Why yoghurt is the ultimate superfood staple

Get some ‘culture’ on your spoon.

Photo: Getty/Stock

If you take a scroll down any fitness blogger’s Instagram, you are likely to find a combination of trendy yoghurt breakfasts, desserts and snacks. From a yoghurt parfait to a yoghurt smoothie bowl, it seems people can’t get enough of it; and for good reason. Here we speak to Clare Collins, a dietitian from the University of Newcastle to get the low-down on all things yoghurt from why it earns it’s superfood tag to the how much is really too much?

Is it really that good?

“The thing about yoghurt is that it’s actually a really good source of protein, calcium and vitamin b2. For people who are vegetarian, it also contains vitamin b12 which you can only get from animal products.” Thank you, nutrition gods.

Bacteria are bad, right?

Bacteria come in two forms, both good and bad. Yoghurt contains good ‘probiotic’ bacteria that help promote a healthy gut. Some also have prebiotics, which feed the bacteria and help them do their job.

“Together they’re sort of like the maintenance department of your colon. For example, the workers are the probiotics and the mops and buckets are the prebiotics.”

Choosing the yoghurt that is the freshest (i.e. has the furthest expiration date) will ensure optimum good bacteria for your body.

Is it true that yoghurt can help prevent cancer?

Essentially, when bacteria are doing their job they produce a little bit of fatty acid in the colon. This can help “lower the pH of the colon and prevent carcinogens from developing, thus lowering your risk of cancer.” That’s pretty damn ‘super’ if you ask us.

How much is too much?

Okay, time to put down the kilo pot of yoghurt. Collins recommends moderation in a balanced diet.

“I think a good portion size is any of those single serve pots they come in. If you find you’re sitting down to a 500g-1kg tub everyday then maybe it’s time for a bit more variety.”

Why does yoghurt have that ‘superfood’ status?

“Yoghurt gets the superfood reputation is because it’s so easily digested and is a good source of protein and calcium. It’s also because of its probiotic ability to clean up your colon and keep you healthy from the inside.”

Best tips for preparing deliciously nutritious yoghurt?

“Chop up a banana and add some cinnamon or buy packs of frozen raspberries and whack some of them in. It’s really nice.”

Sounds good to us.

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Eight Signs of A Bad Trainer

A good personal trainer can work wonders for your workouts. He can teach you, motivate you and generally make sure that you get the most out of your time in the gym.

Unfortunately, not all personal trainers are good personal trainers. And if you find yourself working with a bad one, you can easily find your workouts suffering, not benefiting.

Rather than making you want to work harder, some personal trainers can make you want to quit the gym altogether. And what’s worse, you’re left paying for the privilege.

If you’re currently on the lookout for a new personal trainer, or you’re simply unhappy with your existing one, here are eight signs of a bad personal trainer.

A personal trainer doesn’t need to have model looks but he should be in excellent shape. If he can’t motivate himself to work out properly, how is he going to motivate you?

It’s also worth noting that the best personal trainers are those who are genuinely passionate about personal fitness. And passion shows in their appearance.

Personal training is a social job. There’s no getting around this fact. Unfortunately however, not all personal trainers have the necessary social skills. And there’s no amount of fitness knowledge that can make up for this.

Your personal trainer doesn’t need to be your friend but talking to him shouldn’t be torture either. Basically, you want somebody that you can get along with, somebody who will make your workouts easier not harder.

Make no mistake, when you hire a personal trainer to spot you, their time is your time. It’s what you are paying them for. Constantly taking phone calls, chatting to other people and/or taking frequent breaks is simply not acceptable.

If your personal trainer isn’t watching you while you work out, how is he going to correct you when you make a mistake?

Another sign that you’re working out with the wrong trainer is if he’s working out during your sessions. How is he supposed to work out and teach you at the same time? You are literally paying for his workout session.

Unless he’s jogging with you or showing you how to do something, there’s no reason for a personal trainer to ever be working out during one of your sessions.

Personal Training

A good personal trainer will tailor a workout to your specific needs and body type. That’s one of the primary benefits of hiring a personal trainer rather than simply reading a book.

If you spot a personal trainer putting multiple clients through the same routines, chances are he should be avoided. Identical routines serve no other purpose than to make a personal trainers job easier at the expense of his clients.

Another sign that a personal trainer should be avoided is if he is constantly showing up late. When you arrive at the gym, he should be there waiting for you. And if a time has been agreed on in advance, there’s no excuse for him to not show up.

Your time is valuable. And even if it’s not, it should be respected by somebody who is being paid to help you. Constant cancellations are a sign that your personal trainer doesn’t take you, or his job, seriously enough.

Never underestimate the importance of having a personal trainer that actually listens to you. Most trainers like to talk but some seem to have trouble listening. And the result is clients doing exercises that they don’t enjoy, or worse, that are hurting them.

Your workout is just that, yours. If your personal trainer doesn’t respect this fact, what are you paying him for? If your preferences/objections are not being taken seriously, it’s time to find someone else.

