The Cross Fit games is all about the fittest and strongest and we are serious fans! Since its Stateside start-up in 2000, functional fitness programme CrossFit has amassed an international following that has seen the world’s fittest compete in the toughest of exercises at the annual Games. With the 2016 games coming this summer (July 19- 24th) we are seriously inspired by the female athletes competing, showing just how strong, fit and driven they are. We spoke to Katrin Davidsdottir, 2015’s title-holder, to find out what it takes to be a champion
Name: Al Kavadlo, CSCS
Occupation: Trainer, author, instructor
Over the last few months I’ve been getting more emails than ever, but often the same questions keep coming up. And for every person who writes to me, there are probably 20 more thinking the same thing but just not bothering to type out a message.
That’s a big part of why I love to publicly answer questions I get from my readers! In this edition of Ask Al, I discuss everything from how to get better at pull-ups, to how to use speed to your advantage, to why I’m such a big sellout.
Feel free to drop me a line in the comments if you have a question about how to keep growing and progressing in the difficult world of bodyweight training!
QI’ve been training pull-ups for almost a year now. When I first started I went from 2 pull-ups to 10 in only a few months. I’ve been stuck at 12 reps for the last two months. What should I do?
What you’re experiencing is common. It’s simply a matter of diminishing returns; the better you get at anything, the harder it gets to continue progressing. Be prepared to put in the time and effort if you want to take your pull-ups to the next level. It might feel like you’ve been at it a while, but in the grand scheme of things a year is not a very long time. Having said that, here are a few methods you can experiment with to hopefully increase your reps:
Try doing a set of Australian pull-ups immediately after a set of standard pull-ups. Take a long break, then repeat the superset again. It’s a great way to keep working your pulling muscles beyond failure once you can no longer perform any more pull-ups. You can do this 3-4 times in a single workout, but make sure you give yourself a few days rest afterward.
The rest-pause method
After a brief warm-up, do as many pull-ups as you can, and then continuing to hang on the bar for a few seconds. After you catch your breath, try to do one more, then one more, and then maybe even one more. You might be surprised at how many extra reps you can squeeze out this way, and you will get an amazing forearm pump from all the extra hanging!
Start with one pull-up, then come off the bar and take a short break. Next, perform two pull-ups, then after another break, do three. Continue this pattern until you reach the point where you can no longer add another rep. Then start working your way back down.
QI work a job where I spend several hours a day loading boxes and moving things. I want to start training calisthenics, but I’m worried about overdoing it. What do you recommend?
Well the good news is you’ve probably built a decent base of strength already just by being active on a regular basis, but it’s great that you want to do more. I recommend starting with just one or two days each week of bodyweight work to give your body time to adapt. Try doing your workouts on days where you don’t have to work, so your muscles have recovery time. Ideally if you have two consecutive days off, do your workout on the first day and then take a rest day the next day.
Since you’ll only be able to train a couple of times per week, full-body workouts are going to be the best way to go. You might eventually build enough strength and stamina that you can add in more days of training and possibly train calisthenics on the same days that you have work, but you will see how that goes as you progress. Be patient, respect your body, and give yourself recovery time when you need it.
QI read somewhere that it’s best to exercise slowly when practicing calisthenics for strength, but I see most people cranking out their push-ups as fast as possible. Which is the right way?
Though some coaches insist on slow, deliberate reps for strength training, I believe that there’s room for variety when it comes to rep tempo. Super-slow training can definitely help build control and stability, especially when you’re working through the sticking point on certain difficult exercises, but it’s not the only way to approach your training.
For example, explosive movements like jump squats and clapping push-ups are better for building power. In my opinion, it’s good to practice your exercises at different tempos. Once you’ve honed a move, you should be able to control it and make it graceful at any speed.
QI read an article you wrote that basically said training certifications are a bunch of crap. It seems a bit hypocritical to now offer your own cert with the PCC. I mean, really, a certification in bodyweight training?
