Shona Watt

Shona Watt is an Advanced Level 3 Personal Trainer and a member of the Register of Exercise Professionals.  She is also co-owner of JB Personal Training.


Sport and fitness have been central to Shona's life since an early age. Having represented Scottish Schools at athletics and North of Scotland at U-18 hockey, she became an international rugby player in her late twenties. Shona competed in the 2006 IRB Womens Rugby World Cup in Canada and several Six Nations competitions, playing at many famous stadia such as Murrayfield and Twickenham. During this time, she developed an understanding of the principles and techniques of strength and conditioning training followed by the national squad. This inspired her to gain her qualification as a fitness instructor and subsequently as a personal trainer following retirement from international rugby in 2006.


Shona specialises in weight loss, having qualified with Premier Training in Nutritional Advice for Weight Management. Shona encourages weight loss clients who would like to run to integrate running training into their exercise routines. A UK Athletics Running Group Leader, she established Run JB in 2013. Run JB is designed to introduce beginners to running via its Couch to 5K running course which runs every three months. Shona is an advocate of the barefoot running approach, having recently transitioned to minimalist Vivobarefoot running shoes with great success. She has personally completed both the Loch Ness Marathon in 2009 and the Paris Marathon in 2011, raising thousands for Cancer Research UK. Her latest challenge was her first ironman triathlon, the Cotswold 226 event, which she completed in August 2014. With years of personal experience in the enormous benefits of high intensity interval training, she recently became a certified Metafit™ Coach and instructs JB Personal Training's weekly Metafit™ classes in Lydiard Millicent.

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Wherever you turn at the moment, you can't escape the buzzword "mindfulness". It leaps off magazine front page headlines and dominates wellbeing features. This is a very positive and welcome development and an inevitable natural response to the relentless pace of modern life. However the reality is that far from being a passing trend, the human desire and need for mindfulness has always existed. Indeed, it has been fulfilled for millennia by the original structured form of mindfulness practice - Hatha Yoga. What Is Yoga? Yoga is an ancient science, art, philosophy and physical practice which aims to unite the body, mind and spirit. In the 2,500 year-old classic text Yoga-Sutra, Pantanjali defined Yoga as “chitta-vritti-nirohdah”, or the “cessation of the turnings of the mind” – in other words, the stilling of the mind and achieving absolute focus regardless of any distractions. Modern day yoga is the term used to describe yoga from the 18th century onwards, when  Indian philosophes and beliefs spread to the Western World following the invasion of India by the British Empire.  However, the classical schools of Yoga teaching meditation and self-study were not very compatible with busy Western lifestyles. So a form of Yoga which emphasised physical effort, known as Hatha Yoga or “forced” Yoga, became more popular in the West.  Hatha Yoga became synonymous with yoga generally in the West, even though in reality it represents  just a small subset of yoga practices.  Physical yoga poses, known as asana, were originally intended merely as a means to the ultimate end of achieving “Samadhi”, a state of bliss achieved via meditation. Modern day practice of Hatha yoga has evolved over the last few centuries from its origins as a branch of Tantric yoga. It emphasises the aspects of Yoga which are more acceptable to Western mindsets and busy modern lifestyles. In particular it focuses on physical asana practice. However, it also includes elements of pranayama (breathing techniques), guided  relaxation and sometimes meditation.  These complementary elements satisfy our growing desire for a form of relaxation and mindfulness to relieve the stress of excessively busy modern lifestyles. Pranayama literally translates from its two component Sanskrit words, life-force (“prana”) and restrain or control (“yama”).  Commonly defined as “breath control”, it is a collection of techniques designed to intentionally alter the breath to produce specific results. Such techniques involve specific combinations and styles of the three components of pranayama – purak (inhalation), rechak (exhalation) and kumbhak (retaining or holding) the breath. Pranayama has a broad multitude of physical, mental and spiritual benefits. The practice of deep abdominal and full yogic breathing enhances the oxygenation of the blood compared to normal shallow breathing. This fuels the muscles more effectively and improves concentration. Mentally, the slowing of the breath boosts the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to lower blood pressure, reduce stress and anxiety with a whole host of associated health benefits. Concentration on the breath calms our thoughts and can even help to unite the subconscious and subconscious mind. Our Yoga classes also feature “mudra” which translates as “gesture” or “attitude”. In the widest sense, mudras are body positions which are thought to have an influence on the energy of the body and mood.  The most recognised mudras are hand gestures and are an extremely simply yet powerful way of focusing concentration thereby aiding relaxation and slowing of the breath. An example of a simple mudra that we use in our Yoga classes in Swindon is Chin Mudra, a symbolic gesture of unification. The thumb is used to represent the divine and the index finger represents the ego.  In chin mudra, the thumb and index finger are joined at the tips to make a circle, with the thumb over the index finger. This symbolises both the union of the conscious and subconscious minds and also the surrender of the ego to the divine. It is a deceptively simple mudra which can powerfully focus one’s intention as one begins a yoga practice. The practice of asanas have many benefits which are physical, mental and spiritual. Physically, asana improve muscle strength and flexibility, endurance, proprioception and balance. Mentally, the performance of asanas provide a focus for our concentration, calming the mind and relieving stress. Spiritually, the ability to comfortably maintain meditative postures is a stepping stone to higher forms of yoga practice such as Dharana, Dhyana and ultimately achieving Samadhi. The first chapter of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika describes how asanas are integral to Hatha Yoga practice: “Being the first accessory of Hatha Yoga, asana is described first. It should be practiced for gaining steady posture, health and lightness of body.”  (Hatha Yoga Pradipika, Svatmarama, CH 1, vs. 19)  As with any form of physical exercise class, a yoga class should incorporate suitable dynamic warm-up, main section and cool-down phases. This has been proven scientifically to be the safest class structure which reduces the risk of injury. For example, it is therefore appropriate to incorporate Surya Namaskar at the beginning of the class as it provides an excellent full-body multi-joint dynamic warm-up. Main phase asanas which focus on strength will tend to shorten the length of the main muscle groups involved. It is therefore important to balance such asanas with those which focus more on flexibility, in order to ensure flexibility is maintained or improved overall.  This will also reduce the risk of injury. A combination of postures of varying intensities is also beneficial mentally for the participants and enables a smoother transition into other sections of the class such as pranayama and meditation. Counterpose asanas are very important to provide balance to yoga practice. The use of counterpose ensures that opposing muscle groups stay balanced in terms of both their flexibility and strength. This is crucial for the prevention of injury. They also provide mental and spiritual balance. So if you feel the need for an oasis of mindfullness in your hectic everyday life, look no further than Hatha Yoga and prepare to restore some harmony to your mind and body. Whether you are joining a Yoga class or practicing at home, we can all benefit from this ancient but increasingly popular practice!  

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One of the great things about HIIT workouts such as Metafit is that it is always possible to adapt each exercise to suit your own individual fitness level.  For example, you may be just starting out with exercise in general, or keen to complete some form of resistance exercise a couple of times a week as recommended in the latest NHS Exercise Guidelines. In this case, to begin with you can start with the basic versions of each exercise - for example a plain squat rather than a squat jump. This will enable a low impact form of workout which will still get your heartrate elevated but with a much reduced risk of injury.

Once you are comfortable with the basic versions there is tremendous scope to progress if you want more of a challenge. Incorporating plyometrics is an extremely effective way to burn more calories in the same period of time. It is also essential for anyone who wants to maximise their explosive power to improve performance in running or other sports.

Here's an example plyometric exercise from the Ape Shapes Metafit workout - the Tuck Jump, slowed down. The knees should be lifted high towards the chest, rather than the heels coming up towards the bottom with the knees staying lower. Notice how increased dorsiflexion at the ankle joint releases all that free elastic energy from the Achilles' tendon, helping me get higher. If you thud heavily on landing, make sure you are bending sufficiently not just at the knee but also at the ankle. If you struggle, then devote time to work on your ankle flexibility and you will notice a big difference.

Alternative 1 - Squat Kicks (low impact)

If you aren't quite ready for the full version of this exercise, then there are a couple of alternatives. One is to "Squat Kicks" in which you complete a squat by kicking in front of you with one leg on the way back up, alternating sides. Keep the toes pointed during the kick and make it explosive! Both feet should be in contact with the floor at all times.

