Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Your Body, Your Responsibility

The gym / exercise / healthy lifestyle, for many of us is nothing but an unwanted chore. The perceived practicality is one of a time consuming and boring burden. For others it’s a guilt edged consideration permanently placed on the backburner.  There are of course those for who looking after themselves is a lifestyle.

This article holds more relevance to those who need encouragement or further information as to why they should exercise regularly.

First of all, nutrition. Our bodies are like Formula One racing cars. (Yes even yours) They are designed to run on the highest quality fuels. I.e. a balanced, varied wholefood diet with plenty of water. It is really worth investing time and money in fresh local produce and preparing it yourself at home. Make your dishes colourful, containing as many different nutrients, vitamins and minerals as you can. Try to reduce your intake of “dirty” processed foods. These effect you negatively even in your day to day life. You don’t perform well physically, you feel drowsy, lethargic and uninterested mentally.                                                                                                                                                                      

Like any car or piece of machinery we all need a good run out too. Up to very recently in our evolution we have constantly been on the move, hunting, gathering and moving from place to place but modern living has slowed us down so much we are inactive. It can feel like we are being clogged up, and in many cases this literally is the case.                                                        A good workout enables us to mentally clear the pipes, push positive “feel good” endorphins around the body and get the blood pumping. You don’t have to run, you can walk, cycle, skate, ski, go to the gym, swim or play a sport. Just get the body moving. Not only does this benefit you mentally but it also puts a positive stress through the body.  We all have our very own personalised vehicle body capable of so much, yet many of us sit down on our backsides all day not using it. When it is working well it is the best feeling in the world. Of course it is. You are getting the most out of it.


Change your psychology. Decide to get active. Chose to enjoy it! It honestly doesn’t take long to get into a routine and when you do you will be amazed at the difference you feel and the difference others see in you both physically and emotionally.


The media forever remonstrates to us about the health risks and subsequent stress to the NHS caused by our general poor lifestyle. All very true and on its own should be enough encouragement to get fit but it is pretty depressing and people live in the NOW.  I say start exercising not just for your future health but also because it makes you feel great! Move better, eat clean, feel alert and experience life running through your cells. You have to experience it to know it.


I appreciate some people simply are not interested, or might be nervous about exercise. All I say is just give some form of exercise ago in a nice comfortable setting for you. If a gym doesn’t work for you try a sport or outdoor activity.  You may surprise yourself.


Common reasons people don’t exercise.


 'I Don't Have Time.’

How much television do you watch? Can you do something in the adverts or during programs? Can you record your show? 

Be more organised so you can fit in some exercise

Regular shorter sessions instead of infrequent long workouts.


 2: 'I'm Too Tired.'

Working out actually gives you more energy. Your body makes feel-good hormones (endorphins), "and you're getting the circulation going.

It may help to work out in the morning before your day gets away from you.

Not a morning person? No problem. Do it whenever you feel best.

Ensure you get a good night’s sleep every night and eat well throughout the day. This will waken you up and improve work productivity.


3: 'I can’t Because I’ve got Kids.’

Take the family for an activity they can all join in with. Ie, walking, cycling, rock climbing, swimming.


Exercise Excuse No. 4: 'Exercise Is Boring.'

Find a physical activity you enjoy. If you feel like the idea of the gym but get bored then challenge yourself technically (balance coordination reactions) and regularly update and change your routine.  Get a gym partner this really helps motivation. Push each other on and even have a laugh too.   It also makes you more accountable to show up.


5: 'I've Tried Before.'


Goal setting – make goals small and realistic and continuously update them. You will feel more like a success, not a failure when you hit these goals. Keep a diary, log or blog to help monitor your progress.

If it didn’t work before you may need to change what you’re doing. Hire a recommended trainer.


In the end only you are responsible for your body, and no one exercise for you. I believe for the reward of a long healthy, happy life it is worth taking the time and investing in yourself.

Don’t forget there is plenty of help about both professional and social.



Saturday, 11 October 2014

Match Day Nutrition

Match Day Nutrition - The Importance of Fuelling Up


Does it really matter what I eat before a game? 

It matters a great deal. Your body is like a high performance engine, finely balanced and finely tuned. If you want to get maximum performance you need to feed it the right fuel before, during and after each session. Much like a high performance sports car, it need the right fuel and oil.

