Fitness

My On-Season Vs. Off-Season Eating Plan

I often get asked the difference between my ON-season and OFF-season nutrition plan, and I hope it will give you an understanding of how I approach things on a personal & professional level. As most of you know, the best results come from what you put into your mouth and can make up to 80% of your results. The other 20% is smart dynamic training designed for what you want to achieve and the type of life you want to live.

Now I eat really healthy most of the time (another 80/20 rule) so for the 20% that I am relaxing a bit, my vices are sparkling wine (in winter it is red wine), dark chocolate, pretzels, and Italian panini. These treats I enjoy over weekends. In the past I use to beat myself up and feel this extreme guilt when eating anything remotely “unhealthy” but as I have gotten wiser (ok, older) I have come to understand the importance of “living” and “balance”. I use these words a lot but it’s just because they're so fitting!

The other 80% of the time I eat really healthy & clean. This means fresh whole-foods, loads of veggies, seasonal fruit, raw nuts, seeds, whole grains, I use loads of spices & herbs, and I experiment with food a lot. Now when it comes to ON-season eating, the major difference comes in cutting out the 20% treats, and controlling quantities on certain foods. I love the food I eat and the type of food doesn’t change, just the treats get taken away and quantities adjusted.

Below I have made a comparison example of how I function ON and OFF season with my eating. Now I could to try eat my ON-season diet for the entire year, but that doesn’t give me much room for “living”. In the past I have done the all year round “clean eating” but have just ended up deprived, irritable, frustrated, and binging when I felt I “deserved” a day off, only to beat myself up the next day. This was a continuous cycle and not a very healthy place to be in, emotionally or mentally. This was not working for me and I needed balance back. So although I am not as lean during my OFF-season, I am definitely happier, healthier and far more energized.

ON-Season Eating Plan

(I measure most of my foods, except the veggies)

Meal 1

  • Upon waking: Green tea, followed by my Veggie Green Juice about 45min later
  • Straight after 1st workout: Vegan shake & 1 seasonal fruit (e.g. medium banana) & vitamins

Meal 2

  • Salad of spinach (unlimited), 125g raw mushrooms grilled, sprouts, 1 large tomato.
  • 1 medium banana OR 1 thin slice of 100% rye bread
  • If avocados are in season I will work it into my calories for the day
  • Black coffee

Meal 3

  • Large salad (unlimited), baked sweet potato (quantities measured), legume & seeds (quantities measured)
  • Green tea
  • Again, if avocados are in season I will work it into my calories for the day

Meal 4

  • 2 rice cakes with peanut butter (depending on how I am feeling for my 2nd workout of the day, I might add a banana)
  • Black coffee

Meal 5

  • Veggie Green Juice with plant protein powder added

Meal 6

  • Unlimited amount of stir fried vegetables OR oven baked vegetables (specific selection of vegetables e.g. baby marrow, aubergine, peppers, onion, green beans, broccoli, spinach, tomato, pumpkin, carrots, beetroot, butternut, mushrooms, red cabbage, white cabbage etc) cooked with coconut oil and seasoned with a variety of herbs and spices.
  • Alternatively, homemade tomato OR pumpkin soup

OFF-Season Eating Plan

This entails pretty much anything I feel like eating as long as I am making the healthiest choice possible, and I always start with 1 or 2 cups of green tea first thing in the morning.

Meal 1

  • I still have my Veggie Juice OR vegan shake before my workouts with a seasonal fruit. This is on mornings that I have early clients. On late mornings or weekends I start with meal 2

Meal 2

  • Spinach, mushrooms, sprouts, tomato, medium banana, 2 thin slices rye toast AND ½ small avocado
  • Cup of coffee

Meal 3

  • Left overs from the previous night, or salad wraps, or my Vegan muffins, or even my crunchy muesli, it all depends on how I am feeling

Meal 4

  • 1 fruit (if I am hungry)
  • Green tea

Meal 5

  • This varies between stir-fries, roasted veggies, soups, barbecues, LOADS of salad, sweet potato wedges, wraps, barley, corn on the cob etc

The key thing to remember for the above is that it's all about balance. For example, if I had a wrap at lunch I would probably just have roasted vegetables and salad at dinner. Or, if I had a salad & avocado for lunch, I might have wholemeal spaghetti with my vegan bolognaise for dinner. Then on the weekend I will add my treats.

I have really made an effort not to put limits on myself, because in the end I will just end up wanting things more. This is different for when I am prepping for a show because there is an end goal in site. I also make an effort to use common sense. Just choose whole-foods, fresh foods, natural foods, NO junk food, NO over processed foods, no meats, dairy & animal fats. By doing so I am always in best shape I can be to enjoy my life.

5 Health & Fitness Trends for South Africa in 2016

The health and fitness industry goes through phases & trends. One minute a certain diet or workout is hip, and the next minute it’s something completely different. Sometimes it's hard to stay up-to-date with what’s happening and what’s hot, here are five health and fitness trends for 2016.

