Thursday, 19 December 2013

Two new winter warming soups..................

We haven't made soup for a little while, but really theirs nothing better than a hot bowl of soup on a cold miserable day so the soup maker has been fired up to make 'Mushroom' soup (left) and Parsnip soup on the right. The mushroom soup has a little kick with a little sherry thrown in, delicious!

The beauty of making home made soups is you can adjust the seasoning and adapt just how thick or not you want your soup to be.  Plus you know exactly want your putting in.  So the ingredients for the mushroom was as follows:

8 x chestnut mushrooms (of course you can use whatever type you like)
1 x red onion
3 x cloves garlic
750 mls of vegetable stock
2 tablespoons half fat crème fraiche
2 tablespoons dry sherry
seasoning to taste

Dead easy, sautéed the garlic and onion in my soup blender.  Added the roughly chopped mushrooms, stock, seasoning and sherry.  Blended then cooked for 10 minutes.  Added the crème fraiche and adjusted seasoning if needed.  Further warmed for a couple of minutes then served with a little olive bread from Tesco's.

Next the Parsnip soup, now parsnips are lovely, particularly roasted with a traditional Sunday lunch. This soup is very flavoursome, as parsnips do have a strong rich flavour (in my opinion) so I found that by adding other vegetables such as leek and cauliflower makes it a little less parsnipy and also lowers the over all GI of the dish. The picture is the 2nd batch I made featuring cauliflower and leek!

1 x small leek
1 x small cauliflower
2 x small parsnips
750 mls vegetable stock
3 x cloves garlic chopped
2 tablespoons half fat crème fraiche
Pinch dry marjoram
seasoning to taste

Started the cooking process by steaming the vegetables first (to break them down to get them in my blender).  Added everything else except the crème fraiche and cooked for 10 minutes.  Finished with the crème fraiche, extra whizz, then served.  The first batch was served with a few bacon lardons which complements this soup very well.

Enjoy, till next time.

All the best,

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Setting the record straight on fruit..............

After I finished my workout today I came home and had a bowl of fruit with a couple of dollops of low fat yoghurt, topped with some nuts and seeds. Now to some this would seem like a huge no no. 
Fruit is sugar and sugar makes you fat.

There is so much conflicting advice when it comes to eating which type of fruit, how much fruit, when to eat fruit, don't eat fruit and carbs together and so on and so forth.  If fruit is so bad for us why do so many diets revolve around fruit, The Watermelon Diet, The Red Fruits Diet, The Apple a Day Diet, The Go Bananas Diet etc. I would like to put my thoughts down on eating fruit.

First of all a quick recap on fruits food group category, which is 'carbohydrate'. What are carbohydrates? Well in a nutshell carbohydrates are not only our preferred source of energy, but our brain, heart and nervous system need a constant supply of carbohydrate (in the form of blood glucose) in order to function properly.

All carbohydrates contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen.  They vary in size, structure and the speed at which they are broken down and absorbed into the bloodstream. Carbohydrates are normally categorised into either 'simple' or 'complex'.  Fruit is classified as a 'simple' sugar and starchy vegetables, pasta, rice and whole grains are classed as complex carbs. The simplest carbohydrate consists of just one molecule (monosaccharide) for example glucose, fructose (found in fruit) and galactose (found in milk).

We can further categorise simple sugars into 'Intrinsic sugars' and 'Extrinsic sugars' depending upon them being found in their natural raw state or added during the food processing phase. 

Intrinsic sugars are found in their natural state within the cells of plants such as fruits and vegetables.  Intrinsic means the sugar is locked inside the cells.  The simple sugars in these foods are often accompanied by lots of fibre, vitamins, minerals and valuable phyto-chemicals. 

On the other hand Extrinsic or refined / processed / added sugars unfortunately make up the vast bulk of the populations sugar intake. These are found in *table sugar, soft and fizzy drinks, sweets, cakes, pastries, some cereals and many processed foods and desserts.  They will provide you with a lot of 'empty' calories, meaning you get a surge of energy without the vitamins, minerals or fibre.  Quickly followed by a dip in energy and a need for more sugar.  These sugars therefore have the potential to destabilise blood sugar levels.

So I would aim to have my fruit either in the morning to help fuel my day.  Pre or post exercise, such in the case of the picture above.  It was a small banana, handful of grapes and blueberries with two tablespoons of Rachel's Organic Raspberry Low Fat Yoghurt and a sprinkling of 4 seed mix (sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and golden linseeds).  I'm also partial to a couple of wedges of melon or handful of berries and nuts as a snack throughout the day or before a meal.  Fruits that contain a lot of water are very low in carbs so are still okay on not very active days.

During my research came across this chap Frederic Patenaude, he has some interesting stuff to say on the subject (amongst other stuff), please click on the link for The Top 10 Myths About Eating Fruit, also look for Part2.

Also look at this previous blog for the best times to eat your carbs and not get fat

* Table sugar - I have highlighted table sugar because in my view table sugar is a natural product, I would have this over artificial sugar / sweetener.  Moderation is key.

So I hope I've made it crystal clear that fruit is wonderful, so go ahead and have a lovely bright coloured fruit bowl for tomorrows breakfast and start your day off with some zing!

