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Here’s some food for thought:
In some cultures, the guts are considered to be ‘the second brain’.
What we put into our mouths and swallow informs every aspect of our lives and even the lives of our offspring. Once past the throat, there’s no turning back so it could be argued that the most crucial personal care starts and ends with our food choices.
A poor food choice may send us to the couch for a couple of hours bloated, heavy and unmotivated. The right food choice however will give us wings!
There is that which the brain in your gut needs and that which your ‘other’ brain wants. What your ‘other’ brain wants is all too easily dictated by our emotional or nervous state. A bowl full of hot, sweet gooey mush is probably an emotional choice rather than a sensible response to your nutritional needs. As is saving room for dessert when hunger has already been satisfied. Your gut would simply never make such a choice, especially when it may already be facing the dreaded workload of carbs (possibly refined), animal protein, refined salt and even trans fats. Once we start to notice the benefits from responsible food choices, it becomes very easy to laugh off some of the suggestions coming from your mind. Quite often the head makes fickle choices based on sights, smells and memories and so it sends out all kinds of mixed messages some of which should simply be dismissed rather than indulged.
Unless exacerbated by the clinical binge eating disorder known as BED, eating compulsively is a trap that we can all fall into as it may carry some underlying emotional stimulus. Usually though, it’s an inevitable reaction to a plate full of empty calories.
The most insatiable appetite is automatically curbed when the body has received its RDA or SDA – Sufficient Daily Amount.
It’s actually quite hard to overeat when we’re eating only that which we’re meant to consume. An entire potato, half a small cabbage, a whole carrot and quarter of a chicken would be extremely difficult for the largest human appetite to manage in one sitting. Now, if you break down the structural integrity of the food by cooking it and removing some of the potency then it becomes much easier to spoon in and swallow in large amounts.
It’s a straight forward choice between quality and quantity.
Plant and fruit trees are natures food factories. Each plant or tree produces an abundance of human food in accordance with its own circadian rhythms. Food which has been slow-cooked to perfection by the elements and served at its very best is already pret-a-manger. Our hunter/gatherer days are over, there’s no need to ‘kill it before we eat it’ anymore!
For someone to even hint that they don’t have time to eat responsibly is a desperate shame because the healthiest food is ready to eat anyway. If you want more than fresh fruit and veg’ then a wholly nutritious bowl of hummus takes the same amount of time to prepare as a partially nutritious round of scrambled eggs on toast, plus cleaning up after is a lot easier!
In the interest of optimum, life-long health food MUST be eaten as close to its natural state as possible with very few exceptions.
The further food is taken from its natural state, the more nutritional value it loses. One example would be the classic British chip which is only 4 stages from the soil but by the time it’s washed, peeled, chopped and fried it’s no longer fit for consumption. Boiling thin slices of potato in oil will thoroughly remove any trace nutrients. What remains from all your effort can only do you system harm as it now has to figure out what to do with this greasy massacre you’ve swallowed. There simply aren’t any nutrients left and to your insides it barely resembles a potato now. If it’s covered in salt and dipped in a condiment then it might be more palatable for you mouth, to you body though it remains a harmful mystery. The moment we start to process food and take it away from its original state we create some sort of void, a void usually filled in the form of seasoning, stock cubes, binding agents, raising agents, thickeners, preservatives, flavour enhancers etc.
Did you ever bite into an apple and this to yourself ‘What this apple needs is just a pinch of something to bring out the flavour’? I bet no human ever did..
Every living cell in every form of life contains oxygen. Its the one molecule that identifies all life forms and is likewise present in every cell in the body. Oxygen is present in all human food until its cooked out.
Everything we put into our bodies has a cellular influence. When we eat fresh food, we’re literally eating life. No wonder there’s so much to be gained!
Raw food contains life! It is life. Live enzymes in our food react with the live, digestive enzymes present in the gut. A diet of processed foods means hours of digestive toil. Processed food is much harder for the body to process and has lost so many essential nutrients anyway. Gut transit is further hampered as more crap is packed in, in an effort to curb an inexplicable hunger for more nutrients.
