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Skinny To Strong: Karina Baymiller’s Complete Fitness Journey

Vital Stats

In the fitness community, I’m most often recognized because of my big weight-loss transformation. I went from 185 pounds to a little less than 130 pounds. It took me a few years to get to my lowest weight, but I followed the motto that slow and steady wins the race and I never gave up. I know it was this attitude that helped me place second the 2013 Bodybuilding.com BodySpace Spokesmodel Competition.

Sometimes, I look back and can’t believe how far I’ve come. I don’t even remember the girl who had never stepped foot in a gym and gorged on pizza, chips, and ramen all day.

But I’ve decided my transformation work is not yet done—in fact, it’s only just begun! I’m on a second transformation journey, and this time I’m putting my happiness and my health first. I’m transforming my body from skinny to strong, and my mind from unhealthy to happy.

Before

After

Why I Decided to Change … Again

Believe it or not, when I weighed 185 pounds, I was one confident girl. I loved my body and never thought of myself as fat. I was who I was and that was that. I wasn’t defined by my body’s appearance. But that self-confidence changed the moment I decided I should lose weight. It seemed as though the more weight I lost, the more self-conscious about my appearance I became. I reached every weight-related goal I had set for myself, and yet I was never good enough.

At 125 pounds and with barely enough body fat to function, I competed for the first (and last) time with anxiety that I was “too fat” to be on stage. I had become so progressively wrapped up in numbers and body fat percentages over the few short years of dieting, that I was mentally destroyed.

I also noticed that my training started to suffer. I first began working out to be healthy and because I loved the way it made me feel, but I had lost sight of those reasons. I trained to burn calories and stay as thin as possible. If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run. I started to hate outdoor runs because I was forcing myself to do them. I allowed my training to control me. I stopped doing the things I enjoyed in exchange for doing whatever it took to stay thin.

Along with a severely distorted body image and training that was running me into the ground, my relationship with food started to become extremely disordered. Gone were the days of using food for fuel. If my food wasn’t weighed out to the gram and if I didn’t prepare it myself, I refused to eat it. There were days that I had full-blown anxiety attacks because I couldn’t log something in MyFitnessPal.

“If I didn’t burn enough calories according to my heart rate monitor—which was never accurate anyway—my mood was ruined. More often than not, I would make myself go back to the gym later to do HIIT or run.”

I began taking hours of my day to try to configure my food so I would hit my macros just perfectly. If I didn’t, another anxiety attack would ensue. To say I was obsessed is an understatement. I restricted myself with calories, types of foods, and situations. God forbid I would eat a cookie!

I felt like I was drowning, like I was just barely holding my head above water. Everything I had loved so much in the beginning—the healthy eating, the workouts, my body—now had complete control of my life. They were no longer positives. They had become negatives, weighing me down with each passing day. I knew I had to change. It was only a matter of time before I broke down completely.

That’s when I decided I wanted to find strength.

Letting Go

The first thing I had to change was my mindset. I had to let go of the unhealthy habits that were slowly suffocating me. My negative body image was, and still is to this day, the hardest thing to let go of. I found it much easier to allow for self-hate than to find self-love. Sadly, I think this is true for many people. But I had to let go.

I had to let go of having visible abs 24/7. I had to let go of desperately trying to maintain 12 percent body fat. I had to let go of the number on the scale. Most importantly, I had to let go of the idea that I would only be happy if I was lean. I wanted to be happy when I looked in the mirror, and I knew it wouldn’t come from a certain size. It had to come from letting go and loving myself no matter what.

“I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made.”

I still remind myself of where I started. That girl sitting on her ass eating ramen all day is 180 degrees from where I am today, and she always will be. I’m proud of the person I’ve become and the changes I’ve made. Whether I stay the size that I am now or gain or lose a few pounds, I love who I am. My worth is no longer based on what the scale says in the morning.

I don’t have “fat days” or “fluffy days” anymore, because quite frankly, I don’t care. I refuse to let something like three pounds of water destroy my day. I know now that I’m healthier than I ever was at 130 pounds. My hormones aren’t out of whack, I’m not moody or depressed, I don’t have random headaches, I’m not constantly fatigued, and I don’t feel weak.

Unfortunately, there’s a widespread belief that equates health to six-pack abs. This might be true for some people, but for the majority it’s not. I can lift more, sprint faster, and am healthier now than I ever was. There is beauty in strength. I don’t just say it, I know it.

Letting Go

I wanted my fire for exercise to burn like it did when I first started lifting, so I let go of the forced daily runs and extra HIIT sessions to “make up” for calories. I began to utilize conditioning work 1-2 times per week instead. I added back my short outdoor runs, but much more infrequently, and never because I felt pressure to burn a certain number of calories. I threw my heart monitor away.

