Welcome to 2019 – it’s that time of year again! Are you looking for extra motivation to reach a particular goal? Perhaps you simply don’t like the gym environment? Or you need support coming back to exercise after a long break?
Whatever your current physical condition, fitness levels or personal goals, one-to-one sessions with a dedicated personal trainer can help you to focus on the things that matter:
To set realistic but challenging goals,
To track your physical progress,
To improve your health and wellbeing,
Increase your energy levels,
Change your body composition,
Discover extra motivation and confidence.
Personal training is about breaking the barriers to help you actively achieve your personal goals, and beyond. Here are some of the different ways a Personal Trainer can help you to win your fitness battles:
1. A constant point of contact
A Personal Trainer will provide a constant point of contact to motivate, inspire and support you. Whatever your questions, goals or concerns, your trainer will provide an educated and qualified answer to help you move forward successfully whenever you need them. Having a PT is a great way to make sure you get out the door in the first place! Most people feel more of a sense of responsibility if they have booked an appointment with a PT.
2. A tailored and evolving programme
Your Personal Trainer will create a unique programme that you can follow either with them or on your own. Your PT should consider your lifestyle, any injuries you may have or any concerns before developing a programme to suit your life.
You can reassess your programme at any time if you feel like you’re getting bored or you’d like to challenge yourself more.
3. Exercising using the correct technique
In metafit we have a mantra – quality of exercise not the quantity – technique wins over every time. How you perform exercises can have a huge effect on how effective that exercise is and also on your safety. The worst thing you can do is copy what other people are doing – they may be performing exercises specific to their own requirements that don’t match with your own. Whilst it may look easy to copy what someone else is doing at the gym or on a video, it’s also easy to develop poor technique and that is something that I work hard to avoid with all my clients.
A Personal Trainer will set a programme that is tailored to you and attend training sessions with you to provide guidance and ensure that you are able to perform the exercises correctly.
4. Clever motivation
People often struggle with motivation after the first few weeks in a gym but a Personal Trainer will help you set achievable goals for each stage of your training.
One of the most common mistakes people make is setting their overall goal without also setting smaller incremental and achievable targets along the way. Achieving these smaller targets will spur you on as you continue your training and will make you more likely to succeed. If one of your goals is to run your first marathon, for example, you might want to focus first on running a 5k, then 10k, then 15k etc.
Your Personal Trainer will be able to break down your goals and monitor your progress along the way, offering helpful and constructive advice if you’re falling behind and giving you praise and encouragement when you’re doing well.
For more information on personal training and your individual needs and expectations, please do contact me for a chat. I offer one-to-one personal training sessions for all clients no matter what your current fitness levels are.
As the festive season is well and truly upon us, it goes without saying that most of us, even with the best of intentions, will end up over-indulging on food and drink. So in anticipation of the new years’ “rush” I thought I’d finish the year with a fitness training article. Here’s the lowdown on the body’s aerobic and anaerobic energy systems – what they are, how they work and which is best way to workout for you. Merry Christmas everyone!
Aerobic and anaerobic are simply terms used to describe how the cells within the body produce energy and refer to energy systems. Every movement we make requires energy to be created and there are three main ways that this is done: one with oxygen – aerobic, and two without oxygen – anaerobic.
Aerobic refers to the body producing energy with the use of oxygen. Continuous steady state exercise is performed aerobically. When it comes to aerobic exercise, you would usually think of spending anywhere from 20-90 minutes performing an exercise – this could be on an exercise bike, treadmill or cross trainer or even simply walking and jogging.
The aerobic energy system utilises fats, carbohydrates and sometimes proteins to produce adenosine triphosphate (known as ATP – see my earlier blog post on EPOC here) for energy use. It produces far more ATP than either of the anaerobic energy systems but at a much slower rate, therefore it cannot fuel intense exercise (such as HIIT) that demands the fast production of ATP.
