Thursday, June 24, 2010

Great Exercise to Build Muscle and Burn Fat

This week I thought I would start by adding something new to the blog. So I have put together a video on the one exercise, that is feared by many, but guaranteed to get you the results you want. It goes by many names but the one I have come to know and love is "Burpee." It is a great total body exercise with a myriad of varieties and difficulty levels. This will keep your body asking itself "what the heck was that?" as you build lean muscle and blast away excess fat!

If you are a beginner exerciser than a word of caution, stay at the level one variation until you can master 10-12 perfect form burpees in 30 seconds before progressing. If you experience any pain anywhere when doing this exercise then have someone look at your form to see if you look all in a mess.

The video gives you a sample workout that you can try with this new exercise, that as rumor has it, was used as a torture device for prisoners of war in the Middle Ages (not really but after you have tried it you can see how it could have:) Speaking of prisoners, a good source inside said this is one of their favorite exercises because it is a total body workout and they can do it in the comfort of the cell!

For those of you that don't know we are headed to Tenrife in the Canary Islands for a weeks holiday and I am planning on filming some more great bodyweight workouts that you can take anywhere! There is also a volcano there so I might do some lava luging, or maybe not. Enjoy the video and we would love to hear your comments after you have had a go at the Burpee!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

We all lose our way sometimes..

I was driving down the road the other day when a blind man suddenly stepped out in to the road and started tapping his stick in all directions. He appeared confused and anxious to get back on the pavement and as I drove towards him I realised that he was in serious danger of being hit by an oncoming bus. I stopped the car without thinking twice and after putting on the hazard lights, ran over to the man and gently guided him back onto the pavement. I asked him if he needed any further help in getting home but he said that he was fine and that he had simply become confused and lost his way. I left him with a heavy heart and realised that a bus and several other cars that had been waiting for me to get out of the way, hooting their horns in irritation for being held up for a few seconds. As I drove away, I continued to think about this blind man and how my eyes had given him sight for a few moments and helped him find his way back to safety. I felt both happy to have been there for him and also sad for his apparent vulnerability, something that he has to live with every day of his life. I also wondered whether one of the angry drivers who were obviously irritated by my audacity to stop traffic, would have done the same...would they have gotten out of their car and helped this man to safety or would they have simply hooted their horn and told him to get out of their way...funny how we create scenarios in our heads involving complete strangers and their possible reactions to an event, wondering what would have happend had you not been there....the what if's of life.
I was actually on my way to pick up my daughter from school at the time and I told her about what had happened and how I felt really sad for this man. She listened and was quiet for a moment before saying. "We are all like blind people sometimes mummy, we sometimes get lost along the way" true. There are times in all of our lives when we get lost along the way. Maybe we made a bad decision or a bad choice and it left us in darkenss for a while, confused and un-sure which way to turn. Finding our way back onto the right path is not always easy. It is our determination to get there that matters. Whether it be your personal life, your career or your quest for optimal health and fitness, the process is the same. Accept that you got lost and then find your way back to where you wanted to be or move on to somewhere new.

In terms of people's health and fitness goals, taking a wrong turn on your journey or getting lost along the way is no major catastrophe. We are not helpless nor are we victims when it comes to our health issues. Once you take control and responsibility of what you do, what you eat and how you live, there should be no reason for you to get lost at all. Being truely blind is a handicap but watching a blind man find his way around town with the aid of a stick is proof to us all that we have the power to get to where we want to go regardless of the barriers that lie before us.

"Challenges are what make life interesting;overcoming them is what makes life meaningful." Joshua Marine

In health, Tamara

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Importance of a Good Breakfast

I don't know about you but I was brought up in a house where you ate a proper breakfast every day of the week. This would include porridge followed by bacon and eggs and toast!! Needless to say my three brothers and I have always been highly active individuals with healthy appetites and were lucky to have a Spanish mother who cooked everything from scratch. No processed, ready made meals ever entered our household. In fact, our fish was caught in the nets we put out on the beach at night (yes, we lived on the beach in Wales), our fresh produce came from the retired green fingered neighbour who always grew far more than he could ever eat and our meat and dairy came from the local organic I suppose you could say we had a perfect diet! I remember pleading with my best friend to invite me for dinner at their house because they always had baked beans for supper with fish fingers and frozen fries! Makes me laugh now, to think that it was a treat for me to eat the junk food.

