WHY I CAN’T WAIT FOR MY TRIATHLON TO BE OVER

This triathlon has been a long time coming, in fact it’s been in the works since I completed my very first sprint triathlon 3 years ago. I decided to sign up for it as my big challenge for 2015 because I like to have a new challenge every year. I mean, why not? Challenging yourself to the point of near exhaustion is fun right? Right…

Actually, it IS fun and actually, I’m really looking forward to the event in 10 days so that I can see how far I’ve come. I like to challenge myself because I like the feeling of achievement and triumph when I’ve silenced my own doubts.

At the same time I’m coming to realise that actually I don’t love doing triathlons. No, that’s not right. I love doing triathlons, I’m just not so keen on endurance training. There, I said it. I find it difficult to push myself, I find it boring and I miss doing cardio for fun.

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COOLING OFF WITH AQUAPHYSICAL

When the lovely Lucy and Rachel from the Privee Project invited me down to the launch of Aquaphysical on the hottest day in the UK for 9 years I jumped at the chance, obviously.

I mean, exercising on big inflatable boards in the Serpentine Lido with the potential for ‘accidentally’ falling into the refreshing water sounds pretty good right? Also, it gave me a good push to fit in a fartlek cycle training session (ie cycling through London from Hackney to Knightsbridge in rush hour. Shout out to the 2 taxis that nearly ended me. Nice one).

All I knew about Aquaphysical before the event was a few images on Instagram which showed what looked like floating mattresses in a swimming pool with people standing on top of them. When I turned up at the lido it was actually way cooler than that.

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HIIT vs LISS cardio

You might have seen a previous post that I did about the benefits of cardiovascular training which is a great place to start because anything that raises your heart rate is going to be beneficial to your cardiovascular system. 

There’s so much more to cardiovascular training however and I’m going to discuss the biggest 2 right here for you, you lucky people. 

You might have heard people talking about HIIT (high intensity interval training) but have you heard about LISS (low intensity steady state)? 

Chances are you might not have heard about it but you’ve more than likely done it before. When you’ve decided that the 3 doughnuts you’ve eaten today were a bit much and you’re going to go to the gym and jog on a treadmill? LISS. When you dare to bare your pale skin for a gentle session at the pool for the first time this year? LISS. When you decide that you’re going to be healthy and go for a long walk ending up in a not-so-healthy pub lunch? LISS. Basically, if you can hold a conversation whilst training, you’re doing LISS.

The benefits of this kind of training is that because you’re normally working at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate, you’re comfortably within the ‘fat-burning zone’ which means that you’re burning a higher percentage of fat within the energy that you’re using. 

Think of it like a cake. At this stage, the energy that you’re burning is the size of a cupcake (stick with me, don’t get distracted by the thought of cupcakes) and a majority of that is fat. 

LISS is therefore good for:

– Unfit or elderly people who want to lose weight but need a low-impact form of exercise to protect their bodies

– People who have the time to go out walking for a couple of hours or jog for an hour, it’s pretty time-consuming!

– Endurance athletes (marathon runners, triathletes etc.) who need to get their bodies used to working at low-intesity for long periods of time

– Anyone who wants to unplug for a while, force themselves to not look at a screen and enjoy the great outdoors

There’s one big flaw with LISS though. Whatever your goals are your body will need to keep adapting otherwise your progress will plateau. If you just do LISS you will reach that plateau quite quickly as the body finds it easy to adapt to and then gets very comfortable. 

Have you heard that story about the person who went to the gym 3 times a week, did the same workout each time including a 20 minute run on the treadmill and 15 minutes on the stationary bike? Do you remember when they stopped going after a few months because they stopped losing weight? They should have done some HIIT. 

Which bring us to HIIT (funnily enough). HIIT covers any kind of cardio exercise that combines periods of near-maximum work with periods of recovery. It can be applied to most forms of cardio including running, cycling, swimming, skipping, boxing etc. and includes things like tabata and circuit training. For example, you could warm up, then sprint for 30 seconds followed by a recovery period at a jog for 1 minute and then you could repeat that as many times as you like before you cool down/pass out.

HIIT will bring your heart rate up into the moderate/intense training zone meaning that you’ll be improving your aerobic fitness and overall performance. In these zones you’ll be burning a higher proportion of carbohydrates than fat but don’t be fooled, you’re still burning plenty of fat. 

Let’s go back to the cake idea (focus now…). With HIIT the cake is now Bruce Bogtrotter-sized (if you don’t get this reference then shame on you, go and read Matilda right now).

The amount of calories from burning carbohydrates and fat is much higher than what you’ll burn through LISS meaning that you’ll probably burn more fat overall. It’s a smaller percentage of the cake but the cake is so much bigger with HIIT. Makes sense? 

Here are some of the benefits of HIIT:

– Great for time-poor people, you can squeeze a brilliant workout into whatever time you have available, even as little as 7 minutes if necessary, and keep your heart rate up

– It keeps the body adapting because your heart rate is going up and down with periods of work and recovery and your body doesn’t know what’s coming next

– The ‘after burn’ effect or excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) from HIIT keeps your metabolism high after exercise meaning that you continue to burn calories when you’re lying in your post-gym bubble bath. Result

– HIIT allows you to keep any muscle mass (within reason) as it uses muscles to their maximum capacity, keeping them working. Think about a sprinter’s physique vs a marathon runner

– The explosive nature of HIIT will help you to increase the strength in your muscles which in turn could improve your endurance performance – a good point to remind endurance athletes of the importance of cross-training

It might seem like I’m leaning towards HIIT as the preferable form of cardio but actually, I believe that both LISS and HIIT have their roles in fitness depending on the individual and their goal. Ideally, a combination of both would help to improve overall cardiovascular fitness and health and to reach personal goals. 