Anaerobic refers to the body producing energy without oxygen. This is typically exercise that is performed at a higher intensity. There are two ways that the body can produce energy anaerobically:
The ATP-PC system, which consists of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and phosphocreatine (PC). This provides immediate energy through the breakdown of these stored high energy phosphates. If this energy system is ‘fully stocked’ it will provide energy for maximal intensity short duration exercise for around 10-15 seconds. It provides you with the most power because it produces ATP more quickly than any other system. Because of this it fuels all very high intensity activities but it burns out very quickly. (See also my earlier blog post on EPOC here).
The Anaerobic Glycolytic system produces a lot of power, but not quite as much or as quickly as the ATP-PC system. However it has larger fuel supplies (essentially a bigger fuel tank) and doesn’t burn all its fuel as quickly as the ATP-PC system, nor does it fatigue as quickly. It is the anaerobic glycolytic system that is associated with the feeling of burning in your muscles due to the build-up of lactate and other metabolites.
Which is the best?
During exercise, energy will be derived from all three of these systems, but the emphasis will change depending on the intensity of the exercise relative to your fitness levels.
Aerobic vs anaerobic training refers to which energy system you are trying to improve during your training session - its structure and intensity will be very different depending on which one you are trying to improve.
Aerobic training will typically fall in the range of 60 – 80% of your estimated maximum heart rate and can be performed continuously for prolonged periods of time. Anaerobic training will fall between 80 – 90% of your estimated maximum heart rate.
Aerobic training is good for building endurance and improving your cardiovascular and respiratory function. This means that your heart and lungs become stronger and more efficient, enabling you to train harder and longer as your fitness levels improve.
Anaerobic training is performed at a harder intensity than aerobic exercise, typically between 80 – 90% of your maximum heart rate. It is used by athletes in non-endurance sports to promote strength, speed and power and by body builders to build muscle mass. Muscle energy systems trained using anaerobic exercise develop differently compared to aerobic exercise, leading to greater performance in short duration high intensity activities. It is a great way of really improving your fitness levels once a baseline aerobic level of fitness is achieved.
Have a wonderful Christmas, try not to eat too much, and look forward to a fit and healthy you in the new year!
As a fitness instructor I have a responsibility to all my class participants to provide a safe workout environment and to avoid injury wherever possible. Quite often I might hear “lunges are bad for my knees!” and similar comments about other exercises. Sound familiar? It’s a common reason people avoid exercises like running or weight training or some fitness classes. But this assumption that exercise damages your joints has been found to be false. In fact, studies conducted over the past decade have shown that exercise helps to both BUILD healthy cartilage and to build SUPPORT around the joints, keeping them stronger for longer.
Building strong cartilage in your joints
Arthritis happens when the cartilage that cushions your joints wears away leaving bone rubbing on bone, which causes pain and discomfort. This isn’t the result of exercise, but of injury and constant low-level damage over time. Research has shown that exercise can actually reinforce cartilage.
Your joints are surrounded by a thin piece of tissue connected to your blood supply called the synovial membrane. This membrane produces the fluid that lubricates your joints. Cartilage has no independent blood supply, so instead, it gets its nutrients from this fluid. When exercising your blood pumps faster around your body, providing the membrane with a plentiful supply of nutrients which are infused into the fluid. What’s more, running and other high-impact exercises, have been shown to force this nutrient-rich fluid into the cartilage, keeping it healthy.
NOTE: Of course, if you already suffer from joint pain, high-impact exercises that aggravate this pain should be avoided, at least in the short term, but there’s plenty of exercises that I can show you that will help to build strength in your joints.
Muscles and ligaments – your joints’ support network
Your knees, hips and other joints rely on a supportive network of muscles and ligaments to keep them sturdy. So exercises that build these muscles and strengthen the ligaments will strengthen your joints, making you less prone to injury in the long run.
Strength training uses weight to gradually build muscle tone. If you’re new to exercise, you should begin with bodyweight exercises, working your way onto weight machines, which provide stability while you train, and then move onto free weights such as kettlebells or dumbbells.
