24 December 2011

Friend, therapist, lover….Or are you looking for a trainer?




The following is a list of what I consider important credentials when searching for or assessing your current personal trainer. It is by no means exhaustive and in no particular order….

1: Is your trainer qualified to a nationally recognised standard which meets or equates to at least a REPs level 3? And do they belong to a national umbrella type organisation to recognise this for example REPs or the NRPT (national register of personal trainers) And if so, they should hold public liability (and personal indemnity) insurance to cover them for the manner in which they are training you.

2: Before you start (ed) any physical training a good PT will sit you down and run through what can be quite a varied initial assessment but should at least include a health screen to determine any familial health issues, current personal health profile including any medication you may be taking, injuries or mobility limitations, any historical health concerns which may be relevant, your blood pressure and resting heart rate, some kind of body composition analysis, some kind of fitness test, possibly a strength and flexibility test too. You should be asked to complete a PAR-Q form and your trainer should take a note of your details including someone to contact in case of emergency.

3: If your trainer is experienced and established in the fitness community expect them to have strong links with osteopaths and physiotherapists and to know when to say “I dont know the answer to that” and use their support network. Expect them to have good healthy relations with other trainers and know that they meet or talk regularly to share training tips, coaching advice etc… and that building and sharing knowledge is the key to promoting health and fitness as cognitive training not just physical.

4: Your trainer should know that RUN (Blachington road, Hove), The JOG Shop (George st. Kemptown) and SHEACTIVE (North street, Brighton)are really the only places to purchase adequate footwear for first timers for any kind of fitness program. By all means repeat buy from another shop, but for the first time the advice and meticulous attention to detail these guys pay to your footwear selection is unsurpassable.

5: The relationship you build with your trainer is special. Sometimes it can feel like a therapy of sorts; and in fact studies prove that having someone to listen to you and bounce ideas off whilst moving your body aerobically is an extremely effective form of counselling. But be careful with this delicate balance, as although your trainer is aware of these ramifications they are ultimately providing a physical training service to you. And it needs to remain as such to maintain a working healthy effective fully functioning relationship. On the flip side you need to be aware not to balance things out too much, so if you find that your trainer has become more of a friend than a professional to you need to start considering whether it is worth revising your relationship. For the relationship to work optimally it needs to be made clear that your trainer is providing you a service, that there is no option for a cup of tea instead of a session when you are not in the mood, that you dont regularly see your trainer pissed out on the town, that your trainer doesn’t regularly lament on the difficulties in their life/relationship/work etc… Your trainer should be a friendly trustworthy informative motivational coach who listens well and provides empathetic and non judgemental personal support.

6: If your trainer has competed or raced at any level in his or her sport they will have an edge over one who trains for passion alone. That edge is purely and simply a psychological experience that they are able to tap into and translate to you when building programs or helping you prepare yourself mentally for your own fitness goals. This becomes relevant predominantly when you yourself are training for a particular event, so ensure to look for a trainer who has “been there and done that” so they can help you train to gain the psychological edge for that sport which is the main advantage at “show time”

7: Make sure you pick a trainer who is interested in learning. Whether its talking or training with colleagues, going on courses, reading and writing papers, going to talks, seminars, shows, masterclasses etc… they need to keep up with the ever changing advice, methods and equipment on the market. At the moment its all about high intensity short duration blast type workouts; does your trainer know what tabata training is? how to use a kettlebell? what functional strength is all about? can they combine these things with other facets of fitness training and maintain a balance or have they got sucked into a fad?

8: A good trainer should be able to take you into the middle of a flat field with no equipment what so ever, not even a watch, and supply you with a creative fun exhaustive and inspirational session of the top off his/her head. In my opinion 😉

24 December 2011

15 most memorable training sessions




IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER:

1 = Undercliff path runs before they widened the path meant that when the tide came in, waves would crash against the wall and arc up in the air over the path until they came crashing down. You would run in ankle deep water anyway but trying to avoid being totally annihilated by the wave overhead by timing sprints through the arch of water overhead on thin parts of the path was exhilarating!

