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An elite sailor exercise plan Marathon training rest and recovery tips Fun fitness challenges Boost motivation 10 ways to lose your love handles Fat burner moves Bikram yoga Healthy breakfasts How to tone arms The lazy day workout
 
An elite sailor exercise plan

An elite sailor exercise plan

With a gruelling fitness programme that began over 18 months ago at Team SCA’s training camp in Lanzarote, the team has been working tirelessly ever since to ensure all crew members are at peak physical fitness as they continue to battle the boys.Now preparing to embark on leg five, the girls will continue to contend with extreme physical exertion and minimal sleep to make notable gains in the race. As such, ensuring that energy levels remain consistent is key to maintaining a well-functioning team.This is all the more important given Team SCA crew members can burn up to 1500 calories a day out at sea. Though thankfully, while each of the sailors are functioning on minimal body fat, their intense on-shore training has meant they have built up enough muscle so as not to lose more that 5-7kgs over the course of the nine month race.The food on board, which consists of three freeze-dried meals a day, natural fruit and nut bars, beef jerky and electrolyte tablets, helps the Team SCA crew to maintain their performance.Want to train like a sailing pro? Santi Casanova, who is a qualified cross-fit trainer, physiotherapist and member of Team SCA’s shore crew, has set the sailors a strict exercise plan. In fact, when they are off the water, each member of Team SCA trains in the gym for around 45-75 minutes per day.Santi says the five most effective exercises for sailing training are:Pull-ups – in all their different styles and forms Squats – or any exercise with a squatting motion Interval training – short bursts of high intensity activity Partner exercises – training alongside a person with similar abilities and strength to push each other harder Team challenges and competition – small teams working towards one objective These exercises are all designed to help improve each sailor’s strength, agility and mental ability – all vital components for anyone hoping to succeed in a team sailing environment. For Team SCA’s sponsors, SCA, leading global hygiene company and parent company behind household brands in the UK and Ireland including Bodyform, TENA, Plenty, Velvet and Cushelle, the value of teamwork is something that is directly reflected in their business practices.“For SCA, the race is about building a high-performing team, cooperation and striving towards common goals with a clear strategy – many similarities with SCA’s own business” commented Sally Barker, UK managing director of SCA. “Just as Team SCA has built a high-performing sailing team, SCA works hard to develop high-performing hygiene products and services that help improve the lives of millions of people around the world.” Try the training!If you’ve been inspired by Team SCA you can try some of their workouts for yourself:Repetitions: of 24, followed by repetitions of 20, 16, 12, 8 and 4Horizontal pull-ups Overhead lunges Side slams Push ups Turkish get-ups Interval Circuit Training: 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. Three laps with 1 minute rest between each lapRowing Paralette push ups Stability ball upper body clockwork with weights Box jumps Horizontal pull-ups Tricep dips Mountain climbers Kettlebell swings Jump rope Bosu squats Russian twist with weights GHD back extensions Medicine ball over the shoulder

