Category Archives: Fitness

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The awesomeness of Suspension Training

Category : Fitness

Ever seen those straps hanging from the ceiling in the gym with handles and wondered what they are for and how they could possibly give you a good workout. Whilst they may look innocuous, they are perhaps one of the best and most challenging pieces of gym equipment.

Standard weight machines at the gym can help you lift massive amounts – in isolation. Weight machines are fixed stable equipment that typically move unilaterally (in one direction). Up. Down. Back. Forwards. This means that when one is using the machine that it works the muscle (s) it has been specifically designed for (e.g. quads or triceps), but more often than not, they do not properly engage the stabiliser and support muscles around the joints that are essential to strong and stable movement. By incorporating suspension training into your gym routine, you can start to strengthen those critical stabilisers.

One of my favourite suspension trainer exercises is the hamstring curl. To do this exercise on a machine, one must lay face down on a bench, with one’s ankles tucked underneath a padded weight lever and bend your knees contracting your hamstrings. The benefits on a machine are very much limited to the hamstrings.

Undertaking the same exercise using a suspension trainer is performed lying on one’s back, with your heel’s placed comfortably in the handle of the trainer. Placing your hands on either side of your body (at approximately 45 degrees) and push your pelvis up so that your body is stiff like a plank and your glutes are tightened and engaged. Keep your glutes engaged, tighten your core and drag your heels toward your body, bending your knees.

TRX Hamstring1This simple movement engages multiple different muscle groups providing an even greater workout for your body in just one move. Imagine how much more awesome your workout becomes when you add in 5-6 suspension trainer exercises.

Many of you will have undertaken the Moby ‘Flower’ challenge with Nick, Jesse or Ryan. You know the one – ‘Bring Sally Up….and down. Performing that challenge with pushup is a real killer #amiright? But if you reaaaallllly want to push it to the next level, do it on a suspension trainer. May I suggest either the TABLE-TOP ROW (I think my Friday morning Fighting Fit class just cringed) or the ATOMIC PUSHUP (feet in the suspension trainer combining a pushup with a pike lift #killer).

TRX Tabletop1

The beauty of this piece of equipment is that a) you can use it in the comfort of your own home as well as at the gym and b) you can take in away with you on holiday. These things pack up and take up the same amount of space as a pair of shoes.

If you are in the gym and you want to know what hype is – come and see me and I will be only too happy to help you out. In fact – if you are in the gym this week, I have a challenge for you. If you get through it – let me know and  eternal glory shall be yours.

SUSPENSION CHALLENGE #1 (see video for demo)

Three continuous sets of the following without a break:

  • 10 Reverse Crunches
  • 20 Mountain Climbs
  • 20 Side Crunches
  • 10 Pike lifts
  • 10 Pendulums

 


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Do you have a competitive streak?

Category : Fitness

Do you consider yourself a competitive person? Do you see it as a good thing or a bad thing?

I was having another of my in-depth discussions with one of my friends after a spot of boxing in the ring (it happens a lot after a good spar) and we got on to the topic of competitiveness. Now not to state the bleeding obvious, but I can be a competitive person. And my friend? Perhaps not so much. But this is where the conversation became philosophical very quickly.

I grew up in a competitive environment. I did Little Athletics every weekend or cross country. I tried numerous other sports and competed in almost every possible sport I could in high school. But it didn’t stop there. I suppose you could say I was competitive in the classroom too. I still remember having ‘times tables’ races in Grade 6, determined to be the last one standing. Later on in life, I took up taekwondo and was completely enamoured with the competitiveness of it.

But at what point does competitiveness become a negative attribute in a person? And can it be managed? Or is it a case of a leopard can’t change its spots? i.e. once a negative competitive always negative competitive.

To answer that question, we need to take a step back and really consider what ‘competitiveness’ means? Is it the same for everybody?

The simple definition of competitive is: Having a strong desire to compete or succeed. Or to be as good as or better than others.

