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Workout Tips For when You’re Travelling

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It is the middle of winter and freezing cold right now in Melbourne, so a lot of people are escaping to warmer climates for a holiday.  Having some much-needed downtime and a break from your regular routine is essential to your wellbeing, but that doesn’t mean your fitness and health needs to be put on hold altogether while you are away.

Staying in shape can be hard enough, even with easy access to a gym, workout clothes and a regular routine, but when you’re away on a holiday the obstacles can really add up; Hotels with no gym, hectic travel schedules, all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets, excess alcohol consumption, enjoying too much of the good life.

You don’t have to complete long gym sessions or run on a treadmill for hours to get some exercise in.  Being surrounded by sweaty meatheads in a gym is probably the last thing you want to be thinking about when you should be out exploring your new surroundings, which leads to our first tip.

Explore Your Surrounds

This probably goes without saying, but going on hikes, bike rides or walking tours are great ways to keep active when on holiday.  It’s exercise that doesn’t really feel like exercise and can often be a great way to explore the area you’re visiting.  Checking out local parks and trails, renting a bicycle or just going for a jog around your hotel can all be great ways to see the local area and get some good exercise at the same time.  Ask at your hotel for safe routes nearby, places to avoid or just some nice areas to visit in the area.  Hotels often have bicycles for hire and many cities now have convenient bicycle hire systems.  A lot of major cities have guided walking tours which are generally tip based and can also be a great way to meet new people.

Keep It Simple. Use What You Have. 

Don’t overcomplicate things.  If your hotel has a swimming pool, swim some laps.  If there is a park nearby, use the monkey bars to do some pull-ups.  Be flexible.  If you feel extra pressed for time you don’t even need to leave your hotel room to get your sweat on.  Incorporate bodyweight exercises such as squats, push-ups, sit-ups, lunges, planks, burpees, and star jumps into your routine.  If you have room to stand, then you have room to squat.

Push-ups too easy?  Put your feet on a chair to do incline push-ups or add in a clap at the top of the movement.

Squats too easy?  Use your suitcase or some other object to add some weight, or add in a jump at the top of the movement.

Can’t find room in your schedule to fit a workout in?  You’re not looking hard enough.  There’s always a routine or combination of moves that can ignite your metabolism and spike your heart rate and leave you drenched in a matter of minutes.  You’re really only limited by your imagination.

Do Some Research

One of the joys of traveling is trying new things and exploring different attractions, this can include spicing up your fitness routine by doing something different.  Before you leave, do your research, locate gyms or fitness classes around the area where you will be staying.  Sometimes you can even book in advance, making it more likely that you will fit it into your schedule.  Visit a CrossFit box, join in a boxing session or try a yoga class.  Whatever you do, it can feel good to mix it up and explore what other cities have to offer and you may even meet some new people that you wouldn’t have met in another setting.

Pack Like A Fitness Pro

Set yourself up for fitness success by packing more strategically than normal.  One of the easiest ways to stack the odds in your favour of getting a workout in is to pack your workout gear, or including a couple of pieces of light easy to pack equipment.  Having your workout gear on hand will encourage you to work out and act as a reminder when you open your suitcase upon arrival.  Skipping ropes, resistance bands, yoga mats and of course headphones are all handy, lightweight pieces of equipment that you can pack with your luggage that will give you some extra incentive and add some variety to your workouts.

Prioritise Your Workout

Sometimes you just have to prioritise working out while on holiday.  If you do have a planned itinerary, have a look to determine when you’ll be able to fit in your workouts ahead of time. Ideally, try to work out around the same time every day, even while traveling.  Working out in the morning is generally the best option, as it allows you to clear your mind before starting the day and by getting it out of the way early, it is less likely to be interrupted by changed plans or unexpected activities.  If you’re with friends or family, let them know you plan on working out during your stay, this can help keep you accountable and they may even want to join you.

Lastly, Take Care Of Your Body.