Alternative 2 - Squat Big Knees (higher impact)

The second and more intermediate option which IS plyometric is "Squat Big Knees", in which you complete a squat by lifting one knee up towards your chest on the way back up. The momentum created by this movement will also lift the other foot off the ground at the same time. Both feet should be on the floor before starting the next repetition.

In our Metafit classes, we encourage beginners to start with Squat Kicks, progress to Squat Big Knees and if and when they are ready, to give the full Tuck Jump a try. A good transitional strategy is to complete a few tuck jumps at a time, then complete the rest of the interval with squat big knees. Remember the key is to progress gradually and only when you are ready!

 
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Since founding Run JB five years ago, by far the most rewarding part of the journey has been watching hundreds of our beginner runners finish their first ever Parkrun. We are fortunate to live close to what must be one of the most scenic Parkrun routes in the country. Lydiard Park in Swindon has played host to the unforgettable culmination to our Couch to 5K beginners course since 2012. It is always an emotional experience, with tears of joy and relief not uncommon afterwards, amid a wonderful atmosphere of camaraderie and an overwhelming sense of achievement for those who doubted whether they would ever be capable of completing the course just a few months prior.

However, they always do themselves proud and often surprise themselves in the process. It is largely because the hard work has already been done in training, and they follow our advice in how to prepare for the big day. Here are my top 10 tips for anyone approaching their first Parkrun.

Before the Run

1) Eat a decent breakfast - e.g. porridge or another wholegrain cereal ideally at least an hour beforehand. Avoid protein (e.g. traditional cooked breakfast) as this takes longer to digest and may leave your belly feeling heavy and unsettled whilst running

2) Make sure you bring your barcode! You've worked so hard to get here, you want your name on that results list!

3) Get there early to avoid stress, to give yourself plenty of time to go to toilet and familiarise yourself with the course set-up and of course, warm up properly!

4) Warm-up properly with gentle dynamic exercises which mobilise the whole body with added emphasis on the lower body. At Run JB we do this as a group so there is one less thing to worry about.

5) Position yourself at the right place in the starting group - there are time pacers - don't go to far forward or you will spend the first few minutes being overtaken which can be intimidating and annoying. If your main aim is simply to finish, then to play it safe position your self towards the back, which will also help with your pacing at the start.

During the Run

5) Don't go off to fast. Repeat - don't go off too fast! It is very easy to get carried away with the atmosphere, the crowd and those running around you.  It is very important to stick to your normal steady pace (at which you can maintain a conversation). Go off too fast and you will regret it as the lactic build up in your legs will return to haunt you later in the race

6) Relax - aim to keep the EFFORT steady throughout. This means you should expect to go slower on the uphill sections and faster on the downhill sections - but that your breathing should remain as constant as possible throughout.

7) Enjoy it! you have done the hard work over the last couple of months in training, and have every reason to be confident.  Relax and enjoy the atmosphere and your big moment!

After the Run

8) At the finish, don't forget to collect your place token and take it with your barcode to get them scanned. This ensures your time will correctly appear in the official results.

9) Go for a coffee with your fellow runners and share stories of your amazing achievement!

10) Make sure you take a photo with your fellow runners after crossing the finish line and share it on social media. Some of our ladies have never had as many likes for a photo as the ones they took after their first Parkrun. Remember it's not about showing off - it's all about inspiring friends and family to follow in your footsteps. You can become a positive role model and your influence can be very powerful on those around you.

 

 
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Back in February, JB Personal Training had a visit from Radio 4's Today programme.  The much respected journalist and former BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson came to one of our Ultrabox classes to sample the views of our fitness community on the EU referendum.

Four months later, it felt a little strange returning to the hall synonymous with our exercise classes to cast my referendum vote. The award-winning Lydiard Millicent Parish Hall is one of the many community buildings acting as local polling stations.

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Nick's visit had been inspiring in itself.  I have huge admiration for the way he has bounced back from a battle with lung cancer.  I have even more respect for his courage in taking on one of our Ultrabox class regulars!  (You don't mess with these ladies - one of them recently chased a pair of marauding youths for a good mile and a half, very confident she could look after herself, despite being in her sixth decade).

 

There are two equally valid philosophies underpinning the opposing sides of the referendum debate.  The first, used by the Remain campaign, is the belief that we are "stronger together".  The second, as posited by the Leave side, promotes taking control of our own destiny.  

The EU referendum debate has been framed in such a way to suggest these philosophies are mutually exclusive.  Luckily, in our everyday lives, and specifically as far as our health and fitness is concerned, this is not the case.

When it comes to transforming your nutrition and exercise habits, your friends can't do the hard work for you. They can't eject you from the couch and make you take that first step. Ultimately, you must deeply want to, and also be ready, to change.  The initial desire and motivation has to come from within.  When the going gets tough, the voice inside your head willing you to stop will be louder than any around you.  Whether you continue to be a slave to bad health and excess weight, or bite the bullet and become the best possible version of yourself - you are the one who has to take control and shape your own destiny.

Nonetheless, the camaraderie and support of like-minded peers can prove invaluable in improving adherence to a healthier lifestyle.  This is unquestionable, as illustrated by the success of the fantastic women in our JB fitness community.  United by the common goal of improving their fitness and losing weight, they have achieved feats they never dreamed possible, from running marathons to fitting into clothes sizes they haven't worn in decades.  They help each other through the rough times and collectively celebrate their achievements - the embodiment of "stronger together".

Whilst debates such as that of the EU referendum often polarise and divide, there are fundamental truths we should accept from both sides. 

And when it comes to improving your health and fitness, you might get there by going it alone, but it is a whole lot easier making that journey with friends.

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In this first of a series of blog posts on nutrition, we will be begin to explore the three main food groups (also known as macronutrients). We will examine what they are, why the body needs them, and the implications for your everyday eating habits.

Today we are going to start with carbohydrates - the hardest food type to avoid, and commonly misunderstood.

So - what are carbohydrates?  Well, in chemical terms,  carbohydrates (CHO) are molecules which contain a combination of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms.

There are two main types of carbohydrate.  Simple carbohydrates, also known as sugars, are single units of glucose or fructose (C6H12O6) which have a ring like structure .  Complex carbohydrates, also known as starches, are polymers, or chains, of several sugar units stitched together. Complex carbohydrates are found in potato, bread, pasta, rice etc.  Simple carbohydrates are found in sugar, honey, fruit etc.

Regardless of whether a carbohydrate starts off as complex or simple when it enters the mouth, the digestive process converts all carbohydrates into glucose so that it can be absorbed by the body.

Digestion of carbohydrates begins as soon as the food enters the mouth. As we chew, enzymes in our saliva start the job of breaking down the carbohydrate molecules.

The process continues in the stomach, where the sugar is absorbed into our bloodstream.  If this sugar is not used fully by the body for energy during a short space of time (for example to fuel exercise), then it has to be stored somewhere in the body.

The body will firstly turn the spare glucose into glycogen, a process which involves the retention of a large amount of water. The glycogen is stored in your muscles and liver.  If your glycogen stores are full, you will look puffier (often noticeable in the face) largely due to the water retention.

If your glycogen stores are full, the body has to store the glucose in some other way.  This is when any surplus glucose will be converted into fat.

Most of the fat on our bodies is created this way, not from the direct consumption of fat in our diet. This is a crucial point to understand, as it is the reason why “low fat” products do not help us lose weight.

The same process happens in reverse when we lose weight.  We will burn off our glycogen stores first, then once these are empty we will start to burn fat for energy. However, emptying your glycogen stores is harder than you may realise. If they are completely full to begin with, it can take the equivalent of an entire half-marathon to completely deplete your glycogen. So for most people, in reality the aim is to gradually deplete the stores over a the course of a number of days.  In a typical scenario of sensible eating and exercise at a sustainable level, it may take around a week to get to the point where your glycogen stores are depleted and you start burning significant amounts of fat. However, you will actually lose more weight in that first week than in the following weeks. As you use up the glycogen, you will be releasing all the water stored with it, resulting in dramatic initial weight loss.

In general, the less processed the carbohydrate, and the more fibre and fat also contained within the foodstuff, the longer the process of digestion takes, and the more gradually the energy is released into our bloodstream. This makes it more likely that you will burn the energy released as you go along, avoiding the storage of excess energy as fat.

So how much carbohydrate should we consume? Well, it is definitely not healthy to eliminate carbohydrate altogether, or go on an extreme low-carb diet, such as Atkins, for a number of reasons.

