Welcome to the ESPA Life at Corinthia Fitness Blog

Written by us, the Personal Training Team at ESPA Life at Corinthia London. We wanted to create a blog to write for fitness advocates and beginners alike, a place to share everything from tips & truths, effective workouts, dietary advice, words of encouragement , our thoughts on the what works (and what doesn’t) and what music is on our playlist. We will also run competitions, encourage you to join us for a morning run and provoke discussion.

We welcome your views and if you have any questions, please post them on the blog so that others can join the conversation! You can also email us at espalifefitness.london@corinthia.com

Best wishes,
Ross, David, Tom & Marina
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Tuesday 31 July 2012

ESPA Life Running Club's Mobilisation & Stretch Routine

After our ESPA Life Running Club's first run this morning, we thought we would share tips on how to stretch. It may sound simple but getting the technique right can make all the difference! 

The foam roller is great way to start a warm up routine. Its low intensity yet is particularly efficient at myofascial release prior to exercise. A great analogy would be to imagine your muscles as elastic bands with knots in them. Stretching a muscle might elongate the muscle tissue however it would not get rid of the knots. The foam roller however ‘irons out’ these knots making it a valuable tool. I particular like the calf and IT band exercises prior to running (Fig 1 and 2). Make sure you roll full length of the muscle and go nice and slowly. Repeat 10 times each leg.

Figure 1 

Figure 2

Running should always be performed in the sagittal plane. If there is any inward or outward rotation of the hips (causing outward, inward movement of the knee), this will not only affect performance it will also increase the risk of injury. To ensure this does not occur, you need to mobilise the hip adductors (Fig 3) and abductors (Fig 4), by using lateral movements, which prevent tightness. This will mean all motion will be moving forward and there will be no compromises down or up the body causing unwanted rotation and subsequent injury problems.

Figure 3 

Figure 4

I am a big fan of athletic drills, prior to running. My favourite is the high knee drill (Fig 5). Drills are more dynamic than other warm up exercises and of course they raise the heart rate. They also get the body going through further ranges of motion by utilising the stretch reflex as well as replicating the running action. High knee drills or any other athletic drills should be performed fast and you should always look forward when performing them. This will keep your spine in a neutral position and prevent the hip going into flexion/extension, thus affecting stride length. I would perform each drill 5 times for 30 metres. Walk back to recover.    

Figure 6

By David Griffin

Join our ESPA Life Running Club every Tuesday & Thursday for a motivating run with us - the ESPA Life at Corinthia Personal Training Team! 

We will be meeting every Tuesday Morning(7am) & Thursday Afternoon (4pm) in the ESPA Life at Corinthia Gym to stretch & run a route ofthe local area. Our team will be there to guide the run, help improve your technique, motivate you & make sure you give those muscles an effictive pre & post run stretch.

Whether you're a beginner or a pro, a Running Club is a great way to improve your run or get you started! Water & Towels will be provided!

Tip: Have a light bite to eat, like a Banana, 30 minutes before the run & bring a light rain jacket, if possible.

See you soon, runners!

Monday 30 July 2012

The Hot Commute: Bike

Everyday, I join just over a million people that travel into work in central London! ONE MILLION PEOPLE!  That is a lot! In 2007, TFL (Transport for London) calculated that 28 million journeys were made in London on an average day; this included: public transport, private transport, walking, cycling and other forms.  40% of those journeys were made using public transport, 38% used private transport (primarily by car), an estimated 24% walk into London and just 1.8% of people cycle to work. I thought that these figures are pretty staggering, including the fact that they add up to 103.8%!

I am one of the 1.8% of people that cycle to work.  I have been cycling in London for over a year and it is the best decision I have made in terms of transport.  Rain or shine (preferably shine) I get on my bike and head into London.  I am getting fitter (my body fat is down from 23% to 14%), I am saving money (at least £100 a month) and I get to see parts of London that I have never seen before (at 5am, London is completely different to look at than at 6am, for instance).  I get up, get on my bike and get to work.  I shower and have breakfast at work, normally porridge with some seeds or add some protein powder. Some people might question why I don’t have breakfast before I exert myself getting to work. Normally, I would insist that clients eat a decent meal before exercise so that they get the nutrients into their system to prepare themselves for exercise. However, in the morning I just don’t have time. Yet, there is some evidence that suggests that steady state exercise (e.g. my 5 mile ride into work) following a fasting period (e.g. sleeping for 8 hours) helps to increase metabolic rate during the day and, as a result, reduce body fat.  If you want to read more on this topic there is a really good account by Dr John Berardi here: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/intermittent-fasting/summary on his experiences with intermittent fasting.

