Functional Training

IMG_3970Functional training and functional fitness are definitely amongst the buzz words in the fitness industry at the moment but what do these words actually mean and why are they important to you?

So you have been having a few good sessions at the gym. You feel like you are getting stronger. I mean yesterday you shoulder pressed 40 kgs for goodness sake… but then you go to lift your 20 kg child out of the high chair and you put your back out. So you can bench press 20 kgs but can you lift your own bodyweight? So you can squat 40 kgs but can you jump over a puddle of water? So you can walk on the treadmill for an hour but can you run up a flight of stairs?

These are all questions I ask not to undermine your level of fitness but to try an open a new perspective towards health, fitness and traditional sense of working out.


What is Functional Training?

Functional training is a type of exercise which prepares the body for various forms of activity common in our daily lives.

It was a style of training first adopted by physiotherapists to help balance out the body’s movements and allow the body to function more efficiently to prevent, reduce and rehabilitate injury.

The exercises within functional training aim to get the muscles working together through both fast and slow, controlled multi-joint movements. Its aim is not only to strengthen and build muscle but to increase range of motion.

In short objective of functional training is to be able to do awesome stuff with your body so that you can live your life to the fullest and continue to maintain your active lifestyle right up in to your later years.


The Benefits of Functional Training

  • Because our bodies were made to move! Our bodies are amazing machines, there were designed to run from predators, build shelters, hunt for food…..they weren’t designed to sit in front of the tele or computer desk all day. Functional training allows us to develop the strength, motion and coordination so that we can make the most out of these amazing machines we have been given.
  • Functional training focuses on training movement patterns rather than isolating individual muscles to ensure no muscle group gets left behind. One of the most common causes of injury is imbalances created between opposing muscle groups. The multi-joint movements adopted by that of Functional training helps prevent this from happening.
  • One of the main focuses of Functional training  is to strengthen and connect the core and back to other working muscles; assisting to correct bad posture  and muscle imbalances caused by the daily grind, stressful jobs and hectic lifestyles.
  • Functional training provides fantastic fat burning workouts, The full body nature of functional training means that it is a fantastic fat-burner. Adopting exercises that improve strength, endurance and boost metabolism to provide you with a more efficient way to train.
  • It develops strong lean bodies, have a look at these particular athletes; dancers, gymnasts, pole-vaulters. They are constantly training movement patterns and lifting their own bodyweight but I don’t know how often you would see them doing a bicep curl.
  • Functional training will aid your overall performance in any sport; enhancing speed, power, range of motion and coordination.
  • In Functional training every exercise involves core activation, teaching the core to stabilise and work with the spine throughout an array of different movement patterns and body positions. Therefore mimicking the demand placed upon the core and spine in our every day tasks and recreational activities. Way more effective than your traditional crunches.

So what do you think? Is functional fitness for you? I am writing this article out of pure interest. I am finding myself falling in love with the concept of functional fitness and wanted to share a few of the main reasons why I am starting to adopt it principles in my own routine.

Keep posted. Later on in the week I will share a great Functional Workout that you can try at home.

In the meantime get cracking with my workouts on Instagram and checkout my Facebook for additional fitness and health tips.

Stretch It Out

Here is a great little stretch routine to help open your body and keep those hard working muscles happy.

You can perform these moves straight after a workout, a hot shower or a foam rolling session.

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Kneeling Lunge- Hip Flexor Stretch

Lunge forward with knee on padded mat. Position foot beyond forward knee. Lift up from the pelvis and push the hips forward. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

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Upper Hamstrings- Kneeling Extension

Maintain first position. This time lift up from the pelvis and push your hips back. Keep a slight bend in the front leg to target the upper hamstrings. Hold for 20 seconds then proceed to straighten the front leg until you feel a stretch behind the knee. Hold for 20 seconds.

