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Category: Exercise

Do you workout at home?

I’ve had a few gym memberships in my time. Virgin Active, Fitness First, local council funded gyms and the list goes on. In my pre-baby days, when I had acres of free time after work and on the weekends, I’d find it very difficult to drag myself to the gym and get a reasonable cost per visit from my membership fee.

In my post-baby world, I need to maximise every minute of my life to get what I need to get done, done. This is no joke. Between working, school work, chores and life admin, on the days I’m at home, if I don’t take the opportunity to workout during J’s naptime, then I won’t have the chance until he goes to bed. And then something will inevitably get in the way and working out will have to wait. So for me, it’s just easier to squeeze in workouts, when I can, at home. I cancelled my gym membership last year and I’ve never looked back.

 

Just workout when he’s awake, you say? Hahahahah. I’ve seen YouTube and Instagram videos of mums working out with their kids around them, and that just seems like science fiction to me. When I’ve attempted to do it, I get a 14 kg toddler climbing on my back during push ups and crawling through my legs during burpees. Which is why for me, effective workouts are restricted to nap time, bed time or at spin class.

 

I’ve been doing Kayla Itsines’ Bikini Body Guides (BBG) at home since last August, combined with lots of walking (I live in London, with no car, so walking is like breathing – you need do a lot of it!) and weekly sessions at Psycle, the best spin studio in London.

What’s interesting to me is that the guides are ideally meant for someone who has access to a gym and all its equipment, but because I love the structure of the guides, i.e. they tell me exactly what exercises I need to do, how many and for how long, I’ve figured out a way to make BBG work for me.

 

And as I was setting myself up for today’s workout, I realised that I’ve managed to acquire a veritable mini-gym in my flat, the majority of which I use for the Bikini Body Guide.

So it is possible to do the guide at home, it just requires a bit of planning and some expense.

 

What I use for the Bikini Body Guide workouts:

  1. Kettlebells (7.5kg, 12kg and 16kg): substitutes for dumbbells or handweights
  2. Medicine ball (8kg)
  3. Hand weights (2kg each)
  4. Reebok step: substitute for a box and a bench
  5. Easy Shaper Pro (a bar with resistance bands attached): substitute for a barbell and weights
  6. Yoga Mat
  7. Foam rollers x 2

I’ve had to be creative and substitute where I can. I’ve picked up inexpensive quality equipment via Ebay, Amazons and various birthday / Christmas presents and it’s all added up to a very nice collection that makes working out at home really easy.

Do you workout at home? Have you done BBG at home? What are your tips and tricks?

 

 

I Tried It: Barry’s Bootcamp

Barry’s Bootcamp has been on my fitness to-do list for ages, but it’s taken me a while to ‘gee’ myself up to try it out.  Any workout that combines treadmill sprints (not my favourite, at the best of times) and strength training is always going to be tough. Add in ‘bootcamp’ and well, you can understand why I was nervous when I rocked up to the London Central branch yesterday morning.

barry's bootcamp london central

Reader, it was f*cking hard. Two circuits of 15 minutes on the treadmill and 15 minutes of strength training nearly wiped me out for the day. The beginners treadmill speed is 6 mph (9.66 km/h!), which is much faster than I run, EVER. You then go up by 1 or 2 points (miles) throughout the sprints. If the instructor is being nice, you might change it up and let you go up by 0.5 mile intervals. The fastest I ran was 8.5 mph (13.8 km/h!!!!!!) and I thought my legs were going to come up from under me.

Real talk: since giving birth, my pelvic floor isn’t what it used to be, so I had to contend with that, as well as holding back the urge to vomit, during and after the sprints. Note to self: wear black running trousers next time!

The music was absolutely amazing, with lots of uptempo house and hip hop to keep energy levels up. Our instructor for the session was Faisal and he was super motivational, continuously trying to push all of us to our limits and reminding us that it’s supposed be hard. And of course the class is going to be hard – that’s what you pay £20 for. And that’s how you get results.

barry's bootcamp protein shake menu

I ordered a much needed recovery shake to pick up after my workout, custom made with almond butter, banana, cinnamon and almond milk. My only complaint would be that all of their ‘off the rack’ shakes have either chocolate or vanilla whey protein in them and if you don’t do dairy, then you need to go for a custom option to get your protein. I opted for almond butter instead, but I might go for vegan protein next time.

barrys london smoothie

Have you tried Barry’s yet? What do you think?

