Tag Archives: Physical exercise

Getting Technical

9 Sep

I’ve been doing a bit of research into the technology out there, what might be able to help in keeping the weight off and also enjoying exercise.

My thinking on it though is that the technology is a tool to help motivation and provide some guidance, it’ s not the holy grail.

Why?  Because it’s not infallible.

I have found some interesting things out in a geeky way, I’ve tested the treadmill, the cross trainer and the fixed bike in the gym,  I burn roughly the same amount of calories whatever I do……and if I speed walk on the treadmill, I burn the same as someone who runs the same distance!

This is of course because I am not feeding in tons of data into the machine about my body – height, weight etc. It is basing it’s measurement purely on distance and speed.  It is though a guide and I use it purely as that.

If you want a true figure you need to use something that is far more scientific, one such thing is KI performance.

The key thing here is that is works to educate you about metabolism and how you can listen to your body, understanding more about how it works and responds to food and exercise. You wear an armband that collects over 5000 data points, it looks at what you eat, all your activity (not just ‘exercise’), sleep, it’s a complete picture.

You then upload the data onto the website and it reports back.  You start a process of working out the crucial thing, how many calories you need vs the amount of activity you do, you can then adapt to either maintain weight or lose weight in the first place.  It does have an initial outlay plus a subscription but once you’ve got the hang of it and got a good amount of data about your body then you could get away with not renewing. It’s all about the knowledge you can gain.

There are also the applications that help you assess your exercise, some of these are more scientific than others but all useful in giving you the motivation to keep going. I like the fact that a lot of them now link into Facebook and Twitter, brilliant if you like your friends to give you lots of encouragement!  You also become part of a community of like-minded people.

Here are two I’ve been told about and some feedback.

Runkeeper – works through a smartphone, tracks your speed and distances covered and if you load in all the data will report back on calories burned, weight and body fat percentage lost.  It posts to your social media sites too and will show where you’ve been if you use it on outside runs or walks.   It’s great for giving you a view of what you achieve over a period of time, I like this idea as it gives you a real indication of how you are progressing, when I was in swimming training, I had a spreadsheet log, I’d publish it every week and I got a great deal of motivation from seeing how each week things got better, I was starting to challenge myself which was interesting! This App seems nice and simple and I have friends who use it both in the gym and outside and enjoy using it!

Endomondo– again works through a smartphone, works using GPS so you be tracked while out running, cycling etc. Again downloads into Facebook so your friends can see what you’re doing, it will say when you’re starting so you can be tracked in real-time too via the website.  You enter your weight information and with the right kit it will monitor your heart rate and allows you to challenge yourself and set goals.

Not as scientific as the KI, however gives a really good history of your activity online and allows you to comment on your friend’s activity too. One thing I don’t like though is that because some of the science is missing, the calories used data is going to be ‘out’ and thr system then equates it to ‘Burgers Burned’!    So a bit more ‘blokey’ really and I’d prefer it to equate to something a little healthier – just a little nit pick there!

Image representing Endomondo as depicted in Cr...

Image via CrunchBase

And of course don’t forget that if you go out and burn 1000 calories, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can come home and consume an additional 1000 calories, if you are looking to lose weight you will need to adjust your food intake too!  My view for this one is that it is more designed for the more experienced fitness person, not really designed for an initial go or for losing weight?

Once you are into a ‘maintaining’ mode then this is easier but beware at the beginning, you may be putting in tons of energy and not losing any weight if you don’t pay attention to both.  Worth getting some advice at the start on the best way to do it.  My weight loss accelerated once I had lost an amount through less food alone, I got more energy and moved more, but I didn’t then eat more as a consequence so the weight loss continued?

One little thing about the Apps that use GPS, remember if the online site is public or you don’t have tight security on your social networking sites, you could be giving away your current location and that you’re not at home, if you run from home, worth changing the start point just in case any potential burglars are watching!

There are though hundreds if not thousands of similar Apps out there, my view is if they help to motivate you, they’re fantastic! Beware the ‘calories’ burned data on some though and if you are really geeky, it’s worth looking at something like KI to start off so you get a clear view of how your body performs then moving onto something that just measures distances etc will be fine as you will know how your body performs.  There are also lots which give you calorie figures for all foods, great if you’re out on the move, however if you follow the same regime as me you shouldn’t need them, I for one would have not enjoyed being a slave to the smartphone!

If you have any others you think would be useful to tell people about, please let me know.

Photo is of me doing Race for Life this year, two years ago I held the bags and waited at the finish line to cheer on my friends!  And I even ran a bit at the end! I didn’t use any Apps, I just followed the several thousand other women doing their bit!


My Core

7 Sep

I do lots of different active stuff now and would love to try more! One of the key things I do is pilates. It’s fantastic.  I hear a lot of people say it’s a bit like yoga and there’s an assumption that it’s an easy option, I can tell you and so can the super fitties and blokes in my class that it’s not at all!

