How I Make Changes Stick

I currently am working on improving my circulation, as I have been getting cold hands this winter!  I’ve identified that I need to make some changes to get me rolling towards this goal.  For example, this week, I’m cutting back on my daily coffees (as caffeine can contribute to restricting circulation). Each day I’ll be consistent with keeping to one coffee only, so that I will give myself the best chance of nailing my bigger goal.

When I have a goal such as this that requires changes to my routine, it helps to break down the changes and make 1 or 2 changes at a time. Consistently each day do these changes and let them become habit. Once they’re part of your new routine, then move onto another 1 or 2 changes. Before you know it, progress 😀

What change will you make this week in support of your goals?

5 Advantages Of Smaller Fitness Studios

In the past 5 years we’ve seen a sharp increase in smaller fitness studios opening in Australia, and a matching increase in the number of people training in them, following overseas trends.  Research in the US by IHRSA has seen the percentage of people going to smaller studios double between 2013 and 2014, and the number of studios increasing year on year.  So you may be wondering why this shift has been happening? Here’s 5 advantages of training at a smaller fitness studio over a larger gym facility. (plus a bonus one based on my own personal bias 🙂  )

Fitness Studios Aren’t Intimidating

Many of the people that train with me have previously trained at larger gyms.  They have told me that they have felt intimidated by the size of the facility, or felt they were being watched by other members of the gym while working out.  (Or felt their personal trainer was more interested in their own reflection than in observing their clients working out safely, but that’s a different issue 🙂 ) At smaller fitness studios such as the one that I train at, The Studio Trainer, people come to train either one-on-one or as part of a small group.  The studio is only available for workouts which are supervised by qualified trainers.  This tends to keep a lid on unsociable behaviour, or people taking selfies in the mirror whilst flexing 🙂

Personal Attention

Because smaller fitness studios have less people working out and sessions are under supervision, you get a more personal service.  The trainers know your name and greet you before sessions and farewell you after sessions; and I always make sure participants in group sessions know each other’s name as well (if they didn’t know it already before the class).  Since we know each other’s name and you know that I’m expecting you at a particular time, it helps with accountability.  You’re less likely to put it off until tomorrow – maybe the day after – oops it’s next week already.  Personal attention also allows me to observe everyone’s form to make sure they’re performing appropriate exercises safely and getting the benefits that they should. In a session you shouldn’t have to look at the person next to you and guess at what you should be doing 🙂

Sense Of Community

As well as knowing everyone’s name that you workout with, you’ll know the names of the trainers, and build friendships within the group.  I’ve seen numerous groups after sessions go for a coffee together – just don’t undo all of your hard work during the session by ordering cheesecake with it 😉

No Unused Membership

You only have to pay for the sessions that you can attend.  You don’t have to watch a direct debit come out of your account for a membership in a fortnight when you didn’t get in to the gym.

Less Competition For Equipment

I’m sure you’ve had days when you’ve gone in to a larger gym and haven’t been able to get on to a piece of equipment that you want to use.  There might be three people surrounding the equipment taking turns chatting or just one person on their phone, pausing periodically to bust out a bicep curl.  This has even happened to me as a client during a personal training session that I was paying for…  Within the fitness studio that I train at, from time to time I will want to use the same piece of equipment as another trainer, however between us we are always able to come to a win-win solution 🙂

Bonus Advantage: Music

I know I only promised 5 advantages; as the adage goes, under-promise and over-deliver! For the first couple of weeks after opening, the fitness studio I train at was playing workout music stations from iTunes Radio – mostly top 40 kind of stuff.  Accidentally, we tried an 80s playlist and got positive feedback from a number of people on how the music had improved 🙂  I take music selection possibly a little more seriously than I should, but I’m always looking for a good playlist to match a session. Whether it’s the finest 70s disco, the best 80s pop, a harder rock mix for boxing classes, or even my favourite hipster electronic music from the 2010s.

If you’re convinced by the above advantages and want to give training with me in a small fitness studio a go, please get in touch with the contact details below.  I’d love to have a chat on how I can help you get the most out of your fitness routine!

The December Challenge Is Here!

Leaderboard and Slam Ball

It’s on! With the start of December comes a new challenge for all of the amazing people who train with myself and Eliza Richards at The Studio Trainer, Royston Park. The previous two challenges have been the 60 second rowing challenge (how far can you row in 60 seconds at maximum resistance?) and the 60 second burpee challenge (how many burpees can you complete in 60 seconds?)

