How to make working out a habit?

So often I hear people struggling to get into an exercise routine. I have and have had clients that start with the greatest intentions and are all in and then after a week or two they miss a day, then miss two and then feel like they have failed and need to give up.

Like everything it takes time and your best chance of success is to create a habit of it, like with everything else. I am going to share some of my tactics to help you create a habit of it too.

1. Do not skip a workout

The right behaviours are developed through consistency, not frequency. Instead of going all or nothing like most of us tend to do, start small by saying you will go to gym once that week. Setup your schedule and make sure you never skip that one day. After a few weeks add another day, then after a month add another. The point here is to ensure you are getting into a habit and not allowing yourself to fail even if it is only once a week.

When setting up your exercise habit, ensure that no matter what you will achieve it. It does not matter if it is 1 day per week or 7 days per week. The important thing is that you will never skip it. You cannot set up a habit if you are not consistent.

2. Exercise in the morning

Yes I know that everyone is not a morning person especially when it comes to exercise but there are a few reasons I say you need to do this to create that habit.

From after work drinks to children’s soccer games or having to work late. These commitments can be tough to get out of. A lot less happens in the mornings and instead of having to resist temptations all you have to do is get out of bed and go to gym.

By the end of the day you may be tired or stressed or just not in the mood to go to gym. However in the morning you can create the right environment that will help you get there.

You may know you will be sleepy and lack the necessary motivation so have your gym bag packed, make your favourite breakfast, have your running shoes or put your coffee on a timer ready for you. These cues will automatically trigger your body to begin your morning routine of going to gym and help create that habit.

Be it from a stressful workday, or just having had a hard day. We all have those days where we just don’t have the energy to workout. If we have to use our willpower to just get through difficult tasks all days we will have no energy left to make it to the gym.

3. What is your ‘why’?

By having a genuine reason why you want to exercise will make it easier creating that habit. Thinking about your purpose causes the area of your brain that is responsible for your long term goals to activate. This gives you a rush of willpower as you begin to picture yourself achieving what you’re setting out to do.

It helps motivate you and makes that workout a lot more enjoyable as you see yourself getting closer to that goal.

4. Track your progress

We all have a natural desire for self-improvement. By writing down how many kilometres you ran this week will make you naturally want to run more next week. Write down the weight you lift so that next time you will be able to better yourself and lift heavier.

The most important post pregnancy rehab exercises

Pregnancy and childbirth affect your body in so many ways but the part of your body that takes the biggest knock is your core. Your abs get stretched and abused beyond recognition.

Most people think of their core as their abs where in fact it is actually all the muscles in your midsection including your back and hips. Pregnancy stretches and weakens your ab muscles, shortens and overworks the back muscles and widens the hips causing instability.

Can you see why it is so important that you start your rehab work on strengthening that core? Before attempting any physical exercise it is important to get the all clear from your doctor. You can also ask your doctor to check if you have diastasis recti. This is when the connecting tissue between your abs thins and causes your muscles to separate. This is a normal condition during pregnancy but may remain present afterwards in some women in which case you will need some special rehabilitation.

These are my recommended exercises and you can start them as soon as you get that all clear from the doc and all stitches/incisions have been removed and healed (c-section mamas you may have to wait a bit longer than those that had a natural birth).

1. Belly Breathing
Lie on your back with your knees up and feet resting on the floor. Take in a deep breath and then breathe out tightening your tummy muscles and pulling your belly button towards your spine. Hold the contraction for 5 seconds and try to work up to 10 seconds.

2. Single Leg Toe Taps
Lie on your back with your knees bent in a 90 degree angle (feet in the air). Hold your abs tight by doing your belly breathing and then lower one leg down to the floor and then back up. Do not let your lower back or spine move during the exercise. Complete 10 on each side.

3. Pelvic Tilts
Lie on your back with your feet elevated on either a ball or chair (maintaining a 90 degree angle with your knees). Tilt your pelvis back by pressing your lower back into the floor, hold for 5 seconds then repeat.

4. Hollow Holds
Lieo n your back contracting your abs and pulling your belly towards the floor. Keep your legs straight and arms extended overhead in line with your ears. Inhale to slowly lift your shoulders, arms, and legs off the floor. Keep your hands and heels as low to the ground as possible, while still pressing your lower back into the floor. Maintain tight abs and glutes. It’s OK to bend your knees if straight legs are too challenging. Hold for anything from 5-30 seconds.