I came across it a bit by accident.  At the end of October 2009  I developed a persistent cough, it  was ridiculous, I would cough all day, to the extent of starting to choke, it appeared to be related to speech so every time I started a conversation off I would go, I was exhausted and at my wit’s end with it.  My doctor tried lots of things and we even got to the stage of using strong drugs to knock me out to try to break the cycle and give me some respite, it got to the stage where work was impossible too.  I needed to see an ENT specialist to check there was nothing sinister going on, of course the wait to see one on the NHS was about 4 months, I couldn’t wait that long so went privately.

Interestingly this didn’t cost that much, I was lucky when a friend told me that there were now 2 levels of private fees, one for those with insurance and one for those who were paying themselves which can be significantly lower and affordable. It even turned out that my GP surgery had an administrator who would locate the best specialist and price for you – if you’re ever in that position it is well worth asking if going privately may be an option.

After some tests, the specialist found nothing awful, however what he did find was that my vocal cords were in almost constant spasm, my brain therefore thought that there was an obstruction, as I tried to talk the spasms increased even more and set off the coughing. What was concerning though was that it was severe and I ran the risk of the condition moving to a stage where I would just choke, something had to be done as a matter of urgency.

The recommendation was emergency speech therapy, this would have to happen privately too.

The therapist was fantastic, there was barely any work on my voice, from discussing what was happening to me something bizarre came to light.  I had lost almost three stone by this point, my muscles had no idea what to do about that, they were shifting position on my body and severely tensing. The  top of my spine was being pulled over to the extent I’d lost about half an inch in height and it was probably why my vocal cords were reacting in such an extreme way, they too were being pulled by the muscles in my neck. Everything was tight and compromised.

I found a pilates class at about the same time as I started swimming,  I was a little stunned by what some of the other people in the class could do, there’s one exercise where you are lifting your body weight, for me that seemed amazing!  We started slowly and I was surprised how quickly I got better, the breathing really helped and I found that together with the shrinkage and the swimming that my body shape changed quite quickly.  I was walking tall, taking care over my posture and felt that my core muscles were now providing me with some real strength. And the cough got better.

And by the summer I was doing that exercise – the one where you lift your body weight!  I’ve also been on an intensive pilates trip, a whole week with two sessions a day and I get to a class whenever I can, it is hard work, I feel the difference quickly and it makes me think about my breathing.  The vocal cord problem is much better and I can manage it, even when a choking episode happens, it has turned out that they are damaged, thanks to a general anesthetic I had for a knee surgery 4 years ago and 3 months of constant coughing but it is manageable now.

So give pilates a go, for people who have lost a lot of weight it is invaluable, it’s a very flexible exercise in that there are different levels so you can find the best one for you and build on them.  And for the boys, it’s not just for girls, it can be extremely good for men, it can provide a lot of stability for your muscles which will help with any other exercise you do, it keeps your joints in good condition too as you get older, there’s a guy in his 60s in my class, he runs and swears by pilates to keep him strong, he’s also the one who groans the most too!

And when you do lose weight, strange things can happen as a consequence, just as putting on weight causes problems, losing it can be a challenge for your body, listen to it, respect it and ask for help if you are worried.  It will be worth it in the end.

And for some more reading about the benefits of pilates have a read of this:


And the photos – the Italian pilates class on my trip earlier in the summer and by the end of the week I was flexible enough to get my feet behind my head, I used to be able to do that when I was in my teens, I am overjoyed to be able to do it again! 

Why it’s different for boys (over 40)

2 Sep

Yes, I am 43 and heading rather too quickly for my liking towards 44. One thing that I’ve learnt about is that the ‘over 40’ body is very different to the one we had in our 20s. Therefore we need to approach losing weight and exercise in a different way too. Our metabolism is slowing down and our bodies are just starting to see the effects of time, we can’t do anything about it, it’s just biology!

I’ve mentioned before that I’m finding from my research that support and information specifically for men in losing weight and keeping it off isn’t as extensive as it is for women, us girls to tend to talk about it, swap stories and hopefully offer each other some support, but I wonder if men do this?  The sexes do think differently so this is another one of those things where plans built for women will not necessarily work for men.

So if you add the being over 40 thing as well, then it’s becoming obvious that some help is needed!

The piece below is from a web site I’ve found, written by a bloke, he does a great and honest job at looking at why things are different once you reach 40 and uses a lot of the techniques and thoughts I have.  None of us want to be older (ridiculous when you think how much of our lives we spent wanting to be older!) but if you listen to the advice and understand why things do work differently the results can be so much better and hopefully easier. And as things will continue to slow down, starting to make changes at 40 seems like a really good idea!

So check out Forty, Fit and Fabulous , there are a lot of really interesting bits, it’s well worth reading up about how your metabolism now works so you can adapt.


Weight gain for men over 40 is a natural sign effect of the aging process. Why? Well, because the body’s metabolism is slowing down which most people don’t realize. So they continue to eat the same amount of food that they did when they were twenty years old, and the result is that the body stores that extra fat on the belly mostly.

Combine that with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle and we have the two main reasons for weight loss over 40 for men.

Did you know that the mortality rate up to six month after retirement is at the highest in your life. As all of the stresses of work and life disappear at retirement there are no goals anymore and no exercise. Getting older does not mean getting lazier.

