Archive for September, 2010

Women and weight training

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

It’s very rare to see women doing weight training in a commercial gym and if they do, it’s usually incorrect. I think this is due to a lack of understanding and the widespread nature of some of the myths about weight training.

Core training

“Core training” is the magical phrase that women like to hear. Quite often when I have a consultation with a potential female client the most important area for them is core training. What they want is a flat belly and a narrow waist, and so they believe that by performing all kinds of abdominal exercises(plank, swiss ball crunches, sit ups etc) they will get the result they want. In most cases, it is not the strength of the abdominal muscles that is the problem, but the presence of unwanted fat – which will not be spot-reduced by any amount of abdominal exercises. The overall level of body fat must be decreased.

Instead of wasting time on a swiss ball doing hundreds of sit ups, you should be doing some of the basic exercises such as lunges which target large muscle groups.. By doing that you will increase your metabolic rate, so you will burn more calories even at rest. Combining your resistance training with a good diet will further help you to reduce your body fat.

As for strengthening the core, the main function of the core muscles (which are not just abdominal muscles but also the hip and back muscles) is to stabilize. So provided you are using challenging weights whilst doing exercises such as squats and lunges you will activate your core muscles throughout your whole workout.

Muscle toning

Women usually tell me they don’t want to get “big” and want to just look “toned”. There is no such thing as a “toned” muscle – muscle can get bigger or smaller, and the only way to look “toned”, or rather defined, is by increasing the size of the muscles and lowering the body fat level.

Resistance training will never make a woman look like a man – testosterone treatment is needed to achieve this. Women do build muscle when they train, but women’s muscles are naturally smaller than men’s, and they have fewer fast twitch muscle fibres, which means bulk does not come easily.

But I will not deny what many women already know – building up muscle can sometimes result in a “chunky” look, if this is done in the wrong way – women are programmed to have more body fat under the skin than men, and so retaining much of this layer of fat whilst increasing the size of muscles does not result in a toned, athletic appearance, but simply the impression of having “bigger” arms or legs. The key here is to design the resistance training programme well, so that as muscle mass increases, body fat decreases. Diet and management of oestrogen can play an important role here too.

As with men, there is a wide variation in terms of genetic predisposition. Occasionally I see women who are genetically predisposed to muscle gain, and who naturally have a low level of body fat – they look athletic even without training.

Looking nice in the gym

Lots of women come to the gym in their expensive pink exercise clothes and spend hours using mini hand weights. It seems they don’t even work up a sweat. This sort of workout is useless. Women should not be afraid to use real weights, to push themselves and to sweat – even if this doesn’t look particularly feminine. A few generations ago, most women were engaged in physical labour every day, their bodies are designed to work as hard as mens, if not harder. So you should get some proper guidance, get into the freeweights area and stop wasting time!

Fat burning

Women often neglect resistance training, as they feel it is the cardio work that will burn stubborn fat – especially low intensity, long duration cardio. In any workout, whether weights or cardio, the amount of calories burned is actually small – even the calorie deficit created by a super high intensity martial arts class could be wiped out by a snack. It is what happens in the body after exercise that is important. Resistance and high intensity training can increase the metabolic rate for several days after the training session, this is one reason it is important to rest between sessions. Repairing the damage done to muscles during a resistance training session requires energy, which often comes from fat. Also, resistance training has a large effect on improving cardiovascular fitness – the heart rate increases dramatically during an exercise.


Resistance training is the only way for both men and women to improve the body shape. It is impossible for a woman to look masculine through resistance training, and following a well designed resistance programme using real weights and eating well are the keys to achieving a slim and “toned” physique. See the video below of Fiona, one of my female clients who does the same exercises as my male clients and who looks slim and feminine.

Which Exercise Type Are You?

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Some people get great results in the gym through setting clear goals, and working towards them with a progressive programme. They tend to be consistent and when their routine is disrupted, this sort of person just gets back into it as soon as possible. Other people start diet and fitness regimes with great enthusiasm and discipline, but soon are distracted by other life elements, or are put off course by a few weeks out of their rhythm. Yet another group has little real interest in physical activity or eating in a specific way, and needs an intellectual motivation to make lifestyle changes. Understanding which type you are will help you to design an effective exercise plan, that you can stick to in the longer term.