All the best, till next time

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Legs & Lungs workout in the Gym - No 8

As promised its body weight and rowing again :)

Did this the other day in the gym and posted to Facebook. And although I was slightly injured it was still such a good workout that left me pretty knackered but exhilarated at the same time, so had to share again. This particular day I was short of time so wanted to be in and out of the gym fairly quickly but wanted to get out of my comfort zone (like always) and hit a lot of muscles too.

So this routine is 10 x 2 minute rows with 30 seconds rest period.  Now when I say rest I mean its active rest.  Your going to alternate 10 high hand rows and 10 press up's.  The transition period from rower to floor has to be quick (it is your rest period, and the slower you take the less rest you have).  As I have a slight shoulder issue on my right I did narrow presses on the end of the water rower (which was a tad easier on my shoulder but got my triceps quite nicely!)

After 10 minutes of mobility and warm up, here I am on the Water Rower.  Love these new rowers, you really do feel like your on the water, funnily enough!  Very smooth strokes, now unlike the           Concept 2 rowers their isn't a damper setting so you have to rely on nice long power strokes.  But experiment with your stroke to find what works.  If I was on the Concept 2 I'd be looking for SPM's 28 to 30 plus and the damper setting on level 8.  If you don't know how to programme in timed intervals ask an instructor.

Now as rowing is mainly upper body pulling, my first body weight exercise was press ups, narrow and inclined as you can see.  This meant my pulling muscles could have a short recovery, but my core is still engaged.  It also shows that if you are carrying an injury (like I was) an exercise can often be adapted, no excuses!
Here we see me performing a wide stance prone hand row or high elbow pull.  This is a really great exercise for core and upper body strength.  Also a great exercise to do if you spend many hours seated.  This will help you pull your shoulders back and down and greatly improve their mobility.  In the picture I took a wider than hips stance to aid balance and stop me from moving my hips too much.  Although that said this exercise will definitely challenge your balance, which is not a bad thing, right?

Adaptions, the rower could be made harder with more intervals or less recovery time.  Made easier with less intervals or more recovery time.  Press ups are of course a very challenging exercise, my version was slightly easier and of course knee press ups are easier still.  Hand rows are a great exercise and as the main aim is to retract your shoulder blade I can't think of a replacement here. 
But a standing version would be a resistance band pull or retraction (again ask an instructor if unsure).

So there we have it, another great duo.  Give it a go along with the Burpee one and let me know which is your favourite :)

Till next time, all the best.



Sunday, 29 September 2013

Are you carrying too much VAT to SCAT?

No we're not talking in monetary terms but 'fat' terms.  Let me explain further, VAT stands for visceral adipose tissue and SCAT stands for subcutaneous adipose tissue.  So which one do you think you carry more of?  Well if you look down and can't see your toes then your shape may be typically 'apple' shaped.  And you may be at risk of carrying fat viscerally (around your organs).  If you carry most of your weight in the lower half of your body such as around hips, butt and thighs.  Your shape may be referred to as 'pear' shape.  The 'pear' shape is said to carry a lower risk of obesity related diseases such as diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure and CHD. 

Now SCAT even though it does not impede on internal organs is a little unsightly and it doesn't have a preference to what kind of shape you have.  I have seen some toned and strong women with a little bit of 'bingo wing' and cellulite.  Men can also suffer with SCAT if you are a man with man boobs, sometimes referred to as 'moobs' then unfortunately this is  also SCAT.  Subcutaneous fat has also been linked with high levels of Oestrogen.  Please click on the link for an interesting read on the effects of hormones and weight loss/gain.

A simple and un invasive way to determine your shape and your risk of possible obesity related conditions is to take your waist to hip ratio. Divide your waist number by your hip number in inches. Although I must point out if you are seriously overweight or obese this could be detrimental to your health regardless of where you carry your fat.

Find the smallest part of your waist, usually somewhere between the top of your hip and your bottom rib.  Your hip measurement should be taken around your largest part i.e. your buttocks. 

Ladies your waist to hip ratio should be less than 0.8"
Gents  your waist to hip ratio should be less than 1.0"

Searching the Internet I have found that the so called 'ideal' is 0.7"

If after taking your measurement you find you are an 'apple' shape, here are 5 easy tips you can implement straight away to kick start reducing that number.

  1. Drink more water.  Thirst is often mistook for hunger, so next time the hunger pangs come on drink a glass of water.  Wait for 10 minutes if you are hungry 'real hunger' then by all means eat something healthy.
  2. Try and cut down on white carbohydrates, especially in the evening unless (see next tip....)
  3. Starchy or white carbohydrates may be eaten after intense exercise as the sugar (broken down carbohydrates) will help replace the sugar (known as glycogen) in your muscles and liver (which is an energy source).
  4. In regard to the above tip, exercise.  Now slow to moderate exercise will burn fat (as fat is burnt when oxygen is present) although it will not give you an after burn effect.  By all means it is a good start especially if you are new to exercise, BUT if you can do something that challenges you and gets you out of your comfort zone you will increase your endorphins and will feel great that you accomplished something.
  5. Get support.  You may want to go alone, but having support from a loved one or friend will keep you motivated.  They will help keep you on the straight and narrow and offer support if you lose your way. 
If these 5 tips are a little too much to handle, try one or two of them.  Remember small steps all add up to achieving the end result.

