womens weight training

The truth about weight training for women

Myth 1 – I don’t like weight training because I don’t want to bulk up and look like a man.

While men tend to find it easy to build up their muscles with a few gym sessions and a decent diet, women simply don’t have the testosterone to create as much muscle.

If you’ve seen photos of female body builders or figure competitors that scared you, keep in mind that no one looks like that by accident! Those ladies work incredibly hard for years to build up their muscles, and then follow the strictest diet to lose fat to expose every rippling muscle.

However, a physique that seems fit and shapely to one woman might seem too muscly for another, so if you ever do feel that you’re putting on more muscle than you like, all you have to do is cut down on your weight training. You’ll soon see those muscles shrink without regular training to stimulate them.

Myth 2 – If I do lots of ab/butt/leg exercises I’ll create a flatter belly/smaller butt/slimmer legsDespite what those infomercials might have us believe, the truth is that the only way to get smaller anywhere on your body is lose weight from all over your body. The “simple” answer is to burn more energy and eat less food.

Don’t give up on those strengthening exercises though – increasing your tone and strength does improve the way you look, and a toned body can actually look slimmer than a “squishier” body at the same size.

Myth 3 – If my main goal is to lose weight, I should focus on achieving that before I start lifting weightsIf you’re losing weight, some of the weight you lose won’t be fat but will come from your muscles if you’re not regularly lifting weights. This means that when you reach your goal weight, you’ll have lost fat but may have also lost significant amounts of muscle tone and strength. As well as helping you preserve your muscle tone, lifting weights can help you burn calories for hours after your workout!

While body works hard to recover from your weight training session, your metabolic rate is increased for several hours afterwards, and you burn more calories in those hours than you would if you’d just done a cardio session. An ideal weekly routine for fat loss is 3 to 6 cardio sessions and 2 weight lifting sessions – just make sure you take a day’s rest so you can train hard again next week.

Myth 4 – Only young women can safely start weight trainingEvery woman needs to do weight-bearing exercise to improve and maintain our bone density, prevent osteoporosis, and reduce our risk of falls. If you want to be a healthy and independent 90-year-old granny, starting lifting weights today. Start off as easy as you need to, but make sure you challenge yourself to increase the weight you use each week as your strength improves.

nutrition

Maximum nutrition, minimum fuss

When most of your meals come from your own kitchen, you tend to eat fresher, more nutritious food. You can also control the portion sizes and it’s easier to maintain a healthy weight.

Here are 3 types of meals and snacks with endless variations that take just a few minutes work.

Soups

Cook once, eat all week. A store of soup in the freezer means you always have something to take for lunch, or comfort food waiting for you after a long day. Soups are a great way to get your veges in and enjoy lentils, beans and chickpeas which are high in fibre, a good source of protein, low in fat and very satisfying.

Make chunky soups like minestrone, or corn and chicken; blend up smooth soups from roast pumpkin, or potato and leeks, or any veges you have hanging in your crisper. Try something a bit different like chickpea and lemon soup or beef and Chinese five spice soup. Check out recipe books or search online for hundreds of other warming ideas.

Smoothies

Throw a few carefully chosen ingredients in a blender and 30 seconds later you can get on with your day, sipping a delicious meal as you go. You can even whizz it up the night before to drink on the way to work or straight after your work out.Just remember that if you have a smoothie, it is a meal itself, so don’t double-up with another snack if you don’t need it.

Bliss balls

Have you seen these balls proliferating everywhere from health food shops to farmers markets to your friend’s kitchen? They’re delicious sweet mouthfuls, high in fibre and nutrients, made from natural ingredients like dates, nuts, seeds, cacao and spices. They’re easy to pack and eat and all you need is a food processor and a few minutes to roll them into balls.