  1. Our brain needs carbohydrate for fuel – carbohydrate is the only form of energy that the brain can use.
  2. Fat burns in a carbohydrate flame. Without the presence of some carbohydrate in your diet, your metabolism slows down and the body is not able to process fat as effectively.
  3. Lots of nutrient-packed foods, such as fruit, contain mainly carbohydrate, so if we avoided all these foods we would be limiting our intake of important vitamins and minerals.
  4. Variety is positive.  Healthy nutritional habits will only be sustained if they are enjoyable and do not become too monotonous.

So which carbohydrate foods should you use as your main source of carbohydrates, and which should you avoid?

In our next nutrition blog post, we'll recommend which carbohydrate dense foods to eliminate, or at least greatly reduce, in your diet.  In their place, we will be introducing you too a whole host of more colourful alternatives!

 
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The Christmas party season is fast approaching and we all naturally want to look great at this time of year.  Reducing bloating can make a huge difference to how you look - and more importantly feel - on a night out.  The good news is that we can significantly reduce abdominal distension with some simple measures which will also contribute to reducing bodyfat percentage. So you don't have to rely on body shaping underwear!

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    1. Reduce your salt intake
      Excess salt consumption will force the body to retain more water to regulate sodium levels, leading to a distended abdomen. Adults should eat no more than 2.4g of sodium per day, which is equal to 6g of salt. However, packaged and processed foods commonly contain such high amounts of salt that 75% of the average salt intake is from everyday foods such as bread, breakfast cereal and ready meals. Reducing processed foods will therefore make a huge difference to how bloated you feel.
    2. Drink more water
      It may seem counter-intuitive, but increasing your water intake can actually help to reduce bloating, as dehydration causes the kidneys to signal to the rest of the body to retain water.
    3. Eat More Slowly
      This will reduce the amount of air you swallow, reducing bloating. It also gives the signals from the gut which indicate fullness longer to reach the brain - so you will be less likely to overeat!
    4. Exercise More!
      Regular exercise stimulates peristalsis, the muscular movement of the gut which moves food along the digestive tract.  It will definitely get your bowels moving!
    5. Eat Less Bread!
      Even if you are not gluten intolerant, bread can be a major cause of bloating. It delivers a triple whammy of high carbohydrate content causing water retention, yeast releasing gas in the gut and (in the case of processed sliced bread) surprisingly high salt content. Cut it out for a few days and feel the difference! Read more in our blog article "Bread: Less is More"
 
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Have you been running for over a year and reached the point where your race times have plateaued? Are you frustrated with not being able to break through a personal best and not sure what to do about it?

Well, open any running magazine and you will find an article advising you to add resistance training to your weekly schedule to improve your running.  Typically, there may be photos of half a dozen exercises and bullet point instructions on how to perform them.  Whilst this advice is usually perfectly valid (resistance training will definitely improve your running), it may not be straightforward to complete in practice.

If you are new to resistance exercise, it takes quite a lot of mental effort to organise.  First of all, where to complete it?  Working out at home can be far from ideal, with lots of distractions and often not enough room.  Gyms are not everyone's cup of tea, and an expensive option if you don't plan to use them more than once a week.  Secondly, as you may not be familiar with the exercises themselves, you may find yourself struggling to refer to written instructions whilst performing the exercises.  Looking in a mirror can help to see if your form is correct, but even then you may not be confident that you are performing them correctly.  This can be of particular concern for an exercise such as a lunge, which has a relatively high risk of injury if performed with bad technique. 

Even if you persevere with these obstacles, traditional resistance sessions with multiple sets take around an hour to complete, which can be an issue to many with increasingly busy lives.  Moreover, many women are social creatures and may not be attracted to the idea of working out on their own, finding it harder to stay motivated to complete the session.

However, many people don't realise that resistance training does not necessarily mean just training with weights.  In fact, runners can get the huge benefits of weight training without using any equipment at all.

The group fitness class Metafit is the hassle free alternative to traditional resistance training for running.  It uses exclusively bodyweight exercises and takes only 30 mins, with the added bonuses of expert instruction to ensure your technique is correct and a whole room full of like-minded women to support and motivate you.  The emphasis is on lower body and core exercises that will improve your muscular endurance (and tone your legs, bum and tum in the process). This helps you maintain good running form for longer, enabling you to run further and more efficiently, whilst also reducing the risk of injury.  The Metafit format includes a 5 minutes warm-up to get the blood flowing and loosen the joints, followed by the main workout section which is typically around 22 mins. This is followed by a series of stretching exercises to improve your flexibility.  As a form of high intensity interval training, Metafit offers the same benefits of anaerobic training that you get from tempo and fartlek runs. Your lung capacity will increase as will your "lactic tolerance", a measure of how much exercise you can complete before your legs feel very heavy and you struggle to continue.

So if you struggle to motivate yourself to do fartlek or tempo runs every week, Metafit classes are a great alternative. After a couple of months, you'll feel fitter than ever and it could well be the key to unlocking that PB!

JB Personal Training run Metafit classes on Tuesday evenings at 6:15pm and Friday mornings at 7am in Lydiard Millicent near Swindon. For full details and online booking, visit our group class listings page.

P.S. If you aren't able to make a group class, but still love the idea of using bodyweight exercises to improve your running, then as an alternative I would highly recommend You Are Your Own Gym: The bible of bodyweight exercises which explains all the key bodyweight exercises with variations for different fitness levels.

 
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With exactly seven weeks to go until the Reading Half Marathon, those of you who have been following the Run JB training plan are looking forward to a recovery week. The concept may not be familiar to anyone new to endurance training, so here is our guide to the art of recovery.

Why is Recovery Important?

Recovery has both a physical and a psychological dimension. Physically, the reason we train is to stimulate a response in the body to adapt to the demands of the training regime. Our skeletal system needs to become stronger to cope with the frequency of impact on the joints. Training runs stimulate the creation of osteoblasts in the bones to form new bone tissue and increase bone density. This means that next time, we are able to run a little bit further. But this repair and strengthening process cannot happen whilst we run. It must occur afterwards whilst we are resting. A similar effect is in play with our muscles. Broken-down muscle tissue needs time to rebuild. Our body has a way of telling us that this needs to happen. Ever felt like you wanted to go straight to bed after a long run? Make sure you get an early night. The mind needs time to recharge as much as the body does. Psychologically, we need recovery days to prevent boredom and to prepare ourselves mentally for harder sessions. Motivating yourself for a hard tempo run or particularly long continuous run can be a lot easier if you know you have the next day off.

Active Recovery

Recovery is therefore crucial in order to achieve optimum performance. Without adequate recovery, the quality of your training runs will inevitably suffer. In practice, for most of us who work Monday to Friday, the weekend is the ideal time to do a long run. In this case, the following day (Sunday or Monday) is the ideal day to completely rest. If you really struggle with the thought of taking the day off completely, then you can use “active recovery”. Choose an activity with a focus on mobility, such as a short and easy swimming, Pilates or Yoga session. This will give the body a chance to recover whilst easing any sense of restlessness. During the working week, cross training is a great way to achieve an appropriate balance between training volume and intensity. The principle of specificity very simply dictates that your training needs to be specific to the demands of your goal. In other words, to get better at running you need to run regularly. However, by limiting the number of runs to three per week, you can use other forms of aerobic training to develop your cardiovascular fitness. One of the hugely beneficial aspects of triathlon training is that running, swimming and cycling make different demands on the muscular and skeletal systems. Alternating training sessions between the three disciplines therefore enables adequate recovery whilst maximising overall sustainable cardiovascular training volume.

What is a Recovery Week?

A recovery week is NOT a case of simply sitting on the couch for seven days! It simply involves reducing the overall volume of training for a week. This is relative to the volume to which the body has already become accustomed, so will vary significantly depending on the goal event. During the last recovery week of my ironman training, I swam 3 miles, biked 85 miles and run a total of 24 miles! This may not sound like an easy week, but it this still achieved the desired recovery objective at the time, because the body was already capable of meeting these demands without further adaptation. In general terms, a reduction in the overall volume of training of around a third is recommended to achieve the desired effect. The taper at the end of a training plan is an extension of the recovery week principle. It typically lasts two to three weeks, depending on the nature of the goal event. In the case of a half marathon, a two week taper is recommended and this has been integrated into the Run JB Reading Half Marathon training plan (look out for a further blog article on the taper in the upcoming weeks). Less is Sometimes More The main point I want you to take away from this article is that if you try to ignore the need for recovery, it will eventually be forced upon you through either illness or injury. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to recovery, as a particular individual’s capacity for training varies tremendously depending on their exercise background, experience level, work and home demands and lifestyle. However, remember that less is sometimes more. It is not always about training harder, but about training smarter.