Not bulk, but nutrients.
People moan on and on about being bloated when really, we just need to stop treating our guts like a compost heap.
If you can imagine the gut as the second brain then think about this, if after every meal you had to sit down for a while to let the swelling in your head go down, would you ever go near that food again? Or would you most likely be traumatized into rethinking your eating habits?
Bloating isn’t normal, its something we put up with.
Spring Cleaning Your System
After just a day or two of switching to a ‘clean’ raw diet, gut transit time takes an average of 7 hours. What you eat at noon could make a reappearance at 7pm… if you know what I mean!
Frustratingly the only impactful food education available to the masses seems to be the UK government slogan ‘Eat your 5 a day’! Its better that nothing and if you don’t already eat a largely raw diet with lots of fresh, live foods then why not start today (tomorrow if you’re reading this after breakfast)?
Check out some of OKOactive raw food recipes on Youtube and start your day with a living breakfast.
The OKOactive Kitchen
Breathing is another one of the body’s voluntary functions.
We take more than 20,000 breaths in an average day and unless it becomes an effort, most of us don’t give it a second thought.
Our automatic breathing is controlled by the CNS, therefore our quality of breathing has a direct correlation to our emotional and physical state.
The primary organ for respiration is the diaphragm, a dome shaped muscle resembling an open parachute.
Its situated at the bottom of the chest cavity. It attaches to the lower ribs, the sternum, the central tendon and forms a symbolic lid for the core muscle group. When we consciously inhale, the muscle contracts and in doing so expands the chest cavity allowing the lungs to fill up with air. On exhalation the diaphragm relaxes, the ribs retract and the lungs empty. Without this merry dance, breathing would be akin to manual labour.
If you were to place a hand over your sternum, in a seated or standing position and inhale, ideally your stomach will expand forward to make contact with your hand. This is identical to the rise and fall we see in infants. Small children are so unconcerned about revealing a pot belly that they simply allow their bodies to do what comes naturally. Because of our concerns over body image, most of us deliberately prevent our repiratory organs from working properly and actually encourage what’s known as ‘Chest Breathing’.
Shallow, or Chest Breathing isn’t just indicative of stress and anxiety but can also be the cause of those symptoms. Further, chest breathing is entirely dysfunctional not only because it reduces the amount of oxygen coming into the body but because it encourages the diaphragm to atrophy. Once the diaphragm starts to slacken, as with any other muscular system in the body other muscles kick in to take up the load, or at least have a go. In this case the intercostal muscles, located between the ribs, the pectorals and even the scalnes muscles of the neck will chip in for the greater good – all hands to the pump. As respiration isn’t their primary function, a dysfunctional relay race begins until eventually the whole system breaks down and a persona is left with permanently laboured breathing.
As mentioned earlier, breathing patterns are heavily influenced by our emotional state. Peter Brown, Phd – head of performance knowledge at the Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport says that in times of danger, when our fight or flight instinct kicks in, just in case need to find another gear to get us fully out of danger, our brains will automatically recruit the secondary muscles first – the prime mover, in this case the diaphragm, will be reserved just in case we need to leg it!
As with any muscle, the diaphragm can be built up with exercise. Regular, physical exercise makes deep breathing unavoidable so its a great way to train and maintain a robust and efficient respiratory system.
Functional breathing techniques, developed and used by our ancestors can be the perfect antidote to stress and anxiety. The calming effects of controlled breathing exercises can be noticed in a matter of seconds – much quicker than it would take for anti-anxiety medication to kick in. Yoga breathing or Pranayama is still a common practice in the world of holistic therapy. What’s more the exercises can be repeated as often as possible with nothing but the most positive and beneficial side effects.
When we are conscious of the importance of correct breathing and regularly practice good techniques, functional breathing soon becomes second nature and unless we’re experiencing prolonged emotional upset, most of our 20,000 daily breaths will unconsciously engage the all-important diaphragm.
