London is bursting with opportunities to exercise and have fun at the same time. Even though we could do with more green space, particularly in Boroughs like Islington, there are lots of parks to go for a jog, or even just a walk. There are outdoor gyms in some parks, which are free to turn up and use, such as the one in Battersea Park. And all over London there are table tennis tables ready to be played on - you just need to take bats and balls.
UK astronaut Tim Peake blasted off into space at precisely 11:03am GMT on Tuesday 15 December 2015 to join the International Space Station (ISS) 250 miles above the Earth, a six-hour trip. His employer, the European Space Agency has trained him for 6 years leading up to this day, including a rigorous fitness regime. While in space for 6 months, Tim must do 2 hours of resistance exercises every day to prevent his muscles from wasting away in the zero gravity of space. Just as someone lying for weeks in a hospital bed will lose muscle mass very rapidly, so it is with astronauts if they don't exercise daily. Astronauts require high levels of physical co-ordination, proprioception, physical and mental stamina. The 43 year old Army Major and advanced helecopter pilot is well prepared for this mission, named Principa after Isaac Newton's famous book Principa Mathematica.
Grab a sheet of paper and write down what exercise you did last week. Did it include some muscle-building exercises, some cardio exercises for your heart & lungs, some stretching to maintain and improve the flexibility of your muscles and joints, and some recreational exercise like walking or playing sport?
The best way to get fit is to set goals, make an action-plan, and swing into action today. If you have written goals which you refer to regularly, you're more likely to achieve them. Here are a few health & fitness goals to consider:
Lose weight (ie- lose excess body fat. Don't go on crash diets or you'll lose muscle mass, which would be disastrous for your health. Avoid all celebrity diets like the plague)
Improve your physique (muscle-building workouts are the best way to achieve this)
Improve your energy levels (tip: endless cardio to the exclusion of all other exercise is an energy-killer)
Sleep better (without sleeping pills. Britain is hooked on pills to solve problems)
Get rid of your beer belly, spare tyre, bat wings, fat bottom, thunder thighs, or whatever body part you want to improve.
Boost fitness levels to perform better in your favourite sport, play with the kids, enjoy other recreational activities with loved ones!
Raise your energy levels so you're more effective at work or in business. If you're a London lawyer or banker, high energy levels are a must.
If you're still struggling to lose weight, build muscle, get fitter, or a combination of all these goals, check out the tips and action plans on this page and throughout this website. Choose from the headings below, and get started right now!
Warning! Don't make the classic mistake of doing endless cardio exercise in the hope of losing that excess body fat. Get in touch with me right now and I'll get you back on the right track! Cardio is crucial for heart health (lungs too), but it's just one small part of the jigsaw when it comes to fat loss.
(Are you looking for a personal trainer in Holland Park or anywhere in central London? Click the link, and when you're happy with my rates and cancellation policy, get in touch and let's get started this week. Life is short and procrastination is a killer).
If you need some new exercises and workout techniques to build more muscle, check out the Build Muscle section.
You'll see that there's a separate page for each muscle group. You'll find the links in the left hand menu. I once had a personal trainer in north London who gave me a lot of useful advice on training specific muscle groups (he was a Russian bodybuilder), and I've included them all in this section. If you're looking to build big shoulders, big biceps, that V shape back, firmer bum, slim waist and six pack, check out the muscle building pages.
Check out the Gym Buddy page to see how you can benefit from having a gym buddy. If you can't afford a personal trainer, a gym buddy in London with similar goals to yours is the next best thing. You'll have someone to motivate you to achieve your fitness goals faster, and someone to hold you accountable if you slack off.
There's also a directory of gyms in London if you're looking for a gym near you. If you're looking for a gym-based personal trainer, this directory of London gyms will give you the contact details you need.
When I say lose weight, I mean lose excess body fat .It's an important distinction, because everyone who makes the mistake of going on crash diets might lose weight, but you'll mainly be losing muscle, water, vital glycogen stores, and bone density. Your aim should be to lose unwanted body fat, so avoid crash diets like the plague.
For weight-loss exercises you can start adding to your regime right now, explore the Lose Weight section. Maybe you want to lose that beer belly (or spare tyre, where the fat goes all the way around your middle), or you feel your thighs or bum are too fat. Whatever you do, don't rely on diet alone to lose weight, you need to exercise too.
By far the most effective way to lose weight consistently is to find a physical activity you enjoy, so check out the extensive directory of Sports & Activities in London. The biggest section at the moment is tennis courts and tennis clubs in London.
If you're looking to tone up, check out the directory of Pilates studios in London. Another great way to stay toned is swimming. See what London has to offer in on the Swimming page. There are also some fantastic lidos in London - great in the summer, refreshing in the winter if you're tough enough to withstand the cold.