Finally, there’s the small matter of progress, if you’re not making any, you’re with the wrong personal trainer. It’s your personal trainers job to ensure that you are progressing at the gym. If you’re not progressing, he’s either not teaching you properly or failing to adequately motivate you. Either way, he’s failing you.

While there are exceptions to this rule (some clients simply won’t put in the work), if you genuinely feel that you’re trying your hardest and you’re still not getting anywhere, chances are the problem is not with you, but with your trainer.

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Home Workout: Rapid Beach Body Pump-Up

You look your best at the end of a workout when your muscles are filled with blood, making your frame look bigger, stronger and harder – that’s the famed “pump”. Sadly it doesn’t last forever, but you can harness its power on holiday this summer, even when you don’t have access to a gym. Just do this speedy pump-up workout before you leave your hotel room or apartment, then head out to the beach or pool and watch heads turn.

How it Works

The aim of this five-move, high-rep circuit is to flood your major upper-body muscles with blood so you can showcase your body at its peak. Don’t worry if your muscles start to burn or feel like they are going to burst – that’s what you want to make them look huge. The circuit starts with an explosive press-up to fire up your fast-twitch muscle fibres, followed by three more pressing moves that target your chest, shoulders and triceps, then ends with a biceps isolation hold.

Directions

Do these five moves in order without stopping, and rest for 60 seconds after completing the last rep of the last exercise. Do four circuits in total. Use a bed or chair to elevate your hands and feet, and a towel for the biceps hold if you didn’t pack a resistance band.  

1. Explosive incline press-up

Reps 15

Start in a press-up position with your hands elevated. Lower your chest, then press back up explosively so your hands leave their surface. Lower back down.

2. Decline press-up

Reps 15

Get into a press-up position but with your feet elevated on the bed (shoes off, you animal). Start with your body in a straight line from head to heels, then bend your elbows to lower your chest all the way to the floor by bending your elbows. Press back up powerfully to return to the start.

3. Inverted shoulder press

Reps 8

Get into a press-up position with your feet on the bed, then shuffle your hands back towards your body so that your arms and upper body end up aligned in a straight line. Keeping your head tucked in and your core braced, bend your elbows to lower your head until it’s almost touching the floor. Then press back up powerfully to the start.

4. Press-up

Reps 12

Start in a press-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart. With your core braced and body straight, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor. Press back up to the start.

5. Biceps isolation

Hold for 30secs

Hook a resistance band or towel under your thighs, then try to curl your hands up towards your shoulders. Pull as hard as you can to increase the amount of tension in your biceps, which will increase blood flow to the muscles.

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This simple stretch is the easiest and quickest way to calm down

Photo: iStock

When you can’t make it to yoga (and even a YouTube tutorial in your lounge room seems out of reach) Lauren Bunce, pilates and yoga instructor says there is one stretch you can do that will instantly calm you down.

It won’t have the same effect as a full hour (and a half, or longer, depending on your preferred practice, really) but after a long day when your stress levels are hotter than your overcooked dinner, a wide leg child’s pose will quiet your nerves, help you come back to (or simply just catch) your breath and lower your blood pressure.

“Ask anyone with neck and back issues, and they’ll tell you they carry their stress in this area. Child’s pose will help alleviate some of this tension instantly. This pose also helps your body rest – however active your mind might be – and your nervous system will follow,” says Bunce.

“If you’re struggling to get centred, simply come back to the breath, once you get yourself into this position. Close your eyes and breathe in for three counts and out for three counts, pausing for one count between each cycle. This will send out stress relieving messages to your body.”

Hopefully, it listens.

For more information from Lauren Bunce, head here.

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The Cyclist’s Home Workout

If you’re spending more time in the saddle, whether that’s because you’re commuting to work, trying to improve your cardiovascular fitness or training for a race or a challenge, you want to make sure you’re cycling as effectively as possible. Because the more power you can put through the pedals, the faster you’ll go and the quicker you’ll get the results you want (and if getting to the office quicker might not be that appealing, at least you’ll get home sooner too).

Spending more training time on two wheels, doing hill work, speed work, and high-intensity interval sessions, will make you fitter and faster. You can also make big improvements to your cycle skills anywhere and any time with these no-kit, gym-free moves put together by endurance coach Steve Whittle. Put them into action and improve your pedal power in no time.

RECOMMENDED: Exercise Bike Workouts

Bulgarian split squat

Bodyweight Workout 1: 2. Bulgarian Split Squat

Why It’ll help to strengthen and stabilise your glutes and hamstrings, two of the most crucial muscles for cycling, as well as improving your core strength.

How Stand tall and place one foot on a step behind you. Bend your front leg to lower your body, keeping your chest up and your front knee over your toes. Drive back up through your front foot to return to the start.

How many? Five sets of 15 to 20 reps on each side.

Bird dog

Why It’ll build a stronger and more stable core, which will help improve your posture on the bike, pedal turnover efficiency and power transfer.

