GymBug

I've caught it. Fortunately, it's not treatable.

Archive for the tag “fit”

How I drastically cut my 10km run time

Hi there!

When I started running consistently it was during my Christmas break of 2012. I had put on weight in first year (the ‘fresher’s fifteen’) and was really uncomfortable with how my clothes felt and how unfit I was generally. I started running with my dad who had been at it for a while. When I ran my first 10k it was brutal. My time was around 1 hour 15 minutes. It was a struggle the whole way and my evening was spent with me on the couch. It was here I realised just how unfit I had been.

I started running regularly and more and more I started to enjoy my Dad’s and I’s Sunday 10k sessions. By Christmas 2013 we were running 12k’s and made the mistake of doing a 16k too (no one won that one). Our 10k always hovered around the 1 hour mark. My dad is over 50, so we never pushed it.

Fast forward to Summer 2014. I went on a family holiday to Nerja (below you see the view from our villa, which indicates the length of the hill I had to run up). It was here my sister introduced me to hill sprints. Brutal, heart-pounding hill sprints. We only had to do roughly 20-30 minutes to be as worn out as a solid 45 minute run! I fell in love with the new high intensity element, something that I had generally lacked in my running. I continued to do hill sprints when I got home over the summer and I noticed my 10k runs with my Dad were becoming easier and easier (but not faster, because my Dad is over 50, I was warned).

I joined a gym within my first couple of weeks of moving to Madrid for a year abroad for University. I started off with just using the bike, doing some intervals and things. Then I went onto the treadmill and slowly started incorporating more and more intervals and HIIT into my cardio. I now combine HIIT on the treadmill and the bike for 2 cardio sessions a week, I do about 45 minutes each session.
Important; my first stint in Madrid was September-December, and I lost far too much weight. A key part of this was doing too much HIIT and not fuelling my body properly. Even with weight training I ended up being scrawny and unhealthy. If you do HIIT, ensure you’re fuelling your body correctly too. This means good carbs, protein and fats.

Now, onto Christmas 2014. I was limited to my exercise routine because I was putting on weight (because it was absolutely necessary). However, I did go out with my Dad for a 10k during my tme at home. The second we were out the car he said ‘Just you go on and run at your own pace’. I initially resisted, because I enjoyed the time we spent together running, but he refuses to accept it wasn’t my fault we ran a 16k!
It ended up being a mistake anyway, I ran so far ahead he tried to reduce the distance between us and pushed himself to far. However, I ran 11k in 57 minutes! I couldn’t believe it. I thought back to what caused my sudden incrase in speed and realised it was the HIIT. Whilst I did not fuel myself, my fitness and times improved dramatically (the lack of fuel is really bad and embarassing, I’m not endorsing my stupidity, if you do HIIT or speed work, fuel it right)!

My most recent 10k which I did on a treadmill clocked in at 47 mins 35 seconds. I altered my incline and speed throughout to achieve this and I wasn’t wiped out by the end! (I was tired, don’t get me wrong).

So, after this long (hopefully not boring) story, what’s my point? My point is if you want to cut your time and improve your fitness, logging kilometers and kilometers of steady running will not do it quite the same as using HIIT, hill sprints and lots of intervals. You need to speed train to improve your times!

Here’s an example of what you could do on a treadmill;

Warm-Up; 5 minutes at 9km/h

Sprint; 1 minute at 13-15km/h (wherever you feel you won’t come flying off the treadmill)

Rest; 1 minute at 9km/h

Repeat, repeat, repeat.

Cool-Down; 5 minutes starting at 9km/h then reducing by 0.5km/h every minute.

I do this often, I also mix it up with inclines in place of a sprint. The point is to challenge your body and your speed. You also don’t need to workout for as ong when doing HIIT because your sending your heartrate into a higher zone (if done correctly. Check out my HIIT post for more information on HIIT and routines!

Gym Bug

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Un-dull the gym bike

Hi there!

Today was cardio day and I did a mix of treadmill work and bike work. Anyone that’s used a gym bike repeatedly probably understands that it can get quite monotonous and boring and the drive to keep pushing yourself dwindles away relatively quickly. However, today I tried a different type of bike session involving my gym playlist on my iPod. It’s almost like a little game you play against yourself. It’s really easy but can get your heart rate soaring at times, so it’s a really good HIIT workout.