You are less likely to want to exercise if you feel tired, bloated or hungover.  Being outside of your normal environment can often make it easy to forget that to maintain your health and wellbeing the same rules apply as they do back home.  Even while traveling try to eat well, drink plenty of water, and get plenty of sleep.  This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself while away and you should definitely make the most of every moment, but by employing some of these strategies it may just make the difference between coming back feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world or coming back and feeling like you’ve just undone all the hard work you’ve put in over the last 6 months.

Winter Training – Benefits and Tips

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The gravitational pull of your doona can be very strong at 5:30 am, especially when it is freezing and dark outside. This doesn’t help your motivation levels for getting up to go to the gym, but if you’re tempted to hit the snooze button, remember that staying motivated this winter requires a change to only one thing: your mindset. That’s why it’s important to remind yourself of the benefits exercise can bring you.

Fight Off Winter Weight Gain

During the colder months, your body goes into something of a hibernation mode, a throwback survival mechanism designed to get you through the harsh winter. Low temperatures signal a coming shortage of food and your body is programmed to hold onto any calories it takes in, often converting them directly into fat stores designed to get the body through the long, cold months ahead. That’s hardly a welcomed tactic in our modern society, especially if you are trying to watch your weight.  On top of that, the conditions encourage eating more and doing less, so it’s not hard to see how easy it can be to pile on the weight through winter.  Staying on top of your training at this time of the year is therefore an effective way of keeping those fat stores in check so you don’t emerge in the spring with that dreaded winter coat.

Torch Extra Calories

Whilst all exercise and athletic endeavours boost metabolism, think of your wintertime workouts as a supercharged version of your normal sweat sessions. The body is forced to expend additional energy to maintain its core temperature when it is colder. Because your metabolism is already increased, exercise in the colder weather leads to a higher calorie expenditure and increased burning of fat stores. Once you are sufficiently warmed up you will also be able to push yourself harder than you would with the extra strains of high temperatures, sticky humidity and excess sweat and risk of dehydration that come with the summer months.

Thaw the winter blues

As the days get shorter and daylight levels decrease, levels of “feel-good” hormones in the brain also fall, leaving you staring down a winter of discontent. The mood-enhancing benefits of exercise are well documented and it can boost your mood at any time of year, but it has a particularly profound effect during winter, sending those important feel-good hormones soaring, and keeping the winter blues at bay. It can also provide a much-needed break from the daily grind and help to reduce stress levels.

Boost Immunity 

The winter months often mean an increase in the dreaded cold and flu. A cold is the last thing you have time for when you are trying to stick to your workout routine.  Boosting your body’s immunity naturally means you’ll have a much better chance at coasting through the winter months and staying free of that cold everyone else in the office passes around.  Exercise strengthens our body’s ability to work at peak levels and strengthens the immune system helping to ward off everything from the common cold to nasty strains of flu.  Some studies have suggested that regular exercise in the colder months may reduce your susceptibility to cold and flu viruses by up to 30%

Great Cardiovascular Workout

Training in the cold is an excellent way to boost your cardiovascular system.  Just like a lot of other bodily systems, your cardiovascular system is forced to work harder in colder conditions.   The heart has to work harder to pump blood around the body due to constricted blood vessels in the extremities caused by the cold. Training in these conditions is great for increasing your cardiovascular fitness and promoting good circulation in the body.

 

Even knowing these benefits, training in the winter isn’t easy. There are many factors that can derail your progress. Here are some tips that can help you prepare better and survive the tribulations of winter training.

Prepare the night before

If getting to a 6 am session tomorrow morning is your aim, set the scene the night before so there are fewer excuses in the morning. Organise your gym bag and the clothes you are going to be wearing and have it all ready to go. Have anything that you need after your workout is done (post-workout meal, work clothes etc.) ready to go also.  Now all you have to do when you wake up is throw your gear on and head to the gym.  Use the same strategy for those after work sessions.  Have everything you need for the gym packed in the car and ready to go. Aim to head to the gym straight after work so you’re not tempted to sit on the couch in front of the heater if you go home first.  If you get there a bit early, use the extra time to complete a solid warm up or work on any mobility issues.