 

1. HIIT vs Split Routines

HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been around for a long time but died down when the “competing frenzy” hit South Africa and everyone thought in order to get results, splitting ones routine into cardio & weight lifting was the way to go. This mentality got carried over from the “competing preparation” to how programs were structured for everyday individuals wanting to get into great shape.

For most people nowadays, it has become very obvious that unless you are training to compete on stage or for a specific sport, no one has the time, energy, patience and boredom level to maintain 2 sessions a day, along with the all the other elements of one's life. We are back where we started, wanting great results while using the small amount of time we have available in the most efficient and effective way we can, hence HIIT.

It’s all about mixing it up, fusing different styles and techniques, and working at a higher intensity over a shorter period of time. As important as isolation work is, so is dynamic and functional exercise. When one combines all these elements with bursts of cardio activities, you have an effective workout that targets a wide spectrum of fitness to include balance, mobility, flexibility, agility & endurance.

 

2. Outdoor/Home Training vs Gym Training

More and more activities like Parkour, street workouts, trail runs, home (backyard) workouts, and even surfing are back on the radar! This is probably due to the fact that they are done in the beautiful outdoors (which South Africa has) while enjoying amazing weather (which South Africa also has, especially this time of year). It is much more stimulating for the brain, due to the fresh air and open surroundings, and it is a huge time saver!

As effective as gyms are, especially when safety and weather is an issue, people no longer want to waste time driving in traffic, wait for parking, stand in a queue to get one's card swiped, and you haven’t even started your workout yet! Getting to the gym floor is whole other story and the queues just continue there. An hour workout turns into a 2hour frustration so one can understand why people are choosing to put on their trainers and run to the park for some pull ups and push ups in a fraction of the time.

There are also so many amazing programs out there that are functional and HIIT based and designed to be done either at home or outside. This results in an effective and efficient workout, gaining great results on all levels, and all while not wasting precious time (trend #1). I personally will always love the gym, because that is where my passion for fitness started, but I definitely enjoy the outdoor/home based workouts more and find them much more effective in terms of time and results.

 

3. Balanced Approach vs Extreme Behaviour

No one is denying that extreme diets produce results more quickly, and the results produced are more radical than that of a balanced approach. However, time and time (....and time) again it is proven that with an extreme approach there are extreme consequences (see trend #4 for more information).

For years now, people have started to change the word “diet” to "lifestyle", highlighting their acknowledgement that a “diet” should be a permanent way of living. But extreme behaviour is never a permanent solution. It can never be maintained, has long term side effects, has a failure rate double to that of the success rate, and the extreme results normally revert to a state of health that is much worse than what the individual started with. Although the “balanced approached” has been over used in the past, it is definitely holding more value, truth, and substance when being referred to now.

 

4. Eating/Training For Health vs Eating/Training For Weight-Loss

Many people go on a “diet” or training regimen with the primary focus being weight loss. Unfortunately, this is often done without giving much thought to the potential consequences extreme dieting and/or training can have on one's current and future health. Eating for weight loss has always been an enticing factor and still gets used in the marketing and selling of products and programs.

People are slowly realizing that as important as weight loss is for some circumstances (for example, obesity), it doesn’t really matter what the scale says if your cholesterol is still reading a 220mg/dL and your blood pressure is sitting at 180/120. The importance of numbers is shifting from the scale to health readings. We are becoming more aware of our blood pressure, heart rate, sugar levels, and cholesterol. These are the numbers that need to drop and as a consequence, the weight will drop as well.

A number that is also getting attention, is metabolic age! Basically, we want our bodies to be younger than our actual age. This can only be achieved through optimum well-being, which does not involve extreme behaviour of any kind. For example, too little exercise is bad for you, just as too much exercise can give premature aging. Too much fat is bad for you, just as too little fat can bring about premature aging. Bottom line, we come back to trend #2 above, which is a balanced approach. There is no point in being a size 2, with zero body fat, and having the face of a fifty year old when you are barely in your mid thirties. Eating and training for health is a key trend for 2016 as people start to consider how they will look and feel in terms of age and not just size.

 

5. Going Green vs Going Red

This is a Health & Fitness Trend for 2016 that I feel the most strongly about, and it is a trend that has grown the most momentum over the past year. Think of “Meatless Mondays” or “Green Mondays” which has most people becoming more aware of what they are eating and why. The facts are staggering how beneficial a plant-based diet is versus a meat-heavy diet. Although the intention is not to turn the world vegan, it is about making people conscious of what they are really putting into their mouths and the effects it has on their body and environment.

Recently the WHO (World Health Organisation) concluded that excessive consumption of processed and red meat can result in cancer. This has validated the facts that green is better! Going green not only has a much smaller carbon foot print, it also has amazing effects on one’s health, it slows down the aging process, and it has proven results of steady, healthy and sustainable weight loss.

