Thursday, 14 February 2013

Practicing what you preach..

Just after completing their third set of swapover lunges, my client looked at me with a mixture of pain  yet determination in their eyes when they asked me 'do you put yourself through this torture?!' After my first reaction which was a slight chuckle, I responded with an honest answer which was plain and simply 'yes.'

It's like a chef that doesn't try their own food. A BMW salesman driving a Volvo, a dentist with a mouth full of fillings, I think you get the idea.. but at the end of the day, I'm selling myself. The advert for my own business is me. When you enter room, how important are first impressions?! I would say the MOST important factor when meeting someone for the first time. 

Appearance is huge. Especially in my industry. Of course, I can improve like everyone else. I have my floors. I could improve my body composition. I have a dangerous sweet tooth, my tolerance to carbs is pretty low and who doesn't enjoy the occasional pint of Somerset cider with some mates? 

Now this blog isn't a rant about me, me and more me. I just want you to know that I understand what my clients go through day in and day out when they have a desired goal that they so desperately want to reach. It's too easy to give-in. It's too easy to pick up a microwave meal when you have arrived late back from work. It's too easy skip the gym when it's cold and raining outside, It's those situations when you have to apply the attitude of 'just get it done.' The mind is such a powerful mechanism and it likes to test your conscience every now and again.

Vision and imagery are components that are used widely in professional sport. A great example of where imagery is performed with great success is Jonny Wilkinson and 'Doris.' With every penalty kick or conversion, Jonny visualises 'Doris' sitting in the stand behind the post and his objective is to get the ball onto Doris' lap with each kick. Being one of the best goal-kickers in the history of the game, I think you could say that it's proved a pretty successful strategy.

Find your strategy and motivation, whether it's the beach body for the summer holiday, or the impending London Marathon, or a PB with a certain lift and don't stop until you have reached that end point, be relentless. 

Of course, people 'fall off the wagon' that's ok, it happens! Don't beat yourself up about it, and the attitude I see quite a lot is 'Oh I've been bad Monday and Tuesday so I might aswell start next week.' That's the soft option. That attitude of accepting defeat won't help with anything in life.

I'm far from the motivational speaker, I'll leave that to the people that write books and the daily motivational tweets that fly around, but just take a moment and think, you're only here for one life. Why not make the most of it?!

Now put down your Krispy Kreme doughnut and reach for a mug of green tea!


Ps. I'm pretty excited with my new holding page for my website:

Head over to it if you have a spare few mins. I'll be updating it regularly and it would be great to have some feedback.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Banana Bread - Recipe of the week 11/2/13

Another great weekend for rugby, especially if you're English. Congrats to the resurgent Welsh, the French look scared to play the rugby that their famous for and Scotland gave Italy a pasting..

Last weekend I was lucky enough to experience a training session with Professional Boxing coach Shane McGuigan, before this I watched one of his fighters - Carl Frampton complete his last sparring session before his European Title Fight on Saturday night, which he won with a knockout in the 9th round. The quickness and fitness of that man is phenomenal. The media are dubbing him for great things and I can see why. I felt a little bit inadequate stepping into the ring after watching him. Struggling my way through some jab/cross combinations, it was an amazing experience though. Also got to meet Shane's dad, Barry who gave some encouraging words so I went out with my chest out and shoulders spread.

Anyway, the real reason for this post - Banana Bread. Doesn't sound the healthiest does it?! Banana - yep, great, bit of fruit - high on the gi scale but fine. Bread, one of the main foods that I encourage my clients not to eat. So how does this bread differ from the conventional sugar-laden, processed packed normal stuff. Secret ingredient - Buckwheat.

I've already posted on how great this little ingredient is. It's complete protein structure and non-gluten characteristics make for a fantastic alternative to white flour. It works great with pancakes (see earlier post), and now I wanted to try it with a 'cake.' The recipe also contains minimal sugar, literally a dash of agave syrup.

Agave syrup can be purchased in large supermarkets and has a significantly lower impact on blood sugar than normal table sugar making it a preferred choice. It's thinner in consistency than honey however packs the same sweet taste making it a favourite amongst the health conscious.