Start with the classic: equal parts almonds and dates. Add cocoa or cacao powder for something that’s very nearly as good chocolate and so much healthier. Leave out the nuts and use sunflower seeds instead, or use other nuts like macadamias and cashews. Mix it up with a spiced combo of dried apple, dates, sultanas and cinnamon – or anything that sounds good to you. Bliss balls are popular at morning teas and parties as a healthy sweet.

What’s your go to time-saver for healthy food, fast?

meditation

Managing stress through meditation

During my coaching conversations I’ve been discussing stress and recovery. My suggestion to everyone is to try meditation in order to reduce stress and speed up his or her recovery. The consistent response has been, “I don’t have time” or “I’ve tried meditation before and it’s not for me because I find it difficult to concentrate for more than 5 minutes”. Sparked by this constant response I’ve decided to share my thoughts on meditation/mindfulness practice on the move.

I started mediation/mindfulness over two years ago to reduce my stress levels, to develop control over my thoughts and help myself focus for longer. Just like most people I found it difficult to sit-still for more than 5 minutes before getting in my own way with silly distractions and allowing my thoughts to be hijacked by other thoughts that weren’t relevant to me in that moment. Before you know it I’d be on a wild BS thought journey to nowhere…but I persisted with the meditation practice and now it’s part of my daily ritual and I’m loving the benefits.

The fascinating part of this journey is the meditative state that I experience while in a stationary position. I realised that it was the exact state I’d be in whilst exercising and concentrating on running, walking (while in the zone or been in flow!!) I experienced the same state even when I was focused and in deep concentration on work. Meditation/Mindfulness isn’t necessarily about sitting cross-legged and chanting “Ommm”, it has many different formats and the key is to find a modality or way of engaging in a meditation practice that works for you.

The aim of meditation is to return the brain to a still place, the place where no thoughts enter into your mind and you feel connected to all things at once. It is in this stillness that you will begin to find clarity. Meditation helps to reorder and restructure the neural networks in your brain, allowing you to begin to reorder how your brain actually functions. There are many benefits to meditation with a lot of clinical research proving its effects. In fact this technology is so powerful that if pharmaceutical companies could charge for its daily use…….doctors would be negligent for not prescribing it.

Moving meditation/mindfullness is the feeling you get when you are completely aware of your breath and your thoughts are aligned with what your body is doing.

“You should meditation for twenty minutes every day unless you’re too busy; then you should meditate for an hour”
Old Zen adage

Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a technique that anyone can practice; and there is considerable evidence supporting the benefits of living mindfully, such as improving your memory and reducing stress to name a few. You can increase your mindfulness with activities like meditation or yoga. Or just aim to be mindful and pay close attention during every day things like:

Walking – your mindful practice might include:

  • How do your shoes feel against the skin of your feet?
  • How does the ground feel under each foot step?
  • How do your legs feel within their hip joints?
  • How does the skin on your face feel with the sun or wind or slight air movement against it?
  • How does your breath feel against your nostrils, your throat, and your lungs?
  • What’s the temperature of your breath?
  • What’s your rate of breathing of your breath?
  • How do your hair follicles feel? Tight, loose – where on your head?
  • How is the light reflecting off surfaces- leaves, the ground, your skin?

Drinking a cup of tea –your mindful practice might include:

  • How does the cup feel in your hand, are you cradling it, or are you enjoying the shape and strength of the handle?
  • What can you smell?
  • How does you seat feel under your legs?
  • What colour is your tea?
  • How does the tea feel in your mouth?
  • What flavours can you taste?

Meditation and Mindfulness overlap in mindful meditation.

