3 Weeks To Go

12 Oct

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With 3 weeks to go until the big day, the nerves are beginning to creep in. It is now more important than ever to stay focused and do everything I set out to do in training, to ensure I am fully prepared for this competition.

I suffered a minor shoulder injury a few weeks ago which set me back a bit, more mentally rather than physically as it was a bit of a kick to my confidence. I saw a fantastic physio at The Lomax who told me that he didn’t think it was serious, and if I just rested it I should see an improvement in no time at all. He was right of course. I laid off the upper body weights as much as possible and soon enough the pain wasn’t there anymore and I was able to use it again. It was a valuable lesson for me, a girl who finds it hard to sit still. Taking rest days or resting certain body parts because of injury does not mean failure, it is an important part of training and will help in the long run. Over-working your body will inevitably lead to injuries somewhere down the line and if you don’t address it, it will get worse over time. I am pleased to say my shoulder is now near enough back to normal and is not getting in the way of my training anymore.

Over the last few weeks, I have really upped my game and pushed myself hard in and out of the gym, focusing on nutrition and training. The program has changed slightly now. I am still working on my squats with Jordan and still  improving in terms of technique and strength, but now I am also incorporating more high intensity interval training to mirror the stage I am at in my gymnastics training. I am finally putting all the individual components together into full routines and am needing a lot of stamina to pull it off. This means doing exercises as part of a long sequence, with minimal rest in order to build up aerobic strength and endurance.

Thanks to my new and improved strength that the wonderful trainers at Lomax have helped me gain over the past 3 months, my floor routine is now packed full of new powerful tumbles. The challenge is now to put them all together in a 90 second routine full of leaps, jumps and non-stop dance. This is a long 90 seconds of hard work, so the next 3 weeks are going to be key in terms of developing the required level of aerobic fitness.

The team at Lomax http://www.lomaxpt.com/ have been great in helping me with all aspects of preparation so far. They have carefully thought out my training sessions aiming to recreate specific gymnastics movements and principles, they plan the sessions around my gymnastics training and keep on top of my nutrition and general well being. I really feel like they have my best interest at heart and it fills me with confidence.

3 more weeks of hard work! Let’s do this!

 

 

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Perfecting The Squat

26 Sep

I always thought I had the whole squatting thing nailed. It’s easy, just bend your knees, sit back and then stand up again. Turns out there is a whole lot more to it that makes it a much more complicated, but more exciting movement.

When I had my first leg session with Jordan Lue at The lomax (www.lomaxpt.com) he very quickly noted a few things about my squat that were hindering my progress. He has since stripped my squat right back to basics, tweaked it and we are now building it back up again. It’s so interesting to see the difference it has made.

THE TUCK

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Jordan wasn’t the first person that noticed this, but he was the first person to really address it and help me change it. Due to my flexibility, I am able to squat quite low but as I pass a certain point my glutes and lower back disengage and as a result I was experiencing a “tuck“.

You can see in this picture that not only is there a posterior tuck in my lower back, but my knees are too far forward. This may not cause problems now but it certainly will when I start to lift heavier weights. It will put a lot of unnecessary pressure on the knees and make it much easier to sustain an injury.

It is important to correct and perfect the technique before starting to add weight and developing bad habits like I had done over the years. So we got to work in correcting it.

 

THE SOLUTION 

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The first thing we did was make sure to activate my glutes. We used foam rollers and resistance bands to do this. The squat as a movement should recruit the quadriceps, hamstrings, erector spinae and the glutes. If one of them is not working, the others have to work harder and this leads to imbalances and injuries.

Jordan told me to really push my knees out from start to finish. I started with a wider stance, toes facing outwards slightly and aimed to push my knees out and over my toes. Immediately I could feel my glutes activating and helping me in the squat when I did this.

Next, we worked on decreasing my range and finding the point at which the tuck starts to reappear. Once we discovered where this was, I focused on squatting to this point. You can use a box to mark this out until you are fully comfortable that you know where it is.

 

Once Jordan was happy with my new squatting technique, we started building it back up again and I am loving seeing the improvement. I am now focusing on keeping the correct form as I increase the weight that I squat. Below I am squatting with a 60kg bar, which isn’t the heaviest I have done, however it is the best and I am happy with my posture here. You can see I am working on sitting back more so my knees don’t come too far forward and my knees are pushed right out. They are still not perfect, but they are getting there and are far better than they were!

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Can’t Stop Now!

12 Sep

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7 weeks to go!

