Tight Hip Flexors

1 Apr

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Many runners will be aware of their hip flexors and either already know the importance of looking after them, or should know it! The weather is getting nicer now, marathons and half marathons are getting closer and lots of you are running and exercising more now. I have received a few queries about how to get rid of hip flexor pain so I thought I would explain about the hip flexors in a very simple way, without any scientific jargon.

Hip flexors are mainly responsible for bringing the thigh up towards the stomach area. When the hip flexors are tight, it can cause an exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt which sees a person sticking their bottom out and therefore changing their posture. As you can probably guess, this will put a lot more pressure on the lower back and can cause great pain if left alone.

One of the most common contributing factors to hip flexor tightness is that the gluteal muscles are not strong enough. Many people find that their ‘glutes’ do not activate when needed to and as a result, the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves are called upon to help. Doing exercises that isolate the glutes before starting your exercise can activate them so that they are awake and ready to work with you throughout the session. Some examples could be hip bridges, lateral band walks, lateral leg lifts, superman holds. (please contact me if you need any of these explaining)

Stretching the tight hip flexors is a must as well and will quickly reduce the pain you are experiencing. There are so many you could do but the 3 below are the ones I believe to be the most effective and I also incorporate these into every single exercise session I do. Be patient to start with as they can be quite painful due to your tightness, but as they start to loosen up they will become easier and you will notice the difference in mobility and flexibility. Stick with them, they became tight over time so it may take time for you to be getting no pain at all but leave enough time before and after your run to work on activating the glutes and stretching the hip flexors and you will thank yourself later.

 

MY TOP 3 HIP FLEXOR STRETCHES

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Lie on the edge of a surface high enough that it allows the leg to hang off it. Relax the hanging leg whilst bring the opposite knee tight into your chest. Hold it for 10 seconds before changing legs. Repeat this 4 times on each leg.

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Hold onto something for balance if you need to with this one. Grab your foot and pull it towards your body, whilst leaning forward over your front foot. Hold it for 20 seconds on each leg.

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Place your knee further behind you than in the previous exercise. Lean your body over the front knee and place your hands on your hips, giving them the extra pressure to really feel the stretch. Do not bounce, stay as still as you can and hold for 20 seconds on each leg.

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Listen to Your Body

17 Mar

 

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REST

Do you ever get those days where you just can’t find the energy to go to the gym or on a run? Of course you do, it’s only natural. Some of us get that more than others, and I’m not saying that every time you feel tired you should rest but sometimes it can be our bodies telling us it would benefit more from rest than from pushing it further. I have often taken some time out from my exercise regime whether it has been a day or a week, I always come back feeling better and surprise myself with what I can do when I return to the gym!

If you have recently embarked on a fitness regime and feel really motivated to achieve your goals, you must make sure that you factor in rest days. A rest day does not mean sitting at home on the sofa eating piles of rubbish. It is simply a day where you give your body a rest from the hard work it’s been doing. It could mean going for a nice long walk instead of lifting weights or doing sprint intervals in the gym. Rest doesn’t necessarily mean stop moving, it just means allowing for recovery.

INJURIES

Listening to your body applies to injuries as well. Whether you have got an injury, recovered from one or just don’t want one you must be aware of what your body is trying to tell you. Recovering from an injury can take a long time, especially if you rush the process. Take the time to strengthen up the muscles surrounding the injury, improving mobility and hopefully prevent it from happening again.

If you are seeing a physio, listen carefully to what they are telling you and take home that list of exercises they give you and do them religiously. I have heard so many people say they were given a list of exercises to do but didn’t have the time to do them. It’s a total waste of money to go to a physio and then not do the homework they have set you. If you do what they tell you to, your recovery will be much quicker! 

For old injuries, just be aware of any niggles or pains that you feel creeping back and nip them in the bud before they develop into anything worse. Either revert back to your rehab exercises, ease off on the heavy weights and certain exercises or seek advice from a qualified person whether that’s a doctor or physio. Listen to your body when it’s telling you there is something wrong, do not mask the pain with painkillers and carry on as it’ll only get worse.

If you are injury free that is fantastic but be aware of any new niggles or pains you come across and just monitor them carefully to avoid them developing into something worse!

