Next Stop...?

Next Stop…?

Next weekend marks the end of my second 12-week training programme from Michael, so I thought now would be the perfect time for a little contemplation and thinking. Have I achieved what I wanted? Am I happy with my progress? What do I want next?

I decided to look back at the goals I had written those 3 months ago when I started this plan:
  • Get a little leaner (mainly arms, torso, legs) then maintain that level
  • Get my metabolism up super high so I can increase overall calories, particularly carb intake, and still maintain current condition and body fat levels
  • Be able to balance sticking to the plan and also enjoying myself without feeling bad or guilty and then eating much less the next day to compensate

So which ones can I safely say I have succeeded in achieving? Well, 3 months ago I was pretty damn lean, but only eating an average of 1400 calories a day. I totally watched what I ate and was nervous about adding in extra bites here and there when people offered me things. I over thought my food choices when I was out for dinner, specifically picking things I could roughly estimate the calories of so I didn’t deviate from the plan. 3 months later and I now eat 1950 calories on average, daily. Yes I have gained a little body fat, but it hasn’t been enough to really notice enough to get upset about at any point. I happily indulge in the Easter eggs and other treats that are broken into and shared out at work and enjoy the dessert my mum makes on a Sunday night without worrying about my extra carb intake. On top of all this, my fitness has vastly improved – my stamina, my strength and my power –and I feel great for it. I think it’s safe to say, GOALS = SMASHED!

Now, I wish I could keep with the positive vibes and tell you I am super excited and motivated to smash my next lot of goals. And yes I am excited to see what more I can achieve and am motivated to do just that because fundamentally, I love training in the gym. The only question is what I actually want to get out of it now.

Currently I am at a point where I find myself eating when I’m not hungry, just to hit my total calories for each day, so do I really care about being able to increase my metabolism to eat even more without gaining fat?
Whilst I do love what I see in the mirror, I guess I’ve become accustomed to it, so it doesn’t spark the excitement and pride in me like it used to. Would therefore setting a plan to help me get super lean be something I cared about doing?
Of course I want to be able to lift heavier weights, because hey it’s pretty cool to hit PBs each week, but I wouldn’t say getting super strong was a top focus of mine, just something that comes with the territory.
I’ve had quite a few people over the past month or so ask me if I compete and it got me thinking whether this would be something I wanted to do. But I quickly – after about 5 minutes of looking into the sorts of things you have to do– decided it wasn't one for me.

So where does this leave me? What do I want to train for? It’s funny because this is a question people often ask me this question in the gym and my reply has always been ‘for life – to look good, be able to eat lots and because I enjoy it.’ Granted, this does form the basis of it all, but up until now I have had smaller, more specific things that I want to achieve –elements that inform my style of training and give me a purpose in sessions. But as I sit here now, writing this post, I am yet to know what that next goal is. I’m not saying there are no improvements to be made, hell I’ve got a long way to go and there is so much more to do, but I’m just not sure what it is exactly that I personally want to get from it.

So over the next week, while I am working through the final week of my current programme, I’m going to have a bit more of a think about how I want the next few months to play out. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to get back to you ASAP!

Are We Even Getting Our 5?

Are We Even Getting Our 5?

With the latest research to come out regarding the optimal number of fruit and vegetables we should be eating, there has been a lot of conversation regarding how easy or realistic it is for people to get their ‘5’ or even ‘10’ a day. Personally, I find the topic really interesting and I could chat about my opinions on the research and the way the media has discussed it for ages. Having said that, for the purpose of this blog post, I felt it more important to look at a specific aspect of the topic and draw some attention to what is considered even 1 a day.

The research states that 80g of a single fruit or vegetable counts as a portion. With fruit, this is pretty straightforward. The average apple easily weighs more than 80g, a couple of small plums will send you well on your way and a handful of strawberries will also get you there. But, when it comes to vegetables –which should in fact make up the majority of your total consumption due to their low sugar content–how much do we have to eat to count as a portion?

Throughout the week I eat around 4-5 varieties of vegetables for lunch and 3-4 with my evening meal. I tend not think twice about whether I hit my guideline intake, because in my head, this is surely more than enough?! But reading the research got me thinking. Just because I consume roughly 8 different varieties, what does this equate to in terms of grams and therefore actual portions?

I checked back through my fitness pal, looking at exactly how many grams I had been consuming over the past months. Whilst there were loads of products logged, at only around 30-60g a portion, the quantities barely added up. My 4-5 lunch time varieties equated to around a maximum of 2 portions and my 3-4 at dinner was closer to 1.5, giving me a total of only 3.5 for the day. This was certainly a long way off my fairy tale idea that I consumed around 8 a day.  

