7 articles Articles posted in Fitness

Soccer for Children: A Guide to Getting Started at Different Ages

One of the very best things about soccer for kids is that they really can start at any age. It’s a very inclusive sport and is suitable for anyone regardless of height, strength or speed. Soccer is a relatively easy sport to learn when you’re just starting out, and it involves a lot of continuous action and running, which means it’s a great way for kids to exercise. Communication and cooperation are key skills on the field, which makes it a really nice way for kids to learn about teamwork (for more resources on teamwork and becoming a great footballer, take a look at Soccer Gap)

In fact, soccer is officially the most played sport in Australia, so they’ll always have friends to play with. According to a survey conducted by the Australian Sports Commission, 1,104,815 Australians participated in soccer in 2016. That’s over 400,000 more participants than AFL, and four times that of Rugby League.

There’s no ‘right’ age to start soccer, but here you’ll find some of the basics in terms of what you can expect in each age bracket, from 5 years old to 12 years old. Take a look…

5 – 7 Year-Olds

It’s really all about getting out and having fun at this age. Teams will be smaller, with usually only four players on the field, and each half of a game will only go for around 15 minutes. They also probably won’t have a goalkeeper. While they’ll start to learn the rules, they probably won’t be very strictly enforced – it’s more about getting familiar with the basics and giving them a chance to develop a love of playing.

Starting at this age can set up a great foundation for building skills and understanding the fun that can come from exercise. It also gives them an opportunity to develop strong friendships across their years of playing.

8 – 9 year-olds

By this age, there’ll be more players on the field, and there’ll be a goalkeeper too. The length of each half will probably be more like 20-25 minutes. Of course, it’s still mainly about having fun, but with more of an emphasis on preparing them for higher levels of the sport. Additional rules will be introduced, and some of that earlier leniency with enforcing them will start to reduce, giving them a chance to fully understand the details of the game. Some experts believe that 8 years old is the ideal age for kids to start playing soccer in a competitive team environment.

10-12 Year-Olds

This is when coaches will really start to focus on skills in order to provide them with a solid foundation of technical competence. At this age, children are ready for a more structured approach to training too. The number of players allowed on the field increases to 9 a side (at 10 years old) and then to 11 a side (at 12 years old). The length of the game also increases, with 12-year-olds playing full 30 minute halves.

While things are more focussed at this stage, the emphasis will still be on having fun and building positive experiences.

All children are different and it’s hard to say whether there is an ideal age to start soccer. But, whatever their age, there are many benefits of choosing soccer. It is a contact sport, but it’s not a collision sport, which means its relatively safe compared to a lot of other team sports (especially other forms of football).

Beyond that, it’s well known that there are a lot of benefits for kids who play sport – it contributes positively to their physical health, can give them a great range of social experiences and can give them a great sense of achievement as they build their skills. If your child is interested in sports, soccer may well be a great place to start.

A sports camp can be a great entry point and there are many soccer school holiday programs in Sydney or your local surrounding area that your kids can get involved with.

Staying Fit with a Toddler in Tow

You’d think that running around after a toddler all day would be enough to stay fit, but being at home all day and working from here too means that I’m often quite sedentary. I’m lucky enough to have a gym membership and an absolute SAINT of a mother-in-law who looks after BB when I want to work out, but I’ve been tryin to think of ways to be more active during the day, even when BB is with me. Here’s a few of the things I came up with:

Trampolining

BB got a trampoline for her last birthday and it’s basically her favourite thing in the world. I hadn’t been on it until about two weeks ago when I finally ventured on and absolutely LOVED it! Trampolining is so super fun and it’s something that I can do to really get my heart rate up. BB finds it absolutely hilarious watching me bounce and it means we get to have fun together at the same time.

Bike Riding

Sausage was a little late to bike riding, but it seems that BB is raring to go and really wants to learn how to ride her bike. Living where we do means that there are lots of walking trails and car-free routes that BB and I could use for little bike rides which would keep us both moving, get us out in the fresh air and help us to explore the local countryside. Brompton folding bikes would also be perfect for putting in the car and taking further afield!

Yoga

A while ago, BB discovered a YouTube channel which contained videos of themed yoga for kids, such as a Frozen yoga session and she absolutely fell in love with it. I’ve been doing yoga for a few months now and it’s basically my favourite hour of the whole week so finding a Mum and Toddler yoga video that we could do together would be the perfect activity for both of us and would also be something that we could still do on rainy or cold days.

Footie in the Park

Now that the weather is finally a bit nicer, taking a ball to the park and running around for a couple of hours is an amazing way to stay active. You’ll barely even realise that you’re exercising, the kids will end up burning off a lot of energy and they’ll be ready for a nice lunch and an afternoon nap (the toddler, not you!) giving you time for a coffee and 5 minutes of peace.

What do you do to stay fit whilst looking after the kids? Leave me a comment below!

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.