5 articles Articles posted in Fitness

What’s Your Excuse?

I’ve been thinking long and hard about writing this post because I don’t want it to seem like I’m attacking anyone. My friend Kate bestowed a mantra upon me a while back – “You Do You” – and I really strongly believe that everyone is free to do whatever the hell they want when it comes to their own body, but I’m not addressing people who CAN’T exercise here, or even those who don’t want to. If you’re happy the way you are or have physical difficulties, this post is not for you.

Now I’ve cleared that up, I want to talk about EXCUSES.

Last week, I saw an article about how “fat shamers” were on the wrong side of science and cited 7 different studies which apparently proved that some people were fat for reasons completely beyond their control and how people who “shame” others into exercising are bad. It gave reasons such as an “obesity gene”, poor sleep and how being overweight can make it harder to lose weight. In fairness to the people who wrote the article, each point was based on an academic study which proved the points they were making in a roundabout way. But here’s the thing:

They aren’t REASONS. THEY ARE EXCUSES.

I feel really well qualified to talk about these things because up until January of this year, I made a lot of excuses, including but not limited to:

  1. I have a range of conditions which make it hard to lose weight
  2. I don’t have time to go to the gym
  3. I can’t justify the money I spend on a gym membership
  4. I don’t want to be left with a lot of loose skin
  5. I can’t ask someone to look after the kids every time I go to the gym

There are SO many more that I could list, but we’d be here all day. Back in January, I decided to get real with myself and start being brutally fucking honest. I’d spent the majority of my twenties being overweight and I was damned if I was going to be unhappy with my body for the whole of my thirties too, so I decided to do something about it. And when your state of mind shifts, it’s amazing how those EXCUSES that you’ve made in the past become irrelevant.

Yes, I have diabetes and an under-active thyroid and endometriosis, but those things don’t stop me from exercising or moderating what I eat. Yes, I have a busy life, but so does everyone and if I can make time to binge-watch whole series of shows in a week, then I can definitely find time to exercise. My current gym membership costs £9.99 a month – I used to spend more than that in a week just on sushi! Loose skin wont kill me. High body fat will. I’m lucky that my MIL is an absolute gem and looks after BB when Husband and I work out, but even if she didn’t there are PLENTY of forms of exercise which can be done for free and with a toddler in toe.

As I said above, if you’re happy with yourself and don’t WANT to diet or exercise, then all power to you. But, if you fall into the HUGE percentage of people I see who give excuse after excuse for why you can’t eat better or move more, can I suggest taking a really long, hard look at those reasons? If you look and come up with solutions, that’s awesome. If you look and realise that it’s actually more to do with the fact that you don’t WANT to exercise, go from there.

I usually hate motivational bullshit which assumes that a one-size-fits all approach works for everyone, but there’s a poster up in my gym which really speaks to me;

If you want to make a change…I mean REALLY WANT IT, you’ll do it. Start small, install MyFitnessPal and track your food. Walk a little bit further than you normally would. Join a gym and try ONE class. You have nothing to lose except the weight and it will happen if you make the effort. Don’t allow the part of your brain which wants to sit at home eating ice cream and watching Netflix to overpower the part of your brain which wants to be healthier. Articles like the one which prompted this post are really not helpful because they just nurture unhealthy excuses for you to remain overweight or unfit. I’m all for love and support and being happy with yourself, but kidding people into thinking that their weight is completely out of their control is damaging and dangerous.

As I said, I’m not attacking anyone, just hoping to make you think a little differently about things in the hope that it might help you a little bit. What excuses are you making to yourself? Leave me a comment below.

Exercise for Life: A No-Excuses Miniguide on Being More Active

With obesity now considered a worldwide epidemic, it’s estimated 1.5 billion people exercise less than 20 minutes a day if at all. With this almost complete lack of inactivity affecting so many of us, it’s clear to see that living a healthy lifestyle certainly isn’t taken as seriously as it should be.

In fact, whilst motivation to turn over a new, healthier leaf and get exercising often spikes in January, statistics show a huge 80% who join the gym after the new year period end up quitting within just 5 months. This clearly suggests that the ‘new year, new me’ motivation isn’t enough to maintain a good exercise routine, and most people require something more to encourage them to keep it up.

Considering how easy exercising is, there are literally no excuses not to do it – it’s simply all a matter of choice. So, if you want to start exercising properly and stick to it (for real this time!), here’s a quick mini-guide offering top tips to get you moving.

Establish why you don’t want to exercise

Before even starting to come up with an exercise plan, it’s important to identify the exact reasons behind your inactivity. If you find yourself frequently saying ‘I’m too busy’, ‘I’m too tired’ or ‘I don’t have the money’, it’s time to accept that these are merely excuses and not genuine reasons for why you can’t exercise.

If you have a medical condition preventing you from working out then that’s an entirely different story, but identifying your primary excuse for not exercising and doing something about it is key. If you’re ‘too busy’, start making exercise more of a priority and if you ‘don’t have the money’, forget about the gym and work out from home instead!