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Seated Spinal Twist- Glutes, Lats and Spinal opener

Sit with your legs straight out in front of you. Slowly lift one leg and place it over the opposite. Rest your foot so that it is flat against the mat. If you have enough space in your hips, slowly lift up from your pelvis  twist around to place the opposite elbow on the outside of the bent knee. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

 

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Hip Rotators – Lying Glute Stretch

Lie flat on the mat with your bent upwards in front of you. Slowly twist one leg so that the ankle is resting on the opposite legs knee. Using your hands slowly draw the bent knee towards your chest. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat on the other side.

 

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Cobra- Spinal Opener

Lie prone on the floor. Stretch your legs back, tops of the feet on the floor. Spread your hands on the floor under your shoulders. Hug the elbows back into your body. Press the tops of the feet and thighs and the pubic bone firmly into the floor. Slowly Straighten your arms and lift your chest up off the mat whilst maintaining a strong lower body, hold for 10 seconds and repeat.

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Childs Pose- Lower Back Opener

Start by kneeling on your hands and knees. Slowly lower your bottom towards your heels feeling the tailbone lengthen away from the back of your pelvis. As your torso folds over your thighs, lengthen the back of your neck before your forehead rests on the floor. Place your hands above your head and stretch out your arms. (In this picture my knees are together for a deeper lower back stretch, widen your knees to get a deeper shoulder stretch).

Helpful Hints

  • Remember to breathe! Exhale when moving into the stretch to take it deeper and increase your range of motion.
  • Stretch should be uncomfortable but never painful. Take it to a point that works for your body and current flexibility.

 

Happy Stretching 🙂

Vacay The Healthy Way

My Top Tips on How to Stay Healthy When Travelling

So as most of you know, I have just returned from a two week kickback on the incredible Big Island in Hawaii. I had the most amazing time relaxing, adventuring and celebrating with loved ones from across the sea and still managed to keep on track with my health and fitness goals in the process. Here are a few strategies I used to keep myself in check.


image1Be prepared

Holidays are unpredictable and if it’s like travelling with my family plans change all the time! It’s therefore important for you to kit yourself up with the essentials to ensure you don’t end up in a Macca’s drive thru. Here are a few sure fire ways you can always be prepared whilst travelling.

  • Pack snacks- Meal time can be very sporadic when you are on vacation and if you are like me and need feeding every three hours, you will need make sure you have an array of healthy snacks on hand (to avoid  “hanger” tantrums and overindulging in the wrong kind of foods).
  • Bring your training gear along- When opportunity strikes, take it. I did so many spontaneous workouts in amazing places when I was away ( trail running through an awesome rainforest, a superset on a beautiful rock platform and a rock workout on the beach). It was a great way to burn calories and create some memorable experiences.
  • Research cafes or restaurants that serve healthy cuisine- I don’t know if you’ve noticed but healthy eating is very trendy at the moment and there are a lot of cafes and restaurants popping up around the place that specialise in ‘clean’ cuisine (especially in Western Cultures). Google your local surrounds and I am sure you will find something.
  • Get to know the local grocers- I know it may be tempting to eat out every chance you get but sometimes a good quality, home cooked meal is just what the doctor ordered. Make it social event by getting your friends and family involved in a healthy, holiday style cook up.

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 12.19.08 pm Explore

Run, walk, hike and immerse yourself in the surrounding culture and scenery. It’s a great way to burn calories, soak up the atmosphere of your destination and tone those glute muscles. IMG_8742Step out of your comfort zone

Vacations are a great opportunity for you to try new sports no matter where your destination is. Whilst on my vacation to Hawaii I rekindled my love for snorkelling. I fell in love with the underwater gardens scattered around the island and all that kicking made my booty very happy. As I was on an Island I had a vast array of recreational sports to choose from; like surfing, paddle boarding, volley ball etc. If your destination has a bit more of a inland vibe your options may be; Hiking, biking, skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, trail running etc. image3-4Make the most out of your time

If I want to workout whilst on holidays I wake up early and start sweating before anyone else is up. That way I don’t feel like I am missing out on any thing.

Quick intense workouts are also a perfect way to squeeze in a sweat in between holiday activities. When everyone else is having a bit of down time you can rev up that metabolism with a fat burning HIIT or Tabata.