2 = The classic Rocky training session that all local fighters know as “Wilson ave steps” The first time i did these was with a club id only been fighting for a little while, as usual was the only female in the club, and i was young…all of which meant i had something to prove. And i did 10 continuous sprints after running up Wilson’s avenue and back down with the other fighters….but it was one of those killer sessions where so much pressure was on the performance i almost lost myself i had to dig so far within!

3 = Kicking practise with Roberto the kid! Rob was a 16yr old black belt karate kid who used to help me with accurate kicking techniques. In this session nearly 10years ago practising a spinning hook kick he accidentally planted (or did i walk into?)his big toe firmly in my eye socket, leaving me with the strangest colour black eye I’ve ever had!

4 = A session conducted by a friend of mine training for the tough guy competition where after 40mins of non stop kettlbell circuits we ran along the stones on the beach 1mile and back through the sea at waist height fully clothed in winter at dusk in the rain with a strong rip tide. Me laughing uncontrollably and hysterically at the cold water and ridiculousness of our session.

5 = In a kickboxing class trying to get one of my most promising and diligent 16 stone Albanian participants to understand the meaning of pulling his punches by sacrificing myself in the ring!

6 = Running, or attempting to, in 98% humidity and 40 degree heat in the monsoon season Darwin. The most extraordinary feeling of drowning in a sauna whilst outside!

7 = Trail running in Kavos, Corfu at dusk alone loosing my way and getting stuck in the hills for hours where the local rumour was that the Albanian Mafia hide out after swimming across. Fear like I’ve never known. Legs cut to smithereens by bramble as i scrabbled in blind panic to eventual freedom!

8 = Performing a weight lifting exercise in a gym before i had any lifting experience moons ago which caused my right shoulder to dislocate. Gym staff tried to pop it back in but finally called an ambulance to take me to the Royal Sussex for gas and expert manipulation.

9 = The very first time i was running up at Hollingbury fort on a crisp sunny day and saw the panoramic view extending from Ovingdean to Worthing and out to the isle of Wight, feeling alive and strong, reminding me of my life spirit.

10 = Repeatedly cycling down King George the VI avenue, known locally as snakey hill as fast as humanly possible trying to set off the speed camera at the bottom (nope….not once, despite breaking the 30mph limit)

11 = The London marathon. New socks id bought myself for race day with extra cushioning around the heel meant my shoe fit 1mm more snugly than it had in any training session, so that by half way a liquid filled blister had formed across the whole sole of my foot making foot placement unsteady as the fluid sloshed around the blister. And by 18miles it had popped, on both feet, so that i was running on raw flesh for the last 8miles….that day i learnt a lot about grit!

12 = Without question running into the sunset “in the zone” along Brighton’s seafront is one of the most amazing feelings in the world. Calm serenity, beautiful nature and the warm late summer sun gently beating down on your back as you carve out step by step the way to your soul.

13 = The day i bench pressed my own body weight for 10 reps was a day and a half! No one was there to share the moment….

14 = The winter of 2008. Evening sessions were taken up by 3 clients back to back all on long distance running programs. The seafront became my enemy as night after night id spend 3 long hours running in sleet and hail with them. When hail hits your face at an angle with ferocity it hurts. When it is combined with spray from lashing seas it becomes hellish.

15 = A sparring night at an old semi contact club in Fareham way back in the day; 4 grown men sitting on the floor wasted from sparring. Me standing in the centre of the dojo asking who was next….oh how we all laughed and laughed, the scene was just so ridiculous.

