Hormones and Fitness – Part One

Hormones – They’ve got a lot to answer for!

No, it’s not an excuse, but it is a very valid reason for why things can go terribly wrong in your Fitness programme if you don’t understand how your hormones are affecting your training.

Our hormones don’t stop and start. They are constantly flowing through our bodies at fluctuating levels throughout the month and this can mean constant changes to how you feel emotionally and physically during your menstrual cycle.

There’s the ‘Good Weeks’ – When you’re full of energy, your skins glowing and your libido is boosted (make the most of it!)

Then there’s the ‘Bad Weeks’ – When you seriously can’t be bothered to do anything you don’t have to; you feel like a fat pig and you could eat everything in sight!

It’s not surprising that these constant changes in hormone levels mess up our fitness goals!

Our changing hormone levels throughout the month can really affect your ability to exercise and knowing how your menstrual cycle influences your workouts can be really helpful – e.g. If you’re able to push your workout or if you should just go for an easier option. We’ve all been there – frustrated at not running our fastest 5K, not lifting our heaviest squat weight, or just not having the energy for our usual workout. It’s frustrating!

‘Time of the month’ is not a reason NOT to exercise (I remember forging letters from my mum to excuse me from PE because I had my period!). You just need to plan a workout to suit your hormones.

Although everyone’s menstrual cycle is different, here’s a guide to what’s happening during your cycle and which type of exercise is more beneficial at each stage.

Week 1

‘I’ve just started so I’ll watch a Netflix series and eat pizza’

There’s actually no medical reason why you shouldn’t be able to exercise during your period.  In fact, it can be beneficial and for many women it can help ease the symptoms of PMS due to endorphins (which are the body’s natural painkillers) released during exercise. It might be the last thing you feel like doing and you might not reach a PB during this time, but you’ll probably feel better for it.

Week 2

 ‘Woohoo I’ve finished!’

After your period your oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone levels start to increase which is when your energy and motivation rises, so now is the perfect time to use that energy for your most intense workouts. Testosterone (usually associated with men) affects women too and while its in high levels you can really use it to increase your strength training capabilities. So now is the time to go for your deadlift PB!

 

Week 3

And just when you’re back on a roll….

On around day 14 of your cycle (usually when your workouts are back on top form) – you ovulate – and this rapidly decreases your Oestrogen levels!  You probably feel more tired and workouts become a huge effort again. However, at this stage of your cycle, your lungs function better, so it’s the perfect time to progress your cardio workouts! And according to research, women tend to burn more calories during this phase too – so fuel up!

 

Week 4

If you’re going to have a rest week, then this is the time.

At some point this week your body will begin preparing itself for your next period. Tummy ache, fluid retention and your mood turning slightly psycho! Your body temperature rises which might cause you to sweat more during exercise.  If you don’t feel like an energetic workout, this is the week to focus on stretching and Yoga is the perfect workout.  Your training may not be at its best, but just give yourself a break – your body probably won’t thank you for pushing it to the max this week.

It really is worth Listening to your body and trying to work with your cycle, not against it and by doing this, you may find you don’t lose the plot completely while your hormone levels are constantly changing.

Appreciate your Journey

Do you appreciate your Journey?

‘What are your goals?’ is one of the first questions I ask new clients when I see them.  It’s important to establish a goal so I can make sure that the training plan is going to lead them to achieve what they want from personal training.

Losing weight, getting fit, having a flat tummy or shapely arms are the most common answers.

It’s not just about the final destination

It’s great to have a goal in mind and be working towards it, however appreciating the journey to achieve it is also important.  While your working towards your main goal, try not to put too much emphasis on how great your going to feel when achieve your final goal, that you don’t notice or appreciate the changes along the way.  All progress (e.g. losing a pound or running for 5 minutes more etc.) is progress. Yes, you may not have lost a stone yet or ran the full 5K but you should be really proud of yourself for each and every achievement along the way.

Self-appreciation is so important to our well-being – so make sure you learn to love who you are and where you are at every moment of your journey!