Quiz questions

The following questions are designed to give you an insight into your personality as applied to exercise behaviour, but do not focus only on exercise-related topics. Answer each question and keep a note of your score. You may have a predominance of one type, or a mixture.

1. Which of the following sounds most like you?

I hate to be bored (LT)

I really dislike instability and uncertainty and try to avoid it (BN)

My emotional life is something of a rollercoaster – I wish there was more harmony (O)

2. Which of the following statements about career/work do you agree with most?

Work is important for providing me with a sense of self-worth (O)

Work is important, but mostly as a means to an end. It provides me with stability and a regular income, but I don’t feel emotionally attached to it beyond that (BN)

I really enjoy intellectually stimulating work, and throw myself into it. I have no patience for boring or mundane work, though (LT)

3. Can you relax easily?

No, I often find it hard to switch off irrespective of how much I have to do (O)

Yes – relaxing can mean cooking and enjoying a meal, catching up with friends or going for a walk (BN)

Yes – I daydream a lot and enjoy stimulating my mind with books, films or puzzles. I don’t need to be around others to relax (LT)

4. What would you say your biggest strength is?

My ability to commit and stick to things, even when the going is tough (BN)

My creativity and ability to innovate (LT)

My energy and drive, which can sometimes be super-human (O)

5. What would you say your biggest weakness is?

I get bored easily and give up on things that don’t interest me (LT)

I have large ups and downs – one week I am all-conquering, the next week I struggle to get out of bed (O)

Sometimes I can be stubborn or closed minded, sticking with things just because they are familiar or established (BN)

6. Do you currently exercise?

Yes, as much as possible (O)

Yes, I have a routine which I try to follow (BN)

When I can be bothered – I do what I feel like (LT)

Not at the moment – I know I could find the time, but I have too many other things on my mind (O)

7. Whether you exercise or not, which of the following do you agree with most?

The human body is designed for movement, and being active is natural (BN)

Exercise helps to relieve stress, it can help a person to forget the other issues in their life (O)

There are many reasons to exercise – weight loss, preparing for a sporting event, socialising (LT)

8. If you had an exercise routine disrupted by illness or a holiday, for example, how would you react?

I would just get back into my routine as soon as I could (BN)

If I had a break from the routine, other things would take its place and I would probably forget about exercise (O)

I wouldn’t allow anything to disrupt my exercise routine (O)

It would knock my exercise off track for a few weeks, but I would get back into it if there was a reason to do so (LT)

9. Imagine you are at the gym – where would you be found?

Trying out a strange new piece of equipment, or in an interesting-sounding class, like Boxercise, Body Attack or Salsacise (LT)

Following your usual routine, recording your progress (BN)

Doing another 45 minutes on the cross trainer or treadmill – you need to reach a certain calorie target this session (O)

10. Which of the following sounds most like your exercise behaviour to date?

I usually have some sort of routine, and stick to it – it might not always be the best routine, but at least its something and at least I have regular activity (BN)

When I have a reason to exercise, I do it, but I can get bored of it quickly, particularly if it is too much effort or I don’t see results (LT)

I go through phases of exercising a lot, or not at all. I don’t always have a particular plan, but I know I can achieve a lot (O)

Exercise is the most important thing in my life, I have to fit in a certain number of sessions every week (or day) (O)

What your results mean

Mostly O
The Obsessive. Lives through emotions, desires, compulsions

Obsessives are motivated by their compulsions. They can have immense drive, setting and achieving extremely ambitious goals – at any cost. However, Obsessives are by nature inconsistent – they can fluctuate between doing the work of several people, to being barely able to function.

In terms of exercise, an Obsessive could have an unhealthy relation to exercise, using it to avoid dealing with psychological issues. More commonly, they are the “all or nothing” types – able to be incredibly strict, but also vulnerable to binge eating or drinking, depending on circumstances. Many Obsessives feel they do not have time to exercise, as they have too many other things on their minds

