Romans Club Milano, an Innovative Wellness Concept

Had the pleasure of going to Milan for a long weekend in mid-January 2014 to attend a fitness convention held by the training system founded by Scott Sonnon and led in Europe by Alberto Galazzi (featured in Mens Health Italy last year).  However, I decided to make a long weekend of it and seeing as though the weather was likely to be miserable I needed some indoor activity to engage in.

Just so happens that I came across a place called Roman’s Club Milano on Instagram a few month ago.  This place is the most amazing little wellness clinic I have ever come across covering everything to enhance the health of body and mind.  Here you can have a workout, then go for a massage, get your hair done (maybe your nails and eyelashes too) then relax in the spa area for a steam, sauna (with a quick herbal tea break) then leave the place as good as new, feeling like a completely different person.

Antonio I believe runs the club and speaks very good English but I spoke to other personal trainers like Canadian-born Derek and Gianluca (my lookalike) and had some great chats, sharing ideas.

Italy is home to Tehnogym, one of the most established manufacturers of fitness equipment and with that inherent pioneering and innovative Italian mentality their latest inventions are designed to lead the culture and not just follow it.  Look at this example of an old technogym chest-pressing machine where you have little choice but to sit and little choice but to grab hold of the handle in a specific position.

oldkit

Now look at the new style machine where you now have the choice to stand in order to create more ground-engagement and more core-engagement.  You have the choice to slide the handles up and down so this helps create more ‘dynamic movement’.  No need for me to elaborate on that caption which seems to be the buzzword in the fitness culture at the moment.

newkit

Naturally, Romans Club is fully furnished with the latest technogym toys and I managed to play around with them.  Firstly I show you some different back-exercises going conventional, unilateral and even going across the body.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eD4g6bid8k4

Next, I demonstrate this new leg machine where I perform my favourite leg exercise the step-up.  Using resistance from a cable on the stepper means that my stability is constantly challenged throughout the movement especially when you only pull one side.  It also makes a difference if you pull the resistance with the hand closest to the front-leg or the opposite leg.  This exercise has great carry over to running I believe because in one single exercise you work on strength, stability, fluidity and posture.  Just see for yourself and you’ll know what I mean.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOhAuUGpSmM

Antonio was very welcoming and my time with him shows how fitness is not a chore or burden but a uniting force.  If you are in Milan for a weekend in the Summer or fashion week take a trip there and email them before going and you will get treated like a guest (just to clarify you will still have to pay a fee but that can be negotiated with Antonio).

Will leave you with some more images of this beautiful facility.  Ciao!!!

IMG_2345IMG_2342IMG_2343

Do we really lose weight through exercise?

Just to clarify and shock you even more, the answer is NO.

Don’t worry I was just as confused when I heard this being told to me; infuriated almost, using the old argument that ‘it worked for me’.  And as much as personal anecdotes are useful, in case you didn’t know it’s not science.  So why are we convinced that exercise leads to weight loss?  Well it’s quite hard to escape when that is how most fitness franchises and professionals promote their business.  In fact one marketing guru actually tells people to have a before and after shot as part of their main advert.

b4after

Let us now begin to tackle the above question by examining weight; when we step on the scales what are we actually being told, this number that becomes the maker and breaker of our daily happiness and focal topic of all our conversation.  What is actually being measured?  Enter Doctor Robert Lustig expert in childhood obesity whose lecture entitled ‘Sugar, The Bitter Truth’ went viral with millions of viewings.  He states that when we weigh ourselves we are measuring 4 components:

  1. Muscle
  2. Bone
  3. Subcutaneous fat (fat layered underneath skin)
  4. Visceral fat (inside the body around the organs)

And to prove he is not a fictional character here the link to the lecture.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceFyF9px20Y

In fact, did you know that you could even be a TOFI, Thin on the Outside and Fat in the Inside; enter professor Jimmy Bell, a professor in obesity and (I like to think) personal friend of mine.  Bell has found many people who are TOFIs and he discusses the concept in a 2006 Guardian article the link for which is below.