It’s worthwhile asking a personal trainer for advice, particularly if you have specific injuries or conditions.
How exercise can relieve pain in the joints
An added benefit of exercise is it can help to prevent and relieve pain in your joints. Building strength in your joints can help improve your posture and prevent a cascade of injuries as a result, and the more you move, the less stiff and fatigued you’ll feel.
Exercise can also affect your mental outlook, flooding your brain’s receptors with ‘feel good’ endorphins which both make you feel happier and change your perception of pain. You might find that you’re more motivated and that pain becomes more manageable after exercise.
Exercises to strengthen and mobilise joints
It’s tempting to give up on exercise when you experience pain in your joints. After all, you don’t want to make it feel worse. Here’s a great workout from Stephen Macconville, the Joint Pain Programme Director at Nuffield Health that is clinically devised for use by people with joint pain. These six basic exercises each have a progression and a regression (18 exercises in total), to suit your individual level of fitness.
Feel free to contact me for more details of workouts that will suit you. I offer personal training and one-to-one sessions where we can build a tailor made workout that is perfect for you.
Dr Rangan Chatterjee is a physician, author, television presenter and podcaster. He is probably best known for his TV show Doctor in the House and for being the resident doctor on BBC One’s Breakfast Show. Here I am sharing his article that was recently featured on BBC Radio 5 Live where he shares his philosophy about the ‘four pillars of health’: food, movement, sleep and relaxation.
Every part our body affects pretty much every other part. By making small, achievable changes in the four key areas of your life, you can create and maintain good health – and avoid illness. What matters most is balance across all the things you do.
The twelve hour eating window
If changing your diet and cutting foods out seems intimidating, Dr Rangan suggests an easier option: eat all your food within a 12 hour window. “Can you get more benefits if you go stricter? Yes some people might be able to! But I say if you can do 12 hours a day, tick it off, and move on to another recommendation. Try and get that balance.”
He says, “It’s a very simple change that I’ve seen be transformative for people.”
Five minute strength training
In our busy lives, it’s often hard to motivate ourselves to find time to go to the gym or go for a run, but Dr Rangan says that just five minutes of strength training twice a week can be really valuable.
“Strength training is very much undervalued in society. We talk about moving more and cardio but we neglect that our muscle mass is one of the strongest predictors of how we’re going to be when we age. Lean muscle mass is so important. Yet when we hit 30, we can lose three to five per cent of our muscle mass every ten years and that rate accelerates after the age of 50.”
Spend time in natural daylight
Good sleep is something we often overlook in our lives, but making sure we have enough high quality sleep can make our lives and health so much better. Dr Rangan has a lot of tips for getting better sleep, but one that you might not have considered is whether you’re getting enough light in the day.
Our bodies need to see different light at day and night to keep our internal clocks working. He says people should be especially aware of this in the winter months. “Many people are leaving the house in the dark, getting to work in the dark, being inside all day, and then going home in the dark.”
He suggests taking twenty minutes in your day to spend some time in natural daylight, and you may find that you wake up the next morning more refreshed.
Make time for some ‘me time’
Stress is often a part of our daily lives, and unfortunately, our technology can be partially to blame for this.
Dr Rangan says, “You get up in bed, the alarm is blaring. So you’ve gone from this nice, peaceful, restful slumber, suddenly there’s a blaring alarm clock. You’re looking at your phone, and there’s a whole ton of blue light, and alarm notifications going on…
For many of us, that continues all day and often that’s still going on just before we’re in bed at night; we’re still looking. And so we’ve just got no down time any more.”
His solution is to have at least 15 minutes a day of ‘me-time’. This should be something you do for yourself, that you don’t feel guilty about doing and that doesn’t involve your smartphone. Doing this can lower your stress levels and let you decompress without worrying about your phone.
You may initially think how can Tai Chi even begin to compare to aerobic exercise? Slow, gentle, fluid movements, versus a heart pumping energising workout? A recent study looked at this and came up with some surprising results.
