Bikram, Yoga, Sweat, Balance

So for the past month I have set myself a challenge. To try Bikram Yoga and see what it’s made of. Being a total beginner with, no sense of balance a questionable posture and a shocking level of flexibility under my belt – that is I can just about touch my toes, I decided to jump on the bandwagon of the Yoga phenomenon and see if it was all it cracked up to be.

As I work at a gym the first step was trying a few regular classes, I also rather ungainly wobbled around my room in an effort to try the infamous YouTube tutorials but I still found it pretty meh. Then I stumbled upon a page called Bikram Yoga and it sparked my interest right away. This 90 minute class is geld in a room at 30% humidity and 40 degree heat. You sweat. You about sweat the weight of a small child, but your flexibility, balance and strength are all meant to improve. I turned up to my first class with some trepidation, especially as it was a 6:30 in the morning. Being conscious of my newbie status I did my best and although the heat is blinding and when I left I looked as though I had just stepped out of a shower, I felt brilliant. Addictive is not the word! I did four classes in four days and then the inevitable work schedule got in the way and I missed a day. Despite this when I came back I found I could sink right back in where I left off.

Since beginning Bikram I have noticed how the mind can impact on my determination to maintain the poses. With 26 different postures you do each of them twice, breaking them down from a warm up, to a standing and then a floor series. This not only helps break up the class so it doesn’t seem as long but also makes sure that all areas of the body are targeted from knees to spine, neck to ankles. The intense heat thought startling in the first few classes gradually moves to the back of your mind as you begin to understand the movements, anticipate the stretches before they come and prepare yourself for the last big push.

Since beginning I am on about my 15th class. Even since my first day I have noticed a difference, not only in my posture, but also in myself. Yoga promotes self reflection and in a society where we are chastised for being selfish and thinking about ourselves, it’s kind of nice to gain that extra level of introspection.  I would not go so far as to say that yoga has changed my life but I am certain that if I maintain momentum that my flexibility and strength will be drastically improved. The other aspects of my life shifted towards how can I improve my yoga? And so it is easy for me to see how yoga becomes a lifestyle choice, more than just an exercise activity.  Add to this the fact that the instructors are always happy to answer questions or offer assistance if you’re making any little errors in the postures and you are home and free!

The main set back with this exercise aside from the endurance it takes to withstand the heat is the price tag. I got an introductory offer but monthly memberships can be up to 99 euros! This sounds a lot for a class but when you consider the expertise of the teacher, and if you are confident you will get the use out of it, it does not seem so steep. I would much rather lay into my monthly alcohol budget for Bikram, or lay off on the meals out. I would thoroughly recommend at least trying this class, it’s the perfect choice for someone who likes to push themselves and isn’t afraid of a challenge. Good luck!


Take home points

  • Each class is 90 minutes
  • The room is set at 30% humidity and 40 degree heat
  • Beginners should try to do at least 4 classes in 4 days
  • Try out different introductory offers to get the most wallet friendly option

Everybody craves. Whether its chocolate, crisps or sweeties, craving these high sugar high fat items is a biproduct of our 21st century lifestyle, our habits and our preferences. sugar-cravings

The reasons why we crave are to do with our blood sugars. Not to get too technical, but for those who don’t know, blood sugar refers to the blood glucose level (glucose is a simple sugar) which your body will naturally regulate as part of homeostasis (the system through which your body maintains regulation in temperature, PH etc in order to keep your internal environment at the ideal levels for optimal working performance).

The idea is to try to maintain a consistent level of blood sugar throughout the day. If you do this your eating patterns will also be consistent and you won’t crave (See picture one)

ideal blood sugar fcThe red line corresponds to the ideal blood glucose level, the blue line is the actual blood glucose level. This shows the ideal way to maintain your blood sugar throughout the day, by eating regularly.

If you starve yourself for hours your blood sugar dips, causing you to crave something sweet to kick them back up. This is the most dangerous time in terms of cheating and will be the time when you are most likely to chose an unhealthy biscuit over something slow release like a piece of fruit (see in picture two).

poor blood sugar fc

Once again the red line is optimal glucose level and the blue line is actual glucose level. Here it is possible to see that between the morning and evening meal the blood sugar dips causing craving. This causes us to eat something high in sugar, like a biscuit which causes the blood sugar to rise, but too high meaning insulin is activated which takes glucose out of the blood once again driving it down.