There may be other reasons for the weight gain as well, such as emotional and mental health problems that may need to be addressed.

Losing Weight Tips:

1. Diet: Your key to eating right is eating enough nourishing food that you won’t feel famished and binge on empty calorie, high-fat snacks. Good balanced meals, combined with smaller portions at every meal is the way to go. Be aware of what you are eating and how much. Keep a food diary and record everything you eat.

2. Exercise: 30 minutes of exercise everyday is a good goal. Aim to exercise everyday. Walking is good for your joints, and is low impact, as well as being more effective than running. Running is harder on the body, especially when you are over 40 years old, as well as being less effective for weight loss because joggers burn more sugar than fat.  Make the walk something you do where you are breaking a sweat. Walk up a hill or two. So incorporate exercise into your daily life.

3. Mental and Emotional Health: If you aren’t happy with yourself, then you will lack motivation to take the time to put some effort into making yourself feel better. You just wont care. Just getting started with exercising will start to make you feel better as exercise helps to melt away life’s hassles. Adopt the mindset that eating healthily and exercising is a way to tell yourself that you deserve to be healthy and to live a long, productive life. Find a way of exercising that you enjoy and get started with it.

Getting Active

21 Aug

I didn’t add ‘exercise’ into my new life until I’d lost over 3 stones, I thought now was a good time to give you a bit of background to my relationship with it.

I had avoided any kind of formal physical activity since I was 14. I sent my mum to the school to pitch that extra maths lessons were more beneficial to my long-term future than PE and we succeeded so the gym skirt went in the bin. I had though always enjoyed things like gymnastics, I was a flexible child, however my experience of how PE was administered took away any joy I got from it, it turned into being all about competitive activity and team games, I wasn’t any good at it so I wasn’t motivated, it turned into being a very negative experience of not being chosen for teams or just failing (in the opinion of the PE teachers). There wasn’t the opportunity to do the things I was good at or even to try anything new, I’m sure this is the experience of many.

It wasn’t that I wasn’t active, I even spent all my earnings from my summer job at 16 on waterskiing lessons and used to walk a good 3 miles to my gap year job.

I managed to get through University without really knowing where the sports centre was, I believe I danced a lot in the union and walked as funds were limited and it saved on bus fares but that was about it!  Importantly I was extremely tiny so I guess no-one really made any fuss about me needing to do anything more than that.

I’ve always been more than happy to support friends who did do sport, I’ve spent hours on the poolside, I’ve watched and supported my best friend’s very intensive power lifting career, cheered the fun runners in and was even married to a very active sky diver. However I still did nothing.

In my 20s I developed ME and spent a long time trying to get well, one of the things the ME caused was a massive effect on my metabolism and I put on an enormous amount of weight, as I got bigger, my self-esteem got more damaged. I spent my 30s being grateful that I was getting well, at that stage being able to complete a day at work or get out of bed when things were really bad was enough of a challenge.  I was terrified of doing anything that might set off the ME, I never wanted to feel that kind of pain again.

And during my 30s I did put on more weight, I did have a lot of ‘head stuff’ that wasn’t being addressed, self-esteem and confidence was still a very big issue, this is something I will talk about a lot more, it’s a silent problem, we don’t talk about it enough.

So let’s fast forward to the end of 2009, I’d lost a bit of weight and I was getting more active, I had more energy for a start and was smaller, I had already noticed that things seemed easier and that even walking up the stairs was less of an issue. My confidence was also building, so how did the big change come that led to me loving exercise?

  • Following a visit to a speech therapist to solve an issue with my vocal cords and a persistent cough, I was told that I had a couple of issues – the top of my spine was starting to curve and I was probably losing height, it was being pulled into this position by very tight neck muscles, in fact my muscles were incredibly tight all over my body, the weight loss was actually contributing to this, they had no idea where they were supposed to sit or act in the new slimmed down version.  She recommended I try pilates to strengthen my core muscles, loosen and realign everything.
  • One of the things I had not been able to do confidently for many, many years was wear a swimsuit, I was terribly, painfully self-conscious. So after a few months of losing weight when I ordered one, it fitted and I looked ok, getting in a pool seemed like a good challenge. At that point just before Christmas I thought it would be enough for me to just go, find out if I could swim at all and then it would be a good thing to be able to go to the pool with my friend and her children and to perhaps go on holiday, I’d been to California the year before and it had been very hard not to be able to get in Pacific and enjoy the wonderful beaches.  The swimsuit story is actually a much bigger one, I’ll tell you about that later.

What  actually happened then was beyond anything I could have imagined or believed at that stage was achievable.

What I’m hoping that you will take from this little introduction is that even if you have never done any exercise, think you don’t like it or that you will be rubbish at it, there is still hope for you, there was for me!

And if you used to exercise, then try to think about what you enjoyed back then, could you give it a go again, remember how it used to make you feel about yourself?

Today’s photo is of me at the end of my pilates trip to Italy in June, I’d said I wanted to be able to get my feet behind my head, I used to be that flexible in my teens, I was over the moon to be able to achieve that, thanks to a week of intense training!  It is now my party trick, I will show anyone for several glasses of Limonchello!


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