I’m flattered you’ve been following me closely enough to have read those earlier writings. You actually remind me a lot of myself—I’m always questioning everything! I bet we have a lot in common. And you’re right, there are a lot of crappy PT certs out there. That’s part of why I wanted to do the Progressive Calisthenics Certification. Though it may seem unnecessary to you, with the current popularity of calisthenics training, the demand for a bodyweight strength certification was undeniable. It was going to happen eventually with or without me, so I figured, who better than me to teach it?
Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” By leading my own certification, I can personally make sure that quality knowledge is bestowed and high standards are upheld. PCC has a physical test to establish a baseline of competency in performing the fundamental exercises, something that is lacking in almost every mainstream fitness certification. It’s scary that there are personal trainers out there incapable of doing proper pull-ups or even bodyweight squats, and who got certified simply by memorizing and regurgitating information. That’s why a theoretical understanding of exercise will never be enough to pass the PCC!
I’ll still be the first one to tell you, however, that just having a certification—even the PCC—doesn’t mean that you are going to be a successful trainer. I can help point people in the right direction, but it’s up to each individual to take the journey for themselves. In fitness and in life, we’re all personally responsible for our own success or failure.
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Don’t believe that high-level calisthenics are only for athletes who look a certain way. Everyone can benefit from the unique challenges that come with bodyweight training!
Sometimes the toughest strength moves don’t involve any iron at all. Heed the call of the one-arm push-up and discover how tough progressive calisthenics can be!
Name: John Paul Catanzaro
Occupation: Fitness expert, trainer, writer, and author of “The Elite Trainer.”
What motivates you during a workout? Not before—not “Oh, my god, I’m so excited to go to the gym right now.” I’m talking about when you’re standing just outside of the power rack. You’re about to get under a bar stacked with 45s that could staple you to the ground in less than a second. What do you think of?
Suddenly all the rules change. That little scare your doctor gave you about what could happen if you don’t exercise isn’t enough to make it happen. It’s no match for the big scare of being crushed by hundreds of pounds if you don’t crush it first. You need something more powerful and direct to turn your flame into a raging fire.
Look at a video of pretty much any record-setting squat or bench press, and you’ll see the lifter camping out for at least 15 seconds or so, and sometimes far longer, as they prepare themselves to make this transformation. And that’s in an ideal scenario, with a crowd watching and urging them on, and a long-awaited triumph in their crosshairs.
In training it’s different. No one is watching, except for maybe a slightly nervous spotter or workout partner. It’s all on you. And if you want to make it through this set and eventually lift something even heavier, you’ll need more than just good form and a good pre-workout to make it happen.
The Image of Strength
Arnold famously saw his biceps as mountains, and pictured himself lifting tremendous amounts of weight with those “superhuman masses of muscle.” But what often gets overlooked in that anecdote is why he favored this type of image. As he told “Muscle Builder” magazine back in the day, it was all about losing himself.
“When you think of biceps as merely a muscle, you subconsciously have a limit in your mind. When you limit yourself to that, it is very hard to get there, and nearly impossible to go beyond,” Arnold said. “But when you think about a mountain there is no mental limit to biceps growth, and then you have a chance of going beyond normal mental barriers.”
If you want to make it through this set and eventually lift something even heavier, you’ll need more than just good form and a good pre-workout to make it happen.
I’ve been in this position many, many times over the course of my training career, and I’ve learned what puts me in the max-strength headspace. Mountains aren’t enough for me; I need to go animal! There are a few scenarios that I envision, but here’s a classic one.
I’m not a fan of house cats—in fact, I’m allergic to them—but I admire big cats, and especially lions. A male lion in his prime embodies strength, power, and aggression. And just as important, we’ve all seen enough images of lions in our lives to be able to recall one vividly on a moment’s notice.
When I walk toward the power rack, I see the lionesses move aside. I get under the bar, look the water buffalo straight in the eye, and then we go to war! Nine times out of 10, the pride gets fed, but sometimes that damn buffalo gores me. When that happens, I step back and tell myself I’ll get him next time. And I mean it.
Are animals not your thing? Make it more personal. Imagine a situation where everything you hold dear is on the line. Picture someone holding a gun to your head, or worse, to the head of someone you love. You don’t have a choice; you simply must pump out those extra reps in order for this nightmare to end.