With the Olympics in full flow, cycling is becoming even more valuable. Naturally, traffic is worse, although this just means more stationary traffic so it’s easier for bikes. My usual route to work has been affected (the Mall and Hyde park are being used for events) however I am still be able to get to work in a fraction of the time that it would take using public transport.

The physical benefits of cycling over public transport are obvious. Cycling is much better for you than sitting on a tube, everyone knows that!  More specifically, it is a great workout for your Glutes, Hamstrings and Quads as this is where most of the power comes from. So, if you are training for lower body power, try sprinting between traffic lights (if it’s safe!) or try to incorporate a few hills into your route. Hills are a great way of adding resistance to cycling, which will increase your heart rate and require a bit more effort from your muscles.  You can also take your new commuting regime to the gym and support it with an exercise program designed to increase lower limb power and endurance – making your daily commute to work easier and faster!

By Ross Gillanders

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Running to Work during the Olympics: Tips by Personal Trainer, David Griffin

If you want to lose weight and get fit fast then running is the best exercise to participate in. There can be no argument that running - the exercise that is so natural to all of us - is the most efficient calorie burner and most efficient at developing cardiovascular fitness. So, if you live within a 1-5 mile radius of work (or even further, if you are really keen) then get your running trainers on!

Building Up
It takes time to gain decent running fitness, particular from scratch. However, you have to be patient and keep trying. Plan a route in advance and a weekly schedule. The route, if possible, should be as off-road as it can be. So always try to make full use of the parks located in and around London. This will not only make your route more enjoyable, it will also reduce injury. Run within yourself, relax and don’t worry about other runners around you. Everyone has a starting point so go by how you feel, rather than time. Remember the Olympic spirit...It’s the taking part that counts!

Tempo Running
As your fitness levels develop...Out comes the stopwatch.  It is good every now and again to push the boundaries. You will not develop fully as a runner just by running slowly. Running that little bit faster every now and again will develop a different energy system. The important thing to remember during a tempo run is that it is a hard effort for the full distance, not a flat out sprint for 100m and then crawl the last 3 miles. You need to judge the pace right so that your speed is continuous over the full distance and you are working about 80-90% of maximum effort.

Fartlek Running
I am a massive fan of fartlek training. It plays a particularly important role if you participate in intermittent effort sports like football, rugby, tennis, boxing etc. Fartlek training involves a steady paced run with efforts during the run. The efforts can range from short sprints to prolonged efforts, according to your fitness levels and requirements. A great way to train like this is to use markers at the side of the road, such as lampposts or use trees in the park.  For example, you can run to work running steadily for 3 lampposts and then run fast in-between 2 lampposts. Corinthia Hotel London is ideally located to make full use of this training. I would also look at using the River Thames as a great way to train. You can go hard from bridge to bridge and then recover between the next bridges. St James, Green Park and Hyde Park are also close by, which makes for ideal running training.

Monday 23 July 2012

Exercise In The Spotlight This Week: Chin Ups

The Chin Up is perhaps the best exercise for back strength and a great indication of total body strength. Performed correctly, the exercise mainly utilises the Latissimus Dorsi, but is assisted by the Biceps, Rhomboids and Trapezius muscles.  On their own, the Lats are an extremely large muscle; they attach onto the vertebrae (T6 to the sacrum), the pelvis, the ribs, the scapula and the humorous.  They make up most of the muscle mass that you see when you look at someone’s back and therefore play a huge role in back health and mobility.  The Lats work to help depress the scapula - so if you sit at a desk all day staring at a computer and as a result suffer from a forward head posture and kyphosis (rounding of the shoulders), then chin ups could be the way forward for you.

