My Fitness Story: Part Two

Much like my previous post, My Fitness Story: Part One, upon where I documented how my diet had changed dramatically overtime, my workout regime has also had many ups and downs. During my scary transition from attempting to do something other than aimlessly run on the treadmill, I found myself making a lot of mistakes, having several staring competitions with the ‘how to use’ machine instructions and lots of moments of sheer panic when I realised, 15 squats in, that it was highly likely I would not have the energy to lift the weighted bar back off my shoulders (massive thank you to the many strangers who came to my assistance). It may sound silly, but no matter how embarrassing some of those situations were, I genuinely wouldn’t change a thing. Seeing as I was forced into learning from my many mistakes, this subsequently led to a feeling of gratitude over even the smallest of my personal achievements which, in the long run, helped me keep a clear perspective and improved my confidence.

When I first began training I was often conflicted over which goals I wanted to pursue for my body. Did I want to try and look like a stereotypical sun, sea and sand Instagram model? Or did I want to be able to lift heavier weights than the men at my gym? Firstly, I decided to try the cardio and high intensity approach to my fitness. This definitely brought visible progress and I was happy to be feeling more lean, but one worried question from a high school teacher later (she was concerned I was anorexic) made me cut back from my 5 sessions a week of cardio. Looking back, I now know that doing that amount of cardio, on top of my already naturally high metabolism, was not in fact my finest decision. However, in my head I was going to the gym multiple times a week, therefore I was simply being super healthy.

After pondering over whether I did in fact look too skinny, I decided I liked the appearance of my stomach and my waist but I wanted to gain muscle pretty much EVERYWHERE else. This is the point of my fitness journey where I saw a lot of progress in my body, consumed the most calories and repeatedly overused the hashtag ‘#weights’. I started using heavy weights for my glute, leg, arms and ab workouts, which definitely improved my overall physique. I began to look somewhat curvier in certain areas, particularly my glutes and legs, which only encouraged me to carry on upping both my weights and reps. This was a very bad decision on my part and has now left me with some niggling joint issues. Due to my body responding well to weights at the time, I had no desire or need to research efficient stretching, complimentary cardio to weight exercises or even simply different workouts, therefore I started to suffer from constant achy joints, a feeling of stress and zero motivation towards my workouts.

Coincidently, I developed a stomach infection at the end of last summer which forced me to re-evaluate my whole fitness and diet regime. Due to feeling both physically and mentally weak, I had a sudden drive to want to be strong. Not necessarily strong in the sense that I had bulging muscles and could’ve been mistaken for an aspiring bodybuilder, but in the sense that my body responded well to what I was doing. This brings me to my current fitness routine of weight training twice a week, a pilates or yoga based class twice a week and a cardio session once a week. This balance has given me the best results I’ve ever had; I’m building muscle from weight training, I’m then toning and strengthening these muscles during pilates or yoga and then I’m burning any excess fat during cardio.

I have learnt a hell of a lot about fitness since I started regularly going to the gym and I’m incredibly grateful to have finally realised that being fit is not about whether you look like a fitness model on Instagram or another member of your gym, it’s about feeling good in your own skin and enjoying your preferred method of fitness, whatever that is.

How to get back on track after Christmas

The Christmas period is, without a doubt, one of the hardest times of the year to stick to a fitness and healthy eating regime. With endless meals out, leftover buffets & enough celebration boxes to last you a lifetime, it’s incredibly easy to feel as though you’ve put on some extra weight. However, you can easily get yourself back on track with these key tips.

Do NOT feel guilty 

Sure, it can be slightly depressing looking at the thousands of empty chocolate wrappers but SO WHAT, it’s Christmas! The main thing which prevents people from getting back on track after the festive period is mind-set. Your mind is frantically trying to add up how many calories you’ve consumed over the three cheeseboards, but in reality, a few days eating a little more than usual isn’t going to make you put on an unfathomable amount of weight, just like going to the gym a few times doesn’t make the pounds instantly drop. It’s natural to lose some confidence and motivation when your routine is disrupted, but as soon as you finish your first session you’ll forget why you were even worried.