Here's to your success, all the best.
Till next time

PS If you are lady reading this I train a wonderful group of ladies in a Tabata style ladies only class outside in Rudgwick, West Sussex.  Some may be there for different reasons, but the thing they all have in common is that they are all beautiful strong and focused ladies!

For details visit
(now starts at 6.45)

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Legs & Lungs in the Gym - Workout No7

A very tough HIIT routine that will improve both strength and cardiovascular fitness.  If you are short on time this (like all the other ones) hits all bases J
So we’re using one of my favourite cardio machines the ‘rower’ and teaming it with probably one of the most hated and feared body weight exercises, the ‘burpee’ (don’t panic I’ve added a regression below).  Set the rowing machine to ‘Row Variables’ and set up a rest period after each interval (if unsure ask an instructor).


1) Row
1a) Burpees
x 10
Rest period
5 minutes
2) Row
2a) Burpees
x 8
Rest period
4 minutes
3) Row
3a) Burpees
X 6
Rest period
3 minutes
4) Row
4a) Burpees
x 4
Rest period
2 minutes
5) Row
5a) Burpees
x 2
Rest period
1 minute


As you can see it’s a toughie.  A descending or down ladder on the distance, number of burpees and rest period.  At the end you will have completed 3,000 metres and 30 burpees!!  That distance is pretty good, considering most gym goers would not even spend 5 minutes on there.  But 30 burpees is a huge accomplishment.
Now by all means please adapt as you wish depending on your fitness levels.  You could give yourself greater rest periods or a shorter distance or less burpees.  For example 5 lots of 500 metres with 5 minutes rest in between each interval to do 2 or 3 burpees would be a cracking start J

Now for the Burpee regression, you could step back into your press up position instead of jumping back and / or take away the jump at the end.  Or elevating your hands on a step would also make this exercise a little easier.
Don’t let a little old burpee defeat you.  Honestly people will be very impressed that you’re giving them a go.  Give it your best shot and let me know your thoughts. 

Stay tuned I've another bodyweight and rower workout to come :)

Till next time, all the best

Sunday, 28 July 2013

HIIT - Legs & Lungs Workout At Home No 6

Here's a bodyweight legs and lungs workout that can be done anywhere as no equipment needed just your body :)  But if you missed the others then here they are;

Now your going to need endurance and stamina as this workout is both an ascending and descending ladder with an element of core strength as were going to do a slightly harder version of the plank, that I've named 'Walk the Plank' which your also going to do timed.

So the exercises are 'Y' or Prisoner Squats 10 - 2 and Spiderman Climbs 2 - 10 with a 10 second hold of 'Walk the Plank' after you have done both exercises.  So to clarify perform 10 squats then 2 Spiderman climbs then come back to standing then return to the floor for 'walk the plank', then repeat 8, 4 and 10 seconds and so on and so forth till you have finished.  The whole routine performed once totals 60 reps and a 50 second isometric hold exercise.  Rest for 2 or 3 minutes then see if you can repeat again.  Record your sets and better next time. 

Goes without saying but remember to perform some dynamic movements such as elbow, shoulder swings, hip circles, knee and hip swings, and ankle circles.  Start with small movements then make them a little bigger to warm up and mobilise joints.  Have plenty of water on hand and make sure you have enough room to enjoy the routine.

Teaching points - Squats

A little variation on the very functional squat pattern that will also improve the range of movement around the shoulder girdle and give a nice stretch to the middle and sides of your back.  As a quick reminder your normal squat pattern is to lead with the hips, send your bum out behind you like you are about to sit in a chair.  Keep the weight down through your heels, chest elevated and neutral back.  A 'Y' squat is funnily enough take your arms above your head so it looks like your making a 'Y'.  If you spend a lot of your time in a desk bound job or lots of hours in the car you may well struggle to do this as you will no doubt have tight shoulders, lats and back.  If it is painful (speak to a physio) or uncomfortable you may prefer 'Prisoner' mode which is slightly easier.  This is simply placing your hands behind your head, try and keep your elbows wide. 

Teaching points - Spiderman Climbs

A great exercise for improving mobility and range of movement around your hips and pelvis as well as strength around shoulders and back.  Action - from standing, feet hip width apart, soften knees slightly as you bend forward to touch the floor with your hands. Continue to walk out until you are in a press up position.  Hands underneath shoulders, nice straight line from your head to your heels.  Now bring your foot from behind up towards the outside of your hand / arm.  Let your hips slightly sink towards the floor.  Alternate sides.  Use your range of movement, if you can only bring your foot towards your waist then that's fine.  You will find the more you do this exercise, your flexibility will improve and therefore your range of movement will also improve. 

Teaching points - Walk the Plank

Here we are taking our body into an extended plank with straight arms.  Start this exercise like the Spiderman Climbs above, just keep walking your hands away until they are past your shoulders.  This is an advanced exercise.  Please use caution if you have lower back problems.  If you prefer to hold a normal plank on your forearms that is perfectly fine and just as good a core exercise.  Another option would be plank with a leg lift.  Hold each leg up in turn a few inches off the floor for 5 seconds.

