World Workouts – Globally Inspired Fitness Trends

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Anyone ready for a holiday yet? Pretty much as soon as Christmas is done the holiday adverts seem to start up on the telly and the dark cold nights soon get us longing for a bit of sun. So with holiday destinations in mind this week I’ve been looking at global fitness. From American Football Style Cheerleading to Turkish Belly dancing, the world of fitness has been taking inspiration from other countries and cultures for a long time.
In terms of having a “stay-cation” – High Intensity Interval Training classes started in the UK. Although HIIT itself isn’t something new, Metafit started the trend of putting it into a group exercise class. 30 minutes of body-weighted exercises with short work & rest periods you push yourself to the max. Cross-Fit came soon after mixing in weighted exercises like squat presses and medicine ball wall throws to push your limits even further.
Moving toward Europe, Parkour or Freerunning has it’s origins in France. And while it may have started with individuals jumping, somersaulting and running across rooftops, walls and railings you can now find indoor parkour courses and classes at various indoor sites around the UK and for those less brave but like the idea of bouncing around you could try one of the new trampoline parks springing up or  Boogie Bounce which is a choreographed aerobic class performed on trampettes.
Actually talking of obstacle courses…..  while the US and Asia may have globally popularised extreme obstacle courses on TV shows like Ninja Warrior and Takeshi’s castle. It was Europe that brought it to the general public with the Tough Guy Challenge (which has been going for 30 years!!!), Tough Mudder and The Spartan Races. Working as a team against obstacles like ice water baths, commando crawls in the dark and tear gas as well as flaming hoops spread over a 10 mile course tests your mental and physical endurance to the extreme.
Travelling further afield and bringing a lot of summer vibes Zumba classes take their inspiration from latin dance moves from countries like Spain and Brazil. Zumba now comes in a variety of formats from aqua classes in the pool, to using a step or even maraca style weights.
India has inspired a number of fitness classes – the most obvious being Yoga in it’s many variations – improving our balance, core strength and flexibility as well as being a great stress reliever. One of the latest Yoga trends is aerial Yoga, where the positions are performed on a material loop suspended from the ceiling.
While we’re in India – remember those extravagant dance routines from Bollywood films? Both BollyX and Bombay Jam are dance fitness classes that take their moves straight from the movies.
Asia is of course the home of martial arts – karate, taekwondo, muay thai, kung fu and tai chi are just 6. Each have their own styles and you can find beginner classes all over.  One class that aims to combine martial arts in a non-impact and fun environment is BodyCombat where you can kick, punch and kata your way to better fitness.
So where are you heading for a holiday? Maybe you could be inspired by your next class or have a look at the link below to see what other countries do to work out 🙂
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Old Dog/New Tricks? Is it too late to make a big change?