Marathon training rest and recovery tips

Marathon training rest and recovery tips

Holiday Inn® Hotels and Resorts, official hotel partner of the Virgin Money London Marathon, have drafted in two of the UK’s leading body and mind experts to help get runners across the finish line. Renowned mental performance coach Andy Barton and acclaimed physiotherapist Sammy Margo have revealed a series of insightful tips to help runners get through their training ahead of the race on 26 April 2015. “Many people experience huge mental stumbling blocks at the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn on a freezing cold morning for a training run, or devoting weekends to racking up the miles” explains Barton, whose clients consist of Premier League footballers, Olympic athletes and PGA European Tour golfers looking to get the mental edge.According to Barton, understanding how your mind works is essential during the training process. “When you’re due to run for 10 miles but can’t face it, tell yourself that you’ll go for just a mile. Before you know it, Newton’s First Law of Motion will be in effect and you’ll keep going. Also, use a little imagination and visualise running the London Marathon ahead of time, as doing this can actually train your brain to be more prepared for the race, as it believes it’s already run it“.As well as finding effective ways to train your mind and body, runners should never underestimate the importance of rest, according to Sammy Margo, ‘Balanced Body’ physiotherapist and author of The Good Sleep Guide. “If you’re in training, you need plenty of deep restorative sleep to encourage protein synthesis that provides the body with the best chance to recuperate. The first few hours of sleep before midnight is the best time for recovery. An hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours afterwards, so it really does help to get an early night.”She also acknowledges that anxiety can get in the way of a good night’s sleep  ̶  something runners may experience as the big day approaches. For those waking up in the middle of the night, a simple ‘20 minute rule’ that dictates getting out of bed and doing something else for a short period before trying to sleep again, is a proven technique. Sammy Margo, Sleep Expert & Chartered PhysiotherapistFirst Set of Tips 1.     Build a bedtime routineThink about sleep as more of a dimmer switch than on-off switch, when it comes to your body. Try to set aside time in your day to unwind and settle before you sleep, setting yourself a technology cut-off time and avoiding any smartphone use in the bedroom. Research has shown that the emission of blue light from these devices can interfere with the release of your sleep hormone, Melatonin, which will in turn affect the quality of your sleep. Have a relaxing shower or bath, listen to some soothing music or an audiobook with a warm glass of milk or chamomile tea. Also, dim the lights to increase your chances of getting plenty of recovery-friendly sleep and keep your body fit. 2.     Sleep comfortablyJust as there are good standing and sitting postures, there is also a great sleeping posture; essentially one that ensures your body is in the midline position with no twists or turns. This can make the difference between a good and bad night’s sleep, particularly if you’ve been putting your body through its paces with intensive training. Make sure that whatever position you sleep in, your body is supported whilst maintaining the natural curves of the spine to minimise stresses and strains, and try to select pillows that hold your neck in the right position. 3.     Wake up wellIf you need to run in the morning then it’s important to wake up feeling good. During the night you’ll go through cycles of sleep, typically lasting between 90 and 110 minutes each, varying between light and deep sleep. It’s when your alarm wakes you from deep sleep that you will feel groggy. Sleep apps and wearable technology will monitor your sleeping patterns so you can figure out what your cycles are. This gives you the opportunity to set your alarm to wake you when you’re in a light sleep cycle and therefore more likely to feel refreshed and ready for the early morning run. 4.     Use rest to help recoveryYou risk injury if you increase frequency, duration or intensity of training too quickly. Your body’s tissue tolerance to loading can only be pushed so far, effectively having a ‘plastic limit’, much like those old rulers that you could bend and bend until the moment they snapped. This means that too much training coupled with too little recovery is not a good thing. If you are recovering from an injury or overtraining, you will need to take some time out and embrace a little “active rest”. Active rest is an activity that keeps you moving but at a greatly reduced intensity or duration, like running a shorter distance on a softer surface, or swimming a few lengths and then gradually increasing distance and speed over time until you’re back to full training pace. You may wish to dedicate some time to working on your core too, as this will make you less prone to injury. Second Set of Tips 1.     Indulge in snooze foodsFoods that contain Tryptophan can help to promote restful sleep as it’s the catalyst to the hormone, Melatonin, so try to include some of these foods as part of your evening meal. Bananas, for example, are practically a sleeping pill in a peel, while turkey is one of the most famous sources of Tryptophan. Marmite, almonds, oatmeal and warm milk are also effective, particularly when combined with carbohydrates. This means something like Marmite or bananas on toast are great evening snacks if you’re struggling to get to sleep. 2.     Know your stimulant and sedative cyclesUnderstanding the potential effects of common stimulants and sedatives means you’re well equipped to know when to avoid them… or when to use them. Alcohol is a key sedative that’s wise to moderate during training. Although alcohol can help you feel relaxed, it may prevent you from getting into the deeper healing stages of deep restorative sleep which is crucial for recovery. Conversely, caffeine is a well-known stimulant that can help your performance, but avoid drinking it between three and eight hours before bedtime, depending on how sensitive you are to its effects. 3.     Understand your sleep statesThe first few hours of sleep before midnight are when you reach a deep slow-wave sleep (SWS), which is the best time for recovery. An hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours afterwards, so for maximum body repair where tissues regrow, bone and muscles build and the immune system strengthens, it can be beneficial to get an early night. In deep sleep there are two states: repetitive eye movement (REM) when you’re likely to dream, and non-repetitive eye movement (non-REM), when the body is doing virtually nothing. During the non-REM state, parasympathetic nervous system activity is high, which encourages protein synthesis and that’s ideal for running recovery.    Final Tips1.     Take your bedroom home and awayFor the best chance of a peaceful night’s sleep make your bedroom a safe haven to rest and recover, somewhere quiet, dark, comfortable and cool. A temperature between 16-18°C is perfect, and certainly no higher than 21°C. Make sure your feet are not too cold though. Having cold feet actually reduces your chances of unbroken sleep, so bed socks can be a very wise investment. When staying in a hotel, especially before the Marathon, try to replicate the calm of home by asking reception for a ‘soft’ or ‘firm’ pillow, an eye mask and ear plugs, and try to get a room with an eastern or southern exposure to benefit from some revitalizing morning sun. 2.     Return to sleepAlthough you may be able to get off to sleep easily, waking in the night is common especially in anticipation of the big day. If you wake in the night avoid ‘clock watching countdown’. Turn the clock to face away or cover it up. If you feel that you have been in bed for longer than 20 minutes without catching any zzz’s then leave the ‘sleepless zone’. Get up and do something light such as emptying the dishwasher, drinking a cup of chamomile tea or reading a magazine article, then re-enter your bed as if you’re starting your sleep again. 3.     Breathe easilyThere are several proven techniques to help you unwind if you’re worrying about your next run, one of which is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). PMR is a great way to help you unwind and prepare your body for sleep. It involves tensing and relaxing your muscles from your toes to your forehead. Squeeze each muscle group for a few seconds then release and relax for ten seconds before moving onto the next, all the while taking deep breaths in and out. Studies have shown that PMR can reduce cortisol levels, a steroid hormone associated with stress that can play havoc with your ability to get to sleep.   Andy Barton, Mental Performance Coach First Set of Tips 1.     The power of enjoying yourselfOne thing people can do when they are taking on a challenge such as a marathon is to start taking it a bit too seriously and forgetting about the fun side of their activity. They think that the only way to improve is to be serious and they pile pressure on themselves and get frustrated when things don’t go to plan. We are actually far more resourceful when we are happy; we have greater energy, we think more clearly, we sleep longer and even digest our food better. Just putting a smile on your face can make a significant difference in the way you feel before and during a race. Ensure you find the fun in what you are doing and you are far more likely to stay with training and get better results. 2.     Tell the worldYou may be tempted to keep your goals for the marathon to yourself. Research, however, shows a real benefit to sharing your goals with as many people as possible, partly as there is an incentive to avoid the embarrassment of not achieving it once you have told them, but also because it helps to increase motivation, focus and energy towards training and the event itself. One of the great benefits of social media is that you can share your goal and your progress with all of your friends at the click of a button. You also have the added benefit of getting positive support as you gradually increase your training regime and reach new milestones. So, if you have a goal in mind, make sure you tell everyone. 3.     When a question is the answerAlthough people often use such declarative statements as “I will do it!” as a means to motivate themselves to perform, research carried out by psychologists Ibrahim Senay and Dolores Albarracin suggests that such statements actually have the opposite effect to what is intended. Often, these statements sound like obligations and we don’t like doing things we are obliged to do, do we? Interestingly, the psychologists found that people are more likely to motivate themselves to train if they used a question rather than a statement. People who say to themselves “shall I go for a run?” instead of “I shall go for a run” feel that they have a choice, and so embrace their decision to exercise in a far more positive way. So next time you want to get motivated don’t tell yourself – ask yourself instead! 4.     Take control of your inner coachOne of the things that can have a massively detrimental effect on our performance is that mean, hyper-critical and pessimistic inner voice that creeps up on us when we need it least. It’s the voice that tells us that we are “no good” and that we “can’t do it”. The problem is, we tend to believe what the critical voice says to us. I often ask clients what they would do if they had a coach who spoke to them the way that they speak to themselves. Nearly always they say they would sack the coach. So next time you find your inner coach speaking to you in a negative way, sack it. Then replace it with a voice which is positive, encouraging and motivating and notice how your attitude changes towards your running.     Second Set of Tips 1.     How Isaac Newton can improve your trainingI’ve yet to meet an athlete of any level who doesn’t have days when they would rather slump on the sofa in front of the television with a large glass of wine than go out for a training run, especially on those cold, wet and dark evenings. They imagine a long, grueling run ahead of them and decide it’s too far or will take too much time and often give in to the temptation of having a night off. Rather than think in terms of “all or nothing”, it would actually be better to set a much smaller goal for that evening. When you’re due to run for ten miles but can’t face it, tell yourself that you’ll go for just a mile. Before you know it, Newton’s First Law of Motion will be in effect and you’ll keep going. According to Newton’s First Law of Motion, “a body in motion stays in motion”, so by getting your body moving with just a short run will more often than not get you more in the mood to run longer and further.  2.     Mental pain reliefI have worked with a lot of distance runners over the years, and one of the main issues that they mention is the pain that they experience when they are competing. Pain is an inevitable factor when you are putting your body through over 26 miles of hard running, but there are ways that you can minimise it. Firstly, actually changing the word from “pain” to something more tolerable such as “discomfort” or “a niggle” can make a real difference to how you perceive it. Pain is highly subjective and we tend to feel it more if we expect to feel it. Secondly, when people experience pain (or should I say “discomfort”) they tend to let their heads drop so they are looking at the ground as they run. By looking down at the ground, you can start to become more internal and actually end up focusing more on the pain which just makes it worse. By keeping your eyes up and expanding your vision, you become more externally focused and it’s much easier to distract yourself from any niggles that may develop. 3.      Focus on the positiveWhen we are worried, anxious, fearful or in a generally negative mood, we tend to speak to ourselves using negative statements such as “don’t be nervous”, “don’t worry” or “don’t mess this up”. Unfortunately, our minds can’t actually process negatives so we end up focusing on the thing that we don’t want to happen, effectively programming ourselves to do things badly. If you have ever been carrying a tray of drinks and someone has said “don’t spill them” you will understand how this makes you more likely to spill them. Give yourself positive instructions such as “stay calm”, “be confident” or “go for it” and you give yourself a better chance of success in your running. Final Tips 1.     Strike the posePsychologists at Harvard Business School carried out a study where they asked their subjects to adopt “power poses”; effectively changing their body language to make their bodies bigger. After only two minutes of power posing, they found that on average their dominance hormone, testosterone, increased by almost 20 per cent. At the same time, their stress hormone, cortisol, reduced by a similar amount. Incredibly, after only a couple of minutes you can feel significantly more confident and relaxed just by changing your posture. So if you want to feel confident before and during your run, all you need to do is strike the right pose. 2.     Fire up your imaginationOne way of exploiting your imagination is to use mental rehearsal techniques to train the mind and body to perform successfully. When we imagine performing a skill, we fire up an almost identical pattern of neural responses to when we are actually performing the skill itself. By imagining yourself in the process of running the marathon you can train your brain to be more prepared for the race, so that it feels like it’s something you have already achieved. In fact, our imagination is so powerful that studies have shown that just by mentally rehearsing having a workout in the gym you can increase your muscle mass. If you want to be fitter, faster and stronger on your run, all you have to do is use a little imagination! 3.     Stay in the presentAthletes perform at their best when they are in a state of flow or “in the zone”; a state where running feels easy and effortless. We get in the zone when we are performing and trusting our unconscious, learned skills without any self-consciousness, when we are free of distractions, fears and concern of the consequences of our actions. To get into the zone, it is essential for the mind to be in the present. Marathon runners can often find themselves out of the present, focusing on the future, about how far they have to go and what time they are going to run, or looking back to the past and worrying about whether they have done enough training and whether they have started at the right pace. If you just focus on what is in front of you, enjoy the crowds, the atmosphere and even focus on your breathing, you are more likely to get into the zone. 

