Note to Self:

I could tell you all that stuff but, quite frankly and without wishing to offend, it would be bollocks. There’s no excuse. I am in pain because I did not take my own advice. I knew damn well that the muscles in my lower back were tight and a little inflamed but, having discovered the new challenge of running up all the stairs around here I just ignored it.

“Did you or did you not write a post about the importance of taking rest days?”

“Ummmmmmm………yes?”

“Don’t say another word, I can’t even look at you right now”

ShameI could tell you that, after a few days of non-stop rain, the sun came out and I was determined to make the most of it by getting outside. I could tell you that I didn’t actually intend to take a 5 mile hike involving lots of stairs and hills but I got carried away with the music blah blah blah. I could tell you that my best friend wanted to go to the gym and I couldn’t really say no. I could tell you that I will have to be in my sick bed or on my death bed before I’ll give up my twice weekly Pilates classes.

I could tell you all that stuff but, quite frankly and without wishing to offend, it would be bollocks. There’s no excuse. I am in pain because I did not take my own advice. I knew damn well that the muscles in my lower back were tight and a little inflamed but, having discovered the new challenge of running up all the stairs around here I just ignored it. I also knew that my adductor  muscle (inner thigh) in my right leg were playing up and that would exacerbate the lower back pain. So, did I gently stretch my adductors which I know is the right thing to do or did I demonstrate to my best friend how to use the adductor machine in the gym using too much weight just because I was showing off? I think you can guess..

Back painThe result was 2 days of hardly being able to straighten up because the muscles in my lower back were in spasm, 200 euros spent on massages and ibuprofen and paracetamol every few hours to make the pain bearable. One week on and I’m still in pain and still on a restricted exercise programme, I’ve also had to restrict my diet because I can’t exercise like I normally do. (On the upside I did get some good quality sunbathing in before it started raining again and I finally got to watch Fight Club which turned out to be a brilliant, if somewhat strange violent film)

The moral of this story is don’t give advice to other people if you’re not prepared to take it yourself…..lesson learned (hangs head in shame)

Lisa

x

Do You Love Your Boobs?

If the problem is that Mr Gravity has given your boobs a hammering or having children just seems to have sucked the life out of them, there are some things that you can do to improve the situation. If you’re over 30 it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get back the upwardly pointing perky globes that you had in your late teens but you can try some exercises to stop them hitting your knees 10 years down the line. 

Here’s a question for you: do you love your boobs? If your answer is no, you’re not alone. It’s a sad fact of life that, except for a few short years, our boobs are rarely where we want them to be and sadder still that they are seldom the size or shape that we would wish for. It’s  a bit like Goldilocks and the 3 bears; ‘they’re too big!’ we cry or ‘they’re too small!’ How many of us say ‘they’re just right’? To be honest, how many of us would dare to say that we are perfectly happy with our boobs for fear of getting dagger stares from other women?

Saggy boobsIf the problem is that Mr Gravity has given your boobs a hammering or having children just seems to have sucked the life out of them, there are some things that you can do to improve the situation. If you’re over 30 it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get back the upwardly pointing perky globes that you had in your late teens but you can try some exercises to stop them hitting your knees 10 years down the line.

Essentially our boobs are just sacks of fat and the heavier they are, the more Mr Gravity will try to drag them downwards. If we are overweight, losing a few pounds will certainly help in that department but we also need to strengthen the muscles in our chest to give us back an element of lift. If you don’t fancy going to the gym, swimming is an absolutely excellent boobercise and you’re not limited to the breast stroke either as crawl and butterfly are also going to really work those pecs!

If you don’t fancy that , here are some other exercises that you can do to help you be perky and proud:

Benchpress
Chest press (or bench press) is a great pecs exercise and you can do it with free weights or on machine

Chest fly with weights and wide armed press-ups will also really get those chest muscles working!

Don’t forget, as our boobs contain ligaments which will stretch over time it’s best that we don’t let them go flying about all over the place so it’s important, especially when running, that we invest in a great fitting and supportive sports bra.

