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Fitness not Fatness

How do you measure the success of your exercise or fitness program?

Was your answer an aesthetic measure – loss of weight, thinner waist, smaller thighs, visible abs, less cellulite …

So what happens when none of the above happen after weeks or months of exercising? Your weight is the same, you still have love handles, and your cellulite hasn’t budged. Have you failed?

If you said “yes” you’re not alone. Visible results are used as the measure of success by many – the diet industry, leading fitness chains, social media influencers to name a few.

Unfortunately, this is also one of the main reasons women give up on exercise – because they interpret their efforts as “failing” when appearance related milestones aren’t reached.

BUT, despite the scales not budging, you have more energy, can run 5km without stopping, have reduced your blood pressure, improved your cardiovascular fitness, reduced your resting heart rate, can carry 3 shopping bags in each hand from the car up your front steps…

Where is the cudos, the recognition or even the before and after pictures that captures all of that?

Somewhere along the way the reason we exercise has been flipped to be more about FATNESS NOT FITNESS.

But how fit and healthy you are is so much more than how you look. Its about how you FEEL, what you can DO, how much MORE you can LIVE.

That’s why I will NEVER run a 6-week challenge where how much weight you lose is the measure of success, I will never use before & after pics, and nor will I promise that by working with me you will lose weight.

What I WILL do, is encourage and empower you to reclaim your PHYSICAL POWER – the power to be, and do, and live more, and measure your success on what your body can DO, not what it LOOKS LIKE.

And see the word exercise to mean FITNESS NOT FATNESS again.
@jacqui.toohey

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Change

“The Change”

Change is sometimes forced upon us. Menopause is a little like that. We don’t have any control over when it will happen, how long the transition will take, or what symptoms we will suffer. But just like paying taxes and dying, women will travel through perimenopause on the way to destination menopause. But what we do have control over, is how we react to and manage this change.

I am 47. It’s a little weird to see that number on paper, as it confirms that I am creeping ever closer to 50 and yet it doesn’t seem possible. I still feel 24 in my head, my body usually acts like a 30-year-old and my outlook on life remains young. Yet I can tell my body is changing. Although it’s been pretty smooth sailing up until now, I know bumpy seas may not be too far away…

Entering my forties was a breeze – in fact I was in better condition both physically and mentally than I was in my twenties. I felt awesome! The baby-making days were well and truly over (you can read about my Bump, Bubs & Beyond story here), I was running faster & further than ever (pic above is me running New York City marathon in 2011 age 41), lifting, jumping, studying, I started my own business, worked with a charity, managed an active family. Life was (and still is) good.

Then earlier this year, I started to notice a shift both physically and emotionally.

Physically I’m not bouncing back quite as quickly from training as I did 12 months ago. I need to include recovery, restorative activity and rest days regularly or I pay for it (hello sore back!). I’ve noticed a little “marshmallow” around my tummy and upper legs despite no deviation from my usual diet. And, I have days when I am completely s p e n t.

But I think it’s the emotional side that is most telling. In general, I’ve never really been too up & down with the monthly ebb & flow of hormones. Not any more –  I’m all OvEr the place!  Some days I’m clear headed, efficient, super productive, can handle anything that comes my way – good or bad. Other days I’m in a complete fog. Making a decision is stressful, being “on” and “up” for clients a real challenge, and trying to see the good in situations or people takes a lot of effort. My darling daughter tells me that there are times when my fuse is really, really short and I’m super grumpy mum! I also have days when I’d prefer to be by myself.

So, although I haven’t had it medically confirmed (blood tests next week) I’m pretty sure I’ve just taken a seat on the perimenopause train. This could be a quick express trip or stopping all stations. Either way, this is why I’ve started researching, questioning, listening and talking with other women about menopause. I want to know the facts that will help answer all the “why do I feel like this” questions I have. I want to find solutions and work out strategies so I can embrace this stage of life and see it as a positive experience. And I want to STAY STRONG, FIT & ACTIVE (in active wear) for a long time to come.

Women are brilliant at talking! Sometimes we just need a little kick start to get the conversation flowing, but when it does – BOOM! Let’s start this conversation about menopause. It (menopause) will happen so staying silent is not going to make it go away. Being a negative Norah (sorry Gran T x) about all the side effects will not make them feel any better. If we share our experiences, talk openly and honestly – without judgement – we can help each other through this stage and out the other side with our dignity, sanity and badass attitude intact!  Because guess what – we still have a whole lot of living to do.

If you’ve got a story to share, questions to ask, strategies that have worked for you, I’d love to hear from you. Please email me at jacqui@heartbodyandsoul.com.au  or join the closed Facebook Group I’ve created especially for all of the 40+ fabulous women of the Heart Body & Soul community.

