Archive for August, 2010

Crazy Obsessive Gym Habits

August 24, 2010 1 comment

In home life I am a little untidy and scattered. Looking round my front room right now there are a few stacks of books, a laptop, an iPad, a pile of gym clothes on a corner chair (they never seem to make it much further than the washing machine and gym!) and stack of DVDs, a pair of walking boots and a tent!

But when it comes to the gym I’ve noticed I’ve got a long list of odd rituals that must be observed.

1) The TRX branding on my TRX bands must always be face out.

2) The TRX band’s clips and lines must always be exactly equal and mirrored and the bands untwisted.

3) When doing any standing upper body exercise I always begin by doing this odd foot “shuffle” to make sure my stance is just so.

4) If there are any lines on the floor (tile lines etc.) where I am working out then my feet must always be parallel or perpendicular to the lines and my toes on a line.

5) If there is a mirror then I must be face on to it or exactly parallel to it.

6) If I use a bench then it needs to be placed parallel or perpendicular to the walls, and preferably to other benches.

7) If I’m working out on my own then my dumbbells must be lined up in order of increasing weight and in a neat triangular pattern.

8 ) I’ve got to be wearing matching brand shorts and top. To that end I nearly always buy Adidas then I can’t get confused!

9) While cooling down and stretching I MUST have my protein / carb shake WHILE I am doing it. After will not do. Chocolate orange flavour.

10) I get very very VERY annoyed if I miss a session. I mean really annoyed. Irrationally so!

I really do seem to have this odd thing about parallel and perpendicular lines. Hmmm.

Although a little obsessive I do think that having a certain amount of rigidity about these things is a good thing – having a routine like this helps keep me safe.

Thats the excuse I’m sticking to anyway.

Categories: fitness

Training Effectively – Having A Plan

August 23, 2010 1 comment

This post forms part of the Training Effectively series.

So now you’re all set up with long term and short term goals you’re eager to hit the gym and start throwing some heavy objects around. Great!

But hold on for just one minute, or at least the two or three needed to read the rest of this post.

To ensure you meet goals and maximise the benefits of your training and diet you need a plan.

And your short term goals make ideal points of focus for you to plan around.

Let’s say your goal is to lose 8lbs in 4 weeks. You could just eat a bit less and hit the treadmill and hope for the best and sure that might work. Then again you might end up losing no weight at all or, just as bad, lose an unhealthy amount of weight. You could also burn yourself out from too much running and not enough rest.

Having a plan should prevent you from hitting these pitfalls.

Sounds obvious right? Maybe. But it’s amazing how many people don’t have a plan – and you can spot them in the gym quite easily. They’re the people milling around not quite sure where there going next and who you see there regularly but their body shape and / or fitness level never seems to change.

I like my plan to operate on two levels – big picture “today I’m going to eat 2500 calories and do my legs strength training in the gym” and detailed “these are the meals I am going to eat today giving me 200g protein etc. and I will do 4 sets of 8 reps of squats followed by…”.

I find both levels of the plan to be useful. Your big picture plan will help you plan out your week – legs Thursday, rest on Friday, shoulders and chest on Saturday etc. while your detailed plan will make sure you get the most from your diet or time spent in the gym.

In terms of building your plan – there are plenty of resources out there for doing this but personally I find a personal trainer takes the hassle out of it and means I’m getting the absolute most bang for my workout buck by using an expert leaving me to focus on putting the effort in. The trick is in finding a good personal trainer – as well as some great ones there are some truly awful ones out there. My handy guide may help!

Categories: fitness

From Fat to Fit

August 20, 2010 Leave a comment

While cycling to work this morning I found myself reflecting on exactly when I stopped thinking of myself as fat. And that led to me thinking about what it means to be fat or called fat.

Despite tracking my decreasing weight and waistline as I dropped the pounds I don’t think there was ever a moment when I looked in the mirror and thought “hey you’re not fat anymore”.

Instead I think there was a gradual shift in my mindset from must lose weight to must get fitter.

I do clearly recall when I hit my long term goal of getting under 13 stone, I was elated to get there, but that’s not the same thing.

I’m curious as to if others had an epiphany or also experienced this gradual transition.

And yes I’ve used the word fat in this post. I certainly thought of myself as fat as that’s exactly what I was. Fat. Overweight. Obese. I don’t see it as a derogatory term, though like many words it can be used as such, but instead as a word indicating a physical state.

Whether you attach negative connotations to that state is for you to decide but did I like thinking of myself as fat? No I did not. Not one bit. I think there is no doubt that it’s an unhealthy state to be in and seriously impairs quality of life and that for 99.99% of the population is due to circumstances entirely within their control. In my own case I was fat because I drank too much, ate too much and did too little exercise. In short i was lazy and greedy. Sure I could make excuses about drinking because I wasn’t happy but it boils down to the same thing – a lack of self control. Some people don’t like hearing it but that’s the same for nearly everyone who is overweight.