There is nothing worse for our silhouette than an ill fitting bra (or if you’re boobs are heading south, no bra at all). Little tiny scraps of silk and lace with little spaghetti straps may look pretty but they’re  not going to keep anything in place if you’re larger than a B cup so speak to someone who knows what they are talking about and have a proper fitting and invest in something that’s best for your shape. (Despite what he might say to the contrary, Dave, the local butcher, is not the ideal person to advise you on underwear!)

Bad bra

This picture brilliantly illustrates the difference that a well fitting bra can make. The boobs are in the right place, there’s no spilling out under the armpits and the straps don’t look like they are trying to cut through the poor woman’s shoulders. Yes it might cost a little more to find your perfect bra but, come on, don’t your boobs deserve it?

If you’re thinking ‘if all else fails I could have a boob lift’ then, yes, that is an option but

  • Consider whether or not you want to have your nipples cut off and then stuck back on somewhere else because, apparently, it’s difficult to sort out the sagging without it
  • Even if you have implants, that will make no difference to Mr Gravity so, over time, your boobs will still sag.
  • As with any surgery, there are risks so have a good think about that before going under the knife

So, there are things we can do to fight the sag but, at the end of the day, we are who we are and we should love ourselves – boobs and all ;O)

Lisa x

 

Exercise is Good For Kids!

We all learn from experience after all and those we have as children are the ones that will shape us as adults so, yes, the headline is right, exercise is good for children but why oh why do we need a newspaper to point this out?

Who knew!?!! Is it just me or does the media, when reporting on obesity and health issues, do nothing more than point out the bloody obvious? It’s been reported today that children who walk or run a mile a day are healthier than those who sit on their backsides; do we actually live in a world where people really don’t know that exercise is good for their kids? If the answer is yes, then is it any wonder that we have an obesity epidemic?

Kids running on hilltopWhat’s worse is that the headline says “children who are made to walk a mile a day”; when I was a child I needed no encouragement to go roaring about all over the place – getting me to sit still was the problem. Was it the same for you? Didn’t you long to be out in the fresh air playing with your friends? Was being told to sit still and not move the cruelest of punishments?

What’s changed? Is it really the case that children would prefer to live in the virtual world rather than experience real life or is it that the parents are too afraid to let them outside in case something awful befalls them? Is it more simple than that? Is it that  the parents don’t care if their kids are obese because they themselves eat unhealthily and live a sedentary lifestyle? If we have bad habits would we prefer that our children followed our example or do we realise that we make bad choices and would do anything to stop them making the same mistakes? Fat kids computer games

Maybe the answer is not to make kids exercise, but to encourage them? Perhaps we could take the time to explain why exercise is beneficial to their physical and mental well being. If we explained just the positive benefits of eating healthily and encouraged them to chart their personal progress in terms of energy and fitness levels, wouldn’t that be better than telling them – “this is good and this is bad”? We all learn from experience after all and those we have as children are the ones that will shape us as adults so, yes, the headline is right, exercise is good for children but why oh why do we need a newspaper to point this out?

I’ve never had children and I could be way off base here so I’d really love to hear your thoughts on this; if you’ve got a spare 5 minutes, please let me know what you think

Lisa x

 

Try, Try…..Try Again and….

Either that or you have to completely change your shopping habits and try to persuade the proprietor of your local small shop that there will be a huge demand for quinoa and chia seeds if he would but stock them and what does he mean he’s never heard of Swiss chard???

Oh f**k it! I give up! How many times do we say those words? Well, maybe not exactly those words but you know what I mean. We start something new with all the passionate enthusiasm of a child wearing big pants for the first time and then what happens? The newness wears off, we wander slowly towards mundane and then its just a few steps to “what new project? Oh that, yes um well…….[quiet muttering]”

How do we go from rampant excitement to complete indifference, or even irritation, in a few short months or weeks? I think pretty much everyone likes to experience new things, even if they might have some trepidation before hand, and people often like a challenge but, sometimes, we start at point A and focus all our attention on point Z without realising that we have points B, C, D, E etc in between the two.

expectationsThis is one of the reasons that so many diets fail. People have an idea in their mind of what they’ll look like when they’ve lost 40lb and it’s an image that pleases them so they decide to lose weight. A quick search on Google brings up 91,800,000 diet plans (I checked) and they pick one; all is well, they have a goal in mind and then they have the novelty of a new mental focus – counting calories. This can be quite fun at first, until you realise that all the foods that you would normally eat have so many calories that, no matter how hard you try, you cannot shoehorn them into your new regime without cutting down to one meal a day. Either that or you have to completely change your shopping habits and try to persuade the proprietor of your local small shop that there will be a huge demand for quinoa and chia seeds if he would but stock them and what does he mean he’s never heard of Swiss chard???

