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.

When’s the Best Time to Exercise?

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Goal: You want to lose weight.

Working out in the morning might be the way to set the tone for healthier choices throughout the day. A Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise study found that women were (a) less distracted by crave-worthy food porn and (b) more physically active throughout the rest of the day when they walked briskly for 45 minutes first thing in the morning. “Working out in the morning will get your juices flowing for the rest of the day,” says LA-based personal trainer Mike Donavanik, CSCS. “You’ll feel more energized, productive, lively, and ready to take on the day.”

But to make the most of your a.m. workout, be sure to eat something beforehand. Though working out in a fasted state (aka before breakfast), you burn a greater percentage of your calories from fat than you do when fueled, you aren’t able to exercise as hard, says Susan Kleiner, PhD, RD, author of Power Eating and a sports nutrition consultant to top NFL, NBA, and Olympic athletes. That means you’ll burn fewer calories—including those from fat—overall, she says. Eat a small breakfast, and you’ll push yourself harder so that your metabolism will stay revved all day long.

Goal: You’re training for a race or want to gain muscle.

Research published in the journal Chronobiology International found that enzyme activity and muscular function increase throughout the afternoon, so your performance capabilities peak from about 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. That means you’ll be better able to push yourself—and possibly hit a new PR—if you train during that time zone. Still, if your race is going to take place in the morning, as the competition draws near, you need to start working out in the a.m. so your body can adjust to those early morning race conditions, Donavanik says. Consider it a dress rehearsal.

Goal: You want to actually make it to a workout for a change.

Try to work out three days a week but have missed the last 52 times? The best time to work out is when you’ll actually show up. For many women, that means heading straight to the gym every morning. That way, you hit your workout before the day has a chance to get away from you, Donavanik says. But if you’re not a morning person, that doesn’t matter. You won’t make a 5 a.m. workout—at least, not consistently. Likewise, if you’re absolutely drained when you leave work at 6 p.m., evening workouts aren’t for you. “Choose a time that works best for you that you can be consistent with,” he says. “Life is stressful enough without having to battle to make your workouts.”

20 FITNESS TIPS FOR OLDER MEN

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1. First measure your waist.

It should be no bigger than half your height, according to research by City University London. If it’s within this healthy limit you should live to the average life expectancy. If not, for every extra few centimetres, you face losing months or even years of life.

2. Cut down on alcohol.

It is calorie-loaded and contributes to the development of “moobs” or man boobs, says fitness expert Matt Roberts. “If you don’t want to cut it out, at least cut right down.”

3.Use pedal-power.

Try sprinting flat-out for 60 seconds twice a week on an indoor bike. Findings by Abertay University in Dundee suggest that older men lost 1kg of fat in two months by doing this.

4. Motivate yourself with this fact.

McMaster University in Ontario found men who did an average of three 45-minute workouts a week looked younger. Exercisers in their 40s had skin biopsies and the results were those expected in men half their age. The effects persisted; men aged 65 had thicker dermis layers of the skin — that is, they were less haggard.

5. Take the stairs.

Climbing 55 flights a week can cut the risk of dying early by 15 per cent and lower your cholesterol within weeks. Just taking two flights a day can help shift nearly 3kg in a year.

6. Resistance isn’t futile.

Muscle mass peaks at about the age of 25. After that an average of a tenth of a kilo of muscle a year is lost in a process called sarcopenia. Beyond the age of 50 the losses adopt an almost parasitic speediness, bleeding the body of up to half a kilo of muscle a year. Resistance training is by far the most effective means of arresting this fall.

7. Make the weights heavy.

“The trend for a lot of repetitions with ultralight weights is not effective for building lean muscle tissue or getting a toned look,” says Joe Wicks, a trainer known as the Body Coach. “Progressively heav­ier weight training acts as a catalyst for muscle growth. Aim for a weight that allows you to perform 10 repetitions, then gradually increase that as you get stronger.”

8. Warm up.

The dry heat of a sauna can be beneficial for the middle-aged male’s heart, according to the University of Eastern Finland. The study showed that a weekly sauna could cut the risk of a heart attack for middle-aged men by up to 63 per cent.

9. Time yourself over a mile.

Provided your knees are up to it, how fast you can run a mile (1.6km) can help to predict the risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke decades later. According to the University of Texas, a 55-year-old man who needs 15 minutes to run a mile has a 30 per cent risk of developing heart disease. But a 55-year-old who runs a mile in eight has a lifetime risk of less than 10 per cent.