Basically, after your warm-up start your chosen playlist. You want to have a mix of heavy, fast songs and slightly slower ones to achieve a mix of strength and speed work. Once you’ve started your HIIT session you cannot touch your iPod unless it’s to change the volume. The idea is that from now until cool-down you have to match the beat of the song that’s playing. No changing. To achieve the beat you need to change the resistance to allow you to match the beat whilst still working hard. If a really fast song comes on do not drop all resistance and let your legs freewheel. Make yourself work! What you’ll find is that instead of watching the clock you’re concentrating on the song and trying to think of any changes in the beat or how a particular song goes. It distracts you from the time and has you challenging yourself. It’s quite fun!

A couple of really good songs to have on your playlist can be found in my previous post here.

Give it a go and let me know what you think!

Gym Bug

Getting Motivated

Hi there!

Hope everyone is enjoying the New Year! Since it’s a New Year you may be looking to change up your training, do something different, explore a new way of fitness? Well, I have a few challenges you may be interested in trying out to get that extra kick you need to make 2015 a great and healthy year!

I’ve already written about Spartan Race and Tough Mudder and I recommend checking those posts out! (of course I do) but there’s also plenty more motivational challenges to take up!

If getting super filthy and electrocuted is not your thing there are plenty others to take a look at. If you’re a Rock ‘n’ Roll fan (or just keen to run) then ‘Rock and Roll Edinburgh Half Marathon & 10K’ could be right up your alley! They have events all over the world! I’m going to enter the Madrid 10km in April. Check it out!

Not a runner? No problem! What about doing a combination of cycling, climbing and canoeing in the Lake District? This one is a lot more expensive (£195 plus min. £2,000 sponsorship) but it looks incredible and all money raised goes to Action Medical Research (helping families cope with early babies, disabled children or caring for a child with a rare disease). You join a team of 3 other people to cycle 50 miles through the Lake District before climbing Mt Helvellyn and then finishing off with a canoe trip to Lake Thirlmere. Sounds tough!

If you’re more of a water baby then why not give the Great Swim a go? It proudly boasts the fact that it’s Europe’s biggest open water swim series in clean lakes, lochs and urban docks all over Britain. It’s the first year it has an official charity which is the phenomenal Macmillan Cancer Support, but you can raise money for any charity you wish. It’s throughout Britain between June and August.

For those of you that are up for a tough, gruelling triathlon that also raises money for blood cancer research then the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research Blenheim Palace Triathlon is for you! (What a mouth full!) Again, it’s more expensive (but it’s a great cause) Registration costs from £82.50 and you need a min. sponsorship of £300. It takes place in Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. You can race individually or as a team.

You should take a look at local runs too. Park Run is a brilliant organisation that free, weekly, timed 5km races around the world. The linked website is specifically for the UK but Google it to find out about any in your area! It’s a great way to meet runners and set yourself a weekly motivational goal!

This is literally a teeny, tiny teaspoonful of what’s out there in terms of charity sporting events, take a good look and pick your motivation! I’ve got Spartan Race in a few months and it’s constantly motivating me to keep pushing a little harder. With my injury my aerobic fitness is plummeting but with the knowledge that I have to endure a grueling 8 mile obstacle course I know I’ll be fighting fit again in no time!

So choose your challenge and get going!

Gym Bug

Getting oot’n’aboot

Hi there!

For non Scottish readers “oo’n’aboot” translates to ” out and about”. It’s highly stereotypical and I love the phrase, I have no idea why. Anyway, now that I’m home I do not have access to a gym, which is really, really, really nice. I get to spend my cardio days outside in the gorgeous (haha) Scottish weather.

I love getting out and going for a good run outdoors. My first run since returning was great and it didn’t feel like a workout. I ran at an average pace of 5.33 minutes per km, which was faster than I usually run and I really enjoyed being outdoors rather than looking at my reflection in the gym window on the treadmill. Not getting sweat in my eyes was also an added bonus.