 
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I was delighted to hear last week that Simon Stevens, the new head of NHS England, has highlighted the role that business has to play in addressing the obesity crisis. 

Having called for greater “upstream preventive action” on obesity shortly after starting the role back in June, Stevens’ language has hardened.  Referring to obesity as “the new smoking”, he warned that it now represented a serious threat to the financial viability of the NHS.  Not surprising, given that the treatment of Type 2 Diabetes alone, strongly linked to excess weight, costs the NHS around £9 billion per year (an astonishing 10% of its entire budget).  Prevention is always better than cure.  So when NHS spending on bariatric surgery starts to exceed that of national lifestyle intervention programmes, it is time to take stock. Amongst the ideas to be presented this month in the NHS “Five Year Forward View” will be the introduction of financial incentives to employers to provide effective NICE-certified workplace programmes for employees.  Such initiatives could include running clubs, diet clubs, group weigh-ins or weight-loss competitions.

Not everyone welcomes the concept.  Chris Blackhurst of the ’I’ newspaper responded to Stevens’ speech with an article titled “obesity is none of your boss’s business”.   Arguing that the proposals represented “an extra mound of red tape that they could well do without”, Blackhurst accuses Stevens of passing the buck to business.Although reflecting the historically prevailing view, such an attitude is simply no longer credible.  Quite aside from the £29bn annual cost of sickness to UK business,  companies have a duty of care to their employees.  We spend more waking hours at work than anywhere else.  It is naïve to suggest that the workplace environment and culture has anything less than enormous influence on our wellbeing.   Office workers are commonly expected to sit for 8 hours or more per day at their desks.  We are simply not designed to do this.  Recent evidence suggests that prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor to our health, that cannot be compensated for even by regular intense exercise. Progressive employers are already trialling potential solutions to mitigate this risk. Innovations range from exercise ball chairs and stand up desks to even more radical concepts such as treadmill desks.

However, activity levels are only one part of the equation.  As someone who experienced 12 years in the corporate world, I am only too aware of the constant flow of sugary treats  when it comes to food in the office.  Colleagues would seize upon any opportunity to bring in cakes, biscuits, chocolates and sweets.  With offices becoming increasingly open plan,  practically every day someone in the room would have a birthday, a leaving do, or some other pretext to trigger the latest indulgence!  It takes a lot of willpower never to surrender to these omnipresent trays of temptation in a weak moment.  Of course each individual is ultimately responsible for what goes in their mouth, but research studies into the influence of proximity and visibility of food on consumption volumes cannot be ignored.  The seminal work of Brian Wansink in this area has demonstrated that our consumption is significantly and consistently affected by environmental factors.  It is time to face the facts - in the modern world of sedentary employment, obesity has inevitably become your boss’ business.

How progressive is YOUR employer in tackling these issues?  Is your workplace making you overweight?  We would love to hear your thoughts on what improvements you would like to see in your office.  Please share your comments via our Facebook Page.

 
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The drizzle didn't spoil the finale to our latest Couch to 5K course at Lydiard Park this weekend!  Spurred on at Swindon Parkrun by fantastic support from Team JB and their running leaders Becky and Kim, our novice runners did themselves proud, completing their first 5km run in style!

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Other Run JB members put in some great performances despite the rain, with personal bests for Barbara Kirkup, Alison Wade and Amanda Kemp and magnificent first time Parkruns for Laura Shimell and June Lawrence!

Check out the full results from Saturday here and the Run JB results history.  If you aren't included in the Run JB list, don't forget to change your Parkrun registration to include Run JB as your club!

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Huge congratulations to Sarah Mathis, Liza Cording, Joanne Parker, Sharon Northwood, Tracy Holt, Anne Bradley, Sonia Slimmon, Lauren Mann, Sarah Roberts, Emma Smith for graduating from Couch to 5K!  We look forward to welcoming you all to Run JB on Wednesday evenings!

In the meantime, have a read of our earlier blog post - "I've run my first 5K - what next?" and start planning your next challenge!

Inspired by our latest group's fantastic achievement? You too could go from Couch to 5K in just 8 weeks - join us for our next Run JB Couch to 5K course!

Keep on Running!

Shona

 
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Mention a step fitness class and it usually conjures up images of aerobics-style choreographed routines introduced by Gin Miller in the Eighties. 

Luckily, with JBPT PowerStep, you don't need legwarmers OR dance-style coordination to enjoy the benefits of step exercise!  

We use simple step movements in all planes of motion designed to improve both cardiovascular health and muscular endurance. A great example of compound exercise, stepping focuses on the largest muscle groups in the body: the glutes in the bottom which extend and abduct the hip, and the quadriceps in the thighs which extend the knee as you step up.  This makes it perfect for toning both the bum and the thighs.  You have the choice to perform each step exercise using a height of either 15cm (for beginners), 20cm (intermediate) or 26cm (advanced), making it suitable for all fitness levels.  Low impact options are offered for each exercise for beginners or anyone returning from injury.

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In JBPT PowerStep, the step is complemented by another deceptively simple piece of equipment - gliding discs.  These discs are designed to slide or "glide" across a hard floor surface with low friction when pushed or pulled under the hands or feet.  By elongating the muscular time under tension, they offer a highly effective method of core training. Gliding disc exercises such as "Froggy Circles" are becoming firm favourites amongst our class members!  Join us and stay one step ahead on your fitness mission this summer!

 

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Running your first 5K gives an enormous sense of satisfaction.  Many of those who have completed our Couch to 5K beginners’ running course find it hard to believe that only a couple of months previously they were daunted by the prospect of even a couple of minutes continuous running!  So knowing you have completed over 3 miles running non-stop is a tremendously tangible achievement.  However, the period following the race can be crucial in determining whether or not running becomes a lifelong habit. 

Key Success Factors

After any big event, there is a risk of anti-climax once the initial euphoria has worn-off.  At this point it is vital to start planning how to maintain your running going forwards.  Consider the factors behind your success so far, which may include

  • A realistic goal with a fixed timescale
  • The camaraderie and support of running in a group/ with friends
  • An achievable but progressive training plan
  • Having a safe environment in which to run
  • Being organised e.g. having your kit ready the night before

According to the latest research, it actually takes longer than previously thought to form a habit.  On average, you have to keep a behaviour up for 66 days (nearly 10 weeks) for it to become automatic.  So make sure you keep as many of the contributing factors in place as possible to ensure ongoing success.

Changing the Variables

So what would be a suitable next running goal?  It doesn’t have to an increase in distance, although that is often what springs to mind.  There are several other ways to continue to challenge yourself, which involve changing at least one of the following variables: distance, speed, frequency, type.  Targeting a 10K as the most obvious example of an increase in distance, as such events are increasingly popular (see our Facebook page events for inspiration).  However, just as valid a target would be to stick to the 5K distance and simply aim to get faster.  With the Parkrun movement expanding throughout the country, there will always be the opportunity to test your progress over this distance.  For added motivation, use the level playing field of the Age Grade percentile results if you enjoy a competitive edge.  You could also aim to run more frequently – three days a week rather than two, for example.  If you are planning to exercise more than three times per week, I would always recommend additional cross-training (e.g. resistance training, swimming, Pilates or cycling) in preference to further running sessions.  In my experience this gives superior results in terms of both overall performance and injury prevention.  Lastly, there is tremendous scope to vary the type of running you do.  This is a relatively overlooked element to progressing as a runner.  Shorter, sharper sessions such as tempo runs and hill intervals require you to work at greater intensity and push the limits of your lactate threshold.  Over time this will improve your lung capacity and the ability to maintain a faster pace for longer.

So what are you waiting for?  Get planning your next challenge!  In the words of Oprah Winfrey, “Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.”

 
Run JB Club membership offers structure, support and guidance to those who have recently started running (for example via our Couch to 5K course) to continue and develop their running. Our women-only training sessions are fun, safe and non-intimidating. For further information on how to join visit our Run JB Membership webpage.