Fun fitness challenges

Fun fitness challenges

Keep your goals on track by signing up to one of these awesome events next month!18 April Run wild!If you’re looking for a fun – but challenging – run, look no further than the Wild Mud Run in Derbyshire. Covering either 5K or 10K, you’ll take on more than 60 obstacles (in the longer race). Plus you’ll encounter mud, water and even fire! Sign up now for some muddy good fun!xrunner.co.uk19 April 26.2 miles of fun!Not only is the Greater Manchester Marathon the UK’s flattest and fastest marathon, it also boasts entertainment throughout the course and a fantastic finish at Manchester United Football Club! greatermanchestermarathon.com19 April Pedal powerThe awesome Peterborough 100 offers distances of 46, 64 or 100 miles, and plenty of climbs and descents to boot. Plus you’ll raise vital funds for children’s charity Action Medical Research.action.org.uk26 April Ready to tri?Perfect for both experienced and beginner triathletes, the Kendal Sprint Triathlon in Cumbria involves a 400m swim, 18K cycle and a 5K run. Great for burning off those Easter eggs! mytrievents.co.uk

Boost motivation

Boost motivation

Gillian Reeves, National Group Exercise Manager at Virgin Active UK, says:Change begins at the end of your comfort zone: challenge your body in a new and different way and you will achieve something you didn’t believe you could before.You never know what life is going to throw at you – whether it’s having to bend further or reach higher, so use your time exercising to prepare yourself for those ‘what-if’ moments.Don’t look back in a year’s time and wish you’d started earlier – the time is now; there is no time like the present.If you’re exercising and feel like giving up, focus your attention on continuing rather than stopping. Remember that you’re still there and you’re still going – so focus on getting the most out of your move and you’ll hopefully do even more reps!

10 ways to lose your love handles

10 ways to lose your love handles

10 ways to lose your love handles1 Keep a food diaryAside from helping you stay on track with a healthy diet, keeping a diary allows you to pick up patterns in your eating habits. If you notice that you’re eating the same things regularly, aim to get more daring with your palate to keep your body guessing and your digestive system cranking.2 Lift weightsIf cardio is your exercise tipple and you’re neglecting weight training, you need to get to grips with the barbell. Big, heavy lifts like squats and deadlifts will build lean muscle mass to rev up your metabolism, as well as mix up your workout.3 Change speedA good way to shock your body into a fat-blasting reaction is to vary the tempo at which you perform resistance exercises. For example, try taking four seconds to control the lowering phase of a move, while sticking to one second or as fast as you can on the upwards phase.4 Take time outIf your body is stressed, your cortisol levels will be high. Although this stress hormone is essential to your body, an elevated amount may cause you to store fat on your tummy. Find time to meditate, have a relaxing bath or just take it easy and have some ‘me’ time.5 Load up on vitamin D Us Brits aren’t often given the sunshine treatment, and unfortunately, sun exposure is the best way to get a dose of the crucial vitamin D. Top up levels with a high-quality supplement like BetterYou DLUX 3000 (£7.96, betteryou.uk.com) to keep cravings at bay and improve your body’s absorption of fat-fighting nutrients like calcium.6 Eat more fat Are you cutting fat from your diet thinking that it’s hampering your fat-loss quest? Actually, good fats from oily fish, nuts and avocado will give you energy and nutrients – without making you fat. Don’t try to force your body to run on empty while trying to boost your calorie burn.7 Dial it downYou need full rest days every now and then, but every four to six weeks, try to dedicate a whole week to ‘de-loading’. This means performing your regular routine at a much lower volume and intensity. It’ll force you to recover while you stay moving, which means you’ll come back stronger, making a bigger impact on your results.8 Treat yourselfSome experts swear by ‘cheat’ meals. They reckon that treating yourself to a blow-out feast once a week can actually help you achieve your hot-body goals by stopping you from caving in to cravings during the rest of the week, and preventing your metabolism from losing steam. So, go on, treat yourself to a big juicy burger with a side of crispy fries once in a while!9 Get some shut-eyeSleep to slim down? Sounds too good to be true! Actually, it’s vital to get a proper night’s kip – you’ll need more than most if you regularly exercise. Sleep plays a huge role in weight loss because it triggers the appetite-controlling hormone leptin. If you skimp on sleep, you’re more likely to eat extra cals during your waking hours.10 Do cardio sprintsIf you fancy yourself as a bit of a cardio queen, make sure you’re incorporating interval training into your routine as well. It has a much greater after-burn effect, which means you’ll be torching fat at rest, too. It’s also wise to start sprints if all you’re doing in the gym is lifting weights.

Fat burner moves

This circuit will help strengthen your entire body, building muscle definition as well as torching calories. When you use a medicine ball it makes a significant demand on your muscles, helping you build lean muscle tissue and sculpt a defined physique. If you use a combination of anaerobic exercise (short, intense bursts of exercise that increase muscle strength) and weight training you boost your metabolism even further, which is a great way to help you get in shape.

Bikram yoga

If you like your exercise hot and sweaty, then you'll love Bikram yoga. Not only does this class boast the usual benefits of yoga like improved flexibility and mood, but it's also great for the metabolism and gives you a serious muscular endurance workout. There's got to be a reason why there are so many adoring fans worldwide. If you want to take on the hardcore yoga class, check out our top tips for surviving your first class...What is Bikram yoga?Bikram yoga is 90-minute yoga class developed by Bikram Choudhury. It consists of a series of 26 postures. Easy, right? Not when the room is set to 40.6°C - the standard temperature for which Bikram yoga is practiced. Don't forget a towel!Why would I do this to myself?There are a range of benefits to doing Bikram yoga, from helping with weight loss and boosting metabolism to improving bodily pains and depression. During your session you will be exhausted and constantly wiping away that sweat, but as your session comes to an end, you’ll actually feel better than you did when you walked in. You will have worked your body and pushed yourself to its limits, and as a result you'll feel rejuvenated and restored.Top tipsStay hydrated. This doesn’t mean chugging a litre bottle of water when you’re walking in the studio door. Drink around 2 litres of water throughout the day before your session. And post-Bikram make sure you restore your electrolytes and rehydrate. Don’t eat 2 hours before the class. A full stomach can be very uncomfortable in the heat. You don’t want to be hungry either, so a small snack might be okay, but you just have to experiment and see what level of food intake is right for you. Show some skin. You are going to sweat, just accept it. So you want to wear light breathable clothing. Don’t be afraid to show some skin, yoga is not competitive - it’s about challenging yourself. Let it rain. As you sweat throughout the class, try not to constantly towel yourself off. Sweat is your body’s way of cooling you down, so embrace it. Come back. The first session is particularly hard as your body won't know what to expect. But make sure you come back for your second class - that's when the fun really starts! Be patient and enjoy yourself... and the sweat!