Now, as a beginner, I would not rush straight into Chin Ups, they are a hard exercise and usually require a decent amount of training just to be able to achieve your first repetition.  I get my clients to start with mobilisation exercises, such as wall slides and bands rows, to allow the shoulder to achieve a full range of motion before we start to add weight.

Once you have good shoulder mobility, you need to start looking at scapular control.  More often than not in an untrained person, the level of control that they have over scapular movement is very low.  The scapula becomes fixed in one position or is permanently rotated away from the natural position, close to the medial line of the body.  I choose to use pulling or rowing exercises, such as single arm dumbbell rows and cable rows, to help correct scapula control and to start increasing strength in the shoulder girdle.

You should now have a fairly healthy shoulder and are ready to start your training to achieve that first chin up repetition.  For novice clients, I start with exercises such as lat pulldowns, so that they can start to groove the type of movements that they will need for the chin up.  Once the weight starts getting up to around 75% of the clients’ bodyweight, I will start to add in assisted chin ups.  For the assistance, I try to stay away from the specifically designed chin up machines that support your bodyweight.  They can alter the position of the body during the eccentric phase of the exercise and reduce the focus of the exercise from the Lats more towards the shoulders and bicep. Instead, I use bands or a cable machine with a jacket to assist the client when first performing Chin Ups.  This allows for a more natural movement and for the client to begin understanding how to perform the exercise with good form.  Once the client has achieved the desired set and rep range, we can then move onto full chin ups.

To perform a full Chin Up with good form and a full range of motion requires a great deal of mental toughness.  You need to be able to activate your Lats so that they perform the bulk of the work; this is difficult in itself as most people do not have the ability to recruit specific muscle groups for a specific action. To help increase activation you can use a physical cue, either someone putting pressure on the muscle you want to activate during the exercise or by doing it yourself before performing the exercise.  This cues the brain and helps to develop a link between the muscle and the brain that will then be associated with the exercise.

A chin up can either be started from the flexed position with the concentric phase first or from the extended position with the eccentric phase first.  Either way, proper form is essential.  I prefer to start with the eccentric phase first as this is the weakest park of the movement.  To begin, grip the bars or the handle with whatever grip is most natural and comfortable for you. Supinated, semi-supinated, pronated or mixed grip, it does not really matter.  Whatever feels natural is most likely to reduce the risk of injury so that is what I believe you should go with. Lower yourself so that your elbows are fully extended and so that your shoulders are completely relaxed and extended.  This is your starting position.  From this position you want to move as quickly as you can through the phase to the flexed position, elbows flexed, shoulders adducted and scapula depressed.  This is where it is important to concentrate on using the Lats so that you get the most out of the exercise.  At the top of the movement, pause for a second and then begin to lower yourself down again.  For maximum strength gains this phase should take between 2 – 4 seconds,  as we are normally stronger during the eccentric phase of a motion we can increase the time under tension to maximise strength gains.

Again, once the repetition and set range has been achieved, we can start to add weigh on top of the natural bodyweight of the client.

Friday 20 July 2012

Weight Loss: 10 Best Ways to Lose the Pounds David Griffin

More people are realising the importance of lifestyle changes to achieve optimum health. Without doubt the number one common reason people begin Personal Training is to lose weight. Obesity has become a huge problem in the UK (approximately 23% of people are clinically obese) and the links between excess weight and health problems has becoming more apparent. There are also so many crazy diets out there that further confuse the issue; it’s no wonder people often find themselves caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Here I have put together a list, of what I believe are 10 of the best simple, yet most effective, ways to lose weight healthily.

1. Achieve a Negative Energy Balance.
In order to lose weight, energy expenditure has to exceed energy intake. This is known as negative energy balance. How to increase energy expenditure and decrease energy intake efficiently will be explained in the other points, but it is important to remember the general principle: Weight loss can only be achieved by either reducing the calories consumed and/or by increasing calorific expenditure.

2. Eat Regular Meals every 2-3 hours.
Eating regularly is essential for increasing metabolism and hormonal control. Many people don’t realise that by missing meals during the day can actually increase the likelihood of gaining weight. This is primarily down to glucose regulation and the affect it has on insulin sensitivity. It is often a good idea to include a complete protein (contains all essential amino acids) and also a vegetable source packed with vitamins and minerals with every meal.

