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Mindfulness exercises

There are tonnes of ways to get pumped using exercise, a HIIT class with booming music that shakes the floor, sprinting your morning run because your so pumped because your earphones are so loud they’re practically bursting your ear drums, or signing up for another spin class knowing full well that the instructor will be screaming at you the whole time. But, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a healthy balance of exercise and rest or relaxation to achieve good health – that’s why we love methods that combine the two.

If you thought ‘inner energy’ was all about sitting on a yoga mat in the lotus position while chanting ‘om’, then think again. Those familiar with the Chinese martial art tai chi may have come across qigong before. Sometimes known by its full name of taiji qigong, it consists of 18 exercises that are used to promote the body’s natural healing energy to reduce stress levels and increase your quality of life.

How does it work?

Focusing on postures and breathing, qigong is aimed at improving physical and mental health. ‘The exercises can help to promote the body’s natural healing energy, reduce stress and create a feeling of wellbeing,’ explains Ronnie Robinson the director of Taiji Europa, (taiji-europa.eu).
If you know a little about acupuncture, you may be familiar with the Chinese theory of internal energy pathways, or meridians, through which ‘qi’ or ‘chi’ – energy – flows through. ‘Each meridian connects to different internal organs and ensures a healthy energy flow to the connected organ,’ Ronnie explains. ‘When the chi flow is regular the body will remain healthy. However, if there are blockages in this energy flow, problems can result.’
The theory goes that ailments occur because there is disruption to the energy flow in the meridian associated with that particular area. The disruption can be due to stress, poor eating habits, or even being too hot or too cold, creating a build-up which energy can’t freely flow through. Qigong helps to clear these blockages so energy can flow through the meridians with as little disruption as possible.

How to do it

The movements are simple, slow and gentle, yet effective in restoring energy. The body is kept in alignment throughout, and breathing is soft and natural. You may not get your heart racing in qigong, but you’ll certainly benefit physically. ‘Think about the natural movements of animals,’ says Ronnie, ‘like how birds take off and fly. They don’t carry the stresses and strains in their bodies that we humans do. Try to emulate the smooth, easy, natural movements that you see in the rest of nature.’
Want to give qigong a go? Perform each move 8-10 times one after another to create a flowing routine. It’s ideal performed in the morning for a gentle start to the day, or a good option if you need to unwind after work.

Qigong decoded

Beihui: A pressure point at the central part of the top of the head
Dantian: A pressure point just in front of your tummy
Laogong: A pressure point on the centre of the palm of the hd
Zusanli: A pressure point a few inches below the outside of the knee

Top tips for qigong

 Listen to your breath Adopt a soft, natural breathing during the movements.

Be aware of your body Although aches and pains are sometimes normal, don’t overdo it. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

‘Sink’ your weight and ‘lighten’ your upper body Establish a connection with the ground by imagining your weight dropping deep into the earth while your upper body floats upwards. In reality, your upper body may be heavy with tension while you find it hard to keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Maintain alignment Keep a natural arch in your back and neutral spine, the way we’ve evolved.
Focus and intent Connect with all the movements you’re making and the directions you’re going.
Be natural Think of the movements you see taking place in nature and try to follow suit.

Health and fitness talk with Elise Carver

Health and fitness talk with Elise Carver We chat to Elise Carver, owner and sole trainer of Surf Style Training for Little Bantam Health and Fitness to get an insight into her journey so far, her training and nutrition.On the road so farI studied to be a master trainer through the Australian Institute of Fitness about nine years ago and worked part time at a gym in South Yarra with some fantastic mentors who showed me the value of quality training. Shortly after, I began to fall in love with surfing. When I decided to make the shift to Torquay, I was already on my way to changing my body shape to suit surfing and so the Surf Style Training method was born and developed organically. I soon realised the mainstream way of training wasn’t for me and I have now run a successful business out of my own studio for three years.On body typeYour natural body shape is what you make it.

Pro Advice: 6 Surprising Fat-Loss Facts

Most regular gym-goers are there for one thing and one thing only: to lose fat. While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that goal, many people aren’t training for it in the most efficient ways and thus struggle to make real progress. What’s usually to blame for these ineffective fat-loss plans is a whole bunch of misinformation.

Get the real fat-loss facts right here! These six Optimum athletes know just what it takes to uncover those muscles hiding out under your body fat. Here’s what they have to say about some of those pervasive fat-loss myths.

Tobias Young

FAT-LOSS FALSEHOOD: “If I train abs really hard every day, I will lose belly fat and get a six-pack.”

REALITY: Everyone has a six-pack. It’s a muscle called your rectus abdominus. The only reason it’s not visible on everyone is because it’s usually covered with a layer of body fat. You could do 1,000 crunches seven days per week, but that won’t help you burn that layer of fat.

In order to lose fat, you must monitor your caloric intake and eat fewer calories than you expend. That way, your body will use stored fat for fuel. When your body burns fat for fuel, you don’t get to pick which parts of your body the fat will come off. Eventually, your entire body will be leaner, including that coveted abdominal area!

Jen Thompson

FAT-LOSS FALSEHOOD: “You can turn all of your body fat into toned muscle by lifting weights.”