Healthy breakfasts

Healthy breakfasts

Breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. It should be packed with protein - so it keeps your hunger at bay until lunch, full of goodness - so you stay sharp and alert all morning and delicious - well, just because! So step away from the sugar-laden cereals and greasy spoon fry-ups and start your days with tasty, filling and energy-boosting breakfasts.Chia seed porridgeOats are great, but why not jazz up your porridge by trying it with chia seed, instead? It does require a little prep the night before, but it's super simple and the pay-off is huge. Simply soak 2-3 tablespoons of chia seeds in milk or water overnight (making sure there is plenty of liquid to cover the seeds, and then some). Give it a little stir. The next morning you'll have a thick and creamy porridge. Why not add some cinnamon, cocoa powder or berries into the mix, too?Mushrooms and spinach breakfast pizzaBeat 2 eggs in a bowl, slice a few mushrooms into the mix and pour it into a small frying pan with coconut oil. Flip it so it cooks on both sides then chuck a big handful of spinach on top. Place a lid over the pan to steam the spinach until wilted, then serve with a few slices of avocado.Grain-free granolaThis is a great option for those who love a crunchy granola in the mornings but don't want the sugary grains that come with the store-bought versions. Make a big batch at once to save time later in the week. Mix up a big bowl of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chopped mixed nuts, dessicated coconut and dried berries. Stir in some room temperature coconut oil so that all the ingredients are evenly covered, then sprinkle cinnamon.Want more healthy meal ideas? Subscribe to Women's Fitness. We'll give you 3 issues for £1.

How to tone arms

How to tone arms

Banishing your bingo wings is top priority on many of our body wish-lists, but as well as waging war on your triceps, you need to be giving your biceps a workout too. This way, you'll distract from the trouble spot, get more even definition as well as looking and feeling stronger all round. Add these bicep moves into your workout routine once or twice a week for awesome arms.Kit you'll need:- 2 x 3-6kg dumbbells- 8-12kg barbell- resistance bandBeginner: 3 x 5 repsIntermediate: 3 x 10 repsAdvanced: 4 x 10 reps

The lazy day workout

The lazy day workout

You love the idea of getting fit. You even have all the kit – hanging in your wardrobe. Hey, it’s OK! Sometimes, working out is just too much like hard work – especially when the weekend rolls around.But, here’s the thing: working out is super good for you! It’s not just about losing weight or toning up – a heart-pumping sesh is great for your mood and brain too. So if your excuse for every skipped session is ‘I can’t be bothered’, listen up. Working out can be as quick and easy hitting snooze on your alarm. You don’t even have to leave your bedroom to get this workout done – you can do the whole thing in your pyjamas! As long as you’re moving, we don’t care. To get the most bang for your fitness buck, it’s wise to choose a resistance workout that also gives you a serious cardio challenge, so you can get fitter and stronger in one go. This workout does just that, targeting muscles in the upper body, lower body and mid-section to encourage blood flow to all areas. It means your body is using energy (and burning cals!) just moving the blood back and forth. Smart, huh.Kit you’ll need:Chair, resistance bandHow to do itFirst, roll out of bed! Then follow this workout, performing one set of each exercise back to back without rest. Once you’ve completed one full circuit, take 30 to 60 seconds’ rest before repeating the whole circuit again. That’s it! If you really want a challenge, repeat the circuit a third time. Hit repeat on this easy workout two to three times a week for best results. Who’s lazy now?Beginner: 2 x 8 reps each moveIntermediate: 2 x 10 reps each moveAdvanced: 3 x 10 reps each moveIncline press-upAreas trained: Chest, rear upper arms, shoulders, coreSafety tip: Keep your body straight throughoutTechnique -Start in plank position on your hands with your feet on a chair.-Bend your arms to lower your chest to the floor, making sure your hips move with the rest of your body.-Push back up to the start and repeat.Squat jumpsAreas trained: Bottom, legsHot tip: Land straight into another squat for an extra challengeTechnique-Bend at the knees and hips to lower your bottom back and down as low as possible.-From this position, jump up as high as you can.-Land softly with knees bent and repeat.Tuck jumpAreas trained: legs, stomachHot tip: a great way to hit the abs and cardio at the same timeTechnique: -Jump up as high as you can and tuck your knees in towards your chest.-Land softly and repeat.Knees to feet jumpAreas trained: Legs, bottom, coreTechnique-Start kneeling on the floor with your toes tucked under.-In one explosive movement, jump up to land on your feet.-Return to the start and repeat.Marching plankAreas trained: Core, stomach, shouldersSafety tip: Don’t tilt your hipsTechnique-Start in plank position on your hands with your feet on a chair.-Keeping your body straight, bring one knee towards your chest, then return to the start position and repeat on the opposite leg for the next rep. Continue alternating legs to complete the set.BurpeeAreas trained: Legs, bottom, core, shouldersSafety tip: Don’t let your hips drop lower than the rest of your body while in plank positionTechnique-Crouch down, placing your hands on the floor by your feet.-Jump your feet back into a plank position, them immediately jump them back to the start.-Jump up as high as you can, then land softly and move straight into another rep.Modified V-sitArea trained: StomachTechnique-Sitting on the floor with knees bent, lift your feet and extend your legs. At the same time, recline your upper body as far as possible.-Engage your core to bring your knees and chest together. Repeat.Marching glute bridgeAreas trained: Bottom, rear thighs, coreSafety tip: Try to relax your shouldersTechnique-Lie on your back with your arms by your sides and your legs bent, feet flat on the floor close to your bottom.-Lift your hips up as high as you can.-Keeping them raised, life one foot off the floor, then lower it back to the start and repeat on the opposite leg. This is one rep.-Repeat, keeping your hips raised.Hone at homeCan’t be bothered to leave the house? Here are three pieces of kit that’ll turn your home into your very own gym1. USA Pro Body Bands These three bands provide various resistances and can be hidden away in a drawer.£5.99, usapro.co.uk2. Speed rope Pick one up for a cardio fix that doesn’t require a hefty machine.£6.50, physicalcompany.co.uk3. Dumbbell set Add a bit of resistance to your home workouts with this adjustable dumbbell set.£59.99, gorillasports.co.uk 

Healthy on a budget!

Healthy on a budget!

28 March 2015

Fancy gyms and high-end fitness wear are awesome. Who doesn’t love to browse the fancy pants on the Lucas Hugh website or get their sweat on at Barry’s Bootcamp? But splashing the cash is in no way essential for healthy living or a hot bod. Don’t get us wrong we all love saving up for that must-have gym bag or splashing out on a pre-hol delivery diet, but your every day healthy regime needn’t come with a high price tag.Don’t believe us? This issue we’ve made it our mission to get you the best results, with the minimum spend. And it’s not as hard as you might think! But first you have to get in the right mindset! Get started with our top tips:Be inventive Sometimes being healthy on a budget means you have to think outside the box. For example, eating lots of veggies is key to a healthy diet – but if you pick frozen over fresh (which are equally as nutritious) you’ll save a packet. And if the cost of a gym is crippling you, take your workouts outside instead. You’ll have to use your imagination a bit, but a park can provide a great workout – you can use steps and benches for jump squats, Bulgarian split squats or tricep dips; do mini sprints up any inclines; use playground equipment to do pull-ups; and let’s face it, you can do burpees anywhere!2 Be preparedOne of the essential aspects of getting in shape on a budget is – as the Scouts would no-doubt agree – being prepared. We’re talking making healthy lunches at home rather than buying them; making and carrying your own healthy snacks; always bringing your own water bottle and having a fun fitness schedule so you don’t lose interest and head back to the gym.3 Do your researchHalf the battle, when trying to keep costs down, is being well informed. So in this special we’re aiming to do just that, giving you all the tips and tricks you need to smash those goals with minimal outlay. But it’s worth doing your own research too. Check out cheap fitness options in your local area like free run clubs; hunt down bargain bulk-buy shops; suss out which friends you can persuade to do park workouts, home workouts and runs with you; and check out healthy food bloggers for some free foodie inspo.4 If, thenHaving a plan for any unexpected scenarios is also key. For example if rain means my park workout is off then I’ll do an online workout at home instead; or if my friend fancies a meal out after our workout then I’ll invite them round for a healthy meal at mine instead of spending money on an unhealthy night out – that’s a double win! It’s a strategy top psychologist Walter Mischel recommends in his book The Marshmallow Test and it’s a great option for helping you stick to your healthy exercise and nutrition regimes when circumstances change unexpectedly.5 Go onlineOne of the best things about the internet is that it gives you so much access to free information and inspiration. Who needs to splash out on a new cookbook when the internet is awash with healthy food bloggers sharing their amazing recipes? We love naturallysassy.co.uk! And, if paying for a PT is way out of your budget right now, why not sign up to one of the awesome free fitness providers online? Fitnessblender.com and Carly’s Rowena’s YouTube channel have some great options – and they’re completely free! And if you’re looking for food/fitness or just general healthy living inspo, instagram and twitter are packed with fit bods looking to share their top tips – we love Helle Hammonds on Instagram and @LottieLMurphy, @TaraStiles and @CatMeffan on Twitter. 