After the set, picture yourself kicking the crap out of that guy. I promise you, if you let yourself go to dark places like this, you will be rewarded for your efforts.
You don’t have a choice; you simply must pump out those extra reps in order for this nightmare to end.
Get Big On the Big Screen
Intense visualization isn’t for everyone. And even the most imaginative of us need to mix things up, so we don’t get too far out there. Enter videos.
Last March, Bodybuilding.com held an NCAA-style bracket tournament of the best and most motivating training montages. It ended up being Rocky films versus Rocky films all the way through. Everyone has their favorite, but “Rocky IV” ended up with the crown.
Over the last 29 years, countless strong people have channeled these six minutes to find new levels of strength and unbridled intensity.
Rocky IV Training Montage
Watch The Video – 06:27
If you’re partial to fight imagery, like I am, something more brutal might be necessary before you head out to the weight room. I love the scene from “Immortals” where Theseus leads his army into battle and runs full speed at the enemy. This one’s good if you have a lot of reps ahead of you:
Epic Battles from Immortals
Watch The Video – 03:43
A max-strength day? The first fight scene in Troy is great before a big weight. A terrifying opponent falls, and there’s never a doubt who will prevail.
Troy: Achilles vs Boagrius
Watch The Video – 02:03
The New Classics of Motivation
Part of Rocky’s charm, of course, is that when the movie came out, he stood alone. To paraphrase an old country song, he was motivation before motivation was cool, before “fitspiration” was a thing. Today, countless online videos are made specifically to help you—or at least the person in the video—train harder.
Looking for an extra inch on your arms? Then command your biceps to grow like YouTube sensation CT Fletcher does.
I Command you to Grow!
Watch The Video – 07:19
Had it up to here with haters? Then dedicate your workout to them, like Kali Muscle does. If it can help a man move 275 pounds with just his arms, it must be powerful stuff!
Kali Muscle 275-lb. Barbell Curls
Watch The Video – 01:17
Everyone has their own trigger; the trick is finding it. What makes a heavy weight turn into a light one for you? Is it a classic like “Pumping Iron,” one of Ronnie Coleman’s old school videos, or are you “Driven Beyond Strength” with DeFranco?
Are you one of those rare ones who can get motivated by something as simple as a big number or the goal of looking swole for an upcoming event? Let us know in the comments!
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Get virtual with your next challenge ArticleSep 16, 2016Looking for a new way to push yourself? Mix up your routine with this unique endurance challengeFancy yourself a bit of a challenge? Here’s one with a twist: The Conqueror Event Series is launching its inaugural UK John O’Groats Virtual Challenge. Starting 1 October, the 1083-mile event has both teams and individuals complete the longest route in Britain, recording their distances and seeing themselves and others advancing on the map towards the finish line
Your workout may be done and dusted for the day, but if you really want to see results, what you do afterwards is as important as the session itself.
Whether you simply want to keep in shape or you’re working towards a specific goal, exercising takes effort, so don’t sabotage your hard work with silly mistakes. Check out these common pitfalls and solutions to get the most out of every session.
Pitfall 1: You don’t think ahead
You diarise dinner with your man and cocktails with your besties, but what about that all-important gym sesh? The last thing on your mind after finishing one sweat session might be pencilling in the next, but if you don’t stick to a schedule it’s easier to skip training or prioritise other plans. ‘If you book in your session while you’re high on the endorphins of your last workout, you’ll make the positive mental connection when you’re thinking about the next one,’ says Bodyism trainer Nathalie Schyllert (bodyism.com).
Pitfall 2: You guzzle back a sports drink
Staying hydrated during and after a workout is a no-brainer, but you don’t want to be chugging back sports drinks unless you’re working out intensely (i.e. training for over an hour). Believe it or not, a sports drink contains almost as many calories as a chocolate bar, with minimal gain. ‘Sugars such as sucrose and fructose are the main ingredients in most sports drinks. While they can be helpful to replenish electrolytes, they are often tested on elite athletes so, for you or I, we could end up just drinking 500ml of sugar,’ explains Nathalie. Rehydrate with naturally sweet coconut water instead.