I also discovered powerlifting. When I finally dropped the light-weight, high-rep stuff I was doing to stay thin, I started following Wendler’s 5-3-1 program and quickly fell in love. My strength skyrocketed, and when I decided I wanted to take my training to the next level, I signed with The Strength Guys. Now, the spark is back when I’m in the gym. I feel the fire again.

Squat

Strength Training Program

I follow an intense, block-periodization powerlifting program created by my coach, Jon Stewart. It’s high volume, tailored to correct my weaknesses, and uses movements and load intensities built for progression. I’m on six-week cycles of five-day splits. I have one day of light conditioning and one day of complete rest. Mobility is a vital component of my current program because my training pushes my body to its limits.

Each day and week I use different sets, reps, and weight with a specific rest time, exercise tempo, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) to follow. Days one and three look on week three of my program.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Pause Squats have the lifter descending to the bottom position of the squat and freezing. The bottom position is held for three seconds, maintaining tightness in the muscles and correct technique, before returning to the starting position.

Compensatory Acceleration Training (C.A.T.)

is lifting sub-maximal loads with maximum force. For more details check

elitefts.com

.

  • Mobility TrainingMobility Training Mobility Training
    30-40 minutes

Mobility Training includes foam rolling the area to be trained, plus two or three dynamic stretches/movements the prepare the area for training.

Reset Deadlifts are performed the same as a standard deadlift, but the lifter will put the weight completely on the floor and reset their hip position between each rep.

Letting Go

The hardest physical aspect to change for me was my diet. I had developed such rigid views and habits around food that it was almost more of a struggle to let them go than it was to keep them. I packed away my food scale and deleted MyFitnessPal. I started incorporating foods that I hadn’t allowed myself to eat in years. I stopped restricting. I re-learned how to eat, not from a clock or scale, but from what my body was feeling.

At first I thought I would feel free without the calorie counting, stress, obsession, and anxiety, but I didn’t. I would take two steps forward and three steps back, wondering if I would ever be able to change. It took years to develop my disordered relationship with food, and I knew it wasn’t going to take a week to fix it. So, I trusted the process just as I always had, kept working at it, and didn’t give up.

Today, around 70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food that allows my body to perform at its optimal level. This includes things like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

70-80 percent of the food I consume is healthy, nutrient-dense food like lean proteins, organic dairy, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts (and butters!), and seeds.

The other 20-30 percent of food I consume is made up of things that I crave, or that I just plain want—no explanation or condition necessary. There is no special time, day, or place for these foods. I allow myself the freedom to eat them when I want them. Some days I’m at a 50/50 split, some days it’s 100/0, but on most days I stay right around 80/20. It all balances out.

I don’t restrict, I listen to my body’s needs and wants, and most important, I consume everything mindfully and in moderation. Through all of the extremes, I’ve found balance to be the key component in my physical and mental health. It’s also been the key to my happiness.

Sample Day

I don’t have a meal plan to follow because the foods and amounts I eat change on a daily basis. I don’t weigh or measure anything, so all quantities below are estimated. I don’t know my caloric intake or macro breakdown, but I would guess I’m somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,200-2,700 calories per day. Here is what I ate yesterday:

Greek Chicken Wrap

Final Thoughts

Throughout my second transformation, I’ve found myself spending more time with friends and family. They couldn’t care less what I look like—my abs make no difference to them. As long as I’m healthy and happy, they’re happy too.

It’s funny because these are the people I pulled away from when I started my downhill slide into disordered eating and thinking. I sheltered myself from everything that wasn’t fitness related, even friends and family. But when I finally let go of the obsession and the stress, I felt free.

During this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

The fitness community is full of extremes. We work out until we can’t move. We eat diets of tilapia and broccoli. It takes a strong individual to endure what we put ourselves through. But during this second transformation, I found that the middle is where I want to be.

I want to be somewhere between the overweight college girl and the underweight girl on stage, somewhere between the girl who ate pop-tarts for every meal and the girl who ate lettuce for every meal, somewhere between the girl who never stepped foot into the gym and the girl who wouldn’t leave it until she’d burned enough calories. This middle spot is where I’m happy and strong. It’s where I found my balance.

Recommended For You

Fitness 360: Karina Baymiller, Petite Powerhouse

Karina Baymiller may have had 6-pack abs, but she wasn’t happy. Learn how she let go of her obsession with image and built a healthier, happier, stronger body and mind!

Perfect Legs: Karina Baymiller’s High-Rep Plyometric Leg Workout

Leg day is so nice, you better do it twice! I go heavy on legs early in the week and then finish them off with this powerful plyometric workout.

Body Transformation: Fitness Formula

Karina found out through relentless experimentation that good things come to those who are patient. She tried every plan in the book and perfected her own formula!