TOFI

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2006/dec/10/medicineandhealth.health

 

 

So what does exercise do?  Simply it increases muscle, yes immediately the hearts of some women are filled with trepidation, ‘I get more muscles?’  I don’t want to be muscley or ‘hench’!!! No silly, you don’t have to be working big superficial muscles like bodybuilders, you may be working your cardiac muscle through cardio, or your deep core muscles through yoga and pilates, even long kinetic chains of several muscles with functional and bodyweight movements.  But anyway, whatever the type of exercise you are not losing weight directly from exercising you are gaining muscle.  Hence you could be not be losing weight but losing body fat and looking better but the weight may not have decreased in the slightest.  Therefore, your first take home lesson from this post (if you made it this far) is don’t get too obsessed by the number on the scales.

 

And it is here that things start to become clear; introducing your new best friend, MITOCHONDRIA.  To be fair most of you have heard of these bad boys before, during biology lessons but for those of you that never took it past school level they are the power plants of cells and their role is to convert nutrients we eat into energy.  Hence, if you enhance your muscle, any type of muscle, you will not lose weight but you will increase your total number of mitochondria creating a pathway for the excess fat to be metabolised.  Everything clear?

mitochondria

 

Now you know this, it is easier to understand the type of exercise we need to be doing in order to lose body fat.  More importantly, what exercises are actually ineffective, pointless even.  In a nutshell, there needs to be a routine that you can stick to all year round which you can build on when you are making a drive, for the Summer for instance, or ease off from prior to Christmas.

The Department of health state that we should be getting at least 150 minutes exercise of moderate intensity per week which can be broken down into 4 40 minute workouts.  So that is your base to build on which you stick to even at Christmas time in my opinion, but at least at the beginning of year.  Many make the mistake of pushing too hard at the beginning of year.

Then there needs to be variety in your routine.  So with your 4 weekly workouts you will want

1 flexibility workout like yoga

1 weights workout like body pump or your own all-body routine

1 cardio workout like spinning

1 circuit workout like…oh yeah that’s right no one cares about circuits or they do versions which are too hardcore!!

This with a healthy meal plan is all you need to start with.  To monitor your progress by all means measure your weight, but also take photos to build a picture over time.  Circumference measurements around the arms and waists will also help you visualise your improvements.

I hope I have managed to clear up a few areas of confusion and all the best with reaching your goals for 2014.

FIBROBLASTER taking it beyond foam rolling

course

My latest attempt to educate myself stems from the knowledge that personal trainers need to be able to place themselves within that huge gap between conventional fitness and therapy.  That is why in 2012 I undertook a course in Swedish Massage not with the view of becoming a masseur but begin to develop a more intimate (watch it!!) connection with the human body.  I then began giving the odd massage to people even giving lower leg massages to existing clients.  My next step was to become more acquainted with the works of Thomas Myers, a bodywork professional (basically an advanced masseur) who championed the ‘It’s all connected’ model for human anatomy to the extent that he was even licensed to prove his theories using cadavers (that’s dead bodies to you and me).  I noticed from some of his DVDs that I could actually use my forearm as a foamroller.

But some of you may not even be familiar with foam rolling.  Well, a lot of gyms now contain these strange contraptions.

foamroller

 

It is basically another tool for self-administered massage.  You see, stretching is beginning to become a little last year.  Many are performing stretches but seeing no effect.  Worse than that some stretches are counterproductive as you get things like adaptive (unwanted) lengthening or damage to your joint capsule.  The problem may be knotting within your muscle fibres and fascia (connective tissue).  Or the muscles may have too much blood supply making them overactive.  Another theory I have heard is that the tissue quality is poor so you need to push fluid out of the cells and allow fresh fluid to come back, allowing more glide-and-slide and better quality tissue that can be lengthened properly.

Whatever the science this shit really works but there is a wrong way and a good way.  There is an effective method and one not so effective.  Luckily, there are tons of youtube videos you can watch on the subject and the safest resource is the one from Trigger Point seeing as though they make a lot of the products.

Diversifying into therapy-based training has led me to also learn some valuable lessons from physios, chiropractors and osteopaths.  And in November 2013 I attended the London School of Health and Fitness for a workshop in the use of Fibroblaster and the application of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage (IASTM).

