Archive for August, 2010

Get back into good habits

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Summer seems to have ended, the academic year is about to start – and so its time to start thinking about getting back into good habits! Here are some tips to make the transition into autumn a little easier.

1. Love your routines. Routines can be boring, but can also be helpful for sticking to initiatives. Work-gym-commute-home may not be scintillating, but will make sure you fit some activity into your day if your job is largely sedentary. If you truly hate routines, come up with a few different ideas for getting activity into your day, and alternate between them

2. Think about your food. Eating to support your body and to encourage fat loss does not have to mean deprivation. What are the foods that your body needs? Do you eat enough of these, and if not, how can you make them more interesting? What are the treats that are worth waiting for, and that you might want to have once a week or so – such as home made cakes – and what are the throwaway “treats” that you could do without, such as milky, flavoured coffees? Prioritising the foods your body needs, working in some real treats and cutting down on thoughtless consumption will go a long way to improving how you look and feel – without counting calories or worrying about carb intake.

3. Go local and seasonal. Now is a great time of year to explore local and seasonal produce, as there is a fair bit of it around. This does not have to mean going to farmers’ markets, or buying strange and expensive vegetables. If you live in a city, look out for local organic and farm fresh delivery services, which save you the hassle, and can also be reasonably priced, as the cost of long distance transport, fancy packaging, etc. is cut out.  If  you live in the country, look out for farm shops. Once you start eating fresh, seasonal food, you might never want to return to the mass produced variety, and even if you make little effort to cut down on calories or carbs, eating more “real” food can lead automatically to weight loss and improved energy levels. See “Seasonal Eating” by Paul Waddington, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver and “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig for inspiration and recipes.

4. Start planning for autumn. Do you suffer from SAD or winter blues? Does autumn always bring coughs, colds and low energy? Start thinking now how to combat these problems – invest in a SAD lamp, and look into which foods and supplements may be supportive as the weather gets colder. Also think about how your exercise programme might need to change – if you have been exercising outdoors during the summer, this might need to change.

5. Make a commitment. Many people find it easy to exercise during summer, and are also drawn towards lighter foods when the weather is warmer. Once autumn approaches, though, comfort is sought in heavy dishes and desserts, and exercise seems much less appealing. Think about how you can increase the chances of sticking to your good intentions throughout the autumn – sign up to a class, book some PT sessions, or work towards a sporting event.

Email us with any questions on or

Why aren’t you making progress in the gym?

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

Lack of progress at the gym could be due to any number of factors, but there a few common mistakes that I’d like to discuss here.

Poor exercise selection

Whatever your goal is (fat loss, increasing strength, increasing muscle mass) you should always base your training routine on the most effective exercises.

The foundation of your training should be the big movement exercises such as squats, deadlifts, chin ups and bench presses. On these so-called compound movements you can handle heavier weights, which will result in the recruitment of more muscle fibers compared to small one-joint exercises. For example, you’re better off choosing parallel bar dips for your triceps, rather than single arm dumbbell triceps kick backs.

Progressive overload

If you are not applying this fundamental principle of resistance training, you will never change your body shape or increase your strength. The progressive overload principle can be applied by many ways such as increasing the weight (more than 5% increase per session is not generally recommended), increasing the training volume (reps, sets or frequency of training) or by decreasing your resting time.

Not keeping a record of your training

If you are not keeping a record of your training how you can apply progressive overload principle?

Most of the trainees say that they can remember their previous training sessions, so they don’t need to record them. I don’t believe its possible to memorise all the reps, sets and weights used in your training from month to month. You should be able to compare sessions and see your progress in the long run.

Poor recovery

It is impossible to make progress in every training session without eventually burning out. If you are beginner you can make linear progress for up to 6 or 12 months. However, when you reach a certain point you will stop making progress, or might actually regress.

The more experienced you are, the more often you should include a deload period or easy workouts in your training. This involves decreasing load, volume or frequency of training, and will result in better recovery and ultimately, the achievement of your goals.


If are not seeing appreciable changes in your physique or strength, it may be because you have not selected the right exercises, are not recording your sessions or progressively overloading your muscles, or because you are not recovering properly. Take a look at the video of my client (Des, 42). His workout focuses on the compound movements, and I ensure he records his progress, and overloads and deloads appropriately.

If you have any questions about your training routine don’t hesitate to contact me.