Going green also has an emotional drive behind it where people are showing more compassion towards animals, how they are bred and how they are treated before landing on our plates. No one can ignore the videos of animal abuse & slaughter houses circulating the internet nowadays. The thought of eating an animal that has been raised in disgusting environments and put through horrendous pain and suffering really has forced most people to stop and think before taking a bite out of that piece of flesh.

Going green has also shifted to how we train. We are becoming more conscious about using less motorized equipment in air-conditioned gyms, to rather training using our own body weight in a natural setting. Green is the new black!

Sugar Alternatives: The Good, The Bad, And The Tasty

We all know that sugar is bad for you in excess. But, there are occasions when you want some so which alternative sugars are best? Also some foods containing healthier sugars are actually better for your blood sugar control than foods that say ‘sugar free’. So, how do you know what’s good, what’s bad and how much you can have?

Firstly, it’s worth understanding how sugar works. The sugar our bodies run off is glucose. The body is designed to break down natural sugars into glucose, which then enters the bloodstream to power all cells. Most fruit provides fructose. This has to be converted into glucose by the liver, making it more slow-releasing with a low ‘Glyceamic Index’, with a GI of 23, which is the speed at which a sugar raises blood glucose levels. Glucose, by definition, has a GI of 100.

Nature never provides fructose, found mainly in fruit but also extracted from corn, without fibre. So, when you eat the whole food your liver gets drip fed fructose, which it converts to glucose. However, if you have a direct and excessive supply of fructose it both taxes the liver and can be directly turned into fat. The cola companies love it both because it is cheaper and also people will drink more before the glucose ‘appestat’ kicks in and says you’ve had enough sweetness.

So, any source of refined fructose, not in whole fruit, from fresh juice to agave, is best limited.

Sucrose, white sugar, is a glucose and a fructose molecule, with a GI of about 70. Faster than fructose, slower than glucose. Honey, molasses and maple syrup have a similar GI to regular sugar – brown or white, as does Sucanat. Milk sugar is lactose, made up of a unit of glucose and a unit of galactose. It has a GI of 46. Worse than fructose.

Then, there are sugar alcohols. (They don't get you drunk!) These usually end in ‘tol’ – maltitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, sorbitol, also isomalt. Some, like xylitol, are naturally occurring, others, like maltitol, are man-made. They are sweet but have a fraction of the calories and a fraction of the effect on blood sugar and are therefore very low GI. The synthetic sugars sorbitol, mannitol, isomalt, lactitol, erythritol all have very low GI scores, below 10, and are often used to sweeten processed foods. You’ll find sorbitol, for example, used in children’s chewables. While not ‘natural’ the only real side-effect of sugar alcohols at high dose is the potential for loose bowels.

Xylitol is the best natural sugar alcohol with a GI of 8. That means that 9 teaspoons of xylitol would have the same effect on your blood sugar as one teaspoon of regular sugar. The only problem with xylitol is that it won't caramelise, so don't try it for crèmebrulée or dishes where the sugar has to melt, and it also has a slightly cooling after taste so it’s not the best in, for example, chocolate. It is good for cakes, jams, added to cereal or teas. It is also solid, not liquid. Probably the best liquid sugar is agave, but this varies in quality and is effectively fructose.

Xylose, the precursor of xylitol, is the predominant sugar in berries, cherries and plums, so these are the best fruits to eat. Apples and pears contain mainly fructose. Dates, grapes and hence raisins have simpler sugars and a GI more like white sugar. Date sugar would be worse. The food industry exploit this by using grape juice concentrate as a ‘natural’ sugar or adding dates, raisins and banana to ‘sugar free’ bars and smoothies, but don't be fooled. Apple juice concentrate is also used, and is certainly a better natural sweetener that grape juice concentrate.

Coconut palm sugar claims a low GI of 35 but I’m suspicious. It contains sucrose and should be around 65. Same as honey. It is possible that it has other mitigating factors that slow the release, or that this score is wrong. The analysis was done in the Phillipines, where the economy is dependent on coconut products. It’s in my wait and see category. (By the way, you will see variable GI scores for foods in tables. It is measured by feeding volunteers the sugar and measuring blood sugar levels. Natural variations do occur. It is not an exact science.)

Another interesting natural sugar from a root in South America is Yacon. It is high in inulin which also helps lower blood sugar effects. The GI is unknown.

There are many man made artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, that have no GI, but there are associated health problems in excess. I avoid these. The only zero GI natural sweetener I’d eat is stevia. There’s nothing wrong with it, except the taste. Stevia has a ‘sting in the tail’ - a slightly unpleasant after-taste. If you can deal with that it’s good.

Both the most important thing is to have less sugar overall, and primarily get your sweetness from whole foods. You can wean yourself off having a sweet tooth by gradually decreasing the level of sweetness in foods and drinks. Also, combine protein with carbohydrate foods because that slows down the speed of release of sugars. While the GI of a food tells you how quickly it’s sugars raise your blood sugar compared to glucose, the Glycemic Load (GL) is a better measure because it tells you what a specific amount of a sugar does to your blood sugar. You can look up the GL of foods online at www.holforddiet.com.