But I would like to beg to differ, or perhaps add to this definition. Competitive is also having a desire to BE THE BEST YOU CAN BE. A desire to IMPROVE ON YOUR PREVIOUS BEST.

I say this, because I struggle to see how one can set goals for themselves, aim high in life and want to be the best version of themself, without an inner drive and inner competitiveness. It isn’t necessarily and shouldn’t be about being better than everyone or anyone else and winning. It’s about your own success.

Maybe there are two types of competitive:

Extrinsic Competitiveness: Display’s their competitiveness externally and derives their success from external competition

Intrinsic Competitiveness: Keeps their competitiveness to themselves and continually tries to better themselves.

Even when we consider these two types of competitiveness, does that mean that one type is better than the other?

I can’t answer that question for everyone. But I can offer my opinion. I think there is nothing wrong with either of those types. But maybe when you let one dominate the other, it becomes an issue.

Being overly Extrinsically Competitive can be exhausting. For both you and the people around you. We see examples every day of this type of competitiveness. Football, cricket and almost every kind of kids sport requires an element of this type of competitiveness. But it becomes a negative thing when it starts to affect yourself and others. Trying to keep up with the Jones’s or be better than them sees life become a never-ending competition. There will always be people who are better than you at something. Not one singular person can be the best at everything. So stop trying. You’ll drive yourself insane. And those around you. Whether you are verbalising your competitiveness or not, the people around you can see exactly what’s going on. They see you constantly striving to be better than everyone else. They see you trying again and again to win. And your friends get tired of never being able to one up you. (Note: Friends build each other up not determine to beat your pants off every time).

Being overly Intrinsically Competitive is that internalised competitiveness that sees you aiming to beat yourself every single time. It’s wonderful that you focus on being the best you possible, but ease up on yourself. Your desire to constantly get a PB or achieve impossibly high targets, can have just a detrimental effect on your self esteem as being around someone who is extrinsically competitive. There may be a tendency to beat yourself up if you don’t achieve those goals.

Now those examples are both extremes. And when anything is on the far end of scale, there are often negatives that go with it. So here’s the thing. It’s all about balance. Like anything in life.

A little bit of externalised competition is a good thing because it inspires people to aim higher and set goals that they never though possible. It also provides an important feedback loop on how we go about achieving our goals and teach us how to accept failure or ‘not winning’ in a gracious and positive manner without damaging long term self esteem (this is particularly important for kids). What is also important however that external competition is not forced on others and promoted as a ‘win at all costs’ – then it becomes negative.

And this is where a good dose of internalised competition is important. It teaches people to focus more on their own personal achievement and gains than beating others, particularly when it comes to setting goals, motivation, drive and achievement in life.

There is a time and a place of extrinsic and intrinsic competitiveness. Everbody has a a little bit of both in them, usually one in more dose than the other. As long as you don’t let the pendulum swing to far one way, then it can only help you be the best you can be.

What do you think? I know that I can sometimes be too extrinsically competitive and like to win (particularly arguments). I can also be too intrinsically competitive as.well. Which means that I am hard on myself when I don’t achieve my expectations of myself. I consider myself a work in progress on both fronts.

Do you see yourself as competitive? Is it possible to not be competitive?

And is there such a thing as too competitive? I’m really interested in everyone’s thoughts.

 

 


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Excuse vs Reason…What is the difference?

Category : Fitness , Health , Lifestyle , Motivation

Do these sound familiar?

  • I have a sore finger!
  • I have a cold!
  • I need to get my shizzle together before I can start exercising again!

I have no doubt, that 50% of you (or more – myself included) have all used these types of excuses/reasons in the past or at the moment not to exercise or work out. Sometimes exercising seems utterly impossible when we consider the stuff going on in our lives, our bodies and our mind. We make ourselves rationalise every action or inaction we take in life. But what we tell ourselves is a legit reason for not exercising is not always so legit however. There is a fine line between reason and excuse.

A ‘Reason’ is considered a fair and logical justification for not participating in something. An ‘Excuse’ is a pretence or subterfuge that can logically be overcome.

