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Alex Valentine Personal Training

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Training Tips

Useful tips and advice on how you can maximise the benefits of your training

The Dos and Don’ts of the Gym

It’s January, and loads of people are joining the gym to get fitter, leaner, stronger, or generally just to feel better in their own skin. I love this time of year, it’s great to see so much motivation! But I also see a lot of fear. Yes, actual fear! If I had a pound for every time someone told me they are afraid of looking stupid in the gym, I’d probably have enough for a week in Benidorm. At least.


Apart from what exercises and the number of sets and reps to do, people want to know basic things like, where to stand, or can I take weights without asking? Is it OK to use a mat in this area if the gym? What do I do if someone is on the machine I want? If you’re a seasoned gym veteran this might seem easy, but for a new comer, it can be incredibly daunting. Here’s a few gym etiquette rules to keep you on the straight and narrow at the gym and help you on your way to being a gym pro:

  1. Bring a sweat towel. No one wants to use a machine after someone’s sweated all over it.
  2. Put your weights away. If someone is strong enough to lift it, they’re strong enough to put it away

3. If you are resting in between sets and some one wants to share your machine, let them. They will give it back and sharing is caring. Similarly, if someone is using the machine you want, it’s OK to ask them “how many sets have you got left?” (providing they are not mid-lifting the weights….don’t distract them!) Usually the person will say how many sets they have left, and you can either wait around, or ask if it’s OK to share with them? If they say no… that’s rude!

4. Get off the phone. If someone’s  on a machine and they can clearly see someone waiting to use it, there’s nothing more annoying than them just sitting there on their phone. It’s completely acceptable to ask someone how many sets they have left (see above polite asking technique)


5. Bring a water bottle. You will get sweaty, you will need to hydrate!

6. Squats racks are for squats or bench press at busy periods in the gym.

When it is busy in the gym: Do not bicep curl in the squat rack. Do not do pull ups in the squat rack. Do not do shoulder shrugs in the squat rack. It will literally make me want to cry.

7. If you’re not sure of an exercise, ask a member of staff or hire a Personal Trainer for a few sessions. It’s better to do the right exercises with good form than spend a few months doing it wrong and maybe getting injured.

8. This might seem really obvious but….my favourite phrase is D. B. A. D. = don’t be a dick. This is also my rule for life! A lot of people go to the gym to work out stresses from the day, but it’s no excuse to be disrespectful to other gym users or the staff. If someone is a dick, just walk away. Better to stay positive and carry on training the way you want to than to let someone else’s issues ruin your day!

As always if you’ve got any questions about how to train or eat well, or general gym stuff, just drop me a message at alexvalentinept@mail.com 😊

Why you can go to the gym, even when you feel like crap….

We’ve all been there, we’ve had a heavy weekend, or a stressful week at work. Colleagues are pissing us off, you’ve had a fight with your other half, and then ate a whole Dairy Milk all in one go….the big pack, not the little kind! It’s been a long day and you can just hear the sofa and a large glass of wine calling to you…..The last thing on planet Earth that you want to do right now, is go to the gym.

Right? Well, maybe…….

First, we need to change our language. A lot of people say, “I SHOULD go to the gym…” which implies it’s something that we have to do, that we don’t really WANT to do (I know that’s true for some people, but stay with me here!) If you’re really not feeling it, try and think of something you enjoy about the gym, even if it’s something simple, like being able to listen to your own music for a while, or read a book on the stairmaster (yup I’ve done that!). That way you can change the obligation laden word “should” to “I WANT to go to the gym!”

Next, think about the endorphins! Think about how you FEEL after you’ve had a good session at the gym…. pick out a few words. Ok yeah, “tired” will definitely be one of them, but how else will you feel? Empowered? Strong? Energised? Like you’ve achieved something extra in your day? Good! Remember those feelings, it will help keep you motivated.

What about your goals? Lots of people train because they have a big occasion coming up, like a wedding or a holiday, or a sporting event. You really don’t want to get to that big day and feel like you COULD have done more, or regret that you didn’t put as much time in as you could have. Keep your goals in mind when you’re thinking of skipping the gym, your future self will thank you!