Finish with some stretching.

So there we have it, No 6 give it a go and let me have your comments.

All the best, till next time

Thursday, 18 July 2013


It's finally here, my take on a Boot Camp, but Boot Camp with a difference.  No endless press ups, running around fields or brutally being shouted at by a drill sergeant!  Instead we are talking Boot Camp Tabata style.  What's this you ask?  Well Tabata is 8 x 20 seconds effort with 10 seconds rest repeated for 4 minutes.  It is challenging and at the same time incredibly rewarding, there's nothing like it :)

We will be using an array of fitness equipment such as kettle bells, tyre flipping, wall balls, battling ropes, suspension trainers, sleds pull's, ladders and best of all it's a ladies only class. The equipment may not be typical of what you would find in many gyms, that's why this class is a must especially if you do the same old routine.

Think out of the box and live a little!

This class is based on functional movement patterns, it is low impact and suitable for most abilities (although high blood pressure and CHD may be contra-indication's, if you are unsure please get in touch). 

From participating you will also receive the following benefits:

  • Fire up your metabolism to boost long term fat burning.
  • Burn fat while building muscle.
  • Build strength and power.
  • You'll reduce your risk of injury as your body will move more efficiently.
  • You'll save yourself a lot of time, one of these workouts will burn more calories than two long slow cardio gym workouts!
  • You'll leave feeling exhilarated, strong, empowered and excited for the next session!

So come on ladies, step away from the Cross Trainers.  Come and join a small group of like minded ladies all there for the same reason; to build muscle (please don't panic, you won't turn into Miss Universe!) burn fat and build confidence.  In a nutshell lets get;


Where - CNC House, Guildford Road, Bucks Green, Rudgwick

When - Starts Monday 5th August 7.30 - 8.30pm

How much? Just £5 per hour session OR Buy 5 get 2 FREE!

All ladies referring to this blog gets their session free :)

Monday, 15 July 2013

Want results from training? Then apply this one thing......

When it comes to working out I have found that clients get constant results by applying and continuing to 'overload' their bodies. 

Basically in a nutshell for your body to respond and adapt you must apply a stimulus or load and continue to apply for further adaptations to take place.  This is why many gym goers that have had the same routine for months on end get bored, there bodies go into a plateau and stop making improvements.  If they just added a little variety to their programmes, it could be as easy as trying a different programme on the treadmill with more incline, or adding more speed.  If you are a lady that does visit the free weight section (yey!) try lifting something heavier so you feel challenged to do 3 sets of 10 reps for example. 

Often little changes can be enough to get you excited about your routine again.  If you are overweight and perhaps the gym is not your scene yet, here are some 'overload' ideas you can implement into your daily activities.

  1. The weather is ideal for getting outside.  Walking is a very good start (you will burn some fat, as fat is burnt in low moderate activity when oxygen is present).  So set yourself a target, perhaps around the block is 1 mile.  Week 1 you are going to walk around that circuit once on say 2 - 3 days of the week. Week 2 aim to walk around twice, this doesn't necessarily have to be done at the same time.  You could do it once in the morning and once in the evening or different days, again aim for 2 - 3 days of that week.  Week 3 you could aim for 3 times or better your times from the previous week (a stopwatch would be ideal as you can also write down your times in a diary or note book).  You will pay more attention to something that is written down. 
  2. Similar idea to above, walking out with a 'pedometer'.  We are told we should be doing a minimum of 10,000 steps per day.  So using this as an eventual goal you could start with 2,500 steps for example Week 1 on say 3 days of the week.  Aim for 5,000 steps on 2 days of the week and perhaps the weekend see what your maximum number of steps is.  It's surprising how quickly they add up.  (Note 3,000 steps is roughly the equivalent of 30 minutes walking).
  3. A trip to the supermarket, if you use your car (which sadly many of us have to) aim to park in the furthest most place in the car park, not near the front entrance.  Also rather than bring your shopping back to your car in the trolley, carry your bags.  This will work both your heart and lungs (because if its heavy you may get out of breath) and you are putting some positive stress through your bones.

Each week you have applied the principle of overload as you are asking your body to do a little more each time.  All of these will lead to positive changes, which you can easily progress (well at least the first two).  You'll start to feel lighter on your feet, better in yourself and more motivated.

Remember small changes add up to making the bigger picture, here's to your success.

All the best

Monday, 17 June 2013

Chronological age 'v' Biological age - can we turn back the clock?

There's a new series of  'Australia's Biggest Loser' just started.  This particular episode looked at amongst other things the contestants chronological and biological ages.  This is often quite shocking and very emotional for the contestants as I believe for many this is the moment they see the big picture of just what their obesity is doing to them.  And its the shock they have needed to now get them on the road to recovery for themselves and their families. 
Our chronological age is our true age, the number of years we have lived, obviously this can't be changed, although we like to think we can turn back the clock! 

Our biological age on the other hand could be changed, but it can go both ways, you can look both older or younger than your true age.  For example if your chronological age is 44 and your biological age is 57, then you really should be doing something about that! A 44 year old with the body of a 57 year old is not a good look, especially if people mistake your true age as the latter.  Conversely should you be 57 and look and have the body of a 44 year then fantastic, keep doing what your doing! 

