Friday, 15 February 2019

It's in your blood...

A while ago I wrote a blog post about how I'd been diagnosed with diabetes and the steps I took to battle that diagnosis.  I thought it was time I wrote about why it's important for everyone to keep an eye out for the signs of diabetes (and pre-diabetes) so that they can get on top of the condition before it gets worse.

Firstly, what is diabetes?  According to Diabetes New Zealand, "Diabetes is the result of the body not creating enough insulin to keep blood glucose (sugar) levels in the normal range.  Everyone needs some glucose in their blood, but if it's too high it can damage your body over time.

In type 2 diabetes, either the body doesn't produce enough insulin, or the cells in the body don't recognise the insulin that is present.  The end result is the same: high levels of glucose in your blood."

Having high blood sugars over a significant length of time can lead to complications affecting many different body parts such as your eyes, kidneys, feet, teeth and mouth, heart and blood vessels as well as many other issues.  This alone makes it worth keeping an eye out for the possibility of diabetes developing.

So who is at risk?  There are quite a few risk factors which make you more likely than other people to suffer this condition.  These are pretty numerous, so to save space, check out the Diabetes New Zealand website for more details on this.  It is well worth the quick read, and the website has other great information on diabetes and how to deal with the condition if you have it.

So now that we have discussed what diabetes is and who may be at risk, what can you do about being proactive in your management of the condition or to be vigilant about it?  Firstly, one of the big risk factors is carrying excess weight around your waist.  Losing fat around your middle can help both in preventing the development of diabetes and in managing the condition if you have it.

Something that can help prevent the condition developing is to get a regular blood test from your GP.  A simple finger prick test can tell you whether your blood sugar reading is in the normal range at that particular point in time, but a test called a HbA1c can give you a sort of "average" blood sugar reading for a period of the last 3 months or so.  This can be useful in terms of knowing where you are overall rather than just at that moment when you are sitting in your doctors office.  

Having a regular checkup with your doctor is one of the best ways to prevent diabetes from happening.  I was diagnosed completely by accident - I went to the hospital for a sore back, they took bloods to make sure it wasn't by kidneys, and they told me there and then I needed to make an appointment with my GP as there was a problem.  I had no symptoms of diabetes, but my blood sugars were already in the pre-diabetic range (above normal but not quite high enough to be considered diabetic yet).  I fully recommend seeing your doctor on a regular (at least yearly) basis.

Take it from me, you don't want to have to take multiple pills per day (possibly for the rest of your life), with the possibility of having to take insulin later on down the track.  You don't want to have to prick your fingers multiple times per week, and often up to 6 times per day if you are trying to nail down a stable blood sugar level.  It sucks.

Prevention is a way better alternative to treatment - there is currently no cure, so take my word for it, take stock of where you are at and look at ways in which you can prevent the condition happening to you.

Are you diabetic and in need of some help from a trainer who knows what they are talking about from first hand knowledge?  Make an online booking for an initial consultation and we can talk about ways I can help you. 

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Keep an eye out...

Too often we look at only one measurement when it comes to our fitness goals.  When looking to lose fat for instance, we take weight and only look at the scales to judge our progress.  But there are a lot more measurements that we can look at.  For most people fat loss is a huge goal so I thought that I would focus on this, if you'd like another goal discussed, send me a message through my website and I can write a separate post about your preferred goal.

For those who can't afford the cost/time of getting expensive scans to judge fat loss, there are some basic measures you can observe to see how you're tracking towards your goal.  Firstly there are the scales as mentioned above.  Scales are great at showing us a trend, but on their own they're a poor judge of fat loss - they vary with water loss, water retention, time of day, whether we've used the toilet, and more.  So if you can only use the scales, then make sure it's at the same time of the day each time and try to keep the other factors mentioned here equal too.

Next there are photos.  Pictures are powerful tools in judging body composition.  You don't have to show anyone, but take a picture before you start your fat loss journey and take more pictures along the way.  Front, back and side views if you can.  These may show your progress more quickly than the scales and pictures don't lie either.  They'll show your progress in increased muscle tone and reduced body fat.  Make sure you take the pictures in the same clothing and with the same lighting each time if possible to get the truest measure of progress.

Clothing feel is a great measure or fat loss too.  This one is especially powerful if you have more than 4-5 kilograms of weight that you want to shift.  If this is the case then you will definitely notice a reduction in body fat as you will more than likely need to start updating your wardrobe.  Your clothes will feel looser, you may need to use a different belt hole than you usually select, you may even be able to get into clothes that fit you years ago.  These can be hugely motivating factors.  Celebrate these small wins along the way.