24 December 2011

Brighton loves you




The main reason I found a place that I could call home in Brighton lies in its unspoken rule of inclusivity. I moved here when i was 21 and potless, I had a few bags of stuff and a Renualt 5 and worked on a farm in West Sussex.
Back in those days the only thing I cared about was being free, and that meant having a motor!She was a banger, I don’t recall what was wrong with her but by the time she made it to Brighton the only way she would start was a rolling start or a jump if she konked out on the flat.
I was strong and powerful in spirit and would never hesitate to charge down hills with the driver door open and my hand on the steering wheel building up enough speed before I hopped in and flipped her into 2nd gear….but when it came to flat starts I often found it hard to build up enough speed to do the same.
To this day I recall the pivotal moment of the start of my love affair with Brighton was in one of those flat starts, early one morning on my way to the farm when some fella stopped his car at the lights I was stranded at and helped push my car with me. My exact thoughts were “How refreshingly unassuming people seem here, it doesn’t seem to matter in this city that I’m some ragamuffin” I just wasn’t used to it, Southampton is quite a different kind of city! Not a big deal you may think but its kept me here for 15years!
And from the farm a side step into the gym; an extension of the love of movement and physical prowess. But most importantly a place where everyone is stripped down to their bare essentials. What I mean by that is that millionaires rub shoulders with musicians, black people with white, gay with straight and men with women. Its a melting pot where the only interest in all the threads of the all inclusive Brightonian demographic is that of fitness. Yet again a place that I can call home, somewhere that I can be myself and grow and learn irrespective of what society sees me as.
I think we all love that, there is a commonality running through our band of merry warriors that unites us all. Yet again its beauty lies in its unassuming unspoken (none of them read this anyway;) acceptance. Portrayed perfectly by an old kickboxing instructor of mine: We were sitting next to each other at a show and I remember saying to him “That blokes shit isn’t he?” to which my instructor said “No he’s great for just getting into the ring”

24 December 2011

Yummy things




Who would have thought being a veggie would make you want to cook? Veggie’s eat a bland diet full of pasta, cheese and lentils dont they?….NOT SO!
The free life nutrition plan ive been following for the last couple of years has taken its next turn…these days its no meat, fish nor wheat and the only dairy involved is that from a bottle of milk with a green top (raw milk)
Mainly still issues around morality for me on the meat and dairy thing, but the wheat thing has stemmed from an interest in the paleolithic eating movement thats growing in popularity of late…more on all that in another post.
With such constraints on what Im willing to ingest it became immediatley apparent that my familiar methods of procuring food were not going to be as possible and I have found myself having to organise my time a little more efficiently if it was going to work.
Lunches out of Tesco’s is not really an option unless you go for a bean salad…they’ve got some nice one’s in take out boxes but its soooo boring after a couple of days. I have made some corkers though and i thought id share a couple of my favourites.
I enjoy flavourful, heavily spiced foods. I also cannot cook following recepies so the following may turn out slightly differntly from mine if followed as the amounts are very approximate:

Spiced parsnip nut burgers:
1xsweet potato
3xparsnips
1xfresh chilli
1xstick lemon grass
mixed spice (smallish teaspoon)
1xbunch corriander
4xcloves garlic
2xred onions
2xlarge bags unsalted mixed nuts
salt & pepper

Fry onions. Add crushed garlic, chilli, lemon grass and let it all soften. Peel and dice potato and parsnip and add with a small amount of water. Cover and let roots soften and water evaporate entirely. Crush the nuts in carrier bags with a hammer and add with the mixed spice, salt and pepper. Let it all heat through before you add the corriander. Take off heat and whizz it up with a hand blender then make the mush into burger shapes and place on a baking tray. Makes about 6 fat burgers.

Root vegetable and olive mash:
3xred onions
2xsweet potatos
5xparsnips
5xcarrots
1xsmall turnip
1xtub black pitted olives
5xsundried tomatos in olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1cm cubed root ginger
1xstick lemon grass
1xfresh chilli
mixed herbs
1xbunch corriander
1xbunch parsley
sprinkle of cinnamon
small teaspoon nutmeg
salt & pepper

Fry onions in oil with garlic, lemon grass, chilli and ginger. Add diced potatoes, parsnips, carrots and turnip. Add water and cover until veg are soft and water has evaporated. Add sundried tomatoes, mixed herbs, cinnamon, nutmeg and olives. Heat for a while before finishing with all the chopped herbs, salt and pepper. When its all a mush blend it with a hand blender, if you want a soup instead of a tapenade texture then add water. Makes enough for 10