I Tried It: Foam Rolling

Foam rolling. It’s so hot right now, isn’t it? Goop’s talking about it, Kayla’s released her own branded grid roller and many gyms now have rollers as standard in their cool down sections.

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But what is foam rolling? in a nutshell, foam rolling or myofascial release, to use the technical term, is a way of using a small foam tube, with grids or without to stimulate your fascia, the thin layer of connective tissue that surround your muscles. When we stretch after a workout, we help relieve soreness in large muscle groups, however we do nothing for the fascia. Foam rolling can prevent / reduce stiffness in the fascia, which in turn helps to increase mobility, range of movement and even lymphatic draining. Which is important, even if you’re not an Olympic athlete.

Foam rolling has become really important for me, especially since I’ve increased the amount of exercise I do. Even though I’ve discovered that genetically, I have a fast exercise recovery time, I don’t enjoy the mild stiffness I get the day after a workout. Real talk: the day after I did my first Kayla pre-training workout, I struggled to sit down and stand up properly at work because my legs were so stiff and sore. Not a good look, especially in an office of sports-mad blokes!

I love how easy it is to do. You’re ideally supposed to do some foam rolling after your workout but I never have enough time, so I tend to foam roll in the evening when I’m watching TV or chatting to my husband. Just bear in mind that depending on how often and intensely you exercise and how often you foam roll, it can be painful. Almost that pleasure / pain, where you know the pain is a sign of relief. It’ll make sense when you try it!

Here are some easy foam rolling exercises to try out. The key is not to go too fast – it should be a slow, fluid movement. If you start to experience pain, stop rolling and stay on that part of the muscle for 30 – 90 seconds to try to release the tension.

Here are some good foam rollers:

  1. A lightweight grid roller that gets deep into any knots.

Grid roller

2. I use this one regularly – it’s a good starter foam roller.

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3. This looks like a great two in one option.

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Happy foam rolling!

Jumping on the bandwagon and loving it.

running

Photo by Matthew Wiebe

I was never really much of an an athlete when I was younger and it was only after I graduated university that I started to embrace fitness. I started with running, then moved on weights, amongst many, many other activities. I’ve never really been one for team sports though – I’m a bit too competitive and tend to embarrass myself with my overenthusiastic cheering and geeing up of my team.

I still workout regularly, but I need variety in my workouts. Doing the same type of workout for too long bores me and I find it difficult to motivate myself to carry on.

I’ve been following Kayla Itsines on Instagram ever since reading a profile of her in the Sunday Times Style magazine. I’ve been fascinated by not only the transformations she posts, but also the devotion of the ladies that use her guides. The hashtags are numerous (#deathbykayla, #thekaylamovement, #bbgsisters, #bbgover30, etc) and when you scroll through them, it’s amazing to read the effect her workouts have had on her followers and how supportive everyone is of each other. It’s really motivating.

After hitting a plateau with my kettlebell practice, I finally took the plunge and downloaded Kayla’s Bikini Body Guide 1.0 when I got back from Jakarta in August. Cheesy name; amazing & gruelling workout. When I started the guide, I fancied myself in fairly good shape, as I had been doing lots of walking, carrying my 29 pound toddler for extended periods (#momarms), running and doing the Blogilates workouts when I had the chance.

Honestly, Kayla’s workouts are in another league. She splits her BBG 1.0 guide into 4 weeks of pre-training and 12 weeks of training. After doing the pre-training Week 1 Legs and Cardio workout, I was walking like a cowboy at work the next day!

I’ve now progressed to week 6 and I love it. The workouts are getting progressively harder, but I’m getting progressively stronger. J’s naptime is my time to workout and I’ve become quite jealous with this time. Call me obsessed, but it’s one of the few times I have to myself and it’s nice to know that I’m doing something positive with this time. And there’s enough variation in the workouts that I’m not getting bored.