REALITY: It is not possible to turn your body fat into muscle. Fat is fat and muscle is muscle—you can’t magically turn one into the other by lifting weights or doing cardio. However, weight training is the easiest way to control the shape of your body. The more muscle you have, the more fat your body will burn.

Keep in mind, though, that you can have a lot of muscle and still have fat covering it up. That’s why you need to do weight training, cardio, and have a clean, nutritious diet to maximize your weight loss and body-shaping potential.

Alex Carneiro

FAT-LOSS FALSEHOOD: “When trying to lose weight you need to drop your carbs and fats, but keep your protein intake high.”

REALITY: Fats and carbs both play a role in fat loss. Fats are responsible for hormone production, joint lubrication, and many other important health and muscle-building factors. Dropping your fats too low could compromise your health and your goals. Everyone’s body and metabolism is different, so it’s crucial to know how many grams of healthy fat you need to eat for a balanced nutrition regimen.

Carbs are always perceived as the enemy, but they too have a significant role in fat loss. The body needs glucose to work, and to a certain level, your brain requires it to think and function optimally. Some will argue that technically we don’t need carbs, but many of your body’s basic functions will decrease in performance without the right amount of carbs at the right times.

As for protein, a high-protein diet could benefit people in a caloric deficit.

Kelly Rennie

FAT-LOSS FALSEHOOD: “Eating fat makes you fat.”

REALITY: Fat doesn’t make you fat—consuming too many calories does. Foods that contain fat are part of a healthy diet, help maintain your lean body mass, and assist with metabolic function. Healthy fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, can be found in extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, almonds, avocados, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, flaxseeds, and more. If you want to lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories and/or burn more calories.

Noah Siegel

FAT-LOSS FALSEHOOD: “Cardio is all I need for fat loss.”

REALITY: Every gym has the guy or gal who does an hour and half of cardio but never seems to make physique changes. They’re living proof that if you don’t change things up, steady-state cardio will become less and less effective at reducing your body fat.

Most people will be able to quickly lose a few pounds when they start a cardiovascular program. Usually, this “program” is a long, drawn out battle with the treadmill or my most-hated machine, the elliptical. The initial drop in body fat is due to the new stimuli, but that trend quickly begins to taper off until eventually the individual is able to go longer and longer distances without any change in body composition. As you get “better” at doing cardio, your body makes specific adaptations to the stress being placed on it in order to become more efficient. Your body will increase your ability to transport and use oxygen, create more capillaries to deliver blood and oxygen to the needed muscles, and will strengthen the bones and muscles being used.

Simply put, as you get better at the activity, you stop expending the same amount of calories. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you simply stop burning fat. This is a necessary adaptation from our ancestors who had to travel long distances without the amenities that we have today. (Of course, they weren’t eating any donuts or Big Macs.)

Once your body adapts to the stress you put on it, it’s time to change the stress. Personally, I’d only run for a long distance if I were being chased by a hungry lion, so it’s unlikely you’d catch me on the treadmill. I prefer to do weight training circuits combined with calisthenics, sprints, and jumps to keep things interesting. You can mix things however you wish, as long as you find it challenging.

Example circuit:
Little to no rest between exercises
Rest 3-5 minutes between circuits
Repeat circuit 3 times

20 burpees
20 box jumps
30 air squats
Bear crawl: length of gym
Crab walk: length of the gym
Rope drills (waves, slams, etc.): 4 sets of 30 seconds
Agility ladder drills: 4 sets

This should be about a 20-minute cardio session that yields 10 times the results than an hour of boredom on the treadmill.

Kelechi Opara

FAT-LOSS FALSEHOOD: “Eating small meals frequently speeds up your metabolism so you can burn more fat.”

REALITY: Bro-scientists will insist that eating small portions every 2-3 hours will increase your metabolism. They base this on the thermic effect of food (TEF), which refers to the energy (calorie) cost of your body processing the food you consume. On average, 15 percent of the calories you consume are burned by processing them (although the rate varies by macronutrient). Someone took this idea and assumed that the more frequently people consume their meals, the more frequent TEF will take effect and thus increase fat oxidation.

This seems like a good thought at first. But numerous research studies have proven this to be false and simple math reinforces what these studies already show. Here’s an example:

Let’s look at two people consuming 1800 calories. The 0.15 represents the thermic effect of food.

Person 1 consumes 6 meals of 300 calories: 300 x 0.15 + 300 x 0.15 + 300 x 0.15 + 300 x 0.15 + 300 x 0.15 + 300 x 0.15 = 270 calories burned.

Person 2 consumes 3 meals of 600 calories: 600 x 0.15 + 600 x 0.15 + 600 x 0.15 = 270 calories burned.

As you can see, the amount of calories oxidized through digestion is the same no matter how frequently a person eats.

Eating more frequently holds no metabolic advantage over eating less frequently. Of course, if spreading your meals across six feeds per day is more comfortable and easier for you, then do it. The key is to choose a meal frequency that fits your lifestyle. That way, you’ll be more likely to stick to your plan over time.

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It’s hard to hit a deadlift PR if you have EDM blaring in your headphones. Log into Spotify and download Noah Siegel’s hard rock workout music. Play it loud!

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Top facts about exercising in the cold

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.

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