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Be honest. How supportive are you towards helping your partner reach their fitness goals? In my experience as a personal trainer, it is clear that family and friends have a huge influence on an individual's probability of success in achieving their target, from weight-loss to running a marathon. 

Let's face it - any goal worth achieving involves an element of sacrifice.  If someone is devoting a lot of time to training, this could mean spending less time with their partner.  But it doesn't always have to!  It is fantastic when I see other halves adopting the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy when their partner starts a new fitness training regime.  They find that the time spent together - cycling, running or walking, for example, can turn out to be the best quality time they have spent together in a long while: enjoying the great outdoors together free from the incessant interruptions of modern technology. It can work well even if you are at different fitness or motivation levels - a partner accompanying the occasional long run on bike, for example, may be an easier sell than them undertaking all your marathon training!

Support towards a fitness goal doesn't stop with the training - a partner's influence can be even more important when it comes to food shopping and mealtimes.    If you are lucky enough to have a partner who does most of the cooking, don't expect them to cook two separate meals if you don't fancy the healthy food that they are preparing (yes, believe it or not this does happen!). Also, if you know your other half is trying to lose weight, don't tempt them with offers to order take-away!

If you are really honest, does part of you worry that you may look bad in comparison if your partner succeeds?  Why not see their ambition as an opportunity rather than a threat?  Get on board and exercise more and eat more healthily.  You will always be much stronger as a couple working together towards a common goal.

 
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I was originally introduced to Fartlek training by highly-respected Swindon Supermarine rugby coach, Steve Bartlett.  It was very much in keeping with his no-nonsense approach to fitness training.  The beauty of Fartlek training lies in its simplicity and intensity. If you are looking for a straightforward but highly effective way of improving your running speed, then look no further.

The name "Fartlek" literally translates from the Swedish as "speed play".  It is deliberately less structured than sprint interval training.  You can Fartlek anywhere, with no equipment - you don't even need a stopwatch.  In Fartlek training, the key is intensity variation and interval randomisation.  Sessions use different paces - e.g. sprint, jog and walk, to complete a series of relatively short and varying distances. For example, you could jog 20m, then sprint 50m, then walk 30m etc.  But you don't need a tape measure - you can use any objects to segment the intervals.  Lamp posts make excellent markers as they are a suitable distance apart.  For example, you could jog from the first to the third lamp post, sprint to the forth and then walk to the fifth - turn around and repeat the pattern in the opposite direction.  Alternatively, on a rugby pitch, you might start at one try line, jog to the 22, walk to halfway line, sprint to the next 22 and then jog the remaining distance to the opposite try line.


Fartlek training is popular amongst sports coaches as it mimics the demands of many sports in which short sharp bursts of activity are separated by periods of slower running.  However, it also has huge fitness benefits for anyone wanting to improve their running speed of simply looking to lose weight. To run faster in a race you have to train faster - and Fartlek training is a great way of improving speed endurance - the ability to maintain a faster pace for longer. By taking you to the limits of your anaerobic threshold, it develops superior lung capacity. This positively impacts our health in a myriad of ways, including

- enhanced metabolic function
- decreased risk of heart attack and stroke
- greater energy and reduced fatigue
- improvements in general focus, concentration and memory
- decreased inflammation

Indeed, lung capacity is considered to an extremely important general indicator of health and longevity. 

Like other forms of high-intensity interval training, such as our Metafit™ bodyweight training group fitness classes, Fartlek forces the body to use not just the aerobic system (where muscles are supplied energy by burning glucose with oxygen) but also the anaerobic system, a faster but less efficient way of producing ATP (the form of energy used by muscles).  This inefficiency is a great thing as far as weight loss is concerned, as triggers a state known as "oxygen debt", forcing the body to complete additional internal processes to replenish its energy stores for several hours after exercise has finished.  This raises the metabolism and means that you will be burning additional fat long after your workout is complete.


JB Personal Training's running group, Run JB, offer incorporate Fartlek training into their club sessions throughout the year.  For details, see our website.

 

 
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It is a big decision to hire a personal trainer.  It signifies that you are finally ready to prioritise your health and do what it takes to achieve your fitness goals. If weight loss is your goal, it means that you realise that the cost of personal training is relatively modest compared to the cost of weight loss surgery.  But how do you go about choosing a personal trainer?

  1. Is your Personal Trainer a Member of the Register of Exercise Professionals?

Paramount in the decision is ensuring that you find a trainer who is properly qualified.  The UK Register of Exercise Professionals is an independent public register that provides a system of regulation for personal trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry's agreed national occupations standards. Membership of REPs provides assurance and confidence to consumers that all registered exercise professionals are appropriately qualified and have the knowledge, competence and skills to perform specific roles. Members are bound by a Code of Ethical Conduct and hold appropriate public liability insurance. In order to remain on the Register, members must continue to meet the standards that are set for their profession through Continual Professional Development (CPD).