Pitfall 3: You stay in the same clothes
You wouldn’t stay in a soaking wet swimsuit after a session in the pool, so why stay in your gym gear after a workout? Sweaty, damp clothes are a breeding ground for bacteria, which can lead to nasty infections. ‘When we work out, we create body heat and moisture through sweat in those places where bacteria loves to hang out. While exercising, the body naturally sweats out water, but it also expels chemical compounds that eventually break down into bacteria (which make your clothes smell),’ explains Nathalie. No time to shower? Take some sweat-proofing precautions instead. Ditch stinky cotton and opt for sweat-wicking kit that traps moisture to keep you cool and dry. And don’t forget to stash a packet of wet wipes and some face wipes in your gym bag for a quick post-training wipe down if you can’t rinse off.
Pitfall 4: You skimp on snacks
Eating after a workout is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue, helping to ensure you reap the rewards of all your hard work. ‘Your metabolism peaks about 30-60 minutes after exercise; this is the best time to fuel the body as you are burning the most calories at this time,’ says Nathalie. Aim for a combo of carbs and protein to boost energy levels – a protein shake made with a scoop of whey protein, water and a banana will replenish energy levels nicely.
Pitfall 5: You skip the steam room
Just as a stretching session makes up part of a good cooldown, so too should a quick stint in the sauna and steam room. Hitting the heat after an intense workout provides relief for sore muscles and helps to effectively flush toxins from your body. To avoid dehydration, limit your sweat sesh to no more than 10-15 minutes and sip around a litre of water after.
Pitfall 6: You don’t hit the massage table
It might seem like an indulgence, but a massage is much more than a pamper sesh. Booking in for a regular sports massage after hardcore sessions can stave off post-muscle soreness and even improve future performance. ‘A sports massage will help to reduce muscle soreness after a workout by gradually pushing the lactic acid and other unwanted substances out of the muscles,’ explains Nathalie.
Pitfall 7: You’re a night owl
Slumber time and exercise go hand in hand; in fact, exercise is good for sleep. A study by Oregon State University found that getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week positively impacts sleep quality. However, research also shows that not getting enough snoozing time after a fitness session can impair recovery from exercise, so try to get an early night after a workout. Being sleep deprived messes with hormones, increasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol and reducing muscle protein synthesis. It also causes a drop in the production of the growth hormone, which promotes fat loss and minimises fat storage in your body. So make sure you get your zzzzs!
Pitfall 8: You can’t say no to treats
Struggling to cut out the sweet stuff? You may have burned 300 calories in a 45-minute spin class or clocked up 10K pounding the pavements, but too much indulgence post-workout will derail all your hard work. Reward yourself with non-food related treats like a mani-pedi or a new piece of gym kit, and if you can’t seem to keep your sweet tooth in check, try eyeing up some slightly more waistline-friendly treats over your usual naughty nibbles. A pot of natural yoghurt with fresh fruit and a spoonful of honey, a few strawberries dipped in dark chocolate (70 per cent cocoa solids) or oat pancakes drizzled in maple syrup will fit the bill.
Pitfall 9: You weigh yourself too often
Keeping an eye on the scales is important if shifting the pounds is your main goal, but weighing yourself too regularly can be counterproductive and leave you feeling demotivated if you aren’t seeing constant results. Since healthy weight loss is a slow, steady journey you’re not likely to see a noticeable difference in the number on the scales after a single training session. ‘It’s best to find a time when you can weigh yourself at the same time once a week – not immediately after exercise or eating,’ says Nathalie.
Separate the freezing facts from fiction with the low down from a Fitness First expert:
1. Burning more calories in the cold is actually a myth, the body actually uses more energy cooling down in the heat than it does in the cold.