Keeping Fit Outside The Gym

South Africa's sunny skies in the festive season are enough to make anyone crave the outdoors, with gym routines being forgotten as a result. The irony of it? Summer is when we strive to be in the best shape possible! If you want to keep fit while still enjoying the feel good factor of the holiday season, here are some activities to get you there.

Hit The Water

Our warm weather should already have you in the water, so make the most of it! Stand up paddle-boarding remains one of the most popular, family-friendly and physically demanding watersports of the moment, but you can get back to basics and enjoy skiing and tubing – while torching a lot of calories. Kayaking and paddle-boats are easier options if you’re going it alone or just with a partner. Another firm family favourite is a nearby waterpark.

Bounce It Out

As adults, jumping on trampolines is often a foreign and forgotten pleasure. The benefits are also endless, with rebounding improving everything from core strength, bone density and joint health to cellulite and skin tone! Join the kids and make the most of trampolines, whether at home or at your holiday destination. You can even pencil it in properly and try out the new bouncing facilities cropping up nationwide that are essentially wall-to-wall trampolines lined with foam.

Join A Community

It’s still scheduled exercise, but gathering at the beachfront or park for a communal run adds an element of festivity to your average 5km. Join one of the many free running or trail running clubs in your area (parkrun is guaranteed to be available in all big cities) and bring the whole family along. Keep an eye out for specific family events like colour runs and night cycles as well.

Make Your Home A Playground

Gardens and driveways provide the perfect space for badminton or volleyball nets. Set them up for your kids and their friends – and for you and yours as well! Having a fun and social activity at home will encourage your kids to get active and enjoy time with the family.

Hit The Roller Derby

A little more alternative, maybe, but definitely no less fun! This typically American female-dominated contact sport is finally trickling down into South Africa and will have you sweating out your calories in a big way. If you’re confident on rollerskates, you can sign up for weekly games at a small fee – and if the trend hasn’t hit your area yet, simply don your skates and hit the promenade instead!

Explore The Sea

Snorkeling and diving are one of the most pleasant ways to exert energy outdoors. Start light with some easy snorkeling, or take it to the next level and enjoy a scuba diving course. If that’s a bit intimidating, rent a seawalker and enjoy walking on the ocean floor! The resistance of the water will tone without you noticing.

Explore By Foot

Whether you’re in a new destination or home for the holidays, be a tourist and plan a walking tour. Pick a trail route, picnic site or a historical monument and plan a walking route around it.

Plan A DIY Holiday Project

This could be for you, or the family as a whole, but take on a fairly physical DIY project for the holidays. Maybe you want to build that veggie patch, make a small treehouse for the kids or use pallets for outside furniture. It could even be as simple as painting an outside wall a different colour for a fun upgrade. Get creative and physical at the same time and enjoy a tangible reward at the end of it.

Walk And Talk

Do you and your bestie love your weekly catch ups? Skip the wine and chocolate on the couch and meet up in a nearby park or communal garden instead. Map a route and enjoy a brisk walk while catching up as usual – a coffee at the end of it could serve as a reward when you’re done.

Hit The Gym – Outdoors

That’s right – all the benefits of a regular gym, cleverly structured for outdoor use! These amazing innovations may seem like a strange set of jungle gyms at first glance – but don’t be fooled. The outdoor gym equipment lets you train muscle groups with added resistance, and is both free and open 24/7! All our main cities are well-equipped with outdoor gyms, and these are but a few of them offered nationwide! Browse online for an outdoor gym in your area and enjoy a fully-equipped gym workout in the fresh air.

Conscious Walking

Although we walk all the time, our walking is usually more like running. When we walk like that we print anxiety and sorrow on the Earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. If we can take one step like this, we can take two, three, four and five. When we are able to take one step peacefully and happily, we are working for the cause of peace and happiness for the whole of humankind. -Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step

How do you walk? Where is your mind? Are you aware of what is taking place in your body? Are you always rushing from one place to another just to arrive?

Can you become fully aware of the experience that we know as ‘walking’? Can you feel all the muscles, joints and movements? Can you simply walk to experience ‘walking’ without the need to arrive somewhere? Can walking become a present moment experience that allows you to be fully conscious?

I invite you to become aware of how you walk and to have the intention to walk consciously with lightness and ease… and experience and feel the benefits! “Don’t hurry. Present moment is a wonderful moment.”

Pregnant? Exercise Options for Every Mood

When it comes to exercising through pregnancy, it’s not a case of one size fits all. Exercise opportunities depend largely on what your fitness levels are, which trimester you’re in and how you’re feeling. One thing that is unanimous, though, is that exercise is important! It can help minimize aches and pains, improve your sleep and even lower your risk of gestational diabetes and depression. Your labour and birth process could even improve! And getting back in shape afterwards won’t be as challenging. If you’re pregnant and discovering that your moods and energy levels aren’t as predictable as always, here are a few options that might make exercising easier for you.