10. Do push-ups.

It is considered the ultimate barometer of fitness, especially in middle age. “It works the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs,” says John Brewer, professor of applied sport science at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. Push-ups can provide the strength to reach out and break a fall, preventing fracture.

11. Don’t be scared to push yourself.

“Provided you have had a medical check, you have a green light to work as hard as ever,” says Wicks. “Your own body is the best barometer of effort and if you are sweating and breathless, then it’s a good sign. It is very hard to overdo it.” In April, an Australian study revealed that middle-aged people who did vigorous running, aerobics or competitive tennis had a 9 per cent to 13 per cent lower risk of dying early than those who only undertook lighter activity.

12. Eat more protein.

Researchers in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionsuggested consuming between 0.8g and 1g of low-fat protein (skimmed milk, yoghurts, low-fat cheese) per 453g of body weight in conjunction with resistance training helped to promote muscle health in middle-aged men.

13. Become a swinger.

Ambling around the golf course may not be the fastest route to fitness, but do it often enough and it may extend your life. Researchers from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet showed that the death rate for golfers was 40 per cent lower than for other people of the same sex, age and socioeconomic status — that equates to a five-year increase in life expectancy. Golfers with a low handicap live the longest.

14. Follow a 4×25 fitness plan.

“In middle age, the frequency of exercise should be four days a week, minimum, and for at least 25 minutes,” says Roberts.

15. Stretch in front of the TV.

“Deep stretching helps to boost blood flow and nutrients to your muscles and skin,” says Dalton Wong of Twenty Two training. “It does this by releasing connective tissue around the body.” You can even do this during the ad breaks.

16. Add 60-second bursts of effort to a stroll.

If you haven’t exercised in a while, short bursts that leave you breathless — a sprint for the bus, a fast walk — can make all the difference, Every daily minute of exercise effort is linked to a 2 per cent decrease in obesity odds among men, a US study found.

17. Try brick sessions.

Switching from one form of exercise to another within a workout can reap “tremendous gains for little additional effort”, says trainer Greg Whyte. “All you need are three to five-minute bursts on first the treadmill, then either a rowing machine or cross-trainer.” This redirects blood to different muscle groups, boosting fat-burning.

18. Don’t worry about running giving you bad knees.

More often than not, it is activities that entail turning and twisting, such as football, tennis and rugby, that cause degeneration of the knee joint. In fact, research from Baylor College of Medicine concludes: “Running may even help protect a person from developing the painful knee osteoarthritis.” But it is wise to mix high-impact exercise with activities that are kinder to the joints.

19. Eat more manly superfoods.

An Aston University study found that eating 50g a day of almondsfor a month reduces blood pressure. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, which reduces cartilage depletion in the joints according to researchers at the UEA. Male volunteers with high cholesterol saw levels drop by 10 per cent if they ate 3 tablespoons of flaxseed every day for three months. Lycopene, found in tomatoes, is linked to the prevention of prostate cancer. Finnish researchers found that high levels of it in the blood of middle-aged men related to a lower risk of stroke. One study found half a bar a week of dark chocolate reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes. Middle-aged men who drank two glasses of unsweetened orange juice a day for a month saw a significant decline in their blood pressure.

20. Recover well.

You will not be able to hammer out workouts quite as you did when you were younger, so space out your harder sessions well. Don’t feel guilty about taking time out to recover. “As you get older you lose water content from all the body’s structures, including cartilage, which protects the joints,” says Claire Small, from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy. “Tissues become weaker and less compliant, all of which means that injuries happen more easily. Rest after ­exercise is essential.”

6 Tips for Gym Newbies

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When we did a survey last year asking readers what subjects they’d like to see AoM cover, one of the requests that popped up a few times was more beginner fitness articles. We get it — it can be intimidating to watch our YouTube videos with Mark Rippetoe and read articles about intense kettlebell training. If you’re out of shape and haven’t worked out for a long time, how do you narrow that gap between where you are now and deadlifting hundreds of pounds — or heck, simply getting a bit more fit for the sake of your well-being?

I asked myself that very question a few months ago. I can run a few miles and do a good number of push-ups, but the reality is that I could stand to lose a little bit of belly fat and get in better shape. It’s easy to be motivated when you live in Colorado — almost everyone around me is running marathons and hiking 14ers every weekend.