My only bug bear with the guides is the number of adaptations and equipment that are required if you need to do them at home. I cancelled my gym membership in January as I was finding that it was easier for me to grab a quick 30 minutes to exercise during little J’s nap, rather than trying to find time to schlep to the gym a few times a week. I already have a medicine ball and kettlebells, but I’ve had to get creative and use my stairs for the knee-ups and weighted steps and a little bench for the decline push-ups. Here’s a nice guide to how you can use furniture, stairs and other items at home to work out with.

Have you done Kayla’s guides? What has your experience been?

Fitting in workouts with a baby

Photo by David Marcu

I have a soon to be one year old son who still doesn’t really nap at home, no family near by and a husband that works long hours. I also really want to workout. How do I fit it in? It’s been tough, but I’ve finally worked out a strategy that suits my life right now.

1. Walking everywhere

I try to walk rather than taking the bus and this means that I average about 4 miles a day walking and pushing a pram with a 10kg baby in it! I track my steps using my Fitbit, which makes me accountable, challenges me to move more and walk at least 10,000 steps a day.

2. Kettlebells!

It’s easy to pick up a kettlebell and do 50 swings while the baby is playing. I’m still trying to teach him that the kettlebells aren’t a toy and that he doesn’t need to hold on to my legs while I’m swinging, so I’ve accepted that there’s going to be a bit of stopping and starting for the moment, but it always feels good to get a quick 50-100 swings in when I can.

Kettlebells are a good full-body workout that anyone can do, as long as they have the right form and technique. Here’s a site that will give you a primer on good kettlebell technique.

3.  Fast workouts – 7 minutes or less

I use a few apps that have a high intensity circuit routine that allows you to exercise your entire body in just 7 minutes, using only your bodyweight. There’s a lot of science behind this technique, which basically consists of 12 exercises (squats, planks, crunches, jumping jacks, etc) that you do for 30 seconds at a high intensity with a 10 second rest in between.

I’ve been using the 7 Minute Workout app and finding it really effective. If I have more time, I’ll do another circuit or two, but it’s great knowing that in just seven minutes, I can get in a great full body workout that gets me good and sweaty!

4. 30 day challenges

I’m the type of person that likes a bit of accountability and a 30 day challenge is perfect for me, because I’m quite competitive and don’t like to fail. I’ve been using the 30 Day Fitness Challenges app, which is great, because it offers so many different types of challenges, like a 30 day plank challenge and a 30 day ab challenge, which get progressively harder as the 30 days go on.

While the baby is playing, it’s easy to get down and do 20 crunches or 30 squats. The challenge is when he thinks what I’m doing is funny and toddles over to grab my legs while I’m squatting or crawls over me while I’m doing situps!

I’ve finally gotten into a nice rhythm where I’m able to do some form of exercise every day. This is great for shaking off the cobwebs when I’ve had a tough night with the baby. It also sets a great example for baby J – not that he needs it as he is very active!

Getting strong again.

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Before I got pregnant, I was in a nice groove of eating primally, working out with my kettlebells 4-5 times a week and doing a lot of walking. When I got pregnant, I had the best intentions, especially about working out.

And for the first three months, I did. I was diligent about getting a good kettlebell workout in, so much so, that I lost weight in my first trimester and bought a 16kg kettle

bell because the 12kg one was getting too easy, especially on swings.

Then I got really, really sick. The kind of sick that makes you miserable, especially when you’re sick in the coldest winter London has had for years.

So I stopped exercising, gave into my pregnancy cravings and did a lot of sitting around on the couch.

As my son has grown and wants me to carry him or rock him to sleep, it’s made me realise that I need to get stronger. It’s one thing carrying a 6kg baby, it’s another thing t

o carry around a wriggly 9.5kg eleven month old that doesn’t want to go into his buggy. So it’s time to properly get back into my fitness. I walk miles everyday, but that’s not going to make me stronger. I need to lift (swing!) heavy and do this consistently.

Kettlebells – welcome back, old friends!

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