Originally posted here –

Skinny To Strong: Karina Baymiller’s Complete Fitness Journey

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How to lose fat

Want to up your fat-burn potential? Try these top tips…


If you’re ready to get serious about fat loss, do yourself a favour and steer clear of fad diets and calorie restricting. Instead, try these super-easy tips and tricks to help you become the best version of you!

Refuelling hazard

Ever felt ravenous after a workout? Make sure you come prepared – bring a protein shake or healthy snack to consume post-workout. I’ll save you from making decisions that will hamper your results.

Ditch the boyfriend

Don’t panic – it’s only for the workout. Men usually burn more calories than women in the same workout due to being heavier, in addition to which Mother Nature acts to protect women’s role as child bearer, which means we maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Doing your partner’s workout, then, might end up with him shedding pounds but you only shedding tears. Go solo, girl!

Turn on the afterburners

Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) is the term given to the body’s attempts to recharge and restore itself immediately after a workout, a process that results in additional calorie burn. Research has shown that high-intensity interval training leads to greater EPOC than steady cardio workouts, so turn up the dial with alternate bouts of maximum effort and rest for serious results. Try the Tabata format – eight periods of 20 secs full-out work followed by 10 secs recovery.

Muscle up to slim down

Building lean muscle mass will speed up your metabolic rate and promote fat burn – so get strength training. Compound exercises that use bigger muscle groups will be most effective – like squats, deadlifts and kettlebell swings.

Running on empty

Exercising in the morning before your first meal is a great way to shed fat. Research shows that fasting (which is essentially what happens overnight as we sleep) leads to increased adrenaline and reduced insulin levels, creating an environment that is more conductive to the breakdown of fat for energy. If you’re not used to this, though, ease yourself in and remember to stay hydrated.

Team tactics

When it comes to fitness, it’s easy to fall into a rut by doing the same workouts over and over – especially if you’re partial to studio classes. So give your fat-loss hopes a sporting chance by joining a football, hockey or tennis club. Not only will variation keep you motivated, these sports incorporate the need for repeated bursts of effort (interval training) that we know burns fat.

Up and down

Alternating your exercises between upper and lower body in a circuit format results in an extra calorie burn because your cardiovascular system has to work harder. Peripheral Heart Action training, as this is known, challenges the heart to keep pushing blood from one part of the body to another, in order to deliver oxygen to fuel the muscles. A routine like this also allows you to move straight from one exercise to the next, as muscle groups get a chance to rest, so you can get your workout done quicker.

Explode the fat

Also known as jump training, plyometric exercises involve stretching the muscles prior to explosively contracting them. Think burpees, box jumps and jumping lunges; all of which result in high calorie expenditure, making them a valuable weapon in your fat-loss armoury.

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How to sculpt your core

The vision

Fat loss is key to what the majority of women want in a stomach: one that is ‘flat’ or lean, with a little definition and no love handles.

“The most common complaints I receive are from new mums who have a flabby stomach or saggy skin after giving birth, or from individuals who have gained weight and now have a ‘pot belly’,” says director of Soul Centre Yoga & Pilates Studio Libby Wever (soulcentre.com.au)

“Beyond aesthetics, core conditioning also improves posture, which contributes to a trimmer appearance, and improves flexibility and balance. Moreover, developing core muscle strength can boost the effectiveness of workouts and reduce the risk of injuries that sideline our efforts to stay in shape. It also protects your back, which is very important to maintain.”

Key features

Your core is actually a highly complex set of muscles, encompassing the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, and the rectus abdominis. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus and trapezius.

“The transverse abdominal muscles, which wrap from the sides of the lower back around to the front, are well-coordinated core muscles that stabilise the spine and help create a firm base of support for virtually all movement,” says Wever.

The plan

From an aesthetic point of view, there is little point smashing out the crunches if your obliques are hidden by layers of fat. That said, like any muscle, the abs still need to be worked for proper function and image once the fat does come off.

“Exercises that strengthen abdominal and other core muscles should be part of an overall fitness plan that includes regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. Strength training two to three times a week designed to work the core (think Pilates and compound lifts) will also help,” says Wever.

Given the abs are notoriously resistant to fatigue and contain predominantly of slow-twitch (endurance) muscle fibres, they usually respond best to higher volume training. Think upward of 12 reps, for multiple sets.

“Performing basic movements such as sit-ups, crunches, leg lifts, squats and lunges – 12 reps by three sets – as well as holding a full-body plank for two minutes will help to engage and strengthen the core, aiding in your performance across other sports and activities, such as running or swimming,” adds Wever.

http://ww.womenshealthandfitness.com.au/fitness/25-popular-topics/2368-how-to-sculpt-your-core

 

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Train like an elite

Your goal doesn’t have to be to make it to the Olympics in order to get the most from your workouts.