For a long time I was determined that I wouldn’t become a “gym rat.” Our culture places muscular gym-goers into the realm of “bros” — shallow, egotistic, vain, etc. I bought into that mentality, and figured I’d get in shape by running and doing bodyweight exercises. (Yes, I was being cheap too.) Beyond that, I was simply intimidated. I knew that I would get to the gym and not have any idea what to do, or how to do it. But, after a bum knee and multiple failed attempts to do exercise routines at home, I realized something had to change.

So I spurned the bad attitude towards gyms, and went to the big box chain near my home to sign up. It’s been a great experience so far, and I’ve learned a number of things that I’d like to share with other guys who might be nervous or have a bad attitude about the prospect of signing up for a gym membership.

1. Push beyond the intimidation and just go for it.

I was super intimidated when I first walked into the gym. I had on my athletic shorts, grubby t-shirt, and headphones in hand, and I felt like a total poser. “I’m not a bro, I’m not a gym rat…” Even if you are intimidated, you just have to push beyond it and go for it. Get your foot in the door, and do something. You’ll be amazed how quickly that initial fear goes away when you get your heart pumping and muscles aching. Frankly, you have a lot more to think about at the gym than being intimidated.

And honestly, after being a member for a few months, I’m more inspired than intimidated by the guys (and some hardcore ladies!) on the bench next to me lifting far more than it seems like I’ll ever be able to do.

Another intimidation factor for me was simply not knowing how to use certain machines or do certain exercises. Be it a stair climber or rowing machine or weight contraption, those things can be confusing to use. One route is to simply get on the machine and start doing something. In many cases you’ll figure it out after a couple minutes. Another is to look up a YouTube video or article right then and there if you have a smartphone; I’ve done this a couple times with great success. Finally, you can always ask a trainer for a simple 2-minute tutorial on properly using the machine in question. (I know machines aren’t sexy, but there’s nothing wrong with having a balance!)

2. Nobody is judging you.

When I checked in to the gym on my first day of being a member, I was sure that everyone there would stop what they were doing, watch me do my workout, and judge not just my form but my meager muscle size as well. Of course, no such thing happened. Especially at my big box gym, there are people of all shapes and sizes, just doing their best to get in shape. From ripped dudes curling 50-pound dumbbells, to old men on the treadmill with their shirts tucked into their pants, it really is a democracy.

When I go, there are no eyes following me — except perhaps the old lady on the stationary bike who might be flirting with me. Everyone just keeps on doing their own workouts on their own time. Honestly, I figure if I’m not judging anyone, then it’s likely that nobody is judging me.

3. Familiarize yourself with good gym etiquette.

While working out is a great way to unleash your primal side, you should still practice good manners and be respectful of your fellow gym goers. Knowing the unwritten rules of the land will not only make you feel more confident, but save you from getting the kind of look that might unnecessarily make the gym feel like an unfriendly place. Nobody may be judging how in shape you are, but they may critically assess your decision not to wipe down a machine you’ve been using.

So read up on 10 ways to be a gentleman at the gym.

4. Do what you enjoy — some activity is better than none.

I started out doing easy workouts — 20 minutes of cardio, 15 minutes of moderate activity on the rowing machine, weights that I was easily lifting, and even time on the basketball court just shooting hoops. I sort of felt like a wimp, but I just wanted to get my bearings and ease into gym membership rather than go whole hog and feel overwhelmed.

The honest truth is that as you go to the gym more, you’ll push yourself more. I’m completing workouts now, just a few months into it, that are far above what I started at. Once I established some benchmarks, the natural competitiveness of wanting to beat my times and weights kicked in.

One of the barriers to gym membership, for me, was simply the overwhelming number of competing fitness theories. As Brett and Kate wrote about, the “one best way” fallacy is in full effect when it comes to workouts. Trying to figure out which way is “best” is paralyzing. Ultimately, it will just keep you on the couch. When it comes down to it, doing something active is so much better than doing nothing. I get that the workouts I’m doing may not be the best, but they certainly aren’t the worst — which would be couch-sitting. Getting your heart pumping is better than not getting it pumping; lifting some weights is better than not; a moderate ride on a stationary bike is better than nothing at all. This is my attitude when I go to the gym as a newbie. I’m simply trying to figure out my own fitness and what I like/dislike. As time goes on, I’m sure I’ll refine my workouts, but for now, I’m simply enjoying the feeling of being physically worn out by the time I hit the exit.

