counteract this is by having a diet, that is based around plant oestrogens, also known as phytoestrogens, along with antioxidant rich fruit and vegetables.

Phytoestrogens are chemicals derived from certain plants.  They are classified as 'natural' foods.  They can be further broken down into 'ligans' and 'isoflavones'.  Ligans are found in seeds, whole grains and some fruit and vegetables.  Isoflavones are found in beans, pulses and soya.  Phytoestrogens have a similar structure to the female hormone oestrogen.  When eaten they bind to the oestrogen receptors and act like hormone regulators and give a boost to falling oestrogen levels. 

There is evidence to suggest that many ladies in Asia, China and Japan have a far less incidence of coronary heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis and some female cancers including breast and ovarian.  They also seem to suffer far less from mood swings and hot sweats, just a couple of the symptoms of the menopause.  Could this be down to lifestyle and nutrition choices, some experts say yes.  They agree that ' activity that works your joints as well as your heart and lungs 3 - 5 times per week, and a diet based around fruit, vegetables, whole grains and a meat, fish or alternative protein source eaten little and often' is what we should all be aiming for (not just menopausal women).

Phytoestrogens can be taken as a supplement, check your local health food shop or in dietary form, some of the best sources are included below:

  • Cereals & Grains: Oats, barley, rye, brown rice, cous cous, buck wheat and bulgar wheat.
  • Seeds: Sunflower, poppy, flaxseeds, linseed, sesame and pumpkin.
  • Beans & Pulses: Haricot beans, kidney beans, broad beans, mung beans, peas, lentils and soya products including soya beans, soya milk and soya supplements.

Side Note:  If some of these foods are new to you, I would suggest adding them slowly into your diet to make sure sure you do not have an adverse reaction. 

Another important group are fruits and vegetables high in 'antioxidants'.  These help build up our defences to help fight off 'free radicals' that are unstable reactive cells that can cause untold damage through our bodies.  So always get a minimum of 5 a day of fruit and veggies to send the free radicals packing! 

Below is the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) scale.  This scale is a way of scoring fruit and vegetables on how effective they are in combating harmful free radicals.  All the foods in this table will significantly raise the antioxidant levels in your blood as well as providing essential vitamins, minerals and fibre.

Top scoring Antioxidant Fruit and Vegetables


ORAC score
ORAC score
Prunes *
Raisins *
Brussels sprouts
Alfalfa sprouts
Red Peppers
Red Grapes
Kiwi Fruit
Pink Grapefruit
Sweet potatoes
White potatoes

            table courtesy of 'Food for Fitness' by Anita Bean

*The ORAC values of prunes and raisins appear higher because they contain very little water.

Implement some of the above foods into your diet and hopefully gain the benefits, remember its not just for menopausal ladies. But if you are one, and suffering silently, what have you got to lose, you never know you may gain a good nights sleep!

All the best,
Till next time


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Light Lunch Ideas

Some quick and simple ideas for a light lunch or evening meal or post workout meal as they all contain a source of protein, carbs and good fats. Enjoy with a glass of water or a herbal tea.
A piece of fruit and a bowl of soup.  There are a lot of choices for soup at the supermarket, try and look for something fresh, rather than out of a tin and not to high in sugar, (ideally less than 15g per 100g) I quite like some of the Covent Garden range at Tesco’s.  Serve with a mixed salad on the side.

An open sandwich which is just one slice of bread ideally wholegrain or granary, topped with a low fat cream cheese and 3 slices of smoked salmon and cucumber.  Yoghurt to finish.

One slice of wholegrain toast (no butter or marg), topped with a pot of microwave beans (optional) 2 poached eggs, 5 baked cherry or small plum tomatoes and half an avocado.

Tinned fish such as tuna or salmon drained and served with a salad made of green leaves, tomato and cucumber.  Sprinkling of olive oil and balsamic over the salad.

Half a grapefruit and a prawn and smoked salmon salad with a low fat mayonnaise.

A serving of cold pasta, assorted leaves and cooked chicken pieces in a homemade tomato sauce (see below)

Recipe - Easiest tomato sauce ever; garlic (as much as you like, or omit if you’re not keen),1 small red onion chopped roughly and cooked, add a 500ml carton of passata, 250ml vegetable stock,4 / 5 small plum tomatoes roughly chopped and seasoning to taste.  Cook for around 15 minutes on a low hob until onions have softened.  This will store in the freezer, or up to 4 days in the fridge. Have hot or cold.

A mixed salad with a sliced hard-boiled egg and green beans.

A chicken and avocado salad with mixed leaves, tomato, diced red pepper and cucumber.  Olive oil and balsamic dressing and touch of pepper.

A small to medium sized sweet ‘jacket’ potato served with toppings such as tuna and sweet corn, baked beans, cheese (watch how much) and a slice of ham, chicken and avocado, low fat coleslaw, seafood etc, the list is endless, experiment with tastes and flavours.

Handful of grapes and 2 Ryvitas or oatcakes or rye crispbreads topped with tinned salmon or tuna with cucumber, or a low fat pate.

One wholemeal pitta or wrap filled with chicken or turkey and salad vegetables and a dollop of low fat crème fraiche.
TOP TIP If you’re on the go, try and take foods that you can keep in a sealed food bag and eat easily.  You could have fruit and berries in one and meats and salad vegetables like chicken, turkey, ham, carrot, cucumber and pepper sticks and cherry tomatoes in the other.  These are things you can easily nibble on without too much mess.  And of course goes without saying but have a bottle of water with you at all times.

You can most probably add to the list.
Till next time,