How Kneel on the floor on your hands and knees with your face down and hands directly beneath your shoulders with arms extended. Straighten and lift your left leg and right arm simultaneously, then lower and repeat with the opposite limbs.

How many? Five sets of ten to 15 reps on each side.

RECOMMENDED: Core Exercises

Lunge with arm raise

Why Spending hours on a bike often leads to a tight chest, back and shoulders. This dynamic stretch will help to lengthen and loosen these muscles.

How Stand tall with your core braced and your arms by your sides. Take a big step forwards until both your knees are bent at 90°, simultaneously raising your arms above your head. Return to the start position, then repeat with the other leg.

How many? Five sets of 15 to 20 reps on each side.

Walking plank

Beach Body Six Pack Workout 1 Walking plank

Why It’ll help strengthen your core and shoulders, as well as getting your body working more smoothly and powerfully as a single unit.

How From the top of a press-up position, lower into a plank position one arm at a time, keeping your body straight. Then reverse the move to return to the start.

How many? Three sets of ten reps.

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Bodyweight Workout: No Weights, Big Muscles

To convert your bodyweight into muscle-building currency you need to get creative. This plan from bodyweight-training master Sean Bartram, who helps the Indianapolis Colts cheerleaders develop show-stopping gymnastic power, does just that.

“Think of your body as an empty barbell,” he says. “Changing the pace you move it with, holding awkward positions, adding instability and shaking up classic moves you’ve done all your life serve as the 20kg weight plates you load it up with.”

The result will be increased body awareness, fortified connective tissue and increased hypertrophy from press-ups and planks. You’ll get big, strong and powerful without ever stepping onto the weights room floor – or into a fight with the guy hogging the weight belt.

How it Works

Bartram’s athletes – especially cheerleaders – must be able to throw their bodyweight around with ease, but not every exercise is done at high tempo. This plan slows the pace down with pauses, increased range of motion, decreased stability and variations on classic moves to keep your muscles challenged. The result will be functional muscle you never thought you’d own.

Directions

There are three full-body workouts to spread across the week. The first four moves each day use timed reps called EMOMs (every minute on the minute) or slow tempos that force you to do high reps and keep the muscles under tension. The last two in each workout will spike your heart rate to keep you burning calories.

Bodyweight Workout 1: Range and Tempo

Shake up the pace to amplify your muscles

1. Deep Squat

Bodyweight Workout 1: 1. Deep Squat

Time 10min EMOM Reps 15

Hold a towel overhead with your arms straight and keep it taut. This will force you to keep your chest up and improve your form. Bend your legs to lower slowly, keeping your knees wide apart, until your hamstrings touch your calves. Then drive back up slowly. Set a timer for ten minutes. Do 15 reps at the start of each minute, and rest for the remainder of each minute. This keeps your heart rate high for more fat loss.

2. Bulgarian Split Squat

Bodyweight Workout 1: 2. Bulgarian Split Squat

Sets 5 Time 60sec Reps 60sec

Think of this as a lunge with your foot elevated for an extra stability challenge. Put one foot, laces down, on a bench behind you and the other in front. Bend your front leg to lower your body, then drive back up. Keep your body upright throughout and your front knee in line with your toes.

Vary the tempo with each set of these split squats so your muscles are under load for long muscle-building spells. Below is how it breaks down. The first number is the seconds the lowering part should take, then how long you pause for, then how long you take to drive up. The fifth set is max isolation, holding the deepest position for the whole minute.

Set Lowering Pause Drive up
Minute 1 3sec 1sec 1sec
Minute 2 1sec 3sec 1sec
Minute 3 1sec 1sec 3sec
Minute 4 2sec 0sec 2sec
Minute 5 60sec

3. Squat Jump with Floor Touch

Bodyweight Workout 1: 3. Squat Jump with Floor Touch

Sets 3 Reps 15

Bend your legs, keeping your knees wide apart and your heels in contact with the floor, to drop into a deep squat. Place your hands lightly on the floor and pause for two seconds, then drive up off the floor powerfully, clapping your hands together overhead. The two-second pause removes any rebounding effect to help you build greater strength in the deep squat position.

4. Bridge Kick

Bodyweight Workout 1: 4. Bridge Kick

Time 10min EMOM Reps 10 each leg

Sit on the floor with one leg bent, one straight and your fingers pointing towards your feet. Push into the floor and squeeze your glutes to slowly raise your hips until they’re level with your stabilising knee while raising your straight leg until it’s at 90° to your torso. Slowly lower to the start. Complete all the reps on one side, then switch.

5A. Press-Up Burpee

Bodyweight Workout 1: 5A. Press-Up Burpee

Sets 10-1 ladder

From standing, drop down and place your hands on the floor outside your feet. Jump your feet back and do a press-up, then hop your feet back to between your hands. Jump up, clapping your hands overhead. Do ten reps of 5A, then go straight into ten each side of 5B. Then nine, eight and so on, resting as needed.