Take it slow

A crucial mistake is to absolutely smash your first session back in the gym. Ultimately leading to either a serious injury or severely aching muscles, further prolonging getting back to your regime. The best routine to undertake on your first day back is a light cardio session, this will activate the majority of your muscles, without running the risk of a pull or a sprain. Start with a short run or fast walk on the treadmill, around 15-20 minutes on a gradient of 3 or 4, followed by the cross trainer on a low intensity level for 10 minutes, and then cool down with the bike for another 10 minutes.

Plan new goals

A short period away from the gym is a great opportunity to plan new fitness goals. Take some down time to work out where you want to be in the next 3 months, 6 months and this time next year. Try incorporating this tip with a friend or family member by planning a run for charity, or choosing a goal weight for you both to reach by a certain month. This will keep you focused, improve your motivation and provide a lot more fun than working out alone.

Do a cleanse

Unfortunately, a lot of the typical food consumed over Christmas is high in carbs, fat and sugar, therefore a few days cleanse is a great way to re-fuel your body with nutrients and feel a lot better on the inside. There are various juice detoxes available online, but these can often contain harmful ingredients, so the safest way to cleanse is to simply use natural remedies. Start your day with three slices of lemon in hot water, this is a diuretic which aids the reduction of bloating and flushes out any unwanted toxins. Try to consume five portions of vegetables and five portions of fruit per day throughout your cleanse; making them into a soup or a smoothie is a great way to incorporate them all. Have a medium to large sized portion of natural yoghurt per day, it is filled with natural probiotics which help to re-balance the good and bad bacteria in the gut. Drink at least 3-4 litres of room temperature water per day; if the water is too cold this can cause the gut to bloat and produce abdominal pains. Finally, avoid any foods with sugar which isn’t naturally formed. Stay away from chocolate bars, cereals and sweets and, when the cravings kick in, try honey or frozen grapes instead.

Try something new

If you are among the large majority of people who despise the gym, then there are plenty of other ways to keep fit and beat the Christmas blues. Do some research around the area you live and plan some scenic running routes, try a group exercise class, go on regular fast- paced walks with a friend, opt to cycle to school/university/work instead of driving, join the local swimming baths or even buy a cross trainer or treadmill to use at home.

What to eat on Ab Day

There is absolutely nothing better than the euphoric post ab workout feeling where you feel like you can in fact officially take on the whole world. However, as many people discover, as SOON as you start eating that lovely, proud ache starts to slowly fade away (as does the immense satisfaction of having a flat stomach). So, to help prolong your now prominent abdominal muscles it’s important to eat incredibly clean throughout the day. If you’re thinking this means endless portions of rabbit food rations then THANK GOD, you’re wrong. Ab Day food is all about healthy fats, low carbs and a LOT of water.

When’s best to eat?

I always find that my abs improve a lot more when my workout coincides with fasted cardio. To ensure I don’t embarrassingly pass out on the treadmill I always have a rather heavy snack at 8/9pm the night before such as cereal, apple and peanut butter or a protein shake. I then complete my cardio of interval sprints around 9am and then move on to abs until 10/10:30am. I then have a light breakfast, healthy lunch, an afternoon snack and a meat orientated evening meal.

Breakfast 

When you finish you’re workout you’re going to be absolutely grade A ready to cry starving so you need something which is going to fill you up, but still not too heavy. My favourite post ab breakfast is an oaty smoothie bowl, which suddenly becomes even more appealing when it’s prepared the night before. So all you have to do when you come crawling through the door is lift it out of the fridge. Amazing.

How to make it:

  • Blend together an apple, banana, raspberries, blueberries, 1 tsp of greek yoghurt, 1 tsp of honey, 1 scoop of protein powder and 75ml of almond milk.
  • Pour over a thin layer of oats in an air tight container and leave to set in the fridge overnight.
  • When serving either enjoy it as it comes or add some fresh fruit on top.