One last way to judge progress that I want to talk about is to regularly take measurements and record them.  They don't have to be exhaustive, but using a tape measure and measuring accurately on even a weekly basis is a great way to look at your progress, especially if you are like me and are a numbers person.  You can choose any measurements that you are wanting to work on, but for fat loss some good ones are your waist and hips.  They are pretty quick measurements to take, and they can give you real progress to celebrate.

With all of the measures above, try to make sure you do them all at the same time each time you take the measurement, be it weekly, fortnightly or however frequently you want to take them.  What has worked well for weight loss clients of mine is picking a day, usually a weekend day and taking their measurements after they get up, before breakfast but after going to the bathroom.  

This way clients can take them at the same time, in the same state each time.  Hopefully a combination of the above measurements can help you with some motivation towards your fat loss goals.  Remember to celebrate the small wins no matter how small, each small step towards your goal is a valuable one.

Let me know which way you prefer to measure progress by contacting me through my website.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Benefits of exercising early...

Exercise is great at any time of day, but for me, I like to get my training done early when I can.  There are a lot of pluses to getting it in early, here are just a few.

Getting your workout in at the start of the day means that you are more likely to get it done.  At the start of the day, for most people, your day is fairly open in terms of time commitment.  Sure you may have work or study, but those are always around.  Towards the end of the day things tend to crop up that may derail your plan to hit the gym.  After work drinks invites, sick children who need to be picked up and looked after, having to work late to make a deadline, feeling sick yourself, feeling exhausted from your day at work or school, the list goes on and on.  Getting your training session in before your day really starts is a great way to ensure that you get it done.

Another reason to get a workout done early is the feeling of accomplishment that you start the day with.  It is great to get ready for the rest of your day knowing that you have already done something for you and your health.  You also ticked something off your to-do list for the day, and if you are anything like me, ticking an item off a list is a great feeling.  So start your day with a tick, get that workout done.

It can also help to put you in a good mood for the start of your day.  It is well known that exercise produces Endorphins.  These great little hormones are known to make us feel good.  So exercising early in the day can help lift our mood.  This, added to a cup of coffee (if you're anything like me) can make the first few hours of your day feel awesome. 

So there are just a few reasons to get your training done first thing.  If you would like to join our men's group fitness sessions first thing on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday check out our group fitness page for more details.

Are you a night owl or a early bird?  Let me know through my website!

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

Mental illness is not set in stone.

A while back I wrote a blog post about my journey with mental illness.  I talked about my struggles with anxiety and depression and how I had sought help to get through these issues after trying to help myself and not quite succeeding.

Last year I had some troubles again.  Around October/November I had another bout of depression which really knocked me back.  But what surprised me was not that I had another bout of depression - that's happened before and I have dealt with it - what surprised me about it was the completely different feelings that were associated with it this time around.

If you'll indulge me, let's take a step back and I'll explain how we got to this point.

In February 2018 I ruptured my Achilles while sparring with a couple of mates, I knew as soon as it happened that I'd done my Achilles, I just felt it go.  It was annoying but I worked my way through it and got back to training.  Way too early as it happens.  I went back to training in July and my first training session back I ruptured it again.  This time I needed surgery to repair it.

I managed my mental health well over this period of time, I had a few frustrating moments when I looked too far ahead in terms of my recovery time (I am still recovering and not back to full training 7 months down the track), but overall I managed it pretty well.

Until October/November last year.  

Now traditionally, my symptoms of depression have been pretty similar each time I have had a little struggle.  Lack of motivation, sleep disruption, bad diet, lack of energy, usually a little anxiety mixed in for good measure.  These symptoms have remained pretty stable since my first depressive episode.

But this time it was different.  Sure there was some sleep disruption and a steady stream of bad food choices but there was something else.  There was an overwhelming sense of worthlessness that came with these other symptoms.  I felt that I was a worthless human being, that I was of no help to my family, my friends, my clients, that the world wouldn't miss me if I just up and vanished.

This was new to me, I had never felt this way before.  I was never suicidal and didn't have any thoughts of self-harm, but I just felt like I was taking up space that had better uses than to hold me in it.  My wife Sarah had never seen me this way before either.

She had been telling me to go back and see my psychologist that I'd seen last time, but for 6 weeks I kept sliding backwards into depression and thinking that it would pass.  

Eventually when I was couch-ridden one day, I called my GP and went to see him, he basically told me that I could take anti-depressants but I would have to be on them for a year or more and that he didn't think that this was the right course for me.  He sent me to see my psychologist and asked her for her thoughts about medication and for us to all discuss it after I'd seen her.

