Why Autumn/Winter is the Best Time to Train

Darker evenings, dropping temperatures, and if like us you’re UK based, no doubt endless rain. It doesn’t bode well for that post-summer workout motivation, which is no doubt already wilting, does it? We get the struggle, honestly, but hear us out. The autumn/winter months are actually the best time to hit the gym with a bang and meal prep until you’re sick of the sight of tupperware, Why? Let us explain…

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THERE’S NO PRESSURE TO GET LEAN ASAP, AFTER ALL, IT’S A (LONG) PROCESS

It’s as simple as that, unless of course you’ve gone and booked yourself a cheeky winter break in the sun, in which case you may need to consider dropping the cake and upping the HIIT. But, for those of you who have zero holiday plans for the forseeable future, we’ve got your back and a pretty cracking proposition. Just think about this, its April and summer is around the corner. Its shorts weather, god forbid even swimwear weather, and you’re yet to begin your fitness journey, because once again, the Christmas and Easter treats got the better of you. How about we avoid that altogether, and get way, way ahead of the game? Use September to January to get as lean as possible and 100% beach ready for when the summer returns next year. You can thank us later.

BRING ON THE BAGGY, COSY CLOTHING

AKA, the blanket which conceals the incredible body to be unveiled in early 2017. If you decide to get fit over summer, you’re spending each day in summery clothing which perhaps can reveal those bits you desperately wish you could get rid of. Some people may use this as motivation to work harder, but others may catch a glimpse in the mirror and think “nope, not worth my time. Nothing is going to change so what’s the point.” Now how about this. You end summer feeling a little unhappy about your weight or body shape, and before you know it, out come the jumpers and coats. Bam. Now is your chance to get serious about this, so that by the time they go away once again, there you are with a figure to be admired, ready to show it off to the world.

THE WEATHER (IT’S MORE BENEFICIAL THAN YOU THINK)

Yes, it may be cold and slushy out, but that’s an awful lot easier to work out in as opposed to searing, thirty degree plus temperatures. Picture this. You head out to the gym in the snow or go for a jog in the drizzle, it’s gross, but when you get home you’ve just earned yourself a beautiful bubble bath, cup of tea, and every excuse to get into your comfy loungewear for the rest of the day. Surely that beats getting home, sweating like a pig in a sauna, not knowing where to sit or stand in fear of melting into the floor, are we right?

THE PERFECT REASON TO SAY “NO” TO THE DREADED XMAS BINGE

Sorry to mention Christmas (though did you know it’s only just over thirteen weeks away?), but it’s got to be said. Raise a hand if you’ve ever got to 1st December and thought “what’s a few weeks of chocolate, gingerbread, roast dinners and mulled wine going to do?” Err, actually quite a lot. The odd day you can get away with, and we all deserve a break, but anything longer than a week is going to get our of hand. If you get carried away, no doubt come January you’re going to feel slightly bloated and slightly regretful, unless of course you have the willpower of a champion and can bounce back within no time at all, in which case we salute you.

All in all, the autumn/winter months really are the optimum time to reduce the sugar, up the workout intensity and load up with lean meats and veggies. After all, nothing beats the thought of standing poolside on holiday being the person that makes others wish they’d started sooner, does it?

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A Guide to Weighted Bags

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Weighted Bags, what are they?

Launched in 2003, Weighted Bags are extremely versatile pieces of fitness equipment, giving so much more flexibility to your functional training workouts. Better yet, they’re suitable for every individual, thanks to the vast array of weight options on offer to us fitness enthusiasts. To put it into perspective for you, there are currently over 4,000 Weighted Bags being used by the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, Army and RAF globally. Need we say more?

The design of Weighted Bags makes them comfortable to train with, featuring a soft construction spreading the load when they are on the shoulders to allow a more dynamic and aggressive movement than with traditional weights. Weighted Bags can also used on almost any surface inside or outdoors, so you’re by no means limited!

Keen to give them a go in your next workout? Here are five exercises that pair perfectly with the use of a Weighted Bag…

LUNGES

Hold the Weighted Bag behind your head and rest it on your shoulders/upper back. Take a step forwards bending one leg, but keeping a straight, upright position with your body. Alternate legs and repeat for 15-20 reps.

BENT OVER ROWS

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and bend at the waist and knee, keeping your back straight. Pull the Weighted Bag up into your body and then lower to the ground. Repeat for 15-20 reps. Remember to keep a straight back at all times!