Sadly some of the contestants on the programme had incredibly high biological ages, some as much as 10 years, one had added an extra 20 years to her chronological age! You are putting yourself one step closer to the grave!

This has mostly been achieved through inactivity and sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits or most likely a combination of all three.  If what I have said rings true for you then implement these three easy steps:
  1. Walk more - if you are overweight or obese walking is a natural low impact activity.  Get some walking activity into your day, such as parking the car further away from work and not two feet from the front door!  Walking your children to school instead of taking the car.  At the super- market park as far away as you can from the front entrance. You may also be encouraged to walk more frequently if you headed to the shops 2 or 3 times per week instead of going once for a big shop.
  2. Spend less time social networking on the Internet, we've all done it.  Five minutes checking emails or updating your Facebook page can easily turn into hour or more!  Imagine what you could have done in that hour; walked 5km, hoovered your house, done some gardening, washed the car, gone and played with your kids in the park, phoned a friend and gone for a walk, the list is endless. 
  3. Seriously look at your eating habits, after all nutrition is around 80% of the big picture.  No doubt if you put crap in to your body, you will feel crap.  You will get bigger, your joints may get sore, you'll pick up illnesses easily, you may lose confidence, you may want to stay indoors and not come out, and so the story goes on and on.  Or better still drink plenty of water, and eat little and often of a variety of foods - its not rocket science!  Think about what food you are about to eat and what affect it will have on your body, negative or positive.

These three small steps are a good beginning and can easily be implemented into your lives. 

Any further help, support or a friendly ear to listen, make contact and quote 'feelbetternow'.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Portion Distortion

Saturday's dinner was tagliatelle, with a simple homemade sauce of prawns, shallots, mushrooms, half fat crème frache and fish stock. Topped with a salmon fillet.  So your thinking, can't see much wrong with that, carbs, protein, omega 3's, vegetables and healthy fats.  What's wrong with that?

Well today I want to focus on the carbohydrates, mainly the pasta and the manufacturer's serving size of it.

Now this is the pasta in question, and I'm not doubting its deliciousness, because it was lovely (and yes I'd done intense exercise beforehand, so didn't feel too guilty eating it!)  I want to look at its implications of hindering weight loss if this is your primary goal.

This packet size is 350grams, and on the front says 'Serves 2' and this was definitely much more food than was needed for two people.  If you didn't realise, you would probably take this as gospel and tuck into your half a portion which would give you 485 calories, and 92.4grams of carbohydrate.  Now that's the calories just from the pasta without adding the other food groups.  If you are trying to lose weight you may not realise just how detrimental this could be for you.

When I made it on Saturday, even though pasta is one of my favourite meals (especially as a cheat meal) as I was dividing it between myself and my hubby, the portion was starting to look like a mountain!  Now if you've heard of the saying 'eyes are bigger than your belly' (putting more on your plate than you should) then yes I'd be in pasta heaven, but fortunately for me, my stomach and brain took over and I managed to get another portion which I kept for the following day's lunch. 

I worked it out that the whole pack cooked was 970kcals and the total carbohydrate was 184.8g so three portions worked out at a slightly better 323 kcals and 61.6g carbs per portion.  Overall the meal including the other veg and fish I'm estimating it to be around 410kcals.  Although the carbs is still pretty high (for one meal), a large proportion of that would be used to replenish low glycogen stores from the earlier weights and HIIT cardio workout.  If you haven't already seen it, find out how to make carbs work for you, visit this previous blog

Usually the more active we are, the more carbohydrates we can consume, as carbohydrates is our preferred source of fuel and should make up to 50% (but we're talking fibre rich foods and vegetables as well as starchy potatoes, rice and pasta).  Use the following as a guide as to how much carbohydrates you should be taking in daily.

Activity Level
Grams carbohydrate / kg bodyweight per day
2 – 4
Light – moderate
1 hour per day
4 – 5
1 – 2 hours per day
6 - 7
Moderate – heavy
2 – 4 hours
7 - 8
More than 4 hours per day
8 - 10

Take me for example, my daily carbohydrates for my activity level, moderate to heavy is 385g - 440g (55 x 7 / 8)

So I guess the moral of this blog is for you to not always 'eat with your eyes', think of the long term consequence's and if it looks too much, save some for the next day.  Also don't always go on the manufactures serving size, if me and hubby had shared that pasta after a sedentary day, most likely it would have been stored in our fat banks!!

Till next time, all the best

10 Abdominal Secrets to building your 6 pack


Wanted to share, courtesy of  'Body for Life'.  Enjoy some new exercises for those abs, personally can't wait to try the 'Janda' sit-up's.  The 'full contact twists' seems familiar, we have Olympic bars at Warnham Health & Fitness, so am able to do this exercise, I call it a standing version of the 'Russian Twists'. 

Of course goes without saying but if you are unsure of any of these exercises, ask a gym instructor to show you first.  ENJOY!!

Trust Your Gut

10 abdominal secrets to build that six pack

By Clark Bartram


Training abs requires a lot of hard work and imagination. Of all the body parts, abs are probably the least fun to train, but they’re also the first thing to get noticed on the beach. Not only are strong and defined abs the cornerstone of an ideal physique, but having core body strength is also vital for top performance in all your physical activities. And I do mean all your physical activities! 

