Sunday, 30 December 2012

It's That Time Of The Year Again: Goal Setting!


File:New-Year Resolutions list.jpg 

Ah, Monday 31st December, 2012. To be honest, I always love this time of year. It is a great period for reflection and building up motivation for the coming year.
I am not a fan of resolutions, to be honest. I've tried making them a few times, and found that they just add pressure, stress, guilt and finally a sense of failure.

So, I'm sharing with you my top secret approach to finding motivation in 2013.

Ready?

Forget goals, forget resolutions, what you need is a 2013 Bucket List.

Instead of telling yourself what you must do, give yourself one off challenges that will lead to 2013 being a year of triumph, achievement, excitement, fulfillment and adventure.


What is an annual Bucket List?

In 2012 I made a list of the top 70 things I wanted to try. I divided this into 7 different categories (which might have overlapped a bit) to make sure I was creating a balanced lifestyle. I have seriously enjoyed myself and done quite a few things I didn't think I would.

With 70 items to tick off, you need to be doing 1-2 things a week, which keeps you on your toes, but allows you to choose what will best fit in with your schedule that week.

The nature of the items should vary in difficulty. I had some which were super easy and would cheer me up, such as buying myself flowers just because. Therefore, if I was having a bad week, my bucket list would make it all seem brighter. And as previously posted, I had much harder things such as doing a 21km ergo, which gave me a huge sense of achievement when I completed it.


How to Make the List: 

It's easiest to start by working out your categories. These are areas that you want to develop in your life. For me I had 7 categories, but you can vary this number as much as you like, and I think I will add a few extra categories this year.
This year, my areas are going to be:

- Sport/Fitness
- Culinary
- Spiritual
- Cultural
- Relationships
- Adventure
- Creative
- Learning
- Business
- Finance

Under each I'm going to come up with 7 - 8 items that I want to achieve, making sure I have a good range. For example:

- Sport/Fitness - Complete 10km in under an hour, try a brand new gym class.
- Culinary - Cook a pecan pie, go to a tapas bar.
- Spiritual - Spend a weekend at a convent, read Augustine's 'City of God'.
- Cultural - Go to a Melbourne Theatre Company play, read Faust.
- Relationships - send all my facebook friends a letter, surprise someone for their birthday.
- Adventure - Go on a hiking trip, ride a motorbike.
- Creative - get a book accepted by literary agent/ publisher, go to a writing conference.
- Learning - do a painting short course, learn to use MYOB and keep all business accounts for 2013. 
- Business - monetize fitbuster, create a niche site.
- Finance - save $10,000, start a managed fund.

Some of those will take about an hour, such as cooking pecan pie, and others, such as saving $10,000, will probably take effort all year.

When I did it last year, I also left some spaces blank for a few days and got suggestions from people, which gave me a few great ideas. So don't feel it all needs to be done by tomorrow, it is a work in progress.


My 2012 List?

Now, to be completely honest with you, I didn't tick off a lot of things on my list, in fact I'm only just over halfway. But for that I have competed in a rowing regatta, gone to the races, said 'yes' to a strange invitation, gone to the ballet, spent a day in silence, and learned to cook almond croissants just to name a few. So, looking at the list, it's been a pretty good year.

Therefore, I'm highly recommending this as a great motivator for those who hate resolutions and goals.


Sneak Preview of 2013 at Fitbuster:

I've been doing a lot of reading, and learning about blogging and thinking particularly of Fitbuster and how I can make it better and more useful for you.  2013 is going to be a great year for health and fitness, and I'm going to keep giving you great content and new ideas.

Particularly, I'm looking feedback on fitness programs or ideas that you want to know more about, and I'm searching for volunteers who would be happy to test things out. I'll be offering free stuff to be reviewed or incentives for longer programs. So if you are interested in being on my list of volunteers, either comment below or email me at b.greentr@gmail.com
I will be setting up an email subscription soon, just to let you know, which will include invitations to guest post, try out products and programs, first chance at giveaways, and useful information on designing and developing your own fitness projects. So, keep an eye out for that.

Also, as you can see from my list, I will be trying to monetize the blog. However, I don't want want it to detract from the information and utility of the site. I've signed up with Nuffnang, so it will be very Australian focused, which I think is great. While I know quite a few of you are from overseas and I will continue to provide great content for you as well, I particularly want to encourage Australians to get out and experience health and fitness in our great country.
Any feedback on the advertising; if you find it annoying or you have other great ideas, is always welcome. Email me at b.greentr@gmail.com

Thanks for a great 2012. Better is yet to come. 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Joys and Sadnesses of Walking in the Country

I am currently staying with my parents, who live in a small country town, for the Christmas period. One of the added advantages to this, aside from family etc., is that the surrounding countryside offers great opportunities to get out and be active in nature.

Therefore, in an attempt to continue knocking off items from my 2012 Bucket List, I had planned to jog/walk a half marathon through the tracks and trails in the local state forest.

It was a brilliant plan. Was being the operative word.

I was walking out to the car on Christmas day and felt my back go 'spragggg&%*$'. Basically, something crushed a nerve, which then threw all the muscles in my lower back into defense mode, and left me crippled and only able to hobble.

Two days and varying amounts of heat and drugs later, I am just able to walk upright again. Sort of.
But you shouldn't take back pain lying down, so this morning I decided I would try a short walk to see if I could loosen it all up.

Even just walking down the road offers some refreshing scenery. How often do you see this on your treadmill at home?


So, I was walking along thinking about life, the universe, this blog, and my back, when I noticed a kangaroo lounging on the grass just off to my left. Kangaroos are a total rarity for city folk, but reasonably common in the country.