So there you are, 3 months down the line, spending 2 hours in the supermarket every time you shop, calculator in hand, trying to work out the calorie content of your weekly shop and wondering how you will ever face your local shopkeeper again after he got stuck with the 400 packets of Quinoa that you persuaded him to buy……

Lycra failThen there’s all the money that you spent on all that new exercise gear. Of course, when you decide to lose weight, it’s not actually mandatory to spend $300 on a pair of trainers or to equip yourself with the entire Nike Spring line but, let’s face it, shopping is fun and wearing the new clothes will be fun and, no doubt, the exercise will be fun when you finally get round to it. Not everybody does ever get round to it but if you’re a bit more of the determined type you might rock up to your local gym with every good intention. It will be at that point that, faced with the mirror covered walls, that you’ll realise that lycra is not the most forgiving of fabrics; you can just wear leggings or shorts and an ordinary t-shirt……

All of this is going straight to Z, and putting enormous pressure on yourself to boot, so don’t do it. You honestly don’t need to. The fact that you have a leaner and healthier image of yourself in your mind is a fantastic starting point but just accept that it might take a little while to get there. In the meantime, give yourself permission to celebrate each little achievement on the way – if you only lose 2 ounces in one week – so what? The fact is that you have taken a step in the right direction. black-woman-celebrating-being-single

Don’t change all your eating habits over night and don’t expect to learn the calorie content of every food on the planet before you die – it won’t happen! Instead, focus on eating less than you do now. If you want a little bit extra to do, write down everything that you eat today – drinks included – and, tomorrow, reduce that amount by 10%. The next day write another list and do two things:

  1. Notice that the list of today is smaller than yesterday’s list and write yourself a little message of congratulations
  2. Reduce today’s list by 5% – that’s all.

Do the same thing again the next day and see what happens but don’t forget to write yourself a ‘well done me – I’m awesome’ message (in your own words obviously).

Man walking at sunsetYou don’t have to lose 5lbs a week, the diet gods will not smite you if you don’t; all you need to do is take things slowly but surely and, little by little, you’ll get there.

The same thing applies to exercise, you’re not going to transform into Usain Bolt overnight! What you can do is write down what exercise you do on day 1 and, on day 2 just do 10 minutes more. That’s it. Just an extra 10 minutes – we can all spare that, however busy our days are. Try that for a week and then, the following week go for an extra 15 minutes and so on.

It may have been one giant leap for mankind but it started with one small step ;O) x

 

 

Is This What You Want?

My Pilates instructor said “yes, that’s it perfect! Just stay like that while I find my phone and I’ll take a picture”. A couple of minutes in that position and your abs definitely know that they’ve been worked so I was cursing her by the time she took the shot :o)

Yes I’m talking about the six pack, what did you think I meant cheeky?! If you’re a gym bunny you’ll know that the female six pack is pretty much the holy grail and, if you get one, you’ll be able to rock a bin bag let alone a teeny pair of cut off shorts. So, how do I get me one of those I hear you ask?

First things first, you have to be really determined and prepared to work your backside off for months and months; a defined tummy is not a goal for the faint hearted and it’s a big fitness commitment.  Secondly, the older you are, the more difficult it will be (sorry) as women tend to carry more fat around their midriff as they approach and go through menopause.