This month the challenge involves the slam ball, which for the uninitiated is a weighted ball made to be slammed hard against the ground. Just visualise your least favourite politician or something else that frustrates you, and away you go! The challenge is this: How many times in 60 seconds can you slam the 5kg slam ball against the ground, pick it up and go again?

If you’d like to have some fun while improving your fitness and strength, losing fat, or toning up, please get in touch and I’d love to help you achieve your goals with one or one or small group training.

No Burpees For You

Hello, I’m a personal trainer and I have an admission to make.

(Pause for dramatic effect)

I don’t like burpees.

You know, burpees. You’ve seen this exercise on reality shows like The Biggest Loser, or maybe you’ve even done them at a bootcamp. Hands down on the ground, get into pushup position, kick out the legs, bring the legs back in and jump up! Repeat until you’re lightheaded or until you feel like you need to throw up. Makes you feel like you’re exercising hard, must be a good thing!

Maybe it’s just me, but I just find burpees unpleasant. I can come up with lots of alternatives to get your heart rate up and make your body work hard. Some of my favourite exercises to proscribe like the slam ball or boxing can even be quite therapeutic. Visualise something or someone that’s giving you grief, and take out some frustration!

The thing about doing unpleasant exercise is that after a while, the motivation to keep fronting up and doing it starts to drop away, and maintaining the willpower to keep up an exercise routine to get you to your goals doesn’t get any easier over time. Of course helping you with motivation to get the results that you’re looking for is where I come in 🙂 However as outlined by Dr Michelle Segar in her excellent book No Sweat: How The Simple Science Of Motivation Can Bring You A Lifetime Of Fitness, you’re far more likely to stay with an exercise routine that you enjoy than one which you don’t. The workout that you start and finish does you more benefit than the workout that you don’t do.

For those that love their burpees, by all means go ahead and enjoy them. I just won’t be joining in with you 🙂

For those readers of this page who are looking to improve fitness, lose weight, tone up or improve strength without doing burpees, please contact me using the details at the bottom of this page!

Measuring Fat Loss vs Weight Loss – Scales Are Misleading

Bathroom Scale

The scene: a fine afternoon training session with a client whose goal was weight loss. During the warmup (my advice: always warmup!), I asked her how she was feeling with the progress that she was making.

She looked disappointedly at me. After three weeks of training her body was adjusting to regular exercising. Recovering after training sessions was easier and overall she felt she had more energy. She was taking tape measurements of four locations on her body, which were showing lower readings each week. “But the scales haven’t moved!”

Muscle weighs more than fat, so the tape measurement changes and the reading from the scales were together indicating that she was losing fat and gaining muscle. But my client was unhappy because she was using the scales as the ultimate judge of her progress. The problem with this is that scales measure weight loss rather than fat loss. (And no, I don’t put any trust in scales which give you a reading for body fat percentage.)

It’s very common when starting a training program to see the reading on the scales staying around the same mark as fat (or as I refer to it, stored energy) is burnt and muscle is added. However if you stick with it past four weeks, six weeks, eight weeks, it’s also very common to see the reading on the scales start to move downwards from this point onwards.

I’m not training my clients to compete in bodybuilding competitions 🙂 Instead we add functional strength to support good posture and help them in their everyday activities. It is helpful to have additional muscle on your frame (in conjunction with good diet) to achieve fat loss (as opposed to weight loss) goals, as that extra muscle needs more energy to maintain even when you’re resting.

Don’t believe me? In a recent article in Elle magazine, the first of 5 training tips from personal trainer Kirk Myers (personal trainer to 25 Victoria’s Secret models and many other celebrities) is to “Throw Away Your Scale”. This is consistent with the advice to use a tape measure in the book Lose Weight Here by Drs Jade and Keoni Teta.

The moral of the story? It can be misleading to measure your progress using only the scales, as they don’t tell you how much weight is from muscle vs how much is from fat. The best way to measure progress is by the changes in your shape, which you can measure using good old-fashioned tape. Or by noticing how the clothes you wear now feel different on you.

Image by Dwight Burdette (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Case Study: Dr T

Dr TMeet Dr T Vamadevan, a spritely 93 year old client of mine. Dr Vamadevan lives overseas but when visiting family in Adelaide is training with me. We have been working on his flexibility and adding strength to his legs since February this year.

