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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Friday 31 August 2012

2012 London Paralympic Games: What We Will Be Watching

With the 2012 London Paralympic Games in full flow, we started talking about which of the sporting events we were most looking forward to & why....

"The Sport I’m looking forward to the most is the swimming.  It’s incredible the speeds that the swimmers reach and shows an incredible ability both mentally and physically in the pool, despite having a disability. I am most looking forward to watching Ellie Simmonds who is a role model for me. She is in the S6 class and competes over many different events.  In the classification title, S represents Freestyle, Backstroke and Butterfly strokes. Swimming classifications are on a gradient, with 1 being the most severely physically impaired to 10 having the least amount of physical disability. The competitions will be great and I'm sure there will be a fantastic atmosphere in the aquatic centre, especially when Ellie is competing!"

- David Griffin

"I'm looking forward to watching the Powerlifting the most. It’s a bench pressing competition to test an individuals’ upper body strength. There are different weight catagories that athletes fall into. There are 200 competitors, 120 male and 80 females. Athletes are given three attempts at each weight that they lift, and technique forms a strict criteria for each lift. The International Federation for Powerlifting state that ‘Athletes with a physical impairment in their legs or hips, which would prohibit them compete in weightlifting are eligible to compete in the sport at the Paralympics.’ I think this sport shows that anyone with a disability can continue to perform and feel the benefits of strength training, it’s a closely fought competition with athletes regularly pressing three times their bodyweight."

- Tom Cheeseman

"Wheelchair rugby is what I am looking forward to seeing! It is fast, it’s aggressive and there is a hidden skill and tactic level that is not immediately apparent. I love the fact that wheelchair contact is allowed but bodily contact is not. This sport could have the same atmosphere and popularity as beach volleyball did at the Olympics. Wheelchair Rugby is a physically demanding game. Players need to be robust, with speed, strength and stamina, as well as having excellent ball skills and the ability to think quickly and play tactically as a team. Don't miss the Mixed Wheelchair Rugby matches, starting on the 5th September at 14:00 when Great Britain will take on the United States!"

- Ross Gillanders

Born To BBQ. By Ross Gillanders

Next to my passion for gym work and writing exercise programs, I have a real love for cooking – particularly barbecuing.   I love getting a bit of meat or veg, covering it in marinade and putting it on the “Braai” (South African for “BBQ”).   It tastes great, it’s healthy (depending on your marinade and barbecuing skills) and you have very little washing up to do.  Plus, you always cook far too much so you have the joys of cold barbecue food the next day.  This opens up the possibility of salads, wraps and snacks which can make healthy meals, when prepared with herbs and olive oil instead of creamy dressings and spreads.

In the past, I have successfully cooked everything from chicken wings and chipolatas to whole legs and shoulders of lamb and whole chickens. Mackerel done on the “Grill” (American for “BBQ”) stuffed with a few herbs, is the best way that I know of cooking this amazing fish.  Fancy some vegetables?  Slice them, marinate them, and stick them on!  You will be amazed by the tasty results.

Due to the lack of oil and the fact that a lot of the fat is cooked out of the meat (the fat burning on the coal is what gives the amazing barbecued taste) it is an incredibly good way to enjoy meat whilst reducing the fat content.

I have a gas “Barbie” (Australian for “BBQ”) that sits outside my back door and I use it throughout the year (Christmas day BBQ in the snow is a personal favourite).   I know that some barbecue purists will argue that charcoal is the only pure way to cook but I would vote for the gas BBQ for its convenience (I don’t have time to sit and wait for it to heat up), health bonus (gas is much cleaner to burn than charcoal) and consistency (you do not have a temperature gauge on charcoal).

Lastly, here is a bit of BBQ history for you…

Barbecue derives from the word “barabicu” found in the language of the Taíno people of the Caribbean and the Timucua of Florida, and entered European languages in the form “barbacoa”. The word translates as "sacred fire pit”.  The word describes a grill for cooking meat, consisting of a wooden platform resting on sticks.

Let me know your favourite BBQ recipes and bring on the gas versus charcoal debate!

 By Ross Gillanders

My Top 3 Olympic Moments. By David Griffin

With the 2012 London Olympic Games behind us and the Paralympic Games in full flow, I'm looking back at my top 3 London Olympics moments and getting ready for some exciting Paralympic events to come.

My Top 3 Olympic Moments...

3. Mo Farah Gold 10000m

Mo has got to be in my top 3. I am so happy for him. I have been on trips abroad with Mo competing at XC races and he has always come across a genuine nice guy. He’s race was fantastic. I have never heard the crowd in the Olympic final so loud. Many of my friends were there to watch the final. It was a special moment that he could hold on up the home straight and win our 3rd gold on that memorable evening...probably the greatest night in the history of British athletics.