Pre Match

Fuelling up on carbohydrates (wholemeal pasta, rice, potato, wholegrain cereal) the night before and again at breakfast will maximize the amount of energy your muscles can store.   Glucose is the fuel of the body and glycogen is stored-up glucose. Unlike chocolate (and fizzy  drinks) which give a short lived energy boost, good fuelling from carbohydrate loading  will  sustain energy longer, delaying fatigue.   


During Match

After an intense first half, energy levels start to fall. Low blood sugar reduces performance, affecting skill, stamina and concentration. It’s important to refuel as quickly as possible:

Half time- a snack of banana will boost energy in the 2nd half improving concentration and performance. Bananas are high in vitamin B (needed for energy) and potassium important for muscle function.



Refuel within half an hour of play. Delaying refuelling by longer than half an hour may delay muscle recovery. A drink of whole milk or healthy snack helps the body recover.

Follow snack with a well-balanced meal (Protein, carbohydrate & veg) ideally within two hours.



A few facts about milk:

Effective for rehydration - Milk is an excellent source of calcium and contains potassium; both important nutrients that need to be replaced after strenuous exercise.

Improves endurance - In one scientific study, those given skimmed milk cycled for 9 minutes longer than those given fluid replacement drinks

Helps build muscle tissue - The protein in milk helps build muscle and aids recovery. Milk’s high content of protein and carbohydrate can help refuel exhausted muscles.


Example Diet Ideas


Whole-wheat cereals                                                                                                                      
Porridge / muesli                                                                                                                    
Wholemeal toast with peanut butter/banana 


Raisins, dried fruit 
Cereal bar                                                                                                                                      
Flapjacks, Granola bar                                                                                                                        
Water / mild squash 
Yoghurt/ fruit smoothie                                                                                                      
 Nuts & pulses, raisins  and seeds                                                                                                      



Chicken and vegetable pasta bake

Spaghetti bolognaise Lean turkey mince) & salad

Three bean Chilli con carne, rice, salad

Dahl (lentils) rice & salad

Grilled fish, potato, veg

Chicken, noodles stir fry & veg

Vegetable curry &, rice & yoghurt 



Sunday, 23 March 2014

Core Stability

Core Stability

Oxford Dictionary Official Definition.

“The capacity of the muscles of the torso to assist in the maintenance of good posture, balance, etc., especially during movement”

If you have ever been to a gym, read fitness magazines or purchased a fitness video you should already be fairly familiar with the term "core stability".  The core is the common name given to the group of muscles that lay deep inside the center of your body. 

The core helps support your skeletal structure and all movement. Without these muscles, which are located around your waist, hips and torso, you would flop like a rag doll. Poorly conditioned core muscles are very vulnerable to injury and a common cause of back pain; one of the biggest reasons for sick leave in the UK.  As you can appreciate having a strong core is pretty important.  

The main functions of the core are to provide:

·         Back support

·         Posture

·         Strength

·         Balance and coordination (proprioception)

·         Controlled movement support

·         Injury prevention


Gone are the days where we were taught to do thousands of sit ups and crunches. All this does is weaken hip flexors, damage lower back and stress the neck.

To improve your core stability the first thing you need to understand is how it works. Think of your core as an internal weight belt. To activate the core you must do a pelvic floor contraction (new mums are instructed to do this after child birth as it helps prevent incontinence in older age)  You do this by squeezing down below (as if you are holding in a wee) and “zip up”, pulling your internal muscles in all the way up to the navel. This does not mean doing a belly dance! It is actually pulling the inner muscles in and holding them tight. Try it. If you struggle, don’t worry as it is not easy but remember “practice makes perfect”.  Next time you are stuck in traffic practice tightening and relaxing the core. That goes for the men too as you are not exempt from incontinence in later life either.

The application of activating the core in the gym environment (or when generally lifting objects) is vitally important if you want to maximise your potential and protect your back. Once you have your core muscles contracted they will tighten around your spine giving you much greater strength and movement control, as well as protection.

The core is your center of gravity and holds the upper and lower body together. When weight training, if you have a weak core you won’t support external movement efficiently therefore limiting yourself in the weight you lift and how well you lift it. You are only as strong as your weakest point. If the core is weak your whole body will be weak.