So I pulled out my camera and took a photo, think I would write to you about how wonderful it is walking in the country. Just have a look at him (or her, didn't get that close):


I thought he would get up and hop away but he seemed to be ignoring me, so I crept in a little closer.
I then worked out that he wasn't ignoring me, he was trying to crawl away with his arms as his legs were paralyzed. In case you are wondering, that's not a good sign in a kangaroo.

So I pulled out my phone to call Mum and Dad and find the number of Wildlife Victoria. My sister was a volunteer for a while, but quit as the majority of her job turned out to be shooting injured wildlife, which wasn't really what she had in mind when she joined up. (having said that, we did get to save a baby wombat one day, just look how cute he is!)





Anyway...

As I was dialing, someone else pulled up and said it was better to call the police so they could come straight out and shoot it. Hard life for a kangaroo. They kindly took over for me and I hobbled on my way, trying not to think about the harsh realities of life.

So walking in the country can be a mixed blessing.
And not so good when you overexert yourself and your back stiffens up again.
But otherwise walking is great. So get out there. 

This post is dedicated to Skippy, birth... unknown, death: 27th Dec, 2012.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Heifer International Fundraiser - Check Out My Writing Blog!

Time for a bit of cross promotion!

Instead of running the fundraiser on both of my blogs, I'm just going to direct you across to my writing blog where I've pledged to donate $1 per comment on the Heifer International post.

This money will go towards buying a useful and cute (usually) animal for a needy family through the efforts of Heifer International. 

Here are some of the animals I'm hoping to get if I raise enough money:

Duckies!
Flock of Ducks
If I raise $20 I can get a flock of ducks. Useful, and so cute.

Goats
Goat
For $10 I can get a share in a goat, or for $120 a whole goat. Who doesn't want a whole goat?
Llama Face!
Llama
How cute is he? I can get a share in a llama for $20 or a full llama for $150. (Keep commenting!
 
Honey, Honey.
Donate honeybees for a charitable gift idea 
For $30 I can sponsor a beehive and give a village honey and help pollinate the veggies. Not so cute, but pretty sweet! (ha, that's worthy of my dad.)
It's Christmas, so I'm more than happy to donate as much money as I can raise, so don't be afraid! The more comments, the more cute and possibly fluffy animals a needy family gets, so get commenting!

Friday, 21 December 2012

It's Christmas - Panic!

red apple

Christmas dinners, Christmas parties, Christmas drinks, gifts of chocolates, wines, sweets, days of just lazing around...

You get the idea. Christmas, from a health point of view, is one of the most dangerous time of the year.

And no, you really aren't going to lose the extra weight later. Or possibly ever.

There are many suggestions in magazines to help you stop putting on weight: things you can swap, ways to try and be good. Sometimes they are okay, sometimes they are insane.

Having tried and either failed or been dissatisfied the whole season, I'm trying a new method.

The Zero-Tolerance Method.

Chocolate is just not an option.

I should explain that I am a recovering chocoholic, and I mean that more seriously than I used to.

I always knew I loved chocolate, and relied on it for emotional support, etc. which I knew, but I used to just laugh about it, because there was no way I could do anything else.

But a few months ago I realised two awful things:
1. I had fooled myself I was only eating 1/2 a family block of chocolate a day, until I realised on day that no, I had actually opened this block this morning, and now it was all gone by 3pm and I wanted more.
2. Stephen King was describing his (or someone else's, I can't quite remember) alcoholic period, and how he used to be asked 'how much do you drink' and he would look at the person as if they were crazy, 'all of it.' He replied. And I realised I knew that feeling.

I would eat chocolate from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep. I would eat it until it was all gone or I was unconscious. And just occasionally I woke up to find I had been eating it in my sleep. Seriously.

That was a few months ago now.

I went cold turkey. Completely. Absolutely. No chocolate.

Since then I've snuck in a few bits here and there, and the truth appears to be that having nothing is easier for me than to have just a little. Once I start, I cannot stop.

So this Christmas I'm not going to start.

Worked quite successfully today at my work Christmas party, even though there were maltesers (a big favourite), Lindt balls, chocolate biscuits, cakes, etc. (you get the picture). But I didn't touch any of them. This was partly helped by my second practical method: calorie counting.

This holidays I am going to keep track of ALL of my calories. It is very illuminating, and scary.

I've used Calorie King in the past, which worked really well for me and the forums are great. I'm actually currently using My Fitness Pal, largely because it was recommended to me and it has a bar code scanning function which makes it a lot easier.

Trying to track calories over Christmas is hard, but even just the attempt makes you think about everything that goes into your mouth. And you will be very surprised.

So those are my two methods I'm going to try and use. I have a plan, worked out my strategy, and am going in prepared.

And you can all hold me accountable.

Just to warn you, to make the Zero-Tolerance method work, you really do need to have your will power and motivation stocks up at full, and in the next few posts I'll look at how to do that.

But for now, think about whether you can just stop at one, and if not, don't even have one.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Apps I Actually Use: Nexercise



There are so many different apps out there for fitness and health, and so hard to discover them without someone recommending them to you. Also, if you are like me, you tend to download a lot and after trying them a few times, never use them again.

So I thought I would  start an intermitten series on apps that I'm using at the moment which are really working for me.

Today's app is Nexercise, which has got a lot of attention with high profile reviews and recommendations.

Purpose: Basically it gives you points for doing different types of exercises, which you collect and use to rank yourself against other people.

How I found it: Jenny (my little sister) found it and asked me to join it with her. We are now in competition to see who has the most points.

Good points: Other than being free, which is always a good point in my book, it is great for helping to motivate someone a little less fit than you to exercise.

It allocates points more on time spent exercising and consistency (eg. you get a daily log-in bonus, extra points if you exercise on a Monday, or on a few days in a row, etc.). You do not seem to get many extra points for running instead of walking, though there is a 'motion bonus' for how much you move your phone while doing it.