Some General Exercise Rules

Always consult your Ob-Gyn before new exercise habits: While it’s usually best to stick with what you were doing pre-pregnancy, there is no reason why new forms of fitness can’t be beneficial and safe. Whatever you choose, get the go ahead from the doc beforehand.

Improve your skincare habits: Pregnancy hormones can leave your skin more sensitive to sun damage. Always factor in an SPF when you’re exercising outdoors.

Plot your potty breaks: Bladder control is of prime concern as you move up in your trimesters. Whatever the exercise discipline, have an idea of how quickly you can get to a toilet while you’re there.

Avoid dehydration at all costs: Sufficient water is even more important during pregnancy, as low water levels could initiate early labour.

Listen to your body: It won’t be capable of what it was before pregnancy, and there will be days when a light walk is a better idea than an hour of hard exercise. Go with your gut feeling.

Exercises For Every Mood and Energy Level

If You’re Feeling: TIRED

Walking

Why: Whether it’s first trimester nausea or final trimester baby weight that’s left you feeling exhausted, walking is the easiest exercise to undertake. It doesn’t take much mental commitment to head out for a walk, and you can add a little intensity with a few speedier intervals or gentle inclines if you feel like it. You can even up the ante with toning shoes for a slightly more intense walk and an increased number of calories burned. Add even more incentive by taking your route past kid-friendly parks. You’ll be too distracted by your research to notice you’re exercising.

Precautions: Your feet are likely to swell during your pregnancy, especially during your final trimester. Too-tight shoes can leave you susceptible to foot injuries and imbalance, so it’s better to take a size up. Also stick to familiar routes and avoid uneven terrain.

Swimming

Why: You aren’t as susceptible to falling or injury, you won’t overheat and your joints will be spared 50% of the impact.Swimming is an ideal, low-impact exercise for women in the later stages of their term and feels a lot less strenuous than a session on the treadmill.

Precautions: Pregnant women don’t only run a risk from high temperatures. They need to avoid chillier ones as well, so steer clear of freezing water. If you think you’re prone to slipping, wear aqua shoes in the shallower areas.

If You’re Feeling: Stressed

Hiking

Why: Hiking is a wonderful way to get outdoors and enjoy your environment while also improving your cardio and strength fitness. The fresh air and connection to nature will also work wonders on your mood, and a scenic path acts as a natural destressor.

Precautions: Opt for a steady terrain – save the bundu-bashing or explorative routes for post-pregnancy. Check that your current hiking shoes are still meeting your needs and consider taking hiking poles along for added stability. Always take a buddy along for your hikes too.

Yoga

Why: The prospect of a new baby accompanied by changing hormones can leave you a little on the edgy side. Yoga not only strengthens your core and improves flexibility, with its emphasis on breathing and meditation it fosters a sense of calm. New studies have even shown women’s depressive symptoms to decrease steadily during consistent yoga training, while mindfulness increased.

Precautions: In the second half of your pregnancy, avoid exaggerated twists and movements that tug on your belly, as well as those that require you to lie on your back or belly for longer than a few seconds. Inversions like headstands and shoulder stands are a no-no.

If You’re Feeling: Energetic

Zumba

Why: Some of the lucky few pregnant women sail through their terms with little aggravation. If you’ve been blessed this way, you can have a blast with a Zumba session. The hip rolling and core conditioning in this standing ab workout works your pushing muscles, while the choreographed moves improve your ever-changing sense of coordination and balance. A lot of women lose confidence during their pregnancy, so you’ll feel sexier with all the hip shaking as an added bonus. You’ll also burn a ton of calories in the process.

Precautions: Stick to the indoor/studio classes versus natural environments with potentially uneven grounds. Your teacher should be trained in prenatal exercise, so make sure she shows you modifications to the usual moves, particularly those with a lot of bending and twisting. These classes can also up your intensity without you realizing it, so make sure you can sing along to the music at all times. If you’re lucky, there may even be an aqua-Zumba in your area, which minimizes impact to nearly zero.

Spinning

Why: Cycling can ease back pain, boost your mood and improve sleep, which means spinning does just the same. Spin classes are often a go-to exercise for those who love the ‘runner’s high’ and have plenty of energy to expend. Opting for a stationary bike versus cycling outdoors is also a necessary precaution during pregnancy.

Precautions: Spinning classes can be intense – if you’re panting or gasping for breath you need to take it down a notch. Pregnancy is also not the time to join the keen-beans who stand during their spinning session, as it adds intensity and can stress extra-flexible joints. If you’re finding your lower back is suffering, relieve the tension by sitting back more – you’ll need to adjust the handlebars and bring them in a little closer to you.

If You’re Feeling: Strong

Your Normal Strength Routine

Why: If you were training hard before your pregnancy, there is no reason not to stay in the gym. Strength training is one of the best ways to minimize aches and pains, and weight machines are great as they control your range of motion, which is important as your joints increase in flexibility. Building upper body strength also helps with the biomechanics of motherhood – think lifting, bending and holding. A few modifications are all you need for a safe session, as well as aiming to maintain rather than build muscle.

