Too Good To Be True? Reviews in fitness

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I’m sort of in 2 minds about reviews…..
On one hand I think they’re a great way of getting a better understanding of a product or service, I will always read them and I will also try and leave feedback too.  Recent polls say that 88% of consumers trust online reviews, so they are pretty important for any business or product – however personally, I will also take reviews with a large pinch of salt and try to put them in context.
Details & Usability
When it comes to an actual product, reviews can be really useful. Reviewers can provide product features and details that the manufacturers may not have mentioned – for example when buying clothing everyone knows that your size in one shop may be completely different in another, so I will look at the reviews to try and get an idea of the “fit” and will look for actual dimensions like the width of a T-shirt (I actually also do this in shops too and take a paper tape measure with the width of all my, and my partner’s, best fitting clothes [Jeans,T-Shirt,Shirt] marked on it, so I don’t have to try things on!) and I recently used reviews to help me decide on my latest fitness tracker purchase. Sales people will also try and “big-up” and exagerate the greatness of their products – but by reading the reviews you can pick up on the little nuances of a product in terms of practical daily use like battery life and quality.
Finding Reviews
When you’re buying fitness equipment and clothing,  reviews are really easy to find. Whether that’s direct with the manufacturer, a retailer or from independent review sites.
If you’re looking at clubs and gyms on the other hand –  both Trip Advisor and Facebook can be a great resource. I especially like Facebook because as well as being able to read reviews that people have left on a place, if the gym has it’s own Facebook page, you can read through the comments posted and what kind of responses the club makes. How a club responds to (or sometimes ignores) it’s negative comments is a great insight into their attitude towards it’s members.
Trust
On the other-hand, as I’m quite a cynical person I can be a little wary of some reviews within the fitness industry – though I’m sure it happens everywhere really!
A lot of PT’s and big names are sponsored by a number of brands. It can be clothing but especially with supplements it seems – they will forever be posting tweets on how great a particular pre-workout or whatever is or how using “X” has given them massive gains (!?!).
I’m not saying this is bad –  it’s great promo for the product as they get to reach a wider audience. However the ting to bear in mind is that the products are usually given to the reviewer for free so the vast majority of the reviews are naturally going to be positive about it – especially if it means that they will get more freebies.
Trainer Reviews
Finding reviews on PT’s and instructors is difficult! Many PTs will post their testimonials on Facebook, or post before/after pictures of their client’s.  It’s a great way to sell your skills in helping people to achieve their goals – people love seeing results!
This however is where my cynacism kicks in a little – it’s easy to write up a testimonial in a made-up name, or take and alter pictures and claim it’s down to your great workouts and motivation.
If you were looking for a builder or something similar, there are now a number of supposedly independent review sites like checkatrade.com that you can use – but as yet there is no  real equivalent for PT’s.
There’s a couple of sites that are trying to do this but while a number of gyms and trainers are registering – the hard part is then getting people to leave reviews.
People can sometimes be reluctant to leave a review for an individual as it IS personal and in general we don’t want to publicly criticize someone – we would more likely do this in private. There is also the fact that as the general public are more than likely unaware of the site, the trainer would need to ask them to leave a review (and they’d only do this if they thought it would be a good one!).
It may be worth having a look at them though, as well as the REPS register to check on their accreditation and insurance status.
GymBuzz.com
Register of Exercise Professionals
Review Tips
Since honest reviews of PTs are a little hard to find – here’s a few tips:
1. Do look at their website/Facebook page have a look at the reviews and pictures posted.  If the person in the picture or review is tagged or if it’s been shared from the person’s own Facebook feed, thanking the PT – then great!
2. If they post a lot about a particular product – do bear in mind they may have been given them as a freebie (YouTube introduced a rule recently where the person has to say if they got it for free and if it’s an advert rather than a “review”) however if they post about a number of products and are not ALWAYS positive then they can probably be seen as being more independent and honest.
3. While reviews both good/bad can be useful – do put them into context. We all have good/bad experiences, some people will have an “off” day or product may have been misused, or there may have been a clash of personality or product design flaw. Read a number of the reviews both good and bad and try to get an overall picture.
4. Sometimes you might not find ANY reviews – but this doesn’t mean that they are rubbish!  It might just be that they are new, don’t like to brag or that their client’s are not the type to leave public reviews.  If you can,  always try and get direct contact from a user – whether it’s finding the best trainers for running or even more so when finding a PT.  Speaking to someone that has used them, where you can ask questions about it is probably the best way of helping you in your decision.
Until next time…….
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To The Extreme !!!