3. Increase Non-Exercise Physical Activity.
This is a particularly important aspect of a weight loss program that is often overlooked. We often assume that the only way to achieve ‘Negative Energy Balance’ is to eat less or do more exercise. However, from my experience people with sedentary lifestyles are often overweight regardless of whether they go to the gym or not. Just by regularly taking the stairs at work instead of the elevator or walking to work instead of a short bus journey can really make a significant difference. Remember a weight loss program should not only apply when you eat and train - a weight loss program is a 24 hour commitment.

4. Decrease Refined Carbohydrates and Sugars.
I am not a big fan of the ‘no carbohydrate diets’ (particularly the side effects that comes as a result from them), but I do believe we need to look at the types of carbohydrate we consume and when we consume them. On a weight loss program you will need to keep sugar down to a minimum, this also includes fizzy drinks, fruit juices and high calorie smoothies. Also substitute the bread, rice and pasta for different coloured vegetables that contain a variety of vitamins and minerals. The only time I would recommend a high carbohydrate meal during a weight loss program (>60% total meal) would be after exercise when carbohydrate is more readily metabolised. Low GI (Glycaemic index) foods should be consumed as they will leave you feeling fuller for longer and controlling glucose regulation.

5. Increase Vegetable Consumption.
As well as containing plenty of vitamins, minerals and fibre, substituting vegetables in a meal, will inevitably lower the ratio of carbohydrates and fat. I also believe it is important to try and get our micronutrients from food sources instead of supplementation. I often feel supplements are only included in a diet to compensate for what is already a ‘poor diet’.
I would recommend supplementation when the body is under stress i.e. during Illness, recovery or oxidative stress from regular training, but so often people take shakes, tablets and capsules that they just don’t need. The healthiest people I know keep it simple, train hard and understand their body. So many people believe in the ‘quick fix’, take loads of supplements and are always in the comfort zone during training. These people never get results as they learn to rely on supplements rather than rely on training and a healthy diet. Try and mix the colours of your vegetables and substitute these instead of the high fat, high carb foods in your meals. The more colours in your diet the better.

6. Increase Complete Lean Protein Intake.
So often is the case that people on a weight loss plan decrease their protein intake, which is a huge mistake. This is the one macronutrient that you should aim to increase, particularly complete protein from animal sources that contain all the essential amino acids. Increasing protein will lower the ratio of fat and carbohydrate in the diet, but there are several other reasons why protein intake should not be decreased. Protein is theromogenic (heat given off while it is metabolised) and requires more energy than carbs and fat to breakdown. This helps with the weight loss due to a higher metabolic rate. Protein also provides the building blocks of muscle tissue, therefore helps us improve body composition as well as weight loss. Let’s face it when we lose weight it is the fat we want to lose, not muscle tissue. Protein also increases the hormone glucagon which has a direct influence on fat storage reduction in the adipose and liver cells. Protein also has an increased satiety affect leaving you feeling fuller for longer. For these reasons I would strongly recommend having protein with most meals, (particularly lean chicken and meats, egg whites) which will lead to increase in metabolism and improvements in body composition and performance.

7. Substitute Good Fats for Bad Fats.
Substituting polyunsaturated and monounsaturated in the diet instead of saturated fat is very important not just for weight loss but for decreasing the risk of Cardiovascular disease as well. Fish oils, a good source of omega 3 essential fatty acids, should be encouraged as they improve insulin regulation. It is also important to include nuts and seeds in the diet as well which will increase your Omega 6 intake. Try introducing ground flaxseed and olive oil in foods as well that are also great sources of good fats. Of course the take-aways, processed foods and regularly visits to the pie and donut shops are a big no no.