But I digress...back to the importance of breakfast . Most of us as adults start our day with a cup of coffee and a breath of fresh air. We race around getting the family ready for the day or getting ourselves ready for work without considering the effect of starting our day with an empty tank. I equate morning grumpiness with empty stomachness and who enjoys being or being with a grumpy person first thing in the morning. After many hours of fasting, while you are hopefully sleeping, your body is ready to re-fuel and start the fire burning. Many people believe that by skipping breakfast they will sucessfully manage to reduce their overall calorie intake for the day but sadly this is not the case. Eating breakfast actually helps you to lose and maintain your ideal body weight. By filling your belly with the right kinds of food first thing in the morning you are setting yourself up for a succesful day of healthy eating. You will be less tempted to attack the carbs mid-morning because you will not be experiencing crazy, un-controllable cravings for something sweet.

What you eat for breakfast is also a very important factor in keeping off the weight. Not all cereals are good for you, in fact, I doubt any cereal is really good for you as they are packed full of sugar, fat and many artificial additions despite the "Healthy" label that the manufacturers stamp on each box. I have noticed that when my children have cereal, they are never quite satisfied and will be asking for food again within an hour. However, when I make them a fine plate of scrambled eggs with wholemeal toast, they are firing off all cylinders until lunchtime! I think that says it all.

I do understand that starting the day with a full english breakfast is neither practical nor palatable for many modern households, but a couple of scrambled eggs takes all of 2 minutes to throw together with minimum smells or washing up. Eggs are a great source of protein, vitamins and good fats and it is a myth that eggs are bad for us and that our cholesterol will hit the roof...sorry, but that would be a cause of all the artificial cereals, breads and artifical low fat spreads we choose to eat. Porridge is always a winner and if you are worried about cholesterol, then allow the modest oat to soak it all up and eliminate it from your system. You can add a myriad of things to your porridge and make it a different and yummy meal every day of the week.

To make a quick and easy bowl of porridge simply add 1 cup of cold water to 1/2 cup of raw organic oats and cook over a moderate heat for about 10 minutes.  Make sure you stir as it has a tendency to stick to the pan and splutter all over the place! To this you can add any of the following depending on what you prefer; handful of seeds; a chopped apple; sliced banana; honey; ground flaxseeds; frozen berries; Dried apricots, dates or figs or all 3; maple syrup or simply a sprinkling of cinnamon. Once you have that down you I promise you will hear no rumblings until lunch time.

It is also a good time of the day to take your daily dose of Omega 3 in the form of a fish oil capsule. I can't emphasis enough the importance of this little gem of oil. Omega 3 is essential for our wellbeing and because we do not get enough from our diets, it is necessary to add a supplement. Not only will it keep your heart healthy, but it will also help women banish any monthly breast tenderness and PMS symptons as well as give you glowing skin.

Summer is finally here folks, even though the weather is playing an un-predictable game with us here in Geneve. I know that many of you ladies are starving yourselves in preparation for the inevitable beach appearance. All this could be avoided and there would be no need for this pre-summer panic and manic diet obsession if you followed a healthy eating programme throughout the year. Just think how great it would be to put on your bikini at any time without feeling self conscious. Eating breakfast, eating organic and well structured regular meals will give you the body you desire and deserve. No more excuses about having junk food or high sugar/fat snacks in the house for the kids either, your kids deserve better than that and teaching them good eating habits at an early age will help them avoid a future of bad health. De-toxing your cupboards will keep you away from temptation and free your children from their sugar addictions too!

Well, that is enough of my lecturing for now, please feel free to comment on this blog and or ask any questions regarding your health and fitness, I would love to hear from you!

"Your greatest wealth is your health"


Friday, June 4, 2010

Did you stick to your New Year resolution?

We are half way through the year and I am wondering how many of you have stuck to your New Year "Fitness" resolutions.

January usually starts like join a gym because you have been so indulgent for the previous 2 months that drastic measures need to be taken. Your goal is to "Lose weight and tone up my jiggly arms and get rid of my belly!", yes, yes, I hear you.