It’s no secret that I love my high intensity workouts, but I also love my yoga too. As a Reiki practitioner I can really feel and appreciate the benefits in these more “gentle” forms of exercising, and I’m a great believer in combining them both. In my line of work I often come across people who have had injuries or conditions that don’t allow them to partake in vigorous exercise, but quite often workouts such as yoga, pilates or Tai Chi can be the ideal solution. A good friend of mine teaches Tai Chi here in York, and so I was particularly interested in this recent study.
Tai Chi (full name Tai Chi Chuan) combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow, flowing movements. Originally developed as a martial art in 13th-century China, the slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi are reported to be good for both body and mind. But could doing something so gentle really be as effective as a bout of more vigorous exercise? Dr Sarah Aldred, Dr Jet Veldhuijzen van Zanten and Nor Fadila Kasim from the University of Birmingham teamed up with the BBC programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” to find out.
They took a group of volunteers aged between 65 and 75, none of whom did regular exercise. Half of them were enrolled in a Zumba class for 12 weeks, while the other half did Tai Chi for 12 weeks.
At the beginning, middle and end of the 12 weeks, Jet, Sarah and Nor recorded the volunteers’ blood pressure and measured the flexibility of their blood vessels using ultrasound. The more flexible your blood vessels, the healthier they are.
They also measured the levels of antioxidants and other chemical markers of stress and inflammation in the volunteers’ blood. Although stress and inflammation may sound bad, they’re actually a healthy response to exercise and lie behind many of its benefits.
As might be expected, the Zumba group were all fitter after 12 weeks. Their blood vessels were more elastic and their blood pressure had dropped. Their blood results improved in line with people undertaking an exercise regime.
More surprisingly however, the results from the Tai Chi group also showed similar benefits to the more rigorous Zumba group, with improvements in blood biomarkers, blood pressure and vessel flexibility.
The answer as to why Tai Chi might have similar benefits may rest in the fact that Tai Chi might not be as gentle as it seems. Previous studies undertaken by Sarah and Jet show that people who practise Tai Chi have a similar rise in heart rate to those doing moderate intensity exercise.
Studies have shown that Tai Chi can help older people to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and general mobility, and increase muscle strength in the legs. It's also good for people suffering with fibromyalgia and Parkinson's.
Thanks to the BBC programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor”. You can find out more here.
This is such an interesting programme that I simply had to share!
100 people took part in a recent trial for the BBC2 Horizon programme: Can my brain cure my body? It was a back pain study but with a twist, the twist being that everyone, unknowingly, was getting placebo. The placebo effect is well studied but at the same time still something of a mystery. (Placebo = Latin “I shall please”). It is an important part of modern clinical trials, where patients are given either a placebo or an active drug (without knowing which is which) and researchers then look to see if the drug outperforms the placebo, or vice versa.
With the help of Dr Jeremy Howick, an expert on the placebo effect from the University of Oxford, the Horizon team, headed up by medical journalist Dr Michael Moseley, set out to see if they could cure real back pain with placebo pills. It would be the largest experiment of its kind ever carried out in the UK, with 100 people from Blackpool taking part.
The University of Oxford's Professor Irene Tracey told the programme that just because a placebo contains no active chemicals, does not mean the effects of taking it are not real.
"The average person thinks that placebo is something that's a lie or some fakery, something where the person has been tricked and it isn't real. But science has told us, particularly over the last two decades, that it is something that is very real, it's something that we can see played out in our physiology and neurochemistry."
Among other things, research has shown that taking a placebo can trigger the release of endorphins - natural painkillers that are similar in structure to morphine.
A growing body of research suggests that there’s a link between how much people sleep and how much they weigh. If you’re not sleeping enough, the effects could be more significant than just dark circles under your eyes. Here we look at the surprising fact of how your size and your sleep are closely linked.
The rise of obesity over the last few decades is paralleled by significant reductions in the length of time we spend asleep.