Properly trained abs can help you be more competitive in sports, they can make it easier to do your job or fix things around the house. And best of all, they can make your romantic romps more fun and exciting. Not bad for just a few minutes of concentrated effort each week!

I recommend training your abs every other day after a weight workout. All you have to do is choose two or three different exercises and perform four to five sets of 10 to 12 reps for each one. Just remember, however, that no amount of any exercise will give you that coveted six pack if you have a layer of fat around your middle. You need to get your body fat down to about 10% or less before your abdominal muscles become visible. So be sure to consistently eat right and do a lot of high intensity cardio (not slow boring cardio!)
For the sake of this article, I’m going to assume that your nutrition is on target, that you’re training aerobically to stay lean and that you really want to enhance your training so you can develop world-class abs. What follows are my top 10 favourite abdominal exercises of all time. Some of them will look absolutely crazy. Others will look kind of familiar, but with a special twist or two to make them more effective. The whole point is to hit your abs from a lot of different angles so you can really get them to pop. If you’re ready to take your abdominal training to the next level, here we go.

Tornado ball—Wall chops and seated chops
Grasp a Tornado ball with a slight "choke up" on the rope. To do the wall chops, lean back against a sturdy wall and bend your knees into a slight squat. Then rotate from side to side, slamming the Tornado ball against the wall. Do this ballistically for about 30 seconds. Seated chops are performed with the same intensity. Simply sit down on the floor and move the ball overhead. These two movements are nearly impossible to duplicate in any gym. Start with one 30-second set for each exercise.

Surrender sit-ups
These are called surrender sit-ups due to the hand position. Your arms will be above your head as if you were surrendering to someone. In the upright position, place your feet flat on the floor. Slowly lower yourself back like a traditional sit-up, but only go as far as you can without lifting your feet off the floor. When your feet begin to rise, come back up to the starting position. Squeeze your glutes throughout the entire movement.

Power Wheel crunches
Unlike a traditional ab wheel, a Power Wheel is attached to your feet, and you move your legs instead of your arms. You can either bend your knees and tuck them into your chest, or do a "pike" with straight legs. Either way, be sure to exhale on each contraction.

Swiss ball weighted crunches
The opportunities are endless when it comes to a Swiss ball, but weighted crunches are one of my favourites. Choose a weight that allows you to perform three sets of eight to 10 repetitions. Position yourself on the ball just to the front of the top (to ensure a full range of motion) and slowly allow your spine to wrap back around the ball. Be sure to anchor your feet with a weight at least twice as heavy as the weight you use to perform the exercise.

Swiss ball reverse crunches
Position your body so your scapula is centered on the top of the ball. Grab a stationary handle above your head and tuck your knees up and around toward your face. I use my eyes as a reference point. As in all abdominal exercises, it’s imperative that you exhale during the effort. Reps are not the only indicator of a good abdominal workout … you should feel each one in the muscle, without obsessing over how many you do.

Hanging leg raises
There are two schools of thought when it comes to hanging leg raises. If you do the entire movement from completely stretched out to completely contracted, then your psoas muscles (hip flexors) assist in the movement. If you start the movement with your legs bent at 90 degrees, you eliminate the use of the hip flexor group. I suggest you mix it up and do the exercise both ways.

Janda sit-ups
These are tremendous once you get the hang of them. Assume the traditional sit-up position, with your arms crossed over your chest. Have someone grab the back of your calves and pull slightly. Slowly sit up, maintaining a contraction in the glutes. If you can’t pull yourself up right away, start with the negative part of the movement.

Full contact twists
These are similar to Tornado ball chops, but they can be done in a gym without any special equipment. Get a 45-pound Olympic bar and place one end in a corner to hold it in place. With your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms fully extended, hold the opposite end of the bar and rotate it overhead in a semi-circular motion. Be sure to rotate at the waist and feel the movement throughout your entire core. Do one to three sets of 15 to 20 reps.

Medicine ball throws on Swiss ball
Assume the same position on the Swiss ball as you would if you were doing weighted crunches, and position your feet under two dumbbells for safety. Ask a partner to help you with an 8- to 10-pound medicine ball. While seated on the Swiss ball in an upright position, have your partner throw the medicine ball over your head so you can catch it (under control) while lying back over the Swiss ball. Sit up and throw the medicine ball back to your partner. Do three sets of 12 to 15 reps.

Cable side crunches
Using a cable in the highest position, grasp the handle with one hand and rest the other on top the hand grabbing the handle. Your hand should be at your temple. Keeping your arm completely stationary, crunch between the waist and lower chest only. The movement will be small and very isolated. Be sure to do both sides for about three sets of 12 to 15 reps with a challenging weight.

There you have it! If these 10 exercises can’t give your abs a good workout, nothing can! When you get comfortable doing all these great exercises you’ll be able to train your abs more instinctively, mixing up different exercises during each training session for maximum impact. You’ll be able to trust your gut and pick a variety of exercises that are most effective for you, and you’ll start getting results fast.