  1. Do they specialise in achieving your specific fitness goal?

A lot of personal trainers try to be a "jack of all trades" when in reality fitness is a very wide-ranging field. The expertise required to achieve results for a man interested in bodybuilding, for example, is very different to that required to achieve sustainable weight loss. A personal trainer who specialises in the area of your specific goal is far better placed to achieve the results you are looking for.

  1. Does your Personal Trainer have a strong track record of achieving results?

The ultimate proof that a personal trainer will get you results is whether they have done so for other clients looking to achieve similar goals.  Look to see whether a personal training website contains testimonials of real life success stories.  A successful personal trainer should be happy for you to chat to previous clients about their experiences of personal training and how it helped them achieve their goals.

  1. Do they offer nutritional advice?

Whatever your fitness goal, it is impossible to achieve optimum results without paying careful attention to your nutrition.  A good personal trainer will offer appropriate nutritional advice to ensure that you achieve your goal.  The best personal training services will also include regular monitoring and feedback on your nutrition via a food diary process.  As revealed by the current Channel 4 series "Secret Eaters", we often have poor self-awareness of our eating habits and a food diary can be instrumental in revealing distorted perceptions of what we consume.

  1. How comprehensive is their personal training package?

Your personal trainer should design a bespoke exercise programme to follow in your own time.  This should be tailored to achieve your specific goals, and adapted to your personal circumstances and preferences for training - whether at home, outdoors or in the gym.  Weight loss specialist personal trainers should also closely monitor changes to your body composition rather than focussing solely on weight itself.  This will ensure that the weight you lose in predominantly due to a reduction in bodyfat, rather than a loss of water and muscle mass, as is often the case with dangerous liquid based diets such as Lighter Life and the Cambridge Diet Plan.  The best personal training services will also provide "Before and After" photographs which offer powerful motivation to maintain healthy lifestyle changes once you start seeing results.

  1. Do they have clear terms and conditions?

Your personal trainer should clearly state the terms and conditions of the personal training service.  Personal training is a serious commitment and you should expect the terms and conditions to reflect this. For example, be wary of "pay-as-you-go" personal training sessions.  A trainer who does not demand a commitment of a minimum number of sessions for their clients is far less likely to offer the same level of service, since they have no guarantee that they will ever see the client again! Similarly, just as you would for a dentist or physiotherapist, expect to provide notice of at least 24 hours to change or cancel an appointment, since your session time would otherwise be available to other clients.  If a personal trainer does not apply such conditions, it may be an indication that they are not a full-time professional.

  1. Will we get on?

Last but definitely not least, how confident can you be that you will develop a rapport with your personal trainer?  After all, this is PERSONAL training - it is crucial that you establish a positive relationship with your personal trainer to be motivated to achieve results.  There are various ways to get an insight into your trainer's personality and ethos - through website testimonials, speaking with previous clients, or attending their group exercise classes.  For weight loss goals, an important consideration is also whether the trainer has the life experience to understand the psychology of weight problems.  For example, a young male trainer may have strong expertise in fitness instruction but may struggle to empathise with a stressed forty-something professional woman seeking to lose over three stones.

 
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Bread is such an omnipresent staple of western diets.  Since their invention in the 18th century by the eponymous Earl, sandwiches have become the default lunch for many, with a staggering 11 billion consumed each year in the UK.  Such is its popularity, it would be considered unrealistic for many to eliminate suddenly bread from their diets.

At JB Personal Training, we advise our clients to follow 3 simple rules on how to incorporate bread into a sustainable eating pattern compatible with fat loss:

1) Never have more than 2 slices of bread per day. 

It is very easy to consume significantly more than this, especially if you have toast for breakfast and as a snack

2) Always choose wholemeal bread

This means not granary, not "brown", and NEVER white.

3) Count the Ingredients

Always choose the least processed wholemeal bread possible. Flip the bread over in the supermarket and have a look at the ingredients.  You may be surprised to learn that even seemingly healthy choices like wholemeal wraps have a list of ingredients as long as your arm. Take Mission Wholewheat Tortillas, for example:

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil), contains 2% or less of each of the following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Calcium Sulfate), Distilled Monoglycerides, Enzymes, Wheat Starch, Calcium Carbonate, Antioxidants (Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid), Vital Wheat Gluten, Cellulose Gum, Dough Conditioners (Fumaric Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite), Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid and/or Citric Acid).

 

Contrast this with Asda Wholemeal Pitta Bread:

Ingredients: Wholemeal Flour (62%), Water, Salt, Yeast

 

The number of ingredients is a very simple indicator of how processed the bread is. So the fewer the better. A long list like the Mission Tortillas above is highly likely to have an ingredient that is damaging to one's health. A great example in this case is the presence of hydrogenated fat (Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil). This is a type of "Trans Fat", consumption of which can lead to high cholesterol levels in the blood and subsequently heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.


So next time you are shopping, take a little extra time to check the label. Don't assume that a product marketed as healthy is genuinely so - unfortunately, often the opposite is the case!

 
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