RECOMMENDED: The Benefits of Burpees

5B. Jump Lunge

Bodyweight Workout 1: 5B. Jump Lunge

Sets 10-1 ladder

Start in a forwards lunge position with your arms out for balance. Jump off the ground by driving up with your front leg. Swap your legs over in mid-air so you land with the other leg forward. Alternate legs for each rep.

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Abs Workout: Circuits for Upper Abs, Lower Abs, and Obliques and Core

Your abs get a good workout even when you’re not training them directly. That’s because they support your torso and transfer power output between your legs and upper body when doing the big compound lifts – squats, deadlifts and overhead presses – that should make up the bulk of your gym sessions.

But to sculpt an impressive six-pack you must also work your abs directly – and that’s exactly what these four-move mini-circuits will do.

Below, you’ll find three six-pack sessions: one that targets your upper abs, one that hits your lower abs, and one for your obliques – or side abs – and deep-lying core muscles. Simply tag one of them on to the end of your main session to give your abs the extra workload they need to get the definition you want.

For example, if you work out three times a week training your chest and back one day, your legs on another and your arms and shoulders another, just bolt on the upper abs moves on chest day, the lower abs moves on legs day, and the obliques and core moves on arms and shoulders day. Alternatively, you can do them as standalone sessions for a quick and effective abs workout.

RECOMMENDED: Six-Pack Diet

How it Works

Each of these abs workouts is a mini-circuit you can do at the end of your main workout. The circuits are designed to work the maximum number of muscle fibres as quickly and effectively as possible, so you’ll do all four moves in order, sticking to the reps and rest periods detailed. The first move of each circuit is the hardest, then they get progressively easier as the number of reps per move increases. This works your abs harder and places them under greater tension for longer, which is ultimately what stimulates muscle growth. After the final move, rest for the allotted time, then repeat the circuit. Do three circuits in total.

Upper abs workout

1. Dumbbell crunch

Upper abs workout: Dumbbell crunch

Reps 10 Rest 10sec

Hold a dumbbell or weight plate across your chest with both hands. Maintain tension in your upper abs as you lift, then lower, your torso.

2. Tuck and crunch

Upper abs workout: Modified V-sit

Reps 15 Rest 10sec

Keep your fingers to your temples and initiate each rep smoothly without jerking your torso up. Don’t let your feet touch the floor between reps.

3. Modified V-sit

Upper abs workout: Tuck and crunch

Reps 12 Rest 10sec

Keep your arms straight as you raise your torso so that your chest meets your knees at the top of the move. Then lower under control.

4. Crunch

Upper abs workout: Crunch

Reps 20 Rest 90sec

Your upper abs will already be close to fatigue but try to hold the top position of each rep for at least one second to make them work as hard as possible.

Lower abs workout

1. Hanging leg raise

Lower abs workout: Hanging leg raise

Reps 10 Rest 10sec

Start in a dead hang with your legs straight with knees and ankles touching. Keep them together as your use your lower abs to raise them, then lower back to the start under control.

2. Hanging knee raise twist

Lower abs workout: Hanging knee raise twist

Reps 12 each side Rest 10sec

Start with your legs straight and knees together. Twist your body and raise your knees up and to one side, then return to the start. Continue, alternating sides.

3. Hanging knee raise

Lower abs workout: Hanging knee raise

Reps 15 Rest 10sec

Raise your knees powerfully to activate more of the muscle fibres in the lower abs. Lower back to the start under control to prevent swinging.

4. Garhammer raise

Lower abs workout: Garhammer raise

Reps 20 Rest 90sec

Start with your knees already raised, then lift them as high as you can. Lower back to the start under control, keeping your abs engaged throughout.

Obliques and core workout

1. Decline plank with foot touch

Obliques and core workout: Decline plank with foot touch

Reps 10 each side Rest 10sec

Start with your hips raised and core engaged, then lift one foot off the bench and move it to the side to touch the floor. Return it to the bench. Continue, alternating sides.

2. Seated Russian twist

Obliques and core workout: Seated Russian twist

Reps 12 each side Rest 10sec

Start at the top of the crunch position so your abs are fully engaged. Turn from side to side smoothly and under control.

3. Bicycle

Obliques and core workout: Bicycle

Reps 15 each side Rest 10sec

Lie on your back and bring your opposite elbow and knee together, alternating sides. Keep your shoulders and feet off the ground to force your abs to work to stabilise your torso.

4. Plank

Obliques and core workout: Plank

Time Max Rest 90sec

Keep your hips up, glutes and core braced, and head and neck relaxed. Breathe slowly and deeply to hold the position for as long as possible.

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Female Muscle Growth 101

There is much confusion about how to really build muscle. Many people are under the impression that all they have to do is get a gym membership and workout to build muscle. While you can build some muscle slinging iron around aimlessly, your growth potential is limited. Knowing and capitalizing on a few key factors can create faster muscle gains than you will ever believe.