Precautions: Steer clear of machines with pads that press on your belly, and give any exercises with overhead lifts a skip – these can increase the curve in your lower spine during pregnancy. Make sure that any advice you seek on modifying your workouts comes from a credible professional.

Pilates

Why: Pilates helps maintain a powerful core, which will support your growing belly, minimize back pain and give you strength during delivery. It is also an excellent non-impact form of strength training that boosts your mood and energy.

Precautions: There is a lot of mat work in Pilates, which will mean modifications as you progress through your pregnancy. Make sure your Pilates instructor is skilled in prenatal training, or seek out a pregnancy-focused class. An angled foam spine support (found in most Pilates studios) will help keep your head higher than your belly during flat back exercises.

If You’re Feeling: Nervous

Prenatal Fitness Classes

Why: Pregnancy is not a smooth trip for many, and moms are often nervous – especially if it’s their first time. If you have access to prenatal exercise classes, sign up! Not only are the workouts modified for your pregnancy for a guaranteed safe experience, you’ll have the support of other moms-to-be in the class who are also going through what you’re going through.

Precautions: Almost none! If you’ve checked out the credibility of the instructor, you should be in very safe hands. Prenatal instructors will also be more sensitive to your needs and moods than the average instructor.

Personal Training

Why: If you’re determined to keep fit, sessions with a personal trainer are one of the safest ways to do it. You enjoy the company of an expert when it comes to modifying traditional exercises, and you’ll have the security of someone double checking your safety the whole way through your session.

Precautions: Credentials are a big one – make sure your trainer comes highly recommended by other moms-to-be.

5 Steps To Tone The Tummy & Thighs

I like writing about topics that people need advice on, topics relating to health and fitness that they are really struggling with. So, what are the two areas people (specifically women) seem to struggle with most? The response is an overwhelming "tummy & thighs" (to be more specific, lower abs and top thighs including bum). Why do so many women struggle with these 2 areas? Well, women are designed differently to men. We are genetically designed to have wider hips and softer abdomens, but this structure can still have amazing tone & shape. Therefore if you understand the shape of your body and the factors that affect it, you can be better-equipped to optimize that shape.

Toxins

Cellulite, uneven/soft skin tone and stubborn areas are caused by a build up of toxins. Toxins come from a range of places, from the food you eat, to the air you breath, to the shampoo you use, and even to the washing powder that cleans your clothes. Many of these things are difficult to control but the one area you have the most control is food. Toxins accumulate over years and it takes real commitment to get the body clean. Commit to removing toxins from your system and you will slowly start seeing and feeling results.

Honesty

I often hear: “But I eat clean”, “But I train hard”, “But I don’t eat junk”. If you are mentally blocking out the odd glass of wine through the week, the cookies in between meetings, the handful of crisps while lying on the couch, the chocolate cake when meeting the girls for coffee, the blurry night of cocktails, or the Friday pizza because you felt you deserved it, you will always struggle with the tummy and thighs. The harsh reality is that some of us have to work harder than others and it is human nature to compare ourselves with the Supermodel on the latest cover of Vogue, but you have to accept what you have been given and make that work best for you. Once you have done that, get real with yourself, be honest. If you really are eating clean, training hard, & avoiding junk, your body and health will flourish.

What To Do:

Step 1 – clean out your fridge. If there is junk, you are going to eat it!

Step 2 – replace EVERYTHING you drink with water! You will loose 1-2 kilos in the first week by just doing that!

Step 3 – commit to a structured eating & training plan. In my many years of working in a gym, I have seen how on Monday everyone starts and by Wednesday they have given up. Most people waste their time texting, chatting, “recovering” or daydreaming because they don’t have structure.

Step 4 – Plan your week. This is actually the first thing I require from my program is that each and every person who starts, has to plan their week. Without structure you will fall off the wagon come

Step 5 – Too much cardio will kill your metabolism. You have to weight train, and no, I do not mean or encourage a “male weight training program”. I am talking about basic body weight training. Women flourish on body weight training because it keeps them lean, toned and elongated, boosts their metabolism, and builds muscle with no bulking. Cardio is essential but it really does not reshape the body. 20min a day 3x a week is more than enough, alternatively consider interval training.

BONUS STEP - Hold yourself accountable. No more “But I”. If you are starting your sentences with “But I”, get out of that habit. Place value on your health and where you want to be and take responsibility. By embracing that you are unique and accepting that your body will change at its own rate, will help you take responsibility and action towards your goals.

Peanut-Butter Protein Smoothie

This is the perfect pre/post workout snack, packed with potassium and rich in protein to feed those muscles optimally!

Serving Size: 1

Preparation Time: 7-10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. xylitol/stevia
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 scoop brown rice vegan protein powder
  • 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend on high speed for 2 mins
  2. Pour into glass jar or large drinking glass
  3. Top with almond flakes and crushed pecans
  4. Enjoy

Dismantle The Barriers Holding Your Fitness Back

LITTLE STEPS: Set realistic goals and remember to pace yourself. Start small and build only when you are ready.