So here it is:

Banana Bread:


120g Butter (preferably Kerrygold)
1 and 1/2 Cups of Buckwheat flour
1tbsp Agave Syrup
1 egg
3 Bananas (very ripe)
1tsp Cinnamon
1tsp Vanilla extract
2tsp Baking powder
Handful of Walnuts - crushed.


Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees

Mash up the bananas into a paste using a fork.

Soften the butter until melted and add to the butter.

Crack in an egg, the cinnamon and syrup.

In another bowl mix the flour and baking powder together and slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, a little at a time. A hand blender is advised for this mixing process.

Empty the mixture into a cake tin and bake for 35-40 mins. If the top of the bread looks like it is burning, put some foil over the top until the inside is thoroughly cooked.

I'm definitely no Paul Woodwood when it comes to baking, not my thing. But this recipe is simple and fantastic for a post workout treat. Thanks to my flatmate who took the 'rustic' photo of the bread:

Enjoy pancake day tomorrow, I can't wait for it. Have a go at the buckwheat pancakes if you haven't already!


Thursday, 31 January 2013

Something Fishy...

So it's the last day in January, are all of those resolutions still in check?! Has the chocolate been avoided? The gym membership been worth it and what seems to have been the most popular - a month away from the drink! Well done to those who have managed to complete it, bad luck to those who 'failed' in their attempts. January is only one month in the year, so you have another 11 to think of another challenge or goal to test yourself.

I wanted to post a little bit about supplements this week. The Oxford Dictionary defines a supplement as 'A thing added to something else in order to complete or enhance it.' That's exactly what it should be, something added. In my view, too many people rely on supplements to get their recommended daily dosages. I can understand the attraction, they're easy and it doesn't exactly take much preparation to pop a couple of pills. However a supplement should do exactly that, supplement! Supplement a solid nutritional base which is packed with lots of veggies, lean meats and quality carbohydrate sources. As the definition states, it's their to enhance not to rely on.

Supplements are a massive market, back in 2004 the muscle supplement industry was worth £70.2 million in the UK alone, in 2009 that figure had increased to £91m. So going on that current trend, we can assume that it's worth over £100m, and that's just 'muscle' supplements so protein powders, creatines, pre-workout stimulants, fat 'strippers' (not the kind that you would find in a dodgy establishments somewhere on the darker streets of most cities). This figure doesn't include other health supplements, one in particular that I want to talk about today, fish oil, or more specifically Omega 3.

Fish oil is slowly getting the recognition that is deserves as it is getting more and more media attention. New studies coming out pretty much daily, which show the health benefits of this great product. These include:

Reducing Inflammation

Inflammation can trigger disease, obesity, illness and a delayed recovery from injury. It's a pretty nasty term that is often caused by making the wrong food choices and poor lifestyle habits (smoking, excessive alcohol consumption). Fish oil helps to speed up the detoxification process, which will aide cellular health and as a result, make you feel better and leaner.

Improve Cognitive Function and Reduce Depression

More and more evidence is suggesting that depression could be a cause of reduced levels of Omega 3. By taking a fish oil supplement, you would be helping to banish depression and also aid mental clarity as a result.

Help You Lose Bodyfat

Probably the main reason why people may now sit up and take notice. Fish oil provides essential fats that the body can't produce on its own. Fish oil doesn't turn into fat when it's in the body, instead the fish oil is used to build an outside fat layer that helps to protect our cells. Although any fat can be used for this function, the cell will function the most efficiently if the fat comes from a fish oil as it improves the activity of the hormone insulin. If you have poor insulin sensitivity, then you will find it tough losing that stubborn bodyfat. Fish oil will help aid the insulin transportation system and as a result, help shift the bodyfat.

So there are 3 pretty big factors as to why you should take a fish oil supplement, to supplement the fresh fish that you should already be eating.

I suppose the next question would be 'which fish oil do I buy?!'

The market is flooded with a huge variety of fish oils, all boasting brilliant health properties and why you should chose their product over their competitor. A couple of tips that I would recommend is to look at the EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexanoic acid) levels. These are two Omega 3 fatty acids that are found in cold-water fish. Look for products that are high in strength for both of these fatty acids, where there should be more EPA than DPA.