Set a goal or train for an event

There is nothing like having a short-term goal to work towards to keep you focused and on track with your training. Enter into a competition or sign up for an event. Knowing that you have an event or competition to train for can keep the motivation levels high as the temperature drops.  Winter is also the perfect time to ramp up your conditioning because it’s not too hot.  Throw in some extra training sessions such as some intervals on a bike or rower, or get some extra vitamin D and throw in some hill sprints outside.

Competitions not your thing? No problem! Set another goal. Whether you want to lose a couple of kilos, add 10kg to your back squat, or shave 20 seconds off your “Fran” time, set a reasonable goal and make it as specific as possible. Try to think of a goal that involves numbers or an accomplishment, like finally being able to do that muscle up or handstand push up.  When you reach your goal, reward yourself.  Not with a big cake, but with something special like a new pair of Nanos or new training top. There’s nothing better than working towards a goal, achieving it, then splashing out to say “well done” to yourself.

Workout with friends

Having a workout partner or a group to train with is one of the best ways to increase accountability.  A social sport or gym setting is a great way to stay active during winter and can help increase adherence rates and level of effort in your training.  Exercising with others means you’ll generally have a much better time working out than you would alone and will often push each other to achieve more.  If this isn’t part of your routine already, winter may be the perfect time to be a bit more social in regards to your workout

Dress for the occasion

Staying warm during the winter season is not just about putting on that puffer jacket and heading to the gym. Instead, it is best to layer your training gear so you can take the layers off as you warm up. You may need to shell out and buy a few extra items of clothing, who doesn’t like a bit of retail therapy anyway?

Wearing gloves, a hat/beanie, long pants and sleeves can all help to make you feel more comfortable when starting off a session. Keep in mind that your body temperature will rise shortly after beginning your warm up, so try not to overdress. You may feel cold at the beginning, but a couple of minutes in you will have warmed up to the right body temperature.

Warming up

When temperatures drop, it takes much longer for working muscles to heat up, and for the joints to release fluid for lubrication.  Warming up properly is extra important when it’s cold to ensure your muscles are primed and ready for the stresses about to be placed upon them. It is also essential to listen to your body during training sessions, the risk of injury is high when trying to push cold and tight muscles, so be sure to take time and do the work needed to ensure your body is ready for the workout ahead.

Your cool down is equally important, your core body temperature will drop dramatically as soon as you stop exercising, so be extra attentive to your post-exercise activities.  Keep moving around rather than just abruptly stopping and put on a jacket or jumper before cooling down too much.  Try to complete any stretches while your muscles are still fairly warm in order to get the greatest benefit.

 

So instead of avoiding the cold this winter, embrace it. Facing up to the challenge of tackling a workout in the depths of winter can help build mental toughness and bolster your endurance and stamina levels, and ensure you remain in good shape all year round.  The winter solstice (shortest day of the year) has now passed, so even though we have a lot more cold days ahead of us, we will gradually start seeing the days get longer.  Spring is not that far away, so instead of hibernating like a bear use some of these tips to motivate you through the cold weeks and months ahead.

 

10 Ways to Curb Your Bad Eating Habits

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10 Ways to Curb Your Bad Eating Habits

Hide Your Vices

This step seems fairly simple and obvious, having tempting foods sitting in front of you on a regular basis does not make it easy to avoid them.  Foods that are easiest to reach for are the ones you’re more likely to take.   Try to avoid buying these foods altogether, but if you must have them in the house, place them somewhere you will not see them often. Out of sight, out of mind!  Replace these foods with healthy snack options so that when you are looking for something to snack on you are more likely to make the healthier choice.

Make Small, Manageable Changes

It can be a little overwhelming to completely revamp your diet all at once. This method can work for some people who are ‘all or nothing’ types, but if you’ve tried this method and failed you may want to rethink. Try making small changes, such as drinking more water one week, cutting out soft drinks the next, and including a vegetable in each meal the week afterward. These smaller changes are easier to adapt to, meaning you can use this method to gradually cut out each bad habit and replace them with new ones.