Lastly, what about your mental health? We hear a lot about stress, anxiety and depression in today’s society, but how can we be proactive about looking after our mental well being? Yep, you guessed it, try some exercise! Research has shown without a shadow of a doubt, that exercise helps relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, and can improve overall emotional well being and reduce stress levels. Check out this article for for loads more exercise benefits: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/the-mental-health-benefits-of-exercise.htm

Exercise releases feel good hormones, it gives you a sense of achievement, and it can show you how strong you are. And if you go to the gym even when you really don’t feel like it, it will make you feel mentally tougher, and empowered by taking control of something in your life that might have originally felt like a chore.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, don’t give in. Take the tougher road every now and then. Sure, if someone is genuinely sick or ridiculously overtraining (most of us will never experience that though!) take a rest day. But most of the time, try and push through. Think of how good it feels when you know you’ve trained hard and you’re working towards your goals. It might not always feel amazing at the time, but your body will thank you in the long run!


And no matter what you might think, even trainers get tired of training sometimes! 😆

As always if you have any questions or would like some help with your training, drop me a message on alexvalentinept@mail.com, or text me on 07875466275

Is your FitBit LYING to you?

fitness-trackers.jpg
WTF???

Or more accurately, your “fitness tracker”? They’re all the rage, and come in so many brands, shapes, sizes, colours…you name it, they sell it! The purpose of them is to track your heart and activity rate, and give you feedback on how active you are, and ultimately give you the answer to the million dollar question…. how many calories you burn.

Sounds amazing right? Strap it on your wrist, hit the gym, and hey presto, you can calculate calories in versus calories out, down to the number of steps you take. For such a small device to give so much information is pretty darn incredible, but just how accurate is it?

A recent study by fancy pants Stamford University found that fitness trackers are amazingly accurate at calculating your heart rate, with as little error as just 2% (Apple Watch). Even the largest heart rate error margin was just 6%, which considering the device goes nowhere near your heart, it’s pretty accurate!

But when it comes to calorie counting, that’s where the margin of error gets a little scary. How accurate would you say a fitness tracker is at counting calories? Maybe 5% error? 10%?

No.

The smallest margin of error for counting calories, was 27%. YES, THE SMALLEST! (On FitBit Surge). You did not read that wrong. So if a fitness tracker says you have burned 2,000 calories that day, it could actually be as little as 1400 calories. The largest margin of error was 92% with the PulseOn. Again if it stated you’d burned 2,300 calories in a day, it could be as low as approximately 1,240 calories (read the full study here: http://www.mdpi.com/2075-4426/7/2/3 ).

Why is this important? We know that calories consumed versus calories burned are directly related to weight loss. If people eat more calories than the body burns, it results in weight gain. If people are in a moderate calorie deficit (are safely consuming less calories than their body needs), it will result in weight loss. The problem arises when the estimation of how many calories a body burns in a day is inaccurate. An overestimation will result in no weight loss at best, and weight gain in the worst case scenario. Conversely is the estimation is too low, it can result in drastic unsafe weight loss and possibly irreversible hormonal changes (like the 1200 calorie a day diet…don’t get me started on that crap!). The most accurate way to measure calories burned in a day is via an oxygen consumption machine to determine how much oxygen our body needs and calculate our calorie burn from that. Which is really easy because everyone has one of those, right?? OK so not everyone has these, so the next best thing is to calculate your Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the number of calories your body burns at rest. The next step is to multiply this number by the amount of activity you do on a daily basis. You can use this handy link to work it out:

https://www.muscleandstrength.com/tools/bmr-calculator

Nothing is 100% accurate, but this calculation is the quickest and most accurate way we can work out how many calories your body needs, which is so important for weight loss. Often when I introduce people to this calculation, I will hear protests of, “but my FitBit says…..”, or, “I treated myself to a take away because my iWatch said I burned xxxx calories on my walk today”. It’s an easy trap to fall into, so make sure you do the calculation yourself so you know for sure.

Despite what you may think, I don’t hate fitness trackers. I even have one myself…..

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See?

But hang on I hear you say! You’ve just told me my fitness tracker is LYING, so why would you have one?? I guess it depends what you have one for. I use the heart rate monitor to track the peak heart rate zones I’m training in, so I can tailor the intensity of my workouts depending on what part of my Roller Derby season I’m in. But this function is useful for everyone, and with a maximum of 6% inaccuracy, it’s a good guideline of how hard you’re working in the gym. So if you feel like you’re smashing it, but your heart rate is still at 85, you know to crank it up a notch….. 😉

As always, if you’d like any help or advice on how to improve your training or give your nutrition a kick start, drop me an email at alexvalentinept@mail.com , or text me on 07875465275.