Also, stay away from products that instruct you to leave them in the fridge. This signals a poor quality product that is unstable. An unstable fish oil can cause oxidative stress on the body and actually end up doing more harm than good!

The actual fish oil liquid is of stronger potency than the capsule format. Many try to hide the unsavory taste of the oil by adding flavourings, however, I don't think this helps mask the pretty grim taste, but it's good for you and can be washed down in the morning with a glass of water!

Two products that I would recommend are The Eskimo series from Nutri and the Omega 3 range from aliment nutrition. I'm not getting any royalties from endorsing these products, it's just a matter of my own opinion, although it would be nice for a bit of a side-earner!

Eskimo products are sustainable and are sourced off the coast of Peru, you will struggle to find a capsule that has more strength. They contain natural anti-oxidant compounds that help to stabilise the fish-oil and they pride themselves on the purity of the product.

Aliment nutrition again, has a strong product with healthy levels of EPA and DHA, they also won't break the bank. It's a reliable company that has a growing reputation for delivering quality products and a site where I often send my clients for specific supplements.

So there we have it, a little bit about fish-oils. It's a product that should be taken daily, just have it with your breakfast, it saves counting out capsules for the day and worrying about when to take them. As mentioned in a previous blog, I'm not a qualified nutritionist but I think I would be doing my clients and people who read this blog a huge disservice by not talking about products that have had heaps of research conducted on them that show additional health benefits.

So, any resolutions for Feb?!!?


Monday, 21 January 2013

On the Piste

So London has had its first spattering of snow for 2013, and it will probably continue to cause choas for the rest of the week on Transport Network, a bit of a negative view but I think I speak for the entire population of London when I say that a little bit of snow and the city and its public transport comes to a juddering halt.

Lucky I ride a bike.. not that lucky in this weather though, thank god for thermals!! Ski Sunday returned to our screens last week, unfortunately I missed it but I'll be sure to catch up on I-Player to brush up on my parallel turns and racing starts... But this program always signals to me that the ski season is truly underway.

It's often the case that many indivuduals who have been sedentary for vast majority of the year set off to the slopes for a week of either skiing or snowboarding. They get out there, hire their ski's/board and boots and jump on the first lift and try to blow away the cobwebs that have accumulated in the last few years and try to rediscover their technique on the first run.

Confidence grows and they have a great first day of skiing, a few falls and near misses but they survive the day. A little bit of Apres Ski and then off to bed. Wake up the next day and the body feels like it has done 12 rounds with Tyson.

Studies have shown that injuries are most likely to occur on the second day of a ski trip as the body is fatigued from the day before. The encouraging news is that ski injuries have reduced in the last 15 years. This could be due to advancing technology in ski equipment and safety gear such as helmets. However, knee injuries, especially Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), have increased 175% over the last 15 years.

Now I can't teach you how to ski on this blog, I'll leave that to Ski Sunday, but what I can do is give you some advice on how to strengthen specific areas that are susceptible to taking a bit of a hammering on the slopes.

I'm probably being a bit prejudice here, but what a lot of people believe specific training for skiing involves is leaning against a wall in a seated isometric position and holding for as long as possible. It was definitely the advice that I got told by my old sports master at school. Yes, you're lower body muscles - particularly your quadriceps, are contracting in this held position and if practiced regularly (like any exercise) then a quads may develop more strength. But is this position actually specific and functional to skiing? When do you head down a run in that seated position (usually out of control!?).

As much as you need to keep your feet together whilst hurtling down the slope, they are separated and each have their own ski. So each leg has to be able to withstand the bumps and uneven surface that the piste delivers. Work in the gym should replicate this, so single-leg exercises are highly recommended.

One fitness tool that I love due to its versatility and practicality is the TRX. As I train many of my clients in the parks of London, the TRX can be hitched up to a tree a door or even a lampost and offer a fantastic traning stimulus that has proven to achieve desirable results.