This means that my little sister is encouraged to go for walks while I might be pushing myself to do interval training. As Jenny said, if it were purely on calories burnt, she would have given up because I would have been so far ahead.

The competitive aspect also only looks at the last month, so if I have a great month and Jenny gets really far behind, she knows that she just needs to keep going and soon my points will start dropping off again.

Not so good points:
If you aren't competing against someone, I think it would be a bit boring. The major reason I log on is to keep my points up to encourage Jenny to keep exercising. As the points don't actually relate to anything such as distance run or calories burnt, I would use a different program if I were by myself.

Overall Review:
Make sure that you have at least one friend that wants to sign up with you, or find a group online, because then it can be a lot of fun and very motivating.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Many Advantages of Online Dating

Keyboard 2

For those who read my writing blog, you will know that I've been adventuring into the world of online dating for the past week or so.

Aside for the numerous encouraging comments of 'your gorgeous', 'your exquisit' and 'please shave my chest', I have discovered another advantage of internet dating which I wanted to share with all of you.

I have been on for just over a week, and I've already had one offer to take me surfing on the weekend, to play a game of pool and numerous discussions on trail jogging, mountain biking, and generally being active.

A lot of people are online to find someone to do things with. And a lot of them are more than happy to share their skills in specialised areas.

And it's free.

I'm using OkCupid, which allows you to do the entire process - signing up, messaging people, getting to know them - for nothing. They even have a category for 'I'm looking for an activities partner' (unless that has another meaning I'm not getting?).

So what have you got to lose?

If you want someone to exercise with, or try new experiences, jump on and be open. Say exactly what you are looking for and people will be more than happy to help.

I didn't actually go surfing this time as I had other things on, but tonight I'm meeting up to play a game of after work pool. Pretty exciting for a Tuesday night!

Let me know if you've had any other successes!

(Also, disclaimer, be sensible and careful. Don't agree to go bungy jumping with someone who sets up his own home amde ropes, etc.)

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Swing When You're Winning... or Even When You're Not!

Today's post is by Natalie Beck written up after she had just come back from New Orleands.  
Enjoy! 


Although Swing dancing may be considered a bit of a novelty here in Australia (apologies to anyone who actually does partake), it forms the fabric of life on the streets and in the clubs around New Orleans - the birth place of Jazz and Swing…


Swing dancers can be found ‘shaking it’ on any corner in and around the renowned French Quarter in hail, rain or shine.

They’re normally accompanying a very serious - yet fun as –big brass band that set up shop anywhere they see fit (or anywhere it’s possible to make a noise and draw the crowds).



Only in New Orleans is it considered ‘way cool’ to be a street performer than it is a paid and signed up professional… it is a choice.



However, that doesn’t mean that swinging in the clubs is not done – places like the Spotted Cat and the Three Muses on Frenchman Street always draw a crowd of those who are serious about their ‘Swing’

New Orleans seriously love their Jitterbugs





and so do I…………..


Nat Beck.

(most photos from the Smoking Time Jazz Club facebook page.)




Maffetone Method Part 3: Review


Hopefully by now you have tried the Challenge to work out your own Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate, and done some testing to set a baseline, which is all just generally useful information to have.

But is it worth actually following the Method properly and in a dedicated manner?

Well, the cons of the method:
My first issue is he complains that the maximum heart rate formula of 220-age is not individualistic enough, but what he offers is 180 - age with just a 10bpm leeway. It doesn't sound all that individualistic either. If maximum heart rate can vary a lot between people then the maximum aerobic heart rate will vary as well. Therefore, I would start with his formula and use the testing to adjust it to your needs over a few months. I am not, of course, the only one to have noted this. For example see Greg Crowther's blog post where he lists this and a number of other problems.

Second, a lot of people complain that after following it religiously, they didn't see any improvement. (For example see the lead post in the thread on the cool running forum.) I admit that I did it for three-four months earlier this year and didn't see that much improvement. Having said that, I now realise my heart rate was based on what I had worked out a few years previously when I was fit and healthy, not old and recovering. So I was probably working out at too high a level. Also, if you go three months and see no improvement, then you aren't following his method properly: you should be doing your testing every month and adjusting until you do see improvements.

One thing that Greg Crowther also noted was that most of the high level athletes that support Maffetone are competing in endurance racing such as Mark Allen who does Ironman racing and Stu Mittleton who does ultra marathons. There are questions about whether it is as useful for high level sprinters and other short distance/time events. 

Pros:
First, which most people agree with, it is amazingly peaceful and relaxing, ensuring that you actually enjoy exercising and feel better afterwards not worse. And to be honest, if that is all you get out of it, that is an awful lot in today's society.

It doesn't appear to aggravate any existing injuries or develop new ones.

When done properly, ability to run (either faster or longer) does appear to improve, even though each session is well within your comfort zone, so that's pretty exciting.

The basic concepts (regular testing, adjust programs until there are noticeable improvements, monitoring life stress when planning workouts etc) are all really sound and good ideas. 

The message that the 'no pain, no gain' theory isn't actually necessary is useful for those who have been burned and scared off exercise by Army Sergeant type gym instructors.


My Personal Experience: 
As mentioned, I did it for 3-4 months, though possibly at too high a heart rate. Over that time I didn't see much improvement, but also managed to go to the gym five times a week because I knew I wasn't going to be killing myself so didn't lose motivation. At the end of the period I then started more interval training and found my speed increasing very quickly, and I'm sure that was partly due to the good preparation. Also, I found after stopping and going onto harder workouts, my overall stress levels in general increased.

Therefore, my recommendations:
For athletes I recommend it as an off-season training tool and for active recovery. However, during the season, you will need to do some speed and weight work to be at the top of your game.