5. Money is perhaps the best motivator of all.

I never really wanted to be the guy who needed to pay to be motivated to work out. I used to tell myself, “If my health and fitness is truly important to me, I’ll get outside and run or I’ll do a good bodyweight workout here at home.” What a load of crap. I was just being cheap and lazy. When you’re paying $30 a month, and in many cases more than that, you’ll get your butt out the door a lot easier than by gumption alone. I didn’t think money would be such a motivating factor until I actually dropped some coin and realized the more I used the gym, the cheaper my per-use cost was, and ultimately, the more I was getting out of my monthly payment. Don’t fear paying to get healthy. And if it’s not in the budget, drop the cable membership. After all, many gyms have ESPN on multiple TVs throughout the facility, and that’s really all you want anyway.

6. You will progress, but it will be slow.

Our fast-paced culture doesn’t like slow progress; instant success is far sexier, but also incredibly unrealistic. So when people go to the gym and drop their membership after a few months, I think it’s because they’re annoyed that they haven’t instantly been transformed into super athletes. “I’ve been working hard twice a week for three months, how come I’m not ripped yet?! Ugh!” It’s exciting when you PR anything at the gym — be it on weights or a cardio machine — and demoralizing when you fail. In the first few weeks of having a gym membership, I progressed rapidly, and it felt awesome. But then I hit a wall, and actually regressed a little. I wasn’t completing the workouts that I had successfully finished the week before. In those moments, it’s easy to think it’s not working. We actually end up catastrophizing the situation. “I can’t complete this workout, I’ll never be able to reach my goals, I’m destined to become fat and die early.” And then we go back to the couch to live out that destiny.

So how do you get past that? You just have to shift your mindset to one of slow progress rather than instant success and stick with it, even in the midst of failures. If you keep going, and keep working hard, you’re bound to get better. The key is just to not quit. Sound simplistic? It is. But that’s what our world needs when it comes to health and fitness right now. As long as you don’t quit altogether, you’ll progress.

10 Workout tips from experts

Getting and staying fit can be a challenge. For many of us, it’s hard just to get up off the couch. So what’s the secret of people who have managed to make exercise a way of life?woman working with trainer

1. Be Consistent

Chase Squires is the first to admit that he’s no fitness expert. But he is a guy who used to weigh 205 pounds, more than was healthy for his 5’4″ frame. “In my vacation pictures in 2002, I looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man at the beach,” says the 42-year-old Colorado resident. Squires decided enough was enough, cut out fatty food, and started walking on a treadmill. The pounds came off and soon he was running marathons — not fast, but in the race. He ran his first 50-mile race in October 2003 and completed his first 100-miler a year later. Since then, he’s completed several 100-mile, 50-mile, and 50k races.

His secret? “I’m not fast, but I’m consistent,” says Squires, who says consistency is his best tip for maintaining a successful fitness regimen.

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“It all started with 20 minutes on a treadmill,” he says. “The difference between my success and others who have struggled is that I did it every single day. No exercise program in the world works if you don’t do it consistently.”

2. Follow an Effective Exercise Routine

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recently surveyed 1,000 ACE-certified personal trainers about the best techniques to get fit. Their top three suggestions:

  • Strength training. Even 20 minutes a day twice a week will help tone the entire body.
  • Interval training. “In its most basic form, interval training might involve walking for two minutes, running for two, and alternating this pattern throughout the duration of a workout,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, FACSM, chief science officer for ACE. “It is an extremely time-efficient and productive way to exercise.”
  • Increased cardio/aerobic exercise. Bryant suggests accumulating 60 minutes or more a day of low- to moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, running, or dancing.

3. Set Realistic Goals

“Don’t strive for perfection or an improbable goal that can’t be met,” says Kara Thompson, spokesperson for the International Health Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). “Focus instead on increasing healthy behaviors.”

In other words, don’t worry if you can’t run a 5K just yet. Make it a habit to walk 15 minutes a day, and add time, distance, and intensity from there.

4. Use the Buddy System

Find a friend or relative whom you like and trust who also wants to establish a healthier lifestyle, suggests Thompson. “Encourage one another. Exercise together. Use this as an opportunity to enjoy one another’s company and to strengthen the relationship.”

5. Make Your Plan Fit Your Life

Too busy to get to the gym? Tennis star Martina Navratilova, health and fitness ambassador for the AARP, knows a thing or two about being busy and staying fit.

Make your plan fit your life, she advises in an article on the AARP web site. “You don’t need fancy exercise gear and gyms to get fit.”

