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Fitness – It’s all in the game

14 Dec

My avatar

Having spent weeks playing Gears of War 3 on the Xbox I thought I would look into the world of exercise gaming.

While Nintendo lead the way with this type of gaming with their Wii Fit, Playstation and Xbox have now caught up offering their own get-fit-at-home games. I would even argue that Xbox has gone one better with their Kinect, which leaves your hands free from controllers so that you can use apparatus during the game.

Having seen EA Active 2 on Xbox being sold for just £10 (bargain), I decided to give it a go.  Luckily I already had a Kinect, but if you don’t, you’ll need one.

It’s simple enough to set up and by using the Kinect sensor you get a pretty realistic avatar straight off, so no faffing around trying to find the right pair of eyes, hair or nose. Although its a little creepy. At first, I got the niggling feeling that ‘the Matrix starts here…’, but don’t let my over active imagination put you off.

Once you have your avatar in place you have to enter in a lot of data, which takes a bit of time, but that’s only the set up, so do it once and then let the Xbox work its magic. The only thing I would say about this part is that it could be a little more constructive. Having updated that I hadn’t eaten any healthy food or done any exercise the day before, I was told that I was making good lifestyle choices. As it only took the day before into consideration, I would have to disagree.

Once I was set up I picked my personal trainer. There are two options, cardio and tone or flexibility (yoga, pilates, etc). I went for cardio and tone and picked the hardest setting, which I came to regret once I’d started…

Before I did start however, I had to put in my work out routine for my programme, with a minimum of three days a week – so no slacking there. There are also options on where you want to work e.g. Legs, abs, etc and for how long.

Now there are a couple of pieces of apparatus you need to use when you start, the first is the heart rate monitor (impressive, I know) and the second is a resistance band. The former is easy to set up and pretty high tech, the latter is not… I would suggest going back to the menu screen and opting to use dumbells if you have them.

The exercises were all very simple and explained well. While the majority are done in a one on one format with your personal trainer, there are also foot and bike races against computer adversaries. The bike races are quite fun as they combine running on the spot to go up hill, with squats to gain speed going down hill. You can also perform tricks by jumping at the right moment when hitting a ramp. All of which is a nice distraction from the effort you are putting in.

I really threw myself into it, so after a 45 minute workout I was worn out completely and have to admit still ached 2 days later, having worked little used muscles, especially in my calves.

On first impressions I rate this game, if you think you can stick to scheduled work outs, get involved as I’m sure you’ll see results. Its also great for supplementing the gym as you can log activity done outside of the game so it really does cover all bases.

Now all I have to do is see how the game progresses and how well it tracks progress.

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A new start

9 Oct

After a week from hell, in which I worked 40 hours by the end of Wednesday, I am ready to get back to the gym and a routine in which I can work out at least 3 times a week.

So I’m now aiming to spend the next six weeks completing a proper work out regime. To see how well I’ve done afterwards I’ll be comparing various measurements before and after the training period. These are listed below, along with my current readings. At the moment these are fairly average for my height (174cm or 5’8”).

 

MEASUREMENTS

Weight: 72.8 kg

Fat: 19.2%

Skeletal muscle: 40.5%

BMI: 24

My workout routine, as suggested by my gym instructor at LA Fitness, includes 20 minutes of aerobic work, 4 pin-loaded resistance and 4 free weight resistance exercises and core work. It’s also been suggested that I sporadically take a few classes, including spinning, to mix up my workout.

 

THE WORKOUT

WARM UP

Rower for 5 minutes

 

AEROBICS – any 2 of the following

Treadmill – 10 minutes

X-trainer – 10 minutes

Rower – 10 minutes

 

PIN LOADED EXERCISES – any 4 of the following at 3 sets of 10 reps on a challenging weight, making sure to mix upper and lower body exercises

Lat pulldown

Leg press

Leg curl

Shoulder press

Tricep pushdown

Chest press

 

FREE WEIGHT EXERCISES – as above, with the exception of 21s

Dumbell bench press

Flat flyes

Walking lunges

Lateral raise

Bicep curl

21s

 

CORE EXERCISES – I’ll be trying to fit this in around 5 times a week

Crunches – 4 sets of 20 reps

Plank – 4 sets of 30 seconds

Side bridge – 3 sets of 30 seconds on each side

cradles – 3 sets of 30 seconds

 

COOL DOWN

Recline bike – 5 minutes on no weight

 

To help me along I will also be taking creatine and protein supplements, with the aim of losing fat and increasing muscle mass, but that’s for another blog.

 

Wish me luck and I’ll let you know how I get on!

 

Ni the supplementer

Creatine: the VERY basics

23 Sep

The creatine molecule

So I’ve been going to the gym for years now and taking protein shakes. I’ve seen creatine on the shelves of health shops like Holland & Barratt and GNC, but never really looked into what it does, or what it is used for.