There is a world of difference between ‘getting fit’ and ‘keeping fit’.
One obvious difference is that ‘keeping fit’ is a practice the regular exerciser cannot bear to forego, while ‘getting fit’ can feel more like self imposed torture!
There’s plenty of evidence to show that we can live our lives without any kind of exertion, but what kind of a life would that be?
Starting a fitness regime on your own can be quite overwhelming. When the new exerciser suddenly begins to over-exert themselves they are literally, and effectively, causing physiological earthquakes. This is exactly what’s needed but if those earthquakes aren’t governed or monitored then all those good intentions can go down the pan and enthusiasm can wane along with the desired progress.
So lets suppose this is day one. You made a resolution last night, bought a pair of running shoes on your lunch break today and now you’re staring at them… and you’re still staring at them…
The Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With A Single Step _Lao Tzu
…the gung-ho personality might just fly out of the front door and return 30 minute later in a sweaty, victorious heap. Great! Carry on and you can only get fitter and stronger. Others though, might do better to take baby steps towards improving their physical health.
As animals, if we’re not comfortable or confident doing something that we need to do on a regular basis we’ll very quickly find a shortcut or the path of least resistance and it can be quite alarming how much compromise we learn to live with. So, for a start try to gain some awareness of how you go about your day, physically. For example: When putting your socks on, do you bring you knee into your chest or do you contort yourself considerably because you struggle to reach? Do you hold onto the rails as you’re taking the stairs? Do you take the stairs or the lift? Which bus stop do you head for? Could you skip one? Or two? Or all of them?
One 52 year old woman told me she’d lost a stone and a half and passed her 1st medical MOT since hitting her middle years just by walking to work and she started to improve as soon as she walked past that 1st bus stop – a year ago!
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense. It doesn’t even need to feel like exercise. Just move. Our bodies are organic and although our original purpose has been overridden by industrial developement, our physiological make up remains the same. Even heredity can be overruled by exercise! Regular movement is the ONLY factor (outside of medicine) that prevents risks in the following areas.
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Decreased risk of stroke
- Diabetes (Type 2)
- Weight gain
- Muscular degeneration
- Arterial degeneration (cardio improves veinal elasticity)
- Back pain
- Metabolic syndrome (sitting for more than 1 hour can lower your metabolism by up to 19%) So unfair!
Movement is what the human body was designed to do. We’re still hunter/gatherers and although our original purpose has been overridden by industrial development, our biological demands remain the same and if we insist on ignoring those demands because we’re too busy, cant be bothered or don’t see ourselves as the ‘hunting type’ then there will of course be consequences.
Exercise doesn’t have to be intense. It doesn’t even need to feel like exercise. Just move.
The goal in any exercise session is to ‘overload’. Take yourself just just beyond your comfort zone and your system will have some incentive to improve. In other words, you’ll be getting fitter and feeling better.
The goal in any exercise session is to ‘overload’. Take yourself just just beyond your comfort zone and your system will have some incentive to improve. In other words, you’ll be getting fitter and feeling better.
What is a cool down anyway?…
…Surely I have the rest of the day to do that.
Whether you’ve been pounding the pavements, lifting weights or bending yourself in yoga positions for an hour, somehow during your workout you’ve dramatically altered your body’s homeostasis (its internal environment). The cool down is your first opportunity to redress the internal balance and speed up the recovery process.
Following a good sweat, your wonderful heart muscle has been working hard to pump blood to the farthest extremes of your working muscles. A gradual decrease in exercise intensity will safely and effectively redirect the blood flow to the heart. Then the heart can re-prioritize blood flow to the brain and other internal organs.
Gentle, repetitive movement will also speed up lactic drainage. Lactic acid is one of the by products that build up in the blood stream and is pumped into our working muscles. This build up is a major part of the soreness we feel during Doms.