In relation to skiing, I would perscribe the TRX Single Leg (SL) squat. This exercises teaches you to engage your core musculature in order to remain stable during the eccentric (downward) phase of the exercise. Your arms are there for guidance and can also help to give you a helping hand on the concentric (upward) phase of the movement. However the focus should be to use the power through your leg to drive back up into the start position. Here's a short video of what the exercise should look like:

In order to gain maximum benefit from this exercise. We need to work the leg at its full range of motion, or as close to. So look to squat below parallel, where the hips are lower than the knee. Gauge your range of motion for the first few repetitions and then look to lower as time progresses.

If you don't have a TRX, another great exercise that can be performed in the home is a step up. All you need.. is a step! Place one foot on the step, whilst staying tall in the torso, all the power comes from the foot that is on the step. Driving from that foot extend the knee until it is straight. the trailing foot will follow. Aim for 12-15 reps on each leg. To increase the difficulty of the exercise, move one step further up.

We also have to look at focusing our training on the trunk stabilisers or 'core musculature.' The trunk plays the pivotal role of connecting the upper torso with the lower extremities. I'm not going to suggest that you perform a 100 sit ups a day to 'strengthen' this crucial area. Far from it, as I have already discussed in a previous post, I'm not a fan of exercises that add stress to the lower spine, mainly by flexion. Sit ups not only do this, but by performing a large number of them will affect an individuals' posture, bring the shoulders forward and only strengthen the rectus abdominus muscles and no other area of the trunk.

Instead I am a fan of planks and side-planks as a beginner exercise for trunk strength and stabilisation. For a plank, the stomach should be braced and the elbows positioned under the shoulders, and the hips level. Once you have mastered this exercise, try an advanced exercise that will put more emphasis on the upper body and your trunk to resist rotation.

Below is a clip of a plank-walkup. Try and keep the hips parallel to the floor and 'walk' up on your right arm and then with your left.

Aim for 10-12 reps. This is a tough exercise, so ensure that you are fully competant on the plank before progressing.

If you are looking for some ski clothing this year, have a look at I've found some great offers on kit from this website, and they are continually changing. They offer cheaper alternatives to Snow and Rock. Check it out. (I'm not on commission from them, just thought I'd share!).

Have a good week.


Saturday, 12 January 2013

Recipe of the Week 12/1 - Buckwheat Blueberry Pancakes

I came across these little beauties a few years ago when I was trailing the internet for a pancake recipe that packed a bit more of a nutritional punch. Pancakes don't have to be 'unhealthy' there are many alternative base ingredients that you can add that will alter the nutritional content of the beloved American Breakfast staple.

The main culprits that need to be changed are the heavily processed white flour that send your blood sugar rocketing and as a result your insulin levels ridiculously high and the refined caster sugar, which I don't think I need to talk about. This recipe uses Buckwheat flour as a healthy alternative.

Buckwheat is a complete protein, by this I mean that it contains all of the essential amino acids. It is gluten free, high in fiber and has very little effect on blood sugar levels. It is high in zinc, copper and selenium, generally an all round awesome ingredient.

So here's the recipe: (makes 3-4 pancakes)

1 cup of buckwheat flour
1tsp baking powder
Pinch of sea salt
1 large organic/free range egg (beaten)
1 cup of almond milk
2 scoops of vanilla whey protein (optional for increase in protein content)
2 tbsp melted kerrygold GRASS FED butter - (will discuss why grass fed in another blog)
Blueberries/straberries/raspberries for topping
Maple syrup for topping

Mix all the dry ingredients together until well blended.

Add one wet ingredient at a time, mixing well after each addition.

The batter may look a little thin but this is supposed it is how to look.

Heat a little coconut oil in a frying pan and cook until small bubbles appear in the batter and flip!

Top with fresh berries and a drizzle of maple syrup for a sweet treat.



Tuesday, 8 January 2013

New Year, New....

Firstly Happy New Year to everyone, I hope that your 2013 is a productive, enjoyable and healthy one. The blog has passed 1,500 views so thank you to the people that come on here and take the time to have a little browse, hopefully you find some of my ramblings interesting and that you can apply some of it to improve and learn a little bit on the massive area that is health and fitness.