If you’ve got floor space, try simple floor exercises to target areas such as the hips and buttocks, legs and thighs, and chest and arms (like push-ups, squats, and lunges). Aim for 10-12 repetitions of each exercise, adding more reps and intensity as you build strength.

6. Be Happy

Be sure to pick an activity you actually enjoy doing, suggests Los Angeles celebrity trainer Sebastien Lagree.

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“If you hate weights, don’t go to the gym. You can lose weight and get in shape with any type of training or activity,” he says.

And choose something that is convenient. Rock climbing may be a great workout, but if you live in a city, it’s not something you’ll be doing every day.

7. Watch the Clock

Your body clock, that is. Try to work out at the time you have the most energy, suggests Jason Theodosakis, MD, exercise physiologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. If you’re a morning person, schedule your fitness activities early in the day; if you perk up as the day goes along, plan your activities in the afternoon or evening.

“Working out while you have the most energy will yield the best results,” Theodosakis says.

8. Call In the Pros

Especially if you’re first getting started, Theodosakis suggests having a professional assessment to determine what types of exercise you need most.

“For some people, attention to flexibility or to balance and agility, may be more important than resistance training or aerobics,” he says. “By getting a professional assessment, you can determine your weakest links and focus on them. This will improve your overall fitness balance.”

9. Get Inspired

“Fitness is a state of mind,” says fitness professional and life coach Allan Fine of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. One of Fine’s tricks to get and stay motivated is to read blogs or web sites that show him how others have been successful. “Who inspires you?” he asks.

10. Be Patient

Finally, remember that even if you follow all these tips, there will be ups and downs, setbacks and victories, advises Navratilova. Just be patient, and don’t give up, she says on the AARP web site: “Hang in there, and you’ll see solid results.”

Dead strong

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Want to bolster your muscles and get better at everything you do in the gym? Perfect one of the three big lifts: the deadlift

Never tried a deadlift before? You’re missing out. ‘You need to be doing this move,’ says Richard Tidmarsh, lead trainer at London’s Reach Fitness. Here at WF, we’ve long been huge advocates of lifting weights, but it’s nice to see such a huge phenomenon take off thanks to its benefits for strength, fat loss and wellbeing.

But let’s get one thing straight: you can only reap these amazing benefits if you’re doing it properly. ‘Awful form, wasting time on isolate movements and using weights that are too light or too heavy are all common mistakes,’ says Richard.

So let’s take a step back and look at the humble deadlift. ‘It works pretty much every major muscle group in your body hitting your back, glutes, legs and core. So, if you get it right, it’ll improve your posture and strength – and, with time and the right training plan, will be a huge weapon in your armoury to add lean tissue to your body.’

Deadlift

Technique

-Set up behind the bar with it touching your shins. Hinge at the hips and knees taking a grip a little wider than shoulder-width apart. With your weight in your heels and spine long and straight, prepare to lift with your chin in a neutral position.

-Now with a deep breath in that you will hold tight during this phase, simultaneously push down through the floor with your heels and drive up with your hips and legs to lift the bar. Maintain a straight spine with your shoulder blades pulled together throughout with your core and back engaged.

-Finish the lift by locking out to full hip extension and standing up straight with the bar tight against you, your back and glutes engaged. You then return the bar in reverse order to the floor, maintaining the positive spine position to execute the lift.

Safety tip

Start with a weight you are comfortable with to get your form perfect. If you have poor spine and hip mobility, you will not be able to get into a good lifting position. So work on these areas of movement before even considering doing this lift.

6 Practical Tips For CrossFit

So you have been doing CrossFit for some time now, and you have made noticeable gains in your fitness. That is great! Now, you should take some time to stop what you are doing and reflect on how incredible it is that you are improving your body’s health and capabilities. Getting your first chin up, muscle up, or handstand push up is an accomplishment worth celebrating.
But as you continue to progress in CrossFit, you might reach a point where you find yourself pushing harder and harder to get extra reps and rounds to the detriment of your form and technique. This is not the way to go. If the quantity of reps you perform only increases by sacrificing the quality of said reps, then your body is likely to reach a plateau, or worse, incur an injury.
Rather, you should prioritize quality over quantity so that in the future you may continue to make gains in strength, work capacity, mobility, and overall fitness. Here are some practical tips for how to do that in a CrossFit setting.
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1. Breathe

What a simple thing that we all do everyday. However, mid-WOD, it suddenly becomes apparent that you have not been breathing adequately. How about this: focus on inhaling. Long, slow, controlled, and in through the nose.
If you are doing a twenty-minute AMRAP, then I want you exclusively breathing through the nose for at least the first ten minutes. Heavy mouth breathing should be reserved for sprints, short efforts, and the ends of workouts. While you initially might need to slow down in order to breathe through your nose, in the long run your body will experience positive aerobic adaptations.