SQUATS

Similar to the lunge position, hold the Weighted Bag behind your head and rest it on your shoulders/upper back. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and squat down 90 degrees, or as low as possible, before returning to a standing position. Again, remember to keep your back straight.

SINGLE DEAD LIFT

Hold the Weighted Bag in both hands in front of you and lean forward to a 90 degree position, dropping your arms to the floor and lifting your leg behind you as you go, in order to reach a perfectly flat horizontal position (body and raised leg). Do this on alternate legs for 15-20 reps.

OVERHEAD PRESS

Hold the Weighted Bag in both hands at waist height, bring it up to your chest and press upwards. Bring the sandbag back down to your chest and repeat the motion for 15-20 reps.

You can take the intensity up a notch by performing 3 sets, resting for 30-60 seconds in between each set.

Looking to discover more about Weighted Bags? Head over to our website and check out our new Body Power range!

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Myth Buster Part 1: Strength Training for Women

PT Carly Tierney reveals four of her top myth busters when it comes to both cardio and strength training…

Myth-Buster-Part-1-Strength-Training-for-Women--1-webYOU WILL NOT GET BULKY FROM PICKING UP HEAVY THINGS

Almost all fitness marketing that is geared at women is nonsense. If marketers were telling the truth, they’d be saying things like: “Want to tone, tuck, and tighten those abs? Don’t waste your time with this!”, “Want to banish that belly fat? This ab roller won’t help!” or “Want to get stronger? You’re going to need to pick up something heavier than this!”. In practically every women’s fitness magazine, you are presented with a new workout that promises crazy results in just minutes a day by “toning muscles” with light weights. We are being promised super-foods that specifically target belly fat, and ab, glute and thigh workouts that are designed to “tighten those problem areas.” I want to set the record straight today and destroy every myth that I have heard when it comes to women and strength training.

You know those female bodybuilders who look really bulky? They eat, train, and take supplements specifically so they can look like that! They’ve probably been working towards that goal for years and years. Here’s the truth: when you pick up heavy things, your muscles get stronger, but not necessarily bigger. If you pump yourself full of testosterone and eat considerably more calories than you are burning every day, you will get bigger. If you pick up heavy things and eat the right kinds of food at a caloric deficit, your muscles will get stronger and denser, meaning you will burn the fat on top of your muscle and achieve that lean look that you are after.

FIND WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

I am a big fan of the saying: “do what makes you happy.” If you happen to enjoy running, Zumba or spinning, that is awesome – more power to you. However, if you are only doing those things to lose weight and you aren’t seeing results, stop. There is a better way.

So, cardio vs weights. Believe it or not, strength training will produce a more efficient weight loss effect than an equal amount of cardio. When you strength train your muscles are broken down, and then rebuild themselves over the next 24-48 hours. While your body is rebuilding those muscles, it’s recruiting more calories and energy to make the process happen – generally referred to as the ‘afterburn’ effect. What this means is that your metabolism operates at a faster level, even while you’re sitting on the couch after a workout.

Want to hear another interesting fact about exercise? You don’t necessarily need to strength train or smash it on the treadmill! I hate saying it, but it’s true. If your goal is to just lose weight, then fixing your diet will get you 80-90% of the way there. If you never want to set foot in a gym, god forbid pick up a weight, that’s fine. For exercise, it’s important to find things that make you happy, such as walks with family or swimming to unwind after work.

Now, if your goals go beyond just losing weight and you want to earn yourself a killer bod, then I advise you to strength train, something of which you can do in many ways. Examples of strength training would be to pick up heavy things, swing kettlebells, do yoga and bodyweight exercises and even carry your kids on a long walk. The idea is to do something that makes you use your muscles in a strenuous way.

Did you know that strength training also helps to correct issues relating to cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and inactivity – all factors for heart disease? To the point where cardiologists are even starting to recommend strength training for people who have suffered a heart attack, as little as three weeks after the attack? This is proof that strength training is more than just sweating in a gym.

WOMEN & MEN SHOULD NOT TRAIN DIFFERENTLY

This is another myth that drives me crazy, something of which you can read more about in my previous post.

In commercial gyms across the country, we often see men go through intense strength training routines with squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, push ups, pull ups and lunges. In those same gyms, female clients do light weight dumbbell circuits, stability ball squats for high repetitions, and endless cardio and classes. There is no reason that men and women can’t complete the same types of exercises. While a guy can lift to get bigger, a woman can lift in the same way, but instead to build that tight, lean look that many women aim for.