Compared to last week, this week has been incredibly frustrating in terms of progress. I was struck down with a horrible cold over the weekend which quickly turned into a nasty fever and then some sort of gastro bug. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling very well at all and had zero energy most of the time. This didn’t mean calling in sick to Lomax and calling it quits for the week, all it meant was adjusting the program to make it work. The guys at Lomax were so fantastic and accommodating, they made sure I didn’t over do it but at the same time kept on with the program that they had planned for me.

First up I had a legs session with the lovely Jordan Lue. He knew that I wasn’t well but instead of veering away from the squats, he just took the weight down and we focused on getting as much power into them as possible. We did them in sets of 3, with a very slow (and agonising) decent followed by a sharp acceleration up again. He came up with a few short circuits to incorporate my hamstrings and core into the session. The techniques he has been teaching me are definitely helping, and this is clear because my back hasn’t been sore once this week which compared to last week is a huge improvement. My glutes and hamstrings are finally doing some work it seems!!

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The cardio session is the one I was dreading this week, as I was sure I wouldn’t be able to do it feeling the way I was, but again Olu made sure the intensity was right for me on the day and I got through the session no problem. He created two circuits with a variety of exercises involving all parts of the body… burpee chin ups, dumbbell lunges,cable twists to name a few. He even had me doing some sort of breakdancing move towards the end which was exhausting but a lot of fun!

My last session of the week was olympic lifting with Danny Osborne. We quickly went from 20kg to 40kg with the cleans and I am getting more and more confident with the technique as the weeks go by. This confidence was shot down slightly today, when I managed to hit myself in the chin with the 40kg bar pretty hard on the way up,  so I will definitely remember to move my head out of the way from now on! I did however, improved on my PB from last week and did a couple of cleans at 50kg, with the help of Danny spotting me. I’m not sure I have mastered the 50kg but it’s a start! He then added in some deadlifts (70kg), standing high jumps and box jumps just to mix things up and promote the power aspect of my training. Great session!

Gymnastics training this week consisted of beam work, handstand training and flexibility. I noticed a huge improvement in my leaps and jumps on beam simply because I am now jumping higher, giving me more time to spot my landing, and hopefully stick it!! Very pleased!

 

So, what could have been a disaster of a week turned out to be less of one. I hope I don’t feel as unwell as that again any time soon but at least I know that if I can get through training on a bad week, I can certainly get through it on a good week and I will be ready to see what the lovely Lomax trainers throw at me next week! 

PROGRESS

5 Sep

What a good week!!

Last week I was in Cornwall, and even though I made sure I kept up the fitness side of things with the gruelling workouts Jonny and Olu planned for me on the sandy beach, I would be lying if I said  that the holiday food didn’t find it’s way to me! I was not too hard on myself because a holiday is a holiday, but I did prepare myself to really work when I returned to London.

This week it was straight back to the program and there was definitely no mercy to be had!! Monday was a lifting session with Jonny at The Lomax. I did this entire session with no shoes on so I could feel the floor properly and concentrate on where my weight should be. We worked up from a 50kg back squat to 70kg, which was my previous PB. Just as I was feeling very smug and pleased with myself, Jonny decides to add on more weight taking the total bar weight up to 80kg! My heart was racing at the thought of it and if I am completely honest, I instantly lost my confidence and didn’t believe I could do it. Jonny assured me I could and he promised me he would be there 100% of the way to help me. He was, and I managed to get 4 reps done, an extremely shaky 4 reps but 4 reps nonetheless! So, even though I could barely put my shoes back on after this session because my legs were so weak, I left feeling very pleased that I had progressed my squat PB from 70kg to 80kg (just about!)

Wednesday was a rigorous cardio workout with Olu. He came up with some weird and wacky exercises such as combining reptile crawls with extreme bunny hops across the gym floor. Whatever we did, it racked up a whopping 700kcals in one single hour so it must have been worth it and hopefully helping to build up some stamina.

My 3rd olympic lifting session showed some progress as I started off prepping for my power cleans with the weight I had used initially and it practically flew to the ceiling. Very quickly Olu loaded up the bar to 40kg and this did feel really heavy to me. It took some getting used to, but by the end of the session I could do a few full cleans. I still need to be much more aggressive in using my hips and arms but I can definitely feel a difference in my strength and technique. See the picture below for a comparison in technique from 3 weeks ago to now. Notice the extra hip movements…

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Gymnastics this week is where I really started to notice my progress. My coach was very pleased with my new found power and he said it was clearly making a difference to my technique in my tumbles and vault which is exactly what I wanted. Clearly all this hard work in the gym with the lifting is paying off!