A little shocked, I decided to weigh out 80g of a number of popular vegetables to see for myself what a proper portion looked like. It was pretty intimidating to stare at the quantities in front of me, pouring out almost a whole bag of spinach, half a bag of mange tout and over 30 green beans onto a plate. I wasn't exactly sure what to say. In fact when I showed my parents, they worked out they were probably only eating 2 portions of vegetables a day, despite imagining themselves to be eating a whole lot more. They were in fact relying on fruit to make up their way to 5 a day.  

If I’m totally honest, this provided a bit of a wake up call for me and really made me think differently about exactly how ‘healthy’ I perceive my diet to be. In order to eat sufficient quantities and get enough nutrients and vitamins, I really need to be doubling my vegetable intake each day – which is actually quite a lot more!

So how about you? How many fruit and vegetable portions are you consuming each day? Forget the whole 10 a day fiasco – it seems over the top to me, but have a look to see what number you are getting to, based on real gram measurements. I’m not trying to point any fingers and force you to eat more greens, but I do really suggest that you have a little play around with the scales and see whether that ½ plate of vegetables counts for as much as you may think…

Get in touch
Email me:
Insta: @nextstopfit4

Being Calorie Wise

Being Calorie Wise

Calories: we see them everywhere – colour coded food labels, restaurant menus and cafĂ© boards. Despite this constant exposure, do we know how they relate and can we accurately judge them in terms of the portion sizes we choose?  

With this question in mind, the Sport Scientist in me came out and I decided a little experiment was in order.

I started by raiding Sainsbury’s for a selection of common foods that I felt people were likely to snack on or use in their meals, without really considering the calorific impact they may have on their total daily intake.

  • Peanuts – a high protein and healthy fat snack.
  • Honey – a non processed, natural sweetener
  • Olive oil – a heart healthy oil for cooking
  • Oats – a cholesterol lowering, high fibre breakfast cereal
  • Cheese – a product that, lets face it, makes food taste better
  • Pasta – perfect comfort food
  • Chocolate – the treat you look forward to each day
  • Carrots – vitamin rich, refreshing crunchy bites
  • Tuna – a high in omega 3, protein filled oily fish

I then bribed recruited a willing participant (who in the name of science will of course remain anonymous, love you dad), to ration out what they believed would make up 100 calories worth of each food to see how accurately they were able to judge the portion size: calorie ratio. The results weren’t startling and in despite of some cheating, my participant portioned out roughly a 100 calories of about half of the foods.

The more interesting result came from the discussions that followed. My participant isn’t someone who thinks about calories when making food choices and therefore wouldn’t think twice about how many peanuts they poured from the packet or how much oil they used to cover the pan when cooking. But actually having to think about how the numbers relate to actual tangible food portions for the first time made them see and and really consider what and where their calories were coming from and how everything was adding up. They were somewhat surprised by quite how many calories they may unknowingly be consuming by simply adding an extra little portion.

Now I’m not trying to advocate that calories are bad and we should refrain from grating cheese on our pasta and give up that extra square of chocolate. What I want to highlight in this post is that every extra spoonful, ingredient or snack adds up, no matter how small it may look. A lot of the time we tend to eat without thinking or even acknowledging how much we are consuming – we hardly even remember that teaspoon of honey we added to our porridge.

Fundamentally, calories are calories and they all add up. If you want to lose weight, you have to consume fewer than you burn and the smallest of additions can make a difference to the numbers at the end of the day. Similarly, for people looking to gain weight, an understanding of calorie densities for certain foods can be to your advantage, as that extra handful of peanuts you have whilst cooking dinner may not look or feel like a lot, but it will have an impact.

So, whilst not the most well thought out of experiments, my test ultimately made someone who never thinks about the calories in their foods more knowledgeable of the portion size to calorie ratio, which in my mind, is a really important awareness to have. By making an effort to be more mindful to the quantities we are consuming, achieving our health goals - no matter what they may be - becomes a whole lot easier.  

Get in touch
Email me:
Insta: @nextstopfit4

What Sort of Exercise Should I Be Doing?

What Sort of Exercise Should I Be Doing?

So, you’ve decided you want to start going to the gym, but you’re not really sure where to begin. Do you hit the cardio machines, give the free weights a go, or try out the classes in the studio?

The key to answering this question is to decide what your goal for exercising is. Once you know this, you can devise a plan that is best suited to you and your needs and keep you motivated long term.

With this in mind, I thought I would put together a classification type post, to give you an idea of the sort of exercise that may be best for you. Now, before you take my word as fact or argue with me stereotyping, please note that this is only a brief overview and yes, I am barely touching the surface with matching goals to training styles. But for the most generic of goals, and for those not sure where to start, please feel free to have a read and take what you like from this information.  