“You must be completely awake in the present to enjoy the tea. Only in the awareness of the present, can your hands feel the pleasant warmth of the cup. Only in the present, can you savor the aroma, taste the sweetness, appreciate the delicacy. If you are ruminating about the past, or worrying about the future, you will completely miss the experience of enjoying the cup of tea. You will look down at the cup, and the tea will be gone.Life is like that. If you are not fully present, you will look around and it will be gone. You will have missed the feel, the aroma, the delicacy and beauty of life. It will seem to be speeding past you. The past is finished. Learn from it and let it go.The future is not even here yet. Plan for it, but do not waste your time worrying about it. Worrying is worthless. When you stop ruminating about what has already happened, when you stop worrying about what might never happen, then you will be in the present moment. Then you will begin to experience joy in life.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh

Meditation on the move is the feeling you get when you are completely aware of your breath and your thoughts are aligned with what your body is doing. Putting on a part of running shoes and still experience the same benefits of psychological disconnection as I would through a sitting meditation, I realise how easy it is increase the meditation into my life. So you have no excuses, start focusing into your favourite exercise/s and let it take you out of your comfort zone

exercise

How to easily motivate yourself by setting clever exercise and weight loss goals

A goal without a plan is just a wish. To move from wishful thinking to actually achieving the health and fitness goal you dream of reaching, you’ll need to support it with a specific plan. If earlier this year you set a new year’s resolution around exercise or weight loss and haven’t yet achieved it, you’re not the only one. Research has shown that about 98% of people who start a weight loss routine by themselves will not succeed!

But don’t be disheartened – there are plenty of people who DO reach their goals. I’m sure you know someone who has successfully lost a significant amount of weight and continues to keep it off. This can be you too.

If you want to lose weight, bear in mind that half a kilogram a week is a realistic and sustainable rate of weight loss. We’ve seen people on reality TV lose multiple kilos each week – but you’ve probably realised this is neither realistic or sustainable for the average person in the real world.

Everyone knows a realistic goal is a “SMART” goal, so start by being realistic and set a goal for the next 3 months. I say 3 months because focusing on a longer period can become too overwhelming, and a shorter period of time may not give us the chance to have made significant progress.

So over 3 months, if you eat well and exercise regularly, you’ll have lost about 6kg. If you think that’s not much compared to how much you have to lose, just picture 12 tubs of margarine on your body!

Losing those 6kgs in 3 months is your first big weight loss goal. Once you achieve it, of course you can take stock and set your next big goal. So now your “SMART” goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic andTime-framed!

Next, you need an exercise plan to burn some extra calories and improve your strength and energy levels. When you want to see results quickly, it can be tempting to plan to exercise almost every day. If you’re already exercising 5 days a week, then this could certainly be an appropriate target for you. However, most of us are more likely to succeed to reaching our exercise target if we aim for something we’re 100% confident we can reach. So if you’re not exercising much now, start by scheduling no more than 3 exercise sessions a week. If you’re still not 100% confident you can fit in 3 exercise sessions, then aim for 2 instead. Being too ambitious means you probably won’t manage to do as many exercise sessions as you promised yourself you would, and chances are you’ll lose motivation and give up altogether. Don’t fall into that 98%!

Once you’ve got into the habit of exercising 2 or 3 times a week for a month or so, then you can review your routine and decide to increase it to 4 or 5 exercise sessions a week.

The next question you’ll probably ask yourself is what type of exercise should you do? Here are some suggestions that can increase your chances of achieving long-term weight loss:

– Book in with a personal trainer: they’ll take care of making sure you’re exercising effectively and safely, and all you have to do is turn up!

– Take a walk: it won’t burn calories as quickly as running, but most people find it easy to motivate themselves to go for a walk and walking reduces your stress levels too, which can reduce overeating. Make it a brisk walk, and of course the longer the walk the better.

– Weight training: when you’re losing weight, you’ll lose some muscle as well as fat. Weight training makes sure you keep your muscle mass, which is critical for maintaining your metabolism and a toned figure.

– Do anything you enjoy! If exercise is fun, you’ll do it, and any activity you actually do will burn a whole lot more calories than an activity you don’t do! Why not try swimming, tennis, gardening, rock climbing, dancing, skipping, beach walking, or chasing the kids around the park?