Never end your exercise session out of breath. If your breathing is still heavy, this means that your heart is still working hard and pumping fuel around your body. To avoid blood pooling, its important that you maintain moderate movement until the heart rate has returned to its resting state. This might be achieved by walking around the block at the end of your run or bike ride. Make sure that when you put you key in the door, your breathing is normal.
The worst place to recover is on the couch!
Finally there’s the stretching. This often overlooked part of the workout session is actually crucial for repair and maintainance. Even during a yoga sessions, the muscles have been manipulated into all manner of contractions. Therefore its vital that we stretch them out again. Stretching post workout not only helps to maintain and develop range of motion, it also assist in lactic drainage.
Take at least 5 minutes for a cool down at the end of your session.
You deserve it!
For all your endeavours to keep fit, a good sleep is one of the biggest rewards coming to you.
One of the first things the new exerciser notices is the sheer depth and quality of sleep they’re getting following a good session.
To be thoroughly spent at the end of each day is a claim that many a hardworking person can make. For the exerciser though its more than just a tired brain muscle. It could be that every muscle in your body also wants you to take the weight off your feet and hit the sack because now is its opportunity to repair.
As soon as you’ve drifted off, your body begins the nightshift! While we’re blissfully unaware and more to the point unable to interfere the amazing process of repair and restoration begins. The human growth hormone (HGH) is anabolic which means it promotes growth. It’s therefore at its highest levels during childhood and adolescence. It’s responsible for, among other things bone development and muscle formation.
While there are other physiological stimulants for HGH release, arguably the best natural trigger is good old sleep.
During REM sleep HGH is released via the pituitary gland and gets to work. The duties of this hormone include retention of calcium, necessary for bone density and the mobilization of fat. Other functions include, protein synthesis (muscle mass), growth and repair of internal organs, pancreatic regulation and stimulation of the immune system.
Four hours a night may have been sufficient for an intellectual athlete such as Churchill here but if your body is your main tool in life you’re more than entitled to double that!
Next time you feel like hitting the sack before sunset – Indulge yourself!
Why is it important to warm up before an exercise session?
Your warm up not only prepares your body for what’s about to come, it also primes it.
Warming up either by stretching or performing a moderated version of the exercise to come, primes the body in several different ways.
There are 3 components to consider when doing your warm up:
Mobility: As we begin to move, synovial joints ie heels, knees, hips, and shoulders release synovial fluid which lubricates the joint and protects the cartilage.
Muscle fibres increase and decrease in length and most people will notice an increase in their range of motion. This increased flexibility is assisted by the generation of body heat but its also due to the breakdown of fascia, the connective tissue that covers our muscles.
After a few minutes of repetitive movement, muscles become more elastic as a greater amount of blood, enriched with oxygen and other essential nutrients is delivered to them. Sufficient oxygen levels in the working muscles will hold back the lactic threshold and the exerciser can go for longer before fatigue sets into the muscles.
Pulse Raiser: Isn’t it nicer to be woken up gently rather than to a bucket of cold water in the face? Its the same when it comes to your heart. Gradual build up of intensity will prepare your heart for what’s to come. An increased heart rate means more oxygen to the cells and an increase in the amount of nutrient rich blood being pumped around the body to the working muscles.
Stretching: As stated in a previous blog Flexibility. You cant beat a good stretch. When it comes to stretching, the jury is still out on dynamic vs static. We all agree however that a few minutes focus on lengthening out any tension in the muscles is infinitely better than none.
Incorporating the upper body into our workouts is vital for achieving kinetic synergy and balanced results.
If you’re a keen cyclist or runner, forgive me for saying, but for all your hard work your athleticism doesn’t show through your clothes as much as you might deserve. Despite the skinny jeans!
I’m a keen runner. Until I got into weight training I noticed that my leg muscles were built up in certain areas and neglected in others. This is because running is repetitive and therefore works the same muscles at the same angles. The primary working muscle in a cardio session would be the heart. While that’s great for my health (my ultimate goal) it has less of an impact on my reflection!
