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Leg raises

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Away from the gym and looking for a kit-free way to train the abs? Try leg raises

Leg raises are a great way to target the stomach, strengthening lower abdominals and hip reflexors, plus it doesn’t require any gym kit. Add these moves to one of your home workouts for a simple, effective way to tone your tummy. Try 10 reps to start with, and progress to more once you’ve perfected your form.

Try out these different variations of leg raises to challenge yourself, make sure you’re also hitting your fat-burning workouts hard, as you need to torch that fat to reveal your new toned tum!

Lying down leg raises:

-Lie on your back with your hands on the floor or under your bottom.

-Keeping a slight bend in the knees and feet together, start with both feet up towards the ceiling.

-Without allowing your lower back to overarch, slowly lower your legs towards the floor without bending the knees any more than they already are.

-When legs are almost on the floor, squeeze the abs and lift them back up to the start and repeat.

Hot tip: if these aren’t challenging enough for you, why not add some ankle weights?

Leg raises with a ball 

Add a bit of weight to make your leg raises more challenging

-Start similar to the lying down leg raises

-With your feet on the floor, place an exercise or medicine ball between your feet, griping it firmly

-Begin to raise your legs up, then slowly lowering your legs down, the weight will cause you to use more control

-The weight will cause this exercise to me more challenging than the regular leg raises but effective works the abdominals.

Hanging leg raises 

You can perform this exercise at the gym, in the park or at home if you have a door pull up bar

-Hanging from a bar with your arms- grip firmly wide or medium

-Begin to raise your knees/legs so that your body makes a 90 degrees angle

– Lower your legs down and repeat the exercise

This exercise can be difficult, some gyms provide a padded bench that can support your back and padded arm rests for your elbows.

Side leg raises 

This exercise can be performed lying or standing

For standing

– Standing on one leg, raise the opposite leg to the side as far as you can

– Bring it back to the standing position and repeat this exercise for both legs

For lying

-Lie down on one side- with legs extended and stacked on top of one another

-Raise the top leg up as high as you can, lowering it back down to the first poistion.

-Repeat

Mindfulness exercises

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There are tonnes of ways to get pumped using exercise, a HIIT class with booming music that shakes the floor, sprinting your morning run because your so pumped because your earphones are so loud they’re practically bursting your ear drums, or signing up for another spin class knowing full well that the instructor will be screaming at you the whole time. But, it’s important to make sure you’re getting a healthy balance of exercise and rest or relaxation to achieve good health – that’s why we love methods that combine the two.

If you thought ‘inner energy’ was all about sitting on a yoga mat in the lotus position while chanting ‘om’, then think again. Those familiar with the Chinese martial art tai chi may have come across qigong before. Sometimes known by its full name of taiji qigong, it consists of 18 exercises that are used to promote the body’s natural healing energy to reduce stress levels and increase your quality of life.

How does it work?

Focusing on postures and breathing, qigong is aimed at improving physical and mental health. ‘The exercises can help to promote the body’s natural healing energy, reduce stress and create a feeling of wellbeing,’ explains Ronnie Robinson the director of Taiji Europa, (taiji-europa.eu).
If you know a little about acupuncture, you may be familiar with the Chinese theory of internal energy pathways, or meridians, through which ‘qi’ or ‘chi’ – energy – flows through. ‘Each meridian connects to different internal organs and ensures a healthy energy flow to the connected organ,’ Ronnie explains. ‘When the chi flow is regular the body will remain healthy. However, if there are blockages in this energy flow, problems can result.’
The theory goes that ailments occur because there is disruption to the energy flow in the meridian associated with that particular area. The disruption can be due to stress, poor eating habits, or even being too hot or too cold, creating a build-up which energy can’t freely flow through. Qigong helps to clear these blockages so energy can flow through the meridians with as little disruption as possible.

How to do it

The movements are simple, slow and gentle, yet effective in restoring energy. The body is kept in alignment throughout, and breathing is soft and natural. You may not get your heart racing in qigong, but you’ll certainly benefit physically. ‘Think about the natural movements of animals,’ says Ronnie, ‘like how birds take off and fly. They don’t carry the stresses and strains in their bodies that we humans do. Try to emulate the smooth, easy, natural movements that you see in the rest of nature.’
Want to give qigong a go? Perform each move 8-10 times one after another to create a flowing routine. It’s ideal performed in the morning for a gentle start to the day, or a good option if you need to unwind after work.