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Fat burner moves

Fat burner moves

28 March 2015

This circuit will help strengthen your entire body, building muscle definition as well as torching calories. When you use a medicine ball it makes a significant demand on your muscles, helping you build lean muscle tissue and sculpt a defined physique. If you use a combination of anaerobic exercise (short, intense bursts of exercise that increase muscle strength) and weight training you boost your metabolism even further, which is a great way to help you get in shape.

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The 10 exercise commandments

The 10 exercise commandments

28 March 2015

1 Don’t lock outKeeping your elbows and knees slightly soft, even during full extension, is in your interest not only in terms of joint health, but also in making your workout more effective. ‘Not locking out when lifting weights will prevent joint deterioration and reduce your chances of joint-related niggles and injuries,’ explains personal trainer Dave Fletcher (theodysseyway.co.uk). Keeping your joints soft also calls for muscle recruitment throughout the entire move, as it doesn’t allow them to catch a break at the top of the motion. More work equals better results, right?2 Eat wiseYou don’t need us to tell you not to eat heavy meals too close to a workout – you’ll soon feel it if you do. The reason you might feel a little worse for wear when taking on a gruelling session after a big eat is because, when you exercise, the blood flow is directed to the muscles that are working. This means there’s limited flow to the digestive system – something’s got to give.3 Give yourself a liftSquats are a big deal now – it’s a fact. While serious lifters have seen the squat as the holy grail of exercise for years, initiatives like the squat challenge have really popularised the move. But a lot of people struggle to perfect the technique and are, as a result, missing out on maximum results. ‘For most people, squatting with your heels raised will dramatically improve your range of motion,’ Dave explains. ‘If you have tight calves, you tend to lean forwards during a squat and unnecessarily load the lower back, so by raising the heels (on a plank or weight discs, for example) you allow a greater activation of the glutes, quads and hamstrings (bottom and thigh muscles), increasing the effectiveness of the move while reducing the risk of strain to the lower back.’4 Practise your turn-outWe’re not talking ballerina-worthy turn-out, but pointing your toes out just slightly while performing resistance exercises gives you an extra bit of stability that could make all the difference. Keeping your toes pointing forwards might seem like the safest option, but, according to Dave, the stance can feel unbalanced and unnatural since the hips tend to rotate outwards a little.5 Have a breakThe jury always seems to be out on rest days, with different people recommending different things. Should you skip the gym if you feel rubbish, or just power through like a trooper? And how many rest days should you have per week? Either way, one thing’s for sure: you do need rest days, especially between strength sessions or sessions that target the same muscles again. You’re seriously compromising your safety by overdoing it. Even if you feel okay, your muscles will still be recovering, and won’t be able to perform to the maximum until they’ve been rebuilt.6 Perfect your postureIt’s not as simple as standing up straight when performing your exercises, although this is pretty important, too. Having good body alignment can boost your progress by helping you perform exercises with better form, so working on your postural alignment outside of the gym is crucial. ‘Make sure you put the time in away from your workouts, too, by stretching, foam rolling and stopping yourself from slouching when you sit down,’ advises Dave.7 Engage your coreThis is probably one of the first rules you learn when you start exercising. Engaging the core almost goes without saying these days, right? But it really is at the centre of everything and ensures your upper and lower body work in synergy, taking the strain away from the lower back and enabling you to lift heavier weights. And you know what that means? Better results.8 Refuel post-workoutEating healthily in general is pretty important, but for those who go hard at it in the gym, you need to pay extra attention to mealtimes, too. You’ve probably seen those hardcore gym-goers glugging their protein shakes before they’ve even left the changing rooms, and here’s why: after a workout, the muscles are primed to absorb protein, so you want to take advantage of this. We’re not saying everyone should be on the shakes, but make sure you go for a protein-heavy meal like chicken or fish after you’ve exercised.9 Prepare and recover properlyLet’s be honest, we can all be a little guilty of skipping warm-ups and cool-downs, even though we know we shouldn’t. And while we know stretching after exercise helps to reduce injury and aches, did you know that warming up efficiently before a workout actually makes the workout easier. How? Stretching dynamically pre-workout, in similar movement patterns to those you’re about to perform, means your muscles will be more elastic and the blood will already be flowing. ‘Stick to dynamic stretches before a workout and static ones after,’ Dave adds.10 Stay hydratedDrinking enough water is important, regardless of how often you exercise – the body is primarily made up of fluid, after all. If you start to feel thirsty at any point, then you’re actually already dehydrated. And, while rehydrating is easy enough, taking preventative measures by ensuring you never reach the point of thirst is even better. Even minor dehydration can affect your endurance and blood flow. The rule? The more you tend to sweat, the more you should drink throughout the day. So keep a bottle of water on you at all times. Bobble bottles (right) are a team WF fave!

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Bikram yoga

Bikram yoga

28 March 2015

If you like your exercise hot and sweaty, then you'll love Bikram yoga. Not only does this class boast the usual benefits of yoga like improved flexibility and mood, but it's also great for the metabolism and gives you a serious muscular endurance workout. There's got to be a reason why there are so many adoring fans worldwide. If you want to take on the hardcore yoga class, check out our top tips for surviving your first class...What is Bikram yoga?Bikram yoga is 90-minute yoga class developed by Bikram Choudhury. It consists of a series of 26 postures. Easy, right? Not when the room is set to 40.6°C - the standard temperature for which Bikram yoga is practiced. Don't forget a towel!Why would I do this to myself?There are a range of benefits to doing Bikram yoga, from helping with weight loss and boosting metabolism to improving bodily pains and depression. During your session you will be exhausted and constantly wiping away that sweat, but as your session comes to an end, you’ll actually feel better than you did when you walked in. You will have worked your body and pushed yourself to its limits, and as a result you'll feel rejuvenated and restored.Top tipsStay hydrated. This doesn’t mean chugging a litre bottle of water when you’re walking in the studio door. Drink around 2 litres of water throughout the day before your session. And post-Bikram make sure you restore your electrolytes and rehydrate. Don’t eat 2 hours before the class. A full stomach can be very uncomfortable in the heat. You don’t want to be hungry either, so a small snack might be okay, but you just have to experiment and see what level of food intake is right for you. Show some skin. You are going to sweat, just accept it. So you want to wear light breathable clothing. Don’t be afraid to show some skin, yoga is not competitive - it’s about challenging yourself. Let it rain. As you sweat throughout the class, try not to constantly towel yourself off. Sweat is your body’s way of cooling you down, so embrace it. Come back. The first session is particularly hard as your body won't know what to expect. But make sure you come back for your second class - that's when the fun really starts! Be patient and enjoy yourself... and the sweat!