Long story short, I saw her and we talked.  We all decided that all I needed were to start implementing some strategies that I'd previously been doing but had lapsed over time.  Medication wasn't needed as she believed (really my GP and I also thought this) that it was really Achilles based - I had kept positive for so long through multiple setbacks but eventually it was all just too much.

Though it's been tough, I have worked on getting better over the last few months and am feeling good again.  There are still bad days but they are lessening and I am on the way towards a good mental health space again.  Thanks to my family, friends and my health support system I am feeling more and more like myself every day.

But one thing that still takes me by surprise is that my symptoms were so different than my previous depressive episodes.  I guess it should be obvious that these sorts of conditions can change and evolve, but to me it wasn't.  Another thing that surprised not just myself but also some other people when I mentioned that I'd been having troubles again, was that they hadn't even noticed.  I obviously had managed to hide it pretty well among other people outside my family.

So I guess here is what to take away from this.  Mental health conditions can morph and change, so what worked before for you may not always work in the future.  Going back to "square one" with your treatment or strategies is not something to be ashamed of.  Check in on your mates, those that seem strong may not always be feeling the same way.

Lastly I would like to thank my friends and family who have helped me through this last rocky patch.  It means the world to me to have mates and family who can deal with me at my lowest when I didn't even feel like dealing with me.  You guys are amazing and I will always be grateful.

Monday, 11 February 2019

What types of cardio do I enjoy more than running?

The answer to the above question is anything.

Really.  I really, really dislike running.

But to be a little more helpful, here are a few of the ways I get my heart rate up when I am not resistance training.


Boxing is an amazing workout.  Kickboxing is awesome too.  They both provide great cardio benefits and will challenge you mentally too.  You don't have to get in the ring to get the benefits either.  Working a heavy bag is great if you don't have anyone to train with (once you learn how to strike safely of course so you don't injure yourself).  If you have a training partner who can hold focus mitts that's great too.  Even shadowboxing can be a good workout for beginners and it is a great warm-up once you have got some experience working the different strikes and your footwork.  My advice would be to join a class or hire a trainer who can work with you and teach you how to strike safely.  

Stationary Rowing:
Rowing is tough.  It is a full body cardio challenge.  Added to this is that most rowing machines come with computers so you can get great information out of your workouts.  They provide details such as speed over 500 metres, power output in watts, strokes per minute, and more.  This means that you can compare workouts and challenge yourself.  They often come with preset distance challenges also such as a 5000 metre challenge which I love to do as a monthly or six-weekly gauge of my progress.  Just strap in, start the challenge and see how fast you can finish.  Great for those of us with a competitive streak.


This one ties in nicely with boxing as you often will do both in a session as skipping is a good warm-up for boxing.  If you're anything like me, the first time you do a proper boxing session you will find that your calves are sore the next day from holding the fighting stance.  Skipping is a great way to build up the calves, and the legs in general.  It also has a decent cardio element to it.  You'll quickly find out how strong your cardio is once you're asked to skip for 5 minutes non-stop.  It requires coordination too, and is a great example of how our brains start to lose focus as we tire - skipping gets harder mentally as you fatigue.

Interval Circuits:

Intervals are my favourite type of cardio workout.  They're not an exercise but rather a way of structuring your cardio.  You can actually include all of the above exercises into a great cardio circuit workout, or you can add other exercises and perform them in an interval style.  I personally like to choose 5-8 whole body exercises and then perform them with set rest and work times.  I would say for someone starting their fitness journey start with 30 seconds work followed by 30 seconds rest then move to the next exercise.  Resting for 60 seconds once you have worked through your list of exercises once, then do it 3-5 times.

Here's an example of a 30:30 circuit using some of the cardio exercises above and some full-body bodyweight exercises too.  Always do a proper warm-up before and cool-down after a circuit:

1: Skipping for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds
2: Push-ups for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds
3: Bodyweight Squats for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds
4: Pull-ups or bodyweight rows for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds
5: Plank for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds
6: Shadow boxing for 30 seconds. Rest for 30 seconds
7: Rowing machine for 30 seconds at high intensity. 
Rest for 60 seconds, then repeat for a total of 3-5 rounds

The above is obviously just an example of what you could do, but there are nearly infinite ways to build a circuit.  Once you are feeling fitter, you can raise the work time and lower the rest or raise both the work and rest times.  If you have a heart rate monitor you can also do variable rest times based on your heart rate, but that is a different topic for a separate blog post.

Do you use intervals in your training?  What is your favourite way to use them?  Let me know through my website.  I'd love to hear what you get up to.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Aging and strength training

Today's blog post is a quick one about why it's important to stay strong as you get older.