This post is not meant to make you push yourself any less when in the gym, just be aware of what you body is telling you and if it can’t cope with the work you are asking it to do, maybe it just needs a bit of down time. Consider it time to focus on the diet and getting enough sleep before you head back in the gym. It may even help you break through those plateaus and get you closer to your goals, you never know!!

Alcohol and Drugs During Pregnancy

20 Feb

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ALCOHOL

Putting it simply, anything that goes in your mouth goes straight into your blood stream and is passed through the placenta and into your baby! When you think about it like that, it’s like feeding your baby a cider or glass of wine, and that doesn’t sound so sensible does it?

Your baby’s liver is one of the last organs to develop and even then it does not fully mature until very late into the pregnancy so your baby can’t process alcohol like you can, and too much exposure to it can seriously harm their development. It is even suggested to limit your alcohol intake before your become pregnant to get it out of your system as much as possible. It can help conception too.

During your pregnancy, it is advised by the NHS to limit your intake to less than 2 units of alcohol per week if any at all. 2 units is equal to a pint of beer or 1 standard size glass of wine. It is absolutely imperative to avoid getting drunk. Getting drunk changes the way you think, you may do things you wouldn’t normally do which could harm the baby. Your vision may become distorted and your balance negatively effected giving you more chance of falling over and harming yourself and your baby.

If too much alcohol is consumed, the baby may face problems associated with FAS – foetal alcohol syndrome. Children with this syndrome can suffer from restricted growth, facial abnormalities, learning and behavioural disorders.

Some tips to avoiding the alcohol 

  • Finding a non alcoholic drink you really like and can drink while your friends are having alcohol.
  • Finding places to go with your friends/other half that don’t involve drinking but you can still have fun.
  • Carry a picture of your scan in your bag when you go out to remind yourself why you are doing this when temptation starts to creep in.

DRUGS

Illegal drugs such as cannabis, ecstacy, cocaine and heroin can have very harmful effects on your unborn child. If you currently use them you need to seek advice on the best way to stop using them. Depending on the frequency of use, it can also be just as harmful to stop abruptly as the withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous too. Talk to a doctor or relevant health professional about the best plan of action for you. Don’t feel embarrassed to tell your doctor about your drug habits, they won’t judge you as they want to help you and this is the time to get it sorted if any. Don’t leave it a second longer.

Some legal medication can be harmful to your baby too and this can include some standard painkillers so it is important you are aware of what you are allowed to take during this time. If you have a long term condition such as underactive thyroid, diabetes, asthma etc just check with your doctor that what you are taking is safe during your pregnancy. The medication to treat these long term conditions can often be fine but it is better to check anyway.

Some medication that IS safe to take during your pregnancy 

  • Paracetemol
  • Most antibiotics
  • Dental treatment
  • Local anaesthetics
  • Some types of vaccinations e.g flu and tetanus
  • Nicotine replacement therapy

The trick is to always ask your doctor if you are unsure. They are more than happy to advise you on your health and I’m sure you would prefer to pester your doctor than to discover that you’ve been taking something you should have been late into your pregnancy!

Foods to Avoid During Pregnancy and Why!

18 Feb

 

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There are so many things to think about when you’re pregnant. Your life has to change and depending on your previous lifestyle, it can feel like quite a dramatic change. Most people know the obvious thing to stop … drinking, but there are many more things you ought to avoid that you may not have known about.