Women have just as much a right to be in the free weights section and squat rack as guys do. Unfortunately, it’s just less common, though at my gym I’m changing that! Train how you want to train. There is no reason you can’t do overhead presses, pull ups, squats, and deadlifts, just like everybody else. In fact, following a routine like that is a damn good way to give you the best chance to build the body you want!

This said, remember that your diet is 80-90% of the battle, and thanks to hormones, oestrogen, testosterone, and genetic and dietary differences, two people will end up with drastically different results. Alongside that, there are quite a few issues that women deal with that men do not, some which require specific information and advice, examples being pregnancy, menopause and so on.

NOT ALL OLDER WOMEN NEED TO TAKE IT EASY

After women reach menopause and the potential for osteoporosis kicks in, many women tend to shy away from strength training for fear of injuring themselves. Actually, that is the PERFECT time to strength train. Studies have shown that in post-menopausal women, strength training “preserved bone density while improving muscle mass, strength, and balance in postmenopausal women.” Age is only a number. Some women think they have to stop strength training as they get older, but many can feel older because they have stopped strength training! If a 73-year-old grandma can strength train, what’s your excuse?

Check back soon for part two of this post, where Carly looks at food, spot reducing and working out for the right reasons!

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Read more blogs from Carly Tierney.

Carly Tierney Personal Trainer

Carly Tierney is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, Pilates instructor, fitness feature writer and is also the new DW Sports Fitness Expert across social media. In 2014, she became Ms Bikini Tall Miami Pro champion and is sponsored by BSN, Bio-Engineered Supplements and Nutrition, Inc. Carly was also a finalist for Gym Based PT of the year.

Visit Carly’s website, and check out her newsletter!

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Guest Blog: Heather Takes on the Windsor Half Marathon

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In April 2014, Heather Grant from our very own Fitness Superstore HQ, was diagnosed with lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system). Thankfully, after six cycles of chemotherapy, Heather went into remission and (touch wood!) is still clear.

While Heather was ill, her sister ran a Marathon and raised over £2,000 for MacMillan. At this point she decided that when she was well enough, she wanted to run a Half Marathon. This not only gave her something to focus on, but it also acts as a good indicator of how far she’s come since finishing treatment. So, true to her word, on 25th September Heather will be running the Windsor Half Marathon – along with her sister, Clare, and brother, Daniel.

We got chatting to Heather to find out all about her training for the big event…

Why did you choose the Windsor Half Marathon?

We chose Windsor because of the time of year and because it looks like an interesting course to run – around Windsor Great Park.

How long have you been training for?

Since about March.

What has been the highlight of your training so far?

When I increased the distance of my run from 4 miles, to 6 miles and then to 8 miles over just a few weeks. It made me feel like 13 miles was achievable.

What has been the hardest part of your training so far?

When I felt like I was getting worse, rather than better!

Are you hoping to achieve a particular time? If so, what is it?

I’d like to complete the run in under two and a half hours.

What’s the one thing you couldn’t train without?

Music!

Do you have a song or playlist that gets you through your training?

I have downloaded a few running playlists, but tend to just set my phone to shuffle so I get a mixture. A bit of 90s Britpop always goes down well – it reminds me of my youth!

What will you be treating yourself to after the Half Marathon?

Probably a large glass of Sauvignon Blanc… and a week off from running!

Where will the funds raised go to?

I am very grateful for the treatment I received from a local charity called Dunstone Bennett, who provide complementary therapy for cancer patients and their relatives. This really helped me to cope with the horrible effects of chemotherapy, and the difficulties that come with fighting an illness like cancer. Because of this, we will be donating the money we raise to Cancer Research UK and the Dunstone Bennett Complementary Centre.

We’d like to wish Heather the very best of luck for her Half Marathon challenge, we will certainly be cheering her on! If you would like to contribute to Heather’s Just Giving page, you can do so here.

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An Insight Into the FS Team: Why Do We Workout?

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At Fitness Superstore, working out to hit new targets and achieve new goals is something of which we all share a passion for. On observation, we noticed just how much workouts and training regimes vary from person to person, particularly with so many options out there to choose from. To get a better insight into this, we got chatting to a few members of the team to find out the reasons behind their regular training sessions, which workout style they prefer and their ultimate piece of kit.

First of all, we spoke to Louise…

Why do you work out?

I work out on a regular basis to feel healthy, to be able to enjoy cake and chocolate guilt free, to improve my endurance during long walks at weekends, and of course for that added sense of satisfaction!

What does your typical training session involve?