For people coming into exercise for the first time or after a long time, I definitely recommend doing at least 4 months of the method before moving onto harder programs because it will keep you motivated, keep you from injury, and build up your aerobic system.

For regular exercises it is still good to vary your workouts. Over winter, or a stressful time at work, try the Method in a dedicated manner for a few months and see if it works for you. 

For myself? Well, everything is a bit stressful at the moment, and the thought of just doing a nice, enjoyable workout is hugely appealing (and allowed me to do a 21km ergo the other day) so I'm going to be using it as my base, and added in a few other workouts a week, and just see how it all goes.

Have also just ordered his new book online, so will read that and see if it has anything particularly new. 

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Yah For Setting Goals and Being Bloody Minded

At the beginning of the year, instead of making resolutions, which have always failed me, I made a list of 80 things I wanted to do by the end of the year. These were divided into different categories.

In the sporting category I had things such as:
- Go surfing.
- Complete 10km in under an hour
- Do a half marathon ergo.
Etc.

As the year has gone on, and is very close to closing, I've realised I haven't as much time to finish these things as I had thought. So I've been on a made rush to finish what I can, and then will move the rest onto next year's list.

As you all know, I completed the 10km race last Wednesday. I then neatly deleted the 'under', and it was ticked off.

But I had given up hope of doing a half marathon ergo, as honestly I haven't been on the rowing machine for a few months.

However last night I thought I would at least get myself back into the flow of things by doing a Maffetone aerobic row for 30mins. (Yes, reading the book has sucked me into trying it again.)

45 minutes in I thought about whether I could do the full half marathon, but calculated it would take me just over 2 hours, and I was already becoming sore.

Once I hit the hour mark, I knew I wasn't backing down.

At 1:15 my Iphone died so I had no music. Was very tempted to drop out then, but kept going.

The last 20minutes I knew I wasn't going to quit, but everything was in quite a bit of pain, so it was a rather long stretch of time.

And in 2:00.23 I completed 21kms. It was slow, and I kept my heart rate mostly under 150, just letting it slip up to 155 in a few places.

I then had trouble walking back from the gym, but am proud that I ticked it off.

Would I have done that without the goal? No.

Am I glad I did? Hell yes.

So yah for goals.

Am now wondering if I can knock over the jog a half marathon before the end of the year, though it might be a jog/walk the distance, but that would be something...

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Tried and Tested Racing Tips

Wednesday I did my first 10km fun run for almost three (four?) years. 

Let me start by saying I'm very happy as I got a personal best and know that I went as hard as I could at the time.

For those who are wondering, my time was 1:00.53... yup, 53 seconds off breaking the hour, which was my goal. (I've mentioned before - I'm not really a runner.)

So, while I'm happy, it is always valuable to assess your preparation and race plan and see what can be improved in the future.

Based  on this race, let me give you some of my now tried and tested tips on doing 10km fun runs.

Do:
- a good warm up, especially if it is freezing cold.

- do it with a friend who is just slightly faster than you, but happy to be your pace man/woman (Bec, you are awesome and I wouldn't have done nearly so well with out you).

- I used the RunKeeper app and set it to tell me my average speed and current speed every five minutes: good as it told me when I was varying (felt like I was going the same speed the whole time, but in fact varied between 8km/h-12km/h.) though not sure it is completely accurate, so also use your watch and the km markers on the track.

- use the water stations, even if you don't think you feel thirsty. You have probably heard that even losing 2% of your body weight in fluid loss can result in up to a 25% decrease in performance,  so why put in all that effort and stuff yourself by not drinking?
Obviously how much to drink varies greatly between individuals so should be measured during training (easiest is weighing before and after exercise as 'weight' lost during the session is basically water) and you should get used to drinking during workouts as can hit the stomach hard if you aren't used to it.
However, the powers that be roughly suggest 1 cup every 15-20 minutes, which luckily is about how spaced out the drink stations are on most fun runs. Clever, no?
(If doing longer workouts, over 90mins, keep in mind your sodium intake as well.)


Don't:
- have a 7 course Greek feast for lunch before the race, even if work are paying for it.

- test out using energy gels for the first time in the actual race. Did not sit well in the stomach.

- If possible, try not to have a stressful day at work before hand, though imagining certain people just a head of you and you with a chainsaw can have positive outcomes for your time I suppose. 

- Ride to the race: seems like a good idea as you get a warm up, but riding home is a bit more of a problem. (Was so tired that I wasn't thinking straight and took a few wrong turns that added 6kms to my ride home and meant I got stuck riding on a busy high speed road at peak hour with no way to turn off.)

- try to keep riding when your feet are cramping. (not really a race tip, but I'm putting it out there).

- forget where you left your stuff, so you have to go to the good looking volunteer asking if there is a lost property and have him point out 'Is that your jumper over there?' because you had been looking under the wrong tree. Doesn't affect your race time, but has implications for your self esteem.

- also, if you can help it, try not being an extra 10+kgs heavier than the last time you did it. Really struck me that carrying around the extra weight is not helping me out.

So, those are the tips learnt from this race. If anyone else has any tested tips they want to add, I'm all ears.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Maffetone Method Part 2: The Practicals.


So, are you intrigued yet about how to actually apply this method?
Well, as mentioned in the previous post, the Maffetone method is not a rigid program such as Couch to 5k which tells you what to do every workout of the week. Rather, it is a set of principles for how to approach exercise (as well as diet and lifestyle, but here I’m going focus mainly on the exercise component).
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t develop a practical application. In order to create a program, you need to include two aspects in order to be considered suitable by Maffetone standards:
1.     The majority of your exercise program should be focused on developing aerobic fitness.
2.     Every exercise program needs to involve ongoing testing to evaluate its effectiveness and to identify when problems start to arise.