So now that you know how many times each week you’ll workout and what exercise you’ll do, the most important step is to put these sessions in your diary, on your calendar, or on your fridge, and treat them like any other appointment. If something else comes up, keep your exercise session and find another time or another person to do that something else.

Remember, you and your health are important!

water fitness

Exercising in the summer heat – just add water!

As the weather gets hot and humid it becomes less appealing to go outside to exercise each day.

If we look at the flip slide of this, the warmer weather gives us lots of opportunities to enjoy different types of water-based exercise!

One of the most obvious ways to burn calories is to head down to your local pool and do laps. Mix it up with freestyle, breaststroke, backstroke and even side stroke. If you’re not much of a swimmer, call the pools near you to ask whether they offer adult learn to swim classes or stroke correction classes.

Another idea is to just grab a kickboard! Holding onto the kickboard and kicking up and down the pool is a fantastic workout that will build strong, toned legs with no need to be a confident swimmer. If you’re doing a lot of kicking, you can roll over and kick on your back with the board held across your chest. This balances up the muscles in the front and the back of your legs.

While you’re at the pool, you can also take a break from swimming by jogging up and down in the shallow end. If you have any joint problems you’ll love doing this as you get many of the benefits of running with a fraction of the impact.

Some other water-based workout options include:

  • Kayaking on the river or sea (with lots of splashing to keep you cool!)
  • A beach workout combining walking or running on the sand, with dips into the water to cool down
  • Aqua aerobics classes
  • Deep water running classes

Even though you’re exercising in the water, remember to drink fluids to keep your energy up and to help you recover faster. Have a couple of glasses of water in the hours leading up to your exercise, and drink 500mL for every 30 minutes of exercise (that’s 2 large glasses or 3 medium glasses of water).

eating out

Eating Out

Some general tips to help you choose the healthiest option and minimise fat and energy intake when eating out:

  • Have a small healthy snack before you go out – then you will be less likely to order the biggest thing on the menu because you are so hungry.
  • Ask for a serve of vegetables or salad with the meal if it is not served as part of the meal and eat it first. It is better to fill up on low-energy foods like salads than on something higher energy/fat.
  • Eat slowly and chew your food well. Your brain takes 20 minutes to realise that your stomach is satisfied so you need to give it time to catch up! Also your saliva has special enzymes in it that help break down the food you eat. Chewing your food properly will help your body digest the food better and may avoid indigestion.
  • Order some water to drink with the meal. Water fills in the gaps so you will feel satisfied faster. Have a jug of water at your table and try to have a sip of water for every 3-4 mouthfuls of your food.
  • Be assertive! Ask your waiter for the food you want, eg: salad without dressing (or served separately); vegetables without butter or sauce (or with the sauce served separately). If you are unsure about the way a meal is prepared, it is better to ask than to guess!
  • Aim to limit your alcohol intake – offer to be the driver for the trip home! Alcohol has lots of calories but no other nutrition!

Best Choices

Italian

  • Minestrone or other soup (chose soups with no cream – if you are not sure, just aske)
  • A vegetable entrée with a little parmesan cheese – ask for no butter
  • Tomato-based sauces (eg napoletana) with pasta and meat, poultry and seafood dishes. Spinach and ricotta or pumpkin ravioli
  • Italian crusty bread – no butter Garden, Italian or Greek salads – with the dressing served separately Sorbets or gelati for dessert.

Indian

  • Steamed rice – rather than biriyani, fried or pilau rice
  • Vegetable accompaniments (eg pickles, raita and onion salad) Indian breads – naan, roti or chapatti – ask for no ghee or butter
  • Traditional lentil soup
  • Meat dishes based on yoghurt or tomato instead of creamy curries
  • An entrée – sized serve of tandoori chicken or meat

Japanese

  • Assorted sushi – avoid fried or tempura choices
  • California rolls
  • Miso soup
  • Green tea – often free and will help to make you feel satisfied faster

Thai

  • Clear soups with noodles, meat and vegetables
  • Steamed spring rolls and fish or prawn cakes (not fried)
  • Meat dishes with chilli, lemon grass or soy
  • Steamed, rather than fried, rice or noodles
  • Vegetable dishes with chilli or soy sauce.