All power to the badass ladies of Heart Body & Soul xx

 

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Let’s talk periods

Let’s talk periods, or more specifically the menstrual cycle. Our reproductive years are marked by the regular occurrence of a menstrual cycle. Like it or loathe it, the menstrual cycle and the hormonal changes that drive the cycle, lie at the core of a female’s health and well-being.

Some of us are really in synch with our monthly cycles, others (me being one of them) not so much. But there is much to be learnt from tuning into your menstrual cycle and then to use this knowledge to your advantage, particularly if you have specific strength, performance or physique change goals.

The cyclic hormonal changes involve a number of important organs in the body that are instrumental to the development and regulation of the reproductive and immune systems. These hormonal changes influence your mood, energy fluctuations, cravings, body shape and performance. By having an understanding of your cycle it can provide you with a useful “snapshot” into the status of your overall health, and therefore how to potentially make a few tweaks to your lifestyle to see positive changes.

The following is a brief summary of the menstrual cycle, the hormonal changes and how exercise prescription can be altered to take advantage of these fluctuations. It may also explain why you feel stronger one week and like you’ve hit a brick wall the next.

A normal menstrual cycle can be anywhere between 28 and 35 days. For the purpose of this article let’s use 28-days as that fits neatly into a 4-week period. A cycle can be divided into 2 main phases – the Follicular and Luteal Phase. Each phase is characterised by a change in the ratio of the two main sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone.

Follicular Phase

This first phase occurs between day one (first day of bleeding) and ovulation (when an egg is released from the follicle). When you have your period oestrogen and progesterone are at their lowest levels. Interestingly, this is the time when women are physiologically “most like men” which explains why you may feel strong and good when exercising.

Oestrogen levels rise gradually during the first 10-days of the cycle and peak just prior to ovulation around day 14. Oestrogen has a positive effect on mood and energy, muscle strength and force production, and has a protective quality in mitigating muscle damage.

In regards to exercise and training – this phase provides an opportunity to build muscle, improve strength and train at higher intensity. The body can handle more pain, can produce more muscle force and recovers well. Therefore, high intensity, short duration interval sessions are effective, as is training for strength and hypertrophy gains.

Interestingly, during this phase the body utilises more glucose and is more insulin sensitive – the body’s cells readily absorb glucose out of the bloodstream to use as fuel. It is therefore important to fuel the body with adequate amounts of carbohydrates to meet any increase in energy demands.

Ovulation

Ovulation – when an egg is released from the follicle – occurs around day 14 and is characterised by a sharp increase in all hormones, including testosterone.

Luteal Phase

The time between ovulation and menstruation is the luteal phase. Initially there is a dip in oestrogen levels, but this rises again, along with the hormone progesterone.

Progesterone is known to be “catabolic” in nature – it “breaks down” molecules – as a result increasing core body temperature and a switch in fuel source from carbohydrate to fat.

If you are in tune with your body, you may notice subtle changes that occur after ovulation – energy shifts, mood changes, maybe you don’t recover so well after training. And, as you near your period, you may experience symptoms of PMS and/or cravings.

This is potentially a time to switch down gears and reduce intensity and loads to match your energy level and mood, and honour how your body is feeling. In the lead up to your period, you may find switching towards lower intensity, longer duration intervals and exercises, circuit training and general play may be more beneficial than short, sharp intense sessions. If you suffer from bloating, cramping and other premenstrual symptoms, the ability to activate your inner core may be impacted and could leave you vulnerable to injury without adequate preparation.

And finally, if you really are feeling crap – give yourself permission to rest. A few days of lighter training or relaxation will actually improve your overall health.

Some women are more prone to cyclic changes than others. Understanding how you respond to your cycle can make it easier to adapt your lifestyle – exercise, nutrition, sleep and stress levels in particular – in order to work with rather than against your cycle.

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One step back…two steps forward

Do you feel a constant urge to make progress? In life, relationships, fitness, business? Have you noticed that progress isn’t always one way traffic?

Progress is by definition “forward or onward movement towards an objective or to a goal”, or my preferred definition “gradual betterment”.

The path towards the goal may plateau and undulate, and even loop back on itself, but ultimately we move forward, we get better, we progress.

Back in the day I very rarely (ie. never!) took a backward step in training until I was forced to. For the stubborn among us, sometimes we are forced into or need to regress a movement, skill or training load – such as when faced with injury or illness – before we can progress.

But there are also times, (and there are also sensible people who work with a good coach) when we can embrace regression or chose to take a backwards step, in order to take two steps forward.