Goal 1
You want to exercise to be healthier, get a bit fitter and losing some excess weight would be a plus. You are fairly self-motivated, want to use the gym as time to let go of your stresses and have some ‘you’ time.

The majority of gyms invest heavily in their cardio equipment, bringing in the latest versions of the classic Treadmill to help you get your heart rate up, body warm and sweat dripping. They allow you to work at your own pace, choosing a specific programme setting to suit you (speed play, interval, mixed terrain etc) and burn some calories. They can be a good stress release as you plug in your headphones and work consistently for a set period of time.

I would say the clue is in the name –cardio machines are designed to increase your cardiovascular efficiency. In the past, this is exactly what they have done for me – they got my heart rate up, made me sweat a little (or a lot) and made me feel good about myself for doing some exercise (afterwards, not during). They were a perfect complement to my lacrosse training, helping me to keep going for longer in matches. I never saw particular fat loss or changes in my body shape from cardio training, no matter how often I engaged.

Goal 2
You also want to get a little fitter and healthier and lose a little excess weight. You want some variety to keep motivated and are not always sure what to do exercise wise. You prefer external motivation, someone to make you work harder and people to share ‘the burn’ with.

I can’t sing the praises of group exercise enough for this goal. Having spent a good few years with the mic around my head, I have seen the power of group exercise. The smiles on faces as people look across the room to their panting friend, is one that always filled me with joy. There is no doubt exercise classes are a way to help people enjoy exercising and with so many varieties of class, there is something to suit everyone.

Group ex made me love working out and I always left a class feeling amazing about myself and what I, and everyone else in the room, had achieved. It taught me great technique, loads of different exercises (body weight and weighted) and got me super fit. I wish I could say that it helped me to get the body I wanted, but classes only went so far for my fat loss, strength gains or body toning, no matter the style of class I tried. They did however help me to build a strong level of all round fitness. 

Goal 3 
You want to build muscle, burn calories and get fitter. You enjoy the feeling of exercising hard, sweating lots and feeling your heart rate lift. You want to drop body fat and look like an active gym go-er.

High volume, weighted circuits or HIIT sessions are the one for you – whether this be in the form of a class or a self motivated session. Performing a mixture of 4-5 body weight/ weighted exercises back to back in a round with short rests in between, can really get you panting, racking up the calorie burn. The weights will help increase your strength up to a point and the endurance based workout will help to get you fitter.

HIIT circuits definitely got me super fit, super quick and they suited my training style down to a tee. I love an intense workout and the feeling of knowing you pushed through the mental barriers to complete that extra rep. This kind of training set me well on my way to dropping the first layer of body fat and the weighed elements improved my muscular endurance levels to the point where I was able to perform a high volume of reps with ease. However, I hit multiple plateaus with this training style fairly quickly – I never really got much stronger or lost more fat after a certain point.

Goal 4 
Forget ‘fitter’ or ‘healthier’ – these aren’t your main reasons for training – yes they will come with the territory - but you care mainly about looking fit and improving your performance.

My friend, my option for you is to lift, and I mean weights, heavy weights.
In my opinion, and through my own experiences, the key to serious weight-loss, tone and strength gain is to get yourself in the free weight section. By working with heavy weights, you activate protein synthesis, helping you to build muscle, speeding up your metabolism and losing body fat. You’d honestly be surprised how high you can get your heart rate pumping and how out of breath you can be through even one rep, if the weight load is right. And the best thing about weight training is you can adjust for your specific goals (strength gain, strength endurance, muscle mass development), through changing reps/sets/weight loads, so you never hit a plateau.

I couldn’t emphasise the amazing results weight training has had for me enough– and no girls it won’t make you bulky – it will make you beautifully lean and amazingly strong. It gives you the muscle definition/size you want and because of the huge variety of training styles, exercise combinations and training loads, it is easy to change up when you get a little bored.  


Now, I said it at the beginning and I will say it again. This post is not meant to be taken as fact. It is not my aim to concretely categorise goals with the perfect exercise answer, nor do I wish to advocate only using these training styles in isolation - of course a combination is ideal if that’s you want. For those of you who are lucky enough to know what works for you/what you want to do in the gym, then of course, feel free to ignore me. But for those of you who know your goals, but are unsure of where to start, I hope this post has provided you with a little bit of help.

For more information on any of these training styles, please feel free to get in touch, or indeed, do your own research online or through experimenting. You’ll only find what truly works for you by giving it a go!

Happy exercising J

Email me:
Insta: @nextstopfit4