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Running tips for women

Running tips for women

28 March 2015

Going for a run is probably one of the most popular ways to get your workout on, whether it's hitting the roads or jumping on a treadmill when the weather's gross outside. If you sometimes find running a little tedious, why not challenge yourself to go faster or further?Here are our top tips to smash your run.To the gymWeight training could make you a better runner. A Norwegian study found that resistance training three times a week for eight weeks significantly improved running efficiency and endurance in well-trained, long-distance runners.Uphill battleWant to conquer the hills? To race uphill, run with a short stride while pushing off the balls of your feet and pumping your arms. Then relax your arms and use a longer stride to go downhill.Ready, set, splash!Getting wet could make you a better runner. Swimming increases your upper body strength, making your runs more efficient, while aqua jogging mimics your usual movement sans impact – reducing the risk of injury.Bright idea‘Watch your stance when running,’ tips Fitness First trainer Andy Hall. ‘Leaping forward and striding too far will drain your energy fast. Instead, make sure you stand tall and lean slightly forward, so when you feel like you’re going to fall, you step forward just enough to catch yourself. This should be the length of your stride.’Take fiveListen to your body! If you’re feeling under the weather or if your body is sore and ready for a rest, take a recovery day. Only you know if those aches and pains are from a good run or the sign you need to rest.Sand stormHere’s a good excuse to book a beach getaway – running on sand can improve your speed and muscle tone. A study from St Luke’s University Clinic in Belgium found that pounding the sand requires 1.6 times more energy than running on pavements as your body has to work harder to deal with the soft, unstable surface. That adds up to more defined muscles and a swifter run when you get back to solid ground. Neat!Drink upHydration is key for runners, but plain old water is best if you’re only doing short runs. Upgrade to a sports drink if you’re running for longer than an hour to help shuttle glucose to your muscles and combat fatigue.

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An elite sailor exercise plan

An elite sailor exercise plan

27 March 2015

With a gruelling fitness programme that began over 18 months ago at Team SCA’s training camp in Lanzarote, the team has been working tirelessly ever since to ensure all crew members are at peak physical fitness as they continue to battle the boys.Now preparing to embark on leg five, the girls will continue to contend with extreme physical exertion and minimal sleep to make notable gains in the race. As such, ensuring that energy levels remain consistent is key to maintaining a well-functioning team.This is all the more important given Team SCA crew members can burn up to 1500 calories a day out at sea. Though thankfully, while each of the sailors are functioning on minimal body fat, their intense on-shore training has meant they have built up enough muscle so as not to lose more that 5-7kgs over the course of the nine month race.The food on board, which consists of three freeze-dried meals a day, natural fruit and nut bars, beef jerky and electrolyte tablets, helps the Team SCA crew to maintain their performance.Want to train like a sailing pro? Santi Casanova, who is a qualified cross-fit trainer, physiotherapist and member of Team SCA’s shore crew, has set the sailors a strict exercise plan. In fact, when they are off the water, each member of Team SCA trains in the gym for around 45-75 minutes per day.Santi says the five most effective exercises for sailing training are:Pull-ups – in all their different styles and forms Squats – or any exercise with a squatting motion Interval training – short bursts of high intensity activity Partner exercises – training alongside a person with similar abilities and strength to push each other harder Team challenges and competition – small teams working towards one objective These exercises are all designed to help improve each sailor’s strength, agility and mental ability – all vital components for anyone hoping to succeed in a team sailing environment. For Team SCA’s sponsors, SCA, leading global hygiene company and parent company behind household brands in the UK and Ireland including Bodyform, TENA, Plenty, Velvet and Cushelle, the value of teamwork is something that is directly reflected in their business practices.“For SCA, the race is about building a high-performing team, cooperation and striving towards common goals with a clear strategy – many similarities with SCA’s own business” commented Sally Barker, UK managing director of SCA. “Just as Team SCA has built a high-performing sailing team, SCA works hard to develop high-performing hygiene products and services that help improve the lives of millions of people around the world.” Try the training!If you’ve been inspired by Team SCA you can try some of their workouts for yourself:Repetitions: of 24, followed by repetitions of 20, 16, 12, 8 and 4Horizontal pull-ups Overhead lunges Side slams Push ups Turkish get-ups Interval Circuit Training: 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off. Three laps with 1 minute rest between each lapRowing Paralette push ups Stability ball upper body clockwork with weights Box jumps Horizontal pull-ups Tricep dips Mountain climbers Kettlebell swings Jump rope Bosu squats Russian twist with weights GHD back extensions Medicine ball over the shoulder

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Marathon training rest and recovery tips