The scary thing that the time it takes for your blood sugar to dip can be as little as four hours. When this dip occurs you will feel yourself craving and the search for those nasty quick release, white is shite carbs which give you the quick boost. The bad thing is indulging your cravings will often overshoot your required sugar intake, meaning that your blood sugar is now too high! When your body experiences a rapid boost in blood sugar, caused by indulging your sweet tooth, your pancreas releases the hormone insulin. This is a hormone controlled by the pancreas that is central in regulating carb and fat breakdown in the body. Insulin causes excess glucose to be removed from the blood to try to get back to that ideal state once again. The problem here is the insulin can drive the blood sugar too low, so once again the cravings begin to push blood sugar up, and so this self depreciating cycle continues…

As you can imagine insulin is going to have a very hard job if there is too much glucose in the blood. This often causes insulin malfunctions, which is basically what diabetes is.

The best way to prevent this cycle from happening is to eat small meals often, and ensuring you eat foods that are low GI. This means they are low in the glycemic index and so will take longer to burn. This means they will slowly release their sugars maintaining a more level glucose measurement throughout your day, thus reducing the cravings and making it easier for you to stick to a healthy meal plan.

When you find yourself craving something try a rice cake, or eating some protein instead of quick release carbs like biscuits and pastries. The occasional treat is of course allowed but make sure it is not a common indulgence.

Avoiding foods with added sugar is also a good way to keep cravings at bay. Particularly fizzy drinks, fruit juices with added sweetener (see the ingredients) and things with white flour in (pizza, pasta, cake).

Take home points

*Eat little and often: roughly every 3 to 4 hours, be sure not to over eat! Aim for about 300 cals per meal or two larger meals, say breakfast and dinner with a snack in between.

*Eat proteins (chicken, ham, eggs etc …) and fats (yoghurt, milk, cheese…) with every meal. By fats I mean low fat options or healthy fat options such as olive oil dressing or almonds. This will slow carbohydrate digestion preventing spiking blood sugar.

*When choosing carbs avoid white flour like the plague. Remember white is shite so whole foods are a must. The fiber you will get from these will keep you fuller for longer. Things like lentils, brown rice, brown pasta, soda or brown bread and wheat germ.

*If you do give into your cravings don’t worry, just make sure you jump back on the bandwagon in your next meal!

One of the most difficult things to navigate in the search for a healthy lifestyle is the quagmire of conflicting research in health science. Dr X says you don’t need extra protein in your diet to maintaining a healthy lifestyle whereas Joe trainer says you can’t expect good gains without it. Dr X says that eating thirty minutes before your workout will give you more energy to training by Joe trainer says working out on an empty stomach makes you leaner quicker. Dr X says that it’s alright to go on a tan bed whereas Joe trainer says don’t go near them unless you want a melanoma.


It is really easy to get totally stumped and bogged down by this but there is one sure fire way to figure out fact from fiction.

1)      Look at the sources of your information. TV, internet and media are great for latching on to sensationalised headlines, and articles claiming fantastical results can often be shown to be full of false promise. “This amazing study which found that 98% of its participants who took this magic diet pill lost all their unwanted fat”, this is particularly true of cosmetics (by definition a cosmetic is not legally allowed to turn you from crypt keeper to Kelly brook, they are only allowed to make a percentage of difference or they would be required to be administered by a professional, hence why you have to go to your doctor for Botox and you can go down to Boots for your anti wrinkle crèmes). Look at the original copies of the studies the media is talking about through Google Scholar, specifically how many people they tested and the kind of measures they used to do that testing you are more likely to get a better understanding of how much BS you are reading and how much is actually good science. One of the main problems when talking about sports performance specifically is how do you even measure performance and improvements? Sure with a sprinter it’s a matter of seconds and milliseconds but with something more team based like rugby, hockey or football how do you really know its improving their performance? How can you definitively measure performance like that?