  • Pate – high  in  potentially  toxic  Vitamin  A  and  may  contain  Listeria. Listeria is a bacteria found in soil, water and some animals including poultry. Listeria is killed when cooked and pasteurised.  Pregnant women are 20 times more likely to get listeriosis so it is best avoided for the duration of the pregnancy.
  • Raw  or  partially  cooked  eggs – risk  of  Salmonella  poisoning.
  • Raw  or  undercooked  meat  and  fish – risk  of  food  poisoning  bacteria  and  parasitic  infection  ie.,  TOXOPLASMOSIS  which  may  damage  the  retina  of  the   eye.    Toxoplasmosis  parasites  can  also  be  transferred  through  cat  faeces  and   via  garden  soil.
  • Liver  products – contain  high  levels  of  vitamin  A  toxic  to  a  developing   foetus.
  • Some  types  of  fish – avoid  shark,  swordfish  and  marlin  or  any  others  with   potentially  high  Mercury  content.      High  levels  of  Mercury  found  in  these  fish   may  affect  the  developing  nervous  system  of  the  foetus.
  • Raw  shellfish – risk  of  food  poisoning.
  • Alcohol – deemed  as  toxic  to  a  developing  foetus. (More info coming in next blog post about this)
  • Caffeine – deemed  as  toxic  to  a  developing  foetus. Try to limit your intake to under 200mg a day which is equal to 2 cups of coffee.
  • Peanuts  and  peanut  products – a  family  history  of  nut  allergy  or  other  allergic  reactions  such  as  hay  fever,  asthma  and  eczema  may  place  an  unborn  baby  in  a  higher  risk  group  for  developing  a  peanut  allergy  later  in  life.
  • Soft  and  ripened  cheeses  such  as  Camembert  and  blue  vein  cheeses. This is for the same reason as pate… listeria and risk of listeriosis! Soft cheeses are an ideal environment for bacteria with  more moisture so stick to your hard cheeses during pregnancy!

 

All these foods are easily avoided but in the first trimester when it may not be common knowledge to everyone that you’re expecting, others will not be aware that you can’t eat certain things so keep your wits about you and make good decisions!

Eating Right Before & After Exercise

11 Feb

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There are so many people that simply cannot understand why they are not getting the desired results even though they are exercising like mad and pushing their bodies to the limit in the gym!! One of the main mistakes made is that lots of us don’t fuel our bodies with enough energy to withstand these gruelling exercise sessions. Our body is too clever for us, and if it feels like it is running out of energy it will do it’s best to conserve what it can. This means that the exercise you are doing is pretty useless as you are working against your body to burn off energy!

The idea that eating as little as possible and exercising as much as possible is not helpful when trying to better your body! It simply won’t work long term.

BEFORE WORKOUT

If you starve your body of sufficient fuel before you exercise, your body will run out of fuel. When this happens, it will go to the muscles to find protein instead of the kidneys or liver where is would normally go. This will ultimately decrease your metabolism actually making it more difficult to lose weight at all!

The best thing to eat before a workout is a combination of complex carbohydrates and protein. Below are some examples…

  • small sweet potato & broccoli
  • banana & almond butter
  • apple & walnuts
  • hummus and multigrain crackers
  • brown rice & black beans

 

AFTER WORKOUT

During exercise, your body taps the fuel stored in your muscles known as glycogen for energy. After you’ve finished, your muscles are depleted of their glycogen stores. Eating something that combines protein and carbohydrates 30 minutes to an hour after your workout will refill energy stores, build and repair your muscles that were broken down, and help keep your metabolism burning strong for hours after you have finished exercising.

The sooner you start refueling, the better off you’ll be. Research shows that your body’s ablity to refill muscle stores decreases by 50% if you wait to eat even two hours after your workout compared to eating right away. Try to plan ahead and even bring your post workout snack to the gym to make things easier.

Here are some ideas…

  • Protein shake & banana
  • Peanut butter, rice cakes & banana
  • Hummous & rice cakes
  • Natural yogurt & fresh berries
  • Tuna & whole wheat bread
  • Turkey, cheese & apple slices

 

Try out some of the above snack ideas before and after exercising and see how you feel. Give your body the right fuel and see how much easier it is to achieve your goals in the gym!!

Water – Vital Component for Fat Loss!!

7 Feb

 

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We know water is good for us. It keeps us hydrated, helps digestion, warms us up and cools us down, but what is the deal when it comes to fat loss? Below are some of the reasons why water is absolutely essential when your ultimate goal is fat loss!

  • Your  body  is  composed  mostly  of  water,  65 – 75%! Water  is  required  for  EVERY  cellular  action  in  the  body. By  keeping  hydrated  you  provide  the  water  required  for  your  body  to   work  optimally  INCLUDING  BURNING  FAT.
  • Being  dehydrated  slows your bodily functions down and will  REDUCE  YOUR  CAPACITY  TO  BURN  FAT  AS  FUEL!  
  • Water  helps  to  DETOXIFY  your  system  and  should  be  considered  one  of  your  most  vital  supplements.
  • Water  will  also  help  any  substance  that  your  body  does  not  need to exit  safely  and  it  will  also  greatly  aid  in  transporting  the  necessary  nutrients  throughout  the  body.
  • How  much  should  you  drink?  For  most  people  getting  up  to  1.5  to  2  litres  a  day  is  pretty tough for most of us  but  that  is  your  ultimate  daily  goal.

