Gym Newbie: 5 Helpful Tips For Beginners. 

Making the decision to start going to the gym is inspiring and exciting. If you’ve never really been an attendee before then you also gain a new title  Gym Newbie. Not to worry though, we have all been there and I am here to share with you, 5 of the most effective, tried and tested tips to make the transition from gym newbie to gym junkie go as smoothly as possible.

If you are returning to the gym after a lil time out, welcome back (don’t ever leave us again 😢). You may find that the following tips are useful in assisting you adjust back into the life.

So without further ado, I bring to you the 5 best tips for new gym members:

1. Make a commitment

Simply getting a membership will not suffice and much like the old “I’ll start the diet tomorrow”, tomorrow never comes. We all find it far to easy to flake out on ourselves so, agree a time and date to go to the gym with a friend, book on to a class or at the beginning of the week declare to yourself and those close to you the days and times you will go workout. Making these kinds of declaration creates some level of accountability and commitment. Letting someone else down is not so easy, just the same as acknowledging letting yourself down is not easy. Make a commitment and hold yourself to it.

2. Set goals

Be specific in your aspirations. What are your reasons for joining the gym? Some examples may be fat loss, muscle gain, increase fitness or even to be social. By identifying goals before heading into the gym you are preparing for the time spent there to be productive. Additionally, if you ask for help, straight away you have identified your goals and are in a position to receive appropriate guidance. 

3. Get a Workout plan.

Workout plans are a godsend to us all! Walking into the gym without a plan is like going shopping without any money – pointless and frustrating. Whether you are a newbie, just getting back in to things or a junkie, having a workout plan not only outlines your goals and how you are going to achieve them but it mentally prepares you. Plans are commonly anything from 4  to 12 weeks. It is more likely that those with a plan will continue to attend the gym to complete the program than those who go with no plan and wonder around for an hour ‘playing’ on bits of equipment, more often than not those kinds of people get bored and quit after a couple of weeks. Your plan outlines what you are going to be working towards and as you work through you get such a sense of achievement you don’t want to quit!

4. Research/Learn

Now we aren’t talking university dissertation levels here. A simple understanding of the human body and ensuring you know exactly how to execute the exercises on your plan will suffice and save much embarrassment. Nobody likes the guy that bicep curls in the squat rack. On a more serious note though, doing your research and fully understanding what you are doing will aid in injury prevention and achieving results. 

5. Track progress

Sufficient means of tracking progress are essential. If you are trying to lose weight, are you actually trying to lose weight or are you trying to lose size? The difference between the two is that in the former a set of scales in an appropriate means of tracking progress whereas in the latter, scales may give contradicting results especially if gaining muscle in the process, you may be losing size but actually gaining weight and so with this aim a tape measure would be the appropriate method of measurement. At the start of your program, decide how you are going to assess progress and record your stats. Do this every week until the end of your program. Looking at yourself on a day-to-day does not allow to see the changes as progress is slow and minimal but comparing week 1 to week 12 say, would definitely highlight any differences. Having recorded the weeks inbetween you also have an additional assessment period. If you get to half way through and statistics haven’t altered then you are alerted to this before reaching the end of your program and being disappointed and disheartened. You can change things up or seek advice as to what issues there may be and how to fix them.

That’s it, my top 5 tips for a gym newbies! I have no doubt that the above tips will set you off in goodsteed and  who knows, you may even become as blissfully addicted as I am! 

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The EU & the fitness industry

A popular (often heated) topic of conversation in recent weeks has been that of the referendum “are you voting in or out” and begin argument. This subject has been analysed from so many different angles and some seriously influential people of the world have been giving their input. In the past few days, David Beckham has stepped forward to declare his first support for the RemaIN campaign. This led me to question what effect, if any, the referendum will have on the sports and fitness industry in the UK.

It is now acknowledged that  the arguments from both camps have become largely manipulated and often boil down nothing more than ‘what ifs’ and therefore I cannot put everything across as fact but I have done research and consulted the regulations themselves where possible. 

One speculation which will no doubt affect the fitness industry is that of trade. Particularly immediately following an exit from the EU whilst negotiations for new trade channels are in process, it is expected that the cost of goods and taxes will increase – it’s not as if gym wear, trainers, equipment and supplements weren’t expensive enough already.

With the mention of supplements, it is worth noting that EU legislation such as the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation and Food Supplements Directive are implemented with the objective of ensuring that any claim made on food labelling or advertising is clear, accurate and based on scientific evidence. The EU market prohibits food bearing claims that could be misleading. Furthermore, the obligation to list ingredients and nutritional breakdown comes from the EU – extremely beneficial to those who take good care of their diet also.  On the other hand, it could be said that the obligations are too stringent and they hinder progress of the food and diet industry.