Write a Shopping List

Work off a meal plan if possible and look at what you already have at home so that you can make a list of foods you’ll need for the upcoming week.  By using a shopping list you are less likely to waste money on excess food you don’t need and won’t find yourself strolling down aisles trying to remember what you needed.  You’ll have all the ingredients on hand for your meals during the week meaning no last-minute dinner plans (which are usually unhealthy choices) because you don’t have ingredients.

Don’t Shop Hungry

This is a simple and effective tip. When you shop hungry, you’re more likely to buy items you are craving such as simple snacks and junk foods. Eating before you shop will make it easier to stick to your shopping list and make healthier choices.

Practice Mindful Eating

Eating while distracted, including while you are on the run or in your car, can cause you to mindlessly overeat as you do not allow yourself enough time to feel full. Instead, try eating at the table without distractions such as TV and practice eating slower and savouring the flavours of the food you are eating. This can help you to determine when you are actually full rather than just eating everything on your plate and can also lead to some great bonding time with family and/or friends.

Change Your Plate Size

It’s amazing how we can trick our mind with plate sizes! Placing your food on a smaller plate or bowl can make the same portion size appear a lot larger stopping you from adding more food and leaving you more satisfied with your meal.

Drink More Water and Avoid Sugary Drinks

Keeping hydrated throughout your day is important for staying healthy and maintaining the function of every system in your body, including your heart, brain, and muscles. Drinking water can also help fill your stomach without the same calorie burden as a snack and can help tide you over until your next meal.

Calories from sugary drinks like soft drinks and juices easily add up. These are often referred to as empty calories because they generally contain no nutritional value. Instead of consuming excess calories in the form of a drink, try to limit yourself to drinking primarily water. By doing so, you can eat those calories rather than drinking them, leaving you more satisfied and helping you stick to your goals.

Don’t Eat Out of the Bag, Look at Portion Sizes

Have you ever actually measured out the portion size on a packet? You would probably be surprised how small the serving size actually is. You may think that you are doing the right thing by choosing a snack with a small amount of fat and carbohydrates, but instead of having 1 serving you end up eating 4. All those servings add up! Instead of eating straight from the box, bag or container, try measuring out a serving size and placing it in a separate bowl. This will help you understand how much a serving size actually is and stop you from mindlessly eating more servings than you intended.

Meal Plans and Prepped Food

Having a meal plan to follow and prepping your meals in advance are great ways to help you stick to your diet. When you come home at the end of a long day, you might be too tired to cook a healthy meal. Instead of ordering a pizza, why not pull out your already prepped healthy meal and microwave it? Try cooking extra servings of a meal, and place those extra servings in storage containers in the fridge or freezer. Some foods keep better than others, so keep this in mind when you are prepping.

What’s Your Trigger?

Lastly, look at WHY you are eating what you’re eating. Is it because you had a bad day so you feel like you deserve that chocolate? Using food as a coping mechanism does not benefit you in the long run, and can cause more problems than it solves. Start to be mindful of what triggers your bad eating habits, and try to use alternative coping methods. For example, after a rough day, try to get out in the fresh air for a walk or head to the gym and exercise. Both of these activities help to release endorphins which can make you feel much better afterward.

 

Finally, it’s good to remember that if you slip up on your diet and make a bad choice, it isn’t the end of the world. The day isn’t a write-off, and you haven’t failed. If you do end up eating something you probably shouldn’t have, accept it and move on. Don’t throw out your eating for the rest of the day. Each meal is an opportunity for you to make good choices. Nobody is perfect and eats clean 100% of the time, we’re all human!

 

5 Reasons Why Women Should be Lifting Weights

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I’m sure you’ve heard it all before; lifting heavy weights makes women bulky, it’s bad for your joints, or once you stop lifting all your muscle will turn to fat. These statements are all untrue and feed the misconception that prevents many women from experiencing the many benefits of resistance training. Pumping iron can not only help you achieve that shapely, toned body but also has many other benefits for the mind and body.