5. Single-leg Deadlifts
Stand with feet under your hips. Shift your weight to stand on one leg which should remain straight with a soft bend in the knee. Keep your other leg straight and extend it behind you while bending forward until your body is almost parallel with the floor, then come back up. Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each leg. TIP: this will also challenge your balance so pick a spot with your eye and try to focus on it to help you from falling over.

6. Elbow Planks
Place your elbows on the ground or alternatively on the top of a stability ball and extended your legs out behind. Brace your abdomen and hips, straighten your back and hold the position for at least thirty seconds. Try to work up to a minute.  Be sure to keep a nice straight line with your body (don’t let your bum stick up or drop to the ground).

7 . Side Planks
Lie on your side with your elbow under your shoulder. Stack your hips and feet, stabilize your core, and lift your hips off the floor until your body forms a straight line. Hold here for at least thirty seconds. Repeat on the other side.

* I will be doing an Instagram post where I will demonstrate each of these exercises so be sure to check it out

Why Rest Days Are So Important When Training

So many people, and I’ve seen this with a lot of my clients too, are so motivated when they start exercising and never want me to schedule in a rest day for them. Even when I do they sneak off on that day.

I want to explain how important it is for your muscles to rest and all the other benefits too. Don’t get me wrong I love seeing people so motivated that they want to keep going and going but we also have to understand the other side of the equation.

In order to improve performance and muscle strength and size you have to work hard, however, it is the rest that makes you stronger. Weight training breaks down the muscle fibers in your muscles. After you work out, your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands or myofibrils. These repaired myofibrils increase in thickness and number to create muscle hypertrophy (growth). This adaption, however, does not happen while you actually lift the weights. Instead, it occurs while you rest.

It is during sleep where Growth Hormone (GH) levels are at their highest. Physiologic improvement in training can only occur during the rest period following hard training. This is also why consuming the proper foods and supplements immediately following such training is key.

To break it down inadequate rest may lead to over-training beyond the body’s ability to recover and none of us want that!

Rest is also a big factor in making sure you don’t hit a fat loss plateau. Along with allowing your muscles time to recover rest also aids in shocking the body so we keep it guessing, keeping us motivated and preventing injury.

It is recommended that you take 1-2 days of rest in a week and 1 week every 4-6 weeks.

When taking a break from training, it is important to note that this also means taking a break from dieting, or eating in a deficit. This means that during that week of rest, you should eat at maintenance or even above.

The reason for this dieting break ties back into the all too important role of hormones.

When you are dieting, your leptin and thyroid levels fall, which tends to lower the metabolism, and therefore fat loss. Raising calories to maintenance or even just a bit above maintenance allows the body to reboot.

This is one of the main reasons why you tend to see great results the first few weeks of a fat loss program, and then your results may plateau. This happens because of the lowering of these hormones.

If you allow your body a week of full rest, the hormones return to normal levels, and fat loss will begin to take place once again.

How Interval Training Can Help You Burn More Fat

Are you battling to lose that stubborn fat or feel like you are doing so much cardio but just not getting any results? I’m going to explain to you how interval training can take your body’s fat-burning to the next level. Research has shown that people burn more fat in a shorter time doing intensity training than those that exercise at a constant intensity level.

How interval training works

High intensity interval training (HIIT) combines periods of intense exercise with periods of rest or light exercise. By combining short bursts or sprints of aerobic effort you increase the body’s ability to burn fat. Slowing down between high intensity intervals makes the body work harder in a given time than if the activity was performed without rest periods.

Studies have shown that you need to reach between 80-100% of your VO2 max during your high intensity intervals to reap the benefits of HIIT. Your body’s VO2 max is a measurement of the maximum volume of oxygen that it can use and it’s a major factor in determining your endurance level.

To be able to measure this while you are exercising, you’ve reached your Vmax level of exertion when you feel you can’t bring in as much air as your body wants. If you can comfortably hold a conversation you’re not there.

How it burns more fat

When you do exercise your body burns far and carbs and the proportions vary with the intensity of exercise. Research shows that as exercise intensity increases you burn more from your glycogen stores for energy than your fat stores and low intensity activity like walking taps more into fat stores.

So then how do you lose more fat with HIIT?

It comes down to total calories burned while exercising. High-intensity burns quite a bit more calories than that of low-intensity and as fat loss is determined by energy balance the advantage here is clear.