Running outdoors is not only more aesthetically pleasing, it also has additional heath benefits that you can’t get from a gym. Outdoor running means you’re exposed to a variety of different terrains. This adds to the development of muscles in your legs and gets them nice and strong!
Anyone who has run outdoors will also have probably, at least once, faced wind. Running against the wind requires more energy which requires more calories! You won’t get that kind of natural resistance in a gym.
You get fresh air! The gym can become a hot box and the air becomes thick and warm, but outdoors your lungs, body and mind can rejuvenate and benefit from getting decent fresh air.
I also find that running outdoors leaves me feeling more refreshed. I can come in from a run outside feeling more energised. I attribute this mainly to the fact that I’m not drowning in my own sweat and I smell of outside.

If you can’t run, I still recommend trying to get outside as much as possible. There’s so much to do! Go for a walk, a hike, a cycle, even sit outside and enjoy the fresh air. A well-balanced, healthy lifestyle is not achieved by powering it out in a gym. You need nature to help keep your lungs and mind fresh!

If you do decide to go outside for a run and don’t want a monotonous run, try mix it up a bit. You can sprint for 1-minute and jog for 1-minute (or any length of time). I like finding a hill and doing hill runs too. There’s a long hill next to my house and I find a good, challenging run is to run one full length at a moderate pace, walk down, sprint half the hill, walk to the bottom and repeat for a maximum of 5 times. I don’t plan on going beyond 5 repetitions of this because it will most likely end in injury. Instead I focus on improving my speed and recovery.

So get out there and enjoy the fresh air!

Gym Bug

http://www.buzzle.com/articles/treadmill-vs-running-outside.html

http://healthontrack.info/outdoor-running-benefits/

Fit Not Thin

Hi there!

In the midst of my revision I stumbled upon this article (it’s in Spanish) which talks about the editor of de Revistas de El Mercurio (Mercury Magazines). She has decided that they will no longer photoshop any photographs featured in their publications, only use models who are 18 or older and not use any model with a BMI below 18.5. BRILLIANT.

I understand there’s this constant pressure for people to be thin or incredibly muscular, I’ve felt it and it’s horrible. What this magazine is doing is perfect and something that needs to be done by all of them. People have been saying for ages it’s time to change the way the media represents what’s socially accepted as ‘beautiful’.

If you’re looking to be slim, this blog is not for you. Healthy? Then I’d like to think some of my experiences, posts and insights can help you. It’s so easy to make small changes to start you on your path to becoming FIT AND HEALTHY;

  • Reduce saturated fat intake; swap semi-skimmed/whole milk for skimmed milk, for example.
  • Reduce refined sugar intake; as simple as having an apple instead of a chocolate bar as a snack.
  • Fit in exercise; it can be a 7-minute HIIT session or a 30-minute walk. Check out my post on HIITLIIT  (lower intensity interval training) or have a look at strength workouts (one example linked for a bodyweight workout) for more information.
  • Make smart swaps; wholewheat pasta/rice/bread instead of white, refined bread/pasta/rice, for example.
  • Do a bit of trial and error; there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ plan for leading a fit and healthy lifestyle, try things out, do some research.
  • Do it with friends/family; it’s added motivation, you don’t want to stop until they do and chances are they feel the same so you won’t stop until you’re done.
  • Don’t give up; you will slip up, you’re allowed, just make sure it doen’t completel demotivate you and stop you from reaching your end goal.
  • Set a goal; fit into that pair of jeans, get to a healthier weight, tone up a bit. Whatever it is, set it and tell people what it is, that way you’ll find more motivation to stick with it and avoid being a ‘quitter’. Setting challenges such as a marathon, 10k, Tough Mudder, Spartan Race etc are also great motivators (you don’t really want to be photographed as a pile on the floor, you want to be photographed holding that medal or tackling that obstacle).
It doesn’t have to be a huge mountain, small steps can make big changes.
Gym Bug

H.I.I.T

Hi there!

This is anther one of my older post from my previous blog, but I’ve mentioned HIIT a lot so I thought it’s best to upload again! HIIT standards for High Intensity Interval Training and is an excellent way to get your heart rate and fat burning capabilities through the roof!