 

Lunch

Think lean. This is the meal where you want to come away feeling as light as you did before eating, whilst still addressing those hunger pains. You want to get your healthy fats in, as well as keeping it INSANELY low carb. The best way to incorporate all this is a simple salmon dish.

How to make it:

  • Grill a fresh salmon fillet, 6 mins on the skin side and 4 mins on the other side.
  • Fry some pumpkin seeds until they turn brown and start popping.
  • Mash together an avocado, sliced red onion, lettuce, lime and coriander.
  • Place mix into a bowl, add the pumpkin seeds, the salmon and slice some feta cheese on top.

*adaption from one of The Body Coaches Lean in 15 meals

 

Snack

My favourite snack during ab day is a simple, light protein pancake with fresh fruit. It’s not too filling and it will help repair and rebuild your muscles from your workout.

How to make it:

  • 2 scoops of protein pancake mix –  I use MyProtein chocolate flavour (best tasting and lowest sugar count) mixed with 3 tsp of milk in a bowl.
  • Place one scoop of coconut oil in a frying pan and push it round evenly
  • Pour the mixture into the frying pan, leave for 1 minute and then flip
  • Add raspberries and blueberries and then finish of with Zero Sugar Syrup (again, MyProtein)

 

Tea 

It’s highly likely that you’re going to be training legs, bum or arms the following day so it’s vital you provide enough calories to ensure you smash the workout. So, whilst still keeping it clean, try and aim for something meat based for your evening meal. One of my favourites is a simple chicken, rice and sweet chilli dish.

How to make it:

  • Boil a packet of golden vegetable rice for 5 minutes
  • Slice a good sized portion of cooked chicken onto a plate
  • Either use a sweet chilli marinade on the chicken or simply drizzle over a sauce
  • Mix the three ingredients together

The Best Warm Up Exercises

Warming up is an essential part of your workout. It increases the temperature in your muscles, resulting in enhanced speed and strength. It increases the range of motion around the joint and it also allows the heart rate to adapt, ready for your main workout. It’s important that you focus your warm up on the muscles you want to train, but you need to keep the exercises light and steady so you don’t pull or injure the muscle. It’s taken me a while to find the best warm up exercises for each different session, but these are sure to leave you feeling completely ready for your main workout.

BUM DAY

I tried the treadmill, the cross trainer and even the bike but none of these machines were properly engaging my glute muscles. I’ve found that the best way to ensure your bum is efficiently warmed up is to get the lightest barbell weight, around a 10kg, and do 20 slow, deep squats followed by 5 lunges on each leg. Keep it super relaxed and take your time. Once you’ve finished you’ll find both your glutes and legs feel warm and you’ll be ready for some heavier weights.

LEG DAY

For my leg day warm up I spend 6-8 minutes walking on the treadmill at a speed of around 7 and a gradient of 8 or 9. This warms up all the muscles in your legs from your hamstrings to your calves ready for your main workout. If you still feel like you need another warm up exercise, then going on the recumbent (lower) bike for 3 minutes on a low energy setting is also a great way to stimulate your muscles.

AB DAY

It can be difficult to find a good warmup before you train your abs, but going on the rower at a steady pace is an ideal way to start activating your core muscles. Make sure you sit with your back perfectly straight and pull the handle directly towards your stomach. Doing this for 3-4 minutes will ensure your abs are ready for your crunches. A short sprint on the treadmill is also a good way to prepare your muscles.

ARM & CHEST DAY

If you work out with a partner then a good arm warm up is throwing a weighted ball at a fast pace to each other for 2-3 minutes. Again, the rower at a low intensity is also an amazing warm up for all your arm, chest and back muscles. You can also use part of your main arm routine as a warm up, but just half the size of the weight you usually use and drop the reps.