Still a lot of work to get done over the next two months but I am getting there and it’s always nice to see some progress and get a boost in motivation! Big thank you to all the people helping me along the way!

 

It is always nice finishing the week with a good session, leaving with confidence and satisfaction. Now for a weekend of stretching and lots of rest!

 

10 Weeks til I Flip

22 Aug

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I have come to the end of my second full week of training and I’m loving it. I have experienced a few hurdles that have knocked my confidence this week, but I have managed to turn it around with the help of a few encouraging words here and there, and knowing I have the support of a fantastic team behind me helps a lot. Positive thinking and sheer determination is what is going to get me to the end, so head up and lets carry on!!

This week I have trained three times at The Lomax (www.lomaxpt.com), with three different trainers, each pushing me in a different way. I have had one core & endurance session, and two strength & power sessions. I did some very light cardio and stretching on my day off and finished the week with an exhausting gymnastics training session.

My strength session this week taught me a hell of a lot. I had the extremely talented Jordan Lue on my case and i thoroughly enjoyed our session. He is passionate about performance enhancement which is perfect for me. He watched my squat and discovered that due to my large range of motion, my hips and back were losing form as I reached the floor, and my glutes were disengaging therefore putting heaps of pressure on my already weak lower back. He assessed where my form was lost and had me do numerous sets to that point, making sure I pushed my knees out as far as possible both on the way down and up. Once he was happy that I was maintaining correct form, I was able to start squatting lower again and sure enough, if I did what he said and pushed my knees out and hips back, I was performing them with the correct form!

Sometimes it takes a new person to look at your posture and technique for them to pick up on something that no one else has. I think this will really help me as I go forward with training.

In gymnastics it is extremely important to be powerful in executing your skills to give you enough height to perform the entire movement correctly. I have been focusing on the power aspect of training in my olympic lifting sessions, focusing on a slow decent before coming up as fast as I can. Through engaging my core and glutes, and pressing my feet hard into the ground, I am able to do this without losing form which is important for injury prevention. It’s taking me a while to get the whole movement pattern correct but I am getting closer and closer with each session. With Olu Adepitan, olympic lifting legend, I have been working on getting the technique right for a ‘clean’ using a barbell starting at 20kg working my way up to 35kg so far. I am feeling more and more confident with this now as I progress through the stages. He is sure this is still too light for me and threatening to increase the weight next time, so I am sure this confidence will be short lived!!

Gymnastics training this week has involved plyometric work, with lots of jumping and quick explosive movements preparing for events such as vault and floor. I have been trying out some new skills to add to my routines, hoping to increase my difficulty score overall. We are still in the trial and error stage with choosing the skills to compete, with hopefully not too much error going on. It won’t be until closer to the competition that routines will start going together, for now it’s about learning and perfecting each individual skill in isolation, slowly building up the connections.

Next week I am taking an annual trip to cornwall for a week of surfing. I was initially looking forward to a week off but I soon realised that there is no point in taking a big step backwards when we only have 10 weeks to go. Johnny and Olu have put together a list of gruelling exercises to do whilst I am there so watch this space for sand sprints and other fun things I will be doing.

Engage Your Core

20 Aug

Screen-shot-2013-06-05-at-7.58.43-PM-474x220Some of the most frequent questions I get asked as a personal trainer, and I’m sure it’s the same for other trainers is “How do I get a flat stomach?” and “If I do sit ups every day will I get a six pack?”

The answer to the last question is no, not necessarily. Unfortunately we can’t spot reduce fat, and that is what is covering that mysterious six pack of yours. We can’t do exercises that target weight loss from a particular part of our body sadly. This would make life far too easy.

The answer is to learn how to engage the core in every exercise you do. There are many reasons you should aim for this. The first being that it will stabilise any other movements you are doing whilst ensuring proper posture, it will improve any lower back pain almost immediately and your core will get stronger and more reliable once you start learning to work with it not against it.

The core muscles will become stronger and work harder, the longer they are held under tension for. For example doing one minute of sit ups as fast as you can will only engage the core for about half of that time, because much of that minute it isn’t being used and momentum is doing the job for you. If you were to perform an exercise such as walking lunges with a lateral rotation, engaging in the core all the way through the motions, there is nothing to say that the core won’t work for the entirety of the movement. This could be 2 minutes non stop. Without engaging the core for exercises requiring rotation, you will find that your balance is off and you struggle to complete the set in control.

How do I engage my core?