Try including a few sprints next time you go running and reap the benefits! 

The Benefits of Cardio Training

Welcome to the 2nd in my series of demystifying exercise posts. This time I’m focusing on cardio, mostly because people say ‘I’ve eaten a pizza but it’s ok because I’m going for a jog later’. I hate to burst your bubble but it’s worth WAY more than just burning a few calories. 

When people talk about ‘cardio’ they basically mean anything that works your cardiovascular system (heart + lungs). You could argue that this includes just about everything that we do on a daily basis but I’m focusing on specific activities that we do to strengthen the cardiovascular system. 

I’m also lumping various cardio training systems together for this post, look out for future posts to delve deeper into specific systems (e.g. high intensity interval training (HIIT), low intensity steady state (LISS) etc.)

Here are my top reasons why you should be cardio training if you’re not already:

1) Weight control – Cardio training raises your heart rate significantly from resting which means that you will need to use energy to keep going. Once you have used the readily-available supplies of glucose within the muscles, your body will begin to burn fat throughout the session and for some time afterwards

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2) Increased body efficiency – Through consistent cardio training the body adapts to increase blood flow to muscles and remove waste (CO2 & lactic acid) more efficiently meaning that your endurance increases. You know that burning feeling that makes you stop? It will go away with commitment, I promise

3) Better heart health – One of the adaptations from cardio training is increased stroke volume in your heart i.e. your heart can pump more blood around your body with each beat. This can have the effect of lowering your resting heart rate and potentially decreasing your blood pressure, putting less strain on your heart

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FYI, there are battle ropes in there somewhere, I’m just making them move faster than the human eye (ok, faster than the shutter on my iPhone camera…)

4) Happy brain – As well as the release of endorphins that any exercise triggers in our brains, there is something about getting out and about and unplugging for a while. Whether you’re running, hiking, swimming, cycling, spinning, dancing or whatever form your cardio training is taking, use the opportunity to unplug from technology, chat with friends or just spend some time with your own thoughts 

5) Unclog those arteries – Cardio training can decrease levels of low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), the bad cholesterol whilst increasing levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), the good cholesterol. This is important as you age to keep your cholesterol within the healthy range

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So what are you waiting for?! Just get out there and raise your heart rate!

ClassPass Hits London

The lovely folks at ClassPass in the US have launched their service in the UK today, starting with London. Watch out, they’re about the revolutionise the way that we exercise… 

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So here’s the basics:

Concept – You pay a fee each month (like a gym membership) but you can go to unlimited classes at over 175 different studios that are signed up. You can go to up to 3 classes at each studio in the month but apart from that, there’s no limitations! You can even put your membership on hold for £19/month and still go to 1 class in that month.

Cost – £89 for one month (or £79 if you sign up now on the link below!), £69 for 3 months or £59 for 6 months, which is a TOTAL bargain if you really take advantage of all of the classes

Which studios are signed up – Psycle (spin), Triyoga (yoga), Boom Cycle (spin), Moreno Boxing (boxing), Frame (all sorts), TenPilates (Pilates) and LOADS more 

Where to sign up – http://classpass.com/buynow?utm_source=tpblog&utm_medium=affiliate&utm_campaign=lon&utm_content=5287

What I’ve signed up to (so far) – Boom Cycle, Moreno Boxing, Edge Cycle, Stretch London

If the brilliant launch event at Barry’s Bootcamp last night was anything to go by then ClassPass have got their stuff together and there’s going to be a whole lot of energy spent in London in the coming weeks! 

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Could you tell we were a little bit nervous about the prospect of a Barry’s class? 

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The view from treadmill 18. Oh god did I hate that treadmill after about 10 minutes… 

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But these incredibly tasty protein smoothies put the smiles right back on our sweaty faces.

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The best bit about ClassPass is being able to work out with your friends without the problems of guest passes to gyms or lack of funds. Just pay once and off you go! As much as you want!! 

Who’s with me? 

Disclaimer: I was given a free month’s membership to ClassPass but don’t worry, I’ll be signing up for a full membership as soon as it runs out,  these views are my own and I think it’s a great idea. Affiliate links included.

The power of alone time

While Simon (my fiancé) is in India for 2.5 weeks, I’ve had to fight the urge to book arrangements in for every night due to not wanting to be alone all of the time and not wanting to spend loads of money! 

So today I did something that I haven’t done in a couple of years by myself, I took myself off on my bike and had a cheap little adventure. 

I’ve lived very close to the Olympic Park for nearly 2 years now and can you believe it, I’ve never been! It’s an easy 5km cycle there which only took 15 minutes and then once you’re into the park there’s lots of wide and smooth cycle routes that take you around the whole area. 

My first triathlon is coming up in May so with that in mind I headed to the Aquatics Centre for a swim (cue swimming selfie…). 

It was busy in there but once you’re in the water there’s actually plenty of room for swimming! I swam sets of 250m for 1km, alternating breaststroke and freestyle trying to concentrate on my technique. For triathlons you really want to swim hard with the arms to save your legs for the cycling and running to come, so I focused on them. Jelly arms now… 

Afterwards I basked in a bit of February sun overlooking the canal and took some time just to relax and enjoy not having to rush anywhere. Also, hello Vitamin D top up!

I cycled the long route home through a very busy Victoria Park and I’ve spent the afternoon doing chores, writing up plans for a PT client and pampering myself. 

The point of this rather rambling post is to remind myself (and you) how important it is to do things for yourself every now and then. Our lives are always so busy and rushed, there’s never enough time for ANYTHING. So make time, indulge yourself in whatever it is you enjoy and luxuriate in the alone time. That’s all there is to it.