If we embrace regression – rather than wait for imbalance or injury to strike – we give ourselves a better opportunity to succeed in the long run.

So, is it time to give yourself permission to REGRESS?

Maybe you’ve had an extended break from training. Maybe you are returning to exercise after having a baby. Maybe you’ve been stuck on a performance plateau for a few months. Maybe you have an underlying injury or imbalance that’s causing a chain reaction in other parts of your body.

Addressing an injury, imbalance, weakness or a plateau doesn’t have to be a negative experience

Tackle your weakest link, the one you’ve possibly been ignoring or avoiding for a while.

Regressing doesn’t always mean choosing “easier” exercise options.

Try slowing down – less is more.

Train smarter – not harder.

Try increasing your range of movement – focus on quality over quantity.

Allow for adequate recovery – within and between sessions.

You may find that by taking a step back, you come out stronger on the other side, and take two giant steps forward.

I’m embracing regression this term and working with a new coach. My focus is to slow down, less is more, quality over quantity – in order to become more efficient, move better, and progress.

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Metafit for the midlife mumma?

Are you a 40+ female and looking for a new way to exercise that is short on time but big on results? If yes…read on!

If you’ve clicked on this post I’m going to presume you meet the following criteria:

  • Female
  • 40+
  • Currently exercising but not seeing results for the time or money you are devoting to it OR
  • Not exercising but would love to/need to start, but you don’t like gyms, and yoga and/or pilates don’t float your boat either OR
  • You feel a little intimidated to sign up to boot camp run by a 20 year old male trainer alongside his footy team-mates, but you love the idea of working hard and feeling the buzz after a tough session

If any of the above sound like you, then please read on…

OK, so I’m no stranger to pushing my body (& mind) to do heavy-duty physical things…in fact I met my hubby whilst sharing the chin-up bar at the gym!…so when I was introduced to METAFIT it was love at first sight! But doing old-school bodyweight exercises in short, intense bursts for 20 minutes until your legs are burning and you’re gasping for breath isn’t for everyone…or is it?

For the past 18 months I’ve been taking 7 metafit sessions a week. The overwhelming majority of my clients are women, and most of them would be north of 40 (or pretty close to). So why is metafit so attractive/addictive to the 40+ woman?

Here’s what I think:

It’s the RIGHT type of exercise for this age group (and I fit into this age bracket too). What do I mean by RIGHT type of exercise? Its INTENSE but SHORT, you feel ENERGISED afterwards and you GET RESULTS.

HOW? Because you:

  • Get HOT
  • Get SWEATY
  • Get OUT OF BREATH
  • Feel the LACTATE BURN in your muscles
  • Work in SHORT BURSTS
  • Work until you FEEL TRULY CHALLENGED and NEED TO REST
  • Use your own BODYWEIGHT – yep, the same weight that you drag around each day so you may as well use it!
  • FEEL yourself getting STRONGER and FITTER as you master exercises you thought a 40+ woman can’t/couldn’t/shouldn’t do! (Floor to sky tuck jump anyone?)

WHY should a 40+ woman do metafit or HIIT?

  1. BONE HEALTH – weight bearing and impact exercise are essential for bone health and maintaining bone mass at this critical phase of life. After the age of about 30, bone loss starts to outpace bone gain. In addition, the decline in oestrogen production that also occurs as we age has a negative impact on bone remodelling activity. Bone mass is reactive, not proactive. Bone must experience stress ie. load and impact, in order to remodel. Less stress = less remodelling = loss of bone mass.
  1. To build LEAN MUSCLE MASS (notice I say mass and not size) and therefore INCREASE YOUR METABOLISM – muscle tissue = metabolic tissue. The more (dense) muscle you have the higher your metabolic requirements – your body needs & will use more energy whilst at rest compared to someone who has less lean muscle.
  1. The high intensity of metafit promotes EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) or the afterburn effect. Our bodies want to return to their resting state, but after being worked so hard during high intensity exercise, it takes considerable energy (calories) to do this. Even though the actual workout is only 30 minutes, the after effects are felt for many hours (up to 48hrs) afterwards.
  1. To MAINTAIN or INCREASE MOBILITY, BALANCE & POSTURE – the whole body functional nature of the exercises used in metafit see you getting up and down from the floor, moving forwards, backwards, sideways, using your arms and legs to push, pull, bend, lift, jump, hold etc through a full range of movement in all joints. At the same time your core & postural muscles are working to stabilise your torso and maintain posture. And the resistance is your own body – the same weight you drag around all day – nothing more, nothing less.
  1. Check the strength and integrity of your CORE & PELVIC FLOOR. If you find when you do burpees, sprints or jumps and pee your pants at ANY level…fantastic! This is 100% proof that your core/pelvic floor isn’t up to par for this type of training…yet. If this is you, please seek assistance from a specialised women’s health physiotherapist or your GP ASAP. Just like any muscles, these muscles can be trained to increase their strength and tone and your ability to control them. (Sometimes we need to experience a little of what we don’t want to do something about it!)