If you’re still determined this is what you need to know:

  1. You cannot crunch your way to a six pack. If you have a lot of fat around your tummy area you can certainly exercise your way to better core strength and you will be able to build muscle but, unless you change your eating habits to lose the fat, it will stay hidden and you will still have a family pack rather than a six pack.
  2. You will need to reduce down your body fat to around 16-18% in order to get definition but if you want the really sculpted look you’ll need to go down as low as 10 or 12%. Trust me, that’s not a lot for a woman! This will give you an idea:

body-fat-percentage-women.jpg

If you still haven’t given up on the idea I really admire your tenacity! So, what are we talking about here:

  • Your diet will need to be a permanent juggling act as you will need to eat enough to give your body the fuel that it needs to be able to build muscle but you will need to keep your calories low enough that you will burn fat. That means a combination of natural carbs and protein: very lean meat, fish, whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. Refined sugars and carbs will be a no no so you’ll need to cut out all junk and processed foods, white bread and rice etc etc. [Nb that’s pretty much my diet and I don’t have a 6 pack]High protein foods
  • Losing fat through diet i.e. ingesting less calories is not an exact science as it depends on many factors such as body type, muscle mass and activity levels but, as a rule of thumb, if you burn around 3,500 calories, you’ll lose about a pound of fat. That means, to lose a pound each week, you’ll need to reduce your calorie intake by around 500 a day.
  • At the same time as cutting your calorie intake, you’ll need to up your activity levels. Workouts should be a balance between cardio, weights and exercise designed to build core strength such as Pilates. RunningCardio means running, walking, swimming, biking – effectively any exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you sweating. Working out with weights will grow muscle and the larger and stronger the muscles, the more fat you will burn.[Nb. I walk 25km per week on average and I’m doing cardio and weights in the gym at least twice a week and I don’t have a 6 pack]
  • Next, comes core strength. You will need to include exercises which specifically target your abs and obliques in order to get real definition. Pilates is brilliant for this as building core strength by using your own body weight is a fundamental part of the exercises! Abs are the muscles that run down the centre of the stomach and obliques are those down the side and you have to work both. Shown below are a couple of exercises for abs on the left and obliques on the right. Personally I find abs exercises far easier than obliques but everyone is different. [Nb I do 2 hours of Pilates each week and I don’t have a 6 pack]

Yes, top left picture is me; you can’t see me gritting my teeth. My Pilates instructor said “yes, that’s it perfect! Just stay like that while I find my phone and I’ll take a picture”. A couple of minutes in that position and your abs definitely know that they’ve been worked so I was cursing her by the time she took the shot :o)

That’s pretty much it; a strict diet and bucket loads of exercise for months and you too can have a 6 pack. Simples!

Ps. Why don’t I have a bloody six pack?! Oh yes, I like a glass of wine in the evening and there’s only so many things that I’ll trade for a washboard stomach ;O) x

DOMS!

Anyone who works out or just strenuously exercises will have experienced this at some point or another; the pain usually creeps up on you 2 or 3 days after the event and, I must be honest, depending on the muscles you’ve overworked, it’s not pleasant.

“Oh God that hurts!!”

“I know and you asked for it”

“But I enjoyed it at the time”

“You should have said stop when I told you to…..”

Yep, that’s me having a conversation with myself when I’m suffering from DOMS, a self-inflicted pain brought on by having too much fun at the gym. If you’re wondering what the hell goes on at my gym and how you can get membership, I should explain that DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. So why the picture? Well 1. I love the boots and 2. it got your attention didn’t it? ;O)

Tired gymAnyone who works out or just strenuously exercises will have experienced this at some point or another; the pain usually creeps up on you 2 or 3 days after the event and, I must be honest, depending on the muscles you’ve overworked, it’s not pleasant. The worst, for me, is DOMS in the stomach muscles (Abs and obliques); that is an absolute shocker and can leave you feeling really uncomfortable and even a little sick for a few days. I suppose that begs two questions:

  1. Why does it happen?
  2. Why put yourself through that?

The first one is tricky because no-one is entirely sure. When we really work our muscles hard they will grow bigger and stronger as a result of the changes that happen at cellular level. Not to get too scientific about it – the cells throw a wobbly, the body panics a bit and sense pain signals up to the brain.

Planks
In case you were wondering about the Pilates planks….

Why put yourself through it? Personally I love the challenge of pushing my muscles to the point where I just can’t do any more. Collapsing face down, sweaty and out of breath on a mat is not pretty for anyone watching but, if its as a result of getting through a complete plank series for the first time, you will feel amazing. It’s the same as going up a weight when you bench press; the fact that you have the power in your body to do what you couldn’t a few weeks ago is a real buzz!