Ladies, are you pounding away at the iron, yet not showing much muscle improvement? Today there is so much bodybuilding information plaguing the fitness magazines and Internet it’s literally exhausting to filter through. What’s worse is that current bodybuilding data is so grossly lacking of a scientific system. It’s come to the point that anyone who can get a free website thinks they are a fitness expert.

In this article you will find there is much more to muscle building than just what the newest trainer on the block just copy/pasted from another forum, or read in an article written by a teenager who has been training for a solid 8 months.

Discover what you need to do to blast muscle gains like you’ve never imagined, with an all natural approach. This is nothing new or revolutionary. It’s simply forgotten and overlooked basic essentials. By law, you can build dynamic muscle.

Many

ladies training to induce muscle growth fail miserably because they disregard finding their unique starting point. Your personal starting point will differ than your friends. Your starting point should be based on your body type and/or shape, as well as your stats, activity level, current diet and exercise program.

If you don’t know your personal body status, how will you find your nutrition and training starting point? You won’t. Do some homework and find your starting point and build a training and nutrition program based on that.

Far too many

ladies are not challenging themselves when they enter the gym. If you want to build muscle you have to stimulate your muscles, and you have to challenge them on a continual basis.

Going to the gym three times a week and doing the same exercise for the same number of sets, and reps will only burn calories. Your object when weight training is to build muscle. To build muscle you must progressively overload your muscles. This can be done with increased poundage, varying sets and reps, and even changing exercises.

Always keep your muscles off guard and always challenge them.

Just because you are weight training doesn’t necessarily mean you will sprout muscles. Two sets of proper curls will yield far greater results than two sets of curls with bad form. There is a technique to every exercise and knowing how to properly execute each will catapult your muscle gains in record time.

I find far more female bodybuilders than male bodybuilders having trouble with this one. Many

ladies think they want to build muscle, but when muscle weight on the scale goes up, they freak out, thinking they are getting fat. Out of the “weight gain fear” they change their goal back to fat loss. Then they decide that they indeed to want muscle and keep going back and forth between building muscle and losing fat goals. This type of goal confusion will not produce results. Goals are only good when followed.

The scale is unable to distinguish between bone, muscle, water, fat, and organ weight. The scale weighs your body as a whole. To find your

muscle building progress you need to be taking your body fat composition.

Stop focusing on numbers

ladies. The fine details of intricate weight fluctuations are irrelevant when you want to build muscle.

Most newbie’s and many intermediate level bodybuilders struggle with information overload. Information overload is simply having so much information available that the reader is incapable of assimilating it, or feels so overwhelmed to absorb any of it.

Many bodybuilders get in this state by reading every conceivable piece of information in magazines and the Internet. The downfall to this is they don’t really understand the basics to know how to sufficiently sift through it all to find the true information.

One way to overcome this dilemma is to find one person to listen to, or one set of ideas to focus on. Gather your information on the concept and get a thorough understanding. Once you are able to successfully understand the information, you can move on to other notions.

You will find much greater information reading books written on kinesiology and other works by scientists and doctors in the field of

sports nutrition, and natural healing. You just won’t find true information in hyped-up muscle magazines.

If you are not tracking your muscle gaining progress, how will do you know you are progressing?

For paramount muscle growth, track your training days, exercises, poundage, sets, and reps. By using this information weekly, you can build on it with progressive overload to ensure muscle gains.

Come on. We are all guilty of this at one time or another. Really I mean what kind of ego is behind working a weak body part that you aren’t very strong at?

Most bodybuilders tend to train their strengths; for one it’s ego boosting and it’s more fun. However, the true bodybuilders train their weaknesses harder. Improving your weakness makes it a strength and creates balance.

One example is my legs. I had very skinny legs my first few years in bodybuilding. They were obviously weak so that made it just that much harder to want to train them. After a few contests and judges feedback, I literally built massive and powerful legs in just 8 months by using these Laws you are now reading. View my leg advancement .

A large percentage of lifters are confused about what intensity actually is; this can be a problem if your goal is to build the best muscular physique you can.

A true certified personal trainer can tell you the difference between aerobic and anaerobic intensity. Aerobic intensity is based on time factor. Anaerobic intensity is based on poundage used.

So, is doing more exercises, sets, and reps higher intensity? Sure, if you want to build your cardiovascular system, and muscle endurance. However, if you want to build muscle, stick with 2-3 exercises (including one compound exercise), and 3 sets, in the 6-8 rep range.

For intensity purposes, if you can’t get 6 reps then the weight is too heavy and if you can do more than 8 the weight is too light. Find YOUR intensity level and progress on that.

The supplement industry is over a $15 billion dollar market. Each year they introduce nearly a thousand new supplements, including “improved” ones. Supplement companies prey on your hot buttons. Most use persuasive advertising or promotional hype to pull you in to buy their product.

Most supplements are useless. If you do your homework and read the science of sports nutrition, and human physiology you’ll understand why some supplements are useful and the rest are just plain garbage.

