I'd like to thank you all so much for all your questions and general interest regarding all things fitness, my training schedule, nutritional advise and if I stick to any specific diet plans etc - I have tried to reply to as many of you individually as I can, but it's getting more and more difficult - so I'm going to try and put a few things you've asked about in this blog.
I'd like to state at this point that I do not consider myself a 'Fitness' or 'Personal. Training' expert as such- I'm just trying to share some of the things that have worked for me in response to your questions. My degree is in Sports Science and I do have my PT qualifications, but still - I don't feel I have ever really studied the latest innovations in training, so I repeat - these are just a couple of things that have worked for me. PT's feel free to jump in with any feedback!
At the start of the year I decided to mix a few things up in regards to my training. Im 36 years old now (how's that happened?), and if I'm honest with myself I could feel a few niggling injuries beginning to set in, lets face it, if I'd been a professional athlete, or a footballer, I'd be way past my best now, and more than likely a retired one. I had mild tendonitis in both of my forearms, and a really sore impingement of my rotator cuff in my left shoulder. Both of these injuries were aggravated whenever I tried to lift heavier weights, to the point that it was really beginning to affect any enjoyment I was getting from training. I had physio to try to counter the pain and although it helped initially, I found that after a heavy session or two I was quickly back to square one. I felt like I was slightly 'top heavy' particularly bearing in mind some of the more commercial photographic jobs I'd missed out on last year, and I wanted to feel more functionally fit, less 'slugish' and lighter on my feet.
The major thing I changed up in regards to training this year was to massively reduce the weight I was lifting, instead deciding to focus on the 'muscle time under tension' of each exercise I performed. After some research I found that this way of training can help to massively reduce the stress on ligaments, tendons and joints alike. I practically halved the weight I was lifting and instead performed an extremely slow 'negative' movement (when the target muscles are contracting eccentrically), followed by a slow half repetition, followed by a more explosive 'positive' movement (when the target muscles move concentrically). Put much more simply - when performing a simple Bench Press - when lowering the bar toward your chest do so in an overly controlled, slow mannor, dragging the movement out to about 8-10 seconds, followed by a slow half rep, before returning the bar more explosively to the starting position. Trust me, if you keep your technique as tight as possible, this is not easy - you will hit failure after 6-8 reps! I have kept this technique up across the majority of exercises I do in the gym be it Dead lifts, Squats, Lateral Pull Down's or Shoulder Presses. Try it and let me know what you think!
I always try to keep my gym sessions short and intense, in almost a HIIT format (High Intensity Interval Training) with limited recovery time. My sessions typically last no more than 45 mins to an hour, but I always feel like I've trained hard. In my opinion, if you are in the gym for two hours or more - you're doing something wrong.
I found that by starting to train this way my injuries have really started to ease, and I feel a lot more functionally fit. My heart rate is raised sufficiently during every session and I find it much more enjoyable than pounding a treadmill or bike.
The second biggest thing I've changed up this year was after venturing outside of my comfort zone and trying Yoga practices for the first time. I can honestly say I absolutely LOVE IT and look forward to every session. I do hot studio yoga two to three times per week, which is basically in a 35-40 degree heated studio, and I've found it has been amazing for my flexibility (which is an area of fitness most of us are guilty of neglecting), easing my injuries further, and it is improving my core strength massively. I challenge you to find your nearest studio and take on a 'Dynamic Vinyasa' class.... believe me, by the end you'll probably be totally re-assesing just how fit you thought you were! Its also fantastic for the mind and has helped me hugely in dealing with lifes everyday stresses.
Finally, in regards to nutrition it really is, for me, a case of 20% what you do in the gym, 80% what you do in the kitchen! I don't follow a diet plan as such or 'calorie count', however I am careful particularly at my age not to over eat complex carbohydrates - pasta, rice, cereal etc. I do think a lot of it is to do with genetics, but these things generally leave me feeling bloated and sluggish. Try substituting Noodles for 'Butternut squash Boodles', or spaghetti for 'Courgetti' just a couple of the 'low carb' alternatives I've found recently in all the supermarkets! (pictured). Ive also found Ive dropped some pounds in the last few weeks just by swapping a large bowl of porridge for a Nutra-bullet style shake every morning, which usually includes; spinach, broccoli, half an avocado, a handful of almonds, a spoonful of peanut butter, coconut water, cinnamon, and a scoop of protein powder - Nutramino obviously!
Like I wanted to state clearly at the beginning of the blog, these are just a couple of things I've changed this year that have worked for me. I'd love to hear your feedback and any areas you've tweaked or changed in your training or diet this year. Please comment below or on the instagram comments as usual.