Anyway, if you get DOMS, what can you do about it?

  • First thing and probably the most important is not to stress about it – accept it for what it is, know it will go away and try to keep your muscles in the surrounding areas relaxed.
  • Keep moving and stretch. Sitting in the same position for hours will not make the pain go away, in fact it could make it worse. Try some light yoga exercises to keep everything moving; these are especially useful if your abs are suffering.
  • You can use both heat and ice on the affected area which will give you some relief but neither will take the pain away – only time’s going to do that I’m afraid.
  • You can take pain killers, specifically anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen, but, as these will mask the pain for a while don’t be fooled into thinking that your muscles are ready for another bashing. In fact, if you can, avoid taking pain killers and try natural anti-inflammatories such as leafy greens and ginger (great juice idea right there!)
  • Massage will also help and, let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good massage.
Cobra pose
Cobra pose is a great way to stretch out sore abs…

There you have it – DOMS in a nutshell – that just brings a whole other picture to mind :O)

Have a great day everyone x

No S**t Sherlock.

I wonder how many more ‘studies’ will need to be commissioned and how many more campaigns chefs will have to embark on before people realise the simple truth – if you feed your children fattening foods and don’t encourage them to exercise – they will get fat?

Apparently if parents and grandparents are obese then, the likelihood is, that the children will be obese according to a recent study; shocker! The researchers didn’t speculate as to why this may be the case but the newspaper that published the study was kind enough to point out that it could be something to do with the adults having a preference for fattening foods! Feel free to join me in a collective eye roll…..

shocked babyIn another shocking discovery – children who are severely overweight will be more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes in later life and, wait for it, if they lose the weight as they arrive into adult hood the risk is then the same as everyone else’s; well I never! I wonder how many more ‘studies’ will need to be commissioned and how many more campaigns chefs will have to embark on before people realise the simple truth – if you feed your children fattening foods and don’t encourage them to exercise – they will get fat?

Kids learn from their parents and other adults in their lives; they watch and they listen to everything that is said and done. As youngsters they don’t have the intellectual capacity to differentiate between the things that will benefit them and those that will have a negative impact. For instance, if a child is told that they are loved and that love is demonstrated by hugs and smiles, it’s something that they can easily relate to; we all like to be told that we’re loved and it’s a fundamental need in most human beings.

Love burgerHowever, what if the child then hears from the people that they’re learning from “I just love burgers and fries, I could eat them for every meal” and what if they see the same smiles adults use when they say they love them bestowed on a giant, jelly filled doughnut? The same applies to negativity. Children pick up on facial expressions and exclamations of dislike or distaste; if your little ones are trying to find our how much toothpaste is in a tube by squeezing it all over the bathroom, sometimes just a look of intense disapproval can be enough to make them reconsider their actions. What if you have that same look on your face when your restaurant meal arrives with vegetables that you don’t like? If you turn your nose up at salads and look aghast when your local takeaway has run out of coco-cola do you think that your children are going to lecture you on the nutritional benefits of healthy foods v high sugar sodas? No, of course not, they’re going to copy you because that’s what kids do….

Fat mum and childRates of obesity in the UK and the US are increasing with each generation and everyone is bleating about it, wringing their hands and wondering what to do. In the UK the Government is considering implementing a programme in schools whereby kids are routinely weighed and, if they’re considered obese, they will receive home visits and free gym classes (well paid for by the tax payer but you get the picture). It’s something I suppose but it can only work in the parents are on board and, if the parents see nothing wrong in eating junk food or ready meals every day then what’s going to change? The same applies to exercise – if the parents are couch potatoes who encourage their children to spend their free time in front of a computer rather than in the park playing football, from whom is the child going to learn the health benefits of exercise.

Yes, schools can make children aware of the need for a healthy diet and exercise but who’s going to educate the parents? I don’t know what the answer is for such a large scale problem other than to promote the positives of a life style that’s more McMotherNature than McDonalds………..

Diet Decision

$10,000 or Clams?

Thanks to the media obsession with Kim Kardashian’s rounded, peachy and frankly gravity defying backside, it would seem that big bums are in fashion and, guess what, for around $10,000 you can get one of your very own.