2. As per point one, exercising in colder temperatures is healthier than exercising in summer because we use less energy to warm up in winter than we do to cool down in summer
3. As per evolutionary theory, we tend to store more fat in winter to keep ourselves warm and with that comes weight gain, so exercising in the winter is actually more relevant for that reason
4. In the winter most of us divulge in alcohol and enjoy ourselves more, alcohol actually encourages heat loss in the body, so when we do exercise outside it makes it harder to stay warm
5. In summer we drink a lot of water, whereas in winter we’re not as aware that we’re dehydrated. This is dangerous as when we reach this point the body loses the ability to regulate temperature, so hydrating in winter is actually more important
6. Static stretching in the cold brings an injury risk, because muscles have the same elastic properties as a band if you stretch too quickly without the appropriate range of movement, the muscle can tear. Aim for dynamic movements as these will increase blood flow to muscle and therefore warm them quicker, whilst improving joint flexibility as well. They will also activate more muscles rather than isolated stretching.
7. Protect hands and feet. Heat loss tends to come from the hands, feet and head, so wear gloves, good socks and a hat and you’ll tend to find it easier to regulate temperature. It’s not about wearing a fleece, it’s about protecting the places that heat escapes from.
8. Stay dry. If you run in the winter and you sweat into cotton, it will stay wet and won’t dry. Therefore your body struggles to heat up due to the wet cotton. Wear dry fit material which will dry quickly as you work out.
9. Avoid over dressing. A lot of people wrap up warm when they work out outside. You risk excessive sweating which can cause dehydration and use excessive amounts of energy. It’s ok to start a run cold as you will warm up and your body will self-regulate your temperature.
10. There is a risk of slipping in the winter so wear a rubber studded sole to ensure you have grip.
Strong is sexy! Sometimes big heavy metal weights can be a little bit daunting, but combining weight training into your workout will help you burn more calories and tone your body. So bust your fears, check out this barbell workout to get summer ready!
How to do it: Perform 8-10 reps of each move one after the other in a circuit, resting between sets if you need to. Once a circuit is complete, return to the start and repeat. Keep going until you’ve reached the time recommended for your level.
Beginner: 10 mins
Intermediate: 15 mins
Advanced: 20 mins
Squat (Areas trained: Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Calves)
– Holding the barbell resting on your shoulder muscles, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
– Bend your knees and hips to lower your body until the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor
– Reverse the position, extending your hips and knees to return to the start position.
Romanian Deadlift (Areas trained: Hamstrings, Lower back, Glutes)
– Hold the bar with an overhand grip approximately shoulder-width (your thumbs should brush the outside of your thighs)
– Place your feet approximately hip-width apart, with knees soft and your feet straight ahead
– Maintaining a flat back position, bend forward at the hips, lowering the bar towards the floor
– Reverse the position, extend your hips and return to the start position
Hip Thrust (Areas trained: Glutes, Hamstrings, Core)
– Set up with your shoulder blades in with the bend an holding a barbell to your hips.
– Place your feet close to your bottom, so that at the top of the hip thrust, your calves are at 90 degrees to the floor
– Drive through your heels and focus on using your glutes to pish your hips straight up. Finish with your hips as high as possible while maintaining a neutral spine.
– Lower; repeat.
1. WHAT MAKES YOU PROUD?
‘Podium Ambition – a not-for-profit company set up by me and my husband a few years ago to get more people cycling. Because our cycling team, Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International, excelled beyond all expectations last year, we had to step up quicker than expected by recently registering a UCI Women’s professional team. This gives us an exciting platform in an Olympic and Paralympic year to promote cycling even further.’
2. HOW WILL YOU INSPIRE MORE WOMEN TO CYCLE ?
‘By providing opportunities that better suit women’s lifestyles. We’ve launched a UK-wide sister team to the professional one, the Boot Out Breast Cancer (BOBC) Cycling Club (bootoutbreastcancer.org.uk), for people of all ages and abilities to get together either as riders or spectators. Even if members are in another part of the country, they can log in and find a local cycling buddy. It’s all about creating an inclusive, no-pressure environment where you can get involved as little or as much as you like – and raise money for BOBC, too. Our motto is Your Club, Your Way.