Always remember that abdominal training is the essence of a strong, stable and attractive physique, so don’t be one of those guys or gals who never takes the time to add a few challenging ab exercises to your routine. With a little attention to detail, you’ll be well on your way toward getting the kind of tight, defined midsection that has the amazing ability to turn heads.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

When is the best time to Exercise?

Had this interesting email from 'Funk Roberts', search for him on You Tube, he has some great workout conditioning routines and ideas.  Anyway back to the post, 'so when is the best time to exercise?'  Well I've always enjoyed a morning workout, whether it be at the gym or at home, it sets me up for my day.  Although I had to have my workout the other day around 2 in the afternoon.  And to be honest, I did feel a little sluggish.  Doubts sometimes set in, especially if you have a number of other things you need to do, but nevertheless, I cracked on with it and at the end of a 45 minute HIIT and weights session felt good, with a sense of achievement :)

Below is an excerpt from Funk's email:

There have been different research studies on the best time of day to train, but there have been many different results. 
Here are some of the latest specific research findings:


·       Late Afternoon is Best for Exercise - Research shows that the optimal time to exercise is when our body temperature is at its highest, which, for most people is 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. (body temperature is at its lowest just before waking).

·       Strength is Greater in the Afternoon - Dr. Hill reported that strength output is 5% higher at around mid-day; anaerobic performance, such as sprinting, improves by 5% in the late afternoon.

·       Endurance is Greater in the Afternoon - Aerobic capacity (endurance) is approximately 4percent higher in the afternoon.

·       Injuries Are Less Likely in the Afternoon  -Afternoon exercise is the best if you want to avoid injuries for many reasons. We are most alert; our body temperature is the highest so our muscles are warm and flexible; and our muscle strength is at its greatest. These three factors make it less likely that we will get injured.

·       Morning Exercisers Are More Consistent - Even though afternoon exercise might be optimal from a physiological standpoint, research also shows that morning exercisers are more likely to stick to it those late-day athletes.

·       Evening Exercise and Sleep - Most research supports the idea that exercise can improve sleep quality. But does exercising too late in the evening keep you up? Studies have shown improvements in sleep from both morning and afternoon exercise, so it's not yet clear if evening exercise keeps you up. One study even showed that vigorous exercise half an hour before bedtime did not affect sleep

So over to you, what's your best time of the day to work out, and what do you do?  Please share we'd love to know :) 

I believe if you find something you enjoy doing, and be consistent at it, eat clean wholesome foods most of the time, spend time with friends and family, have a laugh and not take life too seriously.  We shouldn't go too far wrong :)

All the best, till next time

Monday, 6 May 2013

Legs & Lungs Workout in the Gym (5)

It's about time we had another short and sweet (yet challenging) workout in the gym :)  Ladies your gonna love this one, Summer is coming, so it's time to get beach ready!  So this one is going to focus on butt and arms.  And while its true these are areas sometimes we want to cover up, I say NO, be loud and proud, put on your shortest pair of shorts and WORK IT GIRL!

So your going to do 4 exercises, 2 for your arms and 2 for your butt and thighs.  Perform 1 arm exercise, then go straight in to the lower body exercise.  Working this way is also known as PHA training or Peripheral Heart Action training.  This means the body has to work quite hard shunting blood from one area of the body to the other.  It's a way or combining both resistance exercise and aerobic exercise.  And because you move to a different part of the body, the muscles previously used get recovery while your working a different muscle group.  Remember to do a 5 - 10 minute mobility and warm up prior to this routine, rest when required and drink plenty of water throughout. 
Your exercises are:

1st Combination
Dumbbell Bicep Curls
Sumo Squats with or without a Medicine Ball

2nd Combination
Supine French Press (or Triceps Extension)
Curtsey Lunge to Hip Drive

Now I'm usually all for increasing the weight but this time your going to find a moderate weight so you can do each exercise 16 - 20 times.  Then doing multiple rounds, so were going very much for endurance here but also with an element of strength.  You can rest for 20 - 45 seconds between combinations.  Obviously take more if needed.

Teaching points - Bicep Curls
From standing, feet hip width apart, core switched on.  Hold onto your dumbbells with your elbows underneath shoulders and at 90 degrees, palms facing upwards.  Now angle your arm just a fraction away from the side of your ribs but still keeping the inside of your elbow in contact. 
Action - breathe in as you allow the weights to go down to thigh level, full extension of your arms.  Now breathe out as you bring them up towards your collar bone, do this on a count of 1 second, now breathe in as you slowly lower under control on a count of 4 seconds.  Repeat this for 16 - 20 reps.

Teaching points - Sumo Squats
If possible find a medicine ball to hold (you'll burn a few more calories).  Also try and remember in a squat to lead with the hips (rather than the knees) think of sitting back into a chair if that helps.  So grab your medicine ball and hug it by your chest, take your legs wider than shoulder width apart, then angle your toes out slightly.  Action - breathe in as you sit back, lead with the hips, soften the knees and squat down, if you can get thighs parallel to floor, great, if you can touch your elbows to your thighs, even better:)  Now throw your hips forward, squeeze your butt as you stand fully.  Tempo here, lower yourself down to a count of 3 seconds, pause for 1 second at the bottom, then stand on 1 second.