HILT & CARDIO

I used to make the mistake of NEVER warming up before a high intensity or cardio session as I figured that all my muscles would just warm up along the way due to the type of exercises. However, since I have started warming up properly I have been a lot less achy and I’ve been able to utilise my sessions to the full. I start my warm up with a 6 minute alteration between walking and sprinting on the treadmill; 2 minute walk then a 1 minute sprint. I then do 2 minutes on the bike and 2 minutes on the rower. This is my most vigorous warm up but the most rewarding, all my muscles feel warmed up and ready to go.

how to get over gym fears

A lot of people have the motivation to exercise and keep fit, but the fear of the gym can often hold them back. When you first sign up you’re overwhelmed with positivity and visions of your dream body, but then the apprehensive thoughts start to kick in and you begin to regret the whole thing. Annoyingly, these fears can only be conquered by entering the gym but there are a lot of ways in which you can feel more comfortable and at ease.

 

Lack of Knowledge:

If you’re concerned that once you get in the gym you won’t have a clue what to do with any exercises or machines there are lot’s of ways to become more confident.

Watching Videos: Whether you want to train your bum, legs, abs or arms there are thousands of videos on You Tube and Instagram which can help you get started. When I first started the gym I used to constantly watch Jen Selters, Amanda Finnie’s and Paige Hathaways posts in order to try and get some inspiration for my own workouts. I still watch them daily as it’s great to keep getting new ideas.

Follow Fitness Accounts and Pages: In order to feel more confident around the gym it can help to read up on fitness in general. The more you learn about exercises, diets and the way these affect your body the more you start to feel involved and more confident in the fitness world.

Personal Training: A great way to get a feel for routines and the equipment is to book a session with a personal trainer. They’re used to coaching complete beginners and often have great tips if you tell them what your main goal in the gym is.

Join a friend: If you have a friend or family member who has been going to the gym for a while then ask them if they can go through some of the machines with you. Most are repetitive to move and re-adjust so when you’ve got the hang of one you’ll easily be able to manoeuvre the others.

 

Busy Gym:

Even after years of working out there is still nothing worse than a busy gym, but when you first start it’s incredibly daunting. It’s difficult trying to to go on any of the machines and you’re afraid that people are going to watch you. The main tips for dealing with a busy gym are:

Avoid Peak Times: This is often easier said than done, but there are definite ways in which you can avoid the main crowd. Throughout the day gym’s are usually quiet, so if you’re lucky enough to be off work or working a later shift then going around mid-day will be a lot better. If you, unfortunately, work a standard 9-5 then either going before work at 6:30-7 or later on at night around half 8-9 is the best idea.

Do half your routine at home: When I first started working out I’d often do part of my workout at home before going the gym. This helps you get in the mood of your routine completely by yourself and at your own pace. If you gradually shorten your workout at home, and start transferring exercises to the gym,  you’ll soon find you’re comfortable in doing your whole routine at the gym.

Compare Gyms in your Area: If you live near a city then there is often a vast array of well established 24 hour gyms. The bigger the gym and the more flexible the opening times are, the quieter it’s going to appear. If you’re a member of a small gym which is connected to a hotel or your local leisure centre then unfortunately it’s going to extremely busy at peak times.

 

Embarrassment: 

For the majority of people this is the main gym fear. It’s easy to get yourself in a panic thinking that people who have been going to the gym for years are going to be judging you, but if there’s one thing I’ve learnt it’s that everyone has started somewhere and most of the time people are too involved in their own workout to even acknowledge others. However, there are a number of ways you can limit your worrying for when you first start going to the gym.

Practise exercises at home: Going through your routines at home can be extremely beneficial. You can master the technique as well as building your confidence in each exercise. It’s also great for trying out something new if you’re reluctant to do it for the first time in the gym.

Gender Specific Gym: For some, the idea of training in front of the other gender is a worry. Luckily, there are lot’s of gyms which are either completely geared towards female or male or they have separate sections where you can have some privacy.