3. HOW ARE YOU PREPARING FOR RIO?
‘Right now, I’m focusing on getting selected for the team – I have four titles to defend so I’d be really disappointed not to make it! I train six days a week in four-week cycles, with three weeks of overload and then a week of adaptation and recovery to allow my body to grow and become stronger. I’ve followed this pattern for 15 years. Nutrition-wise, I eat everything in moderation. It’s essential to listen to your natural hunger and give your body the fuel it needs – there’s only so much a nutritionist can tell you.’
4. WHAT’S YOUR MOST ESSENTIAL ITEM OF KIT?
‘Eyewear is very overlooked. Just as your muscles and heart get tired, your eyes get fatigued too, which is the last thing you need when you’re racing down a mountain at 50 mph – you don’t want to misjudge something and crash! I wear Adidas’ Evil Eye Halfrim Pro performance frame (£126.49, wiggle.co.uk) for enhanced vision and protection from the elements.’
Words: Joanna Ebsworth
When you first started working out, you were probably up to your eyeballs in exercise rules: engage the core, don’t strain your neck, don’t let the knees go past the toes and so on.
Newcomers to exercise tend to make the extra effort to stay on the straight and narrow when it comes to following these guidelines, but those who are incredibly well-versed in working out often forget these all-important rules – and sometimes going back to basics is just what you need to make your workout as efficient as possible. Here are the 10 commandments of training and why you should never (ever!) forget them.
1 Don’t lock out
Keeping 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 wise
You 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 lift
Squats 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-out
We’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 break
The 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 posture
It’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 core
This 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-workout
Eating 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 properly
Let’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 hydrated
Drinking 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.
Men play sport, and they play it well. We know this because both sports-specific channels and mainstream network television channels are saturated with it.
Which is great. After all, who can deny the entertainment value of a nail-biting FA Cup final or an edge-of-your-seat primetime boxing match?
Plus these men train hard to be the best they can be at their chosen sport, and their efforts and abilities can be truly inspiring. But hang on… what about the women? Most sports you see on TV – including football and boxing – have plenty of female participants – at an elite level, no less. They train just as hard. They turn up and play their hearts out. But while we’ve a long way to go before we get the huge funding,
Lets hear it for the girls
In the past few years, we’ve seen some huge positive changes for women in sport. London 2012 saw the introduction of women’s boxing to the Olympic Games. And it couldn’t have gone any better for us with Great Britain’s own Nicola Adams taking home the first ever Olympic gold medal won by a female boxer. It was a proud moment for Team GB, undoubtedly, but it was also a proud moment for women everywhere. Nicola – and female boxers of all weight categories from around the world – proved that women have a place in the ring, and they did so on the biggest sporting stage possible. Team those performances between the ropes with Jessica Ennis’s breathtaking skills in the stadium, Jade Jones’s fighting spirit and the blood, sweat and determination of every female who represented their country that summer, and it’s obvious that sport for women is changing, for the better.
GB’s Victoria Pendleton et al made massive waves in the cycling scene during 2012, and since then, too, popularising the sport among everyday women like us. And these girls, along with the other female cyclists working hard to bring the sport into the spotlight, have been nothing short of successful. This summer – two years after the Games – saw the inaugural women’s race at the world-famous Tour of Britain, the country’s largest professional cycling race. The free-to-watch event brought female cycling into the limelight once again. The Tour’s winner, Holland’s Marianne Vos, added this title to her already impressive list of accolades – Olympic gold medallist and world road-race champion. She’s fast becoming a cycling legend.
Cycling and boxing, in particular, are thought of as men’s sports, with athletes like Bradley Wiggins and Ricky Hatton household names in Britain. But perhaps the most popular sport among men? It’s got to be football. From chants in the stands to glugging a beer down the pub while the game’s on, football has long been seen as a man’s sport. But, more recently, women have been moving in on the action on the football pitch, too. According to stats from the Football Association, a whopping 1 million viewers tuned into the FA Women’s Cup Final last year, and a staggering 70,000 watched Team GB beat Brazil at Wembley Stadium during the 2012 Games. If spectator numbers are reaching such soaring figures, it’s undeniable that people want to see it. ‘The closer and more competitive our matches are, the more of a spectator sport it becomes,’ says former England player and assistant head coach of the England Women’s team, Marieanne Spacey. ‘More FA Women’s Super League teams are training full time and more players are turning professional. So standards will continue to rise and the quality of matches will improve even further.’