So, what counts as water? … Pure, clean, simple water or herbal teas!

You cannot include water that you add squash to in your daily amount. These fruity syrups are very sugary and in an ideal world we should ignore them and just go for the pure water. If you find water boring to drink and feel that you need an extra taste, try squeezing a small amount of fresh lemon or lime into it to give it some flavour.

TOP  TIP:    Start  by  getting  a  re-­usable  1.5  litre  bottle  and  make  a  habit  of having  it  with  your  all  day  so  you  can  see  exactly  how  much  you  have  drunk. Aim  to  simply  finish  it  before  the  end  of  your  day,  EVERY  DAY!         

6 Myths explained about exercise during pregnancy!

5 Feb

 

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There is so much controversy surrounding whether you should exercise while you are pregnant, and if so what kind of exercises, with what kind of weights and for how long? Many people believe that it is dangerous to push yourself your body while pregnant whereas others hardly change a thing about their exercise regimes.

I am going to go through a couple of common myths and tell you a bit more about them and why they are myths and not truths.

MYTH #1. Exercising while you are pregnant takes nutrients from the baby!

Your baby will take what it needs from you regardless of whether you are exercising or not. The important thing is to remember to have enough calories to fuel you and the baby. Before you were pregnant, trying to lose weight and burning off more than you eat is all very well but that won’t cut it while you are making a baby. You need to feed your body with wholesome, healthy goodness for you and your baby. If you eat enough of the right things then exercising will not harm you or the baby one tiny bit.

 

MYTH #2. Running while pregnant is unsafe for the baby!

You can run throughout your pregnancy as long as you feel comfortable to do so. If you ran before you became pregnant then by all means keep it up. If you didn’t run much before hand, then of course you can run now but don’t over do it and push yourself too hard. Moderate pace, moderate exertion, listen to your body!

 

MYTH #3. If you didn’t exercise before you were pregnant, it is not safe to start now!

The only truth in this statement is that if you didn’t do it before you were pregnant, don’t jump straight into it at the highest intensity. You need to steadily work your way through certain exercises to make sure they are right for you and build up your stamina as any person would do, pregnant or not! Ask a fitness professional in your gym or consult a personal trainer for help and ideas on which exercises to start with.

 

MYTH #4. You must keep you heart rate at or below 140 beats per minute!

It is true that you don’t want your heart rate rising too high too quickly but this statement is in fact an old recommendation and in recent years it has changed from 140 bpm to “moderate”. What this means is that you should measure the level of intensity by listening to your own body. If you can talk that is great, if you can sing a song then you probably could push it a bit harder. If ever you are feeling uncomfortable then bring the intensity down or stop all together until you are feeling better.

 

MYTH #5. Lifting weights whilst you are pregnant is too stressful on the joints!

It is totally safe to lift weights whilst you are pregnant, there are just a few things you need to remember. Do not hold your breath when performing an exercise as this will play havoc with your blood pressure. Don’t push yourself until you are fatigued. Lift weights you feel comfortable lifting, this is not the time to be reaching your PB in weight lifting!! Another important thing to remember is that throughout your pregnancy your joints will become more flexible due to the hormone relaxin so be sure to stand in the correct positions before lifting any weights and watch that you don’t over extend at any joints.

 

MYTH #6. Doing sit ups while pregnant will squish the baby!

Your baby is pretty safe in your tummy so don’t worry about squishing them. in the first trimester especially, sit ups are absolutely fine and can be performed as normal but in the second and third trimesters it is advised to avoid lying flat on your back so sit ups become more difficult. There is also the added problem of a growing bump getting in the way. At this stage the core needs to be activated and strengthened in other ways such as planks, russian twist and other stabilising movements either on the floor, swiss ball or standing.

 

Combat the exercise boredom!

29 Jan

treadmill2-490x378I hear many people telling me they aim to exercise more often or for longer but they just find it so boring. I totally agree that exercise can be boring, but only if you let it. Leaving the house wanting to do a 40 minute run is a daunting task, the minutes will drag on and you’ll totally exhaust your mind of things to think about in order to distract yourself. 