Qigong decoded

Beihui: A pressure point at the central part of the top of the head
Dantian: A pressure point just in front of your tummy
Laogong: A pressure point on the centre of the palm of the hd
Zusanli: A pressure point a few inches below the outside of the knee

Top tips for qigong

Listen to your breath Adopt a soft, natural breathing during the movements.

Be aware of your body Although aches and pains are sometimes normal, don’t overdo it. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you.

‘Sink’ your weight and ‘lighten’ your upper body Establish a connection with the ground by imagining your weight dropping deep into the earth while your upper body floats upwards. In reality, your upper body may be heavy with tension while you find it hard to keep your feet firmly on the ground.
Maintain alignment Keep a natural arch in your back and neutral spine, the way we’ve evolved.
Focus and intent Connect with all the movements you’re making and the directions you’re going.
Be natural Think of the movements you see taking place in nature and try to follow suit.

How to be a triple threat

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So, you’ve done a marathon, ticked off the Tough Mudder and aced the fun run? Hello, triathlon! If you’re a high fitness achiever, training for three disciplines is just the challenge you’re craving.

A triathlon is also a great option if you’d like to try an endurance sport, but the monotony of long runs or cycle rides doesn’t tickle your fancy. Racing from a swim to a cycle to a run is a great way to break up longer distances, keeping your mind ticking over, your body guessing and your adrenaline firing. And it’s not just for the pros, either. The shorter distances (sprint and super sprint) are popular with veterans and beginners alike.

Intrigued? We’ve got the info and story from one of our very own, for all you need to know for your first triathlon challenge. Let’s get started!

‘How i survived my first triathlon’

WF staff writer and sub-editor Ellie Moss bravely entered the SuperSprint distance at the Human Race Events’ (humanrace.co.uk) HSBC Triathlon at Dorney Lake. Here’s how she fared…

‘I was super nervous about doing a triathlon because, although I tried my best, when it came to the big day
I didn’t have much training under my belt. I arrived in the pelting rain, but there was such a great atmosphere the weather didn’t seem to matter.

‘The swim started in the water and, as we tip-toed in, the cold lake filled our wetsuits. But there wasn’t much time to groan about the cold as we were off and powering through the 400m open-water swim. By the time
I finished my arms were exhausted, but I ran through to the bike race, peeling off my Aqua Spher (aquasphereswim.com/uk) wetsuit as I went. The cycle was a welcome relief after the tough going in the water. I got up some good speed and quickly arrived at the next transition. Only later did I realise that I’d missed out the second lap of the cycle, meaning I was disqualified!

‘After I racked my bike and helmet, I headed off for the run, jelly legs in tow. The 2.5K sprint was easy going, but while I jogged I realised that I’d messed up the cycle lap, so my head was spinning. I managed to push myself through the run and made it to the finish in one piece.

‘I had a great day  – even though my times didn’t count – and I’m definitely signing up again next year!’

Exercising In the Heat May Give You a Competitive Advantage

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The official U.S. Olympic training facility is located in Colorado Springs, a small town in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. But they didn’t build it there for the views, the middle-of-America location, or even the excellent Mexican food. It’s there for one reason: Colorado Springs sits an elevation of 6,035 feet—more than a mile above sea level—allowing our finest athletes to train “at altitude.”

Training at high altitudes has often been seen as the gold standard for athletes. Exercising at a higher altitude means there’s less oxygen in the air, forcing the body to make more red blood cells to compensate. These extra red blood cells, plus the increased oxygen capacity, translate to a real competitive advantage when the athletes return to sea level.

Unfortunately, this exercise tip is useless to most people—unless you happen to live in the tops of the mountains or know someone with a hypobaric chamber. But now, scientists have discovered an easier, cheaper and totally doable way to get the advantages of altitude training without having to take a plane. You can get similar cardiac benefits simply by cranking up the temperature during your workout, according to a new study on heat training published in Frontiers in Physiology.

Researchers asked a group of professional male cyclists to train in a hot room and then compared their performance and blood work to that of cyclists training in a low-oxygen environment. The results were astonishingly similar.

“We show that when the duration and frequency of training performed in heat or at altitude are the same, the heat-based training can offer a more obtainable and time-efficient method to improving tolerance to altitude,” Ben J. Lee, Ph.D., the lead author of the study said in a press release.

Will heat training help you, if you’re not an elite athlete? It’s hard to say based on this one study. It’s a small sample size and they only looked at well-trained men, but it’s a simple hack that anyone could try. Just be sure to stay hydrated and pay attention to how you’re feeling. Any sign of heat stroke, like dizziness or nausea, and you should stop immediately.