Are Sports Actually Healthy?

This topic was raised a few years ago in regards to marathon running. At the time I thought this was a stupid question; of course sports are healthy, they keep you fit and are beneficial for overall well-being.

However, in the last few months I have questioned my earlier opinion. I have been involved in sports for over ten years and I love them, pretty much all of them, but for about the last five years I have struggled with remaining free of illness and injury. This was starting to drag down my morale as I could not nail down what was causing these regular illnesses. The intense training that I was being put through was breaking me down and when I got ill it took much longer than normal to rebuild itself. Eventually, after a long break from sport specific training, I came to the conclusion that it was the training that I was doing in order to compete in a sport that was increasing my chances of getting ill. For the last six or so months I have slowly transitioned from training specifically to compete in a sport over to training to remain healthy. Since this change I have been less ill and as a result have felt much better about myself.

Of course I am still able to push myself and enjoy the occasional competition of some description, but being able to remain healthy has now become the main goal. I will still be training for some specific events, such as the occasional charity run, but as I am no longer training for a specific sport I can mix up the exercises that I am doing – this will allow my body to stay on top of what I throw at it.

No doubt I will miss training for a specific sport, I may even change my mind again and go back to training for competition, but for now the priority is being healthy.

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Recipe – Coconut Flour Pancakes

Sometimes you just need pancakes – this is the recipe I use. Continue reading

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Back from Holiday!

I haven’t posted for a few weeks, but I am now back from a holiday in northern Italy. It was great, lots of sun, good food and relaxing. I will now be able to start posting a bit more regularly again.

I thought I would give you all a quick sample of the kind of workout I was doing to keep myself active whilst away from the gym – the idea being to go out and explore a bit at the same time. The workouts had to be done fairly early in the morning as the mid-day heat meant doing anything outside was a pretty daunting prospect. The workout started with a run up the hill, it wasn’t a long run but the gradient meant that by the top my legs were burning. I would then run back down the hill again. It was completed by doing 100 press-ups followed by 300 body-weight squats.

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This was the only real workout that I set myself, the rest of the holiday was filled with walking and I did quite a bit of swimming as well as that meant the heat wasn’t so much of a limiting factor. The most important thing for me was to keep moving – even if it wasn’t to the same intensity as I would normally find at the gym.

I hope this gives you a few ideas for the kind of things that you can do when you are away from home – allowing yourself to stay active and enjoy the surroundings.

Here are a few of my favourite pictures of the places that I was able to explore.

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Top 5 Nutrients to Maintain Health

People have been supplementing their diets with vitamins for a while now, but which are the key vitamins for a healthy life and do you really need to take them all in pill form?

Mg – Magnesium – Magnesium is used by the body for the production of fats and proteins. It is also plays a role in the contraction and relaxation of muscle tissue. Symptoms of low Mg include cramps and muscle spasms. Luckily Mg is easy to come by if you eat properly – it can be found in whole grains, fish, bananas, pulses, nuts, seeds and most abundantly in dark leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale.

Vitamin D – Highly touted as one of the most important vitamins, but rarely explained why. Vitamin D is produced in the skin as a result of exposure to direct sunlight. It plays a role in immune function, muscle function and cellular growth by helping cells absorb calcium. Research has also linked with a deficiency of this vitamin with obesity, increased stress fractures in bones and lower strength. Other symptoms include depression, aching bones, digestive problems and headaches. Vitamin D can be found in cod liver oil, salmon, mushrooms, dairy products and eggs – but the main source is the sun. Depending on the climate you live in it might be worth looking at supplementing daily.

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Ca – Calcium – Famous for strengthening bones but also key to blood clot prevention, nerve-signal transmission and muscle contraction. Symptoms include brittle nails, low appetite, insomnia, lethargy, tooth decay and the onset of arthritis. You shouldn’t need to supplement with Ca, it can be found in many foods – dairy, leafy vegetables, beans, fruit and meat. A small glass of milk provides about 300mg of your 1000mg recommended daily intake.

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K – Potassium – Required for the production of enzymes used to break down carbohydrates – low Potassium can mean lack of energy. K is also used by the body to maintain pH balance and hearth health. Other symptoms include regular cramps, long lasting thirst and numbness in the muscles. Potassium if readily available in white beans, dark green vegetables, baked potatoes, dried apricots, yogurt, oily fish, avocados and bananas.

I – Iodine – Iodine is not something that many people would think of being key to their diet, but it’s main function in the body is the production of the hormone thyroxine, which is needed to convert food to energy and maintaining an active metabolism – a lack of iodine means the speed at which your cells are able to use energy is diminished. A deficiency of I can cause constipation, depression, weight gain, and weakness. This element can be found most readily in seafood, but also eggs, milk, yogurt and strawberries.

If you are going to take something like a multi-vitamin, look for these nutrients on the label.

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My Workout Split – Using Volume

Recently I changed the way that I structured my workouts throughout the week. I had been following a program where I was training five days a week, with each day dedicated to a particular body part e.g. leg day, chest and triceps etc. This way of doing things was fine, but I began to feel like I could be doing more. By only training each body part once a week I was limiting myself to how much I could improve.

I have now started training six days a week with the first three days focussing on strength (e.g. high weight low rep) and with the final three days doing higher volume weights to build some strength endurance (low weight high rep). As well as having different rep ranges, the workouts differ in the lifts performed – on strength days more compound movements such as squats and deadlifts are used, whilst the volume sessions contain more isolation exercises, such as work with machines. This training split has meant that I am able to improve on my explosive strength as well as strength endurance, training to be more of an all-round athlete capable of being powerful and able to maintain my performance over a longer time period.

I have really enjoyed adding in the volume work, it breaks up the monotony of big weight all the time. It has also been a lesson in humility – high reps mean low weights – you cannot bring your ego to a high volume workout.

Here is an example of a high volume shoulder and leg day:

Standing side lateral raises – 30 reps, 3 sets
Standing front raises – 30 reps, 3 sets
Rear delt flyes – 30 reps, 3 sets
Leg extensions – 30 reps, 4 sets
Hamstring curls – 30 reps, 4 sets
Calf raises – 30 reps 3 sets

To add an extra level of difficulty, you can also perform the final set of each exercise as a drop set – do as many reps as you can, then drop the weight to about 40% and continue until you can no longer perform the exercise with correct form.

Enjoy!

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Review – Wheyhey Protein Ice Cream

W! Wheyhey Chocolate Protein Ice Cream

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Energy (kcal) 103
Fat (g) 2.9
of which saturates (g) 1.8
Carbohydrates (g) 8.0
of which sugars (g) 0.5
Protein (g) 14
Salt (g) 0.06
Values per 100 ml

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If At First You Don’t Succeed…Fail and Fail Again

It’s one of those things that we don’t really like to be told, but the harsh reality of life is that failure is a huge part of making progress. Without putting ourselves in positions where we are not afraid to fail we cannot possibly reach our full potential. If we only do what we are comfortable with then we are not pushing ourselves to be the best we can be. This is true for small things, such as attempting a new personal best in a lift, right through to larger goals like pushing to become the best in world at something. By defeating the fear of failure we are able to push ourselves to become the best version of ourselves. Failing hurts, but it is not what defines us. Instead we are able to use our experience to learn what makes each of us individually great and how we can continue to progress. So be encouraged, failure happens and it is important that it happens – because it makes the sense of achievement all the sweeter.

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