8. Increase intensity of training as well as Duration.
Training for longer burns more calories, but also training at a higher intensity burns more calories as well. Higher intensity training also has a ‘metabolic after burn effect’ meaning you will be burning more calories during the recovery process. For an obese client, increasing intensity of exercise can be very difficult so it is best to just keep moving for an hour with major muscle group exercises. For people that can work towards a higher intensity, circuit training and interval training are particularly useful. However duration is still important and it’s amazing how I see people training for 15-20 minutes at a high intensity and still think they are going to lose loads of weight. Get your body used to performing for longer durations first, and then apply the intensity. This not only allows you to handle the higher intensity sessions easier, it also means fat oxidation efficiency will improve and you will be burning more calories when you start to do even harder training. It is also important during longer aerobic cardio sessions to perform one exercise, instead of having 5-10 minutes on 4 different cardio machines. So if the intention is to do 50 minutes cardio, then do 40 minutes running/40 minutes cycling and finish off with a 10 min quick high intense metabolic circuit at the end. Try and do a minimum of 4 hours exercise time per week. I am a firm believer in training for a minimum of 45-50 minutes exercise time per session during a weight loss program (preferably 50-70 minutes). Anything under this and your back in that comfort zone and wasting your time.

9. Try drinking 2-3 Cups of Green tea per day.
Green tea is thermogenic, meaning heat is given off when consuming it. Green tea also contains powerful phytochemicals that have antioxidant, antiviral and antibacterial properties and is thought to decrease the risk of cancer as well as lowering cholesterol levels. I would definitely recommend green tea as part of a weight loss program, but try to hit 3 cups per day to get maximum benefits.

10. Good Quality Sleep
Sleep is so important in any exercise plan, including a weight loss plan. Poor sleep leads to hormonal imbalances and reduction in overall human performance.Aim to get a minimum of 7 hours sleep per day. This will control hormones such as cortisol (stress hormone) that becomes raised as a result of poor sleep patterns. It will also enable you to have more energy and more motivated to increase activity levels throughout the day. Without good quality sleep you will never get great results.

Monday 16 July 2012

Train like athlete, Andy Rayner. By David Griffin

Andy Rayner's Personal Best of 14:19 and 30:56 for 5 and 10k (as well as his top 20 finish in this years National XC Championships) make him one of the UK’s leading middle/long distance athletes. Like Michael Skinner's training program, the important speed sessions have been included - yet there is also a major emphasis on covering a minimum of 70 miles per week. Here is a typical week's training schedule for Andy Rayner in preparation for the 5000m:

Monday: Am: 30 mins easy Pm: 40 mins steady

Tuesday: Am: 30 mins easy Pm: Track session 5x1km (3 mins jog recovery)

Wednesday: Pm: 60 mins easy

Thursday: Am: 30 mins easy Pm: 30 mins Tempo run

Friday:  Am: 45 mins easy

Saturday: Am: Track session 12x 400m (1 minute recovery)

Sunday: Am: 90 mins steady
Total weekly mileage: Between 70 - 90 miles

Wednesday 11 July 2012

A Week of Training in the Life of Professional Athlete, Michael Skinner

After interviewing professional athlete, Michael Skinner, we decided to put together a typical weeks training program courtesy of the man himself...

Typical Weeks Training for Michael

Monday: AM 60 mins run (9-10 miles) PM 30 mins run (4-5 miles) followed by some gym exercises and a core workout.

Tuesday: AM 30 mins run (4-5 miles) PM Track session e.g. 8x1k off a minute recovery or 2k (3 mins recovery) 5x400 off a minute (3 mins recover) then repeat it all again.

Wednesday: AM 60 mins run (9-10 miles) PM 30 mins run (4-5 miles) followed by core exercises.

Thursday: AM Tempo run. Running 30 mins using a heart rate monitor. I normally run with my heart rate between 165-175 bpm which is somewhere between 5.10 and 4.55 minute mile pace for me. PM 30 mins run (4-5 miles)

Friday: AM 30 mins run (4-5 miles) PM Physio or massage

Saturday: AM: Session of hills and tempo. Eg 10 minute tempo, 5 x 45 seconds hill sprints and repeat it all or 15 minute tempo, 8 x 30 secs hill sprints, 15 minuet tempo PM 30 mins run (4-5 miles)

Sunday: AM Long run of anywhere between 90 mins to 2 hours (14-19 miles)

Total weekly mileage: Between 90 - 100 miles