January starts off well, with you going to the gym every day, completing a full hour of aerobic activity on the treadmill, eliptical machine or stationary bike...furiously going nowhere while watching MTV! All while on an empty stomach because you have also decided that January is de-tox month. Surely, if you do an hours worth of aerobic activity a day and eat nothing, you will lose that stubborn bulge. Sorry. No. Not a good idea. First lesson to be learned here is that running on empty gets you nowhere very fast. Yes, you might lose some weight initially but you will also put your health at risk and cause your metabolism to actually slow down and hold on to fat instead.

By February you are managing 3 days a week, either because you are too busy now that the new year has kicked in, or because you are suffering from de-motivation and muscle fatigue. Continually doing the same exercises and routines can put a lot of stress on certain muscle groups and leave the other ones to hibernate. We also become very efficient at burning calories which is why a lot of runners have a hard time losing weight after a period of time. I remember being told by a trainer years ago that in order to lose fat you had to run slow and long! Something I now know not to be true..slow and long = injury and muscle fatigue for your average recreational runner. We now know that the best way to burn fat and build stamina is by doing interval training, short bursts of fast sprints with rest periods in between.

March comes by and spring is in the air and you are visiting the gym maybe twice a week. It is starting to become a bit of a chore getting to the gym  and you haven't really lost any weight because you have been so darn hungry from running all those miles to nowhere and eating large amounts of pasta for energy! Yep, this is the reality girls. Aerobic exercise makes you fat! What? No way! Don't be fooled by the calorie burning measurements on treadmills and other machines, they are not accurate and give you a false sense of what you have achieved. You may have burned a good amount of calories during the workout, that I wont deny, but you will not continue to burn for very long afterwards.You will also feel ravenous for the rest of the day and feel that you have earned that huge plate of pasta Carbonara.

By April you are managing to work out once a week and you spend your hour angrily sweating it out on the treadmill, failing to feel the endorphins because you are so stressed about having to waste your time at the gym in order to get into your skinny jeans. More stress, more cortisol, more belly fat!! Yes, here is another fact. Cortisol is a hormone that is released when our body is under stress and it can be the reason why so many women and men hold on to belly fat. Cortisol works alongside adrenalin which together helps us tap into our energy reserves in a time of crisis. We normally have high levels of cortisol in the morning and this declines throughout the day. However, in our busy and stressed out lives cortisol is continually being released into our systems. Back in the caveman days, cortisol would have come into play in order to fuel our muscles and help us fight or flee. Their stresses involved them running like crazy from a wild animal or fighting another angry caveman...our stresses are different and health threatening. With such a high level of cortisol in our systems along with an absence of physical activity, the body stores more fat and it is stored particularly around the belly. So, if going to the gym stresses you out, then you could be jeopardising your goals and increasing your cortisol levels to boot.

It's May and you haven't been to the gym in 3 weeks and your reason is the same as everyone elses "Don't have the time". This is the number one reason for not working out and the lamest. We have to make time these days because our lives would otherwise be very static.

So here we are 6 months down the road and you are feeling cheated by the disappointment of a failed goal and a monthly membership that you still have to pay until the end of the year. I am not saying this is how it is for everyone and it also depends on the quality of the gym you go to. In order to stay with the programme and remain motivated it is important to mix up your routine and use all your muscle groups so that none ot them risk suffering from amnesia. Neither do you need to spend an hour doing your workout. A fast and furious 30 minute session of smart training will fire up your metabolism and keep it burning for many hours after you have finished. Be brave and adventurous, dare to exit your comfort zone and join the men at the weight rack. Reduce your aerobic sessions and replace them with strength training ones and you will see your body transform within weeks. Lifting weights will give you the lean and muscular look that you have been longing for along with a strong core and sexy legs. It will also strenthen your bones and raise your heart rate and have you breaking out in an admirable sweat. Try something new. Take a dance class, join a Boot Camp session, run intervals up and down your local hill, paddle board across the lake, have FUN!

Life is about living and we want to do it for as long as possible. A smart exercise routine along with nutritous, organic food will keep our bodies healthy, supple and strong for many years to come.

In fitness and in health,