Marathon training rest and recovery tips

27 March 2015

Holiday Inn® Hotels and Resorts, official hotel partner of the Virgin Money London Marathon, have drafted in two of the UK’s leading body and mind experts to help get runners across the finish line. Renowned mental performance coach Andy Barton and acclaimed physiotherapist Sammy Margo have revealed a series of insightful tips to help runners get through their training ahead of the race on 26 April 2015. “Many people experience huge mental stumbling blocks at the thought of getting up at the crack of dawn on a freezing cold morning for a training run, or devoting weekends to racking up the miles” explains Barton, whose clients consist of Premier League footballers, Olympic athletes and PGA European Tour golfers looking to get the mental edge.According to Barton, understanding how your mind works is essential during the training process. “When you’re due to run for 10 miles but can’t face it, tell yourself that you’ll go for just a mile. Before you know it, Newton’s First Law of Motion will be in effect and you’ll keep going. Also, use a little imagination and visualise running the London Marathon ahead of time, as doing this can actually train your brain to be more prepared for the race, as it believes it’s already run it“.As well as finding effective ways to train your mind and body, runners should never underestimate the importance of rest, according to Sammy Margo, ‘Balanced Body’ physiotherapist and author of The Good Sleep Guide. “If you’re in training, you need plenty of deep restorative sleep to encourage protein synthesis that provides the body with the best chance to recuperate. The first few hours of sleep before midnight is the best time for recovery. An hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours afterwards, so it really does help to get an early night.”She also acknowledges that anxiety can get in the way of a good night’s sleep  ̶  something runners may experience as the big day approaches. For those waking up in the middle of the night, a simple ‘20 minute rule’ that dictates getting out of bed and doing something else for a short period before trying to sleep again, is a proven technique. Sammy Margo, Sleep Expert & Chartered PhysiotherapistFirst Set of Tips 1.     Build a bedtime routineThink about sleep as more of a dimmer switch than on-off switch, when it comes to your body. Try to set aside time in your day to unwind and settle before you sleep, setting yourself a technology cut-off time and avoiding any smartphone use in the bedroom. Research has shown that the emission of blue light from these devices can interfere with the release of your sleep hormone, Melatonin, which will in turn affect the quality of your sleep. Have a relaxing shower or bath, listen to some soothing music or an audiobook with a warm glass of milk or chamomile tea. Also, dim the lights to increase your chances of getting plenty of recovery-friendly sleep and keep your body fit. 2.     Sleep comfortablyJust as there are good standing and sitting postures, there is also a great sleeping posture; essentially one that ensures your body is in the midline position with no twists or turns. This can make the difference between a good and bad night’s sleep, particularly if you’ve been putting your body through its paces with intensive training. Make sure that whatever position you sleep in, your body is supported whilst maintaining the natural curves of the spine to minimise stresses and strains, and try to select pillows that hold your neck in the right position. 3.     Wake up wellIf you need to run in the morning then it’s important to wake up feeling good. During the night you’ll go through cycles of sleep, typically lasting between 90 and 110 minutes each, varying between light and deep sleep. It’s when your alarm wakes you from deep sleep that you will feel groggy. Sleep apps and wearable technology will monitor your sleeping patterns so you can figure out what your cycles are. This gives you the opportunity to set your alarm to wake you when you’re in a light sleep cycle and therefore more likely to feel refreshed and ready for the early morning run. 4.     Use rest to help recoveryYou risk injury if you increase frequency, duration or intensity of training too quickly. Your body’s tissue tolerance to loading can only be pushed so far, effectively having a ‘plastic limit’, much like those old rulers that you could bend and bend until the moment they snapped. This means that too much training coupled with too little recovery is not a good thing. If you are recovering from an injury or overtraining, you will need to take some time out and embrace a little “active rest”. Active rest is an activity that keeps you moving but at a greatly reduced intensity or duration, like running a shorter distance on a softer surface, or swimming a few lengths and then gradually increasing distance and speed over time until you’re back to full training pace. You may wish to dedicate some time to working on your core too, as this will make you less prone to injury. Second Set of Tips 1.     Indulge in snooze foodsFoods that contain Tryptophan can help to promote restful sleep as it’s the catalyst to the hormone, Melatonin, so try to include some of these foods as part of your evening meal. Bananas, for example, are practically a sleeping pill in a peel, while turkey is one of the most famous sources of Tryptophan. Marmite, almonds, oatmeal and warm milk are also effective, particularly when combined with carbohydrates. This means something like Marmite or bananas on toast are great evening snacks if you’re struggling to get to sleep. 2.     Know your stimulant and sedative cyclesUnderstanding the potential effects of common stimulants and sedatives means you’re well equipped to know when to avoid them… or when to use them. Alcohol is a key sedative that’s wise to moderate during training. Although alcohol can help you feel relaxed, it may prevent you from getting into the deeper healing stages of deep restorative sleep which is crucial for recovery. Conversely, caffeine is a well-known stimulant that can help your performance, but avoid drinking it between three and eight hours before bedtime, depending on how sensitive you are to its effects. 3.     Understand your sleep statesThe first few hours of sleep before midnight are when you reach a deep slow-wave sleep (SWS), which is the best time for recovery. An hour of sleep before midnight is worth two hours afterwards, so for maximum body repair where tissues regrow, bone and muscles build and the immune system strengthens, it can be beneficial to get an early night. In deep sleep there are two states: repetitive eye movement (REM) when you’re likely to dream, and non-repetitive eye movement (non-REM), when the body is doing virtually nothing. During the non-REM state, parasympathetic nervous system activity is high, which encourages protein synthesis and that’s ideal for running recovery.    Final Tips1.     Take your bedroom home and awayFor the best chance of a peaceful night’s sleep make your bedroom a safe haven to rest and recover, somewhere quiet, dark, comfortable and cool. A temperature between 16-18°C is perfect, and certainly no higher than 21°C. Make sure your feet are not too cold though. Having cold feet actually reduces your chances of unbroken sleep, so bed socks can be a very wise investment. When staying in a hotel, especially before the Marathon, try to replicate the calm of home by asking reception for a ‘soft’ or ‘firm’ pillow, an eye mask and ear plugs, and try to get a room with an eastern or southern exposure to benefit from some revitalizing morning sun. 2.     Return to sleepAlthough you may be able to get off to sleep easily, waking in the night is common especially in anticipation of the big day. If you wake in the night avoid ‘clock watching countdown’. Turn the clock to face away or cover it up. If you feel that you have been in bed for longer than 20 minutes without catching any zzz’s then leave the ‘sleepless zone’. Get up and do something light such as emptying the dishwasher, drinking a cup of chamomile tea or reading a magazine article, then re-enter your bed as if you’re starting your sleep again. 3.     Breathe easilyThere are several proven techniques to help you unwind if you’re worrying about your next run, one of which is called Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). PMR is a great way to help you unwind and prepare your body for sleep. It involves tensing and relaxing your muscles from your toes to your forehead. Squeeze each muscle group for a few seconds then release and relax for ten seconds before moving onto the next, all the while taking deep breaths in and out. Studies have shown that PMR can reduce cortisol levels, a steroid hormone associated with stress that can play havoc with your ability to get to sleep.   Andy Barton, Mental Performance Coach First Set of Tips 1.     The power of enjoying yourselfOne thing people can do when they are taking on a challenge such as a marathon is to start taking it a bit too seriously and forgetting about the fun side of their activity. They think that the only way to improve is to be serious and they pile pressure on themselves and get frustrated when things don’t go to plan. We are actually far more resourceful when we are happy; we have greater energy, we think more clearly, we sleep longer and even digest our food better. Just putting a smile on your face can make a significant difference in the way you feel before and during a race. Ensure you find the fun in what you are doing and you are far more likely to stay with training and get better results. 2.     Tell the worldYou may be tempted to keep your goals for the marathon to yourself. Research, however, shows a real benefit to sharing your goals with as many people as possible, partly as there is an incentive to avoid the embarrassment of not achieving it once you have told them, but also because it helps to increase motivation, focus and energy towards training and the event itself. One of the great benefits of social media is that you can share your goal and your progress with all of your friends at the click of a button. You also have the added benefit of getting positive support as you gradually increase your training regime and reach new milestones. So, if you have a goal in mind, make sure you tell everyone. 3.     When a question is the answerAlthough people often use such declarative statements as “I will do it!” as a means to motivate themselves to perform, research carried out by psychologists Ibrahim Senay and Dolores Albarracin suggests that such statements actually have the opposite effect to what is intended. Often, these statements sound like obligations and we don’t like doing things we are obliged to do, do we? Interestingly, the psychologists found that people are more likely to motivate themselves to train if they used a question rather than a statement. People who say to themselves “shall I go for a run?” instead of “I shall go for a run” feel that they have a choice, and so embrace their decision to exercise in a far more positive way. So next time you want to get motivated don’t tell yourself – ask yourself instead! 4.     Take control of your inner coachOne of the things that can have a massively detrimental effect on our performance is that mean, hyper-critical and pessimistic inner voice that creeps up on us when we need it least. It’s the voice that tells us that we are “no good” and that we “can’t do it”. The problem is, we tend to believe what the critical voice says to us. I often ask clients what they would do if they had a coach who spoke to them the way that they speak to themselves. Nearly always they say they would sack the coach. So next time you find your inner coach speaking to you in a negative way, sack it. Then replace it with a voice which is positive, encouraging and motivating and notice how your attitude changes towards your running.     Second Set of Tips 1.     How Isaac Newton can improve your trainingI’ve yet to meet an athlete of any level who doesn’t have days when they would rather slump on the sofa in front of the television with a large glass of wine than go out for a training run, especially on those cold, wet and dark evenings. They imagine a long, grueling run ahead of them and decide it’s too far or will take too much time and often give in to the temptation of having a night off. Rather than think in terms of “all or nothing”, it would actually be better to set a much smaller goal for that evening. When you’re due to run for ten miles but can’t face it, tell yourself that you’ll go for just a mile. Before you know it, Newton’s First Law of Motion will be in effect and you’ll keep going. According to Newton’s First Law of Motion, “a body in motion stays in motion”, so by getting your body moving with just a short run will more often than not get you more in the mood to run longer and further.  2.     Mental pain reliefI have worked with a lot of distance runners over the years, and one of the main issues that they mention is the pain that they experience when they are competing. Pain is an inevitable factor when you are putting your body through over 26 miles of hard running, but there are ways that you can minimise it. Firstly, actually changing the word from “pain” to something more tolerable such as “discomfort” or “a niggle” can make a real difference to how you perceive it. Pain is highly subjective and we tend to feel it more if we expect to feel it. Secondly, when people experience pain (or should I say “discomfort”) they tend to let their heads drop so they are looking at the ground as they run. By looking down at the ground, you can start to become more internal and actually end up focusing more on the pain which just makes it worse. By keeping your eyes up and expanding your vision, you become more externally focused and it’s much easier to distract yourself from any niggles that may develop. 3.      Focus on the positiveWhen we are worried, anxious, fearful or in a generally negative mood, we tend to speak to ourselves using negative statements such as “don’t be nervous”, “don’t worry” or “don’t mess this up”. Unfortunately, our minds can’t actually process negatives so we end up focusing on the thing that we don’t want to happen, effectively programming ourselves to do things badly. If you have ever been carrying a tray of drinks and someone has said “don’t spill them” you will understand how this makes you more likely to spill them. Give yourself positive instructions such as “stay calm”, “be confident” or “go for it” and you give yourself a better chance of success in your running. Final Tips 1.     Strike the posePsychologists at Harvard Business School carried out a study where they asked their subjects to adopt “power poses”; effectively changing their body language to make their bodies bigger. After only two minutes of power posing, they found that on average their dominance hormone, testosterone, increased by almost 20 per cent. At the same time, their stress hormone, cortisol, reduced by a similar amount. Incredibly, after only a couple of minutes you can feel significantly more confident and relaxed just by changing your posture. So if you want to feel confident before and during your run, all you need to do is strike the right pose. 2.     Fire up your imaginationOne way of exploiting your imagination is to use mental rehearsal techniques to train the mind and body to perform successfully. When we imagine performing a skill, we fire up an almost identical pattern of neural responses to when we are actually performing the skill itself. By imagining yourself in the process of running the marathon you can train your brain to be more prepared for the race, so that it feels like it’s something you have already achieved. In fact, our imagination is so powerful that studies have shown that just by mentally rehearsing having a workout in the gym you can increase your muscle mass. If you want to be fitter, faster and stronger on your run, all you have to do is use a little imagination! 3.     Stay in the presentAthletes perform at their best when they are in a state of flow or “in the zone”; a state where running feels easy and effortless. We get in the zone when we are performing and trusting our unconscious, learned skills without any self-consciousness, when we are free of distractions, fears and concern of the consequences of our actions. To get into the zone, it is essential for the mind to be in the present. Marathon runners can often find themselves out of the present, focusing on the future, about how far they have to go and what time they are going to run, or looking back to the past and worrying about whether they have done enough training and whether they have started at the right pace. If you just focus on what is in front of you, enjoy the crowds, the atmosphere and even focus on your breathing, you are more likely to get into the zone. 