Here is a great workout that will target your whole body and it perfect for hotel rooms; Perform each move for 20 seconds with 10 seconds rest in between.

  • Mountain Climbers
  • High knees
  • Burpees
  • Ab bikes

Complete 4 rounds.

Check out my Instagram page for more examples. Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 12.02.10 pmIndulge, nourish and eat smart.

I get it you’re on holiday, there is temptation everywhere and the last thing you want to do is miss out on trying out new, delicious, local cuisines….Guess what? you don’t have to. For me it is not a matter of restriction but a matter of eating smart.

Here are a few ways you can keep your nutrition in check whilst also making the most of your holiday meals.

  • Indulge wisely– Be picky and choosy when it comes to cheats and treats. Only indulge in something that is going to leave your cravings satisfied after it and won’t leave you feeling guilty. You can also make one meal a day an indulgent one and make all your other meals extra nutritious.
  • Sample local produce- You are in a new place! What a great opportunity to try new delicious, nutritious local foods. Ask around, in restaurants, shops or look for local produce markets. In Hawaii I had so much fun trying new interesting fruits that I had never really eaten before. I picked pomelo, noni and guava just from the trees outside my holiday rental (don’t worry, I did my research before I ate….)
  • Ask the waiter questions- How is it cooked? Is it fried? Can it be steamed? Any chance I could get this sandwich with wholemeal bread? Ask away, don’t be afraid…. I’m sure they have had to deal with far more annoying people than you…it’s all a part of the business.
  • Don’t drink your calories- Now when I say calories I mean empty calories like fruit drinks and soda ( you can consume just as many calories through drinking these as eating and with little to no nutritional value) …. fruit and veggie juices and healthy smoothies are fine by me (just make sure they are made from real fruit). If you want an alcoholic beverage a little glass or two of wine won’t hurt. If you’re after something a bit stronger Vodka, mineral water and lime is your best bet!
  • Make a choice entree or dessert?- Have a good look at the menu and see what tickles your fancy, which one do you prefer and which could you live without.

Happy travelling! x

A Beginner Guide To Squats

Squat, Squat, Squat, Squat!

We are constantly told that we should do them but if you have never had proper instruction or coaching this is not a simple task. There is actually quite an art involved in mastering this popular move with incorrect technique leading to possible injuries to knees and lower back.

Below is a video with a detailed analysis of beginner squat modifications that will help you strengthen the necessary muscles and master the correct technique involved in a basic squat move without exposing you to injury risk. (listen with audio to hear description of each move).


 


You can add one or all three of these squat variations to your next workout.

Tips:

  • When performing both the Ball Squat and Chair Squat aim for 10-15 reps with 5 pulses at the bottom of the last repetition.
  • Aim to hold the wall-sit for 1 minute. Increase this time by 10 second increments each time you try until you can hold for 2 minutes straight!
  • As you progress feel free to add weight in order to increase the intensity. I still do these squat variations when I feel that my form is lacking. It is so important not to learn bad habits.

Teaching Points:

  • Start with your feet roughly at hip width apart.
  • Do not bend too far forward, try to keep your posture straight by pulling up through your core and lifting your chest.
  • Place your weight in your heels. You should be able to wiggle your toes.
  • Make sure you knees do not extend past you toes.

Happy Squatting! Xx

My Ultimate Workout Playlist

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The right music can really set you up for an awesome workout. We all have different preferences when it comes to music but for workouts it is all just a matter of what gets you moving!

Here is a playlist of a few of my favourite tunes to get down and sweaty to.


Click on the hyperlink to view individual songs.

MIA – Bad Girls

The Rapture – No Sex for Ben

Kanye- Black Skinhead

House of Pain – Jump Around

N.A.S.A – Gifted

Jay Z – 99 Problems

MIA – Y.A.L.A

Tame Impala – Elephant

Yelle – Bouquet Final

Salt ‘N’ Pepa – Shoop

Mark Ronson – Bang , Bang, Bang

Goldfrapp – Strict Machine

Destiny’s Child – Lose My Breath

Girl Talk – Oh No

 


Happy Sweating!