Advice for Obsessives

  • Whilst exercise is useful for relieving stress and letting off steam, dealing more openly with any psychological issues will help you to better focus your drive and energy
  • Make time for regular practice of balancing exercises such as yoga and pilates – these will help to calm your mind
  • Try to include different types of exercise, allowing you to improve the connection with your body and take enjoyment from activity. Get outside when you can, and try things “just for fun” – the idea is to bring balance. If you feel you don’t have time to exercise “properly”, you can start with these kinds of activities
  • Avoid setting too many goals, and focus on the process more. You know you can achieve goals, but now think about what you can do for yourself for the longer term
  • Exercise is not about proving a point, or passing or failing – it is about you and your health, and no-one else. If your routine slips because of a temporary change in your circumstances, accept it, but don’t dwell on it. As soon as you can, simply start your activities again

Sample exercise routine for an Obsessive, to help with achieving harmony

Monday – Resistance training/interval cardio gym workout (programme designed by fitness professional)

Tuesday – Walk in the park after lunch

Wednesday – Resistance training/interval cardio gym workout (programme designed by fitness professional)

Thursday – Yoga

Friday – Walk in the park after lunch

Saturday – Exercise class of choice

Sunday – Walk in the country with friends

Most BN
The Body Natural. Lives through sensory experiences, the body

Body Naturals are not always high energy “sporty” types, but are in fact the type most likely to achieve and maintain the best results or to master a sport. With a strong connection to the body, this type appreciates the sensual, and understands instinctively the need for movement.

A Body Natural usually includes some form of activity in their life, because it feels good. However, this is not always the progressive training required to achieve results – Body Naturals risk being “stuck in a rut” and continuing with a routine because it is established. This type responds best to goal setting. A Body Natural at their best will be committed and consistent – and will always be rewarded by changes.

Advice for Body Naturals

  • Consider working with a Personal Trainer, or having an exercise programme designed for you. Record your progress each session, and make sure that each time, you do more
  • Set sensible, yet challenging goals, breaking them down into sub-goals and adding checkpoints – keep a log
  • If you don’t already play a sport, consider it. Your commitment means you do well with mastering new techniques (no matter how long it takes), and you can be an excellent team player. This could be any kind of sport, from field and track to golf to football
  • Don’t forget the fun – as well as progressing with your routine, occasionally inject something new into your activities. Plan an active break, try out a class or exercise with a friend or a group
  • Every so often, either alone or with a trainer/instructor, critically review your exercise programme. Is it helping you to achieve your goals, or does something need to change? Don’t be afraid to make changes when necessary – by making sure you have good advice on technique, etc. you reduce the risk of a new exercise not suiting you

Sample exercise routine for a Body Natural, to help with making progress

Monday – Personal Training session, resistance work and cardio

Tuesday – Sport skills training

Wednesday – Personal Training session, resistance work and cardio

Thursday – Sport skills training

Friday – Resistance work and cardio session (alone)

Saturday – Walk in the park

Sunday – Rollerblading in the park

Mostly LT

The Lazy Thinker. Lives in their head

Lazy Thinkers tend to be dreamers and theorists, who live in their heads and thrive on intellectual challenge, and who therefore may have less of a connection to their physicality. They are able to commit themselves wholeheartedly to an interesting project, but lose interest with mundane tasks.

Lazy Thinkers can motivate themselves to exercise – if they have an intellectual reason to do so. They can therefore masquerade as other types, committing to an ambitious regime if they realise they need to lose weight, for example. But once the activity becomes too much of an effort, or is not yielding results, momentum is lost. Lazy Thinkers may be captivated by the latest fad, class or piece of equipment, but are likely to give up when the novelty has worn off.

Advice for Lazy Thinkers

  • Accept that you have little real interest in exercise and stop trying to set goals that don’t mean anything to you on an intellectual level. Try to find a real reason for exercise – this might be something as broad as improving your health for the longer term
  • Brainstorm how you might include exercise in your life, and make a note of ideas that appeal to you
  • Once you have decided to exercise, your challenge is to prevent boredom. Whilst some element of progressive training is required to see results (which you need to see to stay motivated), this can be balanced by activities that are stimulating and fun
  • Speak to a Personal Trainer or fitness instructor, and consult fitness magazines and websites for ideas. Consider working with a Personal Trainer at least once a week
  • Consider taking up a sport with a mental/strategic component, such as a martial art. Read up on the history and culture of the sport, and look forward to the time when you have mastered the basic techniques (a stage which you will probably find boring) and can apply them creatively

Sample exercise routine for a Lazy Thinker, to prevent boredom and to achieve results

Monday – Sports class, e.g., martial arts

Tuesday – Personal Training gym session – resistance and interval cardio

Wednesday – Sports class, e.g., martial arts

Thursday – Dance class

Friday – Resistance and interval cardio session

Saturday – Thinking time – whilst walking outdoors

Sunday – Outdoor Personal Training/Military Fitness type session

Corporate discounts on Harley Street

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

I am now seeing clients every Monday morning at 121 Harley Street, and am offering an introductory discount to corporate clients – contact me to find out more on

MC at Urban Kings

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

MC is now seeing clients at Urban Kings MMA gym. Check out the website to find out more, and stay tuned for news of upcoming offers, taster sessions and open nights!