Delving into deeper depths of the sports and fitness industry, the right to free movement has a large role to play. When it comes to competitions at a national level, this right allows for athletes and competitors that hold European passports to travel freely with no requirement for a visa or permit thus providing and encouraging opportunity to all athletes regardless of financial standing. 

The Premier League have come out to back the RemaIN campaign stating that being a part of the EU supports their principle of openness. Many sports clubs enjoy the freedom to explore alternative markets looking for untapped talent. The problem here is that it leaves little room  for domestic talent to come through particularly when faced with their cheaper, more experienced Eastern European counterparts. 

For fear of boring you all to sleep, I will summarise in saying that there are clear pro’s and con’s to each side of the argument. An understanding of both sides of the argument is essential before making your vote. There is so much rubbish out there, make sure your research goes beyond the ever trustworthy sources of Facebook and Wikipedia. Question everything but most importantly make sure you vote.

Summer Series: Rollerblading

Its officially summer time! Yesterday was summer solstice, the weather certainly did not demonstrate this but it got me thinking about summer holidays back during the school years. They used to be so much fun! Come rain or shine, pretty much everyday was spent outdoors, the whole street used to come together to play one huge game of manhunt or we would go on bike rides on mass (living right on the penines has its perks) or just have random races with each other – though I never did win any of those races! Summer holidays as adults don’t quite bring the same sorts of excitement anymore (I move for an annual six week break from work… with pay!) but in all seriousness, one of the things I miss most about being a kid in the summer is the amount of fun and enjoyment we got being outdoors and this got me to thinking of ways to bring some of those fun childhood moments into our adult fitness regimes and lifestyles – enter ‘Summer Series‘. The Summer Series are going to be dedicated to incorporating childhood activities into our everyday lives and fitness routines in a bid to allow more time in the great outdoors. Going from home to gym to office to home does not leave a great deal of time to get out in the fresh air and enjoy the beauty of the world around.

Christmas of 2015, Santa gifted me with some bad ass roller blades. Unfortunately, thus far they have barely been on my feet. I always imagine myself taking them to New York and skating round Central Park whenever I see them but yesterday as I was feeling inspired (and brave) I saw them and decided to seize the moment so, kicking off the first of the Summer Series is Rollerblading!

Fast forward 2 minutes. The roller blades were on my feet, the dog was on his lead and the boyfriend was laughing at the mayhem that was about to ensue but I was feeling on top of the world. Confident with a touch of cocky, we were out of the door. Immediately, that touch of cocky came to bite me on the butt! This roller blading malarkey was no where near as easy as I remembered. Where did this sudden fear of the floor come from and why had my balance deserted me?! Still holding on to the dogs lead, my boyfriend escorted me safely to the road and out came the confidence again, straight line going forward added in a bit of a wave with the legs because I got this, it’s like I’d never stopped which quickly turned into feeling like I was never going to stop, especially with the dog pulling me along. Yes boys and girls, last night my dog took me for a walk!

From a fitness stance though, I truly never expected this to be such hard work! Roller blading really is a work out! My glutes, hammies, quads, calves, abs were all switched on and aching by the time we returned home, the duration of the outing was probably only 15 minutes in total. Not to mention being sweaty and out of breath. Does this mean I found a cardio that is actually enjoyable?!

The verdict. Rollerblading is an excellent lower body work out with an extra cardio element. I’m sure once I’ve learned to stop correctly instead of throwing myself at fences, the cardio benefits will prove even more effective. Additionally, this 100% brought some childhood fun to a workout. Maybe my abs are currently hurting so much as a result of the laughter (and fear). Already can’t wait to get back out on them and when the time comes to skate around Central Park I will be a pro!

Be sure to keep checking the Instagram page/Snapchat where I’ll be posting videos of mastered skills and no doubt there will be videos of all the failed attempts at mastering skills on there too! @ContourAllure @TheMissyT

 

Doctors orders

My first minor surgery took place around 10 days ago, the worst part about the whole thing was the doctor declaring that no sporting activity including the gym was to be done over the next 2 weeks!! The look on my face must have been one of horror because the Doctor needed reassurance from me that he should go ahead with the procedure (of course he went ahead with the procedure – bigger picture!). Though I was horrified. How could there possibly be a 2 week period with no gym?! Oh oh upper body workouts!

So it turned out upper body workouts were still not feasible (naughtily experimented). How frustrating right? Wrong. Instead of feeling beat up and down about not being able work out which also meant 100% having to skip leg day (sacrilege!) It was just a case of needing to refocus. Sure weights, cardio and HIIT were off the cards for the moment but that still leaves plenty of other areas to dedicate time to like stretching, foam rolling, balance and research and that is where my focus for the past 10 days has been. Sure enough, my being has had zero presence in a gym during that time but my head has remained strongly on the game.