Progress is progress

As a PT and Class instructor I see a lot of people on a mission to get Fit and Healthy (obviously, it’s my job!). For those who I see week in and week out, it’s amazing to see their progress! I see fitness confidence improving, increased healthy choices being made and (as my clients will tell you) there’s nothing better than seeing some muscles emerging – it’s the best part of my job!  I always make sure I tell them how well they’re doing.  But what sometimes disappoints me is that they don’t always see it themselves just how fantastic they are doing, because they’re too focused on the end goal and that they’re not there yet.

Remember losing a pound is amazing, completing a workout is amazing, eating a healthy meal is amazing – any progress is amazing! Wherever you are at this very time of your life, remember you are amazing right now, so appreciate how well you’re doing.

If you’re on a Health, Fitness or Weight-loss journey, PLEASE make sure you’re loving and appreciating yourself along the way! X

Maximise your Fat Burn

Maximise your Fat Burn

There are so many benefits of Exercising regularly! It’s good for your muscles and bones, it can reduce your risk of chronic disease, improve your brain, increase energy levels and is great for your Well-being as it makes you feel good!

However, the main reason many people initially start to exercise is to lose weight, as EXERCISE BURNS CALORIES!

So, if like many people, burning calories is one of your main exercise goals and you’re wanting to really blast your body fat, you need to make sure you’re doing it right with maximum effect!

 

Be intense when you exercise

Don’t be fooled by fat-burning zones. They often advise that working at a lower intensity is better for fat burning than working at a higher effort level (e.g. walking instead of running.) The harder you exercise, the more calories you will burn and that’s really what counts when it comes to losing fat.

 

Choose your exercise carefully

There is no such thing as the ‘ultimate’ calorie-burning workout. Energy expenditure is dependent not just on the activity itself, but on how much effort you put in, how good you are at it, how long you do it for, and how often. Choose an exercise that makes you work hard and that you’re going to do regularly and consistently and unless you want to be miserable and bored during your workout, do something that you actually enjoy!

 

Multi-task your muscles and work large muscle groups

Serious fat-burning exercises use the large muscle groups of the body – the thighs, bottom, chest and back. The greater the overall recruitment of muscle, the higher the calorie expenditure. For example, If you’re going for fat burn in your workouts, you’re far better off using the chest press rather than a bicep curl machine for maximum calorie burn.

 

Exercise Duration

To fire up the calorie furnace, fat-burning exercise has to be sustainable for a reasonable duration. So, while skipping is great, it’s not much use if you can only do it for three minutes. Guidelines recommend 20-60 minutes per session, three to five times per week so find something you can sustain for at least 20 minutes.

 

Interval training to maximise calorie burn

Interval training one of the best ways of maximising calorie burn, it improves aerobic fitness and is perfect if you’re short of time. To get the most from an interval session, push yourself outside of your comfort zone on the efforts and go steady during the recoveries. Try following a 2:2 rest/work ratio to start with.

 

Body weight load

Activities that are weight bearing, such as walking and running, use more calories than those in which your weight is supported (such as swimming or cycling), mainly because you have to shift your own body weight against gravity.

 

Fuel or Fasting?

The fasted workout theory that working out on an empty stomach in the morning burns more fat is somewhat true, as the body has to rely on fat stores for energy if you haven’t eaten first thing, but the lack of energy stores also means that you won’t work out for as long, or as hard as you may have if you’d have fuelled up beforehand.

 

Afterburn

One of the best things about exercise is that the fat-burning benefits continue long after you’ve ended your workout. The ‘afterburn’ (increased calorie expenditure) is far greater after intense exercise – another reason to work hard!

 

Intensity Progression

If you want to keep seeing fat-burning results you must keep increasing the intensity of your exercise, because as you get fitter, your body will be able to cope with the workload.  If you stick to the same pace or weight, the benefits will start to reduce. Keep progressing and pushing yourself so your workout feels challenging every time.

 

And Finally……

 

Daily Activity

Don’t underestimate daily activity! Keeping active during the day can really maximise your daily fat burn. That may mean keeping track of your daily step targets, getting up from your desk regularly or even just standing rather than sitting – but it all adds up towards your daily calorie expenditure, so KEEP MOVING!

Excuses not to Exercise

Excuses not to Exercise

When it comes to exercise, if just the thought if it has you thinking of any excuse to get out of it, you’re not alone. Many reasons for putting off exercise are completely legitimate, however finding ways to overcome these barriers is a starting point.