So after a little research, here is what I know.

Creatine is an amino acid which helps build muscle and is used to power high intensity muscle contractions. It’s widely taken as a supplement in the form of powders and capsules, but it is also present in red meats and produced by the body’s major organs.

In practical terms creatine helps you push heavier weights and complete more reps, thus building muscle mass. It also helps you complete intense aerobic exercises, such as sprinting, rowing and cycling.

Depending on the brand and type of creatine you take, dosages will vary. However it’s important not to go over the RDA, as creatine can put stress on the kidneys and as such people with medical conditions that could be effected by this should consult their doctor before using the creatine.

Once you’ve decided to take creatine it’s important to look at any other sports nutrition supplements you take, to ensure they don’t contain any creatine as this will count toward your RDA.

There are a few different types of creatine, with the most common being creatine monohydrate.  For more information on the different types of creatine and their benefits visit Best Creatine Supplement Review.

For now I’m going to continue to discuss creatine monohydrate as this is the most commonly available and seems to be the entry level form of creatine supplement from my review of supplement forums. There are two phases to taking creatine monohydrate, the loading phase, which is followed by the maintainance phase. The first phase consists of taking creatine up to four times a day to saturate your muscles. In the second phase you simply top up your creatine levels with 1 -2 scoops a day. Though you should always read the directions on the label as different products will vary. Bodybuilding.com has more information on creatine loading by body weight.

Always remember to stay hydrated as creatine will direct water away from major organs and into muscles. If taken without water, creatine use can lead to stomach cramps. A good rule of thumb is to drink a pint of water with each dose.

Hope this helps,

Good luck and good health,

Ni, the Supplementer

The beginning of a new workout

21 Sep

Having put it off for far too long, I am finally getting a review of my workout routine at my LA Fitness in Holborn. I’m hoping that this will help restart my motivation and give me a new set of goals to focus on.

 

Up until now I have been doing chest presses, shoulder presses, weighted row, pull ups, leg presses and some rather lack lustre abs training, followed up by twenty minutes of cardio if I’m really up for it.

 

It really is time to upgrade my fitness and really get back to my former glory. With this in mind I will be working back up to hitting the gym a minimum of 3 times a week and hope to be in full swing by October, when I can really kick it up a notch and concentrate on building muscle, losing fat, thus getting stronger and faster.

 

Wish me luck,

 

Ni, the Supplementer

My fastest run home! RESULT!

16 Aug

That’s right, I managed to cut my personal best for running home from work (5-6km) to 23 minutes. I’m really happy with this as it’s got me to the -25mins that I wanted to get to.

I also didn’t get any problems with my shins which is also great!

Ni, the Supplementer

The not quite naked foot

15 Aug

So the running continues, this time for a 10k run with a difference – I went barefoot. well almost, I tried out my friend’s barefoot running shoes (pictured above).

After a few minutes of fumbling around putting these ‘foot gloves’ on and realising that I had no ideas where my toes were, I was ready to start pounding the pavements.

Ideally you should walk around in barefoot running shoes for a few days to wear them in, but I only had limited access to them, so I went straight into running and no real harm came to me. That being said, I would not suggest anyone do this – make sure you learn how to run barefoot first.

We live in shoes most of the day, they provide us with support, which allows us to develop bad habits. Losing the support of a good shoe can expose these bad habits and cause injury…

…Anyway, back to the run. Having done the 10k,  I can definitely see the appeal of these shoes. For me they helped in understanding my gait and in feeling out how my feet were contacting the ground.

The sensation of feeling the different running paths under my feet was also a revelation and helped me see just how bad my heel striking was. In the long run (no pun intended) I think running with these shoes will help reduce my heel striking – so I may just go out and get my own! Also I can imagine they would be great to take back home for beach running!

I’ll definitely be getting my mits on a pair of minimalist shoes and learning how to use them properly.

There’s a great article on the Runners World website by author of Running for Mortals and Marathon Running for Mortals, Coach Jenny Hadfield, which gives advice on learning how to run with minimalist shoes.

Live long and prosper,

Ni The Supplementer

Running pains: Shin Splints

7 Aug

After spending two weeks hitting the pavements in a bid to get back into running, I’ve developed pains in my shins. These pains start as soon as I begin a run and dull down until I stop running. Having done a little research it would appear I’m suffering from shin splints or, more accurately, tendinitis.

According to the NHS the condition is commonly associated with long distance running and sports that put pressure on the bones through continued pounding on hard surfaces, or rapid stop-starting and changes of direction. Running down hill and over pronated running style can also be a cause of shin splints.

There are a few theories as to the cause of the pain, with the most common ones being that the calf muscles don’t keep up and put extra strain on the shins’ tendons, that the membrane between the bones in the leg becomes damaged, or that tiny fractures appear in the bone of the shin (tibia).