2)      We tend to believe experts. Particularly those who have impressive sounding qualifications like MD or PhD’s. I’ll let you in on a little secret, even doctors can make mistakes and just because they say something doesn’t mean they are right. Have the confidence to challenge something that an expert says. If it sounds too good to be true its more than likely some sneaky endorsement deal or some personal opinion which may be based on sound academic experience but could also be  an out of date view based on biased research with some important variables not being considered etc etc.

3)      Jargon can be intimidating. Trainers talking about glucose, insulin levels and breaking down muscular microfibers can often be used as a tool to dazzle you into thinking “here is an expert, so I’m going to believe whatever he says”, and here comes the sales pitch where he tells you about how good this supplement powder is bla bla bla. There is most definitely a science to health and exercise but for the average person it isn’t crucial to know all the ins and outs, that is for the real professional athletes and the Olympic types. These people will employ professionals in sports medicine and dietetics to get their bodies working to tip top condition and as I have mentioned before this will be a tailored plan based on the specific athlete. The main scientific fact you need to remember when you’re talking about health is you need to figure out what suits you and you alone.

4)      I can not stress enough how much sales comes into fitness and health. All these “magic” active yoghurt drinks which, when taken with a balanced diet have been shown to reduce cholesterol, well genius if you eat a balanced diet that will happen anyway! Unless you are taking prescribed medications that have been through a rigorous clinical trial and are administered by your doctor as far as I am concerned all the yoghurts and active drinks are made up science.

5)      This brings me on to supplements. We love a quick fix. Taking a shake which has a macho torso on the packet and screams protein from every thick plasticed, foil packed inch will go a long way to giving you that ego machismo boost “ I’m being SO healthy right now” feeling.  Supplements originated with the elite athletes but are quickly becoming food for the masses with every health food store and supermarket now stocking a shelf or two. There is definitely a place for supplements in a healthy lifestyle but they are so called for a reason. As a supplement they are meant to be an addition to your diet not a meal replacement and if mis taken they can increase your daily calories and not go very far to helping you lose weight. The best way to take supplements, unless specifically advocated by a healthcare professional is straight after a tough weights work out and that’s all. Eat a complex carb, high fruit veg and lean protein diet and you won’t need to go mad on your supplements. Oh and one word for Creatine, be careful and above all with anything you are putting into your body read about it, not the back of the packet, reviews online, health boards, ask your health food store clerks and fitness bloggers. If they don’t know they should be able to direct you to someone who does.

Take home points:

  • Look at your sources
  • Don’t take “experts” opinions as gold
  • Don’t be intimidated by scary sounding science words and jargon
  • Don’t get hauled into a sales scam
  • Go easy on supplements

When you’re talking about anaerobic or weights based exercises there are two main types: Compound movements and isolated movements.

Isolated movements refer to movements that “isolate” one key joint. Examples include things like bicep curls.

bicep curls

These movements need to be conducted with particular care as due to the fact there is a lot of strain being placed on the single joint there is a greater likelihood of injury if the technique is not right or the weight is too heavy.
Compound exercises on the other hand, are exercises utilizing multiple joints and include exercises such as the bench press. These exercises have great benefits as they use more of the body in the workout. When doing a bench press it is not just your arms, wrists and shoulders that are being activated but also your back and your stomach. For this reason it is best to advocate a ratio of about 3:1 when you are talking about compound versus isolation exercises with particular attention being paid to the magic three.

1) Bench press
2) Lunges
3) Squats

When done properly with the correct technique and right weight these exercises will make up the foundation of any good all over anaerobic workout and will lead to the greatest gains. There are different variations of these exercises available so hunt around for ones you like best Compound exercises should be done following a short 5 minute warm up with other exercises depending on your specific wants and areas you most need to improve. Some examples such as the plank, particularly hard with a 10kg weight on your lower back, pull ups, push ups, sumo squats and the leg press will be a good place to start. As a rule with the exception of the press machines you should avoid machines. They are typically isolatory and often will do little to affect the whole body changes you want. Women specifically often use multiple machines at the gym. As I have said before do not be afraid of the free weights and smith machine it is through them you will get that JLo booty.