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Fun fitness challenges

Fun fitness challenges

27 March 2015

Keep your goals on track by signing up to one of these awesome events next month!18 April Run wild!If you’re looking for a fun – but challenging – run, look no further than the Wild Mud Run in Derbyshire. Covering either 5K or 10K, you’ll take on more than 60 obstacles (in the longer race). Plus you’ll encounter mud, water and even fire! Sign up now for some muddy good fun!xrunner.co.uk19 April 26.2 miles of fun!Not only is the Greater Manchester Marathon the UK’s flattest and fastest marathon, it also boasts entertainment throughout the course and a fantastic finish at Manchester United Football Club! greatermanchestermarathon.com19 April Pedal powerThe awesome Peterborough 100 offers distances of 46, 64 or 100 miles, and plenty of climbs and descents to boot. Plus you’ll raise vital funds for children’s charity Action Medical Research.action.org.uk26 April Ready to tri?Perfect for both experienced and beginner triathletes, the Kendal Sprint Triathlon in Cumbria involves a 400m swim, 18K cycle and a 5K run. Great for burning off those Easter eggs! mytrievents.co.uk

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Boost motivation

Boost motivation

27 March 2015

Gillian Reeves, National Group Exercise Manager at Virgin Active UK, says:Change begins at the end of your comfort zone: challenge your body in a new and different way and you will achieve something you didn’t believe you could before.You never know what life is going to throw at you – whether it’s having to bend further or reach higher, so use your time exercising to prepare yourself for those ‘what-if’ moments.Don’t look back in a year’s time and wish you’d started earlier – the time is now; there is no time like the present.If you’re exercising and feel like giving up, focus your attention on continuing rather than stopping. Remember that you’re still there and you’re still going – so focus on getting the most out of your move and you’ll hopefully do even more reps!

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Healthy on a budget!

Healthy on a budget!

27 March 2015

Fancy gyms and high-end fitness wear are awesome. Who doesn’t love to browse the fancy pants on the Lucas Hugh website or get their sweat on at Barry’s Bootcamp? But splashing the cash is in no way essential for healthy living or a hot bod. Don’t get us wrong we all love saving up for that must-have gym bag or splashing out on a pre-hol delivery diet, but your every day healthy regime needn’t come with a high price tag.Don’t believe us? This issue we’ve made it our mission to get you the best results, with the minimum spend. And it’s not as hard as you might think! But first you have to get in the right mindset! Get started with our top tips:Be inventive Sometimes being healthy on a budget means you have to think outside the box. For example, eating lots of veggies is key to a healthy diet – but if you pick frozen over fresh (which are equally as nutritious) you’ll save a packet. And if the cost of a gym is crippling you, take your workouts outside instead. You’ll have to use your imagination a bit, but a park can provide a great workout – you can use steps and benches for jump squats, Bulgarian split squats or tricep dips; do mini sprints up any inclines; use playground equipment to do pull-ups; and let’s face it, you can do burpees anywhere!2 Be preparedOne of the essential aspects of getting in shape on a budget is – as the Scouts would no-doubt agree – being prepared. We’re talking making healthy lunches at home rather than buying them; making and carrying your own healthy snacks; always bringing your own water bottle and having a fun fitness schedule so you don’t lose interest and head back to the gym.3 Do your researchHalf the battle, when trying to keep costs down, is being well informed. So in this special we’re aiming to do just that, giving you all the tips and tricks you need to smash those goals with minimal outlay. But it’s worth doing your own research too. Check out cheap fitness options in your local area like free run clubs; hunt down bargain bulk-buy shops; suss out which friends you can persuade to do park workouts, home workouts and runs with you; and check out healthy food bloggers for some free foodie inspo.4 If, thenHaving a plan for any unexpected scenarios is also key. For example if rain means my park workout is off then I’ll do an online workout at home instead; or if my friend fancies a meal out after our workout then I’ll invite them round for a healthy meal at mine instead of spending money on an unhealthy night out – that’s a double win! It’s a strategy top psychologist Walter Mischel recommends in his book The Marshmallow Test and it’s a great option for helping you stick to your healthy exercise and nutrition regimes when circumstances change unexpectedly.5 Go onlineOne of the best things about the internet is that it gives you so much access to free information and inspiration. Who needs to splash out on a new cookbook when the internet is awash with healthy food bloggers sharing their amazing recipes? We love naturallysassy.co.uk! And, if paying for a PT is way out of your budget right now, why not sign up to one of the awesome free fitness providers online? Fitnessblender.com and Carly’s Rowena’s YouTube channel have some great options – and they’re completely free! And if you’re looking for food/fitness or just general healthy living inspo, instagram and twitter are packed with fit bods looking to share their top tips – we love Helle Hammonds on Instagram and @LottieLMurphy, @TaraStiles and @CatMeffan on Twitter. 

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