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This week I’ve been looking into the world of extreme sports in relation to health & fitness.

Now you might be asking what exactly are extreme sports? Well these are the ones that include an element of danger and so come with an increased risk of injury.

Of course, there is danger in any form of exercise—you might throw out your back playing golf or sprain your ankle jogging in the park…… extreme sports take it to the next level and are those that give you an adrenaline rush, because doing them means you could be risking death. Activities like base jumping,rock climbing, MMA, surfing, skydiving, bungee jumping, off piste skiing, mountain biking are all included along with a lot more.

If you have never tried one however, you just might be missing out.

For some people, just watching an extreme sport can make them seem too intimidating or frightening to try, but as with any sport. each of the activities can have their risks reduced. Rock climbing or Parkour can be tried in an activity centre in a controlled and safe environment, skiing and biking have safer trails where you can gradually build up experience and most other sports will have some form of beginner class where you can learn from experienced professionals.

The fact is that most of the courage you need to do these sports comes after you have started doing them. Living life on the edge and trying something new that at first seems scary teaches you, that you are stronger than you think and builds courage and self confidence.

There are a load of benefits of doing extreme sports…..

First of all  they are a great way of burning calories – helping build and tone muscle and improve cardiovascular fitness. For example, performing jumps on a BMX bike will allow you to strengthen your biceps and triceps. Riding your snowboard down a mountain slope will target your quadriceps and lower leg muscles.

Studies have shown that extreme sports can boost your mood as well as your confidence. This is because extreme sports help you overcome your fears and show you that you are capable of doing way more than you dreamed of.  It’s hard not to feel on top of the world when you have done something that scares the hell out of you and lived to see another day.  You’ll be stronger, more confident, and ready to take on a new and even more challenging task.  You will also conquer your fears in more ways than one. Once you have overcome a physical fear of say, heights or drowning, you will also be more able to overcome emotional fears such as anxiety about public speaking or fear of rejection.

If there’s an extreme sport that you’d secretly really like to try then why not do a little research into what’s available in your local area and see what they offer a beginner – check what equipment may be needed, what the risks are and  what level of fitness is required. Then weigh up the pros and cons. Always ensure that you have insurance to cover not just your equipment but also yourself and others and never go it alone.  Always make sure that you speak to and take instruction from relevant qualified professionals.

Take a deep breath and jump in!

Fitness Trends for the New Year

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With the new year coming up, it usually brings a whole range of resolutions – mainly to do with getting fitter and healthier but with so many different options available I thought I’d have a look at what the fitness trends are for 2016.

A survey for 2800 fitness professionals revealed at Top of the list is wearable tech. In a world that seems to revolve around social media, wearable technology has steadily evolved over the last few years and what started as a simple pedometer, can now track various different activities not just  the number of steps you take as some can also monitor your heart rate, and sleep patterns and integrate with your smartphone.  As the technology and apps  improve further and  undoubtedly get cheaper gadgets like smartwatches and bands will have a big role in peoples lives.

At number two is body weight exercises such as push-ups, squats and sit-ups. Whether it’s during a class or at home – body-weighted exercise is really convenient  and can be done at home and as no equipment is needed means that it’s also cheap. Your body needs to be able to move in all different directions and serve many functions and so is something that can be done by all ages, abilities and fitness levels and is effective for everyone, whether recovering from an injury or a sports professional.