Are you a metafit or HIIT convert? How do you find it?

Curious to try? Come and join me at Heart Body & Soul in Glen Iris. You’ll find the timetable here. If you live a little too far away to visit me, search the Metafit Australia website for a coach near you.

 

 

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HIIT Workout for @ home or hotel

The latest DIY HIIT workout for @ home or the hotel room

One of the (many) brilliant things about HIIT bodyweight training is that a workout can be done anywhere at anytime – all you need is a little space, a clock with stopwatch or interval timer app, and a little self starter attitude.

The latest workout attached will take no more than 15 minutes including a warm-up!

So, what are you waiting for HIIT IT!IMG_0316.CR2

Hotel HIIT Workout #4

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Focus on landing

Soft landings = safe landings

Metafit uses plyometric exercises (eg. jumps) to build strength and power. When performing plyometric exercises, landing technique is often overlooked, but it is AS if not more important than the concentric (upward) motion of jumping.

The untrained way to land is in a very rigid, stiff legged manner. As a result, all of the impact is absorbed between the hip, knee and ankle joints. It is much more advantageous to land softly and transfer the force to the glutes (butt), hamstrings, quads and calf.

One of the recent points of discussion in strength and conditioning communities focussed on people who are quad dominant v glute dominant. Quad dominant athletes tend to use their quads to shift their weight forward with squatting and jumping movements. This not only transfers a lot of pressure to the front of the knee, but puts a large load on the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

By learning how to land softly without noise and controlling deceleration, you will significantly lower the impact forces, decrease the risk of injury and extend the life of your joints.

The key points in landing technique are:

  1. Land as softly as possible, making no noise when the feet come into contact with the surface. How many times have you heard me say “Absorb the impact through your butt and thighs, not your joints”!
  2. Land flat footed or slightly heel first, keeping weight evenly distributed over the entire foot.
  3. Shift your glutes or butt back and keep your knees behind your toes. “Butt out”

Jumping and landing training are highly demanding on the nervous system, so it is essential that the body is warm enough to perform the exercises efficiently. Please practice these key points when performing jumps in a metafit session – your joints will thank-you.

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DIY HIIT Workout #5

TABATA – 4-16mins of HIIT

Tabata – is the name given to an exercise protocol developed by Prof. Izumi Tabata in a study he completed using Olympic speedskaters in 1996. The protocol is a version of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), 20 seconds of ultra-intense exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated for 4 minutes. The basics of this protocol are used in a variety of HIIT sessions, but in its purest form participants work at 150% Max HR for 4 mins total!

In this DIY workout YOU can be the coach – you get to choose how many Tabtata sets AND which sets to do. Each set is 4 minutes duration, alternating between 2 different exercises – 20 sec on A, 10 sec rest, 20 sec on B, 10 sec rest REPEAT.

As with all HIIT sessions, a thorough warm-up is essential, as is working HARD in each interval – you need to be huffing and puffing, NO PACING and GREAT TECHNIQUE. Exercise descriptions follow and the exercise basics can be found here

Warm-up:

Arm circles – back/forwards

Leg Swings – fwd & back, side to side

Trunk rotations

10 Body weight squats

5 Push-ups from knees

Jog on spot – butt kicks 15 sec, high knees 15 sec, sprint 15 sec – x 3 each

Main HIIT set:

TABATA – 20 sec work/10 sec x 8 = 4 mins per set

20 sec on ex A, 10 sec rest, 20 sec on ex B, 10 sec rest – REPEAT

30 sec rest in between sets

Set 1 A. Sliders/Skater B. Mt Climbers
Set 2 A. 2-step dash B. Crucifix plank
Set 3 A. Burpees B. No-wall sit
Set 4 A. Sprint B. Split hand push-ups


Sliders/Skaters –
Lower into squat position, step sideways keeping weight in heels and butt back, bring feet together, step to other side, feet together. Repeat. Stay low, head & chest up. 

Mt Climbers – In plank position (shoulders over wrists, heels over toes), bring one knee up to chest, return to plank position, repeat other side.

2-Step Dash – Run forward 2 steps, touch flat palm to ground, run back to steps, flat palm to ground. Bend at knees to keep butt down, squeeze butt to stand up, use arms in run phase.