Bio Mechanics: Muscles work in synergy. Strong calf muscles rely on strong thigh muscles which rely on sufficient glute strength. The glute complex is a major part of the often neglected core region. So neglected that they often don’t get a mention in discussions on core stability. They are though, an integral part of trunk stability.
The hip area houses the psoas muscles which attach to the pelvis and lower spine. The psoas muscles do a lot to facilitate compound movements between the lower and upper body.
All these muscle groups are activated to some degree during a steady state cardio session. For that reason, when considering the upper body I tend to start from the Latissimus Dorsi. Commonly referred to as the ‘Lats‘. These are large back muscles that resemble ‘bat wings’ on a pumped up weightlifter. The Lats insert themselves at the head of the humerus (the long bone running from shoulder to elbow) and are therefore activated by a downward pulling motion. Pulling will also activate your biceps and posterior deltoids so the Lat Pulldown in your gym is not a bad gym buddy!
Now that your back and arms are getting a workout, there’s just your pecs and abs left to blast and you’ll be well on your way to that head turning, athletic look that you so deserve!
What actually happens to the body when we pack away our gym shoes for an extended period?
Just a warning, if you love to keep fit some of the following points make for grim reading!
When we stop maintaining our physical fitness, even for the shortest period of time, our bodies go into a state know as ‘detraining’ or ‘deconditioning‘ and the more athletic we are, the faster our bodies go into decline.
When we exert ourselves physically and regularly, multiple improvements occur in the body.
Lets start with VO2 max. As explained in previous blogs, this is the maximum volume of oxygen that the body can take in during exertion. Its a good measure of an individuals aerobic capacity. The amount of oxygen present in cells dictates the amount of ATP (Adenosine Tri Phosphate) created by the body for energy production. The more frequently we exercise, the more cells we develop. The more ATP we produce, the more fuel we burn. When we stop training and our VO2 capacity declines, so too does the amount of oxygen available to our cells and so too the amount of ATP produced.
Stroke volume refers to the amount of oxygen rich blood the heart can pump around the body in one heartbeat. Cardiovascular training will physically increase the size and density of the heart muscle, in particular the left ventricle. Its from here that oxygenated blood is pumped out of the heart to the arteries which then transports the blood to where its needed. In our case, the working muscles.
Now who doesn’t want their heart to be buff?!
Arterial/Venous strength is maintained by an energetic blood flow. During exercise the blood is percolating through our veins and arteries which helps to keep those capillary walls elastic and free from blockages.
Mitochondria, the muscular cells in which ATP is produced are increased by exercise and will rapidly decrease during deconditioning.
Muscle fibres will breakdown before your very eyes! I still hear people talking about muscle turning to fat (I’ve even heard it from Personal Trainers – who really ought to know better). Muscle does NOT turn to fat. It can’t anymore than metal can turn to wood. What does happen when we cease training is that muscle proteins break down into the bloodstream and fat cells increase. Honest. There’s no more to it than that!
Fat cells have a field day as they’re not being kept at bay! And unless you’ve ditched the gym shoes for a yoga mat, Flexibility decreases as muscle fibres lose their elasticity.
Frighteningly, much of the above can take place within a matter of hours following a drop off in regular training. In my experience, I’ve found that its much easier to pick up from where you left off than to start from scratch.
If you’re going to change your lifestyle and train less, little and often is better than nothing at all.
Ladies, it time we pulled our weight!
When it comes to weight training, men and women are quite different physiologically. But we’re actually not so different.
Until a few years ago, many gyms still leaned towards gender segregation.
You’d have your ‘blokes’ section where all the equipment from the benches to the ‘man-weights’ seemed to be covered in black PVC and sweat. You’d have to step over a pile of spit and sawdust to reach the air conditioning. Your only defense against the nostril burning stench of testosterone!