Weighted fit ball squat

Following my program of functional movements and exercises and utilising equipment such as fit balls and Bosu ball, and bodyweight exercises as appropriate, we have seen changes in Dr Vamadevan’s flexibility, balance and strength. These have led to improved confidence in walking unaided over greater distances, and he also now finds it easier to get up from chairs. “I feel a lot looser,” said Dr Vamadevan. In comparison to other exercises that he has done in the past, Dr Vamadevan has enjoyed the functional nature of this training and being able to understand how the exercises and movements that we train translate closely to improved ability to do everyday activities.

Bose step up

Training the body to make everyday activities easier, in Dr Vamadevan’s case walking and standing up from a chair, is the key aim of functional training. Functional training making use of fit balls, suspension straps, kettlebells, Bosu balls, powerbags and battle ropes is central to the personal and group training which I offer. As Dr Vamadevan has found, it’s never too late to benefit from being able to move better. If you’d like to work on improving your flexibility, balance, strength or fitness, please get in touch using the details at the bottom of the page and let’s make a start on helping you to move better!

Yay Autocorrect, Or I Am Not A Powerboat Trainer

I would like to start this post by apologising to all of the people who have read my About Me page, and have got excited by my claim of being a powerboat trainer. In reality I have no idea about how to go about training a powerboat, and have no business claiming to be a powerboat trainer. I have only Autocorrect to use as my flimsy defence. I have now removed the offending reference from my About Me page. Sorry if you were misled by this.

However, if you are looking for a trainer who has skills in training with powerbags, then you have come to the right place. I am a certified Powerbag Trainer (from the Australian Institute of Kettlebells) and would love to help you improve fitness, balance, strength and power through the use of powerbags, in addition to other functional training tools such as suspension straps, fitballs, kettlebells and battle ropes, which I am also certified to train with. Just not powerboats.

Above: A powerbag.

Above: A powerboat.

On Good Posture Part 1

Welcome to the first part of a short series on good posture. In an effort to keep each individual post bite-size I’ve split this topic up, and in this post I’ll be focusing on head, neck and shoulders.

In my previous career before I moved into the fitness industry, I had a mostly desk-based job which saw me hunched forwards over my keyboard for long periods at a time. As a result, I frequently had neck and shoulder soreness and headaches. Over time my body adapted based on how much time I spent with my head in a forward position (which is commonly known as “poke neck”) and my shoulders and upper back in a rounded position, and it’s taken me some time since changing careers to correct this posture. Even with an increased level of awareness, I still catch myself from time to time with my posture lapsing into these old bad habits. However, this experience places me in an ideal situation to be able to understand and help people with this problem.

I see a high proportion of the people that start training with me bringing similar posture. You don’t have to be in a desk-based job to be susceptible to this posture – many people also have this as a result of looking down at their smartphones or tablets in front of them.

Another potential cause of poor upper body posture, which causes the shoulders to sit forward of their best position, is weight training where you’re doing lots of push exercises (eg push ups and bench presses) without strengthening the opposing muscles in the back with some pull exercises (eg lat pulldowns, chin ups, seated row).

The result of bad posture with shoulders, neck and head in forward position is that the muscles around the neck and shoulders (eg the deep neck flexors and the upper trapezius) tighten up, and as the shoulders slump forwards the chest muscles (the pectorals) also tighten up.

The good news is that you can work towards correcting the forward posture by a combination of the following:

Focusing on head position

A good test for head position is to stand with your back to a wall. The back of the head should touch the wall. Another test is to ask someone nicely to view you from side on when you are standing normally. When seen from side on, for good posture the middle of the ear should be directly above the shoulder. When you focus on moving the head back to good position for either of these tests, at first it may feel as if the head is now positioned too far back when in fact it is in good position. However, once you have the awareness of good position for the head, you will be able to self correct if you notice it has gone into forward position.

Strengthening the back muscles

While forward head posture causes the upper trapezius muscle to be tight, the lower trapezius and the rhomboids will tend to be weak. Strengthening these weaker muscles in your back will help in supporting good posture. In addition, it’s best to balance the amount of pull and push exercises, that you do, so that you do at least as much pull work as pushing. Some ideas for pull exercises: lat pulldowns, seated row or chin ups.

Loosening muscles

Adhesions and trigger points in the pectorals and trapezius muscles can be helped through massage or foam rolling. Stretching can also help by lengthening the tight muscles, although this won’t correct adhesions or trigger points.