Whether you’re training for a race or simply looking to stay active, why shouldn’t you at least be able to train like your favourite athletes? Fitness expert and coach Nick Grantham – who has worked with many top athletes and Olympians – thinks we should all be able to train to our full potential regardless of our individual goals.

His new book The Strength & Conditioning Bible: How to Train Like an Athlete is designed to give you everything you need to make it happen. ‘Anyone who wants to improve their fitness levels and is willing to invest some time and effort can optimise their training and performance,’ he says. ‘And that’s pretty much anyone!’

Gone are the days when you needed the most expensive training tools and elite trainers by your side to train smart. From guide books to online personal trainers, there are increasingly easy and effective ways to get training – but with Nick’s experience working in high-performance fitness and sport science, you can really count on The Strength & Conditioning Bible to not only explain what to do and how to do it, but also why you’re doing it.
‘As a coach I know the power of understanding,’ Nick says. ‘If you understand why you’re performing an activity, you’re far more likely to stick to the training programme.’

As well as giving you the chance to take exercises up or down a notch, it also preps you to continue your training confidently on your own. ‘It offers sample sessions, and appropriate progressions and regressions,’ he adds. ‘It also provides the reader with an understanding that will allow them to develop their own effective programmes.’

The workout over these pages, devised by Nick, will allow you to train your body from head to toe in a fuss-free, effective way. In Nick’s own words, no matter what your level or experience, ‘anyone can train like an athlete’.

Squat

Areas trained: glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves

Technique

Holding the barbell resting on your shoulder muscles,

stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 

Bend at 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.

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

Press-up

Areas trained: chest, triceps, core

Technique

Start in a plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Tighten up through your core, ensuring your back is flat.

Bend your arms to lower your body until your chest is about 1cm from the floor.

Drive back up to the starting position where your arms are extended.

Romanian deadlift

Areas trained: hamstrings, lower back, glutes

Technique

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.

Alekna

Areas trained: core, stomach

Technique

Lie on your back with your hips and knees bent at a 90-degree angle with arms fully extended towards the ceiling.

Simultaneously lower your arms behind your head and your legs out fully until they are both close to the ground, without touching it.

Return to the start position and repeat.

Get-up

Areas trained: shoulders, core, glutes, sides

Technique

Lie on your back and hold a kettlebell in your right hand, straight above your shoulder, arm vertical. Position your left arm out to the side and bend your right leg so that your right foot is alongside your left knee.

Pushing off your right foot, roll onto your left hip and up onto your left elbow.

Push up onto your left hand and holding yourself up on your left hand and right foot, lift yourself up off the ground, then thread your left leg back to a kneeling position.

You will be in a kneeling position with your left knee on the floor, right foot on the floor and the kettlebell locked out overhead in your right hand.

From the kneeling position, move into a standing position.

Reverse the movements to come back down to the starting position on the floor.

Perform on the opposite side for the next rep.

Hip thrust

Areas trained: glutes, hamstrings, core

Technique

Set up in the position shown – your shoulder blades in line with the bench and 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 push your hips straight up. Finish with your hips as high as possible while maintaining a neutral spine.

Lower; repeat.

2-point dumbbell bent-over row

Areas trained: upper back, biceps

Technique

Holding a dumbbell in your right hand, start with your feet hip-width apart in an offset stance with your right foot slightly staggered behind the left.

Take up the same position as you would for a bent-over row (your knees slightly bent and your torso bent forwards at your hips at a 45-degree angle).

Row the dumbbell up to your ribcage and then return to the starting position.

Repeat all reps in the set and then switch sides.

Kettlebell swing

Areas trained: glutes, hamstrings, back, core

Technique

Hold a kettlebell with both hands and bend your knees so you are in an athletic position.

Bring the kettlebell through your legs, so your forearms are in contact with your inner thighs.

Swing the weight upward and out to eye level, using the extension of your hips to move
the load.

Return to the start position and go straight into another rep.

Buy the book

Packed with plenty more workouts just like this one, The Strength & Conditioning Bible: How to Train Like an Athlete by Nick Grantham is published by Bloomsbury (£18, bloomsbury.com). Get your copy now!

Train like an elite

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Get fit on social media

Boost your summer workout motivation with these social media campaigns

If you’re among the one in four people who pay for a gym membership but hasn’t exercised for six months (go on, own up) or one of the 36 per cent who have recently cancelled their membership, it’s time to look beyond the gym for shape-up motivation. And this summer, you can find inspiration at your fingertips from a bounty of new social media fitness campaigns, guaranteed to get you moving. Already a great platform for exchanging workout tips and motivation, social media is now buzzing with more structured fitness campaigns tailored to your goals, whether you want to discover a new sport, up your running mileage or get off the couch and ready for the beach.