The idea behind HIIT is simple; short bursts of high intensity activity followed by a short rest, this is repeated until the desired time is up. The best thing about HIIT is that you can do it with anything! (Note: when I say “on” I mean as hard as you can go, when I say “off” I mean recovery where you allow your heart rate to drop). I thought I’d convince the un-convinced by doing some research to get some scientific evidence in front of your eyes!

Simplyshredded refer to a study conducted in Laval University. They kept it basic, 1 group followed a 15-week HIIT training plan and one followed a 20-week steady state cardio plan. Steady-state group burned 15,000 more calories than HIIT group BUT HIIT group lost significantly more body fat! The science behind it is that because HIIT is tougher on the body, it requires more energy (calories) to repair itself afterwards. HIIT essentially has a more effective after burn.

Still not convinced? The same post also stated that short bursts of high intensity cardio help us hold onto our hard-earned muscle mass! You just need to take a look at Bradley Wiggins legs (who competes in long, steadier races such the Tour De France) compared to those of Sir Chris Hoy (who does short bursts of intense cycling around a velodrome).

All of this is further emphasized by Jim Stoppani, PhD, who refers to the same studies conducted in Laval University and Ontario University as well. Just  do a little research yourself if you need further convincing. However, please give these (or your own versions) a go, HIIT is amazing!

Running;
If you’re interested in giving HIIT a go with running to mix it up and maximize calorie burning then best start off with an “easy” HIIT run to get a sense of you’re own capabilities. Doing this until you pass out is ill-advised, for obvious reasons. When I gave it a go prior to being injured I ran hard for 30 seconds and took 30 seconds off. I repeated this until I had doing it for 15- minutes in total. The run itself was 30- minutes (7.5- minutes warm up, 15- minutes HIIT, 7.5- minutes cool down). HIIT is great because it never gets easier! You can alter the length of the intervals or the intensity as you see appropriate!

I now tend to do 15-20 minutes of HIIT (1 minute on, 1 minute off) with 5 minute warm and 5 minute cool down.

Cycling;
This would be applicable to a typical spin class for example. It’s intense, short bursts followed by recovery. Then you sob as you’re told to do it all again. If you’re not part of a class you can still do this, indoors or outside! I have 2 sessions, each lasting 45-minutes.

Session 1: This is a sprint session. Take 5-minutes to gradually increase your heart rate through increasing the resistance. Once the 5-minutes are up it’s 35-minutes of work! I tend to follow the same (monotonous, yet effective) pattern, 1.5-minutes on with 1-minute off. You repeat this a total of 10 times, then it’s a 5-minute cool down. (Note: feel free to lengthen the warm-up and cool-down as you see fit).

Session 2: This one uses hill & seated climbs, sprints and jumps (alternate between 10-15 seconds standing, followed by 10-15 seconds seated, repeat for desired length). Again, I do a 5-minute warm up, 35-minutes of work, 5-minute cool down. The 35-minutes of work consist of 2.5-minutes of either a hill climb, seated climb, sprint or jump. Mix it up to enhance the work-out. This is harder, in my opinion, than the solid sprinting because it’s uses different muscles, for example, when I hill climb there’s a lot of burning on my glutes, which is less severe when I do a seated climb.

Aerobics;
Aerobics aren’t new and they’re great, but not as challenging as they could be. This is where “HIIT-ifying” it comes in. Give yourself 30-minutes and split it into 5-minute warm up, 20-minutes work, 5-minute cool down. I’ve written out an example below for a HIIT workout I do (no equipment needed, but if it has a * next to it, you can use a dumbbell(s) to make it harder). Work for 40 seconds with a 5 second rest between each exercise, then take a 1-minute rest between each set.

Repeat each set three times. It’s 3.25-minutes per set with 5-minutes break in total, so it’s 19.5-minutes of work! Remember 40 seconds on, 5 seconds rest between exercises with a 1-minute rest between each set.

