Archive | December, 2012

Why Squat?

18 Dec

279082508128483684_ZRODg1rA_cPeople either love squats or they avoid them where possible. The fact is, avoiding them is not doing you any good. The squat is such a phenomenal exercise and can help you achieve so many things. Below are just a few of the benefits of the squat…

1. Builds muscle in your entire body

Squats obviously help build muscle in the legs from quadriceps to calves and everything inbetween, but it also helps to strengthen the core, back and glutes as well. In fact, when done properly, squats are so intense that they trigger the release of testosterone and human growth hormone in your body, which are vital for muscle growth and will also help to improve muscle mass when you train other areas of your body aside from your legs.

2. Functional exercise 

Functional exercises are those that use multiple areas of the body and mimic movements that occur in everyday life. For example if you are unable to do a squat in the gym, how are you supposed to do one to pick up something heavy off the floor?

It helps strengthen all the muscles that will help you do everyday activities and also promote balance and mobility.

3. Burn more fat

One of the most efficient ways to burn fat is to gain more muscle. For every pound of extra muscle you gain, the body will burn around 50-70 calories per day!! So if you gained an extra 10pounds of muscle, you could be burning 500-700 calories more more than you did before!!

4. Maintain Mobility and Balance

Strong legs are crucial for staying mobile as you get older, and squats are phenomenal for increasing leg strength. They also work out your core, stabilizing muscles, which will help you to maintain balance, while also improving the communication between your brain and your muscle groups, which helps prevent falls – which is incidentally the best way to prevent bone fractures versus consuming mega-dose calcium supplements and bone drugs.

5. Boost Your Sports Performance

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a parent who chases after a toddler, you’ll be wanting to improve your strength and mobility. Specifically, squatting helped athletes run faster and jump higher, which is why this exercise is part of virtually every professional athlete’s training program.

Not all squats need to be done at a squat rack with a heavy barbell. This can be intimidating in a gym, especially for many women so below I have suggested a few ways to make squats a bit more fun and appealing…

  • DSC_0138Hold a medicine ball to add some weight to your squat and make your body work harder
  • Bulgarian split squat – Stand with one leg up on a bench and squat down taking care with your balance. Go slow!
  • Jump! Perform this squat with small weights or no weights to start off with and use the power in your legs to jump as high as possible!
  • Twisting squat – use any movement you like to put your squat slightly off balance. This will work
    the core harder.

These are just a few ideas but for more information click on this link for more in depth explanations

Have a go at incorporating squats into your workout  and if you already do, then try doing them a different way to spice up your workout and make your body work even harder!!

My first Hot Yoga experience

5 Dec


Recently, I have been persuaded to try “hot yoga” similar to the well known yoga “Bikram”. The reason I say I was persuaded is because I was convinced it was going to be a swelteringly hot room full of people fainting and this did not appeal to me at all! I am also the kind of person who if I decide to exercise I was it to be fast and energetic, so yoga has never been something I thought I’d try. I have heard so many people say they love the benefits they feel from doing hot yoga so I had to see what all the fuss was about.

I went to The Yoga Haven in Clapham Old Town (Wingate Square) to sign up for the introductory deal that they have on offer. This gives me 20 days of unlimited yoga classes for just £25! There was absolutely no excuse not to give it a go. Here is my honest description of my first class there…

I went with a friend which was great as we both had the same urge to try it, but a fear of the unknown. We got ready in the silent changing room where I can only imagine that everyone was mentally preparing themselves for the hour ahead. We filled up our water bottles and made our way to the studio, frantically grabbing our last breaths of the cool air before we walked in. There was an immediate rush of heat as we entered but not as hot as I had imagined. We found a space, making sure not to be under an air vent like the receptionist had advised us, and we lay down on our mats like everyone else was doing. They all seemed to be breathing in a heavy and rhythmic way, so we started to join in with the occasional glance at each other with the look of “what have we let ourselves in for?!”

The teacher came in and calmly introduced himself and said that if at any time we felt like it was too tough we should lie down rather than leave the room. We then started straight away with some easy breathing patterns slowly moving different body parts to stretch them. From the moment we started moving the sweating started, I started to feel noticeably warmer and I couldn’t help but think how on earth I was going to get through an hour of this!

The poses started getting a little more difficult and I found that the ones I can hold perfectly still usually, were becoming more difficult with the intense heat. My balance wasn’t nearly as good as it is normally, but I was enjoyed the challenge and found myself focusing really hard on each pose.

One thing I found to be a challenge was that there was no clock in the studio, and because you focus so intensely on each movement, you become unaware of time and when you begin to get tired and overheated, you have no idea whether you are only half way through or nearly at the end! As a personal trainer I am used to counting every second of every exercise so this was new to me!

Towards the end of the hour, the breaks between the poses started to become shorter and I found my heart rate and body heat increasing lots more. This is where I finally understood why everyone had been breathing in such a rhythm. It is very common to hold your breath when you’re concentrating on holding a position, but as i started to join in with the breathing patterns I found it much easier to flow from one pose to the next.

We did a lovely set of relaxation exercises lying down on the mat right at the end which I really appreciated because I felt my heart rate slow back down again and my body start to cool off a bit.

As the class ended and we all walked out of the room, the cold air hit us and I felt a mixture of relief and accomplishment. I was relieved that I finally had something other that hot air to breathe in but I was so happy that I had made it through the whole hour without fainting or any of the horrific things I had previously associated with hot yoga. I couldn’t believe my body was able to sweat that much in an hour, my face was less than desirable to look at, but we had enjoyed the class and had huge smiles on our faces as we showered and prepared for the cold walk home.

The rest of the evening left me feeling so clean and energised, it was such a great feeling. I have since been back for 3 more classes and continue to enjoy the challenge. I am feeling more and more confident with the poses that I have learned and continue to feel great after classes. The staff at yoga haven are so friendly, I would recommend trying out their introductory pass to anyone!