I like to work out at home for around twenty minutes every day, mixing up cardio and strength exercises. For cardio I like to use a skipping rope the most, and for a lot of exercises (e.g. jumping jacks) I’ll hold onto some dumbbells to make the moves slightly more challenging. For strength, I’ll opt for the likes of push ups, crunches, kettlebell swings and dumbbell rows. I believe in mixing it up to keep the exercise interesting!

If you could only work out with one piece of equipment, what would you choose?

I’d have to choose something like the Bowflex MAX Trainer M5. This is a machine that makes the absolute most of the time you have, which for me can occasionally be limited due to a hectic schedule.

Next, we heard from Amit…

Why do you work out?

I work out because its gives me significantly more energy throughout the day, and also boosts my self-confidence. I don’t necessarily want to lose weight or gain weight, I simply want to build muscle and feel good about myself. Plus, nothing beats the pumped feeling after a good workout!

What does your typical training session involve?

I generally start with a ten minute warm up session on the bike, and then move on to the weights. I try to hit two muscle groups per session, while keeping it varied by using both weights and machines, which keeps my body guessing and builds muscle far quicker.

If you could only work out with one piece of equipment, what would you choose?

I think I could manage most of my workout on a Cable Cross Over Machine, if I were to choose just one item. By using the right accessories, you can work almost every body part. So much can be achieved with the right tools.

Last but not least, Katie gets involved…

Why do you work out?

A couple of years back I began devouring chocolate, ice cream and meals big enough for two on a daily basis. An additional stone in weight later and I called it a day! Though I am still not as slim or as lean as I’d like to be, I have gone from the girl who did whatever she could to get out of PE at school, to the girl who gets up an hour early every single week day to smash a workout. I’ve also learnt that diet is a huge part of success, which is something else I now take pretty seriously!

What does your typical training session involve?

My typical day at the gym has developed from a boring thirty minute stint on the Cross Trainer, to a full blown twenty minute HIIT session, finished with both bodyweight and weighted exercises. I do this three days per week, alongside a bodyweight HIIT workout at home and twenty minutes of outdoor sprint intervals on the two remaining week days. HIIT is the way forward for me!

If you could only work out with one piece of equipment, what would you choose?

A kettlebell, every time! When I first picked one up I didn’t know what to do with it, but now they are incorporated into every single workout. I used to brave nothing more than a 4kg kettlebell, whereas now I’m using kettlebells between 12kg and 20kg – which proves that you become stronger without necessarily realising it.

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Should Men and Women Train Differently?

So, what’s the verdict, should men and women train differently? PT Carly Tierney shares her views on the topic…

Should-Men-and-Women-Train-Differentl

My opinion is no, they shouldn’t, and I certainly don’t treat men and women differently when training. In a general sense men and women should apply the same principles to training – heavy weights, cardio, a balanced diet and rest.

The only difference, perhaps, is the mind-set. Some women opt for more cardio based workout as they believe that cardio is the way to go, avoiding heavy weights, though this isn’t necessarily the best option. Cardio is great for health, but in terms of achieving an aesthetic look, fat loss and shaping your body, it’s not the best option. To make real changes to body shape, weights are the way forward.

With this in mind, I do a full consultation with all of my clients to understand their goals, lifestyle and preferences, and design a training routine that’s a best fit for them as an individual. This could involve circuit training, HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), a split body part weights routine or sports specific training. There really is no one size fits all, and gender rarely plays a part!

Do men have more bravado and try to ego lift?

I think that this is something that many gym goers do, regardless of their gender. More and more women are using weights in gyms these days, so it’s not just a male issue.

What I would say about men though is that women tend to ask questions when they don’t know how to use a piece of equipment, men on the other often train without seeking professional advice. I see the worst examples of lifting using sloppy form and some downright dangerous lifting from guys, who aren’t necessarily ego lifting, but quite simply just don’t know what they’re doing.

Arguably, almost anyone can move a heavy weight, however moving it correctly and using the correct muscles, tempo and range of movement is another thing entirely.

What are the main differences when training men compared with women?

Honestly? I find that women tend to ask a lot more questions and perhaps aren’t afraid to, given that training is still often not seen to be something ‘that women do’. Women want to know why they’re doing things, and women also seem to have higher pain thresholds than most men. I don’t know if that’s just the women I train though, they’re beasts!

In general, I don’t think there are many differences between training men and women. Some women want to lift heavy and build muscles, and equally some men want to avoid heavy weights because they don’t want to ‘get massive’. What I try to explain is that diet is more of a contributing factor to size gains, and that lifting heavy doesn’t mean you’ll become Arnie overnight, or probably ever in fact!