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I remember when I turned 40 some of my older friends would tell me not to worry as 40 was the new 30, much like people seem to do these with any of the big birthdays – 60 is the new 50… and so on….
Originally I just laughed it off however studies (by Professor Warren Sanderson and Sergei Scherbov) have shown that compared to previous generations, in terms of  our health and the number of years we may have left on earth, there is some truth in it. In fact, it could be an understatement and actually 50 may be the new 30!
The nature of our work, our environment and advances in medicine mean that we’re living way longer than previous generations.
When it comes to our work, despite the fact that we’re expected to continue working well into our sixties and beyond, the workplace is still firmly fixated on hiring fresh faced youths and though in your 30’s you might still seen as having some potential left and making moves into management – by your forties they’re not so keen! In my previous work it seemed the older you were, if you weren’t going into management you were moved sideways or even downward, from customer facing, into back office and administration roles which were not as “high profile” and would be “less stressful”!!
It’s usually around this age that you start to take stock and wonder if you took the right path. You might be thinking although you started as a go-getter, somehow work and family have overtaken you life, and now you’re never gonna get it.  Maybe you’re worried this could be your last chance at chasing your dream – so how difficult or easy could it be to make a big change?
It’s also around this time that we notice the effects of age on our bodies and it’s true that our bodies do in theory start to decline. From the age of 40, our eyesight starts to worsen, our bodies store fat more easily, bones start to lose density and we begin to lose our muscle definition. Let alone the fact that those little wrinkles also start to deepen – and that’s just the start!
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Reality sucks and the problem is that it IS harder to start again once you’re over 40 the slight silver liner being that it’s easier at 40 than at 50!
So if you’re at that point and have that dream career in mind or really want to do something about those extra inches that seem to be creeping on – it can be done – there’s plenty of examples of people that have been able to make that change (me included) but the time to do something about it is NOW!
If you’re after a particular career look at the skills needed and see how close you match, if not think about how you could gain those skills?  what would the affect be on your family and finances? could you start at the bottom of the ladder and cope with a reduced income? and really think about what it is that you’re trying to get away from. Is it really the current job your unhappy with or is it the company? For a lot of people, they get trapped within an organisation and simply switching companies is the change they needed. Or maybe it’s not the job at all….. and is something else.
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When it comes to your health – again your 40’s are a great place to restart a fitness programme – yes it will take longer to build muscle and/or lose weight – but so long as you know this – then why not? By starting now you are adding a lot more years to your life than if you leave it until your retirement and means you can actually enjoy that retirement for a lot longer. Training with weights will help keep those bones stronger for longer and will help to keep or build muscle definition and a good cardio workout will help keep that heart ticking.
When I turned 40 I was a smoker, putting on weight, my psoriasis was getting worse and after 17 years in finance was really unhappy and stressed at work! Reviewing my situation – it seemed that everything seemed to stem from the stress at work and needed something new. It was one of the older instructors at my local gym that suggested a career in fitness and I did my homework and got really excited at the prospect. Thankfully I did a lot of planning, did my inital qualifications as a nightclass, and focused on getting healthy – stopping smoking, eating right and starting a proper training regime. Then once qualified reduced my hours in my old job, whilst working casually in the gym, which then gave me the experience to find a permanent job. Since then I’ve done further qualifications, and slowly built up my number of clients, classes and hours. It’s not easy! It’s a lot of work and was initally a huge reduction in income, but looking back over the last 3 years from where I was to where I am now – I am so pleased I made the decision to change and have never been fitter or happier.
Age really shouldn’t be a barrier – don’t feel that you are too old – it may be difficult as we get older but I see people in the gym that are just starting at the age of 65, and there’s one older gentleman that comes in every single day for a run on the treadmill a short weights programme and just celebrated his 92nd birthday!
If you had a chance at your dream job – what would it be and would you take that chance? Let me know!

Two Much? Why sometimes it’s better to workout alone.

What do you prefer?