My Top 5 Tips for ‘Achieving Balance’

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1. Efficiency is key

 If there is one thing I believe in it is “quality over quantity” particularly when it comes to training. There is no need to spend hours of your day working out. Thirty minutes MAX is all you need if you’re not afraid of a little intensity.

High Intensity Interval Training, Strength Circuits and Speed Based Cardio Workouts are my favourite ways to train. I love this type of training because it is a quick and effective way to boost your metabolism and condition your muscles without placing to much stress on your body!

This type of training works at such an intensity level that it sends your metabolism into overdrive due to an increase demand for oxygen consumption and energy in your muscular cells. So much so that you are still burning fat up to 48 hours after your workout! Pretty neat huh!

Train hard and train smart.


2. Variety

Interested in a new training technique, recipe or superfood? Give it a try! Trying new things will not only help keep you interested but it will also keep your body guessing.

Variety is important in a fitness program because it allows you to challenge your body on a consistent basis and overcome  the potential to ‘plateau’. A plateau happens when the body has become accustomed or used to doing the same repeated exercises over and over again . Spicing up your training regime or increasing your intensity will place new demands on the body, engage new muscles and in effect increase your metabolism.

The same goes for food! If you are eating the same foods at the same time everyday your body will begin to learn a pattern. As a result your metabolism will adapt by storing the consumed energy and fat and only burning what it knows it needs! You want keep your metabolism on it’s toes!


3. Lose the guilt

I find guilt to be one of the most detrimental things to a persons health. If you don’t workout or eat as healthy as you would have liked it is definitely not worth beating yourself up over. This can have far worst consequences to both your physical and emotional health.

Focus on what you have done that week and what you plan to do the rest of the week.  Also if you do make the decision to have a treat or skip a workout than back yourself, you made the decision for a reason now move forward.

Remember health and fitness is lifelong and it won’t last if you let it take over your life and control your happiness.


4. Get your friends and family involved

It is much easier to stick to your guns and make positive lifestyle changes if you have the support of those around you. Lets face it, workouts are much more enjoyable if you have someone to motivate you and what’s the fun of making that raw strawberry cheesecake if you have no one to share it with! Try to get your friends and loved ones interested your healthy lifestyle by getting them involved and making it fun.

Here are a few suggested ways you can make healthy living more social;

– Set a day where you can workout with family or friends

– Organise a walk/coffee date

– Attend a healthy cooking class together

– Bring healthy alternatives to parties or social events

– Call a friend on days when you don’t feel motivated

It is important however to try to not be too pushy. You don’t want to annoy people… (something I need to remember next time I’m trying to force feed coconut oil to my boyfriend).


5. Make the most out of every meal

For some of us eating the perfect, nutritious, organic, home cooked meals everyday just isn’t possible. Unfortunately factors such as time, cost and access can play a big part on what we eat, especially considering how expensive some ‘whole foods’ can be. What I have found that works for me is picking and choosing the specialty foods I buy for a certain (such as coconut oil, maca powder and cacao) and keeping the rest basic, choosing cheaper healthy options like brown rice, brown bread, wholemeal pasta, seasonal fruits & vegetables, canned tuna and legumes, eggs, nuts and buying my lean meat in bulk.

Another strategy I take is to try to eat as many nutrients in the day as I can and aim to make the most out of every meal. An example of this maybe adding spinach to a smoothie, adding vegetables to each of your meals, using avocado instead of butter or sneaking in some protein by adding quinoa, nuts and chickpeas. Aim to choose foods based on the nutrients they provide your body rather than what is low fat or low calorie.

In saying this I think it is also important to choose foods that will fit into your lifestyle and if that means eating the odd treat here and there then so be it. Like most I enjoy the occasional treat like pizza, chocolate and going out for drinks with friends. These are some of my favourite things in life and I’m not about to cut them out. For me it is a matter of just trying to be as healthy as you can, whenever you can.