Aerobic Fitness = Working out at your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate:
If you google Dr. Maffetone, you will find quite a bit on his 180 formula. This is a method for working out your maximum aerobic heart rate.
As mentioned in the series on heart rate, a lot of programs are based on exercising within particular heart rate bands, usually based on a percentage of maximum.
However, Dr. Maffetone suggests that instead of working on a percentage of maximum, which can be difficult to work out and is very variable between individuals, you should work out within a 10 bpm range of your maximum aerobic heart rate, worked out by his rough formula:
180 – your age, then:
-       Minus 10 if you are recovering from serious injury or illness or have been on long term medication.
-       Minus 5 if you haven’t exercised regularly for the last few years, have been exercising with an injury, have been regressing in training or have more than 2 colds per year 
-       Stay at this number if you have been exercising regularly for a few years without any problems.
-       Plus 5 if you are a competitive athlete who has been improving and had none of the above problems.
(Though note that over 65 or under 16 this needs to be individualised as the formula breaks down a bit).  
So, for me it would be 180 – 29 and minus another 5 as I get colds all the time = 146.
Then take 10 to give you your range. So, the majority of my workouts should be between 136-146 bpm.
Now, if you go and try that, you will find out why the theory has been considered with some skepticism: 140 can be a walk for a lot of people. I went through a really annoying stage where the range was just in between a jog and walk, so I did this sort of shuffle thing when outside, or just put up the incline and walked when on a treadmill.
However, the claim of the program is that if you continue to do this, you will get faster, but your heart rate will stay the same, demonstrating an increase in your aerobic fitness.
In turning this into a work, he includes a long warm up and cool down of 15 minutes each, slowly building up to the required heart rate and then building down again. This can result in a ‘workout’ of only 15 minutes at the require heart rate, or for beginners it might even just be a warm up and cool down.
In developing a long term program, he recommends spending 3-6 months doing nothing but aerobic work, and only after that, once you have a suitable base, can one or two anaerobic sessions can be added.

Testing:
The second important aspect of the method is constant measurement in order to tell if you are actually improving.
As the method claims to focus on building aerobic fitness and increasing the body’s fat burning, he suggests two tests that should be done on a monthly basis to ensure everything is on course.
1.     Fat Burning: Obviously if you increase your fat burning ability, this should be seen in a decrease in body fat content. While this can be worked out using complicated measurements, he suggests just using a waist to hip measurement ratio to see if the program is working.
a.     So once a month (not more often) you should measure your waist at the height of your belly button, and again at the widest part of your hips.  Then work out your waist to hip ration: waist/hip.
b.     He argues that if your aerobic system is developing properly, this ratio will gradually diminish, along with your excess fat.

2.     Speed: Similarly, Maffetone recommends conducting a Maximum Aerobic Function Test (MAF test) once per month. The test requires maintaining the same heart rate over the same distance or time, and repeating the test every month.
a.     For example, I would try to maintain a heart rate of 145 over a distance of 1 mile and ideally every month my time would improve. Or I could test myself for 10 minutes and see how far I got in the same time.
b.     He starts with examples of 1 mile, but does mention that some prefer to do a longer distance such as 5 miles to add an element of endurance. Either is fine, though with the 5 miles he notes the time for each mile for comparison.
c.      He argues that if your MAF test results start to worsen, it is an indication that there is a problem such as excess stress, dietary/nutritional imbalance or a physical problem.
And that’s it. Work out at an aerobic heart rate and keep measuring yourself to make sure you are improving.
So, your challenge for this week:
Work out your Maximum Aerobic Heart Rate range, and then do initial tests to work out your waist to hip ration and baseline MAF test score.
Next post, I’ll look at some of the critiques of the method and general verdicts.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Open Your Big Fat Mouth - Sometimes

5th December, 2012 - Emma and Tom Christmas Run: I'm in just because I opened my big fat mouth.

I had been planning to do it all along, really I had. But then I was sick last week, and that made me think that maybe I shouldn't do the run. I wouldn't be at my best and I wanted to use it as a measure of how much I had improved.

I opened the sign up page a few times, but then closed it again. Thought about it, forgot about it, remembered at inconvenient times, and then decided that maybe I should wait until next year.

Then on Wednesday I was meeting with fellow writer Bec Butterworth to work on our NaNoWriMo writing challenge. Very excitingly, she has an article in this month's Women's Health. Though she was not so impressed when I announced this to the supermarket checkout chick while buying the magazine. Don't know why.

But we were sitting at lunch talking about health and fitness writing, and out of my mouth came 'And there is a 10km run next Wednesday I want to do, but am not sure about...' and then equally without thought she suddenly said 'I'll do it with you.'

And from then neither of us could back out.

So we have both signed up and we have set a goal (she's pacing me, and I want to do it in under an hour, as my previous best time was 1 hour and 3 mins, though that was about three years ago now...).

And now it doesn't really matter if I don't actually do as well as I might have if I hadn't come down sick, I just have to do it so I don't disappoint Bec (or totally humiliate myself).

So, my generally conclusion is that sometimes it is good to open your big fat mouth, you never know where it might take you.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Guest Blog Post: Jenny's Advice for Couch to 5K.

Hi All,

I'm Buffy's little sister and I have been testing out the couch to 5Km program for her. I delayed starting until after my uni exams and so am only up to week three but thought I would report in and tell you how it is going and some tips I have found useful.

I am using the NHS couch to 5 km podcast available for free on Itunes.  So far I have found the program really good, although you do have to push your self a little it is definitely doable and although you are jogging a little longer every week it never seems harder, it just doesn't get easier.