‘The great thing about online campaigns is that they’re here to inspire you whenever you’re ready to be inspired,’ says Chris Scott of London Sport, an organisation aiming to get one million Londoners more active by 2020, partly using social media campaigns. ‘They can be a way to fire you up to do more of what you’re already doing but they can also be the trigger to get you moving when you need a little nudge, perhaps while you’re crashed out on the sofa. Having a chance to be inspired into activity at those times is a great opportunity to shift you out of that passive mentality and into a process of getting active.’

So if you’re ready to be moved – and ready to move – here are the hottest, most inspiring campaigns to check out right now. On your marks, get set, google…

#LDNMOVESME

WHAT: #LDNMovesMe is a three-month digital initiative designed to inspire Londoners to celebrate and share the ways they get active, whether it’s an early-morning yoga class, a bike ride to the office, an after-work HIIT class or a weekend walk. It’s easy to join in and inspire other city-dwellers to get moving – just throw out a picture of your workout on social media and tag it with #LDNMovesMe. Then discover new ideas by checking what others are up to. ‘Whatever activity means to you, the #LDNMovesMe campaign is there to motivate you to do more of what you love,’ explains freerunning legend François ‘Forrest’ Mahop. The goal: ‘to build a community of Londoners who are healthier, happier, and more inspired to participate,’ explains Peter Fitzboydon, Chief Executive of London Sport. NEED TO KNOW: Make it a good post – the best content will be shared on the campaign’s microsite: ldnmovesme.com where you can also find more workout ideas.

#MAKE1KWET

WHAT: Runners – improve your stride by getting in the pool! This programme from Speedo aims to show you how swapping 5K on your feet for 1K in the water will help you become a fitter and stronger runner by reaping the benefits (improved endurance, core and upper-body strength) of a full-body workout through swimming. Designed by former ITU triathlete and duathlete Annie Emmerson, the MAKE 1K WET programme features 1K swim-training plans, from beginner to advanced, catering for people who are running anything from 5K to marathons. ‘Runners are mileage-driven, so it’s a great way to showcase that you can achieve as much through swimming as running,’ says Emmerson. Download a three-month plan from the Make1KWet hub at speedo.com to your smartphone. As you progress, share your results, tagging your tweets #Make1KWet. NEED TO KNOW: A recent international study of people who swim and run found that more than 85 per cent said swimming helps enhance their running performance.

#LETSRUNIT

WHAT: Short on shape-up time? Get fit on your way to work with this campaign designed to inspire you to switch your commute (by train, bus or car) with running or walking to work, helping you keep fit, save money and even get there faster. Enter your start and finish points and mode of transport of your commute on the landing page, which calculates the distance and time of the journey then creates a run/walk. Download the Racefully iphone app beforehand, and you can race against your commute. ‘It’s a fun and affordable way to add fitness into your life, plus helping the environment and saving money are big motivators,’ says Racefully co-founder David Naylor. Share your runs by using #LetsRunIt. NEED TO KNOW: You could also win a lightweight commuter’s backpack by iamrunbox worth £134. To be in with a chance, share your run to Facebook or Twitter and tag it #LetsRunIt.

#MADETOMOVE

WHAT: Sponsored by Lucozade Sport, this drive to get to get 1 million people moving more by 2020 kicked into action in October 2016 with Made to Move Sessions, a series of streamed workout classes hosted by influential sport and fitness ambassadors including IBF Heavyweight World Champion boxer Anthony Joshua and PT and social media influencer Emily Skye, available here. ‘This is a perfect platform to give everyone the access and knowledge they need to be fit and heathy,’ says Skye. NEED TO KNOW: Lucozade Sport has launched a Made to Move app as part of the campaign. Users can track their movement across a range of activities and are rewarded with giveaways and prize draws. ‘Just 5,000 steps could make you a prize winner,’ says Claire Higgins, Senior Brand Manager at Lucozade Sport. So, move more, win more!

#THISGIRLCAN

WHAT: Sport England’s famous campaign to help overcome the fear of judgement that stops many women and girls from doing sport has evolved for 2017. Having encouraged 2.8 million 14- to 40-year-old women to do some or more activity, the advertising campaign features real women participating in their sports. You can look for activities – from archery to Zumba – to try in your area and get advice on getting involved in sport hereNEED TO KNOW: Inspire other women by making your own This Girl Can poster using the app at app.thisgirlcan.co.uk/#register and uploading it to social media. This Girl Can Workplace Tour will be taking yoga yurts to workplaces in the west of England, while other areas will have individual hashtags to help their communities boost participation.

 

Get fit on social media

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The best reasons to work out

Losing inches shouldn’t be your only motivation for hitting the gym. Regular training sessions benefit your entire body

Toned legs and a flat stomach aren’t the only benefits of working out. According to a research review in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, regular exercise can help cut your risk of more than 20 illnesses, including cancer and heart disease.