As soon as you become proficient at activating your core muscles you will feel much greater strength and stability when pushing or pulling against a force. At this stage, provided you have good technique, it is recommended that you start destabilising yourself when training. This will challenge the core further as all the stabilising muscles around your hips and back have to work harder to hold your torso in position whilst allowing you to move / lift weight. The bosu and stability ball are amazing apparatus for this.  You can also close your eyes or execute exercises on a single leg. Unstable surfaces improve joint support and reactivity. This is also known as proprioception. (Neuromuscular messages sent from the brain aiding balance and coordination of the challenged area. The more off balance you are the more nerve endings and muscle fibres are recruited increasing strength, stability, reactivity and muscle mass. This means less risk of injury.

The Main muscles in the core muscle group are:

·         Transverse Abdominis also known as the TVA

·         Rectus abdominus

·         Erector Spinae

·         Internal and external Obliques

·         Pelvic floor

·         Diaphragm

·         Multifidus

·         Quadratus lumborum


In short, in everyday life, you are always utilising the core as it supports all body movement. This is why it is so vital that you undertake regular functional core training.



For further information or advice email me on

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Fad Dieting

Fad Dieting

In modern media there is always somebody telling you to buy into a new amazing diet plan to help you lose weight.  The fitness industry makes millions from desperate individuals buying into these fads, vying to reduce their body fat.  But. do they actually work in the long term?  In most cases, no. 

Hands up, some diet plans can help certain individuals lose weight quickly, but much of the time people just stack the pounds back on when the diet is completed. Hence the term “yoyo dieting”.  Repeatedly losing and putting weight back on is incredibly unhealthy as your internal organs and bodily systems are put under great changing stresses, constantly working under new demands.

The main reason people who lose weight quickly put it back on again is because their brain has not made a permanent habitual change.  Their mind set is still of eating too much of the wrong foods at the wrong times and simply not getting enough exercise. You need at the very least, three months to orchestrate a permanent change.  This is more physiologically and psychologically healthy and reliable.

Many social weight loss clubs, although basically correct in their preaching’s, are fundamentally old fashioned.  The whole ethos of “Lose weight by way of a calorie controlled diet” is a bit old hack.  Their customers go home and meticulously count every calorie without actually paying attention to WHAT they are eating. It is the type of sugars and fats you consume not just how many calories you take on board.  The body metabolises certain foods (natural produces) much more efficiently than others.                                        

Certain weight loss clubs even have their own line of ready-made meals! In other words; Unnatural processed food high in salt. Our bodies are simply not designed to process these options. I recommend trying organic foods, I guarantee you will feel much healthier and lose weight more effectively.

The problem with fad diets is they severely limit varied nutritional intake!  The promoters of these diets then recommend taking vitamin and mineral tablets to artificially supplement what should already be in your diet through natural means.  Absolutely crazy. 

What happened to good old fashioned healthy, whole food (natural foods) eating and exercise? This is the way the human body is designed to work at it best. You should aim to lose 1-2 lbs of body fat a week if you intend on keeping the weight off. This is highly achievable, healthier for the internal organs and gives your brain time to adjust to the new eating regime.  

For me, the best eating advice for weight loss I can give is:

·         Exercise regularly

·         Consume plenty of water

·         Eat fruit before 11am

·         Stick to primarily organic food sources

·         Eat little and often throughout the day until 6pm when our metabolism slows down). 

·         Take your time - this gives the hunger hormone Leptin  time to tell your brain that you are full up

·         Chew your food properly – First stage of digestion.

I don’t particularly like the term “diet”.  I prefer to think of it as simply eating properly.


For help and advice email me on

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Functional Training

Functional Training

Functional training is simply exercise designed to meet a practical purpose.  Usually this consists of multi joint, multi muscle group compound exercises.

The concept originated from physios and sports therapists assigning routines to help rehabilitate their clients, post injury. Now functional training is used as injury prevention to regular exercisers and athletes alike, but still in my opinion, not commonly enough.  

Functional training is best executed standing up and utilising multi joints and exercise plains. This means moving several different parts of  the body from low to high, high to low or twisting transversely or diagonally (with good posture).   It is, however, important not to lose sight of which muscles you are targeting and why. There must be a practical purpose to each and every exercise, not just for the sake of functional training.

The predominant purpose of functional training is to improve the neuromuscular system. In other words, your ability to create more messaging paths from the brain to the required joints and muscle groups, therefore enhancing their efficiency. (Proprioception)                                                                           The result of all this is increased number of  neuromuscular pathways, nerve endings and muscle fibres being created and recruited by the brain, creating better joint support and reactivity as well as stronger, quicker muscle contractions.