Set 1:
Jumping squats
Press ups
Bicycle crunches
Russian twists*
High knees

Set 2:
Running on the spot (go as hard as you can)
Tricep dips (overhead tricep extensions with a dumbbell works too)
Push up plank (explained below)
Superman (explained below)
Burpees (explained below)

A really good idea is to mix it up! Write out your own HIIT aerobics plan that targets those large muscle groups you’re aiming to improve/tone/strengthen/shrink. Now a quick explanation on some of the moves.

Push up plank- start in a normal plank position with your elbows on the floor. Move into a raised plank position with your hands on the floor and your arms straight. Return to original plank position with elbows on the floor. Repeat for stated length of time.

Superman- lie on your stomach, arms and legs stretched out. Lift your head, arms and legs together and hold for a few seconds/the whole time. If you hold it for a few seconds before returning to the start position, repeat until the specified time is up.

Burpees (I hate these, but they’re a good exercise)- start on your feet. Jump as high as you can and when you land go straight into a crouch. Kick your legs back (so you’re in a raised plank position) and then bring them back into so you’re in a crouched position again. Jump back up, making sure to explode from the ground and repeat.

Anything that is unclear best go onto youtube/google to double check. As always, best to be completely clear on the technique and the moves to avoid any injury. It’s also possible incorrect technique means you’re not actually benefitting from the exercise. Nothing worse than wasted effort! (except injury)

HIIT is a great way to mix up your exercise regime and can help keep you away from the weight-loss plateau or the horrible repetitive strain that can occur. Otherwise it’s another way of keeping fit and healthy! Be careful though, this is a very intense form of exercise if done to highest of ability, so limit yourself to how many you do a week!

Gym Bug

Bodyweight Workout

Hi there!

So, a few days ago I posted about my weights sessions in the gym, using controlled resistance training machines (find it here) and I mentioned I would do a bodyweight post for those who don’t have access to resistance training, or like to mix it up!

For exercises that don’t aren’t easy to explain, I’ve found some YouTube videos. Please note any of the YouTube content I put on here is not my own material and I have no desire to infringe on copyright. The videos are property of the uploaders, unless otherwise stated.

Okay, so here we go with a No Excuse Bodyweight Workout; The idea behind this one is that each set works each major muscle group (arms, shoulders,  back, legs, abs), you do a set, take a rest (aim for no more than 2 minutes) then move onto the next. You can then repeat as many times as you can (rest between complete circuits should be no more than 4 minutes, if possible)

Warm-Up
Whatever you prefer hear just to get your muscles awakened and blood flowing. Dynamic stretching or a quick 5-minute jog is great.

Set 1
10 x push ups
10 x mountain climbers
10 x tricep dips
15 x bodyweight squats
30-second Superman 

Set 2
10 x Pike push ups
1
0 x reverse crunches
10 x bench dips (like a tricep dip, but use a chair and drop below the seated part, and squeeze back up)
15 x lunges (each leg)
10 x chin raises (lay in Superman position, place chin on your hands and lift your chin off the ground)

Set 3
Choose an exercise for each body part from Set 1 or Set 2 and add 5 reps to it (or add 10 seconds)

Set 4 (Optional Abs extra, do this once at the end/beginning)
15-second side plank (each side)
30-second plank
10 x flutter kicks
10 x bicycle crunches
15 x leg raises (lie on your back, legs up, lower legs to the floor slowly, bring back up)

Cool-Down
Make sure you do a good stretch session. Target each muscle area that you targetted with the workout, or foam roll if you’ve got access to one!

Feel free to leave any comments (appropriate, please) and anything you would change/add to make your workout better!

Have a great weekend! Keep those goals in mind!

Gym Bug

 

 

Weights in a workout

Hi there!

So, about 1 year ago I went to the gym with my older sister (who will be doing a special post about Cross Fit soon). It was Christmas holidays at the time and I had returned a little bit on the lighter side. I had just started rowing and the competition was intense, and it saw many weekly weigh ins and “weight adjusted times”, essentially my worst nightmare. I watched my weight plummet from a healthy 64kg to 54kg in a shocking space of time. I was in trouble from my family. I wasn’t “underweight” but I wasn’t a healthy weight either. The speed of the weight loss was also a negative factor. I didn’t look good; I had no curves, was a bit drawn, pale, tired, boney, etc. It wasn’t good, I turned it around it though when my sister introduced to me to weight lifting.
Now, initially I thought “But I don’t want to get super muscly”, I can’t even believe I’d thought it, it was a silly thought. My sister promptly put me right as well.
The issue is that I will not be the only one who thought that and people will still think it today. Something everyone should understand is weight lifting will NOT make you look like a body builder unless you force it to. Body builders take things to induce that kind of muscle definition.