2. Bradley Wiggins Gold Road Time trial

To be the first British rider to win the Tour De France and then become Britain’s most medalled athlete in history in just 9 days was unbelievable. He won the time trial by 42 seconds. He is just quite simply the best sportsman this country has at the moment.

1. Italian Archer last attempt

For me this was the best moment in the London Olympics 2012. Whatever you do before a competition you cannot prepare for the immense pressure that goes with the Olympics. On the last attempt in the team event, in the archery, the Italian team needed a 10 to win (dead centre). A 9 would have been good enough to take it to a sudden death shoot off. Anything else and the Italian team would have lost and the USA would have won the gold medal. In them 5 seconds, not only did the last Italian archer have to put up with the pressure of winning gold for himself, he had to deal with the pressure of his team and his country. There was also a breeze affecting the flight of the arrow. He stepped up, took aim and fired.........he got a 10. A brilliant moment.

By David Griffin

Friday 17 August 2012

How To Run Faster & Stay Injury Free. By David Griffin

Everyone has different running biomechanics and I have realised over the years of training and competing in athletics myself, as well as training others, that it is very difficult to completely change a runner’s biomechanics. However, subtle changes in a warm up and strength routine can significantly enhance performance and prevent injury. For example, a common running injury is ‘runner’s knee’ – A pain/weakness in the knee making it very difficult to run. One of the causes of runner’s knee is tension in the IT band. Many runners do not bother mobilising this ‘fascia’ that runs on the outside of the leg from the knee to the hip. It is a particularly hard area to stretch and is often associated with sharp pain when mobilising it, often causing athletes to miss this area out of their routine completely. However, just by using a foam roller and acupuncture, tension in the IT band can be reduced, causing less strain on the knee. In this article I will go through the main areas to improve running biomechanics, preventing injury and improving your running performance.

The FMS + Flexibility

Here at ESPA Life, we perform an in depth 90 minute consultation and exercise screening assessment. From a performance point of view, it is essential to assess a person’s biomechanics from the start to iron out any major issues and correct them. Equally, this is important to prevent injury, so we use a functional movement screen and a range of flexibility exercises to assess the person’s range of motions, muscular strengths and weakness, as well as any other imbalances they may have.


The ankles are one of the major movement joints in the running action but they are often overlooked. It’s amazing, particularly in dorsiflexion, the limited amount of movement there is at the ankle joint amongst even high level runners. Mobilising the ankles not just in a frontal plane but also a lateral plane is particularly important for many reasons. For a start the ankle is the base joint of the body when running. Any issues at the base are going to be exacerbated higher up the body. Limited ankle mobility also can put strain on the achilles tendon, soleus peroneals and gastrocnemius muscles of the lower leg, causing tendonitis, muscle cramps and tears. Plantar Fasciitis, a sharp pain underneath the foot caused by a collapsed heel arch, is also associated with poor mobility in the ankle.

The problems may not occur straight away but with many running injuries, it is the chronic (repetitive pounding) injuries that often end a runners career. At Espa Life, we therefore include a range of ankle mobility tests to increase range of motion at this joint during dorsi flexion, plantar Flexion, inversion and eversion.


The knee joint, despite providing flexion and extension, primarily requires stabilisation at the joint. My important concern when analysing the knee joint is not always looking at the knee itself, but the areas around the knee including ankle and hip mobility and the strength of the surrounding muscles. It is also important to regular get feedback from runners on how the knees are feeling, particularly during road running where there is a lot of pounding involved. To prevent this I try and get runners to run on grass as much as possible, as oppose to the track or road. I also like runners doing uni-lateral movement exercises, such as lunges, single leg dead lifts and split squats. During the running action both feet are never in a standard ‘squat’ position, they are split either on one leg in contact with the ground or both completely off the ground. By combining single leg exercises in a program with split stance exercises, a runner will be gaining stability as well as strength. The foam roller is also a great way to provide myofascial release in the legs before exercise.


Hip mobility is so important for a runner. At Espa Life we analyse the hip through many different ranges of motion (flexion, extension, medial and lateral rotation). Stride length restrictions are often caused by tight ilipsoas muscles. Many people have lower back problems during running as well which is often caused by the hip flexors pulling on the lumbar spine, where they are attached. I would always recommend stretching these before and after running and also introducing dynamic movements before exercise, such as lateral lunges and hip mobility drills. Working on the adductors and abductors is also important to prevent any unwanted hip medial and lateral rotation during running. Here I have included a couple of photos of me doing some hip flexor mobilisations. It is often the case that people work on strengthening these areas as well when they do not need to. Often strengthening the abductors and adductors tightens the muscles, particularly if they are not performed at a full range of movement. So aim to get this mobilised first before introducing any hip strengthening exercises.