This journey that you are sharing with me goes far beyond being working to be aesthetically pleasing though it is so easy to get a little stuck in that area from time to time. My reaction to the doctors orders definitely undermined the whole reason this journey even began. There is no way to even justify freaking out over being told to lay off of the gym for a couple of weeks. I placed far too much priority on my ‘gains’ than on my overall health and frankly that was just unacceptable.

The power of positive thought, laws of attraction, energy and vibrations are areas that have gained lots of time and attention from me recently, beginning only a short time before the surgery took place actually. It is these practices that allowed me to see the error in my thinking and kept me from wallowing in my own self pity and destroying any muscular progress through poor diet choices on top of lack of weight training sessions. These practices allowed me to look at the situation from a different angle and make the problem a lot more temporary.

Feeling more limber, calmed and generally healthier and it definitely shows. Normally a week out from the gym would result in a bloated tummy, terrible skin and the attitude of a brat but that is not the situation at present. my skin is the clearest and healthiest it has ever been, my attitude and outlook on life is so positive and my body feels wonderful, of course there is some fat gain and muscle loss but it is minimal in comparison to what could have been.

Today, the stitches were removed. Today I am recharged, reenergised and refocused. Today I am ready. This journey is about to get a whole lot more meaningful and truly incorporate every aspect of health.

Buttwink

A few weeks ago, a fellow gym bunny and I were squatting and she said to me ‘how do you do that flicky thing with your bum’. I wasn’t too sure what she meant and assumed she meant at the top of the squat so just advised her to squeeze her glutes to finish the movement.

On one of the first completely solo gym sessions in a while I decided to take things back to basics, re-assess my technique and make sure form was consistent and correct. The results baffled me! It was all going well right up until it clicked with me what my friend meant by ‘the flicky thing with your bum’.  Squat form was on point right up until it got deep and the ‘flicky thing’ with my bum happend. Rounding of the lower back (lumbar flexion) and the butt tucking under (posterior pelvic tilt), yeah you know what this is – the dreaded BUTTWINK!!!! Where did this come from? Is it something I have always had? Is it something I have developed? ARGH?! So right there and then, squatting ceased, personal research and chats with my trainer began.

Apparently there are a number reasons in which posterior pelvic tilt AKA buttwink can occur. It seems that the main causes are:

  1. Poor technique;
    Squatting is a full body movement. It is important to understand and respect this. In order for a squat to be conducted correctly the barbell must be balanced over mid-foot, move in a straight vertical path and the crease of the hips should be below the top of the knee cap. In order to execute this, before commencing the exercise one must get into the correct stance for their desired squat, ensure central point of balance is in the middle of the foot not the balls of the foot or the heels, brace the abdominals and focus on breathing technique. All of the previous must be maintained and controlled throughout the entire movement. If even one element is off the entire exercise is compromised. This is evidenced through loss of balance, raising onto toes, moving knees to far forward, dipping of the upper body and of course the dreaded buttwink.
  2. Depth of the squat and anatomical structure;
    Flexibility is a factor of the squat movement that often gets overlooked. Where muscles are too tight to correctly perform a movement, the body will make alterations in order to perform and this is where injury can occur. For example, if hamstrings are tight, buttwink may occur due to the re-orientation of the pelvis and as a consequence to the way in which the pelvis and the lumbar spine are connected therefore, there is an increased risk of injury i.e. slipped disks or pinched nerves.

    From a skeletal standpoint, bone to bone compression may happen before the desired depth is reached. Limitation due to the poisitioning of the hip bone will be the case for people who have deep set sockets additionally, the shaping of the socket (eliptical, flat or linear) will also play a huge part in squat style and technique. As above, the pelvis will tilt to allow the hip bone to be in a position to complete the movement. Bone structure will not result in the exclusion of the exercise from workouts entirely, but will require them to be tailored to suit individaul needs i.e. narrow or wide stance and depth. It is vital to only squat to a depth which does not compromise the lumbar health.

After running multiple different tests, taking countless videos of myself and stretching in ways I’ve never stretched before the conclusions are indicative that I have deep set sockets with a linear shaping. Taking this into account, I will benefit most from a wide stance squat.

Technique should constantly be analysed. Our bodies change considerable amounts, particularly as muscles increase as they also get tighter (where flexibility training is not incorporated) this will result in alterations in motor control and the way the body moves. Spotting the changes earlier and adapting movements appropriately will definitely aid in reducing risk of injury, and if that alone isnt enough ensuring the body is working optimally will mean you aren’t leaving any potential GAINZ on the table!