For example a Reason may be – that it is physically impossible to participate in exercise such as holidays, ongoing obligations elsewhere or broken leg. An excuse may be – that you feel tired, had a big night or have a bit of a sniffle.

This is not a lecture to convince people they need to get off their arses and exercise or call them out on their excuses. Consider this more as an impetus for people to reassess the excuses in our life to see if they are in fact a legit reason or an excuse.

I know that in the past I have often used the excuse ‘I just need to get a routine going in my life’ to not workout. I like order in my life and feel like I can focus on things better when I am organised. So how can I get around this ‘excuse’? Answer: By squeezing it in when I can here and there. And then when I am organised, I can establish a regular routine workout. I realised I had to stop making excuses or I would never start, because in all honesty, my life is never completely organised (Whose is?).

It is incredibly hard to be honest with ourselves if we are used to making excuses. So how can we assess the legitimacy of our excuses to see if they are in fact that or ‘a reason’?

Ask yourself these questions:

1) Do you have a physical constraint that is preventing you from exercise? (THIS IS A BIGGIE)

There are some injuries or on going conditions that limit your ability to exercise. But ask yourself the following probing questions so see if it is really as limiting as you think:

-If it is a leg injury – can you use your arms, back and core?

-If it is an arm or shoulder injury – can you use your legs, back and core?

If it is lower or upper back – speak to your doctor about what movements you can do and you may be surprised. Things like yoga and pilates do wonders for these sort of problems under correct guidance.

If you work with a good trainer, they should be able to tweak any work out to cater for minor injuries. If it is a major injury, seek the advice of your doctor and specialist – but also listen to your own body because it will let you know its own limitations. I could honestly dedicate a whole article to this topic, but that’s for another day.

2) Is there a lack of time or not enough hours in the day (ANOTHER MASSIVE ONE – AM I RIGHT PARENTS?)

So many of us spend our time running around after kids, making sure that they get to participate in sports and extra-curricular activities. Hello? What about the parents? Don’t they get to do stuff for themselves and look after their own health? And then there are those that are fully committed to their career. Is your life happy and balanced?

I’m all for having priorities in life, whatever they may be. But don’t let your health (physical and mental) suffer at the expense of these priorities. Quite often if we look after our physical and mental well-bring, we are more efficient and satisfied in fulfilling our other obligations.

So ask yourself this follow up question:

-Are you managing your time efficiently? Could you streamline things such as meal prep or cooking?

-Can activities be shuffled about?

-If you don’t have time to exercise in the afternoon or evening, then what about at the crack of dawn or even lunch time?

Is there someone you can ask to help out with pick ups or drop off, shuttling etc? Even job share style where every 2nd day or fortnight you take it in turns with someone so you can squeeze in a workout?

Did you know that a workout doesn’t have to be a 1-2 hour excursion to the gym? You can do a 15-30 mins exercise routine in your own home (after the kids are in bed!). There are so many awesome Personal Trainer apps these days that set it all out for you: exercises, timer, voice coach, even music. And many of them have plenty of bodyweight only exercises so you can do it anywhere with no need for equipment.

So do you really have zero minutes in the week to improve your physical and mental health…or can you actually spare 15-30 minutes 2-3 times a week?

3) Is tiredness just a symptom of lack of exercise or just an excuse not to do it?

After running around all day: get up, breakfast, make lunches, work, school drop off and pick ups, after school runarounds, emails, pay bills, clean house, cook dinner, wash dishes, do laundry (then repeat then next day); it is not surprising that so many people are exhausted with life.

Now we just explored fitting in time for exercise in the above point. Great if you can make the time, but not so great if you are too tired to actually do it. I’ll let you in on a secret about the hardest part of exercise. It’s GETTING STARTED. If you can drag your arse off that couch or desk chair, then you are 50% of the way there. You are much more likely to exercise (regardless of tiredness) if you have it scheduled in at a certain time and day during the week.