When I was in my teens the plaintiff cry of ‘my bum looks huuuuggggee in this’ would be emanating from the changing rooms of Miss Selfridge and Top Shop pretty much every Saturday. Whilst, for us, it was a cause for much heartfelt sympathy and quiet reassurance, now it would seem to be a cause for celebration. Thanks to the media obsession with Kim Kardashian’s rounded, peachy and frankly gravity defying backside, it would seem that big bums are in fashion and, guess what, for around $10,000 you can get one of your very own. kim_kardashian

Basically, cosmetic surgeons will suck out any spare fat that you have lying around (love handles seem to be a popular source) and inject it into your derriere. Of course, you won’t really be allowed to let your butt make contact with anything for a couple of weeks, you’ll have to wear a compression garment for six weeks and exercise will be off limits for about a month but afterwards you’ll have a nice high rounded hiney. Apparently about 60 percent of the fat will stay in place after the procedure and the rest will just wander off to somewhere else in your body. Oh, and one other thing, it’s also considered the most risky of all cosmetic surgeries; risk of death that it…..

If you don’t fancy any of that but would still like to attain the peach like orbs that a butt lift would give you, you could do a few specially designed exercises. The result won’t be as quick and your arse won’t inflate to quite the same degree but, it’s a lot safer than the sucking and injecting of body fat and considerably less painful.

bridges
This exercise should be done slowly and when you are at the top of your Bridge you should maintain the position for a few seconds by squeezing those cheeks

 

 

squatsLast but not least we have squats; they are not the most popular exercise I find but they do work wonderfully well at firming up those booty muscles as well as giving you stronger and leaner thighs.

 

The other good thing about doing things the natural way is that you won’t need to be forking out loads of cash to another plastic surgeon when you want all the fat sucked out of your arse because the media has moved on from Kim Kardashian and big butts are not longer a la mode!

 

Surely You Can’t Be Serious???

There you have it, you can eat whatever you please but, like a deal with the devil, there is always a price to pay so, if you want to lose weight, just make sure you know the price and then decide if you’re willing to pay it.

Ever wondered why you can’t lose weight and, if you do, it never lasts? If you read this and ask yourself “How Many?!?!?!?!” you’ll understand why……..

There is a completely befuddling mountain of information available about what you should eat and what you shouldn’t – carbs/no carbs? What are carbs? Does fat make you fat etc etc. let me simplify it for you:

If you eat more calories than you burn off, you WILL put on weight.

If you eat less calories than you burn off, you WILL lose weight.

That is the basis of any diet; it really isn’t any more complicated than that. There are certain foods that will have a positive effect on your body and there are others that will do you no good at all but that’s a whole other story.

Recommended daily calorie intake for women is around 2000 and for men around 2500 so that’s the number you need to arrive at at the end of  the day. You could eat 4,000 calories every day but, provided that you burn off 2,000 of them, you will maintain your weight; eat 3,500 and burn 2,000 and you will lose weight. The only problem with this simple approach is that many people don’t realise how easy it is to eat 4,000 calories and how hard it is to burn off 2,000.

That’s it, give or take 4000 calories in one day’s meals and snacks; now we have to look at what we’ll need to do to burn off 2000 of those to keep our weight stable:

Devil winkingThere you have it, you can eat whatever you please but, like a deal with the devil, there is always a price to pay so, if you want to lose weight, just make sure you know the price and then decide if you’re willing to pay it. An additional 500 calories per day above the recommended daily amount will give you an extra pound of weight each week. That’s one bacon sandwich and a packet of crisps daily…………….for over 3 1/2 stone of EXTRA flab in just one year OR, you can keep the sandwich and crisps and walk and additional 5 MILES per day…the choice is yours.

I’m going to finish by saying that, if you WANT to lose weight, you will because you will take the time to learn about nutrition and how it can benefit your body. If you’d like to shed some pounds but you’re not really motivated, you’ll look for a quick fix and you’ll be stuck on the path of yo-yo dieting for ever more. Again, the choice is all yours.

What is it with Women?