Teaching points - Supine French Press
This exercise can be performed on a bench or on a stability ball (click on how to do a stability ball supine bridge).  The first arm exercise was focusing on the biceps (front of arm) and this one is the triceps (back of the arm).  Action - find your weights, (warning, you may want a slightly lighter one than the one used for your biceps unless of course you are an advanced user), safely lie down face up on a bench or ball.  When happy, take your arms fully locked straight up above your head, your palms should be facing each other and your arms close to your ears.  With control bend your elbows so the weights come down towards your head.  As soon as you feel that contraction in the back of your arm, straighten them and repeat for the allotted reps.  Tempo - 2 seconds down, 1 second up.

Teaching points - Curtsey Lunge to Hip Drive

From standing, feet hip width apart, core switched on.  Take your right leg slightly around and behind you, drop down into a curtsey, then bring that leg back in front straight into a knee raise.  Repeat reps on this side before swapping sides.  You should experience a nice burn in both cheeks, and I don't mean the ones on your face!

This exercise is quite challenging especially for your balance, so by all means if you are wobbly, take out the knee raise.  It can always be added back at a later date.  This exercise can also be progresses by holding dumbbells.

So there you go, I reckon this workout done at least twice per week, progressing how many rounds you do should pay dividends over 4 weeks.  Enjoy the workout then enjoy strutting yourself on the beach :)

Till next time, all the best

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Tone up your thighs with the Cable machine.....

Very quick blog today.  Was wasting a little time earlier, and came across this that I must have done years ago for Women's Health & Fitness.  So thought would share to the ladies (and maybe some men too, you never know!)

Till next time, enjoy the sunshine :)

Sunday, 28 April 2013


Now I get bombarded with such a lot of health and fitness stuff, most of it I disregard, but sometimes, just sometimes I get something that makes sense.  And I have been preaching about intervals and short bursts of exercise till the cows come home!! 

If you are looking for weight loss and a bit of conditioning thrown it at the same time, this is the way to go.  Please read the below article, and if you are still one of the many that does long slow steady boring cardio (and you’re not in training for a marathon) take some heed from this and give the short workout at the end of the article a go. I have added my own adaptation at the end if you are a senior or a bad knees or bad back sufferer, so there’s no excuses!

STOP doing this workout
by Joel Marion

What workout?


That's right, long boring cardio is officially the WORST workout of the year.

Why? Well first, it's boring. I mean, who actually enjoys sitting on an exercise bike or running on a treadmill for 45 minutes? Not many people.

But much more important than that, it fails to produce fat loss RESULTS. Are there health benefits? Sure. But you can get those same health benefits (and more) with much shorter, much more exciting, and invigorating workouts. More on that in a minute...

But first, here's what research has to say about cardio:

Utter AC, et al. Influence of diet and/or exercise on body composition and cardio respiratory fitness in obese women. Int J Sport Nutr. 1998 Sep;8(3):213-22.

-In this 3 month study, women did 45 minutes of cardio a day, 5 days a week, and lost no more weight than those who dieted alone! Seems like a royal waste of time to me!

But perhaps this one study was a fluke? Nope!

Redman et al. Effect of calorie restriction with or without exercise on body composition and fat distribution. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jan 2.

-In this study, subjects did 50 minutes of cardio, 5 days a week, and once again lost no more weight than those who dieted alone!

Well, maybe if they increase it to a full HOUR of cardio a day, SIX days a week, then cardio will actual product substantial results? No again!

McTiernan et al. Exercise Effect on Weight and Body Fat in Men and Women. Obesity 2007 June - 15:1496-1512.

-Over the course of this one year study, subjects performed aerobic exercise for 60 minutes a day, 6 whopping days a week (who even has TIME for that?) and lost only 3.5 pounds on average in an entire YEAR!

3.5 pounds of fat loss after an HOUR of exercise, nearly every day, for an ENTIRE year. Man, oh man, cardio really is the worst workout ever!

But as mentioned, there is a much better alternative, and that alternative lies in short, intense bouts of exercise.

In fact, a recent study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that 15 minutes of a circuit-style resistance training workout elevated metabolism for a full THREE days! And that's only from 15 minutes!

Other studies have found similar results with interval style workouts as short as 4 minutes producing dramatically more fat loss than long, extended bouts of cardio.

Here's an example bodyweight, short-burst exercise routine that you can try today to boost your metabolism and your fat loss results:

  • 30 seconds of bodyweight squats
  • 30 seconds of push ups
  • 30 seconds jumping jacks

Repeat 4 times.

That workout right there only takes SIX minutes and you'll burn way more fat than you will with those long, drawn out, boring cardio sessions.


If you cannot manage a bodyweight squat, use a stability ball behind your back on a wall.  Make sure your knees don’t travel over your toes.  Use your range of movement; go as low as you comfortably can.

If you cannot manage pushups, try and hold a plank position either on your forearms or straight arms for the 30 seconds.

If you cannot manage full jumping jacks, perform half jacks or do seated jacks on a stability ball. 

If you are unsure of any of these moves, ask an instructor to show you technique first.

These sequences can be progressed by doing each exercise for longer such as 45 seconds to a minute or doing more rounds.

If you need any more ideas, check out my previous ‘Legs & Lungs Workout in the Gym’ blogs for more ideas.