The Roots

A lot of modern therapy techniques have traditional roots.  In this case we look at Gua Sha.  Again the science behind it will be varied but in between the skin and muscle you still have connective tissue some of it unwanted (scar tissue) some of it a little fucked up (adhesion) so this is yet another way (an underused method) to sort this out and improve your overall tissue quality and then your movement.  Google images of this look quite brutal but in reality not much scraping is needed and so just a little redness will occur.  This reappeared in a western contemporary form under the name Graston Technique.  This however uses ridiculously expensive tools in response to which a certain someone (Jacob Fey) made a tool that does the job of all of them and named it fibroblaster.  Learning how to use it is also cheaper because optimum health is the right of everyone and not the preserve of the elite.  (rant over).

Our instructor for the day was Erwin Benedict Valencia, founder of KinteqGlobal, an education company dedicated to spreading fitness related knowledge to the world.  Quite simply we scrape the surface of the skin which locates rough area above the muscle that may be restricting movement.  A little bit of this and bingo you have instant mobility.  We then follow up with some stretching and strengthening and as a result take a person closer to optimum health.

As bodywork professionals that have dealt with and inspected the movement of countless people we end up knowing which areas are more in need of treatment like the IT band on the legs and pronator on the arm (causes the arms to be turned in at rest) so we know exactly what to hit and how.

So for folks that are aiming to improve their movement and pain-free health it’s worth getting some treatment in this area.  Someone like myself can easily see where you would need it most.

For professionals in therapy and fitness this is a great (and important) accompaniment to your existing practice.

The course is hosted by the London School of Health and Fitness so contact them if you are interested in learning this sub-discipline…my belief is that it is well worth it.

GEEK ALERT

So I put this technique to the test to see if we can get an instant impact from using the fibroblaster.  I used the pressure plate at a VIVOBAREFOOT store (thanks guys) and it showed how in my right foot a lot of pressure is being pushed to the outside.  I began to scrape my front calf muscle (tibialis anterior) and stood on the pressure plate. The result spoke for itself…my distribution of pressure becomes more centred. This means that I can experience a more upright posture when both walking and running because as much as the VIVO instructors insist that the body adapts structural issues still need addressing separately.

vivo

 

No Pain no Gain!!!!! Really????

injury

No Pain no gain?  That’s what they say right?  Think again.  Of course, plodding on the treadmill is unlikely to yield results if, for instance, fat-loss is your goal but are there any specific rules when it comes to exercise-induced pain?

sonnon

Enter the TED scale, the regulatory foundation for all your exercise as taught to me by American based, world renowned trainer Scott Sonnon of Rmax International.  Essentially, we distinguish between exertion and discomfort; hence any pain, or discomfort, felt in the knees, lower back, neck, shoulder or ankle should initially be treated with caution.  Stop the workout or modify it, even consult a professional.

ted

Always aim for the best possible technique like on your squat.  Once you have nailed that start increase your exertion levels.  Is your 30kg squat still as good as your 10kg squat.  Actually, is your bodyweight squat any good at all? If not then why are you placing any kind of load on your back????  Maybe the technique is still true to form but added exertion levels is inflicting too much pain.  Then you stop, again get to the bottom of the problem or change exercise.  Now do you realise why such a simple formula should be the basis of all our workouts?

 

As RMAX instructors we are skilled in using this formula to help people find the best exercise routine that will get them to their goals in the safest, most effective way.  We don’t school people to muscle their way through things with heavier and heavier loads but encourage you to discover the length and breadth of your fitness.  Go to their website www.rmaxinternational.com and find an instructor near you

rmax

fat man pain

book

‘Meals that Heal’ Cookery Workshop

We talk a lot about optimising health through exercise and diet and it seemed as though I had spent too long (and too much money) this year expanding my knowledge on fitness.  Hence I decided to redress the balance by attending a very unique style of adult cookery class last Saturday.

Unique because the instructor was Karen Maidment of Pure Body Balance.  Karen is a personal cookery coach, health and nutrition expert and a graduate of the C.H.E.K. Institute specialising in holistic health.  She promotes a diet and lifestyle that seeks to optimise health by eliminating every kind of inflammatory.

Quite simply both scientific and anecdotal research shows that many people can’t tolerate items like gluten, sugar, lactose, nuts and legumes so all are potentially inflammatory to our internal organs and blood vessels.  Therefore, we eliminate them all, acquire our nutrition from alternatives in a fun and innovative way, resulting in the optimisation of our nutritional health.