As we age, we start to lose a couple of things that are pretty darn important to us when it comes to avoiding injury.  One thing that starts to go is bone density, and another is our muscular strength and power.

Luckily both of these thing can be worked on through strength training.  Strength training, be it using bodyweight, resistance bands or free weights/machine weights has been shown to improve both muscle strength/power and bone density.

Why is this important you ask?

Well the better our bone density, the less chance we have of breaking a bone if we fall.  And the better our muscular strength/power is, the better chance we have of preventing a fall should we stumble in the first place.

Think about it, when you trip over a uneven pavement, you tend to throw your foot forward in an effort to catch yourself.  This is fine if you have leg muscles that are strong enough to handle that, and the bones in your leg can handle that added pressure also, but if not, you could end up in hospital with a badly fractured leg.

But fear not, you can do something about this.  

Start working on your strength.  When we get older we tend to get told to slow down, start going for walks instead of people suggesting that we hit the gym.  But hit the gym anyway.  Hire a personal trainer and learn how to increase your strength in a safe way.  By doing strength exercises you may not be able to increase your muscle mass to rival that of a bodybuilder, but you have a chance of slowing the decline in muscle mass and improve your bone density.  

As with all things, you shouldn't go overboard and risk injury by doing too much too fast, but a steady increase in training volume can help you protect yourself from the risks associated with loss of bone density and muscular strength and power.

If you would like some advice about strength training as you age or would like advice about anything fitness related then get in touch with me through my website, I'd love to hear from you.

Saturday, 9 February 2019

I'm on holiday...

Right at this moment I’m sitting in a tent while I write this.  So, it seems that I didn’t completely think through the while blogging every day in February thing as right now, we are camping for 10 days and this makes it hard to keep a regular writing schedule – but I digress.

But it did give me some inspiration about what to write about today.  Once you are in the groove of training, it gets a little easier to fins the motivation to continue.  But when you are away on holiday this can be a challenge.  One way around this is to purposefully program your holiday when you feel like you will need some recovery time.  Use this time to stay active but give your muscles a little break from the gym.

This is valuable in terms of allowing our body to recover.  It is not just your muscles that need time off, your nervous system is challenged with your workouts too. So, don’t feel bad for allowing yourself some time off.

Another way to approach time away from the gym is to look for other ways to train.  A personal favourite of mine is the beach workout.  This of course requires a beach, so if you are going on an alpine holiday well, then this one isn’t for you.  Everything is harder to do on sand, especially soft sand.  This means that the work you put in will be of a higher intensity than normal, making bodyweight exercises like squats more challenging, basic cardio exercises like mountain climbers and star jumps difficult, and high intensity cardio like repeat sprint efforts near lethal!

The plus side of all of that is that you can get a lot of work done in a short amount of time.  It would be perfectly fine to do a 20-minute workout on the beach and then head to the pool and the nearest sun lounger to kick back for the rest of the day.

If you are training for an endurance event like the round the bays race, round Taupo cycle challenge or something along these lines then holidays can be great opportunities to get some extra work in.  Most holiday spots in New Zealand are pretty close to some walking tracks which can be used to challenge your cardio fitness.  They are also usually blessed with some pretty awesome scenery to go along with the exercise challenge.

Of course, if you are staying in a higher quality hotel like the Hilton or Novotel then they usually come complete with in-house gyms or fitness centres.  Which of course means that you can continue to train even if it may not be at the same level as you previously have been.  Even though they are called gyms, don’t expect them to be fitted out with the usual level of equipment you are used to training with.  I would expect at most some light free weights (usually dumbbells up to about 10kg), some cardio machines and if you are lucky a multi-purpose cable machine.  Despite the lack of equipment, you can still get a good workout in with this gear.

There is also the extra incidental exercise you can get from just being away from home.  Take us for example.  We are camping in a very well-equipped holiday park, with what only can be called a mobile house of a tent, but we still have a fair walk to use the bathrooms and showers, we also walk into town for the most part which is a 5-minute stroll each way, plus whatever walking we do around the town itself.  Everything is a little bit more effort – it doesn’t usually feel that way though because we are on holiday - the pace of life is much slower.  But we are still getting the extra steps in that we wouldn’t get at home where all the facilities are 10 seconds away.  Don’t discount this extra incidental exercise.

So, there are some options for you to consider when you head away for a well-deserved vacation.  You don’t need to let yourself slip out of your routine, just adapt and overcome and you will feel much better when you get back home to your usual training sessions knowing that you have not slipped back too far.

How do you train while you are away on holiday?  Do you have any special tips or tricks?  I would love to hear about them if you do, contact me through my website and let me know.