Wednesday, 25 January 2012

"I don't want to bulk up"

At some stage, usually in the induction when I start to explain the benefits of strength training, women will say "But I don't want to bulk up."

Fair enough, but... it's unbelievably hard for the average woman to bulk up. In fact, if you take a look around the weights area of your gym, it's actually very hard for the average man to bulk up. And they're trying to do it.

I'm currently watching the programme about Jodie Marsh training for competition. Over the last few weeks, she's been on telly, in the papers, on the radio, talking about her transformation. There have been a lot of negative comments, and that's to be expected - a lot of muscle on a woman is not to everyone's taste. But these comments have ignored the amount of work that's gone into getting her body into this condition.

(A slight aside for the Daily Mail's reader comments I was reading: no, she doesn't wear the bronze fake tan all the time, that's for the stage to highlight the muscles and prevent all competitors from looking drained under the harsh lights. And I doubt she spends every moment of the day posing, so when she's in everyday clothes she'd just look in good condition.)

Firstly, her diet changed completely. No alcohol, no carbs, an awful lot of protein. She ate more than most people would feel comfortable eating in one day - definitely more than I'd be able to eat in one day. The eating alone demands an awful lot of dedication. When you're trying to reduce body fat levels down to the 10% she's aiming for, every mouthful counts - whether that's in a positive or negative way. That chocolate digestive you gave in to without thinking about it too much, would mean a setback in terms of body fat for Jodie!

And secondly, she spent almost all day, every day in the gym. Each day a different muscle group was worked, but the volume was relentless. (Although she still managed - at this point, halfway through the programme - to keep a full face of make-up in place. ???) After your workout, you get to go home with the knowledge that you probably will have the next day off. Could you imagine spending a day at the gym, and then going back again tomorrow, and the next day.

Back to the average woman who has a job, maybe a partner and/or children, who has friends and likes to go out to eat in restaurants and go for a drink, who takes the kids to the cinema and shares popcorn... all these things mean you are not doing enough work to bulk up.

This is probably good news for most women - phew!

And those who are thinking that actually they do want to have a go, well, it's time to consider exactly how you need to change your life to do it.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Are you the newbie at the gym?

Everyone thinks that on the 1 January, people are beating on the door of the gym, ready to sign up and blast through their new intentions. From my experience, it's more of a trickle that peaks around week 3. So, if you're still at the shall I/shan't I? stage, here are some tips to get the most from the workout.

1) Choosing a gym
 If you have a choice of gyms in your area, visit them all. Check how thorough the induction is. If their idea of an induction is to walk past the equipment saying 'This is a treadmill, this is a rower' without at least giving a demonstration, then you might find you don't get the most out of the gym without a lot of  research.

Are the classes you want to use at a time when you can use them? Is the swimming pool available when you need it?

2) Be sure of your goals.
 During a good induction you'll be asked about your goals. Losing weight and toning up, is the answer most people give - but it's not specific (it's like telling a travel agent you want to go somewhere hot for your holidays - they'd need a little more detail).

My favourite clients say things like, 'I want to run the London marathon this year' (note, not a marathon one day), 'I want to be able to lift xxkg on the bench', 'My left side is weaker than my right, I want to fix that', 'I want to get my body fat down to healthy levels'. I can work with that, and you can see the path towards achieving it.

3) Be realistic about what you can achieve
You can't get a six-pack in ten minutes a day. You can't lose two stone in three weeks, no matter what the side-bar adverts on Facebook say. You can't reach your goals in a month - unless your goal was to go three times a week for a month

Six weeks is the shortest time when you should start to see measurable and positive changes. Six months is about the time, if you've been consistently working towards it, that you should meet your initial goals. Then you need to make new goals. Don't give up - your health, exercise and diet is a lifelong committment, even though your goals and priorities may change.

4) Work hard
If you don't put the effort in, you won't get the results. It's that simple. Don't bring a book to read - you'll immediately work much less hard (if you get so bored at the gym that you need to read, think about intervals - 30 seconds easy pace, 30 seconds flat out effort - bet you won't get bored then!). Increase the levels when the programme gets easy. Change the programme you use. Focus on the muscles you use when you lift weights, don't just go through the motions.

You should be working out at a level which means you can't hold a conversation while you're on the cardio machines. You should be able to answer in one or two word grunts. With weights, you should feel a resistance (how much will depend on your goals, but if you're lifting something that weighs no more than your handbag it's too light).

5) Don't compare yourself to other people
They may have the body you envy, but they'll undoubtedly have different goals.

6) What you do outside the gym is just as important as what you do inside
This covers the food you eat and the activity you do. If you work out hard, then reward yourself with a slice of cake and a cuppa from the cafe, you'll be cancelling out the exercise - you might even put on weight! How many times have you heard people say, 'I tried going to the gym, but it didn't work for me'?

Do you drive to the gym? Could you run or walk there instead?
Do you always take the lift instead of the stairs?

So, that's all for now. Joining a gym is the easiest thing you can do; sticking at it, training well, and achieving your goals are harder. But they are worth it!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Fourth Day of January

By my reckoning, it's around about now that most people are starting to fail, or at least falter, on their New Year's Resolutions.

A Facebook friend, a few days ago, wrote that she was trying to decide what to give up. I wondered why she wanted to give anything up, why she didn't resolve to do something positive instead. It's easier to do something than to not do something.

Instead of giving up chocolate, why not resolve to eat a piece of fruit or some raw carrot before you have the chocolate? Chances are, by the time you've chomped through a carrot or banana, you won't want the chocolate, or if you do you'll be so full up you won't eat as much.

Eat all this before you eat chocolate!!

Instead of giving up alcohol, why not resolve to have a soft drink in between the alcoholic ones? Immediately you'll halve your intake, but you won't feel left out.

Now I've got you started, try to put a positive twist on your resolutions and see what you come up with. Please share them here, I'd love to read them