‘Exercise is essential for losing and maintaining weight loss,’ says sports scientist Nick Morgan, ‘but the other benefits are just as important.’ Here’s what exercise does to keep you healthy, happy and alive!

Brain

Staying active cuts your risk of dementia and age-related memory loss by increasing the size of the hippocampus, the area of the brain that makes memories. A 40,000-person Norwegian study found that those who engage in regular activity of any intensity are less likely to develop symptoms of depression.

Breasts

Brisk walking for as little as one and a quarter hours every week can help reduce oestrogen levels in the body, which may lower your breast cancer risk by 18 per cent!

Bones

Bone-thinning osteoporosis now affects around one in three women in the UK, according to the latest research. Taking part in a 45-minute Step aerobics class, three times a week, will help boost bone density, especially in your spine, legs and heels. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also reports that heavy resistance training may increase bone mass, as it places strain on the bones of the joint you are working.

Appetite

Intense exercise can reduce levels of ghrelin, a hormone that stimulates your appetite, while raising levels of the peptide YY, which lowers appetite. A study in the journal Appetite also found that a brisk 15-minute walk decreased chocolate cravings by 12 per cent.

Heart

Not only will exercise add about four years to your life, it can also lower your systolic blood pressure (the top number that measures your blood pressure while the heart is beating) by as much as five to 10mmHg (millimetres of mercury). This is as good as some blood pressure medications. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic activity most days of the week.

Pancreas

Lifting weights and upping your lean muscle mass could lower your insulin resistance, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes. For every 10 per cent increase in muscle mass, the risk of pre-diabetes should drop by 12 per cent.

Gut

Three to five weekly workouts of 20-60 minutes of vigorous activity is an effective treatment for IBS, according to a Swedish study. Demanding workouts improve bowel movements, and relieve gas and constipation.

Sex drive

Around 20 minutes of cardio exercise gets your body aroused faster and more intensely for a bit of rough and tumble. Not only that, lifting weights can also cause testosterone surges, and women with more testosterone tend to be more aroused and enjoy sex more.

Source: The best reasons to work out

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HIIT: the most efficient way to exercise?

What do you get if you mix giant ropes, friendly competition and a heart-pumping workout? Answer: Whipped!

It’s easy to get bored of treadmills, cross-trainers and slogging it out on your own in the gym. So a class that mixes effective results, competition and a fresh element is a welcome relief to an already busy day. Using battle ropes, that are more tug of war than skip in the park, Whipped!, is an exciting new circuit class at high-end London gym Equinox, bringing together the best elements of high intensity circuits, ramping up your cardio capacity while blasting fat (yey!) and using a great range of equipment.

 

The background

The HIIT class is designed to get your heart rate soaring to burn fat while sculpting you from head to toe in the most time-efficient way. Our instructor Rory explained that, unlike steady state workouts, intense bursts of exercise help put your fat loss in the fast lane. Sounds good, right? So if you want to change your body for the better, the Whipped! class is the perfect place to start.

You work to your body’s maximum capacity in 30 seconds, doing as many reps, using good form, as you can and then have a quick rest. The circuit is cleverly designed so you work a different muscle group with each exercise, and simultaneously push your fitness to its limit.

The class

Rory led a dynamic warm-up involving a quick jog around the room, followed by exercises like high knees and jumping jacks.

We were then paired up and allocated a fitness station. As usual in circuits, each pair circled the room in a clockwise direction, performing high-octane exercises at each station for 30 seconds before moving to the next exercise. By the end of the class, we’d visited each station four times.

My partner and I began in plank position on our forearms, pushing up onto our hands. The aim was to do these plank transfers as many times as possible within 30 seconds.

Next, we moved to the battle ropes, which posed the biggest challenge of all the exercises. Holding a rope in each hand, we slammed them to the ground, making small rippling waves, and swung them from side to side.

This was followed by a whole host of exhausting moves, from V-sits holding a 3kg dumbbell to barbell rows while wobbling on a BOSU ball. The class ended with another speedy jog around the room, followed by a series of stretches to ease our shaking muscles.

Louise’s verdict

If you’re bored of the same old workouts, this class is brilliant. Yes, it’s punishing, but the fact that the HIIT exercises are short and sharp is a big draw. Our trainer was a great motivator and helped spur us on – even when our arms felt like they were about to fall off! There’s no denying the class is challenging but it’s also fun and there’s no risk of getting bored. We’ll be back!

AT A GLANCE

What’s the concept? A high-intensity 45-minute circuit using battle ropes, the ViPR, BOSU balls and hand weights.

How much is it? The class is only open to members of Equinox. Monthly membership is £180.

Where can I get more info? Visit equinox.com/clubs/Kensington.