 
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A compound resistance exercise is a multi-joint movement which works several different muscle groups simultaneously.   Examples include the “daddy” of all bodyweight exercises – the squat – and the deadlift.  Unfortunately, a majority of gyms are full of equipment that is geared towards resistance exercises that isolate one or two joints to target specific muscle groups.  For example, in a leg extension machine, you sit down and move the knee joint alone using the quadriceps muscle group in isolation.  There are many negatives to this sort of exercise:

  1. You have probably been sat down  at work all day, then sat down in your car seat to drive to the gym.  You have been sat down all day – you need to MOVE MORE, not sit down again!
  2. The seated position reduces the need to stabilise the body using the core muscles, an area which most exercisers are keen to target.
  3. The fixed weight hides any imbalances in strength between your left and right sides, so it may exacerbate rather than correct such problems.

In contrast, compound exercises (using bodyweight alone or with free weights such as dumbbells or kettlebells) mimic real life functional movements, where all muscle groups are required to fire simultaneously.   A great example is the everyday activity of picking up shopping bags, which is basically a deadlift.  It certainly isn’t a hamstring curl!

This isn’t to say that fixed resistance machines don’t have their uses.  If you have a lower body injury, for example, they can be used to continue to strengthen the upper body during this time, without having to hobble back and forwards to the weight rack.  However, what may people tend to forget is that fixed resistance machines originally were designed and intended specifically as rehabilitation aids – not for general fitness!  Regrettably, their omnipresence in modern gyms persists as they require less staff supervision compared to free weights and other more functional equipment.  It certainly isn’t due to their effectiveness in helping the average gym-goer reach their goals!

So what is the alternative?  Ensuring that your resistance exercise is based around compound exercises brings many benefits:

  1. Burn far more body fat
  2. Strengthen the core
  3. Protect against injury in everyday life
  4. Shorter, more effective workouts

If you don’t have the equipment for deadlifts or kettlebell workouts, bodyweight exercises work just as well!  Squats, lunges, woodchops, planks and mountain climbers are great examples of effective compound movements that can be done anywhere with zero equipment!  If you prefer a group fitness environment, these exercises also feature in Metafit: Join the Fat-Burn Revolution, a 30 minutes bodyweight HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercise class. 

For full details and online bookings, visit our group exercise classes page.

 
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Wow! It has been an amazing year for the JB Personal Training community! As it draws to a close, Jules and Shona would like to thank all our loyal customers for their fantastic support throughout 2013. Here's a reminder of some of your fantastic achievements over the last 12 months!


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January:  2013 kicks-starts with the return of JBPT Ultrabox

2013 got off to an explosive start with the return of our hugely popular Ultrabox class! There is no better way to let off steam after a day in the office! Join the fun in 2014 with our growing range of both early morning and evening fitness classes in Swindon.


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February:  First winter Couch to 5K group completes first 5K at Parkrun Swindon

Our first ever winter Couch to 5K group showed tremendous determination to complete their training, with the occasional aid of treadmills during a bitterly cold couple of months! Huge congratulations to Caroline McCartney, Judith Land, Sarah Holmes, Sarah Strickland, Nick Ruddle, Kathryn Ruddle, Sharon Perkins, Adele Perkins, Sarah Nichols for running their first 5K (over 3 miles) at Lydiard Park Parkrun! The spring saw a return to Lydiard Park for the April course, when we welcomed Yvonne Parker, Zoe Brown, Jane Weston, Gaynor Moreton, Hayley Cronin, Julie Giles, Bev Owen Bines, Dawn Chivers, all of whom nailed their first 5K this summer! Hot on their heels were the July group who enjoyed by far the sunniest evenings! Congratulations to Sharon Randle, Helen Chisholm, Michelle May, Louise Farrow, Amanda Kemp, Jane Calverley, Jacqui Robbins, Jessica Painter, Linda Simkins who stormed the August Parkrun! Our final group of the year back at Shaw Ridge showed enormous camaraderie in training leading to well-deserved 5K success at December's Parkrun for Yvonne McColl, Sarah Nunn, Joanne Cooke, Dave Wilson, Jenna Wilson, Marie Cargan, Adrian Roberts and Jenny Gill, with Helen Rankin and Kerry Barrass bouncing back from setbacks to prepare for their first 5Ks early in the New Year.  Massive congratulations to all our Couch to 5K runners in 2013 - we are really proud of you all! As the Run JB community continues to grow, we would be delighted to see as many of you as possible at our next group Parkrun on 1st March 2014 at Lydiard Park!


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March:  JBPT launch Metafit classes

We were buzzing in March with the launch of our new high-intensity interval bodyweight training class, Metafit!  Only 30 mins long, Metafit classes boost your resting metabolism so you burn more calories at rest for up to 24 hours after your workout! If you haven't tried it yet, make 2014 the year you discover what you've been missing! Join the Fat-Burn Revolution!


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April:  Kim and Sian run London Marathon

We were super excited in April as we headed to London to watch Kim and Sian tackle their first ever marathon.  Having only started running the previous August, we watched in awe as Kim stuck resolutely to her JBPT training plan, laughed in the face of black toenails and lost 3 stones on the way to the start line. A last minute charity place entry was bravely embraced by Sian, who showed tremendous determination despite late injury setbacks to make it to London. On a day to remember amidst a wonderful carnival atmosphere, Kim and Sian proved they have what it takes - becoming Team JB's first ever London Marathon medal winners. They also inspired Sam and Tony hardy to emulate their achievements by securing their entries for the 2014 race!


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May:  "Lake is the new Cake"

Wild swimming in the warm weather and picturesque Cotswold Water Park setting proved a great draw over the summer months, inspiring the classic comment "lake is the new cake"!  It really is a fantastically therapeutic escape from the rat race! Wetsuits are optional in the warmest weather but advised to get the most out of your lake swimming membership, extending the season from around April to October.


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June:  Cotswold Novice Triathlon

2013 saw Team JB embrace the UK's fastest growing sport - triathlon!  Clare Lindsay, Sian Rudge, Hayley Cronin and Sam Reed nailed their first ever triathlon in June, swimming 200m in open water, cycling a 20km circular route via Cirencester, and finally running the 2.5km around the Cotswold Country Park lake.  Alex Parker stepped up to nail the Super Sprint distance having completed the novice event the year before.  You did Team JB proud ladies!


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July:  JBPT Summer Bootcamp 2013

What a contrast from last year - sunshine galore for our evening bootcamp!  We made the most of it, and many bootcamp newcomers rose to the challenge of crawling, resisted sprinting, crab walking, ViPR flipping, farmers walking and hurdling though an array off obstacles, finishing off the fun with wheelbarrow and sack races!  Some of you even found the energy to join in an extra "Hanging Tough" challenge afterwards!


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August:  Wall Sit Fever spreads across Swindon!

JBPT's August Challenge really captured the imagination and got you wall-sitting all over Swindon (including as pictured in the Farrell School of Irish Dance!) Twitter went crazy with posts of personal bests with some really impressive times! However, in the end nobody could touch the amazing performance of Clare Farrell of over 4 mins!  If you missed out on our 2013 Challenges, full instructions on how to give them a go are available on our Challenge of the Month webpage!


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September:  Cotswold Sprint Triathlon

Team JB were out in force at the end of season Cotswold Sprint Triathlon! Superb performances by the team, many of whom were stepping up a distance having never done a tri before 2013. Great job Hayley Cronin, Alex Parker, Sarah Archer, Sian Rudge, Kevin and Tracey!


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October:  Bowood Duathlon

Having only started running back in July on our Couch to 5K course, Jane Calverley, Sharon Randle and Amanda Kemp were a bit late to join in the triathlon season. But that didn't stop them signing up for the Bowood Super Sprint Duathlon!  They did a brilliant job on a tough undulating 2.5km running course and 10km bike course on a beautiful October morning in the grounds of the stunning Bowood Estate. Congratulations ladies!


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November:  Team JB conquers Monster Race Charlton Park

Obstacle races like Tough Mudder and Men's Health Survival of the Fittest are growing massively in popularity and Team JB jumped at the chance to get covered in mud on a cold November morning! The excitement was all too much for Alex, who, unable to wait for the first proper obstacle, jumped straight into the middle of the first decent puddle with both feet. The real obstacles included the icy "Monsters' Marsh", and "The Wall" where fantastic teamwork saw us hoicking each other up and flinging ourselves over the top, winning top marks for artistic impression on dismount!  As Team JB's first venture into the world of obstacle course events, Monster Race was an exhilarating opportunity to confront and conquer a new challenge!


December:  Our 2013 Biggest Loser is revealed!  Congratulations Amanda!