Test exercises out

If you’re tempted to jump straight into the gym, perhaps it’s better to begin with some home exercises first. This way, you can establish your current level of fitness and exactly what you can do from the comfort of your own home.

Then, when you feel comfortable and ready to increase the intensity of your workouts, you can either join your local gym or purchase some user-friendly home equipment like the Sole F80 treadmill.

Work out with others

It’s a proven fact that exercising with other people increases motivation and significantly reduces the chance that you’ll quit. Simply having someone else there will not only encourage you to work harder but also make it more difficult for you to cancel a workout session. After all, you’ll not only be letting yourself down by not exercising but will also be letting them down too by cancelling on them!

Whilst avid gym-goers will say exercise is fun and easy, it’s not that simple for a lot of other people. If you find yourself consistently quitting before you’ve even seen any proper results, you’re certainly not alone. But, if you’re realistic with what you can do and eliminate any common excuses you frequently use, you’ll have a much better chance of sticking to your exercise routine and get the body you’ve always wanted!

Ganja Yoga

Being mindful is one of the known effects that cannabis offer. Adding cannabis to yoga seems to open a really big conversation. There is an uncompleted debate among yoga practitioners-not all yoga schools, nor promoters of the Eastern practice support cannabis-enhanced asana sessions, and this has resulted in some result. A lot of people that exercise meditation be it reflective, guided or heart chakra meditation have felt a spiritual link, and a state of mind that they can stay calm with a developed brain function. Cannabis-yoga is centered on attaining a new level of calmness.

Lately in the United States, a new trend occurred and seems like gaining more following day by day. It is known as Ganja Yoga and it combines the practice of Yoga after Cannabis consumption. These Cannabis infused Yoga classes have skyrocketed in attendance ever since Californians elected to fully decriminalize marijuana last November. Cannabis has been used for tens of centuries specifically in the tradition of Yoga and in Ayurveda as a spiritual aid. The whole act Yoga practice is linked to ancient Shiva cults that employed cannabis as a form of worship. According to their beliefs, Ganja (Vijaya) would bring spiritual intuitions.

Ganja Yoga is what it specifically sound like; those in possession of a medical marijuana card can get high with their fellow yogis during a short pre-class gathering (participants get to know each other while sitting in a circle) smoking joints or bowl, or vaping or consuming edibles followed by a longer yoga class together. (Attendants must possess a medical marijuana card given out by the state of California). The students who don’t have a card are usually requested to smoke cannabis on their own before coming. Taste is a personal matter, and practitioners choose their favorite cannabis strains before their practice.

Ganja Yoga isn’t a full throttle type of yoga –the practice feels more like meditation than cardio. It involves more of sets of relaxing poses to augment meditative exercise.

Besides, the specialists prefer the use of vaporizers most times, as their healthy way of life does not conform with unhealthy smoking habits. One of the benefits they mention is that their breath functions in a much better way right after the intake of cannabis. This fact that cannabis can expand your lungs and make you feel more comfortably explains this. Usually, the first thing practitioners of Ganja yoga want to do after cannabis consumption is laying down and relax by doing some stretching.

There are quite a number of Yoga types, however, all these different forms of yoga have a common aim, and that goal is integration of subject and object reality into the classical cross cultural mystic state and experience of oneness; Samadhi or union with the divine.

Is it Time for an Intersex Olympics?

Intersex” is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

(I apologise in advance if I use any incorrect terminology, my aim here is not to offend anyone, only to start a conversation)

If you’ve been anywhere near the news in the past few days, you can’t fail to have missed the furore surrounding South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya and the questions over her gender. In case you have missed it, here’s a TL:DR of the situation: Caster, born in 1991, won a gold medal in Rio in the womens’ Olympics, however there have been complaints from other athletes because she has high levels of testosterone, which they claim gives her an advantage.

Caster Semenya

When I first started reading about this, I came across an article where they said that it had become common practice for Semenya to go into the bathrooms before a race to show one of her competitors her genitals to “prove” her femininity, which sounds absolutely appalling and like a gross invasion of her privacy and I was genuinely shocked to read that she had to go to such lengths to confirm her eligibility to race.

However, the controversy takes a slightly different slant when you consider her internal physiology. You see, according to official reports, Semenya has high levels of testosterone which is produced by internal testes and she also lacks a uterus and ovaries. The officials who deal with eligibility to race have stated that there’s insignificant evidence to suggest that testosterone gives her a significant advantage over the other athletes, however, several other athletes with the same physical attributes as Semenya took steps to change this, as reported in the New York Times:

At the London Olympics, four female athletes, all 18 to 21 years old and from rural areas of developing countries, were flagged for high levels of natural testosterone. Each of them subsequently had surgery to remove internal testes, which produce testosterone, as well as procedures that were not required for resuming competition: feminizing vaginoplasty, estrogen replacement therapy and a reduction in the size of the clitoris.