Let me posit a theory regarding a process well known to us all called metabolism; we look at slim and lean people and say that they have a ‘fast-metabolism’ not realising that maybe they just have a good metabolism that allows them to convert all food to fuel or waste.  Meanwhile those that are storing a lot of fat are doing so because their bodies aren’t so efficient at this process.  Why?  Well vitamins and other micronutrients are needed as catalysts for these reactions to occur and consuming a lot of ‘dead-calories’ like white sugar and white bread deprives us of such valuable nutrition.  In addition, inflammatories such as nuts and gluten, even if you appear to be tolerant of them, can slow down the uptake of nutrients leading to the same problem of poor metabolism.  All the more reason it seems to go anti-inflammatory even if it is to try something different.

Enter the lovely Karen and her great cooking masterclass because that’s what it was; having to get these recipes right using ingredients like coconut oil, coconut flour, coconut sugar, coconut water (see a pattern here) and other ‘free-from’ ingredients must have taken a lot of time, effort and kitchen disasters before getting them to perfection ready to introduce to the world.

Amongst the goodies that we made were venison burgers, sweet potato flatbreads, coconut cookies and gluten-free muffins.  The food tended to be very filling and satiating which is important for long-term sustainable healthy eating and the answer to fad diets like juicing and ‘2-day fasts’.

IMG_1649 IMG_1645 IMG_1647

This workshop has come at the right time for me as I try and take nutrition to another level.  Going inflammatory-free requires a whole lot of effort and adjustment. Knowing what foods to have as your staple and organising one’s life and budget around this approach.  That is why I am spending a few weeks just sampling and experimenting.  The biggest challenge at the moment is making a no-bake snack which I can keep as a staple in between meals.  It is already becoming an exciting experience.

 

book

My belief then is that we all need to know how to go inflammatory-free so the best starting point is purchasing Karen’s book.  You can even get a £5 discount on her book, just send me an email and I will arrange that.  Otherwise good luck on your journey to superman (or superwoman) health.

FRUIT – The Deceitful Friend

FRUIT

We all have at least one of these.  The friend or colleague at work who smiles in your face then stabs you in the back.  Either that or it is a true, genuine friend who, once in a while, will bring you down; maybe date your ex or something or ‘cock-block’ you.

Think fruit as doing the same thing; we choose to live a healthy lifestyle and begin by ditching the biscuits, crisps and chocolates and we turn to that supposed best friend, FRUIT.  It ends up being fruit for breakfast, a smoothie for lunch and instead of a post-dinner dessert we had a fruit bowl.

So here’s the deal; fruit is still food and still counts as extra calorie intake.  A large apple weighing in at 220 g still contains 23g of sugar which is 5 teaspoons.  Would you have 5 spoons of sugar in your coffee?  Probably not.

apple

Exaggerated the situation a little bit as fruit sugar is not all dead calorie with it coming loaded with other gifts like vitamins, minerals and antioxidants but the point is valid.  Fruit should be taken in moderation.

For a more detailed article on the subject from a higher authority read this article

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1256509/Eating-fruit-make-fat.html

And here are your 4 things to consider when incorporating fruit into a healthy lifestyle:

  1. Portion Control:  fruit should still be properly moderated.  The equivalent calorie intake of a medium sized apple is fine.  It may be a couple of spoons of sugar in the system but at least it comes with vitamins and minerals to help it break down easily without ‘turning to fat’.  So go for the small fruit bowl.
  2. Combinations: Fruit is consumed as a snack but even our snacks must be well-balanced so make sure you also consume the equivalent of 5 Brazil nuts or a small amount of yoghurt.
  3. Beware of smoothies: This whole business of smoothies allowing you to take in heaps of fruit should be abandoned now.  This is only the case before or after a workout in my opinion.  We already established that too much fruit isn’t good for you.  The extra problem with smoothies is that you have removed one stage of the digestive process so giving little time to your system to deal with the nutrients.
  4. Vary your snacks: There are plenty of other items that you can snack on, not just fruit; things like Biltong, cheese (yes cheese), veggie crisps, nuts and healthy bars from NAKD. Even raw chocolate or my POW POW energy balls.