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Back in Jan 2013, we had the pleasure of meeting Amanda Kemp. With a big weight loss goal, we started training in Amanda’s living room slow and steady - no matter what your size you can work out!.  As our sessions progressed we watched Amanda open her mind to change and to exercise. A breakthrough moment was Amanda turning up at our boxing class, she had worried about it all day! Losing weight builds confidence and reinforces that what you are doing IS working.  By the end of 2013, Amanda had so far lost a huge 4st 7lbs and has changed her life completely.  She attends classes, runs regularly and even competed in her first duathlon! As trainers I cannot tell you how proud it makes us feel to watch our clients embrace exercise and life.  Could you be JBPTs biggest loser of 2014?


Inspired by these remarkable achievements?  Why not make 2014 an unforgettable year by reaching your health and fitness goals.  Personal Training can help you get there, whether you want to emulate such feats or simply lose weight and improve your health.  Contact us today to learn more.

 
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Team JB were buzzing with anticipation this morning at the prospect of taking part in Monster Race 2013 just a few miles up the road at Charlton Park Estate near Malmesbury (best known for hosting the annual WOMAD festival).  Considering how popular similar events like Tough Mudder and Men's Health Survival of the Fittest have become, it was surprisingly our first such obstacle race, and we were getting pretty excited at an excuse to get covered in mud on a cold November morning (can you tell we miss playing rugby??).

As we got ready, attaching our timing chips to our laces and writing our entry numbers on our foreheads, our group of 8 quickly became 9 as Kim from Chippenham joined our team.  Thankfully, there was coffee and tea available to warm us up before the race, and a handy bag-drop facility as the start was a fair walk away from the car parking area. Scheduled in the first wave at 10am, we were called to the event-organised group "warm-up" (if you call plyometric lunges a warm up!) and before we knew it we were at the start line!  The excitement was all too much for Alex, who, unable to wait for the first proper obstacle, jumped straight into the middle of the first decent puddle with both feet (surprisingly difficult to resist when you know you're going to get really muddy anyway).


After a pleasant trail run through a wood, we reached the first obstacle, "The Hurdles", a gentle introduction to the course which we negotiated with relative ease (although I did manage to muddy Sian's ear in the process with my foot - thankfully no harm done!).  Next up was one of the highlights of the course, "Monsters' Marsh" which did not disappoint! Lowering ourselves with the aid of a rope down the slippery bank, those of us who had spent our summer swimming in the Cotswold Water Park lake had a fair idea of what to expect - but it still always makes your heart skip a beat when the icy water hits your chest!  We were also lulled into a false sense of security when the water level was at first only up to waist height.  As we peered around the reeds and saw Sian and Alex disappearing up to their necks, any initial smugness at being a bit taller soon evaporated as the rest of us realised this was the eventual fate of us all (even the tall and brave team JB newcomer Karen)!

Onwards we went through the "Tyre Crawl" and "Log Carry" to the next big challenge - "The Wall".  Fantastic teamwork saw us hoicking each other up and flinging ourselves over the top, winning top marks for artistic impression on dismount!  A long interrupted run stretch followed, past a temporary film set at the edge of the estate (looking like a prisoner of war camp - anyone know what film?).  Then it was on to the "Sandbag Carry", which immediately inspired plans for a Tetbury Woolsack Race 2014 relay team, followed by the "Hay Bales Steps" where we were cheered on by star supporter Amanda, who we also have to thank for taking the awesome photos!  Only a couple of obstacles now separated us from our Monster Medals, and Alex progressed from two-footed puddle jumps to chest first swan dives whilst she still had the chance!

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The penultimate obstacle was the muckiest of all, with our mud-pit crawl under barbed-wire drawing wild applause from the crowd at the finish!  A final wall awaited, made all the more tricky by the mud which now lubricated and rendered the rope next to useless! Thankfully Hayles showed off her second-row lineout llifting skills to safely guide the team over (although by this stage Clare and our Kim were making it look easy).  All that remained was for us to proudly join hands to cross the finish line together, wondering what had happened to the "Pugil Pummel" Monster henchmen we had been looking forward to tackling (literally)! 

With no showering or changing facilities available, it was a slightly anti-social end to the event as everyone hurried off to their cars to get warm. We would encourage this to be improved for the next event, with perhaps an extra changing marquee and some buckets of water for hand-washing a reasonable expectation for an event of this size.  Nevertheless, as Team JB's first venture into the world of obstacle course events, Monster Race was an exhilarating opportunity to confront and conquer a new challenge!  See you next year then....

 

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Only eight weeks ago, our latest beginners' running group met at Lydiard Park in Swindon for the first week of Run JB's Couch to 5K course.  This Saturday morning, they got up bright and early to run their first ever 5K at Swindon Parkrun! And as these pictures reveal, they did themselves proud, successfully completing the two-lap course and having great fun in the process! Huge congratulations to Sharon, Helen, Amanda, Jane, Michelle, Jacqui, Jessica and Linda! Congratulations also to Run JB's Dawn Chivers and Simon May for smashing their personal best times! We had fantastic support on the day from previous Couch to 5K graduate Yvonne, who has become a regular since completing the course, and personal training clients Jeremy and Tony, who are leading the way in the number of Parkruns completed! Many thanks also to Hayley for doing a fantastic job as photographer!

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Check out the Swindon Parkrun results from the day (24 Aug 2013) and the complete historical Run JB Parkrun Results which include all previous Parkrun events.  Inspired by our latest group's success? You could be completing YOUR first 5K in December!  Join our next Couch to 5K course starting Wed 16th October and be fitter, healthier and happier this Christmas! After all, we were Born to Run!

 
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Eating out is no longer the luxury it once was for our parents' generation.  According to the government's "Family Food Report 2011", we each spend an average of £50 a month on eating out, with a third of meals taken outside the home.  So what we consume in restaurants is increasingly important to our overall standard of nutrition.

In accordance with a government initiative, a minority of British restaurants, including Harvester and McDonalds, have begun to publish calorie counts on their menus and food packaging. However, unlike some parts of the USA, there is not yet any legal obligation to do so.  Moreover, as we will discuss in a future blog post, all calories are not equal.  So here are some golden rules to help you stay on track with your weight loss or maintenance goals when eating out...

  1. Ditch the Fizzy Drinks.  It always amazes us when we look around in restaurants and see how many people are drinking Coke.  Diet versions are no better as they make you crave sweet foods.  Replace with free tap water and save loads of calories AND money at the same time! 
  2. Avoid the Bread.  Why spoil your appetite and ruin your enjoyment of your main course by filling up on bread whilst you are waiting? Most people are already eating too many carbohydrates.  Opt for olives instead, which are full of healthy monounsaturated fats and protect us from cancer and high blood pressure.
  3. Ask for Swaps.  Even if a dish is listed on a menu as coming with chips, there is often an alternative. Many restaurants will be perfectly happy to replace the chips with a healthier option such as salad or vegetables at no extra cost.  Remember - if you don't ask, you don't get! Ask for any salad dressings to come on the side, so you can control the portion size.
  4. Order a Fish Dish.  Eating out is the perfect opportunity to have fish without the smell invading your home.  Fish is nearly always one of the healthiest and least calorific choices on a menu (unless battered) and oily varieties such as salmon, trout or mackerel are packed with omega-3 fatty acids which protect against heart disease.
  5. Ban the Beige!  Variety of colour is a really good simple indicator of how healthy a dish is.  Anything beige will nearly always be covered in pastry or batter and/or fried and have very little nutritional value.
  6. Share A Dessert.   If you can't resist a dessert completely, then why not share one?  Most desserts in restaurants contain around twice as much fat and sugar as a chocolate bar, so half really is plenty for one person.
  7. Never Super-Size. Refuse Refills and Bottomless Chips.  If an establishment offers super-size portions, the nutritional quality of their food is likely to be very poor. As for refills and bottomless chips, anything that sabotages your weight loss efforts is never truly "free".
 
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Be honest. How supportive are you towards helping your partner reach their fitness goals? In my experience as a personal trainer, it is clear that family and friends have a huge influence on an individual's probability of success in achieving their target, from weight-loss to running a marathon. 