Strong Trunk Stability

The rectus abdominis (Abs) is not designed to flex or extend the spine, but to support the spine by resisting any unwanted outside movements, including flexion, extension and rotation of the spine. So when people talk about ‘Core Stability’ and start doing sit ups they are going against the purpose of stability (resisting an outside force). Here at Espa Life we perform a number of stability exercises that protect the spine and work the core muscles the way they were designed to be worked. In running the perfect technique would be a neutral spine position (same as if you were sitting upright in a chair looking straight ahead) with no unwanted movement. If you watch an elite runner run, you will see that above the hip there is no other movement. Their trunk is perfectly ‘still’ and all effort is going forward. With amateur runners you will see all kinds of flexions and rotations of the spine and head movements, caused by a lack of stability in the trunk and tightness.

Glute Activation

Often is the case with runners, is that they are hamstring dominant and have an anterior tilt of the pelvis and subsequent low knee lift during running. This is primarily caused by tightness of the hip flexors and hamstrings, but also a lack of glute activation. Utilising the glutes: a powerful muscle, is very important in the biomechanics of running. Hip Lift variations are particular useful and also the kettlebell Swing (see picture below) is a great way to get the glutes firing. The most important thing to realise during these movement patterns is that they are ‘hip dominant’ movements not ‘knee dominant’. Therefore flexing the knee should be limited and hip flexion/extension should be encouraged. But remember keep the spine neutral.

Now, let’s put it into action…

FMS Hurdle Step

Hip Flexor Stretch

Kettle Bell Swing

Piriformis & Shoulder Stretch

By David Griffin

Tuesday 14 August 2012

The Kettlebell Swing

If you’re looking for a ‘bang for your buck’ exercise, the kettlebell swing should be high on your agenda. It is a fantastic posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes and lower back) movement that generates a high calorific demand, develops power and endurance and really teaches the user to engage their core musculature.
Kettlebells were originated in Russia in the 18th Century, the original function of them is still debated today, although it is thought that the Russian Farmers used them as a counterbalance with measuring grain and produce. The farmers then used them as a tool to develop their own strength and they became a popular power lifting tool.

The swing is one of the kettlebells’ primary movement patterns, others include the clean and press and the snatch (which will be discussed in a later blog). For the initial start position, the chest should be pushed out and the shoulders back. Grip the kettlebell tight, I have heard stories of people accidentally releasing the kettlebell at the top of the swing causing all sorts of damage, so grip it tight! Initiate momentum and the weight should be shifted to your heels and you’re looking to execute an arching movement.

During the downward phase of the movement, there should be flexion at the hips, whilst maintaining a flat back and the arms locked. A common mistake is seeing too much bend in the knees as the kettlebell is lowered, as previously mentioned, the kettlebell swing is a posterior chain exercise, not a squat-swing.
From the bottom of the ark, the kettlebell is pushed up by generating power through the glutes (bottom muscles) in a shifting motion. As the kettlebell travels up and reaches it highest point, which should be in line with the shoulder, the legs and hips fully extend into a quick dynamic ‘snap.’  Which can be seen in the video below:

A common mistake when performing the kettlebell swing is hyperextension of the back. This puts unwanted pressure on the spine as it is a dynamic, powerful movement that generates lots of torque. Let the glutes do the work, not the lower back or arms!

Here at Espa Life, we are big fans of the kettlebell swing due to its versatility. The double arm swing can be used as part of a power program with a heavy load and less repetitions performed, or it can just as effective when chosen as a finishing exercise as part of a high intensity metabolic circuit.

The obvious progression from the double hand swing is the single arm swing which is a great form of unilateral training where the core and stabiliser muscles really have to be activated. However, I would recommend working on mastering the double hand swing before moving to the single arm.

Friday 10 August 2012

My Favourite Olympic Moments so far. By Tom Cheeseman

For the last week two weeks, London has played host to the 2012 Olympic Games. It all kicked off with a spectacular Opening Ceremony Directed by the Film guru Danny Boyle, responsible for films such as Academy award winning, Slumdog Millionaire. I thought he did a fantastic job to emulate the British culture and how the country has changed throughout the centuries.

It’s hard to single out one specific moment so far during the London 2012 Olympics. So I’m going to discuss a few highlights...

Sir Chris Hoy – Track Cycling

I must start by mentioning our greatest ever Olympian, Sir Chris Hoy. With a total of six gold medals he surpassed Sir Steve Redgrave’s record of 5 golds by winning the Mens Keirin event a few days ago. At 36 years old Sir Chris can be considered one of the veterans of the Olympic Team, featuring in three successive Olympics, winning gold in Athens in 2004, three golds in Beijing in 2008 and two in London. Below is a picture of Sir Chris leg pressing 631kg... now that’s impressive.

Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase – Mens lightweight Double Sculls 

Mark and Zac have been dominating the lightweight sculls for the previous three years leading up to the 2012 Olympics, winning European and World Championships. After a dramatic final, where the race had to be restarted due to Zac’s seat falling off their boat, they finished 2nd and won a silver medal.  Both pushed their bodies to the absolute limit, Mark had to be helped from the boat by British Olympic Rowing Legend Sir Steve Redgrave, and the interview, which can be seen by following the link below, is heart wrenching.


This just shows how much it means to win an Olympic gold medal.  Four years of dedication, hard work and sacrifice comes down to one race. Many of the British athletes who have ‘failed’ to win an Olympic gold have conducted interviews and apologised for their performance. In my opinion, becoming an Olympic athlete is an amazing achievement and it shows that you are at the pinnacle of your sport and a rarity in this country. The athletes have nothing to apologise for, they represent their country with pride and passion, where with other sports this could be severely questioned. I hope Zac and Mark are back in four years time to compete and win the gold medal in Rio in 2016.

Michael Phelps – Swimming

I have saved quite simply the best until last. Michael Phelps has amassed 22 Olympic Medals (18 gold) over four Olympic Games. He holds the largest amount of medals in the history of the Olympics and has bowed out at the very top of his sport, here at London 2012. Although Phelps got off to a shaky start, not medalling in his first event and then winning bronze. He came into his own and triumphed with 4 gold medals. Phelps himself believes that his record of 22 medals can be broken, I don’ think anyone has a chance...
With Great Britain overhauling their greatest medal count at these games, UK Sport and other National Governing Bodies have deemed the London 2012 Games a success. It has been enthralling to watch and I have been lucky enough to attend 6 different sports events live, the atmosphere has been electric at each one. With still a few days of competition left, and the Para-Olympics to come, London 2012 has been an amazing spectacle.

By Tom Cheeseman

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Olympic Water Polo Legends Visit Corinthia Hotel London

Corinthia Hotel London welcomed two very special guests today - Olympic legends, György Kárpáti & Alexander Tarics!

György Kárpáti has won 3 gold and 1 bronze medal for Hungary in Water Polo. At that time, he was considered the fastest water poloist in the world & won his first Olympic gold medal in 1952, at just 17 years old.

Alexander Tarics is the world’s oldest living Olympic gold medallist at 98 years old. The Hungarian Water Polo player particpated in the Berlin games in 1936 & is joining us in London to watch the 2012 London Olympic Games!

How fantastic to have such legendary athletes with us at Corinthia Hotel London!

Photo: György Kárpáti & Alexander Tarics in Massimo Restaurant & Oyster Bar.

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Water Polo: What Does It Take?

When you say polo, most peoples’ thoughts immediately turn to jumping & horses, elongated golf clubs, polite applause and Champagne.  However, mention water polo and most people are probably not sure what to expect! Let me tell you, it is the complete opposite of the horse-version!

These athletes are seriously fit! Olympic matches are split into 8 minute quarters - yet with stoppages and fouls, this is more like 12 minutes.  That’s 12 minutes where players have to tread water using the egg beater technique (a technique that uses alternate breast stroke leg kicks to keep the player upright).  This means that players require: power in their legs for individual kicks, endurance so that they can keep going for 48 minutes and flexibility, to allow them to move around the pool.  That is a lot to train for and it doesn’t even take into account the strength and power needed for the part of the game that is above the water!

Training-wise, anything that increases power in the legs is going to be ideal – then combine it with a proper set and rep range to build the muscular endurance that the sport requires.  I would recommend something like this:

The squats at the start are designed to increase power; they need to be performed with as much explosive force as you can create.  The idea is that you lift as much weight as you can but that you do it with speed.  There is no point in grinding out the reps slowly for this; speed is your main aim.

The kettlebell swing is going to help with your endurance - this is a repeated powerful movement, so you are going to start to building up some lactic acid and your muscles are going to be forced to learn how to manage that.  This is what will help get you through that final quarter.

The side lunge is an assistance exercise that is going to help reduce the risk of injury when performing the breast stroke kicks.  Lateral strength is tested by the rotary movement of the kick and so the side lunge will build strength for this movement.

Above all else for this sport - you are going to have to get in the pool and practice!

Thursday 2 August 2012

Meet the ESPA Life at Corinthia Running Club...

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.

Get ready to see some of London's key sights by foot!  See you soon, runners!