 

4 THINGS

Fitness Review: Orange Theory Fitness

Mid august 2013 and I had a chance to witness the evolution of fitness in the commercial gym with the launch of the new David Lloyd Studio in Islington, endorsing a new brand of training known as Orange Theory Fitness. My overall thoughts are a big thumbs up for beginning the move away from the Les Mills domination to something more individualised and less copycat and Zombie Fitness.

Individualised because now people get to see how hard they are working by having their own personal performance monitored and viewed on a big screen. After taking down your age, height and weight a rough calculation is made of your maximum heart rate. You’re then given a heart rate monitor to wear so that when you enter their impressive shiny studio you see a big screen with your heart rate reading displayed.

The main reading however is your current energy zone characterised by a colour. If you are working between 75 and 85% of your max heart rate you are considered to be in the green zone. However, between 85 and 92% you are in the orange zone where it is believed that you get the greatest benefit in terms of EPOC, Excess Post Exercise Oxygen Consumption. To us we know it as afterburn and creating this allows us to burn fat when resting.

The classes are an hour long; my class was half cardio and half floor work involving dumbell and TRX training. The moves are still quite simple so not as sophisticated as the exercises in Crossfit and TACFIT but perfect for beginners and still challenging enough for me to start blowing smoking. Was also a good opportunity for myself to practise my barefoot running and I realised that I didn’t have to push it that much on the treadmill speed to get and stay in orange zone, showing that barefoot running, although you may not break PBs you might burn more calories when doing it right.

Despite my loyalties to Fitness First I have not hesitated to encourage others to go and get a free trial at the club at least to understand the benefit of such a precision-based and individualised method of training.

Another eye-opening factor for me was how difficult some found it to remain within the orange zone, possibly suggesting that their bodies still hadn’t become efficient enough at producing energy at varying intensities for different activities. Something which only develops with time and it shows that we should avoid quick fix approaches when adopting fitness as a method to improve our quality of life.

So happy to have tried this out and a privilege to be one of the first to review the concept in the UK. Needless to say, the setting is amazing (admittedly a bit ‘weary fairy, shiny shiny’) and the staff were very welcoming.

The Rights and Rights of Kettebell Swinging

girlswing

It’s fast become the exercise that everyone wants to do.  Girls, guys, big people and small folk.  The move that is said to work every muscle in your body.  You see people walk up and down that gym floor passing the kettlebell rack and thinking hmmmmm…how hard can it be?  Looks straight forward enough.  Just did a random search for the kettlebell swing on Youtube and it yielded 77,000 results.  I then proceeded to search for a video with atrocious swinging and I actually struggled to do so.  However, it wasn’t too long before I found one.  Better still found a proper WTF image of a bad swing.  Check it out:

untitled

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4Mkj0ocem4

cotter

So today, (or Saturday 3rd August) I attended a kettlebell masterclass with Steve Cotter.  All I can say is WOW, a true athlete; if only I had half of his ability.  This was one of the toughest training sessions I had attended and the combination of technical application and physical exertion actually had me emotionally drained forgetting that I was in the room with a true legend and beginning to hate kettlebells.  Still, it is just as well that through my training with another legend in Scott Sonnon that I am confident I can break down the movement in my head and work on taking small steps at a time towards mastery.

Anyway, this post is specifically about the swing.  Steve’s opening lines in the seminar were about how there are different techniques and he believed there were merits to all of them.  Indeed, apart from the atrocious example above I have probably performed four different methods of this exercise which are as follows:

  1. The squat swing:  This is ketttlebell heresy to a lot of      ‘kettlebell gurus’.  It is the      technique that most people do when first lifting the bell.  You assume it must be some sort of squat      and front raise. The likelihood is that most kettlebell classes deploy      this method.  Certainly it is easy      to teach as most people already know how to squat (ish).  Interestingly though, one renowned coach      actually applies the squat mechanic to the exercise, namely Brent      Brookbush.  He believes that it is      good for athletes to improve their vertical displacement of force.  Check his video out

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGKEqYRIS_8

What this means for me is that if a client just finds the ‘true-styles’ too demanding and all they want is a workout I will just give them this technique.  Heck, as long as the back is straight it is safe and will get the heart rate up so who cares.  My only worry is the indignation of those that only know the ‘proper’ method and are stubborn enough to abhor anything else.