Spa-ing and Sparring

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

As well as working with spas to help guests improve their wellbeing, MC has an interest in martial arts! She is available for consultations at Urban Kings Mixed Martial Arts Gym. See for more details about the gym, or email her about her work with fighters and with those interested in improving their wellbeing and fitness through martial arts.

MC at Champneys Season’s Secrets

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

MC will be giving seminars as part of Champneys “Season’s Secrets” breaks. The breaks start in October, with the focus on autumn, a time of year that many people find challenging due to the return to routine, decreasing light levels and colds and colds. The purpose of the break is to help guests improve their wellbeing at this time of the year – learning how to feel energised and full of life, ready to enjoy the “back to school” atmosphere and golden colours of the season. In addition to the talks, the breaks include specially-selected treatments and fitness sessions, which mean that guests emerge feeling fit, pampered and ready to take on new challenges!

Upcoming talks at Champneys City Spas

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Marie-Claire will be giving talks at Champneys City Spas throughout September – check your local branch to find out more!

Ask about our special packages

Sunday, August 8th, 2010

We are launching special packages including:

  • A 3-month elite body transformation package, for a complete body and wellbeing upgrade
  • A 1-month fast shape up programme – ideal for those preparing for weddings or holidays, or for those wanting an intense start to a new way of life
  • Fighters’ Analysis – for fighters/martial artists/boxers who want to improve their performance, whatever their experience level

Discounted until 25 August – email us to find out more!

Q: How much sleep does a sporty young person need?

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Our first question is already in:

Q: How much sleep does a sporty young person need? At what time is it best to sleep – is 11pm until 7am better than midnight until 8am?

A: Good sleep is essential to health, wellbeing and sports performance. Everyone is different in how much sleep they require but generally 7-9 hours of good quality sleep is the best. Ideally, this should be uninterrupted by trips to the toilet, noise, lights or other disturbances, and should take place in a dark room with an appropriate temperature and humidity level.

As for timing, the closer bedtime is to the natural diurnal rhythm, the better for hormonal balance. Regularly staying up long after darkness falls may give less refreshing sleep – earlier to bed is therefore generally better (11pm is better than 1am). It can also be important to have a regular sleeping and waking routine – if during the week you go to bed at 11pm and get up at 7am, try not to deviate too far from this at the weekends – otherwise you risk disturbing your circadian rhythm. Of course there are times when we naturally require more sleep, but if falling asleep can be a problem, avoid taking naps during the day, particularly in the evening.

Some people delay bed time because time is required to wind down, particularly when exercise sessions are in the evening. Taking phosphatidylserine immediately after training, and/or before bed can be useful in lowering cortisol levels and inducing relaxation. Generally having a short evening ritual associated with sleep can also help – this could be having a cup of herbal tea, a warm bath, going through a few simple breathing exercises, or reading.

For good sleep in general, try to remove work materials, computers and TVs from the bedroom – make it a place for sleep only. If you can’t get to sleep within 30 minutes of turning off the light, get up and go to a different room – perhaps read for a bit. Do not look at the clock! If you start to associate bed with struggling to get to sleep, and then worrying about not getting to sleep, a destructive pattern could be set up.

Another reason for difficulty in getting to sleep is anxiety.  Writing down issues to deal with the next day can be helpful, as can setting aside a period in the evening – long before going to bed – to think over the problems.

If you tend to wake up to use the toilet, limit fluid intake immediately before bed, and think about whether the depth of your sleep is sufficient. Try not to have caffeine any later than 4pm. A carbohydrate-containing meal in the evening can induce feelings of relaxation, but eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime can have the opposite effect. The same is true of alcohol – small amounts may help with unwinding, but large amounts guarantee poor sleep and a difficult morning after.

Other supplements that can be helpful for sleep are 5-HTP (not to be taken with antidepressants or St John’s wort) and magnesium, particularly in the form of topical oil or cream.

Questions about diet, lifestyle and fitness?

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Are there things you would like to know about diet, lifestyle or fitness but never asked about?

Now is your chance to find out the best tips for getting in shape for the beach, improving your technique on a particular exercise, or reducing bloating, for example.  Let us know what has been bothering or intriguing you!

Email diet/lifestyle questions to, and fitness/training questions to We will choose questions to answer on the blog (not revealing your name or details of course).

Looking forward to your questions!