Crucifix plank – wide arm plank, feet together, squeeze shoulder blades together

Burpees – old fashioned burpee. Hands on ground, jump feet back to plank position, jump feet in to hands, stand/jump up explosively with arms raised overhead. Repeat.

Split hand push-ups – One hand forward, one hand in normal push-up position, push-up, change hand position, repeat. From knees alternative.

Sprint – sprint on spot, high knees, pump arms

No-Wall Sit – Hold static squat for 20 sec. Butt back, weight in heels, head & chest up.

 

Cool Down:

Static stretches that target quads, hamstrings, hips, groin, lower back

 

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Metafit – Child’s play for lasting benefits

Metafit – for a  long, healthy life

A metafit session may not be child’s play, but it does involve playful movements such as jumping up and down or standing on one leg, things we often leave behind with childhood. Yet these movements can benefit a grown-up’s body. Jumping can strengthen bones, and standing on one leg improves balance.

You don’t need to come to a metafit session to do either of these movements, but if you do come to metafit I guarantee you will do things you didn’t know you could (still) do. So, if its been a while since you jumped, stood on one leg or went outside your comfort zone, these are some of the reasons to give metafit a go.

A decade ago, a typical cardiovascular class (aerobics class) at a gym often involved so many choreographed moves you almost needed brains in your feet as well as your head. Now the trend that metafit leads is to less complex exercises that improve all-round physical function – not just aerobic fitness, but muscle strength, power, flexibility and bone density.

Old-school basic training, with movements such as push-ups, tuck jumps and burpees. Yes BURPEES – where you squat on the ground with your hands on the floor and kick your feet back so you are in a push-up position. Then jump your feet back into the squat position, jump up in the air and do it all again.

What is good about these movements is that, although they take effort, they are not complicated to do and, because you move quickly from one to another, there is no time to get bored.

“Traditional classes like step or aerobic classes have waned and I think its because the complexity of the choreography often compromised the physical benefits you got from them,” says Alisha Smith, education manager with Australian Fitness Network.

Metafit is functional training

Metafit is based on functional training, meaning exercises that target multiple muscles at once rather than just one muscle, such as a bicep curl. These movements are closely related to activities of daily living – think of how many times a day you move from sit to stand.

Now you don’t need to come to a metafit session to get fit, but one advantage of a class is that you generally work harder than when you are left to your own devices.  Metafit will also push you to vary your movements. Modern living can limit how we use our body. We walk a bit, sit a lot, don’t lift much weight and don’t jump. Yet research shows jumping is the most effective exercise for improving bone density, says Professor Robin Daly, chair of exercise and ageing at Deakin University.

Bones thrive on the stress and element of surprise that comes with jumping, he says. “We should include bone-loading activities like jumping, skipping and hopping. To improve bone density, it’s more important to vary the direction in which you jump than to keep jumping higher. Jumping from side to side is one way. So is a burpee.”

Metafit "explosive jack"

Bones thrive on the stress and element of surprise of jumping – a metafit “explosive jack”

“We don’t know exactly how much jumping is needed to improve bone density but our research suggests 50 to 100 multidirectional jumps three to five times a week.”

A lot happens in a 30 minute METAFIT session – some of the results of HIIT training are obvious in weeks, others not so obvious but have long lasting benefits for your health and well-being. Come and try a session – no fancy choreography, just old-school functional training that gets results.

 

 

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Metafit is Functional Fitness

Metafit is Functional Fitness

Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to help you do everyday activities safely and efficiently.

Do you live to exercise? Unless you’re an elite athlete, or have an endorphin addiction (like me!), you probably answered no to that question. Most people, in fact, would say they exercise to improve their quality of life. And that’s the focus of functional fitness.

Functional fitness exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as carrying groceries, playing a game of basketball with the kids, or working in the garden. Functional fitness exercises train your muscles to work together and prepare them for daily tasks by simulating common movements you might do at home, at work, or in sports.

Common movement patterns include – push, pull, bend to extend, squat, single leg and twist actions. While using various muscles in the upper and lower body at the same time, functional fitness exercises also emphasise core stability. For example, a squat is a functional exercise because it trains the muscles used when you rise up and down from a seated position, or pick up low objects. By training your muscles to work the way they do in everyday tasks, you prepare your body to perform well in a variety of common situations.

METAFIT™ is functional exercise at high intensity. Our qualified coaches are taught how to perfect technique and adapt exercise in order to provide a controlled and safe training environment. The more METAFIT™ you do, the stronger, fitter and more functional you’ll become. Adapted from Metafit Australia post.