2. Break Up Sets

Have you ever stopped and thought about why 21-15-9 is such an effective rep scheme? One reason is because each set can be broken up into three distinct sub-sets: 3 sets of 7, 3 sets of 5, and 3 sets of 3. Another great way to break up this rep scheme is: 11 and 10, 8 and 7, then 5 and 4. So the next time you do “Fran,” “Diane,” or “Elizabeth,” strategize a bit beforehand and see if that helps you set a new personal record.
Another way to state this is that you should not push yourself to failure every round of every workout. Rather, choose a sub-maximal number of reps that you are confident you can complete, and aim to keep yourself just shy of the danger zone for the majority of your workouts.
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3. Rest Between Sets

Rest?! Are you not supposed to go all out as fast as you can? Okay, yes, I get it – the workouts are done for time. But you might end up with an overall faster time (and thus greater work capacity) if you actually plan to rest between sets from the get-go. 
For instance, next time you do “Cindy” (AMRAP in 20 minutes of 5 pull ups, 10 push ups, and 15 squats), try to do one round at the top of every minute. If you succeed, you will have accumulated twenty rounds. It will feel very easy in the beginning and very not-so-easy at the end. 
If twenty rounds of Cindy is out of your reach, then try one round every ninety seconds. Or, vice-versa, if your old personal record is higher than twenty trounds, try one round every 45 seconds or so.

4. Prioritize Mobility

You know you are supposed to do it, but somehow you only manage to hit the foam roller or grab that stretch band once or twice a week. How about this: you are not allowed to do a WOD unless you have first done your mobility work for the day. 
Have you ever set a timer for five minutes and then rolled out your thoracic spine? Or what about grabbing a lacrosse ball and hitting your entire shoulder girdle? Check out Kelly Starrett’s awesome MobilityWOD for more ideas.
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5. Scale Movements and Weights Efectively

If you only take one principle away from this post, please pay attention here. You want to make optimal choices in your life, correct? If you could take two routes to your destination, but one of them was longer and riskier, what would you decide? You would take the optimal route. Duh!
Similarly, learning to scale movements and weights effectively is how you optimize CrossFit workouts to fit your individual fitness level and needs. Refer to Prilepin’s Chart (a guideline for what percentage of your 1RM to lift for each given rep range) when choosing what weights to do for WODs. Hint: it might be lighter than you think!
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6. Take Individual Accountability

How can you reach your own goals when someone else is planning the workouts for you? This is when you need to take individual accountability for your own CrossFit practice. If the WOD has back squats for strength, but your goal is a double-bodyweight deadlift, then explain to your trainer that you are focusing on the deadlift that cycle.
Similarly, if you want to get your first strict chin up, then reduce the reps of banded chin ups, kipping pull ups, or ring rows in the WOD and do a few super-slow negatives each round instead. It might be different than what is written on the whiteboard, but I am willing to bet that you (and your goals) might be a little different than everyone else in the class around you, as well.

ARE YOU PUSHING YOURSELF HARD ENOUGH?

Jogging on the treadmill whilst having a gossip is not going to reap real results – it’s time to get down to business!

If you’re pottering along to the gym two or three times a week, but don’t feel you’re seeing real results, the answer may be simple. The workouts you’re doing may not be very effective, or you may not be working hard enough! But don’t worry, if you think you’re guilty of taking your foot off the gas, we’ve got four sure-fire ways to give your workouts the boost they’ve been waiting for!

Up the intensity While a 30-minute steady-state run has long been the fall back of many a fitness fan, research is now stacking up to show that these sorts of workouts are considerably less effective than those of a higher intensity and shorter length.

Doing 10 one-minute sprints on a bike with about a minute’s rest between, three times a week, is as effective at building muscle as many hours of conventional long-term biking less strenuously, according to research conducted by scientists at McMaster University in Canada. So ditching your slow and steady sessions on the treadmill, cross trainer or pavement for a shorter workout of sprints and rests should help you see results in no time.

Get a personal trainer
Sometimes there’s nothing like a scary ex-marine shouting at you from across the park to get your backside in gear. We’re all guilty of giving ourselves an easy ride now and again, so getting a personal trainer could be your route to the body you’ve always wanted.