Burning The Midnight Oil: Surviving The Night Shift

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Although Halloween was a couple of weeks ago, for anyone that works a night-shift – sometimes it can feel like you are living in a zombie apocalypse – the streets are empty and you’re so tired, you walk around in a dazed state.
On the odd occasion I’ve done it myself, and it’s like being on a long distance flight – very little sleep, permanent snacking, little movement from my seat, and when you finally arrive/finish your shift – you are so tired you almost fall asleep driving home and when you get there end up collapsing on the sofa completely drained – messing up your system even more!
The pitfalls and negative effects of night-shift work on your health are well documented. Night-shift workers have a higher risk of cardiac disease, mental health problems, obesity and cancer – and the lack of sleep can make you grumpy, aggressive and emotional. Juggling family and social life on top of it can add even more stress.
So this week I’m providing some tips on how to cope with it!
1. SLEEP IS YOUR PRIORITY
First and foremost, the key to surviving your shift, is making sure that you get 6-8 hours of sleep!
Depending on if it’s the start, middle or end of your shift pattern – it’s important to get some shut eye at the right time.
On the day of your first night shift, try and sleep-in as much as possible and have a nap for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
When you finish the shift don’t go to bed straight away – instead go to bed at a time equivalent to if you had finished work during the day ie. if you normally get home at 6pm and go to bed at 11pm (5 hours later), after your night shift, if you get home at 8am – then go to bed at 1pm.
Once you finish your stint of night shifts, to reduce the Jet Lag effect – when you get home, have a fairly large meal and nap for 3-4 hours before getting up again and then go to bed at your normal bedtime. A Melatonin tablet after your nap can also help to reset your body clock and get you through to bedtime.
2. Did I Mention Sleep?
Quality of sleep is just as vital, so it’s important to cool your bedroom, block out any light with thick curtains or tin foil on the inside of windows (or an eye-mask) and use ear plugs! If you’re scared this means you wont hear your alarm clock, then most fitness trackers have a vibrating silent alarm function (my other half is really grateful for this as I regularly have to be up at 4am!).
Try not to use your tablet or phone or watch tv while in bed and avoid having an alcoholic drink before hitting the sack, as although they all may help you to relax and get to sleep quicker – they affect the amount of quality deep sleep you need.
3. Prep Your Food
Food is another major issue, due to the lack of open cafes and shops most late night workers can fall into the trap of surviving off vending machines – so it’s important to prep! Take lots of healthy snacks and small meals, eating smaller portions but more frequently will help you avoid mid-meal cravings, help you to digest food more easily, which will then also help avoid stuffing yourself at “lunchtime” which can then make you feel even more tired.
Keep hydrated throughout your shift. Coffee or “Energy” drinks are fine for the start of your shift but should be avoided in the second half, so that they don’t affect your sleep.
4. Be A Vampire (only kidding)
Seriously though, daylight while on night shifts, is your enemy! When you finish your shift, wear sunglasses before heading outdoors. I even know some people that will use orange tinted glasses when at home to reduce the effect of sunlight coming in through windows!
At the end of your shifts, it’s quite the opposite and try to get as much daylight as possible after you’ve had your morning nap.
5. Take advantage of the quiet gym
We all know that exercise is good for us and it’s just as important if working nights. Most cities will have 24 hour gyms, otherwise gyms will usually open at 6 in the morning and close 10 at night, so you should be able to get into a gym or have a home workout either immediately before or after your shift – with the added luxury of the gym/pool being quieter and it can give you the energy to start your shift on a high or after your shift, help keep you awake till your bedtime.

 

6. Rethink your social calendar
Family & friends can also make working nights difficult – so don’t accept invites etc for during the day, just because no-one else is on nights. Remember sleep is your priority. Work things around YOUR schedule – play with your kids or help with their homework before your shift, and help get them ready for school when you get home in the morning.  Try meeting friends for “breakfast” rather than lunch or an evening meal.
For all you night-shift workers out there, have a good shift and if you’ve got any other tips – let us know!
Until next time…….

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.
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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…….

Wi-fi Don’t Fail Me Now! Fitness on YouTube

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So this week follows quite nicely on from my last piece on fitness videos. The number of PT’s, celebrities and to be fair, a surprising number of members of the general public regularly post their fitness videos on YouTube – some are full workouts whereas other show the correct technique for a particular exercise or provide hints and tips and nutrition advice – in that sense, it’s a great resource for finding new things to try or make the most of your workout or how to change/improve your diet.
There are a number of names on YouTube that have made it big in fitness the most recent being Joe Wicks (if you’ve not heard of him – think of a buff Russel Brand) he posts a number short HIIT workouts both with & without equipment on his channel The Body Coach– the channel also runs alongside his Instagram account popularised by “Lean in 15”, where he shows how to make a healthy meal in 15 second videos. His combination of  shouty, cockney “banter” and good looks have made him very popular. Controversially, while I think his workouts are great – I have a slight issue with the tagline – the “Lean in 15” – is a slight misrepresentation. The recipes naturally take longer than 15  minutes to make when you include the prep, and his workouts are actually 15 to 25 mins but some of these don’t include a warm-up or cool-down.
For over 500 full home workouts with various timings and focus, one of my favourite channels is Fitness Blender. It’s been run by a husband and wife team for the past 6 years and they do fantastic no nonsense, clear and simple videos. No fancy locations or gimmicks and there’s no music to distract you from the workout – you could always put your own music on in the background if you want to.
For those that hit the gym, there’s a couple of weight training specific channels I subscribe to: ScottHermanFitness channel is really well laid out with videos comparing exercises to find which is better, routines, supplement and technique advice and how to videos, and if you want the science behind exercises and nutrition Jeff Cavaliere of Athlean X lays it out for you straight up without any BS, and they have a sister channel Athlean XX aimed at female weight training.
I have a bit of love/hate relationship with YouTube – I have a few channels I like, but YouTube always makes suggestions of related channels you might like to try – then an idea pops into your head – “Oooh I wonder if they have any videos about Boogie Bounce classes” and that’s one of the great things – you can find pretty much any workout type you like on there – pilates, weight-training, interval, dance…. some are straight forward, others do it with a bit of humour, and can pick up some really good ideas and tips both in terms of exercise or your diet.
Even some of those old VHS videos have been uploaded so that you can enjoy them again
The unfortunate thing is that like everyone else, I fall into trap of the YouTube loop and inevitably end up watching gym fails that make me wince and wonder why the person filming didn’t stop them…. that and cat videos!
Until next time – have fun searching and hope you don’t lose your wi-fi connection!
Here’s a couple to get you started:
Fitness Blender 10 minute Abs