A good personal trainer such as myself can help you to improve your posture which can make a difference to your everyday life, through a posture check, a balanced exercise program, and assisted stretches and foam rolling. If you’d like to know more or to get some assistance, please contact me and I’ll be only too happy to help you make a start.

High Intensity Interval Training
(or Please Move Away From The Treadmill, Sir Or Ma’am)

Before you settle in for a steady 30 minute session on the treadmill, it’s worth reading the following: you could be getting greater cardiovascular benefit in less time:)

Over the past few years High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has increasingly gained popularity, particularly as a very time efficient way of improving cardiovascular fitness. Most recently, it has been the subject of an episode of ABC Catalyst titled “Fit in 6 minutes a week”, which Australian viewers can find on ABC iview.

In summary, HIIT exercises alternate between short periods of working at maximum effort and short periods of lower intensity. The examples given in the Catalyst episode involve 30 second sprints uphill, followed by 4 and a half minutes of rest, performed 4 times in an exercise session. In total, 2 minutes of flat-out sprinting over 20 elapsed minutes. Doing this 3 times a week gives you the 6 minutes of the episode’s title. This doesn’t however count the recovery time between the sprints – “Fit in 60 minutes a week” wouldn’t have been as catchy a title:) There’s a number of other different ways of chopping up the intense effort and the recovery. The Tabata regimen is one that I’ll highlight, based on 8 repeated cycles of 20 seconds of maximum effort followed immediately by 10 seconds of recovery – a total of 4 minutes.

HIIT isn’t just a fad, a number of studies support its effectiveness.Dr Martin Gibala and other researchers have found that HIIT leads to time efficient cardiovascular and muscular improvements. Interestingly these improvements also include endurance as well as shorter burst of high intensity.

HIIT is also the gift that keeps on giving! Following a HIIT workout, the body increases its oxygen intake as part of its recovery, a process known as excess post-oxygen consumption (EPOC). The benefits of your workout continue on for a period of time after training, whereas the benefits of a lower intensity workout stop when the workout ends.

Exercises where you can quickly control the changeover between maximum effort and rest such as running, lifting weights, rowing, skipping and riding (any many others) are well suited to HIIT. It’s a little trickier to do with a treadmill, so I’d be looking elsewhere to get the greatest benefits from your workout in the shortest time. And if it seems like I’m prejudiced against treadmills, yes I probably am:)

If you’re looking for some help in making the most of your workout time using HIIT, it’s a regular part of my personal and group training. Please get in touch using the details below!

First post!

Slam 1

Welcome to my blog 🙂 I’ll start off with a little bit about myself, and what kind of things I’ll be blogging about…

So, about me… I’m a qualified personal trainer and massage therapist, currently working out of a modern and well-kept studio in the eastern suburbs of Adelaide. While I’ve always enjoyed sport (I never said I was any good at playing it though) and keeping fit, my previous career was spent working in IT. I had taken on some roles in team leadership and management but had not shaken the responsibility of fixing technology when it broke, and this was tied around my ankles like a boat anchor. Add in the joys of being on-call for 24 hours per day one week out of every two (yes, you can get sick of being woken up at 3am by work calls!) and that’s why I came to the decision to do something quite different – to quit my job and study to be a personal trainer and later as a massage therapist. Which came as quite a shock to the people that I worked with 🙂

Out of my previous career have come strong interests in work-life balance and good posture, and I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly of these first hand. Which gives me a unique perspective when training professional people, and especially people who are largely desk bound in their day to day jobs, as unlike many personal trainers I’ve come from that world, and can bring my own experience to help the people that I train. In addition, having torn my hamstrings twice has given me strong interests in injury prevention and improving flexibility.

In my personal training, I’m always looking to improve, whether it be by adding in skills in training using new equipment (so far suspension training, boxing, fitballs and kettlebells, and I have a certification in kickboxing coming up in the next few weeks) or changing up the way that I run sessions to keep challenging the people that I train. I’m not a former body builder, and I’m not training any budding Hollywood action heroes, so I help my clients build functional strength and fitness that will help them in their everyday lives.

So to the blog! I’ll be posting things that I’ve found of interest, and I’ll be addressing topics that have arisen from conversations that I have had with the people that I train. Any recommendations will be based on evidence wherever possible so that you can have confidence that I’m not just making this stuff up 🙂 And I’ll try to keep the dad jokes to a minimum as they perhaps won’t play as well as they would face to face 🙂

I hope you find the articles useful and valuable and are able to put the information in them to good use!