SUMMER is here and you really want to improve your shape. Somehow, you just can’t get going yet. If you don’t include physical activity in your daily routine, what’s stopping you? Consider common barriers to fitness — and practical strategies for keeping your exercise programme on track.

Sticking to a regular exercise schedule isn’t easy. After all, there are plenty of potential hindrances — time, boredom, injuries, self-confidence. But these issues don’t need to stand in your way. Consider practical strategies for overcoming common barriers to fitness.

I’m Self-Conscious About How I Look When I Exercise

Don’t beat yourself up about it. Remind yourself what a great favour you’re doing for your cardiovascular health, or focus on how much stronger you feel after a workout. Praise yourself for improving your stamina and making a commitment to lifelong fitness.

If you’re still uncomfortable exercising in the presence of others, go solo at first. Try an exercise video or an activity oriented video game. Consider investing in a stationary bicycle, treadmill, stair-climbing machine or other piece of home exercise equipment. As you become healthier and more at ease with exercising, your self-confidence is likely to improve as well.

I’m Too Tired To Exercise After Working All Day

No energy to exercise? Without exercise, you’ll have no energy. It’s a vicious cycle. But breaking the cycle with physical activity is one of the best gifts you can give yourself:

  • Try a morning dose of exercise. Remember the suggestion to get up 30 minutes earlier to exercise? Hop on the treadmill or stationary bicycle while you listen to the radio or watch the morning news. Or step outside for a brisk walk.
  • Make lunchtime count. Keep a pair of walking shoes at your desk, and take a walk during your lunch break.
  • Be prepared. Put workout clothes on top of your dresser, socks and all. Keep a full water bottle in the fridge. Have an exercise video queued up and ready to go when you get home at night.
  • Hit the hay earlier. Running on empty is no way to face a full day. Go to bed earlier to make sure you’re getting enough sleep.

I’m Too Lazy To Exercise

If the mere thought of a morning jog makes you tired, try these thoughts on for size:

  • Set realistic expectations. If your mental bar is too high, you might give up without even trying. Start with a walk around the block. Don’t give up if you feel worn out. Take another walk around the block tomorrow. Keep it up, and eventually you’ll no longer feel worn out.
  • Work with your nature, not against it. Plan physical activity for times of the day when you tend to feel more energetic — or at least not quite so lazy.
  • Schedule exercise as you would schedule an important meeting or appointment. Block off times for physical activity, and make sure your friends and family are aware of your commitment. Ask for their and support.

I’m Not Athletic

Natural athletic ability isn’t a prerequisite for physical activity. Try something simple, such as a daily walk. Better yet, team up with friends who are in the same boat. Have fun while helping each other work out. Don’t worry about becoming a superstar athlete or joining the hard-bodied athletes at the gym. Simply focus on the positive changes you’re making to your body and mind.

I’ve Tried To Exercise In The Past And Failed

Don’t throw in the towel. You can’t see it when you lower your cholesterol or reduce your risk of diabetes, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t doing yourself a big favour. Re-evaluate what went wrong, and learn from your mistakes. Pace yourself. Start small and build to more intense workouts, when your body is ready. Some tips:

  • Set realistic goals. Don’t promise yourself you’re going to work out for an hour every day, and then beat yourself up when you fall short. Stick with goals you can more easily achieve, such as exercising 20 minutes a day, three days a week for the first month.
  • Remember why you’re exercising. Use your personal fitness goals as motivation — and reward yourself as you meet your goals.

I’m Afraid I’ll Hurt Myself If I Exercise

If you’re nervous about injuring yourself, start off on the right foot. Some tips:

  • Take it slow. Start with a simple walking programme. As you become more confident in your abilities, add activities to your routine.
  • Try an exercise class for beginners. Learn the basics by starting from scratch.
  • Consider working one-on-one with a personal trainer. Get a customised fitness tutorial from a certified expert, who can monitor you and point you in the right direction.

My Family And Friends Don’t Support My Efforts To Exercise Regularly

Remind those close to you of the benefits of regular exercise — and then bring them along. Some tips:

  • Get your kicks with your kids. Sign up for a parent-child exercise class. Pack a picnic lunch and take your family to the park for a game of tag or kickball. Splash with the kids in the pool instead of watching from your chair.
  • Propose a new adventure. Instead of suggesting a workout at the gym, invite a friend to an indoor climbing wall or rent a tandem bicycle for the weekend.
  • If necessary, have a heart-to- heart with your loved ones. If they don’t share your fitness ambitions, ask them to respect your will to get fit. 