In at 3 is Tabata or High Intensity Interval Training, where an exercise is performed at 100% effort level for a few seconds work followed by a short rest period. Whether it is simply a part of your workout routine or a specific HIIT style class like Metafit. This type of interval has been shown to boost metabolism and incrreas the duration of your bodys fat burning period. It’s been around for a few years now, but it’s popularity continues to increase due to finding it’s way into sections of other style classes like Boxercise, Cross Fit and Body Pump.

At number 4 is Strength Training. While this has always been propular with guys – more and more women are also starting to use the weights area of gyms as a means or both helping to lose weight and tone up, dispelling  myths that if women lift weights they will bulk up like men and provides many other benefits such as strong bones and reducing risk of heart disease, so just because you lift weights doesn’t now have to mean that you want to look like a body builder.

Finally at number 5 is Personal Training. A few years ago with the economy in a sorry state the number of people hiring a PT was in decline, however their use is now back on the rise. Literally anyone can come up with a workout to either lose weight or increase size and post it online (and sometimes even charge for it) but it will not be specific to your fitness level, enjoyment or abilities.  People are now starting to  realise this again and beginning to understand that nothing can beat the advice, support and motivation that  PT can offer as well as becoming savvy to the need for that PT to be suitably insured and qualified as well as being knowledgable in a  variety of different areas of fitness to meet their clients changing needs and interests.

So what takes your fancy this year?

Shaken but not stirred? Power-Plate Overview

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As a regular user of Power-Plates and having completed a training course on it – I thought I would write a post to encourage more people to give them a try.

You may have seen one of the Power-Plate machines in your gym and been a little wary of it – since it seems to stand there looking a bit pointless. You may have preconceptions about it or seen someone use it (most likely holding a squat position) and been dubious about it’s usefulness…..  either way I think Power-Plates tend to be viewed a little negatively and in my eyes a bit unfairly.

I think the main problem is that it’s a machine that appears in a gym and people jump onto it without any real instruction or explanation. They crank it up to the max, thinking that more means better get shaken up (and sometimes feeling a little nauseous) and decide it’s not worth it.

So let’s start at the beginning……..

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The machine itself is a vibrating platform that vibrates in 3 planes – mainly up and down but also, backward and forward and side to side.

Users can select the level of vibration (from 30 – 50 times per second), the vertical intensity of vibration (low or high) as well as the length of time (from 30 – 60 seconds).

They should in no way be confused with the “Jiggle-Belts” from the Sixties. They have been used by the Russian Space program in the Seventies and the Dutch Olympic team since 1999 and from there, have been used by numerous professional athletes and celebrities, but only recently started to find their way into our gyms.

The science and benefits have been well documented.

Normally our muscles will contract once or twice per second – however by standing on the vibrating plate, it causes an automatic muscle contraction 30-50 times per second. The vibrations challenge our body’s center of gravity causing it to react by making reflex adaptions to maintain our base of support.

These adaptions include increased blood flow (improving circulation and lymphatic drainage), increases the percentage of muscle fiber recruitment by up to 95% (improving strength, speed and power), stimulates bone cells (improving bone density) as well as increasing metabolic rate (increasing the body’s fat burning potential).

Various research studies have also confirmed it’s effectiveness – professional sports clubs use them to maintain performance during a match and are now also starting to be used within Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation clinics (including the NHS) and is now a Certified Medical Device.

It’s a shame that more people in the gym don’t use them!

They are perfect for use within a warm-up (as a simple static (held) stretch is now made dynamic (moving) due to the vibrations), but also for making core and resistance exercises more challenging, as well as assisting with post-workout stretches helping to improve flexibility and reduce soreness. Any exercise you would normally perform on the floor using either body-weight or free-weights can be made more challenging by using a Power-Plate, making them more effective and time efficient, as you’ll fatigue a lot sooner.