The craziest things I get asked at the gym….


It’s January and every one is in full “New Year New Me” mode, and people are buzzing with lots of questions about the gym. But sometimes they’re afraid to ask!! Simple answer…. don’t be. There is nothing you can say that I haven’t heard before!! Here’s a few examples from the last few years:

-if I eat one meal a day will I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger?

-will eating ginger burn ALL my body fat away?

-if I inject myself with insulin will it make me more ripped? (Quick tip- NO, and it might kill you)

-if I wrap myself in cling film and train really hard, will I sweat out my body fat?

As you can see, there is nothing I haven’t been asked before! Especially when social media like Instagram and YouTube are actively promoting fitness fad diets and crazy fit-tips. A good rule of thumb is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! As always though if you need any help or advice, please ask me, I’d rather you know and get the right advice to achieve your goals than keep wondering and maybe set yourself back a few months. Email me at alexvalentinept@mail.com for more info 😊

Also this is me when I’m on the treadmill…


😆

“New Day” Resolutions

As the year is drawing to a close, it’s time to look back on all the things you have achieved, or made progress towards achieving. It makes us think about about how far we have come, but also, how far we WANT to go. What do you want to do next year? It gets us on to the subject of New Year’s Resolutions, because inevitably, most people make them. And a lot of people make them about losing weight, or “getting fit”. 

I used to buy into it too, I’d even make a list of all my goals after Christmas, and swear I’d be ready for it in the New Year…. and then New Year would come and go, and I might do a couple of things on the list, but really, by March it’s all fallen by the wayside! So why wait until New Year to make a change? If you have the motivation to do it now, DO IT NOW!!

I say this to a lot of people – don’t wait for the New Year to make a change, all you need is a new day! At this time of year though it is hard to get motivated, but now is the perfect time to start training. Our metabolism slows down in winter, we move less, we eat more…. weight gain is going to happen unless we stay proactive! 

Yes, we all overindulge at Christmas, but we don’t have to let it get out of hand. Offset the mince pies and mulled wine by heading down the gym twice a week, and cutting down on any extra sweet treats that might be creeping in. You’d be surprised how much of a difference these small changes can make!

You will limit the potential for seasonal weight gain, AND head into the party season and New Year carrying a little less timber around. It’ll make you feel better about you, help you look leaner and give you a head start if you DO decide to make some New Years Resolutions! Give it a try 😊

If you have any questions or need any advice on how to get your gym sessions started, or how to limit the Christmas bulge, drop me a message on alexvalentinept@mail.com or 07875465275

Why are pull ups so HARD??

Ok, so you’ve been at the gym a few months now. You’re feeling pretty strong, you’re eating right and you’re working hard. But now you want to try something new. And you see these super buff guys and girls in the gym and on Instagram just knocking out pull ups like they’re nothing. It’s A) pretty impressive, and B) pretty annoying….why can’t I do them?? I feel your frustration!
If you do some research (like you know I love to do!) you’ll be hit with a plethora of different reasons why some people can (or cannot) do pull ups, why males and females are biologically different, that women are weaker, that some people are just “too heavy”, that we don’t need to do pull ups anyway…. this list of pull up articles is literally never ending. I know I’m adding to it with this one, but I’m writing it from a real, first hand perspective, and minus the bullshit.
Why can’t you do pull ups? The simple answer is…. you just don’t train to do them. No body walks into a gym and smashes out 20 pull ups without practising (unless you’re a 15 year old boy, maybe). It’s the same with anything: gymnastics, powerlifting, football, Olympic Lifting, reading, writing…nobody just rocks up and is just able to do these things. They take practice, training, and patience.
The main muscles worked in a pull up are the lats, traps, biceps, rhomboids, and core. Ask yourself: how often do you train those muscles? I mean, REALLY train them? Sure, we all do lat pull downs every now and again, and maybe the odd shoulder shrug, but that isn’t the same as a pull up.  Pull ups take full activation of the muscles of the back, and with our sedentary-sit-down-and-drive-everywhere lifestyles, this just doesn’t happen on a daily basis. Try including bent over rows, upright rows and flexed arm hangs into your training sessions (at least once a week) to really get those muscles activated and ready for performing pull ups.
And make sure you train your core to be strong – pull ups are a lot harder if you’re swinging around like a chimp from a tree. A lot of people find core training boring, but your core is your foundation, and you wouldn’t build a gorgeous mansion on a bed of jelly. I did some serious core training and upper body work to get me to be able to do pull ups, and I’m not gonna lie, it was hard. But one of my biggest motivations was that I kept reading in all these articles how women aren’t meant to do pull ups, that women are not strong enough. Anyone who knows me knows never to tell me I can’t do something, it’s just fuel for the fire! It took time, about 10 weeks, but I got there. I trained the right muscles, I was patient, I worked my core, and it happened. I feel stronger and more in control of my body. And my back looks awesome!
Nobody tells me what my body can and can’t do….except for me.