What about food?

Diet is the area where men and women do vary quite massively. Men have slightly different dietary requirements than women, including a higher recommended daily calorie allowance for example, though most guys that I know don’t eat enough. When it comes to women, they have a more emotional relationship with food, whereas men tend to view it more as something practical. Men are also more likely to be able to stick to a designed nutrition plan in comparison women.

I think a lot of men underestimate their nutritional needs and eat too little protein. A lot of men also don’t snack, which is not necessarily a good thing for fat loss or muscle gain, given that a male body needs more calories than a female’s!

A common complaint from men relates to fat in their abdominal area, which is largely down to diet. I’d suggest reducing consumption of simple carbs such as white bread, pasta and cereal, and limiting alcohol intake. Vitamins and minerals are just as important for men and women, so adding veg and salad to meals is not just for the ladies!

Simple advice for men AND women…

If you are looking to lose weight – reduce alcohol consumption and eat regular, balanced meals five to six times per day. Eating less is not more. And lift weights, because they’re not just for bodybuilders, they’re actually really effective for fat loss!

If you want to build muscle – ensure that you’re fuelling your workouts correctly with the right nutrition. This includes eating the correct ratio of carbs, good fats and lean proteins to support goals. Also, change up your training every six weeks or so to continually challenge your body.

If you’re training for an event like a marathon or Ironman race – include some strength training to your training regime, as this will reduce risk of injury and enhance your performance. Also ensure that your nutrition pre, during and post training is adequate. These types of events are demanding and food and hydration play an essential role.

Read more blogs from Carly Tierney.

Carly Tierney Personal Trainer

Carly Tierney is a fully qualified Personal Trainer, Pilates instructor, fitness feature writer and is also the new DW Sports Fitness Expert across social media. In 2014, she became Ms Bikini Tall Miami Pro champion and is sponsored by BSN, Bio-Engineered Supplements and Nutrition, Inc. Carly was also a finalist for Gym Based PT of the year.

Visit Carly’s website, and check out her newsletter!

Posted in Carly Tierney, Guest blogs, Health and fitness, Nutrition and Recipes, Tips and advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Press Release: National Strongwoman Event 2016

National-Strongwoman-Event-2016

For the third consecutive year, Northampton is playing host to the biggest strongwoman title in the country, Britain’s Strongest Woman. The athletes have all qualified for the event at national events held in England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales, and now the strongest ladies in the country will battle it out over six gruelling events to test strength, speed, power and just pure determination, to see who will be crowned Britain’s Strongest Woman 2016!

The event is split into 3 different weight class groups: under 63kg (around 9.5 stone), under 82kg (around 12.5 stone), and then the open weight ladies that do not have a bodyweight limit. Each category will compete separately, so there are actually three winners! The top three from each class will be invited to compete at Europe’s Strongest Woman in December this year.

In recent years the event has made fantastic progress since Faye Jordan, Northampton’s Most Inspirational Woman 2015, took the reins in 2014 and made it her mission to improve and grow the sport for both the athlete’s and the fans. The event is gaining increasing publicity and recognition in the world of Strength Sports, with this year’s event being the biggest yet.

The event will be held at the Northampton Casuals Rugby Ground on 21st August and is looking to be a great family day out with local and small businesses featuring and providing, BBQ, Stalls, Bouncy Castle, and of course the main event, Britain’s Strongest ladies – showing epic feats of strength, courage, sportsmanship and passionate determination.

Let battle Commence!

Spectator tickets are on sale now at http://www.inspirestrength.co.uk/?page_id=78 or via paypal to BritainsStrongestWoman@gmail.com.

Event sponsors:

Inspire Strength Personal Training: http://InspireStrength.co.uk/.

Stronglands Apparel: http://stronglandsapparel.com/.

J G Marine Services: http://www.jgmarine.com/.

R J Hawkins Fleet Cleaning Services: http://www.rjhawkins.co.uk/.

Move Freely 1000 Sports Therapy: https://www.facebook.com/Movefreely1000-338757282959576/?pnref=lhc.

The Words Workshop: http://www.thewordsworkshop.co.uk/.

All Out Athletics: http://www.alloutathletics.co.uk/.

Britannia Reeves & Britain’s Strongest Removalist Competition at the Movers & Storers Show.

Press release by Faye Jordan, Northampton’s Most Inspirational Woman 2015.

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