  1. Hard Style:  This is the technique that most people      will use after decent training.  It      needs more coaching as it applies the deadlift mechanic to the swing where      the force is more horizontally displaced.       It’s about transmitting maximum power to every swing.  It looks close to the method I learnt      from one of my original trainers Jon Mills.  Check out his promo video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pV3DnEU6mOI

Jon is part of the team behind a new Gym App called Gym Chum.  Apps are a great way to structure your workouts and stick to something coherent so have a play. www.gymchum.com

I said that this style is a bit like the true ‘Hard Style’ epitomised by the RKC brand of kettlebell training.  The only slight difference is the slap down from shoulder height you will see in this video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vek9BSHFo1c

The amazing throwing coach Dan John also looks as if he is teaching the same technique in his own funny way here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVEReOq5Jgs

The idea is that we have maximum load both going up and down by slapping the bell down.  Another way of doing this is the banded swing demoed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu0PMzAMudE

  1. The third method is what we      covered in the class called ‘fluid-style’ where we aim to conserve      energy.  Kettlebell competitions      take place and some events are endurance events where you have to keep      going for long durations of time.       Therefore, you need a method that is fluid and economical.  So the movement doesn’t have the      greatest inertia but you could carry on for a long time.  You also have to make intelligent use of      all your available levers so it is very technical.  It also applies to one-handed exercises      more.  Here it is in action

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zd0xBJkTp_o

And this is a very brief video of Steve Cotter demonstrating both methods.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QwOp0SrBxuU

And a more detailed article detailing the differences between the hard and fluid styles.

http://www.kettlebellscience.com/a-comparison-of-kettlebell-styles.html

  1. Then there is the craziest      method which still passes as OK and that is the Crossfit style or American      style swing where you bring the bell above your head (OMG).  This swing is brutal and performed by      these dudes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1ZnChWYTso

So my position is that you can choose anyone of these techniques that you like.  With me it is likely to be the hard style but I will perform some protocols with other styles to keep the workout fresh.  With every new stimulus your body gets something new to adapt to.  The body needs to function and move in a different way and find a specific energy pathway.  One thing is for sure though.  It is always worth investing in learning kettlebells from someone qualified as it is something that requires that level of skill.  You can probably get away with learning other exercises from You Tube but kettlebells are demanding in that sense.

Happy kettlebelling!!

Your Cardio is Useless…Unless

funnytreadmill

I love gym receptionists and I know the feeling is mutual.  Let’s face it if you’re going to get a front desk job may as well get one where hot guys and girls will smile and say hello to you all day long.  Of course, you have to be an expert in small talk and a common question they will ask is ‘What are you doing today?’  The response is often, ‘Oh a bit of cardio’.

Perhaps you remember that ‘Far East Movement’ song last year that went ‘I hope it works out, cardio’.

To me, this word ‘cardio’ is now becoming synonymous with mounting a cardio machine for half an hour and just doing whatever…Ok not quite, one may watch a TV programme or read a magazine of course!!! Anyone reading this article please solemnly swear that you will never hop onto a machine with the intention of just doing whatever.

poliquincheck

More on this later, let’s look at the other side of the coin; did you know that there are high-level professionals warning people against any kind of cardio or aerobic training stating that it leads to ageing, excessive oxidative stress, muscle breakdown and fat gain.  Professionals like Charles Poliquin and Paul Check in fact.  Check out their articles on the subject:

http://www.charlespoliquin.com/ArticlesMultimedia/Articles/Article/728/The_(Many)_Negatives_of_Aerobic_Training.aspx

http://eastwesthealing.com/paul-chek-on-cardio/

So at least I am not discouraging you from cardio, but what I want people to engage in is structured cardio so that at every stage during the workout we know what we are doing and why.  Let’s simplify it by discussing two methods of structured cardio.

 

spinclas

  1. Energy Zone Training

A concept popularized by Spinning® the first and original programme in Indoor Cycling.  As human beings we are able to work and train at different levels of intensity relative to our maximum heart.  There are set methods (like Karvonen Formula) to accurately calculate what heart rates correspond to which energy zone, but we can simplify that by focussing on 3 levels of perceived exertion.

75% – ‘comfort-zone’ /’conversation level’

80% – threshold between comfort-zone and working zone

85% – into our working zone but still with some reserve left.