Take home points

• The two main types of anaerobic exercises are isolated and compound
• Isolated movements concentrate on one joint specifically whist compound movements use multiple joints
• Take due care when using isolated movements as injury is most common here
• Harness the magic three: Bench press, Lunges and Squats at the core of your anaerobic workout in order to get the best gains over all.

Food glorious food

Posted: May 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

Don’t think of it as a diet. Think of it as healthy choices. Food is really REALLY important and if you want to get the toned look, reducing your body fat is the only way to do it and to risk stating the obvious, in order to lose weight you have to consume less calories than you burn.

The ideal level for a great fit body look is about 18-20% body fat with your BMI about 19-21. Fitness and health really is 80% diet so don’t work out so you can eat what you want. You won’t get the results – FACT.



Carbs are crucial to a healthy diet but choosing the wrong one is a big mistake. Carbs are made from glucose which is a sugar. Sugars need to be avoided as much as possible as they are simple in structure and are burned quickly or stored as fat. Stay away from processed foods as they are high is sugar, salt, fat and will not only stop you losing weight but also make you retain water and bloat. Avoid all foods with white flour as a rule. A good tip on how to avoid bad carbs is to think about it like this: White is shite

Carbs you should avoid:

White bread * like the plague people!

Carbs you should eat:                                      

Brown/ wholemeal bread                                    
Brown rice                                                 
Sweet potato                                               
Cous cous                                                
Rice cakes

The best carbs have a low GI, this is the glysemic index. When you eat low GI carbs they keep you fuller for longer and they also take more energy to break down. This means you’re burning calories or using energy breaking down your food off. This is what you want. If you are eating properly you WONT feel hungry between meals but if you do, try water, you’re most likely just dehydrated. Recent studies have shown that thirst is often misinterpreted as hunger so drinking is a good way to ensure you don’t over eat and that you drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day.


Proteins are the most important food group when you are looking to get really fit and will make the big differences with muscle gain. Protein is anything that crawls, swims, cheeps and gallops. O yea and that means insects too if you’re the adventurous type! There is also protein from plants called whey which is the main ingredient in many protein shakes. There is also loads of protein in tofu and dairy is also protein but we’ll get to that later…

IT is crucial to eat protein after working out, ideally within 30 minutes. When you work out, specifically with weight training you rip the muscle fibres. In order to gain muscle these have to knit back together again kind of like when you sew up a hole in your trousers and it gets thicker. In order to do this you need to eat protein after you’ve worked out so you give your body the energy to mend itself, making your muscles bigger and making you look sexy!

For every pound of muscle you gain your metabolism will increase meaning your resting calorie burning intake so it just gets better and better. IT WILL NOT MAKE YOU BULK UP!

Good types of protein to eat:                    

Eggs (especially egg whites)                

Proteins to avoid:

Fatty and processed meats like burgers

Try this recipe: Scrambled eggs with vegetables – ideal for a pack lunch

Eggs x3 3 whites’ one yolk
Spring onion

Mix eggs and combine ingredients in a pan. Takes only 5 minutes and it’s an epic protein fix!


EAT AS MANY AS YOU WANT whenever you want! An ideal diet will have more veggies than carbohydrates. Technically vegetables are carbohydrates they are just a different type. I usually try to have my dinner of for example chicken and then have loads of veggies or a salad instead of loading up on potatoes; it’s a much healthier meal that way.

Ideal snacks:

Carrot sticks


So as I was saying before dairy actually is protein too. Obviously most dairy is high in fat but this is not always a bad thing. The best way to eat dairy is to have low fat options and not more than 3 a day.

Ideal options:

Semi skimmed milk
Light natural yoghurt
Low fat butter
Try olive oil and vinegar for a salad dressing option
Low fat mayo

Try this recipe:

Shakes are a really good way to fill you up if you’re feeling peckish.
Banana x2 or strawberries
Semi skimmed milk 1 pint
Tbsp ground almonds
Teaspoon cinnamon (adding spice to things boosts your metabolism)
Teaspoon peanut butter


Take home points

  • White is shite
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Take a protein hit straight after your workout to boost the muscle healing process
  • Try low fat dairy options are a great way to get good fats and proteins in your diet
  • Shakes are a great way to fill up
  • Try drinking water if you’re hungry you may be dehydrated

The bathroom scales is arguably the most common tool used en masse for measuring weight.  After that you can use the Body Mass Index [1], callipers (which measure the inches of skin in various areas of your body) or a measuring tape. More scientific and precise measures can also be seen such as hydrostatic weighing [2] or the DEXA scan [3], both of which are by far the most precise measuring tools but unfortunately are neither available, practical or affordable for the average person.

