Archive for the Fitness Category

Using the Gym: Breathing Exercises for Anxiety Sufferers

Posted in Fitness, General, Personal Development on October 27, 2010 by Jim St Ruth

One of the purposes of my blog was to try and log some of my progress in trying to lose some body fat, get fit and gain some muscle (I’m 5ft 5 with a pretty small frame and, once I’ve got my body fat down to where I want it, I don’t want to be as skinny as I once was).

Once of the hardest things, though, is using the gym. We’re pretty broke at the moment, so earlier in the year we bought a home gym to same some money over a couple of year’s worth of gym memberships. I can manage cycling ok, but I’m an anxiety sufferer and when I try to use the gym (or run, for that matter) my anxiety kicks in and I experience a pretty heavy amount of voice trouble and other physical symptoms.

All the voices are aimed at myself and being sworn at and criticised by supposedly dismbodied entities is not a good thing when you’re trying to do something to improve your health. It just feeds right back into itself and makes it all worse. Being unhappy with my body image, suffering from anxiety and voice trouble is a nasty cycle but one which I’m trying to break.

I’ve heard from reputable sources that the percent of people who suffer some form of voice trouble at some point in their lives could be as high as 30%… that’s a lot of people. Hence me blogging this. If it helps just one other person out then that’s a great thing to happen.

Back to exercising, then.

The reason my progress has been slower than I want is that on most occasions I’ve had to stop my workouts halfway through, or if I’m running I’ve had to prematurely cut the running segment of my interval training short. If my partner’s not around to just come sit with me, I just couldn’t progress and I’ve had to stop. Cue feedback loop and nasty, externalised self-criticism.

I’ve had a lot of good advice, over the past few years in particular. It’s still surprising, though, when someone (usually my partner) says something that’s really great, and I always come away thinking that’s so obvious, why didn’t I try that!

His idea is really simple and it works: just a simple breathing exercise.

Start with your warm up and then, before you go any further, close your eyes, relax and take ten relaxing, deep breaths. Don’t rush them, it’s just like doing reps – steady and focused. Then start your routine, but pause after each set, close your eyes and repeat the ten-deep-breaths.

It’s been really useful: keeping my anxiety levels at a manageable level and, important too, it’s allowed me to keep a much better focus on my form during each set of exercises. I can do each exercise more slowly and in a more controlled and aware manner… and I don’t have to call Paul through to sit with me. He doesn’t get dragged away from what he’s doing, and I get to me more confident, independant and focused on something that’s become very important to me: managing my own health.


Battle of the Calorie Burning Behemoths – Cycling vs Running

Posted in Cycling, Fitness, General, running on September 13, 2010 by Jim St Ruth

A dramatic title for a dramatic battle… well, alright, it wasn’t very dramatic, though I was cycling for part of the time and my heart was a-pumping!

We sold our car a couple of weeks ago – we needed the cash and, because all we really used the car for was a twice weekly trip to Tesco, it wasn’t really worth the £85 a month on petrol and inurance. So that we could still get around, though, we bought me a bike which came at the start of last week.

…Paul’s already got a bike, I’m not giving him seaters 🙂

After assembly, which was a joy of confusion for two normally techie-minded people, I took the bike for a ride round the park and for a giggle set Sports Tracker running. At the end of a 45min ride I’d burnt an estimate 530kCal, about a 100kCal more than my last 45min Podrunner session (25mins running, 20mins walking). This got me to wondering which was truly best, running or cycling?

I only really run or cycle for the calorie burn and to exercise my heart. I know the calorie count is only an estimate and that, mile on mile, running burns more calories… but there are a few key facts that came into the Battle. I shall even number them (gasp!).