How to boost your cardiovascular fitness
Also known as aerobic fitness, this is the type of exercise that strengthens your heart and lungs. Check out the cardio exercise page.
If you puff and gasp after walking up the stairs, or running for a bus, you need to make cardio fitness a priority. A great test of fitness is to walk up the stairs of Covent Garden tube station rather than taking the lift. Have you tried it? Health Warning: don't attempt it if you have a heart problem!
Click here to contact me and tell me how you've incorporated more activity into your life, and I'll post more replies next week.
Mary in SW1 says,
"My personal trainer bought me a pedometer, and now I aim for 10,000 steps a day. I'm now walking all over London, and I'm addicted to reaching my daily target. I've found that I tend to use the car less, in order to get more walking done. It's also much less hassle to walk, as there's no need to find a parking place, and it's good exercise carrying the shopping too."
Gordon in NW1 says
"Playing frizbee in Regents Park with my son has proved a good way to get more active. He seems to have more energy than me!"
"Can I build muscle and burn fat at the same time?"
Definitely you can. Building muscle is a very effective way to burn more fat. When you build muscle, you will automatically start burning more fat, because the more muscle you have, the more metabolically active you are generally, as muscle burns fat (and carbohydrates too) as a source of energy in your everyday life. Your resting metabolic rate will rise, which means you'll be burning more fat 24 hours a day. Your muscles become a fat burning furnace. Don't think you have to lose weight before you can build muscle, or you'll be losing out on the best way to lose weight.
"I'm really skinny and underweight. How can I bulk up fast?"
To build up your body you need to focus on three things: nutrition, exercise, and sleep. Neglect any one of these and you'll sabotage your goals. As a personal trainer, most of my London clients want to lose weight, but a few have wanted to build up and gain weight. Don't make the mistake of eating tonnes of everything, or you'll just put on too much body fat, and that's the last thing you need. Eat clean, which means no junk food, no processed food, no fizzy drinks. You need to eat 6 times a day, each meal consisting of a balance between all the nutrients your body needs to grow big. I offer a 2 week online nutrition coaching package for people just like you, and it's only £25 for the whole 2 weeks. I'll teach you what to eat to build yourself up, and monitor your food diaries. You can submit up to 14 days worth of food diaries during the fortnight's coaching, so make the most of it!
"Which is better for fat loss, weight training or cardio training?"
Weight training is best, for the reasons above. You'll burn fat and build muscle at the same time. Cardio exercise is vital for heart and lungs and circulation health, but it's not the most efficient way to burn fat. Many people get confused and ask "what's better for weight loss, cardio or weight training" - the key is fat loss not just weight loss. If the weight you're losing is muscle or water or glycogen stores (carbs stored in your muscles and liver) then that's not healthy weight loss. The key is to lose excess fat.
Beware of commercial diets which promise you'll lose a large amount of weight in a short time. You might lose a lot of weight, but only some of this will be fat. It's excess fat you want to lose, not healthy bodyweight. The best way to lose weight is to lose weight slowly and keep it off.
"Do you need the right genetics to build muscle?"
Everyone can build muscle, but genetics will determine how fast and how much muscle you build. Don't use 'poor genetics' as an excuse not to train as hard as you can to get fit and toned. Everyone can achieve a good physique with the right amount of dedication. Not everyone can be an Arnold Schwarzenegger, but you can make significant changes to your body whatever your genetics.
"What exercises are best for a flat stomach?"
You need to be doing several things if you want a flat stomach. The key is to burn off the excess fat around the stomach, which is achieved by a combination of exercise and healthy eating. Just doing sit-ups and nothing else, will not achieve a flat stomach, although abs exercises will help to strengthen and develop the abdomnial muscles. But you can't spot-reduce fat by doing lots of sit-ups. Fat is lost throughout the body, not just the body part you train, so focus on exercising and developing the larger muscle groups. The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate, so you'll be burning more fat 24 hours a day.So exercises like squats and lunges (for the legs and glutes), and weight training for the major muscles of the upper body (chest and back and shoulders) will build muscle, which in turn will burn more fat, including fat from your stomach, which will eventually reveal toned abs.
Whether you achieve a chiselled six pack (or washboard stomach as it's sometimes called) does depend to a degree on genetics, but everyone can achieve a flat stomach. It just depends how much work you're prepared to do to achieve it, and how smart you work too. That's where a personal trainer can help, to channel your efforts effectively.
If you are diabetic, check out the page on exercise for diabetics. If you're looking for a personal trainer in London to help you control your type 2 diabetes, I have experience of advising people with this condition.
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