Go to classes: Exercise classes are a great way to conquer embarrassment in the gym. They are usually a small group of around 10 people who are completely focused on watching the teacher, leaving little time to look at anyone else. A lot of gym’s offer classes for beginners which is ideal for finding out if you like the type of exercise, and if you’re happy in the way it’s affecting your body. During the classes you’ll often meet people who are also self-conscious around exercising, so it’s nice to be able to comfort and help each other.

Go with a friend: Going to the gym with a friend often makes you forget that you’re actually working out. Between chatting and trying out routines together you’ll find that not only are your gym fears disappearing, but you’re also having fun too.

15 minute ab workout

My ab routine has varied a lot over time but my most recent workout targets both your upper and lower core, as well as your obliques. If you are looking to tone up your abs but have a limited amount of time to dedicate each day, then this routine is perfect. It takes 15 minutes and is suitable for completing both at home and at the gym.

 

Weighted Leg Raises-
Start in a plank position with your arms directly above your head. I usually use a weight of around 4kg-6kg, but you will still feel your abs burning without one. You then need to lift up and bring your arms to meet your feet, then lower yourself back down without your feet touching the floor. This move targets both your upper and lower core due to the leg movement, so if you’re a beginner then 2 sets of 5 reps with a weight and 3 sets of 5 reps without a weight is a good start.

 

Weighted Crunches-
Similar to the leg raises, but you start this exercise with your feet planted firmly on the floor. After raising your arms above your head you then need to lift up as far as you can towards your knees, ensuring you keep your arms in the air the whole time. This move effectively targets your upper core and your obliques. Reps wise, some people find this exercise more effective than others so, as a minimum, try 3 sets of 5 then increase sets until you can feel your upper core tighten.

 

Russian Twists-
If you haven’t got a weight available at home then any heavy object you can hold is suitable for this exercise. Once you have crossed and balanced your legs off the ground, and sat at a comfortable 45 degree angle, slowly move the weight from side to side. This targets both your lower and upper core, but is more effective for your oblique muscles. As a beginner try 2 sets of 6 (each side) with a heavy weight and then increase the reps as the exercise becomes easier.

 

Side to Side Heel Touches-
This exercise is insanely good for targeting your lower core and obliques. With your shoulders off the ground reach to the side and touch your right hand with your right leg, and vice versa, for 3 sets of 15 touches per side. The key to getting the most out of this exercise is the pace, you should aim to complete the 15 touches in 20 seconds in order to see the most definition.

 

Forward Heel Touches-
Similar to the side to side heel touches, apart from you start in a crunch position. You need to pull yourself forwards using your abs, touch both your heels consecutively then lower yourself back down. Again, the key to this exercise is pace but only because if you lose the momentum of pulling yourself up then the exercise becomes far more difficult. 2 sets of 10 is a good place to start then increase your reps by 1 or 2 each time.

 

Ab Wheel-
Ab Wheels are not only great for your upper core and obliques but also for your lower back and your shoulders. You should start off with your knees on the floor and your arms out-stretched on the handles of the wheel. Then slowly push your weight against the wheel for as far as you can go then bring yourself back in. This is one of the more difficult exercises where, even now, I can still only manage 2 sets of 10, so for a complete beginner try 1 set of 6 then increase as you feel yourself becoming stronger. You can buy ab wheels off Ebay / Amazon or in the likes of Tesco.

 

Plank to Raised Plank-
Personally, I find that just doing the plank doesn’t really affect by abs much and that the variation brings a lot more definition. Start in a normal plank position then use one arm to bring yourself up to a vertical arm position, then bring the other arm up so you’re in a press up position. Continue with this move for 15 seconds if you’re a complete beginner and 30 seconds if you’re used to completing the plank. Try to keep up a decent pace and ensure that your back is completely horizontal the whole time.

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10 exercises which actually make your bum bigger

If you’re fed up of trailing through fitness websites, instagram pages & you tube videos to find that the exercises still leave your bum looking the EXACT  same, then these are for you. I have tried SO many different exercises in order to try and get that Kim K bum but these are my top 10 for actually producing results.