Top-Tips using Power-Plate

1. Stretches and Exercises should be performed using the 30-35 and low intensity setting, with your post-workout “massage” using the 40-50 and high intensity settings.  However – it is you that decides which setting you prefer. Some people really like the higher ranges, others have said it can make them feel sick, dizzy or like pins and needles – that is why I always suggest to start low!

2.  “Move” on it. There is usually a poster guide close to the machine that will show various different positions and settings to use, however try not to simply use a static hold. Move in and out of the position both vertically and horizontally – and where possible add in some rotation too! That way you will make the exercise far more effective.

3. Do NOT stand straight-up! It causes the vibrations to travel directly through the joints up into the skull and can feel really uncomfortable. Always have a slight bend at the knees/hip.

4. Use the mat if you’re not standing on the plate ie. if a joint, arm, leg etc are placed in contact with the plate) this makes it a lot more comfortable.  Also take the mat off if your feet are on it as the rough surface will help your trainers grip.

5. Don’t suffer through it – it can be a bit like Marmite – you either love it or hate it. If you don’t like it then get off/press “stop” – don’t wait until the end of the allotted time. Try a lower setting/shorter time. But if you really don’t like it – then don’t force yourself to use it.

There are no medical contra-indications for using a Power-Plate – providing the person has already been cleared for exercise by their GP. However those who have a detached retina, suffer motion-sickness or vertigo it may not be a good idea! Anyone pregnant should not lie with their back on the machine unless there is a slight incline, and anyone with joint replacements or pins should avoid placing the joints affected in direct contact with the plate.  If in doubt – always seek advice from your GP.

Here’s a quick vid from YouTube as an example of using the plate:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bss0t8uV3Zk

But there’s lots more with example workouts too.

Hopefully, I’ve managed to give a little more info on this new piece of kit and maybe next time you spot one – you might give them a try.

Don’t forget – You can always ask one of the gym team to give you some assistance if needed.

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Class Overview – Metafit

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Class Type:  High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Duration:  30 mins

Average Calorie Burn:  300 calories during and up to a further 500 afterwards!

Complexity/Difficulty: 8-10 out of 10 (for amount of effort required – the exercises themselves are quite simple to follow)

Class Size:  1-30 (varies depending on type/location)

Areas Worked:  Whole Body

Equipment: None

Music:  Beat driven/Electronic

 

Having recently qualified as a Metafit coach – I HAD to make this my next overview!

As their advertising clearly states – “It ain’t no dance class!”

I had been to  a couple of classes before I decided to become a coach and straight away I could see why it has become so popular in the UK and is quickly expanding across the globe.

The class consists of high intensity strength, plyometric (jumping) and core exercises using your body weight.

The class starts by an initial warm-up of mobility exercises, dynamic (moving) stretches and “pulse racers” where the instructor will run through some of the main or new exercises to be performed within the main work-out, including options to make it harder of easier so that you can decide which level is best for you.

Unlike an aerobics based class the “music” is a single, simple beat driven instrumental dance track, over which there is a voice that tells you what exercises are to be performed…..

“Welcome to your Metafit workout. Your first round will commence in 25 seconds. Your first 3 exercises are side lunges, followed by squats and then agility sprints. 5….4….3….2….1….Side lunges!”

You then get to work!

The instructor will again give a demonstration including the progressions/regression along with the class as each exercise starts, before they will then walk around, checking people’s technique and offering encouragement.  The key here is that you start at the highest version of the exercise that you can perform with correct technique and only drop down to an easier version when you start to fatigue  – it’s all about quality, full range of motion and power – NOT quantity.

Each Metafit “release” is different with variations on the exercises performed and their timings.  For example in the “Shredder” release you complete 4 sets of 3 exercises and then reverse them. Each exercise lasts 18 seconds with a 20 second rest between sets. You then complete the whole things again but with only 15 seconds rest between sets – before finishing with a full minute of push-ups!