Let's face it - any goal worth achieving involves an element of sacrifice.  If someone is devoting a lot of time to training, this could mean spending less time with their partner.  But it doesn't always have to!  It is fantastic when I see other halves adopting the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy when their partner starts a new fitness training regime.  They find that the time spent together - cycling, running or walking, for example, can turn out to be the best quality time they have spent together in a long while: enjoying the great outdoors together free from the incessant interruptions of modern technology. It can work well even if you are at different fitness or motivation levels - a partner accompanying the occasional long run on bike, for example, may be an easier sell than them undertaking all your marathon training!

Support towards a fitness goal doesn't stop with the training - a partner's influence can be even more important when it comes to food shopping and mealtimes.    If you are lucky enough to have a partner who does most of the cooking, don't expect them to cook two separate meals if you don't fancy the healthy food that they are preparing (yes, believe it or not this does happen!). Also, if you know your other half is trying to lose weight, don't tempt them with offers to order take-away!

If you are really honest, does part of you worry that you may look bad in comparison if your partner succeeds?  Why not see their ambition as an opportunity rather than a threat?  Get on board and exercise more and eat more healthily.  You will always be much stronger as a couple working together towards a common goal.

 
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I was originally introduced to Fartlek training by highly-respected Swindon Supermarine rugby coach, Steve Bartlett.  It was very much in keeping with his no-nonsense approach to fitness training.  The beauty of Fartlek training lies in its simplicity and intensity. If you are looking for a straightforward but highly effective way of improving your running speed, then look no further.

The name "Fartlek" literally translates from the Swedish as "speed play".  It is deliberately less structured than sprint interval training.  You can Fartlek anywhere, with no equipment - you don't even need a stopwatch.  In Fartlek training, the key is intensity variation and interval randomisation.  Sessions use different paces - e.g. sprint, jog and walk, to complete a series of relatively short and varying distances. For example, you could jog 20m, then sprint 50m, then walk 30m etc.  But you don't need a tape measure - you can use any objects to segment the intervals.  Lamp posts make excellent markers as they are a suitable distance apart.  For example, you could jog from the first to the third lamp post, sprint to the forth and then walk to the fifth - turn around and repeat the pattern in the opposite direction.  Alternatively, on a rugby pitch, you might start at one try line, jog to the 22, walk to halfway line, sprint to the next 22 and then jog the remaining distance to the opposite try line.


Fartlek training is popular amongst sports coaches as it mimics the demands of many sports in which short sharp bursts of activity are separated by periods of slower running.  However, it also has huge fitness benefits for anyone wanting to improve their running speed of simply looking to lose weight. To run faster in a race you have to train faster - and Fartlek training is a great way of improving speed endurance - the ability to maintain a faster pace for longer. By taking you to the limits of your anaerobic threshold, it develops superior lung capacity. This positively impacts our health in a myriad of ways, including

- enhanced metabolic function
- decreased risk of heart attack and stroke
- greater energy and reduced fatigue
- improvements in general focus, concentration and memory
- decreased inflammation

Indeed, lung capacity is considered to an extremely important general indicator of health and longevity. 

Like other forms of high-intensity interval training, such as our Metafit™ bodyweight training group fitness classes, Fartlek forces the body to use not just the aerobic system (where muscles are supplied energy by burning glucose with oxygen) but also the anaerobic system, a faster but less efficient way of producing ATP (the form of energy used by muscles).  This inefficiency is a great thing as far as weight loss is concerned, as triggers a state known as "oxygen debt", forcing the body to complete additional internal processes to replenish its energy stores for several hours after exercise has finished.  This raises the metabolism and means that you will be burning additional fat long after your workout is complete.


JB Personal Training's running group, Run JB, offer incorporate Fartlek training into their club sessions throughout the year.  For details, see our website.

 

 
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It is a big decision to hire a personal trainer.  It signifies that you are finally ready to prioritise your health and do what it takes to achieve your fitness goals. If weight loss is your goal, it means that you realise that the cost of personal training is relatively modest compared to the cost of weight loss surgery.  But how do you go about choosing a personal trainer?

  1. Is your Personal Trainer a Member of the Register of Exercise Professionals?

Paramount in the decision is ensuring that you find a trainer who is properly qualified.  The UK Register of Exercise Professionals is an independent public register that provides a system of regulation for personal trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry's agreed national occupations standards. Membership of REPs provides assurance and confidence to consumers that all registered exercise professionals are appropriately qualified and have the knowledge, competence and skills to perform specific roles. Members are bound by a Code of Ethical Conduct and hold appropriate public liability insurance. In order to remain on the Register, members must continue to meet the standards that are set for their profession through Continual Professional Development (CPD).

  1. Do they specialise in achieving your specific fitness goal?

A lot of personal trainers try to be a "jack of all trades" when in reality fitness is a very wide-ranging field. The expertise required to achieve results for a man interested in bodybuilding, for example, is very different to that required to achieve sustainable weight loss. A personal trainer who specialises in the area of your specific goal is far better placed to achieve the results you are looking for.

  1. Does your Personal Trainer have a strong track record of achieving results?

The ultimate proof that a personal trainer will get you results is whether they have done so for other clients looking to achieve similar goals.  Look to see whether a personal training website contains testimonials of real life success stories.  A successful personal trainer should be happy for you to chat to previous clients about their experiences of personal training and how it helped them achieve their goals.

  1. Do they offer nutritional advice?

Whatever your fitness goal, it is impossible to achieve optimum results without paying careful attention to your nutrition.  A good personal trainer will offer appropriate nutritional advice to ensure that you achieve your goal.  The best personal training services will also include regular monitoring and feedback on your nutrition via a food diary process.  As revealed by the current Channel 4 series "Secret Eaters", we often have poor self-awareness of our eating habits and a food diary can be instrumental in revealing distorted perceptions of what we consume.

  1. How comprehensive is their personal training package?

Your personal trainer should design a bespoke exercise programme to follow in your own time.  This should be tailored to achieve your specific goals, and adapted to your personal circumstances and preferences for training - whether at home, outdoors or in the gym.  Weight loss specialist personal trainers should also closely monitor changes to your body composition rather than focussing solely on weight itself.  This will ensure that the weight you lose in predominantly due to a reduction in bodyfat, rather than a loss of water and muscle mass, as is often the case with dangerous liquid based diets such as Lighter Life and the Cambridge Diet Plan.  The best personal training services will also provide "Before and After" photographs which offer powerful motivation to maintain healthy lifestyle changes once you start seeing results.

  1. Do they have clear terms and conditions?

Your personal trainer should clearly state the terms and conditions of the personal training service.  Personal training is a serious commitment and you should expect the terms and conditions to reflect this. For example, be wary of "pay-as-you-go" personal training sessions.  A trainer who does not demand a commitment of a minimum number of sessions for their clients is far less likely to offer the same level of service, since they have no guarantee that they will ever see the client again! Similarly, just as you would for a dentist or physiotherapist, expect to provide notice of at least 24 hours to change or cancel an appointment, since your session time would otherwise be available to other clients.  If a personal trainer does not apply such conditions, it may be an indication that they are not a full-time professional.

  1. Will we get on?

Last but definitely not least, how confident can you be that you will develop a rapport with your personal trainer?  After all, this is PERSONAL training - it is crucial that you establish a positive relationship with your personal trainer to be motivated to achieve results.  There are various ways to get an insight into your trainer's personality and ethos - through website testimonials, speaking with previous clients, or attending their group exercise classes.  For weight loss goals, an important consideration is also whether the trainer has the life experience to understand the psychology of weight problems.  For example, a young male trainer may have strong expertise in fitness instruction but may struggle to empathise with a stressed forty-something professional woman seeking to lose over three stones.

 
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Bread is such an omnipresent staple of western diets.  Since their invention in the 18th century by the eponymous Earl, sandwiches have become the default lunch for many, with a staggering 11 billion consumed each year in the UK.  Such is its popularity, it would be considered unrealistic for many to eliminate suddenly bread from their diets.

At JB Personal Training, we advise our clients to follow 3 simple rules on how to incorporate bread into a sustainable eating pattern compatible with fat loss:

1) Never have more than 2 slices of bread per day. 

It is very easy to consume significantly more than this, especially if you have toast for breakfast and as a snack

2) Always choose wholemeal bread

This means not granary, not "brown", and NEVER white.