Sometimes we simply underestimate our own physical ability and it can take an outside with an objective viewpoint to make us see what we’re capable of. ‘A personal trainer will mix up your routine with a variety of exercises and challenge your body in new ways, which should kick-start your metabolism. Having someone else pushing you to achieve will also increase the intensity of your workout, helping you to overcome the plateau,’ says London-based personal trainer Mollie Millington (www.ptmollie.com). ‘Be sure to let your trainer know what your goals are so they can tailor the workout accordingly.’

If you’re going to get a trainer, find someone who’s registered with REPs, and who is prepared to offer a free first session to see if you like it before you commit to more. Try to find someone who you can afford to train with at least once a week so you can really get the most from them.

Get a heart rate monitor
Getting feedback about how hard you’ve pushed yourself in a session is a great way to monitor your progress and identify where you’re doing well and where you might be slacking. Heart rate monitors, usually comprising of a belt and a watch, are a great way of doing this.

MYZONE (www.myzone.org) monitors are the next generation of this and can display your effort levels live in real time, when used in a class, or store your effort levels (in the memory of the belt) when you’re working out independently. This information can then be wirelessly uploaded and accessed by an online user account, letting you check out how you did post-workout.

H2 Bike Run (www.h2clubs.co.uk) offer spin classes using the MYZONE heart rate monitor, which allows you (and the rest of the class) to see your effort levels projected onto a wall at the front throughout the class in the form of a coloured square with a percentage in it.

MYZONE effort points are awarded for each minute that you spend within each heart rate zone so, under 50 per cent of your maximum heart rate equals 0.5 points, 50-60 per cent of your maximum heart rate equals 1 point, 60-70 per cent of your maximum heart rate equals 1.5 points 80-100 per cent equals 2 points and so on.

As your effort increases, your square changes colour from blue to green to yellow and finally red, so everyone in the class (and your instructor!) can see if you’re really putting the work in! You wouldn’t want to be lagging behind with your square lit up in blue if the rest of the class are powering ahead with their squares on red!

And it can be used in other forms of exercise aside from spin. ‘I use MYZONE as a way of carefully tracking the intensity I am putting clients through during their SGUT (Sol Gilbert Ultimate Training) sessions,’ says Sol Gilbert of ZT Family Fitness (www.ztfamilyfitness.com). ‘Using MYZONE has definitely helped to show clients in real-time how hard they’re actually working. I often tell them to work out within a certain heart rate zone, so if I tell them to work out in the yellow zone they can actually see if they’re in it, or if they need to work harder to get into it.’

Lift heavier weights
There’s a common misconception that if women use heavy weights they will end up looking bulky, but doing fewer reps with a heavier weight could actually be the key to seeing real results from your workouts, particularly for weight loss.

‘Lifting heavy weights will not make you huge! You simply don’t have the testosterone levels in your body to build big muscles!’ says Rory James Manning, personal trainer and managing director of RJ Fitness (www.rj-fitness.co.uk). Rory says this is one of things he has most difficulty getting female clients to understand.

‘Lifting light weights will not get you nearly as toned as lifting heavy weights and there is no such thing as toned or un-toned muscle, muscle is muscle.  It can be big or small, but not “toned”. The best way to appear lean or “toned” is to have as much muscle as possible, while having the lowest body-fat percentage possible,’ says Rory.

If you’re doing lots of reps with light weights, it’s time to change up your game plan. ‘Are you guilty of going too light? If you are completing 15 reps or more you almost certainly are, as this won’t be heavy enough to split the muscle fibres! And you won’t see the same kind of fat loss you would if you increased your weight!’ says Rory.

And having more muscle will burn more fat. ‘A pound of muscle burns about 20 calories a day while a pound of fat burns less than five calories. Therefore the more muscle you build, the more fat you burn!’ says Rory.

If that sounds appealing to you, put down the light dumbbells, swap them for a weight that will really challenge you and take the number of reps you’re doing right down. ‘Take your rep range down to between six or 10 reps per set and increase your weight so the last two reps are almost impossible to get out (while keeping good form)!’ says Rory.

The 10 exercise commandments

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 Want to make your workouts easier and get more out of every session? Follow these top tips and tricks to boost your results

When you first started working out, you were probably up to your eyeballs in exercise rules: engage the core, don’t strain your neck, don’t let the knees go past the toes and so on.