 #1 You’re too busy at work

These days, everyone seems to have a hectic lifestyle.  The solution to this is PLANNING. If an hour at the gym is out of the question you might still find that a 20-minute brisk walk to or from work or on your lunch break is do-able. It doesn’t have to be all in one go – break it up during the day

 #2 You have family responsibilities

When family takes priority, try to build exercise into your everyday parenting duties or weekend family time (e.g. walking with the pram, playing in the park, swimming or going for a family bike ride).

If you really can’t fit in a workout around the kids, re-assess your daily routine. Could you get up half an hour to fit in a workout? Or take some me-time when your partner gets in from work? Or when the kids are in bed? A 15-minute workout is just 1% of your day!

 #3 You’re confused about what you should be doing

You might not have a clue where to start or what’s the best exercise for your goals.  Look online, read up, ask a professional or hire a Personal Trainer – even just a couple of sessions can educate you, motivate you and put you on the right track with a suitable programme of exercise.

 #4 You don’t like the Gym

It’s a common problem (which is why many of my clients hire me as they can train at home) But it’s worth trying a few out, or going to a few different non-gym-based classes as there may be one you feel comfortable attending. Failing that, you really don’t need to go to a gym or class to exercise – you can do it at home!

 #5 It’s too expensive

Activities such as walking or running outdoors, or doing a home workout are all free!

#6 The Weather

You can’t control the weather, but you can keep an eye on the forecast and plan accordingly. You may need to reschedule your workout (e.g. an early-morning run to beat the heat) or even change the outdoor workout you’d planned for an indoor activity.

And there’s more…….

I’m too tired                          Workout early, get better sleep.

It’s too hard                           If it was easy everyone would be doing it! Build it up gradually.

I’m too old                             Being fit and healthy is beneficial whatever age you are.

I’m too unfit                          Everybody has to start somewhere – do what you can and gradually progress from there.

It’s boring                              Keep trying out different activities until you find something     you enjoy.

I’ve just done my Nails        Now this is the worse excuse EVER!

 

Remember, you can either have EXCUSES or RESULTS, unfortunately not both!

But if it’s important enough to you, you’ll find a way……

Exercise for Mental Health and Well-being

Exercise for Mental Health and Well-being

We know how exercise improves our general Health and Fitness, but along with the physical benefits, exercise can also have a huge impact on your mental health and well-being.  Exercise is not only great for the body, but also great for the mind.  It’s a mood changer!

There’s a strong link between being physically active and improved mental well-being, especially when we learn that depression is strongly associated with illness and even cardiovascular mortality.  People who engage in regular exercise at any intensity are less likely to suffer from mental health problems and there’s a vast amount of research showing that exercise can be as effective as medication when it comes to treating certain conditions.

Physical activity is proven to have positive effects on:

Anxiety problems

Depression

Stress Management

Self esteem

Sleep disorders

Relaxation

Positivity

Happiness

General Well-being

Physical activity that is practised as a group also helps enormously in combating social isolation.  During a group activity – such as running, classes, dance, team sports, etc. a person is included and engaged in a group of like-minded people. This helps improve motivation levels and alleviate stress and anxiety.

Exercise really can make you feel better WHATEVER your mood is: Motivated, Tired, Angry, Sad or Stressed, so make sure you plan your workout accordingly.  Although you may have a training plan to follow or a class you regularly attend, if you’re not on top form that particular day, change your usual workout for something else to suit your mood. There’s really no point in doing a workout that you’re not going to enjoy as it will only worsen your mood if you fail. If you tailor your workout to your emotional needs rather than physical needs, you’ll not only avoid a meltdown but you’ll enjoy the session much more!.

There’s no point in enduring a gruelling run if you’re feeling really tired – go for a brisk walk instead.  If you’re feeling angry or stressed, do some weightlifting or boxing (you’ll give your best punches!).  But if you’re feeling at your best that day – give it all you’ve got!.

Sometimes the hardest part of a workout is actually getting started, but lace up your trainers, take a deep breath and just do it – I guarantee you’ll feel better for it!.