The other big secret is quite often you feel sluggish, tired and unmotivated when you aren’t getting enough exercise. A workout can increase your energy levels. It is a great cure for Monday-itis. Better Health Victoria recognise that physical activity can boost energy levels and help you sleep (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/fatigue).So it could help cure tiredness, if that is in fact the issue.

Ask yourself this final question:

Are you genuinely unable to exercise or could you honestly find a way to make it work?

So is yours a REASON or an EXCUSE?

WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE?

 


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What Martial Art should I do?

Martial arts are systems or application of different, styles and traditions of combat, defence or methods, that are practiced for a variety of reasons.

There is well in excess of over 200 types of Martial Arts that exist across the world. Some of them are very similar, others are very different.

Many instructors or teachers of martial arts or combat sports will try and tell you that theirs is the best. Errrrr, here is where you smile knowlingly and back away slowly. Because the truth is, that there are very few that can claim their art is the best. You see, all martial arts and combat sports have their benefits and can add so much to your life. But different martial arts suit different people and it is up to the individual to decide what is the best for them. But oh my! How does one work out what is the right one for them without committing to spend the rest of their life to trying each and every one of them? Simple – do your homework.

The a 4 main types of martial arts or combat sports10859387_1000495316632325_528245749_n-300x180

– hand and/or foot combat (e.g. taekwondo, karate, muay thai, aikido or boxing)

– weapons based (e.g. kendo, fencing)

– grappling or wrestling based (e.g. judo, brazilian jiu jitsu, greco-roman wrestling)

– movement, meditative and energy based (e.g. tai chi chih, qi gong)

 

Many are combinations of the different types, incorporating the different techniques or influences into their art. And often with different purposes.  for example taekwondo, karate and kung fu (and their derivations) are hand/foot combat but also incorporate movement and patterns. Hapkido uses hand/foot combat as well as weapons and so forth.

Most originated in countries or regions subject to oppression where weapons or tools were prohibited and so people were forced to develop their own techniques based on their mind and their body to protect themselves. Others have developed in to sports over time and are competitive at very high levels such as Boxing, Taekwondo, Judo and Wrestling with scoring systems and technology assistance.

Quite often the type of martial arts practiced are dependent on origin, region, founder and instructor and have tenets or philosophies that guide the practice of the art. In much of these, there is a belief or practice that the art should never be used on another in anger or attack, only as a form of defence. If you come across an instructor that tells you otherwise, maybe ask a few more question about their own philosophies, how many fights they have been in and maybe how many times they have been arrested. That should help you decide one way or the other whether or not that particular instructor is for you. Martial arts are NOT about beating people up!

Other questions that you may like to ask yourself in your quest to find the perfect martial art for you are:

1. Are you seeking a guiding philosophy or lifestyle to live by?

2. Do you wish to practice a combat martial art or a movement based martial art?

3. Are you specifically seeking a self defence class?

4. Do you wish to compete as a sport? And if so, to what level?

5. Do you wish to focus of mental and spiritual development?

6. Do you like to use your hands, feet, both hands and feet or weapons?

7. Do you like close distance combat or do you prefer to keep you distance from your opponent?

8. Do you prefer to train with protective equipment or without?

Once you have answered these questions you are likely to have a better idea of the type of martial art you are looking for. Make sure when you are seeking a place to train or practice your art, that you find a qualified and/or experienced instructor that takes an interest in their student’s development. A good instructor also has the ability to adapt and move with the times. Notwithstanding things like technology and scoring systems, the changing needs of self defence and the increasing sedentary work and stressful lifestyles people lead, need to be considered. It’s also extremely important these days that Instructors provide reality based training for this very reason. Increasing violence (due to influences such as drugs) mean that people need to be aware of their surroundings and how to manage potentially dangerous situation. As such, it is wise for Instructor’s to be open to other martial arts and the value that they can offer their students.

So get on to it. Work out what you are after and shop around for the right place for you.