If you are overweight and you need to lose fat to be healthy I would certainly be taking note of the numbers on the scale but it is crucially important to remember that your initial weight loss will not be maintained. You could lose 7 pounds in your first two weeks then only 2 in the next two depending on how much fat your body has to lose. This is because your body is not only burning fat but gaining muscle. This is a good thing! As muscle burns more calories than fat the more muscle you have the more calories your body is going to burn at its resting metabolic rate – that is the amount of calories your body would burn at rest. This is why it is important not to get overly worked up about the number of scales, in all honesty it means very little. Tall people will always weigh more and musclely builds will too.


Notice in this picture that the 5 pounds of fat is far larger then the 5 pounds of muscle. As muscle is heavier but not as voluminous you can have less volume on your body but actually weigh more.

Girls specifically seem really scared of the word “muscle” but I can assure you that women will never get BIG working out with weights, even heavy ones unless they train like a full time job, eat a weight gainer and take steroids or testosterone injections. Men and women basically need to train in the same way at the gym, with the only difference being how heavy they are lifting. The reason why is quite simple and it involves the sex hormones. Women do not have enough testosterone to gain muscle like a man. All women have testosterone in their bodies but at a tiny fraction compared to that of men. Testosterone enables men to see rapid changes in their body size and muscle growth when they begin weight training but because it’s so small in women you can lift heavy and merely see a toned and sculpted look. For this reason, girls you do not need to be afraid, you need to lift. No celebrity female with an enviable body will be lifting baby weights and of that I can assure you.

The best way to accurately measure your progress is to use multiple methods. All have their downfalls. Your weight on the scales for example, will vary considerably depending on the time of day you weigh yourself. This is because you hydration levels will fluctuate throughout the day. I can’t tell you how many times I have weighed myself before a workout and actually been heavier after! It’s because as you drink lots of water when you are at the gym, your weight will increase. One of the best ways to measure progress is to forget about the scales completely and start using your abilities as a measure. How many burpees [4] can you do in 3 minutes, how fast can you run that mile? All get your mind out of worrying about numbers and make you start thinking about how strong you feel. Thinking like this will not only enable you to have the courage to challenge yourself to new personal bests, but will also make it easier if the number on the scale stops or even creeps up one or two places. If you’re working out right and gaining muscle this is likely to happen at some point.

I believe the best way to accurately measure your progress is by taking pictures. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words and the internet is littered with photographs of peoples before and after weight loss picks and there is nothing better than seeing the difference right in front of your eyes. Remember you don’t have to go showing people, it’s just for you. Think of it like your big secret, “Oh yea I look like this now, but you should have seen what I used to look like, you should see what I’m going to look like 6 months from now!”


Take home points:

  • Don’t trust your scales alone
  • Expect your weight loss to vary week to week
  • Muscle weighs more than fat
  • The more muscle you have the more calories you will burn at rest
  • Girls do not have enough testosterone in their bodies to get big so don’t be afraid of lifting heavy weights
  • Measure your progress by increasing how many times you can do something in a specific time
  • Take pictures to monitor your progress


[1] Body Mass Index calculator – figure out your BMI:

[2] Hydrostatic weighing–

[3] DEXA—Dual energy X-ray absorbtiometry:

[4] Burpees—If you didn’t have to do these during P.E class I envy you:


For those of you who don’t know this is a picture of the Bugatti Veyron and yes this is a supercar. Designed and developed by German engineers the super sport version of the Veyron is the fastest legal road car in the world, clocking speeds of over 250 mph. Taking 3 years to make, with a cost of 5 million pounds and a price tag of 850, 000, Volkswagen make a significant loss with every one however, this elite and high spec performance vehicle pushes the boundaries of what is possible in a car and as a result has a reputation almost as big as its price tag.