Chinese

  • Clear soups with wonton, noodles and vegetables (eg long soup)
  • Steamed dim sims and dumplings – rather than fried
  • Steamed prawns and fish
  • Meat, chicken and fish dishes in chilli, soy or oyster sauce
  • Steamed rice and noodles – rather than fried

Middle Eastern

  • Pita and other flat breads (no butter)
  • Dips (eg hummus, baba ghanoush and taramasalata)
  • Souvlaki or Shish Kebab in moderation (the meat may be high in saturated fat)
  • Cabbage rolls and dolmades ( but check the usual amount of oil)
  • Non-fat sweets (eg Turkish delight) but be aware that they will likely be full of sugar
  • Salads such as tabouli

Mexican and Spanish

  • Frijoles (beans) and salsa (tomato and chilli) dips
  • Gazpacho soup – a spicy chilled tomato and cucumber soup
  • Soft flour and corn tortillas
  • Dishes with meat and cheese toppings served separately so you can decide how much you would like to eat.
  • Always ask for a side salad

chocolate

Combating chocolate cravings

Chocolate holds such a special place in their hearts of most of girls that a lot of men can’t seem to understand it!

Although the antioxidant properties of chocolate often get media attention, unfortunately eating too much of it can easily lead to weight gain and sabotage your health and fitness goals.

So what’s a girl to do?

Swearing off chocolate for the rest of your life is probably not the answer.

There are a few options for getting a chocolate fix while keeping your eating in balance. One way to get a fix is to skip the chocolate for a healthier food that’s still chocolate-flavoured. A small hot chocolate on skim milk, a small chocolate protein shake, or half a chocolate protein bar might do the trick.

The portion size is key here – keeping the portions small mean that you can enjoy the chocolate taste for fewer calories than you would have in a chocolate bar (or in half a block!).

If only actual chocolate will satisfy your tastebuds, another strategy to switch to dark chocolate. Dark chocolate contains more of the healthy flavonoids that have an antioxidant action in our bodies, combating the free radicals that can cause cellular damage. But this is not even the main benefit of dark chocolate for maintaining a healthy weight – the best part is that you get twice as much chocolate flavour with much less sugar, and it’s the sugar rush that causes some people to crave more chocolate than they need and to have difficulty stopping at one piece.

When it comes to chocolate, true satisfaction comes from quality, not quantity. Now that you have your small piece of good quality dark chocolate, think about how much pleasure you want to extract from it. If you pop it in your mouth and immediately chew it up, it will be gone in 5 seconds.

Why not see just how long you can make it last! You could get the same number of calories for several minutes of pleasure. One of the most important things to do when including chocolate in your diet without overdoing it is to plan it.

Choose which days you’re going to eat chocolate, so that you can fit it into your food for the day without going overboard or feeling guilty. Enjoy!

weight loss

Checklist for weight loss success

Most women working towards a weight loss goal have no trouble remembering to check their weight on the scales and their reflection in the mirror. They’re keen to know, “Are the numbers up or down?”, “Am I looking skinnier yet?”.

Sometimes the results of all our hard work are not obvious and sometimes they take time to show up even when we’re doing everythign right, and this can be a bit of a downer. To keep your motivation going, it can be useful to think of other ways to measure your success.

You can do this by paying attention to the healthy things you do for yourself, and looking for other positive outcomes other than weight loss.