Whatever theory you subscribe to, the overriding advice is the same. Most importantly, DON’T run through the pain and ice the area after running. Rest the lower legs for two weeks, you can still do other exercises, but avoid sports such as swimming and tennis. If you haven’t already, try getting your gait analysed and buying some supportive trainers. See New Trainers… What to Look For re: more information on buying trainers.

You can also exercise your lower legs by strapping small weights onto your foot and flexing your ankles. Always remember to stretch before and after any exercise and to seek medical advice if you experience long term pain.

Hope that helps,

Ni, The Supplementer

 

Supplementer Challenge 1: Results

6 Aug

So it’s two weeks since I declared that I was going to run the 5-6km home from work every day (well except the weekends). The idea of the challenge was to supplement my lifestyle with a little exercise to get me back into running, having not kept to a regular running schedule for many months now. The second and most important role of this challenge was to help me get some sleep, having gone through a spell of bad sleep and more often plain old fashioned insomnia.

I’ve found out a few things about working exercise into your day from this challenge such as…

Life gets in the way

Life and more likely work, gets in the way. When you stay in he office until 9pm you can’t really run home and expect to achieve a good night’s sleep. Which brings me onto my next point

Be flexible

If you have to attend to social affairs after work, or at any time you have earmarked for exercise, improvise. I was caught out when I had to attend a friends leaving meal after work, so I popped into my gym on the way to the meal and knocked out a quick 20 minute run and 10 minute work out on the mats – some exercise is better than none. Even if you make time to walk to the event your attending you’ll be doing something.

It’s not as simple as lacing up your trainers and hitting the streets

Sadly it would appear that my legs were completely out of shape at the beggining of the challenge, which lead to shin splints as my calf muscles strained to keep up. I’ll be blogging shortly on how to combat this, but it’s definitely something to bear in mind if you try and pick up running after a long break.

So that’s the main things. Having finished the challenge I’m defintely getting back to the fitness I used to have and think that I look a lot more in shape than I did before. I’m also sleeping a lot better and am more enthused about fitness in general. I think I’ll keep this up, so expect more running blogs in future.

Now onto the next challenge…

Live long and prosper,

Ni, The Supplementer

New trainers… what to look for

30 Jul

 

With so much running going on, I realised it was about time I got a new some new trainers. So off to Runners Needs I went to have a gait analysis done, wallet in hand.

The analysis was very quick, just a few minutes on a treadmill and they had taken a selection of images of my feet and were able to tell me about my running style and advise on which trainers to get.

So what do you need to look out for when buying running shoes?

Over Pronation – Flat foot

This is where the foot rolls too far in, leaving a full footprint without any sign of the arch. In this running style the foot lands on the heel and then follows through more squarely, overworking the big and second toe. The knee and ankle are also put under pressure as they try to keep balance.

To counteract this ask for a trainer that has extra support for the inner arch of the foot. This will reduce the amount of pressure your knees and ankles come under when stabilising the body and stop you overworking your big and second toes.

Under Pronation – High arch

This is, as you may have guessed is the opposite of flat foot. This type of foot placement looks fine to the casual observer, but the key difference is that the arch is too large. With under pronation the foot doesn’t roll in enough, relying too heavily on the smaller toes for stability and relying on the lower leg to deal with shock. Under pronators are susceptible to shock injuries such as stress fractures.

To protect against this you will need extra cushioning to help absorb shock.

Normal gait (Natural pronation)

This is the ideal, the foot lands on the outside of the heel and comes down along the outside of the foot turning inward to incorporate the middle and ball of the foot. The motion finishes with the foot pushing off the ground from the big toe.

For this type of step you’ll need a trainer that supports your natural pronation, often called a stability shoe. This shoe will provide support without working against your step.

So what did I get?..

Thankfully I have a nice normal gait and have since bought a nice new pair of Nike Pegasus 27 trainers in grey and luminous green (I’m not getting run over any time soon!).

RANT ALERT…

I also managed to get them in the sale as they were and I quote “last seasons colours”… I’m sorry, but these are trainers! I am literrally going to run them into the ground… Though I shouldn’t complain, other peoples’ vanity has lead to me getting 20% off my trainers.

RANT OVER

Now I’m off for a run!

Ni The Supplementer

 

Supplementer Challenge: Running out of time

28 Jul

Time to lace up my trainers and hit the streets!

So we’re only a few days into the challenge to run a minimum of 6k (the distance between my work and home) and we’ve already struck a snag, namely work.

My first few runs have been fine, if a little slower than they used to be. However, yesterday I was stuck at the office until 9pm, which is no time to be going for a run when your bed time is 10pm.

The only way around this was to walk home. I managed to do some exercise, while not giving my body any reason to stay awake. I also managed to pick up a few ingredients for my next healthy meal on the way. Not a bad compromise all in all… Back to the running today though!!

Ni