A few of examples of FT;

1.    A rugby player will structure her workout routine around exercises and movements that directly improve her match day performance replicating movements she will make on the pitch. Her body will react quicker and more powerfully to the sport specific movements and demands placed upon her in game situation.

2.    A man in his mid-70’s may undertake functional exercises designed to improve his mobility, balance and joint support. He will maintain better posture and reduce the risk of stumbling over / falling and generally he will move better.

3.    An injured athlete or keen sports person aiming to return to play will strengthen the damaged area by utilising exercises  that collectively incorporate all the surrounding muscle groups and stimulate the nerve ending. When they do return to play they should have improved strength, balance, reactivity and flexibility than before they injured themselves.  



Undertaking functional training, it is vital that an individual has a good practical and theoretical grasp of core stability and how to activate the core. This is a good start point:


Core Stability definition: “The capacity of the muscles of the torso to assist in the maintenance of good posture, balance, etc., especially during movement” – The Oxford English Dictionary.


How to activate your core.


1.       Squeeze your pelvic floor muscle – imagine you are holding in a wee. (Ladies post natal will be told to do this) – It is good for preventing incontinence.

2.       Continue the squeezing up to the belly button – zipping up

3.       Pull your belly button into your spine.  (not simply sucking in your gut!)

Doing this when you are lifting heavy weights or objects will improve your back support and posture, balance, coordination and strength. You are essentially locking your trunk and hip muscles around your spine. Please forget the “six pack” ideas you may have. Inner core strength only will help improve your body’s performance.

The three key groups in need of stability training are:

1. The deep abdominals (transversus abdominis and internal oblique),

2. The hip abductors and rotators

3. The scapula stabilizers. (back of shoulders)


*Functional training for sports - Michael Boyle


Exercising on machines may be a safer, comfortable start point for weight training but to truly enhance your body’s capabilities you need to venture away from fixed movements where your body is kept in one movement plain.


Think of it this way: Almost all of your daily movements, routines and undertakings require multi joint movements. Train your body how it wants to move! For example picking up a box off the floor and putting it onto a shelve. That’s a squat onto shoulder press.  Ankle – knee – hip - shoulder -Elbow.


Another positive consequence to functional training is you actually increase your metabolic rate. More muscles being worked = more calories being burnt.



Here is a relevant sports specific extract from Human Kinetics.


“As you begin to explore the concept of functional training for sport, keep an open mind about how and why athletes move in your sport. Think of your training as a vehicle to improve performance, not just to improve strength.”


On a personal note my mind and body prefer the challenge of functional training. It is much more interesting and I appreciate the increase neuromuscular response I get from it.


As with everything body related it is vital you have a good daily intake of water, 2.7 litres for women, 3.7 litters for men and a healthy balanced wholefood diet – plenty of oily fish, beans, pulses, nuts,  fruit, vegetables, roughage  and complex carbohydrates.


I hope and would love for the industry to move further towards functional training for both athletes and everyday fitness enthusiasts.  Fortunately I do foresee this happening in the main. It may just take another 10 years though.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sports Supplements – Yes or no?

Sports Supplements – Yes or no?

I am always asked about sports enhancing supplements such as protein, caffeine, energy drinks, fat burners and strength enhancers. I always ask three questions.

1. How is you diet?

2. Are you training properly?

3. Do you think you would be wiser spending your money on a personal trainer than on lots of drinks you don’t really know much about?

Sports supplements in my opinion do have their place in enhancing athletic performance and recovery….If and when used correctly.

Firstly though I always, always, always advocate a healthy, varied, whole food diet.  The more we learn about nutrition, the more it seems we should eat the way people did a hundred years ago. Recent research appears to be pointing us in the direction of eating mostly "whole foods" – that is, foods that are as close to their natural form as possible.

If you have a healthy balanced diet you should not require protein shakes, fat stripping pills or energy drinks.  You can obtain your healthy protein from such sources as white meats, nuts, pulses, beans and vegetables, your hydration needs from constantly sipping plain old water and your fat burning needs from regular eating of small healthy meals and physical activity. By eating and exercising regularly you will increase your metabolism and therefore burn off excess calories.