Difficulty? Whipped! is aimed at all fitness levels, but steel your nerves for a tough session!

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HIIT: the most efficient way to exercise?

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The Truth About Weight Loss

There’s more to weight loss than losing weight

The start of every health kick can be a glorious time, with your motivation at its highest and the fitness gains at their easiest to come by. Your muscles might be aching, and your diet could be missing a few unhealthy favourites, but the weight will be dropping off like nobody’s business.

At some point, however, you might find that whatever efforts you make in the gym or the kitchen do not result in any further losses when you step on the scales. Your weight plateaus, or perhaps even nudges slightly upwards. Obviously, this can be the ultimate motivation killer if your main goal is weight loss, but a simple scales reading can be misleading when it comes to your general health.

More important than how much you weigh is your body composition – namely how much of your body is made up of fat, muscle, bones, water, assorted organs, and so on. Some of these you can’t do much about – it doesn’t matter how much you try, you’re unlikely to shave any weight off your liver without resorting to some extremely risky behaviour. It’s still good to know what’s going on with all your insides, but the key two areas of body composition you can affect are your body fat and muscle mass.

Reducing body fat is often the main goal of people’s plans when they embark on a new exercise regime and/or diet, and any early weight loss is a result of achieving that goal. However, when weight loss plateaus it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve stopped lowering your body fat percentage. It could simply mean that you’re increasing your muscle mass at the same time. No net weight loss, but a far healthier body composition.

An extreme example often used to illustrate the deficiencies of simply relying on weight as a guide to health is comparing the Body Mass Index (which is based on height and weight, with no accounting for body composition) of a professional rugby player with an obese person. Both might end up with a matching BMI score, but the muscle-bound rugby hulk is clearly in better shape in terms of their overall health.

Even if you never reach the rippling physique of a Jonah Lomu in his prime, you might also suffer from misapprehensions about your health and the effectiveness of your gym work if you only use overall weight as a guide to your progress.

The issue is that muscle is not heavier than fat, but it is denser. This means it takes up less space to weigh the same amount as fat, so your body shape might be changing for the better even if your total weight is the same after weeks of working out.

Body composition is also important when it comes to the type of fat you have. Visceral fat, which accumulates around your organs in the mid-section, is the most dangerous kind, in that a large quantity of it is linked with an increased risk of all kinds of problems including heart disease, several cancers and type 2 diabetes. A relatively slim physique with a pot belly is therefore nothing to boast about, you need to shift that midsection bulk rather than just focussing on your overall weight.

The good news is that visceral fat is the first stuff you’ll shift when you start exercising. Even if you can’t see the fat itself, you can monitor your progress by measuring your waistline regularly. Keeping tabs on your waist-to-height ratio (WHtR) is good practice all round if you’re on a fitness drive, as it has been found to be a better indicator of obesity-related health risks than simple weight or BMI measurements. To see if your ratio is unhealthily high simply grab a piece of string, use it to measure your height then fold it in half. If it doesn’t fit around your waist, then your ratio is in bad shape, and it’s time to start slimming.

There are also plenty of more precise ways to get a handle on your body composition, from the humble pair of callipers to smart scales. With callipers you pinch the skin and measure the fold in at least three locations on your body. Then plug those numbers into an online calculator to get an idea of your body fat. The number itself might not be incredibly accurate, but consistently measuring in the same way with callipers over time will allow you to track changes in your body composition.

For their part, smart scales such as the Withings Body Cardio will provide the most in-depth and accurate look at your insides you can get outside of a hospital, telling you your body fat, muscle mass, water percentage and bone mass, along with your actual weight. In terms of practical information about how your efforts to improve your fitness are going, it’s a huge step up from standard scales.

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The Truth About Weight Loss

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emilyskyeprofile

How to eat like a female fitness model

For 30-year-old fitness model, Emily Skye, it used to be about getting skinny and slaving away on the cardio machines. It then became all about nourishing her body to becoming strong, working out and becoming healthy.

Her food philosophy

Don’t diet – instead just make clean eating part of your lifestyle. Learn as much as you can about healthy food and find foods that you really enjoy eating so that your diet changes are easier to stick to. Keep it interesting by experimenting.

The ‘before’ diet

I didn’t eat anywhere near as much food as I should have and my choices were either super rigid – with lots of bland, steamed food or I made unhealthy choices such as junk food, takeaway and deep-fried food.

The turning point

For years I struggled with depression and insecurities that stemmed in part from my school years where I was teased and criticised for having “big eyes”, being skinny, quiet, athletic or different. Six years ago I decided I was tired of never feeling good about myself. So I set out to become more happy, healthy and fit through lifestyle changes. Within about 12 weeks of lifting weights and eating super clean (lots of vegetables and more protein), I had lost body fat and built more muscle. Over the next year, I continued to fine-tune my diet and started doing less cardio and more working out with weights. I soon felt amazing and far happier with how I looked.