Along with the quality supplements comes proper timing. While quality supplements are effective, they work better when timed properly with nutrition, training, and/or cardio.

Karen Sessions Iron DollsThere are times you may be too overwhelmed or just need personal guidance or direction in your

muscle building efforts. Some of the best professional bodybuilders have someone to coach them. Having a qualified coach takes the guess work out of your training program and eliminates costly mistakes.

Also, paying attention to how your trainer is structuring your program over the course of several months is a lot of information. Pay particularly close attention to the outline format.

You have the facts outlined. Read through them thoroughly and examine your own bodybuilding approach to tweak it for the better. The worse thing you can do is lie to yourself. Use every step to bring you closer to the attractive physique you want.

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How to Train for a Marathon: Six- and 14-Week Marathon Training Plans

If your new year’s resolution is to get fit enough to complete the classic 42km distance, one of our three detailed marathon training programs will get you in perfect shape to achieve that. Whether you’re a beginner who just wants to be able to finish the race or if you’re advanced enough to want to hit a specific, quick time, there’s a 14-week plan here for you – so pick the right one and get ready to destroy that 42km.

“Running a marathon is about consistent training,” says Martin Yelling, Lucozade Sport’s endurance consultant. As a man who has gathered athletic achievements such as completing 10km in under half an hour and qualifying for the World Ironman Triathlon Championships, Yelling knows distance training. “It isn’t made up of isolated runs or irregular workouts,” he says. “Instead it’s about following a plan that works with your lifestyle and gives you frequent and consistent training. The beginner’s three-times-a-week plan gives just enough of a routine for the busy runner to adapt to regular training without taking over your life. It also builds up to the long runs gradually so it’s not so much of a shock to the body.”

Choose from the three training plans on the following pages, and a set of questions every runner should ask themselves. But first, one Coach writer finds out the hard way if it’s possible to run the big race with just six weeks of training.

How to Train for a Marathon in Six Weeks

Running a marathon is a big deal. As anyone with a family member, friend, or even vague acquaintance who’s done one knows, it takes over lives, and turns even the most interesting person into someone who can only talk about running for the time they’re in training. And that training is endless. Dedicating four months of practising to four hours of effort one weekend in April seems to be the norm.

The training can be more daunting than the race itself, but does it have to be? If you could train for and complete a marathon in just six weeks without disaster, it would be a more attractive idea for many people who can’t face the prospect of committing months to running.

I set out to test the theory by running the Barcelona marathon after just six weeks of training. I was not a regular runner at the start, but as part of an active #CoachEffect lifestyle I was exercising a couple of times a week and in pretty good shape. So I wasn’t starting from scratch, I could run six miles comfortably enough, but I’d also never run a longer distance than around 10 miles.

RECOMMENDED: The World’s Best Marathons

The Training Plan

I aimed to slip in two shorter, faster runs during the working week, before longer runs on Sundays. Given the limited time available, I had to start fairly big with my first long run, opting for a half marathon.

This is probably a good barrier for determining whether the six-week marathon is feasible for you. If you can get through 13.1 miles at the end of the first week, the rest is doable. From there, I built up the long runs as follows:

  • Week 1: 13.1 miles
  • Week 2: 16.5 miles
  • Week 3: 17 miles
  • Week 4: 20 miles
  • Week 5: Run aborted after one mile
  • Week 6: The Marathon!

Aside from week five, when clearing out a loft left my lungs full of dust and I found myself unable to breathe and run at the same time, everything went broadly to plan.

10 Things Learned During Training

  1. Always stick to your eating plan, even if you don’t feel like you need to. If you do get to the stage when you’re desperate for fuel, it’s already too late.
  2. Track everything. You’ll want to keep an eye on your training times and distances. I used Strava and an Apple Watch.
  3. The smallest annoyance can drive you mad when it’s sustained over hours of running. Dress rehearsals for gear and nutrition are a must.
  4. Compression after long runs did seem to speed up recovery time in my calves. I didn’t actually use dedicated compression gear, just a pair of tight football socks.
  5. Going barefoot on hard floors exacerbated any tightness and niggles I felt after running. I kept a pair of trainers clean to use at home.
  6. Plan routes to loop back near your house at the midpoint for fluids. You’re not going to have to carry them on the day so no need to hamper yourself with a water bottle.
  7. Try and avoid routes involving repeated laps. It really is boring, and nothing helps rack up the miles without realising it like getting lost.
  8. Make a real point of planning something enjoyable on the non-running day of your weekend.
  9. Do everything you can to avoid getting ill. Eat healthily, and become a germaphobe. You can’t afford to lose training time.
  10. Always have a post-run plan. Don’t flop on the sofa and stew in your juices until unable to move. Have a protein-packed meal lined up to aid your recovery.

Nutrition

For the inside track on supplements, carb-loading and general diet tips, I spoke to Emma Barraclough, SiS senior sports nutritionist.

When do you need to take supplements for running?