It has been found that it can burn 36% more fat compared with steady state cardio and is more effective for burning stubborn subcutaneous fat than other types of exercise.

HIIT also increase your resting metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after exercise and spikes your growth hormone levels which aid in fat loss.

Tips for your HIIT workout

Cycling, rowing and sprinting have been shown to be the best but if you don’t like these or can’t perform them don’t shy away from other forms such as swimming, skipping, boxing, kettlebell movements etc.

The goal of HIIT is to go fast and hard, not slow and hard. The primary difference should be your speed and not the resistance.

Start your workouts with 2-3 minutes of low-intensity warm up. Do 20-30 minutes of HIIT and 2-3 minutes of warm down.

If you are looking to lose fat quickly I recommend 3-5 hours of weightlifting and 1-2 hours of HIIT cardio per week. This way you will lose fat and not muscle.

HIIT Workout

Complete 4 rounds with 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest:

  1. Box jumps
  2. Burpees
  3. Kettlebell swings
  4. Rowing machine

*You can substitute any of these with bike sprints, treadmill sprints, mountain climbers, squats etc.

Why keep a food diary?

1. Accountability

Writing everything down and seeing your daily intake increases your perception of how much you actually eat.

2. Learn how to control your calories

The extra helping of salad dressing in your salad, the chocolate you picked up when you stopped at the petrol station, even the second drink you had at dinner. They could all add up to another 150-650 extra calories throughout the day, yet we tend to forget about these little food extras and instead focus on our main meals. When it comes to food, even a little adds up.

3. Understand your sources of calories

Calories aren’t just about total calories, but about the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, which are 3 nutrients that provide energy for your body. You’ll also keep track of alcohol you drink, which is the other element that provides calories to your body, but is not a nutrient.

You may realise 70% of you calories are coming from carbohydrates, which is far higher than even what the USDA recommends (which is already high), or you might realise you only have 10% of your calories from protein despite being an active individual.

4. Portion control

When individuals are asked to keep a food diary, they often must measure all their food for the most accurate assessment. I find that many people measure food based on the bowl or plate the food is eaten on. For example, someone may say they have a “medium bowl of cereal” in the morning when in fact, after measurement, it is determined they actually have a very large serving. Once individuals use more accurate methods of measurement, they have a better understanding of their overall portion distortion.

5. Identify situations where you binge

There are usually a set of factors that set off eating binges, such as having too much alcohol at dinner, or having a very small lunch, or light breakfast. Sometimes eating is more emotional. By keeping a food diary and having to enter in all these foods and snacks makes you less inclined to overeat on these binges.

6. Provides a hard, objective record

Many times in our minds we will trick ourselves into believing we didn’t eat something, or we didn’t eat that much unhealthy food. When you have a written log, or journal, it takes the guess work and the guessing games out of the equation. You will know exactly how you are eating and that objective feedback can help inspire change.

7. Identify if you have a calorie surplus, or deficit

Not only does a food journal tell you the total calories you are eating, but you can also figure out how many more, or less calories you are eating relative to your calorie burn. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight, and if you eat less, you lose weight.

Our habits are subconscious, so by making yourself conscious of how you eat by keeping a food journal, it makes changing your eating habits a whole lot easier.

MyFitnessPal is one of the most well known food diary programs and apps.

How to stick to your New Year’s fitness resolutions

The two most common resolutions at the start of every year are to get fit & healthy and to lose weight. As concepts they are great but as goals they immeasurable.

Instead set goals such as lose 5 kgs, complete a half marathon, increase your back squat by 25%. This helps you to find ways to achieve these goals and allows you to actually measure these results by your deadline.

Tips to achieve your goals:

1. Follow your gym program correctly. Don’t miss sets or reps or you won’t get the complete benefit of your program.

2. Never miss a workout. If you aim to exercise on Mondays, Tuesdays & Thursdays make it a priority on those days.

3. Eat clean. Most of the results will come from your kitchen rather than the gym. You can never out train a bad diet!

4. Combine weight training and high intensity workouts to maximise your weight loss and prevent your workouts from becoming boring.

5. Get professional help. Hire a personal trainer or see a dietitian if you are not getting the results you want. So many people are clueless when it comes to training and eating correctly. If there is anything you should spend your money on it should be your health.

6. Don’t give up! A cheat day or missed workout isn’t the end. Just because you had a bad day or week doesn’t mean you should give up. Pick yourself up and believe that you can achieve those goals!