Here are 5 reasons why lifting weights is not just for bodybuilders and why you should be adding some weight training to your exercise routine.

 

More calorie expenditure and fat loss.

One big advantage of weight training is that it allows your body to burn calories both during and after exercise.  A “cardio” session may burn more calories during the workout, however, a heavy strength session can keep your metabolism elevated for hours and sometimes days after your workout, leading to a higher amount of total calories burned.  More lean muscle mass in the body also leads to a higher Basal metabolic rate (BMR), the rate of calories you burn at rest.  The higher your BMR, the more energy your body needs, so you will burn more calories just by doing everyday tasks like watching TV, brushing your teeth, or reading this blog.

 

Decreased risk of osteoporosis

Strength training is not only helpful for increasing muscular strength but also helps to keep the bones strong and healthy.  Bones respond to the stresses of resistance training by increasing their density and growing stronger to help withstand the extra loads placed upon them.  Keeping the bones strong is one of the best defences against developing osteoporosis later in life.

 

Improved mental health

Along with increased confidence and self-esteem, strength training helps to reduce stress levels and relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. The release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel good” chemicals, caused by weight training is a great way to naturally stimulate the brain, improve your mood and boost energy levels.  Next time you’ve had a bad day at work, a good gym session could just be the perfect remedy.

 

Improved sleep quality

Strength training can help promote good sleep patterns, allowing you to fall asleep faster, enter a deeper sleep and wake less often during the night.  Quality sleep has many health benefits such as keeping your body’s hormones in balance, maintaining weight, reducing blood pressure and aiding in muscle growth and repair.

 

Reduced risk of injury

Strength training done correctly can safeguard the body against low back pain and other muscular-skeletal injuries by helping to improve posture and correct muscle imbalances.  It can also Increase the strength of connective tissues and joints, important for preventing injury and helping relieve pain in conditions such as osteoarthritis.  Balance and functional ability can also be improved or maintained through strength training, helping to improve sports performance and reduce the risk of falls.

 

These are all great reasons to add some strength training to your routine but aside from all that it is fun and can be incredibly empowering. To get the maximum benefit from strength training you should be adding it to your routine at least 2 -3 times per week.  Don’t worry, you won’t magically get “bulky” overnight just because you start lifting more.

Just started exercising. Why am I in so much pain?

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What you are feeling is known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

The general consensus is that DOMS occurs as a result of microscopic damage to the muscle fibres caused by strenuous exercise. The discomfort is the side effect of the repairing process, which means you are getting stronger!

DOMS can typically last anywhere from 24-72 hours, however, it can last longer in some cases. The humble beginner all the way through to the seasoned veteran will experience DOMS, at varying levels, as a result of their training.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel, your body adjusts to the discomfort and severity of DOMS.  It is likely that you will still experience DOMS again in your fitness journey, and who knows you may even grow to like it!  Chances are it won’t be as intense or painful as it is in the first week.

The million dollar questions is “how do we recover from DOMS”? The severity of DOMS varies from individual to individual, here are some methods that can help to reduce its severity.

  • conducting a proper cool down after the workout session
  • compression garments (skins, tights etc)
  • contrast therapy (alternating from hot to cold water immersions a few times)
  • nutrition (BCAA, fish oil and protein supplements)
  • foam rolling
  • epsom salt bath
  • massage

We suggest that you complete active recovery sessions such as walking, bike riding, rowing, yoga, stretching or something similar at a low intensity to also reduce the effects of DOMS. This helps to flush out the lactic acid build up in the muscles which is the source of the DOMS. You will find that once your muscles have warmed up the discomfort will dissipate.

If you have experienced DOMS be sure to let your trainer know exactly how sore you were as this will enable them to cater and plan your future sessions accordingly.

Which Protein Is Best For You?

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What is Protein Powder and Should I Take It?