SOLUTION – break it down to make it more interesting (and dare I say it… fun?!)

Instead of 20 minutes of continuous running, try doing 2 minutes slow jog, 2 minutes run and 1 minute as fast as you can! Repeat this 4 times and there you have your 20 minutes running! 

By breaking it down you are only counting down a few minutes at a time. This interval system can be used with any form of cardio whether on a machine, outside or even if a pool. Below is an example of each…

 

 

Running Outside – Using the lamp posts and markers. Jog for 3 lamposts, sprint for 1, walk for 1, repeat!

In the Gym – Using the cross trainer. 2 mins forwards, 2 mins backwards. Every 4 minutes put the resistance up a level or two. By the end you should be really puffing and panting trying to keep your legs moving as fast as they should. 

In the Pool – Using a float. 2 lengths front crawl, 2 legs breaststroke, 2 lengths just arms (float in between knees), 2 lengths just legs (arms on the float)

 

 

These are just examples so you can play about with them, keeping your body guessing with different intervals from time to time. Give it a go and I am confident that you will find it easier to exercise for longer without getting bored. 

STOPtober

30 Sep

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Tomorrow is the start of October! How quick has September whizzed by?! It seems like the summer is well behind us and we are preparing for the winter already.

What we must be careful of is letting our body think it’s winter and that it can hide under lots of layers and therefore that extra chocolate bar won’t hurt! If you keep yourself fit and healthy over the winter, that bikini body will be FAR easier to get back come spring!

This is why I am joining in with “Stoptober” starting tomorrow. You may have seen this promoted by the NHS to encourage people to stop smoking or drinking. Well we are going to expand that so that you can pic anything to give up over the course of the month. If you don’t feel like giving up smoking or drinking is much of a challenge for you, then try giving up chocolate or coffee or whatever you think will challenge you!

This challenge is YOUR challenge so you set the rules. Here are some examples of what my clients have set themselves….

– no cheese as a snack (only as part of a meal)
– no wine from monday to thursday
– no more than 1 coffee a day
– no eating whilst watching tv

These are just a few ideas to get the ball rolling but have a think today. What could you really do with less of in your day to day life? It’s only for a month, and if October goes by as quickly as september did then it really won’t feel long at all but if you can live without something (or less of it) for a month you will really start to notice the difference and may even decide to make it a permanent change.

We can motivate each other so let everyone know what you can get all the encouragement you need. Let me know what your challenge is, I’d love to hear about it and see how you get on!

GOOD LUCK EVERYONE! 

Keep your body guessing

17 Sep

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I absolutely love how many people I see running and cycling round the streets of London because it makes me happy to see people keeping active. Lots of people run as a part of a mixed exercise program but many people I speak to run or cycle as their only means of exercise.

There are lots of great things about running but there are not many great things about doing just one type of exercise all the time. Below is a quick explanation of why it is not a good idea to stick to the same type of exercise all the time!

– It becomes less and less effective. The body is very clever and quickly realises that you are going to do this activity regularly and it starts finding ways to conserve energy and therefore burns less energy as a result.

As an example, if you decided to run 10K 3 times a week, the first week or so you may find it exhausting and see some great changes in your body. As time goes by, you will start to find it easier due to your muscles becoming conditioned and stronger. Being easier, your body isn’t pushed as hard as it was originally. So where you may have been burning 600kcals, you may now be burning 400kcals.

– The body will be good at doing ONE thing. If your exercise each week is cycling to work everyday then all that will happen is that you get very good at cycling. The problem is that if you decide to do a boxercise class for example you will find that you are not as fit as you thought. Your body becomes conditioned to do things it regularly does, therefore to keep it guessing and working hard we need to mix it up and keep your exercise regime interesting with different activities.

 

Ways to try and spice up your exercise routine…

– Have a look at local exercise classes and sign up for a trial session. These can be dance classes such as zumba, aqua classes, outdoor bootcamps… there are so many to pick from!

– Ask one of the trainers in your gym for a new programme to give you more ideas.

– Have a look online for ideas of exercises

– Sign up to a challenge that you’ve never done whether it is swimming, climbing, running, cycling related… it’s meant to be a challenge so it will force you to train in a different way!

 

The more you keep your body guessing, the harder it will work and the better results you will see!