3) Count the Ingredients

Always choose the least processed wholemeal bread possible. Flip the bread over in the supermarket and have a look at the ingredients.  You may be surprised to learn that even seemingly healthy choices like wholemeal wraps have a list of ingredients as long as your arm. Take Mission Wholewheat Tortillas, for example:

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Vegetable Shortening (Interesterified Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil), contains 2% or less of each of the following: Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Aluminum Sulfate, Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate and/or Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Calcium Sulfate), Distilled Monoglycerides, Enzymes, Wheat Starch, Calcium Carbonate, Antioxidants (Tocopherols, Ascorbic Acid), Vital Wheat Gluten, Cellulose Gum, Dough Conditioners (Fumaric Acid, Sodium Metabisulfite), Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid and/or Citric Acid).

 

Contrast this with Asda Wholemeal Pitta Bread:

Ingredients: Wholemeal Flour (62%), Water, Salt, Yeast

 

The number of ingredients is a very simple indicator of how processed the bread is. So the fewer the better. A long list like the Mission Tortillas above is highly likely to have an ingredient that is damaging to one's health. A great example in this case is the presence of hydrogenated fat (Hydrogenated Soybean Oil and/or Palm Oil). This is a type of "Trans Fat", consumption of which can lead to high cholesterol levels in the blood and subsequently heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.


So next time you are shopping, take a little extra time to check the label. Don't assume that a product marketed as healthy is genuinely so - unfortunately, often the opposite is the case!

 
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As we approach the end of an amazing Olympic year, we'd like to take a moment to thank you all for your continued support and congratulate our growing JB Personal Training family on some fantastic achievements over the last twelve months.


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May:  JBPT Summer Bootcamp 2012

This year's summer bootcamp truly embodied the JBPT mantra "If it ain't raining, it ain't training." Our hardy bootcampers were undeterred, braving the elements to tackle an array of challenges from scramble nets and jerry cans to sack races!  Join the fun in 2013 with our growing range of both early morning and evening fitness classes in Swindon.

 


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June:  Michelle May's first triathlon

In June, our Michelle completed her very first triathlon, the Cotswold Women Only Triathlon, at the Cotswold Water Park just north of Swindon. Massive congratulations to Michelle not only for finishing the event but also for raising £2,000 for charity. This is a brilliant starting point for anyone tempted to "give tri a try", with a novice event swimming leg of only 200m (equivalent to eight lengths of a standard sized pool). So start training now and you will have plenty time to join us next year!

 


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July:  Run JB Couch to 5K Course Launched

Shona joined JBPT full-time in July, enabling expansion of our personal training service and the launch of Run JB, our beginners running group.  Our summer Couch to 5K course, based in Lydiard Park, was a great success, culminating with our graduates completing the 5K Swindon Parkrun in August. Check out our JBPT YouTube channel for more footage of the event!

 


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August:  Couch to 5K graduates complete ParkRun

Our Couch to 5K course runners successfully completed their first ever 5K after 8 weeks training! Many congratulations to Paul Cowling, Ann Broomfield, Nicky Daley, Linda Robinson, Sue Cripps, Aline Coutts, Loren Cowling, Barbara Kirkup and Amanda Bond!  Elsewhere, Janet Palmer took part in the Guernsey Marathon team relay event. Completing her 7km leg as a member of her family team, Janet enjoyed fabulous views and glorious sunshine!


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September:  Tony Hardy, Chris Madumere, Dan Hardy and George Reed complete Scotland Coast to Coast

In September, Tony Hardy, Chris Madumere and Dan Hardy completed the grueling 107 mile long Scotland Coast to Coast event, cycling, running, hiking and kayaking there way from Nairn to the Isles of Glencoe. Together they raised over £4000 for the Swindon MS Therapy Centre, which supported his brother Alan before he died from the illness in June last year.

 


 

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October:  Tony Hardy completes Swindon Half Marathon

Tony Hardy picked up a hat-trick of medals this autumn. Hot on the heels of the Scotland Coast to Coast, he headed for the Cricklade 10K and lastly the Swindon Half Marathon in October. Tony plans to follow this with a half-ironman triathlon in 2013!



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November:  Christine McLachlan bikes Vietnam to Cambodia

Christine battled the side-effects of numerous vaccinations to make it to the start of her epic Vietnam to Cambodia bike ride in November. The 400km route took her from Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to the ancient temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, through traditional Vietnamese villages, gorgeous streams and rivers, passing paddy fields and stunning mountains.


 

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December:  Dawn Chivers climbs Kilimanjaro

Dawn grasped the opportunity of a lifetime to climb the world's highest free standing mountain. Its highest point, Uhuru Peak, is a staggering 5,895m above sea level. Congratulations Dawn for scaling such heights and raising £600 for Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

"2 years ago I found myself over weight and extremely unfit - My biker lifestyle of beer and burgers had finally caught up with me! Something had to be done! So, I got myself a Personal Trainer (JB Personal Training, Swindon) who got me to see the error of my ways and motivated me to totally change the way that I lived. As a result, I am thinner, fitter and madder - hence this crazy climb up a bloomin' great mountain (sprained ankle and all!) that would have been impossible just a couple of years ago.


Inspired by these remarkable achievements?  Why not make 2013 an unforgettable year by reaching your health and fitness goals.  Personal Training can help you get there, whether you want to emulate such feats or simply lose weight and improve your health.  Contact us today to learn more.

 

 
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  1. Everyone is welcome. Run with your children, push toddlers in their buggies, even run with your dog if you want to.
  2. Being surrounded by nature is one of life’s simple pleasures.  No traffic, no worries.
  3. The weekend goes so quickly, so why waste a chunk of it in bed?  Getting a run in first thing on Saturday morning makes you feel virtuous and sets you up for the rest of the weekend.
  4. There’s zero hassle.  Register once, then just turn up with your barcode whenever you want.
  5. Age grading is a real motivator for improvement - you can excel whatever your age.  For example, Run JB’s oldest runner (in her 60s) is second highest in our age grading rankings!
  6. It’s everywhere.  Away visiting friends or relatives for the weekend?  No problem – just look up their local event.  With 153 locations all over the UK, chances are it won’t be far away.
  7. It’s a great social event.  You meet loads of like-minded people and can stick around for a good natter over coffee after the run.

Remember, you were Born to Run! Inspired to join in? Register online at the ParkRun website and reinvent your Saturday mornings!

For a fascinating behind the scenes account of how parkrun grew from its humble beginnings to become such a phenomenal success, check out Debra Bourne's book: parkrun: much more than just a run in the park

 
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Running used to be a necessity, the only way early humans could survive and thrive and spread across the planet. You ran to eat and to avoid being eaten. You ran to find a mate and impress her, and with her you ran off to start a new life together. You had to love running, or you wouldn't live to love anything else."

- Christopher McDougall, Author of

  Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't or shouldn't run.  There is a lot of scaremongering over the supposed dangers of running. That's why I love the quote above.  Running is the most natural thing in the world. 

Of course you may encounter problems if you try to do too much, too soon. That's why it is important to follow a structured progressive training plan, such as the one we use at Run JB in our Couch to 5K beginners running course in Swindon.  But don't for a moment think that you are a) too old (I regularly and unashamedly get beaten by more experienced runners a decade or more my senior) or b) too heavy (beginners programmes involve running initially for no more than 60 seconds at a time between walking intervals).  Still need convincing? Watch this clip of the 2012 UK Biggest Loser contestants (including 32 stones Kevin) finishing their 5K race in the very first episode!

As a general rule, you should aim to increase total mileage by no more than 10% per week. Use cross-training to complement your running programme and lessen the risk of injury.  I am a great advocate of a "quality not quantity" approach to endurance running, having successfully completed my first marathon by running no more than three days a week.  Cardio-respiratory fitness can be further improved by incorporating other forms of exercise such as rowing, cycling or swimming into your training plan.   Lastly, remember not to neglect resistance training. Muscular endurance is crucial in order to maintain proper running form when you get tired towards the end of a run.  Make sure you complete at least one weekly resistance exercise session. This doesn't necessarily mean lifting weights in the gym - bodyweight exercises such as those used in Metafit classes are extremely effective if tailored appropriately.

I'll be examining several of these running training topics in more detail in future blogs.  In the meantime, rediscover your natural instinct and get out running!

If you need to discover or regain your running "mojo", then look no further than the truly inspirational

Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, the Ultra-Runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen

I owe a debt of gratitude to my brother for buying me this book as a Christmas present seven years ago. Reading it reignited a dormant passion for running which at the time had been overtaken by my international rugby commitments. It inspired me to begin a running journey which would lead to me eventually running several marathons, completing an ironman, and ultimately founding Run JB, Swindon's only women's running club.

 

 
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