Resources to help you in your research include:

http://www.blackbeltwiki.com/martial-arts-styles

http://martialarts.about.com/od/styles/a/styles.htm


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Empowering Women – Chicks that Hit

This is not about male versus female. Or about who is stronger, faster or smarter. Too often in life, work or sport it becomes about battle of the sexes. Pay gaps, gender equality and domestic violence are just some of the symptoms of the unbalanced society we live in. Addressing it, is not about male bashing or about giving females dibs over men. Establishing a gender equal society is a much more complex issue that involves change driven from all levels, gender, demographics and ages. One important way to support the momentum of change is by empowering women. To help them realize that they are their own kind of strong, their own kind of awesome and their own kind of unique woman.

The Macquarie Dictionary defines ’empower’ as: to cause (a person or group of people) to feel confident and in control of their own life: to empower women.

Here, I have to diverge from the Macquaries definition . I believe personal empowerment is not handed to you or caused. It is not a gift that is wrapped up with a bow or delegated to you. Empowerment is something that you have to take for yourself. It cannot be denied to you, because it comes from within you.

Do you think anybody told UFC fighter Ronda Rousey that she was now empowered? Did anybody say to female Aussie rules footballer Daisy Pearce that she was allowed to be in control of her career and be the best? Nope. They just did it. Just the same as every female should do. They need to decide, who or what they want to be and do it, because no one will do it for them.

One way that females can feel empowered and confident in themselves is to feel good about their physical self. By eating a balanced diet (that included a well deserved treat or drink) and squeezing in a few workouts a week, you will start to feel strong, healthy and happy. One one of the best ways to feel empowered through fitness is boxing.

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Boxing is one of the ultimate ways for women to feel strong and confident. Boxing can be a tough and brutal sport at a competitive level. But for most women, hitting a bag, working the pads or even just light sparring has to be one of the most empowering activities they can do.

Not only does boxing help you get super fit and tone the body. It is completely brilliant at burning fat and improving cardiovascular health. Boxing improves your strength which is not only fab for the body, but one of the things that can contribute to the feeling of confidence and power. So it’s fair to say that physical benefits are amazing and contribute to an overall sense of health and fitness that improves sense of self.

The other way that boxing can contribute to the empowerment of women is through mental and emotional health. Boxing is an awesome stress-reliever. With every punch, cortisol levels (stress hormones) decrease and endophins (feel-happy hormones) increase. You always come away from a boxing session feeling better than when you went in. Boxing is better than therapy!

It’s incredible how the feeling of a well placed glove on a bag, or well-timed glove on a pad can contribute to a feeling of empowerment, but it does. Boxing makes you feel powerful.

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At the same time as throwing out those punches though, you have to concentrate. Thinking about the combinations, thinking about defence, thinking about your next offence. Yes, boxing makes you think – a lot. Boxing makes you feel in control.

Boxing improves coordination. Concentration, repetition and building muscle memory helps to improve the way your body moves and it’s coordination. Sure when you first start, it might feel a bit weird, but with time it all starts to flow and the confidence that comes with the improvement in coordination cannot be measured. Boxing makes you feel confident in yourself.

In boxing (like any sport) you are constantly learning and improving. The gaining of knowledge and striving to improve and better yourself is a sign of confidence.

Some gyms even offer sparring for their female client’s if they feel comfortable. These are typically undertaken in a proper environment with an experienced trainer and with safety equipment. And only when the individual is ready. But there is nothing like seeing the smile on one of my client’s faces after she has been in the ring for the first time. The incredible feeling of power, strength and control that comes with facing ones fears (of being hit) is almost second to none. Just knowing that you are safe, but can engage in an activity sees you taking control of yourself, your fears and seeing how strong you can be is invaluable.

So I would encourage women who want to feel empowered, who want to feel in control of their life and themselves, to go out and find themselves a pair of gloves. Don’t use them on those that frustrate you though. Get a boxing bag, get a trainer or find a gym. And use those gloves to learn. Use those gloves to get fit. Use those gloves to take control of yourself. Use those gloves to EMPOWER yourself.

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