Newcomers to exercise tend to make the extra effort to stay on the straight and narrow when it comes to following these guidelines, but those who are incredibly well-versed in working out often forget these all-important rules – and sometimes going back to basics is just what you need to make your workout as efficient as possible. Here are the 10 commandments of training and why you should never (ever!) forget them.

1 Don’t lock out

Keeping your elbows and knees slightly soft, even during full extension, is in your interest not only in terms of joint health, but also in making your workout more effective. ‘Not locking out when lifting weights will prevent joint deterioration and reduce your chances of joint-related niggles and injuries,’ explains personal trainer Dave Fletcher (theodysseyway.co.uk). Keeping your joints soft also calls for muscle recruitment throughout the entire move, as it doesn’t allow them to catch a break at the top of the motion. More work equals better results, right?

2 Eat wise

You don’t need us to tell you not to eat heavy meals too close to a workout – you’ll soon feel it if you do. The reason you might feel a little worse for wear when taking on a gruelling session after a big eat is because, when you exercise, the blood flow is directed to the muscles that are working. This means there’s limited flow to the digestive system – something’s got to give.

3 Give yourself a lift

Squats are a big deal now – it’s a fact. While serious lifters have seen the squat as the holy grail of exercise for years, initiatives like the squat challenge have really popularised the move. But a lot of people struggle to perfect the technique and are, as a result, missing out on maximum results. ‘For most people, squatting with your heels raised will dramatically improve your range of motion,’ Dave explains. ‘If you have tight calves, you tend to lean forwards during a squat and unnecessarily load the lower back, so by raising the heels (on a plank or weight discs, for example) you allow a greater activation of the glutes, quads and hamstrings (bottom and thigh muscles), increasing the effectiveness of the move while reducing the risk of strain to the lower back.’

4 Practise your turn-out

We’re not talking ballerina-worthy turn-out, but pointing your toes out just slightly while performing resistance exercises gives you an extra bit of stability that could make all the difference. Keeping your toes pointing forwards might seem like the safest option, but, according to Dave, the stance can feel unbalanced and unnatural since the hips tend
to rotate outwards a little.

5 Have a break

The jury always seems to be out on rest days, with different people recommending different things. Should you skip the gym if you feel rubbish, or just power through like a trooper? And how many rest days should you have per week? Either way, one thing’s for sure: you do need rest days, especially between strength sessions or sessions that target the same muscles again. You’re seriously compromising your safety by overdoing it. Even if you feel okay, your muscles will still be recovering, and won’t be able to perform to the maximum until they’ve been rebuilt.

6 Perfect your posture

It’s not as simple as standing up straight when performing your exercises, although this is pretty important, too. Having good body alignment can boost your progress by helping you perform exercises with better form, so working on your postural alignment outside of the gym is crucial. ‘Make sure you put the time in away from your workouts, too, by stretching, foam rolling and stopping yourself from slouching when you sit down,’ advises Dave.

7 Engage your core

This is probably one of the first rules you learn when you start exercising. Engaging the core almost goes without saying these days, right? But it really is at the centre of everything and ensures your upper and lower body work in synergy, taking the strain away from the lower back and enabling you to lift heavier weights. And you know what that means? Better results.

8 Refuel post-workout

Eating healthily in general is pretty important, but for those who go hard at it in the gym, you need to pay extra attention to mealtimes, too. You’ve probably seen those hardcore gym-goers glugging their protein shakes before they’ve even left the changing rooms, and here’s why: after a workout, the muscles are primed to absorb protein, so you want to take advantage of this. We’re not saying everyone should be on the shakes, but make sure you go for a protein-heavy meal like chicken or fish after you’ve exercised.

9 Prepare and recover properly

Let’s be honest, we can all be a little guilty of skipping warm-ups and cool-downs, even though we know we shouldn’t. And while we know stretching after exercise helps to reduce injury and aches, did you know that warming up efficiently before a workout actually makes the workout easier. How? Stretching dynamically pre-workout, in similar movement patterns to those you’re about to perform, means your muscles will be more elastic and the blood will already be flowing. ‘Stick to dynamic stretches before a workout and static ones after,’ Dave adds.

10 Stay hydrated

Drinking enough water is important, regardless of how often you exercise – the body is primarily made up of fluid, after all. If you start to feel thirsty at any point, then you’re actually already dehydrated. And, while rehydrating is easy enough, taking preventative measures
by ensuring you never reach the point of thirst is even better. Even minor dehydration can affect your endurance and blood flow. The rule? The more you tend to sweat, the more you should drink throughout the day. So keep a bottle of water on you at all times.