220px-PostureFoundationGarments04fig1So often it’s because people rush and forget about their core that it is not engaged. Stop and think before performing any exercise. You must make sure you are starting in the right position, with the right posture first.

What you need to do is pull your core in and up, aiming to straighten out your spine. (imagine trying to do up a tight pair of jeans) To help with this, you must try and tilt your pelvis into a neutral position to minimise the curve in your lower back. This pelvic tilt is shown in the picture on the left. You can see that immediately she stands taller, with her stomach pulled in. The figure shows a neutral line from the head all the way down the body which cannot be achieved had she left her head hanging down. All of these points need to work together to engage the core. This same shape applies in the horizontal position for plank and other similar exercises.

 

If you can do this before each exercise, you will find your core will work much harder than it ever has before and there is no need to waste your time doing hundreds of sit ups and crunches. Lunges, squats, mountain climbers, kettlebell swings, shoulder press… all these movements will work your core IF you do them properly!

 

Before you start any exercise, stop and think about your posture. Don’t rush, look in the mirror and check your positioning is correct first.

Remember 3 things :

1. pull in CORE

2. tilt PELVIS

3. HEAD up

 

 

3 Months to Challenge Myself

13 Aug

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I am always telling my clients that they shouldn’t ever get too comfortable in their exercise routine. First of all, your body is far too clever at adapting which will lead to a plateau in results but equally importantly, it will get boring!!

I have decided to walk the walk and take on a challenge of my own to see what my body can achieve when it’s pushed. I had an operation earlier this year and what was meant to be one month off exercise quickly turned into a few months and I found myself losing confidence, and strength. I have taken on the challenge of competing in a British Gymnastics competition in November and in order to build up my strength, power and stamina I have enlisted the help of strength and conditioning experts Jonathan Lomax and Olu Adepitan from The Lomax Way in Chelsea.

When Johnny first expressed interest in helping me, his plans filled me with fear. Talks of olympic lifting, increasing my calories to 3000 calories a day minimum… not what I had in mind! I just kept imagining a fat lumpy gymnast in a leotard so thought I would nod along but tackle the calorie issue with him another day!

The next time I walked into the gym was for my testing session. The session was aimed at seeing my level of strength and whether I had any technique whatsoever for them to work with. Watching Johnny add weight after weight onto the bar was worrying me, but thankfully I didn’t fall when it was put on my shoulders. I was pleasantly surprised that just by having Johnny standing there I was able to push myself further than I ever thought.

The next hurdle to overcome was the words “olympic lifting” – with the word olympic there it sounds so out of reach and scary. I was excited though because I was told that Olu is some sort of Olympic lifting expert. We worked through some movements and the fear went away. Soon enough, he was adding on weight to the bar and here is where the challenges arrived. It’s safe to say that I have a lot of work to do regarding getting the techniques perfect but I really enjoyed my first session and can’t wait to see what I will be able to do in the coming weeks.

On top of my first few sessions with these two crazy trainers, I have also been focusing on training up some new skills in gymnastics so my body is calling for a rest. I have added in a few rest days into my week, involving a lot of stretching to maintain my flexibility for the sport, and mobility work to keep my body functioning properly and avoiding injury. Oh, and as for the calorie issue I quickly realised what he had meant, I have been continuously hungry since starting this new type of training and it is very clear that I need the extra calories to cope with it. I have been eating more protein to keep me full of energy and keeping my diet as clean and whole as possible.

 

I am certainly looking forward to my rest days, but even more excited to keep learning and pushing myself.

 

Taking a Break from Routine

4 Jun

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People talk about routine, about finding a good routine and then sticking to it. Now, this can work for certain things and can actually help to keep you on track but it doesn’t mean that breaking away from the routine sometimes will ruin everything.

When it comes to exercise and especially beginners I always say they need to find a routine because it will make it easier to monitor what they’re doing. I set their routine and help them to monitor the intensity, for example they may have exercise sessions set on mondays, wednesdays and fridays with a structured nutrition plan. This way they can tick off the boxes each time they complete a workout or eat something and it is an effective way of staying on top of things.

There are a few ways in which routine doesn’t give the desired effects however…

Your body becomes used to the intensity and doing the same things week in week out. You will start to see a plateau or decrease in results and this means that something needs to change, whether that means the type of exercise, the intensity or even the amount you are doing.

– If you start to feel guilty for having to change the routine for something that has come up unexpectedly. The idea of creating a routine is to help you, not to force you into a rigid schedule and it is certainly not there for you to punish yourself mentally over not sticking to it once or twice. Be realistic, there are always going to be things that get in the way but all you must do is figure out a way to fit in your workout another time, its as simple as that!!