At the same time, a large number of studies have reported associations between impaired sleep and the likelihood of developing obesity or diseases such as type 2 diabetes. (Note: the act of sleeping less does not in itself make you fat – after a few disturbed nights your body won’t automatically have created fat!).
We’re not talking about a cause/effect link here. We’re talking correlation. As the number of people getting less sleep has risen, so the number of people at risk of life-threatening metabolic and cardiovascular diseases has risen too. The reason for this correlation may lie in the effects that poor or less sleep may have on your behaviour and physiology. It’s these effects that can contribute to weight gain.
Inactivity – if you’re feeling lethargic and tired, you’re less likely to exercise and more likely to take shortcuts like using the lift rather than the stairs. This decreases the amount of calories you’re burning, which has a direct effect on your weight.
Mood fluctuations – sleep is vital to regulating your mood. Less sleep could see you happy one moment and feeling low the next. Low mood can trigger emotional or ‘comfort’ eating, when our bodies crave high fat, high sugar foods. When eaten, these foods trigger the pleasure response in your brain, and we’re hardwired to crave them in times of distress.
Reduced leptin levels – less of the hormone that tells you you’re full could see you overeating without realising it.
Increased grehlin levels – more of the hormone that tells you you’re hungry will have you seeking out more food and snacks, even if you’ve consumed the right amount of food for you that day.
Recent analysis conducted by King’s College London reviewed dozens of small studies involving sleep and appetite. It showed that, although not everyone is affected in the same way, on average getting less than seven hours of sleep a night led to people eating significantly more overall.
A bad night’s sleep disrupts the two key hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin and this combination leaves us feeling physically hungrier, causing us to eat more. Studies also suggest that when we’re exposed to food while sleep deprived, there is increased activation in areas of the brain associated with reward. This can lead to us choosing foods that are higher in sugar and fat, rather than selecting healthy options.
All of this can help to explain why, in the long term, there’s a strong connection between poor sleep, weight gain and health problems like type 2 diabetes. The simple solution is to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. For adults, 7-8 hours of sleep per night is associated with the lowest risk of incidence of cardiovascular diseases.
The popularity of veganism has really taken off. More than four times as many people are now opting to cut animal products out of their diet than they were four years ago. Across Britain, people are spending more money on vegan products, and plant-based diets are trending online. With major supermarkets catching on and stocking up on vegan-friendly food – and even restaurants starting to offer vegan dishes and menus for their customers, we were wondering how easy is it to go vegan and stay healthy?
A recent episode of the BBC TV programme “Trust Me I’m a Doctor” posed this very same question, and set Cambridge Neuroscience Research Associate Dr Giles Yeo the task of going vegan for one month.
Specific aspects of Giles’s health were assessed by Dr Mellor, a dietitian and senior lecturer in human nutrition at Coventry University before and after his month of being vegan. We measured his cholesterol, body fat, weight, and his levels of iron, folate, zinc and vitamins A, E, D and B12. Dr Mellor also gave Giles a list of foods to eat to stay healthy and avoid becoming deficient in key nutrients.
After one month on a vegan diet, Dr Yeo lost 4 kg and his body fat dropped by 2%. His BMI improved by 6% and his cholesterol fell by 12%. Thanks to Dr Mellor’s food suggestions, he didn’t become deficient in any key nutrients. However it’s more difficult to be so nutritionally diligent in the longer term and vegans can become deficient in nutrients you’d normally get from animal-based foods, such as iron and vitamin B12.
Essential nutrients for vegans
There are certain essential nutrients that we normally get from animal-based foods that vegans need to replace with alternative foods or supplements.
Vitamin D – Vitamin D is important for our bone health. It is produced in our body when sunlight hits our skin and is also present in a few animal products. Vegans might want to consider taking a supplement, but beware that not all of them are vegan-friendly. Vitamin D2 is always suitable for vegans, whereas some sources of vitamin D3 derive from sheep’s wool.