I have found the NHS podcast helpful as I don't have to keep looking at my phone all the time to see whether it is time to stop or start jogging and the music is specially selected to have an appropriate beat for the speed you should be going. The down side is of course that you don't get to listen to your own music.

There are a few things I have found that really help me with my jogging; first, always make sure you eat a piece of fruit or maybe some yogurt 5-10 mins before you go to give you energy. This makes a huge difference and stops you from feeling really tired and crap on your jog. Carbs won't achieve the same result as they take longer to digest and get the energy out of.

Secondly, when you are jogging make sure you pay attention to your breathing. Fitness instructors often say breathe in through your nose and out through you mouth. I am unsure of why this is important but I do know that it stops you getting a runny nose when you exercise which in my book is a big tick. This also help makes sure you are getting enough air and not hyperventilating. It helps a lot to make sure you pause a second between breathing in and out. This gives your body time to actually get the oxygen out of the air before you expel it. It also distracts you and helps the time jogging to go by more quickly.

Lastly, I found it really helpful when I start jogging to pick a landmark up ahead that I want to reach in my jogging time. This helps me keep my pace up. I also organise my jog so I turn back at or just after half way so at the end I am back home not 45 mins walk from home and I can challenge myself to see if I can get a little bit further past where I started before the cool down walk. I am jogging the same route most times and while some people may find this boring I find I am too busy getting myself to jog to worry about the scenery and enjoy being able to compare my progress by how far I get before turning around.

To sum up I would recommend this program to anyone who can't run more than a minute but wants to be build up to being able to jog for half an hour. It doesn't push you so much that you end up in a broken heap but you do make a little progress every week. I'm doing this at 100kg so don't think you won't be able to do this because you are too fat or unfit because this especially designed so you can. Also, the NHS also have more free podcasts for after you finish the 9 week program to work on improving your speed and stamina.

Jenny Greentree


(For those that don't know, the NHS is the British National Health Service, and on their website: NHS Choices, they have a lot of advice, programs and free things to help keep you fit and healthy.)

Friday, 23 November 2012

Cold Vs Flu

Sorry for the interruption to the Maffetone Series, will get back to it soon. But first, a topical intermission.

Welcome to COLD VS FLU!

It came to my attention, after having spent this week suffering from a cold, that a lot of people do not know that there is a difference between a cold and flu, and that they do have different implications for when you can start exercising again. Therefore, to make up for my lack of posting while I've been sick, let me enlightening you.

A cold and a flu have a lot of similar symptoms, but are actually quite different illnesses (keeping in mind that there are like a thousand varieties of flues which vary greatly in intensity, and colds get around quite a bit too). There are probably great, long descriptions of the medical stuff behind the two but here is my general purpose user-friendly distinction:


If you have stuffy nose, sore throat, maybe developing into a cough etc., but felt that if you cut your head off the rest of your body would be a bit weak by otherwise fine (except, of course, for the fact you had no head) then you have a cold.

If you have all of that, plus have aches and pains all over, your joints hurt and it might occasionally feel like someone has accidentally poured molten lead into your bones: that's a flu.

To give you a better idea, I've stolen this chart from WebMD:

Symptoms Cold Flu
Fever Sometimes, usually mild Usual; higher (100-102 F; occasionally higher, especially in young children); lasts 3 to 4 days
Headache Occasionally Common
General Aches, Pains Slight Usual; often severe
Fatigue, Weakness Sometimes Usual; can last 2 to 3 weeks
Extreme Exhaustion Never Usual; at the beginning of the illness
Stuffy Nose Common Sometimes
Sneezing Usual Sometimes
Sore Throat Common Sometimes
Chest Discomfort, Cough Mild to moderate; hacking cough Common; can become severe
Complications Sinus congestion; middle ear infection Sinusitis, bronchitis, ear infection, pneumonia; can be life-threatening
Prevention Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone with a cold Wash hands often; avoid close contact with anyone who has flu symptoms; get the annual flu vaccine
Treatment Decongestants; pain reliever/fever reducer medicines Decongestants, pain relievers, or fever reducers are available over the counter; over-the-counter cough and cold medicines should not be given to young children; prescription antiviral drugs for flu may be given in some cases; call your doctor for more information about treatment.

So, why is this important to know as someone interested in fitness?
Obviously after coming down sick, you want to get back in to training as soon as you can, but without risking further damage.

The good news is that if you have a cold, research suggests there is no harm in actually exercising while you are still sick, as long as it is only moderate. From personal experience I will point out that trying to do exercise when you can't breath through your nose does have some difficulties, and I recommend sticking to things that don't require too much coordination.

However, if you have the flu exercise is not recommended. This is also extended to later parts of a cold if you have developed a chesty cough. Anything neck down is a no go. Now is the time to sit back, sleep, and catch up on bad TV.

General rule to remember:

If it is all in your head, you are good to keep going. Anything else and it's time to slow down.



Sunday, 18 November 2012

The Maffetone Method Part 1: What is it?

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Want exercise to be fun, non-stressful and actually effective? Well, Dr. Maffetone has been claiming for almost 30 years now to provide just that, and a lot of people appear to agree with him. So, it seems worthwhile having a look at what he says.

I have divided this discussion into three parts: an explanation of the theory behind the method, how to apply the method, and then verdict/feedback on it. Welcome, to part 1.

Dr. Phillip Maffetone has published numerous books over the years detailing different aspects of his approach (it should be noted that it is not a strict formula, but more of a set of guiding principals for approaching health and fitness). The most recent is 'The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing', which I have to admit I haven't read yet. His seminal work was 'The Maffetone Method' which came out in 1999, but he acknowledges on his webpage that it is outdated now. On his webpage there is also a lot of useful info, and there are various discussions about the method on health/fitness forums (both positive and negative). I’ll be working mainly from The Maffetone Method and his webpage, as well as other articles.