24 December 2011

Brightonfit Summer Olympics 2010




On the 3rd July 2010 13 brave olympiads turned up with about 100 of their friends and families for support (A rather amazing number of whom had bad legs, backs and necks thus preventing entry!)
There were 8 events spread between the outside track and the two indoor arenas.
4 of the events were purely physical ranging from climbing the garage wall to dragging a punchbag with a rider on it down the garden.
1 was logistical.
1 was a coordination test.
1 was a test of visual dexterity
and 1 was a mental agility test.
The diversity of olympiads was beautiful; a 6ft5″ 55yr old gardner, an english student, a gym bunny, and a couple of chancers….
The crab race was the first event. It brought all competitors together at the start of the games after which they were split into groups. The start was staggered and olympiads were behaving sportingly:

At the first corner, a few olympiads began josteling for position:

And from then on the day brought out the competitive streak in everyone. The drag and ride prooved to be the deciding event for the leg muscles of a few the next day or two. The winner (in an amazing 9 secs) was the half man half machine Gareth Edge:

Caber tossing took place in a shaded corner of the stadium, but the judges were no less vigilant and measured to the millimetre each and every toss that got a white flag:

…And just when everyone was nearly spent….they had to collect in arena 2 for some flexing of a very different sort of muscle in the mental agility test:

Machine man took first but a galent second place was awarded to Chris Angell:

And as the day drew to a close many of the “injured and wounded” raced over to Gareth telling him they were going to de-throne him next year….lets see how their injury rehabiliataion goes first eh?
Well done to all who took part competing, serving food and drink, MC’ing, cooking, judging and playing music to help make the day a really good laugh!

24 December 2011

The way of the Homo sapien




Humankind gradually evolved during the Paleolithic era. Paleolithic hunting and gathering peoples ate primarily meat, fish, shellfish, leafy vegetables, fruit, nuts and insects in varying proportions.
The Paleolithic diet (also known as the paleodiet or the caveman diet) is a modern diet that seeks to eliminate diseases of affluence from contemporary industrial society, by replicating the dietary habits of Paleolithic hunter-gatherers. By this we usually refer to type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, because they ate mostly lean meats and plants and frequently engaged in intense physical activity.
So the theory goes that since the homo sapien appeared about 200,000 years ago our metabolic requirements haven’t changed that much despite the obvious transformation in our lifestyles.
Try typing paleolithic diet into a google search and see how popular the movement has become….everyone from dieters and athletes through to the office worker and mum at home are trying this one. Its reaching Atkins proportions!
Personally i love the fact that people have recognised how to improve the foods we have to eat and are moving in the right direction to fix it. What needs to happen now is an equally popular yet much more sustainable safety net diet plan needs to be promoted to catch the people who fall off the paleolithic wagon and provide a stepping stone for those who want to try it. As i see it,the problem is that unlike the first homo sapiens food for us has turned into a pleasure rather than a functionality. Meaning we place emphasis on the way it is prepared, tastes and presented. And lets be honest a huge hunk of meat, with a side serving of grains aint exactly nuvo is it?
So its sustaining the diet which seems to be the problem, mostly the problem with most diets. Id like to see it not being called the paleolithic diet but instead something like “the way of the homo sapien” or how about “nutrition for humans” I think we should be re-educating the kids with this stuff….when the hell is that food pyramid going to go? everyone’s been talking about it for over a decade….but no ones got the gumption to screw the dairy industry and come to mention it the pharmaceutical industry either. Anyway staying on the topic of the day the following is a list of the dos and donts of the way of the homo sapien:

Meats and Eggs
Meats (including seafood) and eggs are perhaps the most important components of the Paleolithic Diet. Ideally, the animals from which the eggs and meat come from are fed a natural (to the animal) organic diet. That is, chickens have access to greens, insects, etc, as well as grain. Cattle eat grass and other pasture greenery. Fish should come from the wild, or at least be fed what wild fish eat.
In any case, meats should be free of breading of any kind.
Loren Cordain (The Paleo Diet) believes we should seek out low-fat meat sources, while others disagree. His reasoning is that today’s meats are much higher in saturated fat so we should seek out low fat meats and then supplement with fats from other sources.