The main workout usually last between 20-25 minutes depending on the release – it may sound easy but if you are giving it 100% – it’s fantasticly hard!

Having been to a lot of aerobic/dance classes – trying NOT to perform to the beat was difficult at first but you quickly learn to zone out so that by the end of the class, I was that focused on the technique and the instructions I don’t think I even heard the music.

Metafit’s focus is on explosive, maximum effort – so you improve/maintain lean muscle mass, and heighten your metabolism.  High Intensity Interval Training increases Resting Metabolic Rate, which in turn increases your fat burning potential.  Even better – your metabolism remains elevated for up to 24 hours :-O

Considering myself quite fit – I was surprised at how wiped out I was in such a short class – I was coughing, gasping for breath and sweating like a pig – but afterwards it felt amazing. It was such a buzz that I had survived – ha ha ha.

I should point out that this does not mean it is not a class for beginners – it is.  You work at YOUR maximum level – whether a beginner or an athlete, the instructor gives you a number of variations for each exercise.

There is a new “release” every month – so you never get bored, and it never ceases to amaze me how they keep thinking up new exercises – I’d never even heard of kneel-ups, burrower squats or spider planks before I stated Metafit.

I love it and it is why I wanted to become a coach –  it can be done anywhere, indoors or out, groups large or small and even 1-2-1.

As they say “It’s TOUGH!   That’s why it works!”

 

For more info/classes visit:

http://www.metafit-training.com/

 

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Class Overview – Pilates

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Class Type:  Strength & Flexibility

Duration:  60 mins

Average Calorie Burn:  200-300

Complexity/Difficulty: 6 to 9 out of 10

Class Size:  10-30 (varies depending on type/location)

Areas Worked:  Whole Body

Equipment: None. Classes which use equipment such as stability balls etc they are provided – you may want to take your own mat. Wear loose clothing.

Music:  Soothing & relaxing

 

After my last post on posture and spending today as a rest day – I thought it mad sense for my next class overview to be Pilates.

A lot of people ask me what the difference is between Pilates & Yoga as at first glance they can appear very similar.

Both classes have a focus on flexibility, strength, balance, posture and breathing techniques based on controlled movements and stretches but there are some differences:

Being rooted in meditative practices, Yoga has a more spiritual side that is often included within the class such as chanting and aligning your chakras. Pilates does not have this and has a more anatomical approach to body alignment

Pilates classes tend to be around 60 minutes, whereas Yoga class will usually last 75-90 minutes.

Yoga concentrates more towards holding static poses for a number of breaths. Pilates is a little more dynamic in terms of movement.

As a newbie deciding between them – it’s best to give them both a try and see which you like best!

 

Pilates has a number of variations within it’s scope but the two main variations are either “mat based” or “Reformer”.

Mat based Pilates can either be “pure” – using various body weighted exercises and stretches or equipment such as bands, blocks or a stability ball  and class sizes can vary between 10-30 people.

Reformer Pilates is a much smaller class – 5-10 people, due to the larger apparatus used as the exercises are performed on a specialist board that adds additional challenges and resistance to the routine. Finding a “Reformer” class can be harder to find due to the equipment size.

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One of the best things about Pilates is that it works well for a wide range of people. Athletes and dancers love it as much as seniors and people at various stages of physical rehabilitation.

If you’re looking to start Pilates it is well worth calling in advance to see what type of class it is and whether any equipment is used so that you can make a decision if it would be the right class for you – depending on your level of experience and comfort in using items such as a stability ball.

Needless to say in ALL classes the instructor will provide variations throughout the routine to cover beginners to advanced levels – so don’t worry too much about it, but if you do have or previously had a recent injury – let the instructor know before the start of the class so they can give you specific advice.

The classes I went to were mat based and used the stability ball a lot!

With a smaller class size the room itself was smaller than the usual sport-hall used for aerobics based classes and ensures that the temperature of the room can be controlled so that it is pleasantly warm.