The Maffetone Method, according to the book, is ‘The Holistic, Low-Stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness’. It was developed by Dr. Maffetone after working as a sports physician for many years and found the ‘no pain – no gain’ theory did not get the results he or his clients wanted.

I first heard about this program through my eldest brother. He was on Reserves Officer training with the Australian Army and it was recommended to him by one of the Personal Training instructors, who spoke very highly of it. He said he had used it to get army personnel into exceptional shape, even in their later life.

The first thing to note is that the focus is on developing health, not just fitness. Maffetone gives the example that when he was younger he worked his way up to doing the New York Marathon, but did huge amounts of damage to his body while doing it. He decided he might have been fit enough to run the marathon, but did not have the underlying health to do it properly.

So what is the method? According to the introduction, the important features of the method are:

1. The best exercises for burning fat and improving your health is aerobic.
2. Exercise should be fun. If it’s a chore, something’s not right.
3. Excess stress is bad, and an improper exercise program can increase stress.
4. Many People eat far more carbohydrates than necessary, and more people than we realize are carbohydrate intolerant.
5. Certain dietary fats are good.

He also mentions quite a bit in the book barefoot/minimalist running.

Some of the concepts are not particularly unique, such as exercise should be fun, stress is bad, and some fats are good. Though it is good that he points out exercise stress needs to be taken into account with all other stresses in your life.

Some of the concepts are whole movements in themselves such as the reduced carbohydrates (his is similar to the paleo-method of eating) and minimalist running.

For me, the most interesting concept was that the best exercise for health and fitness training is aerobic. I had heard before that it was best for burning fat, but assumed that training as an athlete you would need to be doing mostly high intensity training.

However, his claim is that for at least the first 3-4months, and then as the majority of training after that, exercise should be at a low heart rate and should leave you feeling like you could do the entire work out again. Of course, I thought about this today as I staggered back from CrossFit barely able to raise my arms to swig from my water bottle.

So, to conclude about his method let me quote from his webpage:

"There are many different facets of health and fitness that also must work together to create optimum human potential—like you felt when you were younger and full of vigor. This approach is a way for an individual to more objectively look at his or her whole life, and address any and all factors that are not working most advantageous for optimal health and fitness. These factors include ones diet or nutritional status, exercise routine, and how physical, chemical and mental stresses are best regulated."

In the next post, I'll look more into what is involved in training according to Maffetone.

A fuller list of his works for those interested:
Complementary Sports Medicine (Human Kinetics, 1999);
The Maffetone Method: The Holistic, Low-Stress, No-Pain Way to Exceptional Fitness (Ragged Mountain Press/McGraw Hill, 1999);
Fix Your Feet: Build the Best Foundation for Healthy, Pain-Free Knees, Hips, and Spine (Lyons Press, 2004);
In Fitness and In Health (David Barmore, 1993-2009, five editions.);
The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing (Skyhorse Publishing, September 2010);
The Big Book of Health and Fitness (Skyhorse Publishing, December 2011)

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Top Tips On Psyching Yourself Up.

You sit on the train on the way home from work, planning out what you'll have for dinner and thinking about how tired you are. You get in the door and dump your bags, grab a snack and collapse on the couch, promising you'll get ready for the gym after you've had a moment to recover. Your hand probably subconsciously reaches for the remote control.

Similarly, you tell yourself the night before you are going to get up nice and early and go for a jog. You might even be excited about the idea at 10.30pm. But when your alarm goes at 6am, the idea doesn't seem so bright. You hit snooze a few times, and find that snooze is switched off. 

Well, obviously I'm talking about myself here, and none of this applies to you, I'm just trying to make myself feel better by putting it in the second person. However, so you wonderfully motivated people know how to encourage the saps like myself, I recommend you read on anyway.

These are Buffy's Top Tips on Psyching Yourself Up.

Before I start, let me just say something that sounds silly, but has some underlying truth:
You don't burn more calories or build more muscle by making it mentally harder for yourself to exercise.

It has become sort of cool among some people to whinge about how hard it is to get up, and to sabotage your own efforts to exercise. True, we all hate the people who are like 'Oh, I just love getting up at 5am and doing two hours of yoga before going to work', but make a choice: do you want to be hated and slim/fit, or in good company and unhealthy?

Actually, getting up at 5am is probably always going to suck, but there are steps to make it easier. And there is absolutely no reason not to make it as easy as possible to exercise. The first step is to make sure you are set up to exercise, then there are steps that work for both mornings and evenings. 

The Set Up:
1. The Unbreakable Routine: first of all, you need to set up a routine which is realistic, but forms the baseline, minimum of exercise you will do a week. More is great, but this is what has to be done to stay fit. This becomes an unbreakable commitment. You walk out on after work drinks for it, you turn down dinner invitations because of it, you do whatever is necessary to make these sessions.
2. The Anti-Terrorist Approach: you need to realise that part of you is a terrorist trying to undermine your own efforts. There is only one way to deal with this: a no negotiation policy. Shut down any little voice that tries to bargain with you about getting out of these sessions. Take extreme measures if necessary.

Mornings:
1. Change your alarm. Is your alarm an annoying buzzy sound that has you developing a tic every time you hear it? Immediate reaction is to turn it off? Why don't you try changing it to a song you really like. It goes off and you are allowed to lie in bed singing along until the song finishes (better if you don't share a bed with someone else, obviously). Music is one of the fastest ways to change your mood, so give yourself a free mood upgrade in the morning.
2. Keep a magazine beside your bed (no, not one of those mags, a fitness related mag!). So, your alarm goes off and you tell yourself you have to jump straight out of bed, but then that doesn't work because it is just way too much effort, so the only other option is to fall back asleep and forget it ever happened, right? Wrong! Can't get out of bed? Well, can you manage rolling over and grabbing a magazine to read? Or even just looking at the pretty pictures? Reading a sports magazine with images made to inspire is a great stepping stone to ease yourself into getting out of bed. After reading an article on the benefits of jogging in the morning, you will be much more likely to want to jump up.