Studies have shown that by just introducing 2 weight lifting sessions into your workout can vastly improve metabolic rate. Why? Because muscle burns more calories than fat! You can get toned, lean muscles with burns more calories than fat, so you get increased metabolism and a healthier physique.

Now, when I say weight lifting, I don’t necessarily mean pumping iron with the big boys who are huffing and puffing with their giant olympic bars. You can use the controlled weights (which I do). You also don’t need to lift excessively heavy. Here’s one of my weight lifting sessions as an example;
Note; 3 sets 12 x 20kg = 3 sets of 12 repetitions at 20kg)

  • Seated Cable Row (Upper back); 3 sets of 12 x 20kg
  • Leg Press (Thighs, glutes, calves); 3 sets 10 x 100kg
  • Easy Delts Pull Ups (Centre back, biceps, shoulders); 3 sets 12 x 30kg
    (It’s an assisted pull ups machine, you select a ‘supporting’ weight, so I’m supported by 25kg, so I’m pulling 35kg of my own body weight)
  • Calf Rotations (Calves); 3 sets 15 x 40kg
  • Easy Delts Tricep Dips (Triceps, chest); 3 sets 12 x 35kg
    (Here I use the same machine as pull ups but I’m going down, in a tricep dip motion)
  • Lower back (Lower back); 3 sets 15 x 1kg
  • Shoulder press (Shoulders(; 3 sets 15 x 15kg
  • Plank (Core); 3 sets 15 seconds
  • Bicep curls; 3 sets 12 x 20kg
  • Oblique crunch with kettlebell (Obliques); 6 sets 15 x 16kg (3 sets each side)
  • Arm extension (Triceps); 3 sets 12 x 40kg
  • Reverse crunch (Lower abdominals); 3 sets 15 reps
  • Chest press (Chest, shoulders, triceps); 3 sets 12 x 20kg
  • Bicycle crunches (Abdominals); 3 sets 15 reps
  • Lat Machine (Lats, or the muscle around your ribs, back); 3 sets 10 x 35kg

This kind of workout takes me roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour. Make sure to stretch after!

Now, I used lift free weights; squatting, deadlifting, bent over rows, cable flys etc but I stopped once I got injured and have found that I save time by using the controlled weights. Time I need to save to fit in studying and things, but body weight or free weights are great ways of developing strong, lean muscles too. A key thing to be aware of with controlled weights however is that you don’t plateau. You’ve got to move out your comfort zone and increase the weights to see a difference and improve toning!

As always though, if you’re unsure about anything ask instructors and trainers. It can be very dangerous if you start lifting without proper technique, even using the controlled weights. If it’s your first time, don’t go for what you think you can lift, go a couple of kilos below that, make sure you’ve nailed the technique, then focus on lifting more. Practice makes perfect.

If you become super serious about weight training and do it often, also make sure you’re packing the protein to maintain muscles and aid recovery. I currently use My Protein Chocolate Smooth Impact Whey. It comes in a fantastic range of flavours and students get 10% if they go through My Student Beans and have an active University account.

So that’s it! Weights are a great way to mix up a workout as well. I alternate between a cardio day and a weights day to keeps things interesting. Tomorrow will be a weights day for example. It breaks up the monotony of cardio, and since doing solid cardio got me in trouble last year it has helped me put on weight. However, I’ll admit I’ve lost too much again, but I’m working on sorting that. Packing my protein and healthy fats!

I’ll make sure to do a post about body weight exercises soo for those who don’t use a gym.

Have a great week everyone!

Gym Bug

P.S Any machines names you didn’t know, check out Technogyms list of products to see photos, my gym (and many, many others) stock their products, so it’s likely you’ll have access to similar machines at your gym.

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