– When you have been pushing your body to it’s limits in order to achieve results sometimes it can get over worked and can become exhausted. This is very important to take note of and sometimes the best thing to do is to ignore your routine and give your body the rest it needs to come back fighting.

I have certainly found that when I take a break from exercise and focus on letting my body recover (stretching, yoga, sleeping), I come back with a remarkable amount of energy and actually it always does my body a whole lot of good. I am guilty of over working my body at times don’t get me wrong, but I can tell immediately that my body doesn’t react well to it.

Taking a break from your routine does not mean abandoning it altogether and pigging out on the sofa, but it means giving it a break from working so hard, fuelling it with clean and healthy foods, and preparing it for hard work again!

Ladies…Don’t run away from the weights!

31 May

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There are so many women out there that tell me that they want to avoid lifting weights because they don’t want to ‘bulk up’. This is a common worry and it is one that is extremely misunderstood.

Women do not naturally have as much testosterone as men, in fact they have about 90% less!! This means that they will find it very very difficult to get as big as men do. The ladies you see on magazine covers with extreme muscular figures will be increasing their testosterone with various supplements to help them. I’m afraid to say that it is not the excess muscle that makes a women look ‘bulky’, it is the excess body fat. 

Building muscle is essential to ‘toning up’ as it does exactly that. It give you that more defined look by developing the muscles underneath the skin (and fat) layers. You don’t need to be lifting the heaviest weights in the gym, but you should be challenging yourself and lifting a weight that produces muscle fatigue after 8 to 12 repetitions.

The good news about incorporating weight lifting into your workout is that the more muscle tissue you add to your body, the higher your basal metabolic rate will be (resting metabolism) and the more calories your body will burn even when you’re not exercising! This will help your body to get into a fat burning state far quicker than steady cardio for hours on end.

But what about cardio?

Lifting weights does not mean no cardio, in fact you can kill two birds with one stone if you keep your rest periods short and sweet allowing your heart rate to stay elevated in between sets. Be sure to give yourself enough rest to recover and prepare for the next set, but don’t let your heart rate drop too low. I wear a heart rate monitor when I exercise and it really helps me to see when my body is ready to go again!

If you enjoy your running and cycling then by all means continue with it, but replace a one or two sessions a week with weights and you will be sure to see some fantastic results.

Where do I start?

First of all, be sure not to jump into the heaviest weights straight away, it is far more important to master the technique with a slightly lighter weight than hurting yourself with the heavy ones.

It is useful to do the workout with a friend so you can watch each other’s posture but you can always ask a trainer in the gym to have a look and give you advice.

Look in the mirror when you lift weights. I know many of you don’t like all the mirrors in the gym, but they are very helpful when ensuring your are keeping the correct posture!

Get out of your comfort zone and start building some strength up with those weights. Incorporate a few weights sessions into your week and see the results you will get after a few weeks, you should be pleasantly surprised! It’s fun too!!

Of course I haven’t mentioned anything to do with diet and nutrition in this post but we all know that you can’t out train a bad diet. Eating healthily plays a huge role in fat burning and can help you to get the most out of your workouts as well, which is always helpful.

 

Eating for Two!

10 Apr

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“I’m pregnant now so I am eating for two!”

This is true, you are now eating for two but what people get confused with, is that you are not eating for two adults! You do not need to eat double your normal amount. Don’t forget, the baby starts off smaller than the size of a pea and only grows to around 6-10lbs before they are born so really don’t need much at all.

During the first and second trimester pregnant women are advised to eat no more than that of a non-pregnant woman. In the third trimester an extra 200 calories per day is all you need to support your growing baby. This is the equivalent of a small bowl of cereal, a banana or a pot of yogurt. The extra weight gain is not only a bore when you are trying to get back into your jeans, but it can cause all sorts of complications throughout your pregnancy and birth.

You will naturally gain weight throughout pregnancy due to your growing baby and your body accommodating him or her. The amount of weight you should gain depends on the weight you were before you became pregnant but an average weight gain is between 10kg – 12.5kg with the most weight being gained from 20 weeks onwards.

You do need to remember that whatever you eat goes to the baby too, so this is where you DO need to be “eating for two” and trying to keep your diet as healthy as possible for both of you. Keep your diet as fresh as you can with lots of fruit, vegetables and water to keep you hydrated at all times.

Enjoy your pregnancy, but just not too much!! Keep those treats as treats and fuel your body with things that will benefit you and the baby.