Apologies for the lack of blogging towards the end of 2012, I aim to become more consistent with articles throughout 2013. It's a particularly busy time of year for me and the industry as a whole. Christmas has been and gone, the turkey has been devoured and mince pies consumed by the dozen.. and that's just me! The New Year has come around and resolutions have been made.

Speaking to a good friend on NYE, we were talking about resolutions - he hates them as they are so easily broken. Instead he wanted to make 'pledges,' these already signal to me a greater state of intent, something that requires thought and a change of existing attitude.

So I'm sure many of you have had the 'New Year, New You' thoughts running through your mind, and I don't blame you. January is the logical month to break out of the usual routine and make a change/new years revolution/goal or even a pledge! However I believe that self-improvement shouldn't be governed by time. It should be a continual process that is sustainable and one that can be accurately measured with progressional steps.

These are the kind of concepts and beliefs that I look to instill in my personal training clients. Of course, it is not unusual to see a person take a step back and 'fall off the wagon' so to speak. This is human nature, especially when the goalposts are set too far away and are not attainable. It's easy to accept and admit that you have strayed from the path, but it takes a great level of maturity and strength to get back on that path and to reach that desired goal, whatever it may be.

So I guess what I'm trying to say is make those resolutions realistic. 'No Alcohol in 2013,' 'No bread in 2013,' 'I'm going to run 30 miles a week throughout the whole of 2013.' As great as these pledges sound at 00:01 on January 1st 2013, probably after a few sherberts, they are not realistic. If it does happen, I take my hat off to you...

I must admit I have a sweet-tooth, I love chocolate, yes I can curb my craving by eating more magnesium rich foods and the odd square of dark chocolate which is packed with anti-oxidants so it's actually good for me (within reason), but nothing compares to a bar of Dairy Milk (the Oreo version is my favourite at the moment!). To make a resolution to give up chocolate for 2013 would just be stupid, it's not realistic for me. I don't eat chocolate every day, sometimes one slips in my mouth after dinner but I don't think it's a problem. I'd much rather use it as a vehicle for a treat.

I believe that rewards are crucial to keep yourself from falling off that wagon. Whether it's a new pair of shoes, a couple glasses of wine with friends or in my case a few (several) squares bar of Dairy Milk chocolate. Any of these should act as a reward where you can sit back and enjoy, firmly believing that you have earned that reward.

It's one of my '10 habits' that I look to instill in my clients. '10% foods.' These are foods that often don't fit the plan. I believe nutrition does not have to be 100% spot-on for weeks on end. Firstly you will drive yourself insane, and it's not sustainable. What is helps a nutrition plan and it's sustainability is a little reward every now and then (plan it) to keep you on track.

It's exactly the same in the gym environment. Any regular gym user will see that the place is packed in January with the usual 'New Years Resolution-ers,' and by February the numbers slowly tail off as those 5 times a week users disappear into the abyss. Now I'm not criticising these people, I think it's great that they want to make a change and improve, but make it realistic. If you are new to exercise or the gym I understand it can be quite intimidating, lots of machines, gadgets and bits of equipment with plenty of clowns blocking up the squat racks performing bicep curls (note a little bit of venom and a pet hate of mine in the last part of that sentence.)

That's one reason why I like to train my clients outside in the park. There's no queuing for equipment, no muscle-heads in squat racks, no intimidation, it's just you and your client with some proven fitness tools that offer results!

Perhaps after reading this blog you may adjust your resolutions and it's never too late to establish a new goal, whether it be long or short term. I'm a believer in sharing those goals, it keeps you attainable and your mind focused. Last year I ran the London Marathon with a specific time in mind. Having never run a marathon before I thought it was pretty ambitious but I told friends and family as it drove my training on and I continually had that time in my head, and I wouldn't be happy unless I reached that time. I'm a bit of a competitive person if you haven't already established..

Try it tonight, getting your ideas physically down on paper (or your IPad Mini if you're up with the times..) already takes it one step further than just an initial thought process that can get lost in your head.

Here's to 2013!