Far too many regular gym users I see come to the gym mixing powder and popping pills before and after they work out.  Are they carefully measuring what they have put into their bodies? Are they aware of what potential reactions one substance will have on another? I’m not sure.  I hate to think what overloading the body with foreign, synthesised chemicals does to a person’s hormone levels and homeostasis.  (The body’s natural working state)  Many of these people are training with poor form, poor workout structure and no periodization plan.                                                                 

On that thought something for readers to note is that much of the time people overload their system with supplements which they don’t need and therefore can’t be efficiently metabolised. This mean the substance pass straight through your body potentially damaging the kidneys.

 I believe you would be much wiser to spend your money on a good personal trainer or strength and conditioning coach, like myself to optimise and customise your workouts over a course of three months.

A lot of trainers, athletes and gym goers justify their supplementation because substances like creatine (produced from amino acids which increase skeletal muscle strength) are naturally found in our bodies. What they are really saying is their bodies are not efficient enough as they currently are and that they are too impatient to improve their body’s efficiency through hard work and adaptation.

Maybe I am a hypocrite as I use isotonic drinks (drinks which replace your salts, electrolytes and hydrate you quickly) with the racing drivers I train and work with at the circuit. I will only use them however when in hot climates taking part in an endurance events. As you can appreciate having a helmet and fireproof overalls on whilst being strapped into a hot, confined rocket on wheels, a driver will dehydrate quickly causing severe lack of concentration and loss of salts.  I also appreciate that 100kg athletes like rugby players need to quickly replace their carbohydrate and protein levels as well as rehydrate after a long bruising training session or match. They still however have post exercise snacks and often a whole meal provided for them too. Remember that the supplements they take would be carefully selected and measured out by the clubs highly qualified sports nutritionists.

To conclude I think that for 95% of people who train, supplements are an unnecessary expense and should definitely be used only if a meal has been unavoidably missed. Supplements should never replace food and be used only as a backup. Individuals with certain medical conditions may require vitamin and mineral supplements but once again not at the expense of diet.


For me, I will gain all my nutrients from natural sources thank you very much.


Just an opinion.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Fitness Industry - Obsessed by Aesthetics.

As a personal trainer and sports therapist I love my job but I despair at the extent to which the fitness industry media, celebratory worship culture and (in my humble opinion as a result) public perception dictates that we should all look like Barbie dolls and action men.  The concept seems very fake to me.
Please don't misunderstand me. I wholeheartedly believe in pursuing a healthy active lifestyle, of course I do. There is a lot more though, to exercise than looking like a front page magazine model. Everyone has heard how keeping your heart and lunges healthy and body fat low can reduce the risk of heart disease , obesity and a whole host of other medical conditions but exercise also helps elevate positive hormones levels such as endorphins and adrenaline as well as promoting the psychological feel-good factor. As a trainer I also believe in helping improve the quality of my clients lives.

In such a busy culture, is it not enough to exercise to our means, eat healthily and accept…. no embrace who we are? More trainers should be instilling these values into their clients although many are not. Maybe if they did their clients would achieve better results.


Media, including fitness magazines and infomercials relentlessly depict scantily clad models advertising their products. The reality is 99% of women and men don’t look like that, nor ever will. In fact the chances are the front page model doesn’t look like that either.  I think it is wrong to tell the public this is how they should look. At no point in our evolution have we looked as some of these images would have us.

Inside respective fitness magazines, they advocate various exercises and work outs misleading the reader into believing these routines actually work. Many of them don’t and in fact high numbers of the exercises you read about and attempt can actually result in injury.  It seems a tad unfair to the poor individual who has shed out their hard earned cash on the magazine.

Would not Western society not be more content if it relaxed it's vice like grip on the absolute need for cosmetic acceptance? I say people should train or play sport just for the enjoyment and fulfilment it brings. If people want to adapt their psychical appearance, great, as long as they feel good about themselves in the process and stop chasing the proverbial rainbow. Unlike modern media, be real, train towards realistic attainable goals.
Take athletes, many don’t have the stereotypical “perfect body” yet they are the quickest, strongest and most agile people on the planet. That's not fake. Their body's are carefully manipulated to undertake and cope with the demands of their sport.  Not to look good or for the sake of vanity or public perception.

At the end of the day though I guess (to quote Edward Bernays) “Sex sells”; and people believe what they are told.

Just an opinion.