Referral offer for September

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Until the end of September, we are running a special offer on referrals. If you refer a friend (colleague, family member, spouse…) for either Personal Training or BioSignature consultations and your friend signs up for a block of sessions, you receive a FREE Personal Training session/programme design AND a BioSignature consultation!7

BioSignature consultations are now available at 121 Harley Street as well as Soho Gym Camden Town.

Connect with us on Facebook (Body Progress Centre) and Twitter (BPC_Wellbeing) or contact us for more information.

Stan 07977 133560

MC 07890 193024

Small group training and weight loss sessions coming soon!

Sunday, September 12th, 2010

Working out alone in the gym can require a lot of motivation, and one-to-one Personal Training sessions are the way to get the most out of each session. However, with the current financial climate, regular PT sessions are not an option for everyone. We are going to launch small group training sessions, as well as mini weight loss groups. This will give you the advantage of expert attention, but at a lower cost and with the added benefit of working with others who share your goals. Get in touch to find out more about dates and locations!

Autumn at Champneys

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Yesterday was the start of the Champneys “Seasonal Secrets” cycle, opening with a City Spa Event at Champneys Enfield. Each season will see City Spa Events and resort breaks, all tailored to the season and in line with the Champneys book.

But what is seasonal wellbeing and why is it important? Talking about how we are “disconnected from nature” has become quite a cliche, but it does matter for our health and wellbeing. In the past and in other cultures today, people modify their diets and activities to fit with the season and the weather to optimise health and provent issues from occurring.

Autumn can be a difficult time – each day is a little darker and colder, and there are 6 months of darkness ahead. Low light levels can cause winter blues or Seasonal Affective disorder, low levels of vitamin D can contribute to increased risk of infections and longer term health problems, and coughs and colds become more common.

However, by increasing awareness of the season and taking steps to prevent problems in good time, it is possible to enjoy the “back to school” energy of autumn, starting new projects and exploring interesting new seasonal foods.

See below for more information on Champneys Autumn and Winter events.

City Spa Events

Autumn Retreat

Winter Retreats

Farm Direct delivery service

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

If like me, you believe in eating good quality, seasonal, local produce but don’t feel you have the time to regularly visit farmers’ markets, a delivery service could be the thing for you.

Having tried organic delivery services in the past and finding them expensive and sometimes inconvenient (having to buzz in the delivery person at 5.30am…), we have been very pleased with Farm Direct ( This is an Islington-based service that delivers food from local and regional farms to addresses in north London, and because the cost of transport, storage, packaging, etc. is low, they offer excellent quality seasonal food at reasonable prices. They also offer the option of collecting your package from their depot off Holloway Road, if your address is not in the catchment area, or if that works better for you. Deliveries can be arranged within a 4 hours time slot, with a text to let you know when to expect arrival. The company has an easy to use website, and has recently started to offer midweek deliveries.

So far we have enjoyed delicious meat, veg, fruit, eggs and butter from the service and will continue to do so. The quality of the food is a reminder that there is a vast gulf between a supermarket vegetable and the “real thing”.  If “real” vegetables were more readily available, perhaps more people would enjoy them! The same goes for fruit – the Katy apples I ordered from Farm Direct were literally a world away from the bland offerings in the shops, flown in from the other side of the world.

Give it a try and you will be convinced that eating healthily and sustainably is far from boring.

Harley Street and Champneys this week

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

MC is running her first clinic at Harley Street this week,  consultations are already in demand!

She will also be giving her first talk at a Champneys City Spa (Champneys Enfield) on Tuesday 7 September. Come along for special offers, a mini facial and an enlightening talk on autumn wellbeing – as well as discounts on the upcoming Seasonal Secrets residential break.