Vegetables
Vegetables are encouraged, although some versions of the diet except green beans and peas as they are legumes. Some versions simply say that if it can’t be eaten raw, don’t eat it (though this doesn’t mean that it must be eaten raw, only that it should be able to be eaten raw). Potatoes and other starchy tubers (e.g. cassava) are not allowed.

Fruits
Fruits are generally allowed. Audette (NeanderThin) advises that people who need to lose weight should limit consumption of high sugar fruits. He allows juices in limited quantities. Cordain suggests avoiding juices altogether and limiting dried fruits.

Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are generally allowed, though Cordain suggests that those who want to lose weight limit them to four ounces per day. Note that peanuts are legumes and NOT allowed. Audette doesn’t allow cashews since they can’t be eaten raw. Unsweetened almond milk and coconut milk are often used as substitutes for dairy.

Oils
Though authors vary on recommended oils, basically the consensus seems to be that the oils from allowed plants are fine. Olive oil, nut oils, and flax seed oil are universally endorsed. Cordain recommends canola oil, but not coconut oil. Fish oil supplements are often recommended.

Beverages
Cordain is much more lenient about beverages than Audette. With Audette, it’s water and tea, and limited quantities of juice – specifically no coffee and no alcohol. Cordain anything other than water should only be drunk in moderation, with the following recommendations.
•Diet soda (very controversial in the Paleo community from what I can tell)
•Coffee
•Tea
Also, although in one place Cordain says alcohol “should be limited to an occasional glass of wine, beer, or spirits”, in another place in the book he defines moderation as:
•Wine – 2 4 oz glasses
•Beer – 1 12 oz serving
•Spirits – 4 oz (which is more than is recommended by anyone else, Paleo or not)

24 December 2011

Aqua jogging……?




You’ve picked up an injury, perhaps you’ve run in bad footwear, or on poor ground, maybe you had an accident or are rehabilitating a bad back. Either way all signs are pointing in the direction of low or no impact sporting pursuits to avoid further damage. There are options; pilates, yoga, cycling and rowing to name a few but you want a creative, fun and exhaustive exercise session, something a little different to chop up the monotony of your injury rehabilitation. And the answer is…….run through water, the weightlessness of it takes the load off the joints and makes it low impact. Ideally you should run through water at shoulder height to provide enough support for your entire body, and better still wear a float belt to ensure proper running form. These vests or belts are made of a buoyant foam and come with an adjustable waist. The buoyancy belt should fit snugly so that your head and mouth stays above the water without tilting the head. A belt or vest will also help to support your lower back to provide good posture for running.

Once the vest or belt is secure, head to the deep end of the pool so that you are suspended in the water without your feet touching the bottom of the pool. Look straight forward and not downward. Make sure you do not lean too far forward. Instead, concentrate on having a good posture with only a slight forward lean. Mimic your land running form. Toes should not be pointed, but relaxed and flexible as in running. Focus on keeping a high leg turnover rate by driving the knees as in land running. Aim for a turnover rate of 76 to 80 cycles per minute (cpm). Due to water resistance, this would be equivalent to 88 to 90 cpm on land. Swing your arms as you do on land and keep them close to the body. Keep your hands closed. Do not cup or scull with the hands as this will tend to over exaggerate the upper body movement, avoid any bobbing……have fun!

24 December 2011

Addidas Mi coach review




Not best known as a fan of faff I dubiously set up the Mi Coach on my laptop. Id say my computer knowledge is of an average standard, perhaps my patience is slightly lower than average….however this task in itself presented me a few difficulties. The instructions that come with the product are vauge and assumptive, but with the help of someone a little more patient and a couple of huffs later I managed to acomplish the synchronisation.
My first run with it was what Mi Coach calls a free run where i was able to specify what data from a list of about 8 variables i wanted to collect. The foot pod is based on a stride sensor rather than a GPS and although I didnt have to enter my stride length it seemed to record the overall distance impressively accurately when I checked it on google maps later.
I noticed whilst running was that even though I didnt have a narrative in my headphones I knew my run data was being collected which in itself somehow pushed me on pace wise! It inspired me to program the thing for a coaching run.