If it’s a run under an hour then generally most people don’t bother with any fluid or energy during. Ideally have a snack a couple of hours before and be well-hydrated when you go out, then you should be fine.

After that, if you’re going for up to 90 minutes, you should think about having some fluid on the way round, and then over that 90-minute window you certainly benefit from having some extra energy in there.

Do I need to change my general diet during my training plan?

The recovery process continues on rest days. You maybe don’t need the level of carbohydrate in your diet from an energy point of view but protein intake is certainly key.

RECOMMENDED: High-Protein Foods

Think about your immune system and keeping an eye on injuries. Once you have a bit of time pressure if you start to lose sessions because you’re not feeling right, that’s a worry. Keep eating well after your longer runs. Good intake of fruit and veg. Just to help.

Is a pasta party the day before the race a good idea?

Yes. Obviously you don’t want to be over-eating but certainly in those 48 hours before the marathon you want to maximise your glycogen stores, so you’ve stored carbohydrates. It doesn’t have to be pasta, it could be any form of carbohydrate. Cereals, bread, jacket potatoes.

The race starts at 8:30, how early do I need to get up for breakfast?

Ideally you could eat breakfast two hours before. It doesn’t have to be a huge breakfast all at once. You can do something like the carbohydrate-only energy drink in the build up on the morning. That’s a good way to top your stores up and make sure you’re well hydrated, but it’s not a big load of food that’s going to be sat in your stomach. You can always use a bar or something like that as well. Just drip feed it in if you’re pushed for time.

How should I use gels?

In terms of what happens to your glycogen level, you don’t want to wait until it’s completely dropped off before you start taking some extra on board. You can only have so much carbohydrate per hour, about 60g. Ideally you want to set off, get into your running rhythm, then within half an hour take your first gel and keep repeating that every 20 to 30 minutes as you go through. So you get a nice steady energy delivery.

Another option is the caffeinated gel. Hitting the wall at 18-20 miles is the thing everybody dreads. Caffeine is about tricking your perception of that so using a gel around that time might be a good option.

Running Gear

Runderwear trunks

If there was one word that sent shivers down my spine when talking about the marathon it was chafing. These supremely comfortable trunks completely removed any concerns about my nethers. £18, buy on runderwear.co.uk

Tribesports Running Top

This Tribesports shirt is lightweight, comfortable, moisture-wicking, and also has a label designed to be easily pulled out, leaving no trace of its scratchy, irritable presence. £26, buy on tribesports.com

Asics 2in1 Woven Shorts

These shorts have a tight inner layer, which provides welcome support for muscles and acts as another ally in the war against chafing. Other than that I didn’t notice them, which is all you really want. £35, buy on asics.co.uk

Karrimor Xlite Bumbag

I kept it classy with this bargain bumbag from Sports Direct. Most running shorts have tiny pockets, so the bumbag is just about your best option. There’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d write. £5.25, buy on sportsdirect.com

Asics Gel-Nimbus 18

The chunky support reduces the risk of injury in an intense training programme, especially for heel-strikers with imperfect technique like myself. £145, buy on asics.co.uk

Race Tips

To get an idea of how to approach training and the race itself, I spoke to Kate Avery, Team NB elite athlete and two-time European cross-country silver medallist, and Nick McCormick, New Balance technical representative and London 2012 Olympian.

Are there any common training pitfalls to avoid?

Nick – The basic mistake that a lot people make is increasing the amount of training they’re doing too quickly, and then doing it all at the same pace. You’re better off dropping your distance down on one or two days a week, and running it a little quicker. A lot of people end up heel striking [landing on your heel when running] too much, doing too much slow running.

Kate – People think you shouldn’t do anything in the last week but you should still run. You can taper too much. If the race is on Sunday, maybe don’t do the long run on a Saturday, but I’d definitely say run the day before, even if you only do two or three miles.

How long before the race should I do my last long run?

Kate – Could you do it during the week, so like 10 days before?

Nick – You don’t want to leave anything too major in your legs, you’ll be sore for the race. 10 days.

How should I approach the race? I’m aiming for a time of 3:40.

Nick – The good thing about a lot of the marathons is they have pacers. When people do marathons,
they make the big mistake of thinking on the day they’re going to try and run at 7:30 pace, and actually you’re better off starting at 8:30 or 8:15 pace.

Kate – And picking it up, you’ll feel better.

Nick – It’s better mentally, when you get to the last three or four miles and you’re going past people. You’re better off overtaking than people going past you, because it’s quite demoralising. Start slow, and then finish fast.

Any tips for tackling the last few miles?

Nick – When you get to the last six miles, the people you’re running with have been the same people around you for the whole run. So they’ve become your colleagues, your comrades in arms.

Kate – No! They’re your competition, you want to beat them!

Nick – That’s what you see a lot of people doing, sprinting against each other at the end. Don’t be afraid of that, it’s not a threat, it keeps you going. Try and stay in a group. Just make sure you beat them.