Not a “New Year, New You” article. Only read if you want to feel better about yourself!

January is by far the crappiest month. All the hype of Christmas is over, it’s back to work, but the bank balance isn’t looking amazing, and neither is the one on the scales. And then there’s all these adverts bombarding people with new magazines and hobbies they can take up (first issue only 99p you know….), how to find a new love interest, and how to lose weight. “New Year, new you!” they all say, and bang on about New Year’s resolutions, how to fight the flab and bust the bulge….it’s enough to make anyone feel like they should be in the gym every night after work.

 download

We’re constantly under the influence of adverts, marketing, and especially social media, all of them telling us how we should act, think and look. It kind of leaves people with an overwhelming sense of not being good enough, not being fit enough, not matching up to how Calvin Klein or Kim Kardashian says we should be.  Well you know what? I don’t think Calvin or Kim have to hold down full time jobs, and they have personal assistants to help them and cleaners to sort out their laundry! I don’t think I’m on my own when I say trying to fit everything in is a struggle.

 kim butt of joke

You’re probably reading this and wondering why I’m going on about society’s problems, when I’m all about getting people fit? While the latter is true, I’m a big believer that getting yourself fitter and healthier should be part of a grander plan, and training in the gym should be done because you have time to do it, not because you feel you have to do it. Most people have the intention of getting fitter/losing weight/getting ripped, but a lot find it difficult to stick to. Why? Because feeling like you have to do something automatically makes it into a chore. Combine that with social pressures, and it’s a recipe for disaster. If you equate training at the gym in the same category as doing the washing up or hoovering, you’re never going to do it!

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Except this guy. He loves to hoover.

Here’s a tip: next time you train, make it all about you. It takes a little preparation, but it’s worth it. Download some new music, buy a new CD, that new book you’ve been dying to read but never find the time? Buy it as an audiobook for your MP3 player and pop it in your gym bag. Make sure you have something great to listen to as you lift. Next, leave your phone in your locker! This is your time to sculpt out the body of your dreams, you don’t need any interruptions from work emails or Facebook. This next one takes some practice, but it definitely pays off: try and forget about the people around you. I know, easier said than done! But with your new awesome audio enjoyment on hand, it will be a little easier. People’s biggest fear in the gym is “looking silly”, or people thinking that they don’t know what they’re doing (I know this because I hear it 100 times a day working in the gym!) so rest assured, you are not alone in this fear. But remember, 99% of people in the gym are completely engrossed in their own workouts, so don’t worry about people’s judgment. And lastly, don’t be afraid to try something new or ask for help. The gym staff are there to help you! If you’ve always wanted to try the assisted pull up machine – grab a staff member and get them to show you. If you’re not sure you’re squatting right, ask for a spot. Everyone has the right to enjoy the gym and feel comfortable training there.

 

If you make your training about your enjoyment and reaching your goals, you’re a heck of a lot more likely to develop a healthy gym routine….and a healthy body. And as always if you’d like any help in the gym or more information, just drop me a line at alexvalentinept@mail.com.

bosses don't cancel

 

Happy New Year! 🙂

Olympic Lifting….what’s the big deal?

Oly floor colourful

We’ve all seen and heard about Olympic Lifting, but not many people are entirely sure what it is. Most people envision beefy looking men and women, usually from somewhere eastern European, grunting as they heave up buckling barbells, leaving powdered clouds of chalk behind. Either that or some moustauchioed dude in leopard print underpants doing something like this:

onearmmilitarypress

Both are accurate in a way, but modern Olympic Lifting is broadening its horizons, and is no longer only reserved for a few elite athletes. Or occasional circus strongmen!