Navigating the Mi Coach site was testing and there didnt seem to be a comprehensive nor user friendly help section, what i decided to do was use on of the pre programed race plans to work on my 5k time. The structure of the plan was brilliant I really really liked it.

Mi Coach bases either or in combination (I havent sussed this yet) your heart rate and stride rate on coloured zones. You go from blue to green to yellow to red zones with incresing intensity. Each run has a variable proportion of colour in it depending on your program specifics. You choose the narrative voice from a list of about 10 (too cute for my liking) and plug your MP3 player into it and off you go.

The narrative fades your music to zero when you need to change your pace and commands “speed up to green zone” for example or “slow down to blue zone” and then your music continues. You get a notification at a quater, half, three quaters and 5 mins before the end of your run.
I thouroghly enjoyed running like this, I never once had to look at a watch on my wrist, which I often find distracting as it seems to break my concentration plus I have to make some sort of mental calculation with the data. Having a simple “speed up”, “slow down” or “maintain” command really worked for me.

Synching the unit with the laptop post run couldnt be easier…you just plug it into the USB on your computer and it engages automatically, and directs you to the Mi Coach site where the data you can view is presented either graphically or numerically. Although once again finding what you need on the site is challenging I thought. I managed to stick to the plan for 97% of the time which Mi Coach told me was excellent…I hope i dont let her down next time! 😉

In short its great having someone in your ear pacing you, Mi Coach is light, small, portable and im very much a fan of the coloured zones rather than the raw data being the parameters to work within. Where I would suggest this product could do with improvement is the site navigation and useability

3 August 2011

From a woman’s point of view, Kickboxing interview with British title contender Kirstin Ahmed




Q: You hit and kick people in the head for a living right?

A: I used to get a small payment (larger if I won) whilst I was fighting towards the end of my career. I hung my gloves up in 2004 when I was 30, these days I just teach. It was unfortunately no way near enough to live on and I always maintained a full time job. There isn’t a great deal of money in the sport, particularly for women in the UK. If you can get onto the world stage it is a slightly different story although even then there are still very few full time female athletes.

Q: What kept you going in what must have been a very male dominated sport?

A: Luckily for me I am the kind of person who doesn’t really mind what others think of me or what others are doing around me. Often as the only female training I generated interest, some was useful as it meant I couldn’t shrink into the back of the gym unnoticed and had to perform every single session. The more chauvinistic or amorous attention I generated only fuelled my training to a more intense level to prove what I felt I was worth.

Q: So what does it feel like?

A: Full body mastery is one of the best feelings in the world. Kickboxing is a gruelling sport you have to be ultra fit, walking around in real life with that kind of aerobic capacity and musculature made me feel powerful from the inside out. I felt in control of my life and stable, I felt that knocks in life couldn’t penetrate me, more importantly I felt calm and peaceful….without wanting to sound like a hippy I imagine it to be as close as ill ever experience to a zen like state of mind.

Q: You must have to detest your opponents?

A: It’s easy to see why everyone thinks this to be. Take a look at the sport, the fighters involved and the very nature of the competition. Yes of course it hurts when you get kicked or punched, more so in your mind than through your body’s pain receptors. You are vexed that your opponent managed to outwit you to land a scoring blow on you, or that she found a way through your defence, or caught you out with a trick combination that you fell for. But you absolutely mustn’t lose your cool calm composure or show pain flicker across your face or get mad, you must stay in control keep your poker face and work out a tactical counter to score winning points back. As soon as you get angry and bring hatred amongst other emotion into the ring you will have shown her your hand and lost technical control and it won’t be long before she unpicks you. It is a fundamental winning rule of the fight game.

Q: What happens next?

A: As with any athlete who has given their life over to a passion I found it hard to walk away from the ring. I teach a women’s kickboxing class and run a project called Skilled Company with my friend where we open the boxing gym up for free weekly for 90mins to local youths who have been causing anti social behaviour and are known to the police. It is immensely rewarding on so many levels and I feel blessed to have finally found such a productive and effective release for my passion.

Kirstin Ahmed is a fulltime personal trainer based in the Brighton area. To contact her or find out anything more about women’s boxing and kickboxing go to www.brightonfit.co.uk

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