The health benefits of eating cleaner

Once my diet became cleaner, I not only lost body fat and built more muscle but within days of starting to eat healthier, I had less fluid retention and less general body inflammation. I felt more positive about myself and started to appreciate everything I am rather than focussing on what I am not. My new lifestyle helped me overcome depression and insecurities, my mind became clearer, I became strong and fit and I had more energy.

The diet now

I don’t eat sugar (except for a little natural sugar in fruits and vegetables). I barely eat any starchy carbs but I have more meat and a wider range of fresh vegetables and salads. I avoid gluten and wheat and I’ve cut right down on dairy products (except for natural yogurt and cottage cheese as they’re lower in lactose, which I’m sensitive to). I avoid processed foods, artificial colours, flavours and preservatives. I drink a lot of pure water and I don’t drink alcohol (except for special occasions – I only drink a few times a year).

It’s okay to have what you love

I love the taste of coffee – one of my favourite activities is to enjoy a coffee at a café. I drink one to two cups a day. If you’re constantly depriving yourself of foods you love, you’re more likely to give up a healthy eating plan. Instead I’m all for moderation. That means I have treats when I feel like it and I never make a food ‘off limits’ as doing this can lead to cravings. If I really want something, I enjoy it without regrets. I love healthier treats, though, as they don’t upset my tummy. I often make a chia seed pudding with berries and coconut cream or coconut yoghurt… something to look forward to is fun and helps you stay motivated to eat well.

The mind-food connection

Once you eat more clean, your cravings for unhealthy foods tend to subside. Now that I’ve experienced how good it feels on a healthy diet, I’ve noticed how unwell I feel after eating foods like milk chocolate, ice cream, pizza, burgers and fries. I get extremely bloated, my tummy gets upset and I feel lethargic. Understanding this connection makes it so much easier to realise it’s not worth eating those unhealthy foods.

Find out which diet plan works for you and read more about changing up your eating habits for a better, healthier you.

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yoga

Yoga poses

While yoga is undoubtedly known as the go-to for limbering up, de-stressing and boosting flexibility, it’s less known for its contribution to cardio fitness. Wild, a new class from Fierce Grace (fiercegrace.com), is looking to change that, though. Taking inspiration from martial arts, ballet, qigong, physiotherapy, resistance exercises and, of course, traditional yoga, Wild is a functional-based workout designed for anyone and everyone. Try this workout for a taster of what this innovative class offers. Ready?

Ragdoll jumps

Technique-

With your feet hip-width apart and arms loose, perform continuous little jumps for 30 seconds.

Straddle reach-through

Technique-

Stand with feet wider than hips. Bend your knees if you need to.

Hinge at the hips, reaching your arms out. Graze the floor with your hands as you go, exhaling all the way to reach your arms through your legs. 

Inhale to bounce back, then reach through again, taking a second to complete each reach-through.

Do 15 reps in total.

Straddle push-up

Technique-

Standing up straight with your feet wide, reach down to the floor by your toes.

Walk forward with your  hands until your body is in a straight line.

Bend your arms to lower your chest, then push back up.

Walk your hands back to the start.

Repeat for 10 reps.

Spine flex

Technique-

Sit cross-legged on the floor with your hands on your ankles.

Exhale, round your spine and relax it, look down and feel the stretch in your upper back.

Inhale and arch your spine, look up and push your chest forwards, using your hands to help you.

Repeat, performing one rep per second for one minute.

Corkscrew twists 

Technique-

Sit cross-legged with your hands resting on your shoulders – fingers in front, thumbs at the back and elbows out to the sides. Keep your eyes and head forward throughout.

Inhale to twist left, then exhale right.

Pull your belly in and lift your chest.

Repeat once per second.

Fire plank

Technique-

Hold a plank with hands under your shoulders, fingers spread, tailbone tucked under, abs and quads tight.

Practise ‘fire breath’ (drawing breath from your navel area, quickly breathe in and out through your nose, pulling your belly in as you exhale).

Hold for 45 secs.

Now, without losing form, lift your left leg and right arm.

Bring them back to the plank then do the same with the opposite limbs.

Do this twice more on each side.

Fast scissors

Technique-

Lie on your back with your palms under your hips for support and legs off the ground.

Scissor your legs up and down, performing fire breath through your nose once each rep.

Go for one minute.

Bum lift 

Technique-

Lie on your front with your arms beside you, palms down, elbows locked and forehead on the floor.

Bend your knees to take your feet off the floor, keeping them together.

Inhale and squeeze to lift your knees off the floor, then lower them straight back down to finish the rep.

Do 30 reps.

Check out www.fiercegrace.com for more information on yoga, classes and training

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Yoga poses

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