8 Reasons Why You Should Try Pilates

Having practiced an assortment of dance styles for 17 years, I have been exposed to many forms of body conditioning in order to build up strength and improve my dance technique One of the most effective forms of body conditioning I have had the pleasure of practicing is Pilates. When you consider the source, it makes sense that Pilates would do all of this and more: Founder, Joseph H. Pilates was a frail little boy, who faced many physical challenges such as asthma, rickets and rheumatic fever. Determined to conquer his ailments, he turned to the study of the ancient mind-body arts, through which he was able to integrate key principles from yoga and isometric resistance work. He came to know through his own experience that specific breathing techniques performed in tandem with targeted movements would dramatically improve his overall health, and would help him to sculpt a super-hero physique. Little did he know when he began that he would rise up to become the pioneer of a global fitness revolution, changing the lives of millions.

So why try Pilates? Here are a few good reasons:

Body-Mind synergy

The “powerhouse” in Pilates is the term that refers to the main focal area of strength which includes the primary abdominal, pelvic and back muscles. The idea of a “powerhouse” encompasses all aspects of what total fitness subsumes. The physical benefits that one can reap from practicing Pilates, like yoga, are tenfold. Pilates is a “vitality supercharger.” You engage the mind to move the body as an integrated whole concurrently with breath. Movement is economised by activating only those muscles that are required to perform an exercise with grace, control and precision. Freshly oxygenated blood is pumped throughout the entire body, galvanising the lymphatic system, which aids in the removal of toxins. Endorphin and serotonin production is stimulated in abundance which triggers a euphoric sense of total wellbeing. Pilates is unmatched in the arena of total body toning and conditioning. Pilates is a gentle but challenging, gravity-defying system of physical conditioning that focuses on body placement and increasing awareness of your capabilities and untapped resources. It changes your body and makes it longer, leaner and stronger. It empowers you as it helps you create the body you’ve always wanted

Rapid Results

Pilates is so effective, and so powerful, that when taught properly, it makes your entire body stronger and more flexible in no time at all. People report dropping inches in mere weeks. It helps your body to know what good posture feels like right away and quickly improves your breathing, which also enhances your mood and general outlook on life. Even after one class, you’ll look and feel taller, more energized, more capable and more alive.

Powerful Cross-Training Tool

Pilates is an incredibly effective cross-training activity. It makes any sport you love even better. Pilates not only strengthens the weaker muscles and gives the dominant muscles a break by demanding that you work symmetrically, it also makes you more aware of your body, thereby enhancing coordination, alignment, balance, power and precision. With age, the synovial fluid that protects our joints diminishes, and Pilates helps to keep the surrounding muscles strong to alleviate any burden on the joints. It aids with arthritic relief because the precise movements lubricate the joint capsule itself, and relieve inflammation. Aspiring dancers like myself have used Pilates as a secret weapon to strengthen our abdominals and our bodies, so that we can jump higher, turn faster and move with greater control and grace. My dance teachers incorporated various Pilate’s exercises into daily dance class to help me become the best dancer I could be. This kept me inspired, injury free and powerful!

Mindful Movement

“Economy of movement” is one of Pilates’ foundational principles, meaning that you learn how to focus your efforts with precision and engage only those muscles that are required to successfully perform the exercise. The rest of the body breathes and participates but does not strain. Because every movement in Pilates emanates from the core, it keeps you balanced by applying both sides of the body symmetrically in order to carry out each exercise successfully. Every exercise focuses on the core muscles of the torso, and includes specific breathing patterns for each exercise that teaches you how to channel energy to those targeted areas while relaxing the rest of the body.

Quality Over Quantity

Pilates requires a few number of repetitions with the greatest amount precision and control, which enables you to get the most out of your workout, while promoting your focus and determination. Rather than feeling drained and exhausted, Pilates energises and inspires you to make each movement count. The result? Greater overall muscular stamina and considerable skill, mindfully accomplished, with less effort.

Stress Less

Pilates triggers the magical chain of chemical responses in the body, chief among them the release of endorphins, which reduces stress and improves the quality of your sleep. The very nature of Pilates asks that you silence the mind by giving it single-focus tasks that engage it fully, and in so doing, creates freedom from the stresses we endure in the outside world. Every movement emanates from the core, and since our core is also the seat of our emotions, the exercises themselves help to truly balance us. When you focus your attention on the moment and act in harmony with time, you experience inner peace and fulfilment. By staying in the present, you can do less, yet gain more; paradoxically, you create more personal power and energy, enabling you to have a greater influence over the outcome both in your sessions and long after you leave the studio.

Personal Fulfilment

Pilates is similar to the practice of yoga, which promotes consciousness and facilitates personal evolution and transformation. The subtle magic of the work is that it grows as you do. Pilates provides a platform through which you are able to rise to higher levels of capability as your self-awareness and experience deepen. As you become more mindful of your movement, your actual physical strength increases, you are able to perfect form and shape. Pilates sees physical activity as a way of establishing total harmony of body, mind and spirit; under this notion, exercise becomes the means to experiencing a personal potential greater than the physical skills themselves. When you feel a sense of true accomplishment and fulfilment by virtue of your own efforts, you feel purposeful, hopeful and capable.

So take it from a dancer and give Pilates a try! It's so worth it!

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