Then you’d have your ‘ladies’ section. Usually decked out in warm, girlie colours and equipment that looked quite gentle and un-intimidating. Cardio themed mostly and accessorized with a few light dumbells, often pink in colour and no higher that 6kg in weight.
What was that about?!
The women I know are far more like She-Hulks than society gives credit for. We have babies, jobs, opinions, men, tempers, families, communities that depend on our ‘slim, delicate shoulders’ and enough adrenaline to lift a car with our bare hands should we be so inclined!
Personally, I don’t know any ‘delicate’ women! Thankfully, these days we’re seeing more and more women opting for weight training.
In previous blogs, we’ve talked about the calorie and fat burning benefits of weight training over cardio. Even gyms are now starting to blur the lines of segregation as more men and women are adopting functional training methods and stepping away from isolating equipment to train side by side on the gym floor.
In our PYRAFIT sessions, women will often pick up heavier weights than the blokes when we move onto our core and leg section.
As most human force is generated from the hips, it stands to reason that women would demonstrate more strength and control in the lower extremities.
So, lets just bust some myths here:
- In the absence of the male hormone testosterone, weight training will not bulk you up. In fact it’ll tighten you up resulting in ‘tone and definition’.
- Cardio will burn calories and (at the right intensity) fat. When running or cycling it will maintain tone in the same area of the same working muscles.
- Weight training multiplies the mitochondria in our muscles, these are the store houses of ATP and where energy production takes place. The more muscles we target, the more fuel we burn (not a myth)!
- ‘But I’ll look like a Transvestite’!
Well not unless you become an expert at hair and make up too!!
But seriously, women who train at the competition stage, work at it every second of every day. They generally have extreme, supplement rich diets and keep a vigilant watch over their body fat percentage.
If regular and recreational weight lifting delivered competition level results, their lives would be a lot simpler!
For a balanced look of tone and definition, grab your weights and adopt a total body approach to your training regime.
Why train with OKOactive?
You will benefit from a highly qualified health and fitness professional
You will have support and nutritional advice that will guarantee results
You need a program that’s constantly updated to ensure you get the best results
Fast track your progress with 2 training sessions per week + a new program each week!
You can train with friendly, like-minded people who encourage one another
You will reach your health and fitness goals and actually keep them
What our clients say about us
Personal trainer may be more a necessity than a luxury. SOLID, CONSISTENT, NON-JUDGMENTAL SUPPORT. Not everyone has your best interest in mind. Your trainer, though, only cares about you and your success. Your trainer will be there. And that’s what Emma is !!
Each hour you spend with her is an hour to focus on you and only you! She will provide consistent feedback to help you better yourself and achieve your goals. Most importantly, personal trainer is able to do this without making you feel inadequate or judged. We have all gone into the gym and worried about what we look like doing an exercise or compared ourselves to someone else. Trainers don’t judge or derogate. They help you to see all of your successes, big and small, even when you can’t see them yourself.
Watching all the you tube videos in the world and reading all the fitness magazines, does not substitute having a person by your side providing you immediate feedback on form and technique. It is very easy to hurt yourself in the gym. Trainers like Emma pay attention, cue both your mind and your body and help you achieve your goals more quickly by making sure you are doing each exercise correctly.
I have lost 15 kgs- nearly 3 stones and feel on top of the world! Thanks Emma.
Good fun fitness training – I am REALLY getting fitter by going twice a week! And it only hurt after the first 3 sessionsJLife and work in general is easier on a physical level now. I have quite a workload as massage therapist, and my clients benefit from my increased strength. I also tire less, which is fantastic, and can also feel the benefit when I go on my occasional runs, my stamina is much improved. I am 48 now and don’t think I have ever been as fit in my life as I am now, or felt so good in my body. I can fit the sessions easier into my schedule than many other types of classes, and the high intensity means that I get more benefit in less time. Emma is a great motivator, and the whole environment is much easier for me than a gym which I find quite a stressful environment. The sessions are much more affordable than private personal training, but I still get individual attention. Thanks Emma for making me work hard, you are a star!!