The Race

I arrived in Catalunya in solid shape. There are a couple of activities widely recommended for the day before a marathon. The first is a short run, to ensure everything’s in order; the other is a pasta party. There is usually one laid on by the organisers, but after spending an hour in a queue for a bowl of tepid pasta, my advice would definitely be to find a nice restaurant instead.

Race morning arrived, and brought with it an insane amount of nerves. Like penalty shoot-outs, no training can prepare you for this aspect of the real deal. Everything became a worry – that I’d under-trained, eaten the wrong things, applied too little Vaseline to sensitive areas. To be fair I worry about that last one every day. What really helped was looking over the records of my training runs on my phone, and it was a surprisingly useful confidence boost.

From the off, I spied the flags of the 3:30 pacers and opted to nestle into the group just behind them. Running behind the pacers has both its advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side you know exactly how fast you’re going and you always have a group of people to run with. The disadvantages are those people, as there will be jostling for position and a greater chance of stumbling in the scrum. You will make friends and enemies.

The toughest parts of the first 20 miles were undoubtedly a couple of long switchbacks, where every step in one direction has to be repeated in the other. Obviously you have to run 26 miles whatever road you cover, but going back on yourself is a drag.

I entered the final six miles with great trepidation, especially with regard to the fabled “Wall” – the sudden wave of fatigue feared by all runners. I felt every step more keenly and the kilometre markers seemed to take forever to come around. Every minor annoyance, such as someone cutting in front of me to grab a water bottle, became infuriating, so it was a relief when the lengthy home straight came around – the Avinguda del Paral·lel leading back to the Plaça d’Espanya.

Disregarding common sense, I kicked for home. With a bigger crowd near the finish and the imminent prospect of stopping powering me on, the last half-mile was as enjoyable as any in the run, and I crossed the line with a time of 3:29:17.

After limping through the end of race refreshments, I headed for home. A lack of foresight during my accommodation hunt had resulted in an apartment on the fifth floor with no elevator. Halfway up the 12 flights of stairs, I finally experienced the Wall.

By Nick Harris-Fry

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Q&A: How Much Weight Should I Lift?

Movement

Scott Wachter

Q: How much weight should I lift?

A: It depends. A good rule of thumb for your weight training is to use a weight that’s challenging but allows you to complete all your repetitions (reps) with proper form. If the last 1-2 reps aren’t hard, it’s too light; if the speed, or tempo, of your reps drops off significantly during the set or you can’t complete all your reps, it’s too heavy (note exceptions below). You want to challenge yourself with weight without sacrificing technique—guys often go too heavy; women tend to go too light at first. Most importantly, make it a goal to improve the quality of your movement with every repetition. When you move better, you perform better.

What to Lift When…

  • Learning New Exercises. If it’s your first time trying a move, err on the side of caution. Go light. Try it with just your bodyweight first. You can also draw a relationship between certain movements, such as flat bench press and incline bench press, or front squat and back squat. So even if you’ve never performed a particular exercise, you’ve likely performed a similar movement pattern, which should give you an idea of how much weight to choose. Over the course of a couple workouts, you’ll find the appropriate weight. At first, simply focus on learning proper technique. Once you’ve honed the skill, it will be far easier to move more weight, and you’ll derive greater benefits as a result.
  • Training for Power. Your goal is to move fast when training for power (a combination of speed and strength). Typically, with explosive moves, you should focus more on using a moderate resistance and moving it quickly (keeping it under control, of course). If you’re unable to perform a movement explosively—for instance, if the weight of a medicine ball doesn’t allow you to move properly—then the weight is either too light or too heavy. Either case—too light or too heavy—could disrupt your technique when trying to move explosively. For explosive drills, the end of the set shouldn’t necessarily feel harder. Your effort level should remain relatively high throughout the set.
  • Waking up Sleepy Areas. Sometimes the goal with certain movements is to simply activate a muscle that’s not functioning optimally. For instance, since many of us spend so much time sitting on our butts and not being active, it’s important to activate the glutes at the start of a training session. Movements in the Prehab portion of your Core Performance training program often focus on doing just this. For these movements, don’t worry about how much weight you lift—the majority of these moves only use your bodyweight anyway. If you’re able to activate the intended muscles, then you’re accomplishing the goal.
  • Progressing in Your Plan. In Core Performance training programs, when you’re in a training phase with fewer reps, increase the weight. When the reps increase, decrease the weight accordingly. By how much? Again, this depends on the exercise you’re doing and how much weight you’re currently lifting. The more weight you’re handling, the larger the jump in weight could be. Alternatively, if you’re lifting 5 pounds, an increase of 1 pound is significant. Make the smallest incremental changes in weight, and then adjust as need. Always use a spotter.

About The Author

Craig Friedman
– Craig Friedman is the vice president of the performance innovation team at EXOS. He designs and implements performance training systems for professional athletes in all sports as well as elite youth and college athletes.

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Tags:
Weight Plates, Q&A, Dumbbells, Training, Strength, Build Muscle

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