So maybe you’ve been working out for a while, and you’ve seen people drinking protein shakes after class. You’re curious, but not really sure where to start. Supplement stores can be confusing with their endless rows of shiny labels full of words you might not quite understand. Well, here is your beginner’s guide to protein! What does it do? Why should you drink it? How much should you drink? Read on to find out the answers.

What is Protein and why should I take it?

Protein powder is a supplement used by many athletes to aid in their recovery after exercise. It comes in a wide variety of flavours and types and is mixed with water or sometimes milk.

Protein consumed after exercise encourages protein synthesis, essentially pulling the protein into the muscle to help them grow stronger and recover faster. Protein shakes are generally a mixture of protein, additional amino acids, and carbohydrates, which enable the protein to be more readily available to the muscles.

While protein shakes should not be consumed in order to replace a bad diet, they can be a great supplement for individuals who struggle to consume enough protein-rich foods.

Will it make me bulky?

In short, no. Drinking a protein shake will not make you bulky. Unfortunately for some of us, protein shakes are not the magic wand that will make big, strong muscles appear. Protein shakes are designed to supplement a well-balanced diet and regular exercise, aiding in your recovery and strength building.

Some protein powders are specifically labelled as ‘gainers’ or ‘mass builders’, while some are described as ‘lean’. These terms usually describe the protein powder’s make up. Gainers or mass builders typically include a higher amount of carbohydrate and should be used by people who want to gain muscle and mass. Lean protein powders typically include a lower amount of carbohydrate and should be used by people who may want to lose fat or stay relatively lean while still enjoying the benefits of a protein supplement for their muscle recovery.

What types of protein are out there?

As mentioned earlier, there are many types of protein and they are named dependant on their source.

Whey Protein Isolate (WPI)

WPI is a fast absorbing protein derived from milk and is arguably the best and most complete kind to consume following training, as it is the most bioavailable protein source. WPI contains both branched chain and essential amino acids, which are extremely beneficial to maintaining muscle health.

Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC)

WPC is very similar to WPI, however, has slightly less protein per 100g than WPI. This form of protein is less of a ‘pure’ protein, meaning it has a higher (albeit still low) level of fat and carbohydrates. The benefit of this is that it is often cheaper to buy than WPI.

Casein Protein

Casein protein is a slow-absorbing form of protein, meaning it is able to provide your body with a steady flow of amino acids. This protein is great for recovery and often consumed at night so the body can utilise it while you sleep. Casein protein is often a bit more ‘gluggy’ and thicker than WPI, meaning some people may find it difficult to consume. This varies from brand to brand, and there are also options such as Casein custard on the market to make this form of protein more palatable.

Vegan Protein e.g. Pea, Soy, Rice

Vegan protein powders come from a variety of different sources, such as pea and rice. Some powders can be a little gritty and are less palatable than a whey based protein. However, they are a great alternative for people who do not consume animal products due to dietary constraints or principle. These protein powders are not as ‘complete’ as whey protein because they do not contain all essential amino acids in required portions, however they still offer similar benefits.

How much should I take?

A typical dosage of protein powder is considered as 0.4g of protein per kilogram of body weight. An example of how you would calculate this is as follows:

An 80kg athlete wishes to start taking some protein powder. This means they should take approximately 32g of protein. If their protein powder contains 16g of protein per serve/scoop, the athlete will need to have 2 scoops of protein mixed with water after their workout.

If you’re still confused, bring in your protein or take a photo of the nutrition label and ask a coach! They will be more than happy to help you out.

Where can I buy some?

All sports nutrition stores (for example Muscle Coach, AAA supplements or Nutrition Warehouse) will stock protein powders, however, their range will vary.

If you are on a bit of a budget, Bulk Nutrients is an online store which offers a wide variety of supplements including protein powders at a relatively cheap price with fast delivery.

I’m still a little confused!

As always, if you have any questions about supplementation come and speak to one of your coaches. We are more than happy to provide some advice and help you out with any questions or areas that may confuse you. Remember that supplements are there to supplement a good diet and regular exercise. They are not a necessary addition to your routine but can be extremely helpful.