Think of this car as analogy of your potential, you at your best. All your parts working in sync, the right fuel to make you reach your top speed and the well groomed exterior to attract the attention of passersby. This is the ideal. The point I am trying to make here is that you should aim to achieve your highest potential, the perfect you that you can be. This means instead of comparing yourself to others you have to look inside, take responsibility and get real with yourself.

I don’t know what stage of fitness you’re at. You could be 3 stone overweight or more even, miserable and self conscious, or you could be a healthy weight struggling to shift those last few inches. It doesn’t matter. The real issue here is how can you achieve your goals and how can you maintain healthy habits once you have them in place.

There is a myth that if you can do something for 21 days then it becomes a habit. This is nonsense and is actually based on an anecdote from an American plastic surgeon (if you really want to read more see the link below [1]). The truth is, there is no magic number and no day that you will wake up and suddenly find being healthy easy. If it was easy, no one would be overweight! The reason people give up is because they like it easy, no one likes doing things that are difficult. You don’t want to be one of these people, challenging yourself makes up the backbone of being fit and maintaining it and it is crucial you get into your head now that it is never going to get easy.

The proven way to start new and healthy habits is to start small. Habits in every shape or form are based on cues, from your environment (hearing the phone ringing and answering it), other people (high fiving your best friend every time you see them) and biology (getting food when you feel hungry) and overcoming cues that you have held for your whole life is tough! This is why the little changes are so effective. Once you start with something small something bigger won’t seem so daunting and that little voice inside your head that always said “hey there’s no way I can do something like that!” will start to sound a little more like “Hey, if I can do this maybe I can do that!”.

This small beginning could be anything from taking the stairs or leaving the car at home a few times a week. The important thing is to challenge yourself, gradually building up to cycling to work or joining a fitness class at the local gym. Another great way to start new and healthy habits is with a change in your life. Starting a new job, moving away or leaving for college are all great as the environments change significantly and as a result there are no cues built up yet, prompting you to engage in unhealthy behaviours.

Another important thing to realise is you are going to fall off the band wagon. It is not a matter of if it’s a matter of when. Christmas, birthdays, hell even Sunday dinners are a challenge! Although it is important to eat right in order to stay fit and lose weight if that is your goal, if you want to maintain it you shouldn’t be too strict on yourself, if you are you will only go crazy and eat 5 cakes. Think of it like a rebellious teen who is grounded to her room for being bold for a month. Eventually the teen is going to get so pissed off she’s going to tell her parents stick it and leave anyway. It is impossible to be 100% good 100% of the time. If you eat well 90% of the time and let yourself have a cheat meal once in a while at a family event or special occasion you are more likely to be able to live your fitness.

Take home points:

  • Don’t compete with anyone except yourself
  • Strive to be the best possible you you can be
  • Don’t think fitness is ever going to be easy
  • Understand that forming good habits is a gradual process
  • Realise you are going to cheat, it’s how you deal with it afterwards that matters


Maxwell Maltz American plastic surgeon 21 day habit myths debunked:

When I think about fitness the things that come to mind are, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Creatine and massive weights but fitness is about more than that. 

Think about your body now. What weight you are, how healthy you are eating and what habits you have. Do you struggle to get up the stairs at work? Do you find yourself huffing and puffing when you pick up the shopping? Are you ashamed of how you look?

I’m here to tell you that you’re not alone. 

There is nothing wrong with carrying a bit of excess weight, but how does carrying that weight make you feel? Would you honestly say you’re happy at the weight you are now. Fitness is about happiness. Knowing that you are giving your body what it needs to run at an optimal level. 

Humans evolved to live in a certain way, specifically as beings that can work with changing environments, as hunter gatherers who can go 3 weeks without food if we really have to because where we evolved food wasn’t a daily thing and there was no fast food restaurants. Why do you think you feel happy after you exercise? It’s because its what you’re body wants. Its what you were built for. 


Fit Club is about being the best you you can be. About pushing yourself past what you thought you were capable of and realising that all these things are connected and if you run your body like the beautiful piece of machinery it is, then you will live a longer, healthier and happier life.