Olympic Lifting has become more widespread recently due to a rise in it’s use in gym programs like CrossFit, and this has made learning the techniques more accessible to the everyday gym goer. Olympic Lifting involves heaving large amounts weight from the floor to over your head in one swift movement, or a series of movements. As you can probably tell, if performed incorrectly, it can cause injury, and can be quite dangerous. That’s why it’s important to find a fully trained coach, who can break down the moves for you, show you, and teach them to you from the ground up, in a safe and effective way.

The main Olympic Lifts are the Snatch:

Andrei_Rybakou snatch

And the clean and jerk:

Oly Lift Svetlana Podobedova_2012

There are loads of derivations of these moves, but for now we’ll keep it to these two main moves.

People ask me all the time why I do so much Olympic Lifting, surely I’m strong enough? Whilst the answer is yes, I am strong (I could always be stronger though!) Olympic Lifting is about so much more than strength. It’s about timing, speed, flexibility, power, core strength, precision, and more than anything, it has such amazing…..finesse. NOT something you would expect to be associated with heaving massive barbells about! When executed properly, an Olympic Lift has an astounding combination of power and poetry, it is almost a work of art. I spend so much time lifting because I want to perfect this art, and become more powerful in the sport I play. However strong you think you are, it will be nothing compared to the rock you will be carved from when you start Olympic Lifting.

Olympic Lifting is the ultimate in plyometrics (increasing central nervous system speed), and refines the muscle you have built to be fast and powerful. I have seen competitive bodybuilders unable to overhead squat an empty bar, purely from lacking the core strength, precision and power to perform the move. This is most likely a one off, but it just shows that big muscles are not always the most powerful. No point in driving a Ferrari if it’s got a Reliant Robin engine! Olympic Lifting can fit right into your workout, or can be performed once a week to ensure the body you are sculpting is strong as well as beautiful. Whether you’re a regular gym user who just wants to get stronger, a weekend warrior at football, netball, or rugby, a semi-pro athlete, or a professional sports person, Olympic Lifting can benefit almost everyone who wants to up their game. So the question is, when will you start Olympic Lifting?

Which comes first…. cardio or weights?

Ah, the age old question! You get to the gym, lace your trainers up, grab your water and your towel and head to the gym floor. But there’s so many machines….where do you start? Most people don’t have time to slog it out at the gym five days a week, and switch between upper, lower, and cardio, so how do you fit it all in, AND make sure you get the benefits of both?

Scientists used to think that it was all dependant on how tired you are; if you go for a 5K run first, you won’t be able to lift as much because of the lactic acid build up and general fatigue. But what about sports people who need to be fast, powerful and explosive, all at the same time?

Simple. It’s all down to enzymes. Research has shown that when completing exercise, either cardio or weight training, a protein called AMP Kinase is released. This protein determines whether a  workout session will be set to produce hypertrophy (bigger muscles) or increased cardiovascular function. Unfortunately, it can’t do both! Dependant on which activity is completed first, the sequence of cellular activation determines whether AMP Kinase is activated to produce bigger guns, or increased cardio function. But this means that you can’t do cardio and weights in the same day, right? True, if you’re training for a 10K or a bodybuilding competition. But most people kind of just want to look good and feel healthy. This isn’t to say there will no benefit whatsoever to you doing both on the same day, the effect just won;t be as substantial. So what’s the answer?

It’s easy to build in a small amount of cardio into every workout, just by putting it in your warm up. Ideally you should be aiming to get the blood pumping at an above average heart rate for a least 5 minutes before picking up anything heavy, and you can always finish your workout with a hardcore four minute High-Intensity Tabata style row (20 seconds all out rowing, followed by 10 seconds rest, and repeat seven more times, completed three times a week). Researchers at the McMaster University, Ontario, have found this to have a similar health benefits as people who do moderate exercise for up to an hour a day.

If you’re doing sport specific training, and want to be fast, strong, explosive, and be able to keep going for a whole match/game/bout, it’s best to warm up properly, then do weights and plyometrics on one day, and cardio on another. If there’s not enough time to split up your workouts in that way, a good bit of High Intensity Interval Training, like the Tabata round above, will definitely give your cardio system something to think about! For help, advice or training in weightlifting or Sports Specific training, feel free to drop me an email to hi@alexvalentinept.co.uk, or use our contact form.

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