3. Podcasts: find reading too much? How about just putting in your headphones and listening to a 5 minute motivational podcast? There are plenty out there which are short, sharp, and aim to get you up and moving. So first thing in the morning, all you have to do is just put in your earphones and play the podcast and let it do the rest.

Evening:
1. Don't waste your train ride: most people spend time traveling to and from work (if you are someone that exercises on the way, such as riding, you are awesome, but this is for everyone else). This is the time you should start psyching yourself up. Don't be thinking about dinner, don't stress about work, start building up excitement about your work out. Same as for the morning, pull out a magazine, listen to a podcast, or look up new variations on the exercises you plan to do on your phone. You can even watch youtube clips to motivate you.
2. Walk in the door and chuck on your workout music. If you have to spend a few minutes at home getting changed, maybe getting a snack etc., put on some music which will keep you moving, and build up a bounce in your step. Make a playlist of a few songs that always make you want to dance, and put this on as soon as you get in the door.

These are just a few tips which work well for me. I would love to hear if people have any others.
So, get out there and exercise!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

What on earth is Tabata Training?

It's a very good question.

One I have had in the past, and when I turned up to my CrossFit session last Sunday, it was one I had again.

At the end of the workout it just said: tabata - rowing machines.

So, now that I know what it is, I thought I would pass on my knowledge to you.

Definition:

Let's start at the beginning:

Tabata is a style or method of training that can be used for most forms of exercise.

The secret which has everyone talking? The workout is only 4 minutes long (excluding warm up).

It is a sequence of 20seconds training 10 seconds rest for 8 intervals.

That's it. That's all there is.

But keep reading anyway :D.

(Just for your info: You will also see it referred to as HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training, or MIT: Maximum Interval Training, etc. )


Background:

It is based on research by the Japanese scientist Izumi Tabata.  (Tabata et.al., "Effects of moderate-intensity endurance and high-intensity intermittent training on anaerobic capacity and 'VO2max'", Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (Oct 1996, Vol. 28: Issue 10) pp. 1327-1330).

Tabata had a sample of male university students studying Physical Education (so quite fit) and divided them into two groups.

The first group did 60 minutes of medium intensity cycling on exercise bikes five days a week for six weeks. They managed to increase their aerobic fitness by 10%.

The second group did his workout of 4 minutes: 20 seconds all out sprint, 10 seconds rest - 8 times (after a 10 minute warm up). This group increased their aerobic fitness by 14%. Moreover, unlike the first group, they also saw a 28% improvement in anaerobic capacity.


How to Use It:

The best thing about it, in my eyes, is that it can be done with any piece of equipment or even just body weight, and can be specialised to your field.

For rowers this can be done on a rowing machine, runners on a track (I don't really recommending the treadmill as a) it takes a while to get up to speed and b) you should pushing yourself so hard that falling off might be a possibility, but other people do). It can be done with barbells and weights, or just at home doing something like squats.

Just keep in mind that you are trying to work as hard as possible, so best for major muscle groups of combining muscle groups (20 seconds of super hard thumb raises is not going to do it for your cardio system, sorry).

It can also be used for combining exercises.

Here is a sample workout from Tabata Training:
  • Pushups for intervals 1 and 3
  • Body weight Squats for intervals 2 and 4
  • Medicine ball slams for intervals 5 and 7
  • Sprinting or jumping rope for intervals 6 and 8
And you're done!

Pretty amazing, huh?

Okay, so what's the catch?

There is no big catch, but there are a few things to consider:

1. When they say 20 seconds all out, they mean all out. You should be close to puking every time. Properly done, 4 minutes should be the maximum you can do, though there are training systems that do sets of tabata.

A lot of people don't get great results using this method because they do not realise how hard you are meant to push.

2. There is a danger when trying to go fast and hard of injury through accident. Make sure that everything is set up and the exercises you are doing can be performed at speed/ weight without danger of accidentally stabbing yourself. I do not recommend high speed tabata tight rope walking.

3. It might be great for cardio improvement, but there is debate about the effectiveness in terms of calories burned compared to 60mins of medium intensity.

There is a strong following out there that states it burns more fat than steady state because it ramps up the metabolism (for example, see the section on Fat Loss in the article on The Body Gensis).

Now, it is true that high intensity work does get your metabolism going and therefore continues to burn extra calories after you have finished working out, but so does medium intensity but just not as much.

I just want to see the actually figures that show 4 mins + high level extra burn is greater than 60 mins + some extra burn.


Verdict?

As mentioned at the beginning, for the CrossFit WOD they put it at the end of a workout for that final punch, which I think worked well.

I would generally recommend building it into a program and maybe having a day where it is your workout, but not sure it should be the only type of exercise you do.

However, if you only have a 20minute gap it is a really effective way to use it. Do your 10 minute warm up and then be prepared to absolutely kill it for the 4 minutes. The last 6 minutes is to recover.


Tools:

You can download Tabata Timers for your Iphone, which can be useful if you are doing something without a clock, like squats.

There are also lots of videos on the net with different works out so check them out.

There is also a lot of scientific research out there on HIIT. When I get a chance I'll read through more of it and summarise anything good. But if you get the chance have a look yourself.

Good easy to understand articles to follow up include:
Men's Health: The Unbelievable 4 Minute Cardio Workout.
Tabata Training
The Ultimate Tabata Training Guide