However that’s not to make light of how easy it is to fall into this trap in today’s society or how hard it is to get out.

But if you are overweight and decide to do something about it then I think accepting and recognising the above will make a huge difference to your chances of success. Don’t hate yourself, or anybody else, for it but use it as a tool to make you resolute in your quest to get fit.

It’s a journey worth taking.

Categories: fitness

Fitness Goal Update

August 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Yup, its that time again, narcissistic fitness update Tuesday!

Last week as you may recall was a little disappointing as I made no measurable gains in body fat and weight despite busting my ass on both diet and gym.

This weeks has been better, not spectacular, but back on track. Though I must admit I was a little concerned after last week so took a sneaky mid week measurement which also showed little progress. As a result I made a couple of changes: decreased my fat intake and upped my protein intake and left both carbohydrate levels and my gym routine the same. Since then I’ve made the gains – maybe its the tweaks, maybe its just the natural flow of peaks and troughs. Concrete figures – I’ve lost around 1 lb in weight and around 0.5% in body fat (but as I’ve said before I always treat impedance based body fat measurements with extreme scepticism). I estimate that leaves me about 3% to lose to hit my goal.

On a fitness note adding the HIIT back into my training mix is really paying off for me – I went to a circuit training class tonight and was definitely able to maintain a higher pace for longer through exercises such as bunny hops and I’ve had to introduce a gradient and more speed into my interval programme to keep it at the puke-tastic level.

Its all good!

Categories: fitness

Double TRX – Pike and Crunch

August 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Both my trainer and I own TRX bands which are great for adding a bit of variety and interest into your strength training and I find it to be fantastic for core exercises. But you know whats better than one TRX band? Combining two!

You can combine them so that you have your feet in one and your hands in the other and then do exercises such as the pike, crunches, mountain climber. Maintaining stability and performing the movement works your core fantastically.

Check out the example in the YouTube video below.

Recommended but expect to get many curious comments from your fellow gym patrons – it seems to be a real conversation opener!

Categories: fitness

Training Effectively – Goals

August 13, 2010 1 comment

This post forms part of the Training Effectively series.

Chances are that if you’re in the gym you’re there for a reason – usually it’s to lose weight or gain muscle. By itself that’s an aspiration not a goal as it’s vague and you’ve no way of really saying yup I made it.

But we can build on it, to continue with the theme of losing weight – how much weight? 30lbs? Great. That’s better. A definite target to aim for but we can do better still. By when? By your brothers wedding in 6 months time. Great.

Now we’ve got a goal.

It’s specific, measurable and has a target date. But it’s some way off and by itself it’s a lot to achieve. Let’s say you lose 2lbs a week – assuming you can do that week in week out it will be 4 months until you’re even half way there. Hardly motivational when you’re 3 weeks in, feeling hungry, and really don’t want to walk through the rain to get to the gym.

And so this is what I’d class as a long term goal. It’s something you can visualise and make plans to achieve and importantly track your progress against but its not going to get you to the gym in the morning.

So you need to go further and break this down into short term goals. I’d suggest these goals should be between 2 weeks and 4 weeks in length. That’s just enough time to achieve something and short enough that it feels close – a little bit of pressure is a great motivator. You’ll know that if you miss that gym session or eat that pizza then it’s going to jeopardise your achieving the goal. It’s also short enough that if things aren’t going as you’d hoped then you can reevaluate your plan (and more on the plan next time) in light of what you’ve learned and still achieve your long term goal.

A good short term goal to go with our previous example might be to lose 3lbs in two weeks.

There’s an important final point about the goals you set – they must be challenging yet achievable. In short they must be realistic. There’s no point setting yourself up to fail or jeopardise your health – a short term goal of losing 10lbs in two weeks would be madness for example. Similarly if you’re serious about making a change then they shouldn’t be so easy that your progress is glacial.

And don’t be afraid to alter your long term goal in light of what you learn attempting your short term goals but be honest with yourself. Changing an achievable long term goal because you keep eating too much pizza is cheating only yourself – you need to cut out the pizza.

Categories: fitness

Training Effectively

August 11, 2010 1 comment

I spend a considerable amount of time in the gym working out both for fun, health and in pursuit of my goals. And while I am in no way shape or form a qualified personal trainer something that I’ve noticed more and more as I’ve gained experience is how many people lack any kind of structure to their training and as such seem to drift around somewhat aimlessly.

While this could be connected to a lack of understanding of how to train from the specific (how do I do a squat?) to the general (how do I structure a session) its often more general than that and is simply because they only have a vague notion of why they are in the gym and how to get things done.

Whether training to lose weight, put on muscle or to run a marathon there are some core principles that you need to apply if you are to make the most of the time spent. I would class these as:

1. Set goals.

2. Have a plan.

3. Be consistent.

4. Track your progress.

5. Make yourself accountable.

I’m going to offer my perspective on this over the next couple of weeks.

Update: I snuck in number 4, I was originally going to slot it into one of the others but I think its worth a post all of its own.

Categories: fitness