Vitamin B12 – We need vitamin B12 to keep our blood healthy. It is not produced by plants, but there are plenty of vegan products on the market, such as milks, spreads and yeast products, which are fortified with it.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids – These are essential for brain function and are found in oily fish. Other good sources are flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts and soy beans.
Calcium – While calcium is synonymous with dairy, there are plenty of vegan sources too. Tofu commonly contains calcium and there are calcium-fortified alternatives to cow’s milk available. Other good sources include green vegetables such as kale, pak choi, okra and spring greens, as well as almonds, chia seeds and dried figs.
Iodine – Iodine deficiency is not uncommon in the UK, even in non-vegans, particularly amongst young women. In the UK, cow’s milk is our main source of iodine, and the non-dairy alternatives, like almond drinks, have much lower levels. You can get iodine from seaweed (though the amounts are unpredictable) but you may need to take a supplement.
Protein – Some vegans worry that they aren’t getting enough protein, a nutrient people tend to associate with meat. However, eating a balanced diet with plenty of plant-based protein sources should provide all that you need. Particular foods to try and include are tofu, soy, beans and pulses.
Iron – Cutting out meat can also affect your iron levels – red meat contains a form of iron that is easy for our body to absorb, whereas the iron that you get in fruit and veg is less readily available. One solution is to accompany iron-rich vegan foods with a rich source of vitamin C, like orange juice, which helps to make the iron more absorbable.
And what does my favourite chef say about veganism?
Many argue that we should all be making a conscious effort to reduce consumption of animals and animal products for the sake of our health and for the planet. Vegan or not, a diet high in fruit and veg and plant-based food is a good starting point for a healthy lifestyle.
You can find out more about this experiment on the Trust Me I’m a Doctor website here >>
“But eggs contain cholesterol!” I hear you cry, “And doesn’t high cholesterol cause heart disease?” Well, although eggs do contain cholesterol, the amount of saturated fat we eat has more effect on the amount of cholesterol in our blood than the cholesterol we get from eating eggs.
Eggs are one of nature’s most nutrient-dense foods and contain an ideal mixture of nutrients. Along with high quality protein, eggs are also naturally rich in vitamin D, B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B12, iodine, selenium and other essential dietary vitamins and minerals.
SO WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Previous limits on egg consumption have been lifted as it is now known that the cholesterol they contain does not have a significant effect on blood cholesterol.
A high level of blood cholesterol increases the risk of heart disease. It was originally thought that eating cholesterol-rich foods was an important cause of high blood cholesterol levels and therefore increased heart disease risk. In the past it was thought that people should limit the number of eggs they eat because they contain cholesterol. However, only around a third of the cholesterol in the body comes from the diet – our bodies make the rest. It is now accepted that the amount of saturated fat that we eat has a much greater effect on our blood cholesterol levels than cholesterol in the diet.
Recommendations on limiting egg consumption have now been relaxed by all major UK heart and health advisory groups, including the British Heart Foundation and the Department of Health.
This means that most people can eat eggs without adversely affecting their blood cholesterol levels, provided that they are eaten as part of a healthy diet that is relatively low in saturated fat.
The healthiest ways to cook eggs
Boil or poach eggs (preferably without adding salt) rather than frying and avoid adding butter to scrambled eggs. Frying eggs can increase their fat content by as much as 50%.
Find out how easy it is to cook the perfect poached eggs with Jamie Oliver:
Eggs and fitness
Whenever we do any form of exercise we gain muscle – how much depends on the intensity and frequency of exercise. The more muscle mass your body has, the more calories you burn, even when resting. To build muscle mass efficiently the correct nutrients must be consumed – this is where the introduction of nutrient-dense foods such as eggs to your diet can have huge benefits.
One of the main substances our muscles need to repair and grow is protein. High in protein, eggs are an ideal choice for post-workout nutrition. Plus, in addition to their high protein levels, eggs contain all eight essential amino acids that are required for prime muscle recovery.
You can find out more information about the many benefits of eggs from the British Egg Information Service (see below).