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Alex Valentine Personal Training

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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…..

img_3357
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.

Fitness Facts and Fiction

It’s that time of year again; the sun is shining (mostly), the thick woolly jumpers are being tossed aside, and more and more websites and magazines are promoting “How to get your perfect beach body”, “Shed 10lbs in 10 days”, and “Use this weird old trick to lose a pound of belly fat a day” (you must have seen that one, right??)

There is so much information readily available to us on the internet and from our peers, that when we want to gain a bit more lean definition and improve our fitness levels, it can be really difficult to know where to start. So how can we tell the fact from the fiction?

Here’s five easy steps to debunking fitness facts from full blown fiction.

1) If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Sounds cynical, but it’s a good rule of thumb. If a website or magazine is claiming outrageous results that are difficult to believe to be true, they probably aren’t true. No matter how “scientific” it sounds. This is generally a good rule for life, not just in the gym.

With that said, I’m going to tell you a MASSIVE secret at the end of this article, that will make healthy living and getting a sculpted physique so much easier for you, so read on…..

2) Avoid the “all or nothing” approach.

Many diets and fitness routines tend to focus on one thing, such as only doing cardio, not eating carbohydrates (carbs), only eating protein and fat, or only doing exercises as fast as humanly possible, with no regard for technique or safety. The way you eat and the way you train, like everything in life, needs to be a balance. Treat your training with an holistic view, you wouldn’t only eat bananas or rice, so why would you only eat protein? You wouldn’t squat to your maximum capacity every single day without doing anything else, so why would you run on a treadmill every day and do nothing else?

3) “But I saw this exercise on Instagram….” “It said on Twitter if I do this it’ll make my tummy flat…”

This is an oh so familiar phrase to hear as  Personal Trainer, and I can’t tell you how frustrating it is! Here is a small selection of things I have been told by people (smart, educated, talented people) in the gym:

“I saw a girl on Instagram saying if I eat pineapples every day for a month, I’ll lose a stone”

“I’m wearing clingfilm under my t-shirt cos I read on Twitter if you sweat around your belly you’re sweating your fat out”

“My mate told me if I inject myself with insulin, it makes your muscles grow quicker”

NO NO NO NO NO! Just stop! People GENUINELY believe the bullshit they read online, or what their mates-girlfriends-mothers-pug told them. We might sit here and have a giggle at them, but some of these are actually deadly. Ask yourself, how likely is this to be safe and true? Don’t just believe what you read, do your own research and evaluate the evidence before trying something radical.

4) What do you believe?

Sadly the health and fitness industry is saturated with so-called gurus, experts, and people after a quick buck from preying on peoples’ insecurities. Some people become so engrossed in a certain type of diet or fitness fad, that they find it hard to open their mind to anything else. If someone questions the way you eat or the way you train, and you find yourself getting angry, defensive, emotional, or downright preachy about what you’re doing, ask yourself one question…..WHY? What does this diet or routine mean to you? Is it the best thing for you? Once a belief becomes dogma, it is very hard to challenge, let alone change. Some gym chains, diets, weight loss groups and fitness routines have gathered cult-like status, not necessarily because of the results they yield, but because it gives people something to be a part of and believe in. I can’t deny that being a part of something feels good, and it’s a great way to meet people, and if you’ve done your research and you’re happy that whatever you’re doing is good for you, carry on. But always keep an open mind, because what’s right for you and your body today might not be the right thing tomorrow.

5) The secret way to lose weight fast…

Is to stop looking for quick ways to lose weight or build muscle, and actually use that time in the gym working for the body you deserve. There are so many “secret” ways to weight loss on the internet, the phrase itself is a contradiction in terms. If these weight loss tools were that secret, how come Google spurted out 46,300,000 results when I typed in “secret way to lose weight fast”…it’s clearly not a very well kept secret! Are you ready for the ONLY real secret to decreasing body fat and increasing muscle tissue to give that lean, defined look that most people are searching for……?

Eat less crap. Do more exercise.

 

Simples 🙂 as always, if you’d like any help, advice or clarification on any of my blog posts, feel free to drop me an email on alexvalentinept@mail.com

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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