The class starts by an initial warm-up setting up the body in correct alignment and focus on the “lateral” breathing and core engagement techniques to be used throughout the class.

It then flows through a number or body weighted movements, and stretches before introducing the more challenging exercises with a stability ball such as kneeling behind the ball and then rolling over the top of it onto your hands and then “walking” forward with your hands until the ball is by your feet and then back again to the starting position behind the ball.

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Whilst you may not end the class a sweaty mess, you will find it a challenge – I found even just sitting on the ball with my feet off the ground difficult!

Pilates focuses on “6 principles” – Centering, Control, Flow, Breath, Precision and Concentration and so emphasises quality over quantity. As such,  instead of doing large number of repetitions by completing each exercise fully with precision, you can gain better results.

The music is quite relaxing (think Ibiza sunsets/enya etc) which helps your mind clear and focus on the movements and breathing.

Overall – I really enjoyed the class and found it both challenging, relaxing and fun at the same time – even the instructor referred to it as “farty pilates” at one point.

I would definitely recommend it to help improve core strength, flexibility and good posture – I know that I for one have noticed an improvement in the way I stand and a number of friends highly recommended it to help with mild back pain/niggles.

For more info/classes visit:

http://www.pilatesfoundation.com/

There’s also plenty of Pilates videos/workouts on YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckNDq41C7Yo

 

 

Class Overview – Clubbercise

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Class Type:  Aerobics

Duration:  45-60 mins

Average Calorie Burn:  400

Complexity/Difficulty: 5/6 out of 10

Class Size:  15-30 (varies depending location)

Areas Worked:  Whole Body

Equipment: None. Glow sticks are provided.

Music:  Mix of dance and R&B tracks

The concept of Clubbersise is to “bring a night out to your workout” so you should expect a darkened room with disco lights, glow sticks and dance music – just don’t expect a bar 😉

The class starts with a warm up of dynamic stretches and classic aerobic moves like grapevines, step touch etc. Before it moves onto a number of other tracks that get you moving and dancing along to popular dance, pop and R&B from the 90’s to the current day.

Admittedly I was the only guy in the class – but everyone was friendly and it was nice to see a wide age range of “clubber” (mainly 16-40). To really get the night-out feel it would have been great if the class was in a studio rather than a large sports hall, however it didn’t detract too much from the overall feel.

The routines are easy to follow and quite basic so you don’t need to worry about not being a professional dancer. It’s nothing like a dance class. It’s an aerobics class that throws in some street dance, salsa and “rave” moves.

The darkened room means that you can let yourself go and it doesn’t matter if you get it wrong as no-one can see you very well really.

The downside is that with it being quite dark is depending on the lighting, you may have more difficulty seeing the instructor so it’s just as well it is easy to follow and the instructions are clear.

The glow-sticks are an unusual addition. When you look around the room and see them all waving in rhythm is looks brilliant.  I should note they are not your usual glow sticks with luminous liquid, but battery operated ones that change colours (a bit  like the ones you see at funfairs). They are really light so they’re not difficult to use for the whole class.

Musically, it suggests club anthems but in reality it’s a variety of dance and pop music eg. Snap, David Guetta, Jessie J, Lady Gaga, Pink, Black Eyed Peas…. All the music that I like dancing to, but I wouldn’t class them as clubbing “anthems”. However, the variety of tracks mean that there’s a variety of tempos, so you will have some high intensity tracks followed by a slightly slower track so you have a bit of a breather.

The class ends with an R&B track cool-down, with moves similar to the warm up and including some stretches.

If you are experienced in aerobics classes then this may not be intense enough to make you feel exhausted by the end (you could always consider ankle/wrist weights ;p ) but overall I enjoyed the class and really liked the mix of music.

If you are new to exercise or just want to put some fun into your work-out routine then Clubbercise may be what you’re looking for.

More info/class locations can be found on the Clubbercise site:

http://www.clubbercise.com/

Or for a taster – head over to YouTube:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhXFX7Isw30

 

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