All of this exercise may leave me a sweaty, unkempt mess when I’ve finished but a quick shower and a bit of make-up soon sorts that out and, far from making me feel self-conscious or less feminine, knowing that my body is as healthy and in shape as it can be is nothing short of empowering. So, ladies, stop worrying about how you’ll look when you exercise and concentrate on how you’ ll feel ;O)

I’ve just come across an article in the Guardian which refers to a recent study undertaken in Australia; it concludes that fear of judgement is stopping women from exercising. Apparently they are worried about how they will look when they exercise (red in the face, sweaty and disheveled) but they are also worried about becoming overly muscular and less feminine! I really cannot understand the former as everyone gets hot and sweaty when they exercise be they male or female but the second could be, I suppose, a legitimate concern for some women if they don’t understand the forms of exercise that are available to them.

woman body builder

There is a great difference between building muscle and having good muscle definition. If you start going to the gym and gradually lift heavier and heavier weights and eat more and more to compensate then of course you will bulk up. 2b1c4b9de49c2c40bbc3301946cf06f5 I speak from experience here; when I was in my late twenties and early thirties I started going to a gym that was mainly used by people who were they to body build and to weight train. I have a massive competitive streak and so I started to train with weights in order to compete at the same level as the most experienced women there; after about 9 months I was beating them. At this point I will readily admit that it became something of an obsession and I was in the gym 4 nights a week for 2 hours at a time and, after a few more months, I was pushing myself to be able to compete with the men. As I was so dedicated (or perhaps, looking back, slightly unhinged) the owner of the gym started to train me personally as he wanted me to compete. I was more than happy to go along with that and the weights continued to go up and up and up. At my peak I was dead lifting 125kg, bench pressing 70kg and leg pressing 340kg which was more than some of the men. I was also doing cardio and was burning huge amount of calories which meant that I was eating more than I ever had. However, as I was working out so much and my diet was tailored to my work outs (lots of protein, fresh fruit and veg with controlled carbs) I had very little fat on my body and amazing muscle definition. The down side was that I had really bulked up; I weighed around 11 stone (70kg) and was wearing a size 14. That said, in no way did I feel unfeminine, not that I’ve ever been a frilly, lacy kind of girl; I felt empowered, strong and sexy. I was probably at my most healthy at this point in my life and I loved it. A series of events in my personal life meant that I had to stop going to that particular gym and so I lost my personal trainer. However, I carried on alone and, over time, I learned how to keep the muscle definition but also how not to bulk up too much.

Best-Protein-Foods-1068x566High weights and low repetitions will build muscle and strength but lower weights and higher numbers of repetitions will give you muscle definition and stamina. You will also find that the more muscle you have the more easily you will burn fat, so it’s great to work out if you want to lose weight, but that doesn’t mean that you need to end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Protein is very important so you need to be eating plenty of chicken, eggs, milk, cheese and lean red meat. Accompany these with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and not too much bread, rice or pasta. You need a certain amount of carbs to fuel your body but excessive amounts will pile on the pounds.

Before you go to the gym make sure that you eat something about an hour before; some people swear by weight training on an empty stomach but I just find that I tire more quickly and struggle to finish my workout. I find that a small handful of almonds or a banana give me plenty of energy to do what I need to do.

After I lost my husband I dropped about 2 stone in weight and I’m now a size 10; I’m happy with that and all my clothes are a size 10 so I don’t want to start bulking up again. For this reason I stick with 3 sets of each exercise with 10 repetitions per set but I will do 30 minutes on the treadmill before I start and I will keep the weights heavy enough so that I know my muscles are working but not so heavy that I have to drop down to 4 or 6 reps.

IMG_4186In addition I also do Pilates for an hour twice a week and yoga 2 or 3 times a week when I feel the need to relax or to stretch tired muscles. Both Pilates and Yoga create long lean muscles and shape the body – bum and boobs are lifted, the stomach is flatter and the waist more defined.

All of this exercise may leave me a sweaty, unkempt mess when I’ve finished but a quick shower and a bit of make-up soon sorts that out and, far from making me feel self-conscious or less feminine, knowing that my body is as healthy and in shape as it can be is nothing short of empowering. So, ladies, stop worrying about how you’ll look when you exercise and concentrate on how you’ ll feel ;O)