 Scott Herman – How to Build a Meal Plan

M.O.S. Pump It Up Dance Workout

Video Killed The Class Instructor Star?

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I grew up in the eighties so when it comes to working out in front of the tv, I was pretty much there when fitness videos really took off and seemed to go from strength to strength.
Fitness vids were huge, with Jane Fonda taking the crown as queen of fitness, her workout video was the biggest selling and she would eventually make a whopping 22 of them selling 17million copies collectively – AND what’s more, she’s still making them!
For us in Blighty, the Green Goddess and Mad Lizzie were soon in on the action on our breakfast TV screens, giving us a daily does of fairly gentle aerobics.
The nineties best selling fitness video came from Cindy Crawford aka The Body, and Mr Motivator and his obscenely er……. bright lycra unitards pumped it up on breakfast telly.
In the naughties we lost our regular TV workouts, but it certainly didn’t stop the trend for working out in front of the TV and Davina MacColl is probably our biggest success having now released 12 DVDs.
The number of celebrities both male and female that have made exercise videos over the years is unreal. I think one of the reasons for their success however, is as well as letting us the public get an understanding of how they lost weight etc, I know a lot of guys that have watched the videos simply to see a particular celebrity getting into some interesting positions whilst wearing very little clothing.
I have tried a few of the videos myself – well I say a few – but actually it’s probably too many to mention – from Ryan Giggs Yoga Type workout, to Tae Bo, to the Ministry of Sound’s Pump It Up (which followed in the success of the music video for Eric Pryd’s  “Call on me”), and I’m sure I’m not the only one, who’s first watch of a new video is not dressed in my sports kit and trying it out, but sat on the sofa with a bag of crisps – ha ha
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The naughties also saw a move from TV screens to computer screens (and more recently phones!).  Thousands of personal trainers and instructors now put out regular workout videos on their YouTube channels. With some even becoming so popular that the video workout has switched to real classes in fitness clubs like Insanity, and others providing an On Demand service, so that you can do your favourite classes at home, or since it’s available on your phone or tablet – while you’re on holiday!
Some centres are now taking it even further an have virtual classes with the video projected onto the wall with specialist lighting and works particularly well for spin classes where it can be like cycling on a rollercoaster.
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It’s this combination of streaming web workouts, smartphone apps and virtual classes that has some class instructors worrying that they will be out of a job! I know of at least one club, that only has “virtual” classes!
Fitness videos in their various formats have done so well for a number of reasons – for one it means that you can workout at home without the potential embarrassment of making any wrong moves, or any needing any special kit or the latest fashion trend (you could even workout in your pants if you wanted), and if it gets too hard you can simply stop and not have to answer to anyone about it.
Secondly, it means that you can try something new. For every class type, there is a workout video you can do at home – pilates, street dance, interval training, weights…. there’s a video aimed at all levels, genders and abilities.
Finally, it’s a lot cheaper than a gym membership!
While I would agree that fitness videos are great because they empower you do give it a go and can provide a really good workout – I think they do have a certain place in someone’s exercise routine.
They are brilliant as a quick fix, or if you’re just starting, however….  they can never replace the buzz or team bond of a group exercise class and because there is no-one else with you, you also miss out on someone checking your technique to make sure you’re exercising safely or to make sure you are pushing yourself and if you’re not really working out or having fun, there is the risk that you will think it’s not a great workout and stop!
In this disposable/on demand society we live in – just like most other things you watch these days, once you’ve seen it once or twice, it then tends to get left on the shelf and even more so –  don’t fall into the trap of binge watching and actually start doing something!
Until next time….