Deadlifts- Known by some as the ‘devil’, this exercise is the one which has you struggling to walk down the stairs the next morning. This is because if done correctly, they target your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and abdominal region. The absolute key to performing deadlifts as part of your routine is technique. Your back needs to be kept completely straight throughout, and your head needs to be kept up to ensure maximum results, but also to prevent injury. Using a barbell around 5kg heavier than what you use for your weighted squats will be sufficient.

Jump Squats onto an elevated platform This exercise is often overlooked but it’s great for targeting your glutes, as well as firming the thighs and calves. If you invest your full efforts into these squats then they can also burn a shedload of calories. As a beginner you should aim for the bench to be around the height of your ankle to your kneecap then as you get more advanced you can increase the height from your ankle to the top of your thigh. Try to use your arms when you lift off to exert more power and make sure you keep your abdominal muscles sucked right in.

‘In/Out’ Squats with Resistance Bands- A fairly modern exercise for your glutes but nonetheless extremely worthwhile. The use of a resistance band is similar to the act of swimming, you are going against the natural force of your muscle which therefore encourages it to build and strengthen the longer you choose to do. You should start with your feet shoulder width apart then jump out with both legs then quickly jump back in ensuring you keep as low as possible to get the most out of the bands.

13150067_653843151423645_639655395_n (1).jpgWeighted Back Squats The common mistake people can make when it comes to squats is that simply squatting with your own bodyweight only shapes and tones your glutes, effectively making them smaller. Therefore if you’re looking to build up your glute muscles (aka make your bum bigger) then weighted back squats are one of the best ways to do it. If you’re a complete beginner then starting off with a weighted barbell of around 5kg-10kg and then slowly increasing the weight will gradually get you the results you want to see without causing damage to the muscle.

Walking Lunges with Weight- Lunging with a dumbell as you walk intensely works your thighs, hamstrings and your glutes. Using alternate legs then meeting in the middle for around 4 lengths of 10 reps is sufficient for a beginner then as you get more confident you can switch to a  heavier weight and increase your reps. This exercise isn’t one which requires extreme strength or power but it certainly enables you to feel the difference in the shaping of your bum.

Weighted Donkey Kicks- This being one of the more difficult exercises you only want to start off with around 10 reps then a break then another 10 reps for your first session. Using the squat cage you should have the barbell at around 15kg-20kg with a mat underneath. On your hands and knees with one leg half bent up against the bar you should use your strength to extend your leg fully, therefore pushing the bar up with you. This exercise directly targets every aspect of your glutes so its not unusual to feel extremely achy after the first time.

Barbell Hip Thrust- Lying on your back you should lay a barbell of around 20kg-25kg across your pelvis then gently thrust your bum up towards the ceiling. When you have gone as high as you can manage you should hold the barbell in place for 3 counts before lowering yourself back down to just above floor level. You should aim to repeat this for 20 reps.

Body Weight Squat Pulses- Doing high intensity Squat Pulse reps as one of your final few exercises will round off your workout nicely by releasing all the tension in the glutes from the heavy weighted squats. Simply place your feet shoulder width apart and squat as low as you can but instead of coming all the way back up to a vertical position you should hold yourself around half way and then continue to pulse for around 20 counts.

Pistol Squat- The Pistol Squat is a key exercise into improving your balance. With one leg planted on the floor and the other horizontal in the air reach out as if you wanted to touch your toes mid-air and then squat to the ground. For your first session 10 reps on each leg will be more than sufficient. This exercise is not only good for your calves, hamstrings and glutes its also good for your abdominal muscles.

3 minute High Gradient Walk on the Treadmill- Generally most people see walking as a way to tone and make their bum smaller rather than increase it in size but a high gradient makes all the difference. Having the gradient on 8/9 on your standard treadmill forces the glutes to work 10 times harder in order to keep up with your legs and vice versa therefore building muscle in nearly every area from the waist down. This exercise will work the best for you either at the beginning of the workout or as a cool down at the end.