One could argue that many athletes have physical attributes which make them “unusual” in the grand scheme of things, but which give them an advantage when it comes to sporting prowess. Take Miguel Indurain, for instance. He’s a Spanish cyclist who won FIVE consecutive Tour de France in the early to mid-Nineties and is considered cycling royalty to this day. However, he has a huge physical advantage; his blood took almost double the oxygen of a normal person and his cardiac output was 50 litres a minute; a fit amateur cyclist’s is about 25 litres. No-one suggested that his physiology was an unfair advantage, just a happy anomaly which, ultimately, made him a legend.

So, if the issue isn’t physiological, then is it a gender issue? Well, Semenya identifies as a woman and has spent her entire life living as a woman; from what I can gather there’s never been any suggestion in her life of any sort of gender dysphoria or questions over how she identifies, which makes it clear cut, right? Maybe not.

Fallon Fox Tamikka Brents

Fallon Fox in white, before her fight with Tamikka Brents (pink bottoms)

Another similar case in sport was that of MMA fighter Fallon Fox. Featherweight champion Fallon underwent gender reassignment surgery back in 2006 and entered the MMA as a female fighter. Not only has she had her male reproductive organs removed but she has been on hormone therapy for many years, however she’s faced massive opposition and controversy within the MMA community because people feel that her physicality gives her an advantage, not least of all when she fought Tamikka Brents, and “Brents suffered a concussion, an orbital bone fracture, and seven staples to the head. After her loss, Brents took to social media to convey her thoughts on the experience of fighting Fox: “I’ve fought a lot of women and have never felt the strength that I felt in a fight as I did that night. I can’t answer whether it’s because she was born a man or not because I’m not a doctor. I can only say, I’ve never felt so overpowered ever in my life and I am an abnormally strong female in my own right,” she stated. “Her grip was different, I could usually move around in the clinch against other females but couldn’t move at all in Fox’s clinch…””

Fox argues that her hormone therapy probably means that she actually has LESS testosterone than her competitors, but this doesn’t alter the fact that testosterone played a part on how she developed physically in the first place, until her reassignment surgery.

It’s all such a grey area. Traditionally speaking, men and women have never competed against one another because of the clear physical differences, but that doesn’t mean that there’s no middle ground. Obviously, it’s rare to see a woman who’s the size of say, Mike Tyson, with the same bone structure and heavy musculature, but there are plenty of female fighters who probably make Conor McGregor look like a leprechaun with his featherweight frame. But does size equal strength? No, definitely not.

All of this is leading to a point…honestly!

While I’m not suggesting that being intersex or hormonally different is a disability (quite the opposite, in fact), is it time that we offered an Olympics for competitors where gender isn’t clear-cut, in the same way that we have a Paralympics for differently abled athletes? This way there can’t be any suggestion that they’re somehow exploiting a physical advantage. Issues of gender have become far less taboo in recent years, allowing people to live exactly as they wish to without the previous levels of prejudice, which is great, although there is still a long way to go. Should be we accommodating people for whom gender/sex isn’t black and white? A ‘third-sex’ Olympics? It would certainly level the playing field, but is it getting into dangerous levels of classification and potential prejudice from different angles? Is submitting to hormone tests before being allowed to enter a step too far, or is it no different to submitting to a drugs test to ensure that performance-enhancing drugs aren’t used? Is it all just sour grapes from the losing athletes?

I’d love to know your thoughts on this, so please do leave me a comment below!

Be a Fitness Superhero

Fitness SuperheroJust recently, I’ve been thinking about ways to get myself back to a healthier mindset, after spectacularly failing with my healthy eating and gym kick at the end of last year, so when protein powder shop Discount Supplements asked if I’d like to take their Fitness Superhero quiz, I thought it would be really interesting. You see, the quiz is designed to tell you where your strengths lie when it comes to slogging it out at the gym to help you to attack your fitness in a way that will work for you. Here’s the quiz, if you’d like to have a go:

According to my results, I’m ‘Melanie Marvel’, which tells me the following:
Melanie Marvel is one of the most powerful super heroes out there and her health and fitness routine is reflective of that.

Not only is she tough physically but she has a huge amount of mental fortitude to draw upon whenever she wants to – which stems from her extreme training and noble Greek heritage.

Melanie Marvel’s Top 3 Exercises:

• Mixed martial arts

• Intense gymnastics & acrobatic drills

• Fencing

I’m not sure I’m quite cut out for intense gymnastics, but I love the idea of trying my hand at mixed martial arts! Sausage is a huge fan of Ronda Rousey, not least of all because she’s a huge Pokemon nerd too, and I could think of far worse people for her to look up to than an Olympic medal-winning athlete!

One thing that I think I’d actually be quite good as is weight-lifting. I’m pretty physically strong for a 5’4″ woman and I reckon I could do really well at lifting weights. People often don’t realise that weight lifting is amazing for your cardiovascular health as well, which works well for me as my bust means I’m absolutely not cut out for running any great distance! Read more at Monica’s Health Magazine.

Have you taken the test? Do the results surprise you? Are you already working out to a similar regime to what the test suggests are are you on a completely different track? I’d love to hear what you think, please do leave me a comment below.