90% – going for it so hard that you want to cry for mummy

So you can be on a cardio machine giving yourself a 5 minute block where you progress from 75% to 90%, also called a ‘RAMP’ drill.  This way you get real benefit from a five-minute block of cardio which you can repeat.  You raise the intensity level by simply adding speed or resistance (like in Spinning®) or go on an incline (on the treadmill)

eliptical

  1. Interval Training

All about the ‘high-lows’, switching between periods of work and rest.  There are now many studies showing that this method of performing cardio is more effective at burning fat. Here’s one but you can find loads more on the net

http://www.simplyshredded.com/cardio-for-fat-loss-high-intensity-interval-training-cardio-vs-low-intensity-steady-state-cardio.html

And there are so many ways of doing this with varying work to rest ratios and you can even combine it with your energy zone training; you can spend 5 minutes on a RAMP drill then five minutes of 30:30 interval training.

By the way the notion that you only burn fat performing cardio at a lower intensity (fat-burning zone) is now becoming a distant myth.  It was, and unfortunately still is for many, a practice used by bodybuilders before events but now even they are beginning to cease doing this.  Take a look at this post by event competitor Karolina Kazcor

karolina-kaczor

http://www.innertruthcoaching.co.uk/1/post/2013/04/7-mistakes-your-body-will-regret.html

Summary

In essence if you’re not engaged in any form of structured cardio then your cardio is in danger of being nigh on useless.  Even if you are a beginner you should still be using the energy zones.  If you’re getting over a hangover what better method of getting it out of your system then with intervals.  Even if you’re training is therapeutic to address stress, anxiety or depression will structured cardio not give you another source of much needed distraction?

So time to take action and make your cardio more purposeful and functional, more likely to yield proper results.

rounderwearmen

Work for a FIT SELF not a FIT BODY

legraise

Here is a philosophy I am getting more and more passionate about as I witness the day-to-day activity going on in the gym.  There are a whole host of exercises performed regularly all based on fallacies; tricep extensions to get rid of bingo wings, ab crunches to rid belly fat, side-bends to attack love handles, and leg-raises to work the lower abs and pelvic wall (but ‘I feel it in my abs!!’ Well I feel a punch in my face on my face doesn’t mean it is good for me!!!).

However, all these are based on one big fat delusion; that we train to get a Fit Body. Quite simply, we do not train to get a fit body but a FIT SELF.  Therefore, we do not waste time with ineffective exercises but we maximise our efforts with things that get us fit.  The great thing about adopting this philosophy is that because our workouts become so effective, as a bonus we end up with great looking bodies.  Therefore, strive towards becoming a fitter you otherwise you could carry on with tricep extensions and leg raises then witness diminishing returns, a loss of motivation and soon, it’s bye-bye and so long, nice knowing you.

With guys they go wrong when they start overdoing bicep and chest workouts, skip leg sessions and then end up with top-heavy physiques.  Worse-still, while excessive abdominal exercises may yield thicker abs (only in guys with already low bodyfat) one’s spinal mobility gets seriously restricted.  In addition, such people only work superficial muscles leaving the inner core stabilisers behind, exposing one to potential hernia problems.

skinnylegs

With girls there is a comparable problem when they spend forever on bum exercises and the Stairmaster to get a firmer behind.  Now if the philosophy here was to get fit one would have had a proper fitness program involving squats, lunges and deadlifts and this would still result in an appealing derriere.  Just remember, this is fitness, you may not end up with the ideal body, there may be more muscle in some areas than you want but most of the time you cannot have it all.  What is guaranteed though is that you get a good body that is easy to maintain.

butt

We’ve heard the expression ‘Shake what your mama gave ya’ and yes butts like the one in the picture are mainly down to genetics.  There are other branches of the wellness industry where you can improve aesthetics and turn to surgery, crash-dieting or on a much lighter scale, figure-enhancing clothing like the latest brand of underwear known as Rounderwear.  Check out their his and hers products at http://rounderwear.com/

rounderwearmen

So wear a pair of these when you come to the gym and then aim to get fit.  Filter out all the crap from your training so that gyms can get rid of all the useless equipment.  Take these steps and let your whole outlook on fitness change.