  1. Minute on minute, I can burn more calories by cycling.
  2. My thighs feel like steel (well, almost… well, compared to when I run, ok?).
  3. My whole legs and butt get a workout to supplement the slightly upper-body-heavy weights workout that I do.
  4. My aerobic fitness is such that, autumnal rains permitting, I could easily cycle five days a week and still do my weights workout, rather than struggle to run and workout as much as I’d like.
  5. Cycling is much more fun than running. Way more fun!
  6. I sometimes have a bad night’s sleep; difficulty dropping off, waking up from nightmares or having night terrors. I’ve slept like a baby on the night of each bike ride so far.
  7. I’ll be going for bike rides with my partner – quality, fun, outdoors fun!
  8. I don’t get saddly sore, now, after my third ride!

As I’m only really using cycling for aerobic fitness and fat loss (the demands from cycling on my legs will quickly plateau as far as muscular development goes), I need an aerobic activity that lets me do as many weights workouts as I want. That’s only three full body workotus a week, but doing that with running is a huge demand, and almost impossible at my current level of fitness, especially as I’m trying to progress with heavier weights.

So, my part in the Battle of the Calorie Burning Behemoths is over – and the results are an astonishing no-brainer as far as my needs are concerned. My last cycle was for 45mins and I covered nearly 7miles, burning nearly 800kCal. Again, that calorie figure is only rough, but that’s almost twice as many calories as running in the same 45min time.

Cycling wins hands down.

Park Run – Platt Fields Park

Posted in Fitness, running on August 23, 2010 by Jim St Ruth

Following a fantastic, welcoming comment this morning from Tim about the weekly 5km Park Run at Platt Fields Park, here’s a link to the Park Run website.

It looks like a great event, with people of all ages and abilities attending, and I’ll definately be joining in… though I might do another week or two of Pod Runner training before I attend, then I can try and fit it in as part of my regular workout schedule and I’ll definately be able to complete the whole course!

Podrunner Intervals – Starting to Run for Weight Loss

Posted in Fitness, music on June 14, 2010 by Jim St Ruth

My friend Jo put me onto this.

I’ve been at home for a couple of years, since I finished my last contract role. I’d already put on a couple of stone (oh boy were people right about that happening when you hit 30!) and then last year I quite smoking. That, combined with two years of not moving very much, pushed my weight up to 14 stone. When a relative sent me a picture that he took at a family do, I saw my face and it was really big. I was gobsmacked. I had to do something about it.

So, starting in January I used WiiFit Plus every day. I didn’t lose any weight, but it conditioned my body and helped me recover from two years of atrophy. It also made me more aware of what I was doing, leaving me less inclined to just sit in front of my PC for hours on end, and more mindful of what I was eating. My aerobic fitness improved quite a lot and my metabolism increased so that I was no longer putting on weight, even though I was still eating the same quantity of food. I also started to look much more healthy thanks to me making sure I was getting at least 5 portions of fruit or veg – if not more.

Then, in mid-April, our home gym arrived. I’ve been using the weights twice a week (to be honest it’s been hard to do as often as I want, but I knew it would take a couple of months to work up to being able to workout more often) and I’m noticeably trimmer, I don’t have a huge head anymore and I’ve built up a little muscle tone … but I’ve been losing weight really slowly. (I realise that I’ve built muscle mass and lost body fat, though).

I knew from researching weight loss and fitness that running would be a great way to lose weight and increase my aerobic fitness further, but I’ve had a busy few weeks and so I’ve just been putting off any serious committment to running.

Today, though, I tried my first run with Podrunner Intervals. The workout takes you from a mixture of walking and light running up to being able to run 5K at the end of 9 weeks, using MP3s to guide you, alternating between running and walking over a half hour period. I’ve got to say, the first run was really good – a challenge, but not totally exhausting, and the dance music was definately good enough to listen to and keep pace with.

I know that a lot of people have already heard of Podrunner Intervals, but since it’s not only fantastic but completely free, I thought I’d share it. If you like it, spread the word – DJ Steve Boyett, who produced Podrunner Intervals, encourages it, and I think it’s well worth telling people about.

Thanks to DJ Steve Boyett for producing, and thanks to my friend Jo for putting me on to the workout!