Use this checklist every day or whenever you need to check that you’re on the right track and to boost your motivation:

Healthy actions

  • I planned in advance what I would eat today
  • I did some form of physical activity today (including stretches or walking at lunch time)
  • I know what exercise I’m going to do tomorrow and at what time
  • I tried a new exercise
  • I ate fruit and vegetables today
  • I said no to an unhealthy food that I hadn’t planned to eat
  • I took time out to do something relaxing and enjoyable for myself
  • I practiced being assertive and asked my family members to do something that helps me with my fitness goals (e.g. cook a healthy dinner while I’m working out, don’t bring junk food into the house,lookafter the kids while I go for a walk).
  • Igave myself a compliment today

Positive outcomes 

  • My clothes are feeling looser
  • Someone complimented me on how I look
  • I feel healthier and more energetic
  • I improved in my workouts: I increased my weights or increased how long I ran for

exercise cool down

Are cool downs a waste of time?

You made it to the gym or the jogging track, pushed yourself, and now it feels like your work is done.

Do you really have to make time for a cool down?

What’s the ideal cool down look like?

The Australian Institute of Sport says cooling down is important for helping your body slow down and recover. But there’s no need to add another 15 to 20 minutes of light cycling or walking onto your workout.

Just five minutes of walking around the gym refilling your water bottle, putting your weights away, and walking between stretches will do it.

Stretches to prevent muscle soreness?

If you’d been given the impression that stretching after exercise stops muscle soreness, a systematic review in the British Medical Journal says the research doesn’t support this. Nevertheless lots of athletes feel it does help reduce their post-workout muscle soreness.

What to stretch?

All the muscles you know you worked, and any that you know are chronically tight. If you run a lot, your calves, hamstrings, ITB, quads and piriformis (so basically, your entire leg), will need stretching out.

If you sit at a desk all day, your pecs and hip flexors are probably tight.

How long to hold them?

The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) says to hold static stretches for just 10 seconds immediately after your training. It won’t take you long at all. Longer static stretches that help you maintain adequate flexibility certainly do help prevent pain, injury and unattractive posture.

Rather than adding them to your workout the ASC suggests holding these longer stretches for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before bed.

It’s a great way to wind down for a relaxing, restorative sleep.

avocado superfood

3 smoothie-boosting powerfoods that your body craves

When you have to eat on the run, smoothies and shakes are your nutritional saviour – an easy way to get your fruit, plus protein in the form of yoghurt, cottage cheese or protein powder.

If you and your blender are already old friends, here are three ingredients that will jazz up your smoothies and shakes.

Avocado

Why it’s good for you:

  • includes anti-inflammatory nutrients, which could reduce your post-workout soreness
  • the healthy fat helps your body absorb nutrients in the rest of your smoothie. (Some of the vitamins in your other ingredients are fat soluble and your body absorbs more of them when you eat some fat)
  • gives your smoothie a lower GI (so the carbohydrates from other ingredients like fruit and yoghurt are digested more slowly).

But what does it taste like? It doesn’t taste like much. But it does make your smoothie lusciously creamy.

Flaxseed Oil

Why it’s good for you: It provides fantastic omega-3 fatty acids, in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). I’m guessing no-one wants a smoothie to taste like fish so although ALA is not as easily used by the body as fish oil, this is a good way to get some omega-3s. Omega-3s are essential for healthy hearts, eyes, and moods, as well as being anti-inflammatory.

In fact, when Harvard University and the University of Washington conducted a massive study with nearly 2,700 participants last year, they found that consuming omega-3 fatty acids was associated with a significantly reduced risk of death.

That’s a pretty powerful benefit. But what does it taste like?

Don’t drink it straight but with just a teaspoon or so in your smoothie or shake, you won’t even know it’s there.

Cacao

Why it’s good for you: It’s not cocoa powder (which is heavily processed), so it has more of its nutritional value intact. Flavonoids are the antioxidants which give cacao and chocolate their good rap. The more antioxidants you eat, the greater your body’s ability to counteract free radicals, ageing and disease.

But what does it taste like? A bit like you’ve added some good quality dark chocolate to your smoothie or shake. (What more do you need to know?)

What’s your favourite quirky and nutritious ingredient?