The FA’s stats also prove that we want to get involved, too. Some 42.9% of those attending FA skills programme sessions are girls, and 11,025 of us attended national FA girls’ football festivals and fan zones last year. Football is no longer just for the boys.
While some sports are traditionally male dominated, that’s not the case for all sports. Martial arts like taekwondo, for example, have a high number of female participants. ‘Unlike many sports, taekwondo has just as many female as male competitors,’ says Jade Jones, GB’s first taekwondo gold medallist. ‘Girls often start wanting to learn self-defence, but then realise the sport is much more than that. It’s technical, improves flexibility and is great for keeping fit. Our governing body also recently launched a campaign called KickSister, which encourages women to get involved by focusing more on fitness and self-defence.’
Get a slice of the pie
Women’s SportsNet (WSNet), which is a useful hub for women to get information on sport, recently launched the ACTIVEMapX (wsnet.co.uk/activemapx) to help women find sports classes near them. Almost all of us have enjoyed playing sport at some point, even if it was just through school PE classes, so it’s often a case of simply finding a way to get back into it. With almost 20,000 locations nationwide offering hockey, netball and volunteer-led classes, ACTIVEMapX proves that it really is becoming easier and easier for women to get fit through sport, and that it’s slowly but steadily becoming the norm. ‘Local classes found on the ACTIVEMapX help you engage with friends and neighbours, and build confidence,’ says WSNet’s Paul Reynolds. ‘You can find fencing, rollerderby or powerhoop around the corner!’
If you want to start with something more familiar, cycling is perfect. And following the success of golden girl Victoria Pendleton and her team mates in 2012, it’s no wonder that there have been so many initiatives to get more women into the sport. The FA have even joined forces with British Cycling to launch Kick Start Your Ride – a joint effort from two of the UK’s biggest governing bodies to get women to cycle to football matches. ‘This is about two sports coming together to inspire women to try something new,’ explains Natalie Justice, women’s network project manager at British Cycling. ‘The opportunity to go on a group bike ride with the prize of getting to watch some exciting football at the end of it has all the ingredients of a fun day out and we hope to see hundreds of women getting involved.’
Raising the profile
It’s time to start evening the playing field, but it takes determination and courage. Something GB’s own gold-medal-winning cyclist Nicole Cooke has by the bucket. ‘When I first started competing in cycling, there were no British Championships for women in road or track,’ she says. ‘I wrote to the British Cycling Federation to ask for championships, and after an initial refusal, they changed their mind and I competed in the inaugural U16 British Track Championships for girls in 1998, and there are now championships for all age categories for girls on road and track – a huge step forward.’ Nicole also wrote to the Union Cycliste International (the world governing body for sports cycling) about the heavy bias towards men in the Olympics, which in 2004 offered eight medals for men and only four for women. In London 2012, five medals were offered to both men and women. While it’s shocking to see such inequality in sport, it’s the determination of people like Nicole that makes a real difference.
Women’s Sport Trust (womenssporttrust.com) aims to raise the profile and visibility of women’s sports through role models, media coverage and funding – the things that get female athletes seen and heard in order to inspire others to give sport a go. ‘Since London 2012, there’s been an increase in coverage and buying of rights to women’s sport from broadcasters such as BT Sport, Sky and BBC,’ says Jo Bostock, co-founder of Women’s Sport Trust. ‘Not to mention the national cricket team becoming professional and the announcement of La Course – a female event alongside the final day of the Tour De France.’
What WST does is important as it’s about encouraging women to realise that, whatever their fitness level, background or history, sport can be for them, too. We need to increase the positive impact not only by participating, but by watching women play sport, getting our companies involved with sponsorship and urging schools to create more sports opportunities.