Speedflex Dubai

Last night I was invited down to JA Ocean View Hotel in JBR to try Speedflex for the first time.

What the heck is Speedflex I hear you holler?

Speedflex is a high intensity, low impact, circuit-based workout. There are 7 of the same machines set up in the room but each machine is used to perform a different exercise, focusing on different body parts. There is no need to adjust any machine before use as the machine responds to the force applied by each individual user, meaning the resistance is tailored to individual abilities. The harder you work, the more difficult the resistance!

Due to it’s low-impact nature it is suitable for any age or fitness and you avoid any next-day muscle soreness – admittedly I was skeptical about this when mid-class my arms were burning and my legs were shaking but nonetheless I was proven wrong when I woke up the next day feeling fresh! 🙂

When I arrived for my induction, my height and weight was measured and I was fitted with a heart rate monitor. The monitor was connected to two screens on either side of the room which showed my name, my heart rate and at what percentage of my maximal heart rate my body was working at. This was so throughout the class I could monitor and push myself, aiming to get my heart rate percentage up to 90% of its maximal, in line with the high intensity aspect of the workout.

Despite pushing and pushing myself unfortunately the maximum percentage I reached was 87% but as my instructor pointed out, as an already trained person it is more difficult for me to raise my heart rate unlike an untrained persons whose would raise very quickly. (I saw another class members hit 103% in the first circuit!)

After my induction which is 3 circuits of 30 seconds at each machine with only 5 seconds rest in between. It’s intense – but it was over in 12 minutes! Feeling brave (and pumped!) I decided to try a class after my induction, yes I was warned this may be a bit much, but never one to back away from a challenge I persisted!

That was all well and good until I discovered that the induction I had just done I was going to repeat now again for our warm-up! :O 30 minutes into the class my body had had enough but I was glad I gave it a go and boy could I feel it!

Each 45-minute class will vary depending on instructor and the circuit they choose to set up as well as the number of reps in each circuit. In the class you will not only use the machines but also other equipment like medicine balls and kettle bells. At the end of each session you can view your stats and have your instructor explain them to you. You can see how many calories you burned and how much time you spent working at different heart rate percentages – which the science geek in me loves!

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So what’s the verdict?

I liked the high intensity element which I have been trying to incorporate into my fitness regime of late. Also the low impact and no-next-day-soreness was a major win for me after another programme I tried recently left me unable to sit down for 3 days! (more on that later)

You get a serious sweat on and it hurts like hell while you are in the midst of it but it’s over really quickly and in the class there is more time for rest in between circuits.

The music is brilliant (I was tempted to ask for the playlist!) for making you push hard and feel energised.

There was a great atmosphere in our mixed group class of 7 and with each of us leading various circuits you don’t want to slack off and make everyone else endure longer just because you’re not giving 100%! That being said, class sizes vary and private classes are available which some people may be more comfortable with, particularly starting off.

Oh and did I mention the inductions are free of charge?!

Plus they have equipment to analyse body fat and composition so you can track your progress.

I would definitely recommend going down and giving it a go. For those short on time and wanting to maximise their workout in a motivating environment it’s ideal. As a workout that aims to make you leaner rather than building muscle I would be interested to see what long term bodily changes would occur with continued use.

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For more information check out:

http://speedflex.com/speedflex-centres/dubai

https://www.facebook.com/SpeedflexDubaiJBR

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How to Get In & Stay in Shape!

I’ve been wanting to write this post for quite some time. As a P.E. teacher, former international athlete and part-time model, fitness and keeping in shape has always been a huge part of my life.

I absolutely love sports. I love trying new ones and particularly anything that is outdoors, I want to get involved in. Running is my main sport and people often ask me if I run every day – I can assure you, I don’t. Your body needs rest equally as much as it needs exercise, in order to repair and recover. Only then can you improve.

Carrying out the same repetitive movements and exercise on your body day after day will not only lead to boredom and soreness from over-use of the same muscles but you will also plateau very quickly as your body too gets bored of the same daily routine and those miles you are slogging away don’t have half the effect they could if you varied your runs/activities throughout the week. Personally I like to run, on average, 3 times per week. I vary these runs so that one run may consist of 30 minutes sprint or hill training, one 30-40 minute steady-paced run and one long run, ranging between 60-90 minutes – I usually save this one for the weekend (mainly so I can climb back into bed after it!). However, on the other 4 days I will stay active in other ways. I love to swim, go walking, do some yoga (if you can’t afford classes, YouTube is your best friend, there are hundreds of fantastic tutorials on there); or even just give the house a really good clean! It all counts!

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With all that said, getting in and more importantly, staying in, shape is a lifestyle choice and a habit which you must adopt and adhere to. It can’t be about signing up for the latest trendy exercise class or quick fix fitness DVD.

There are also few people in the World who are ‘naturally skinny’.  Enter – Gwyneth Paltrow. Not that I fully agree with her very strict lifestyle but I appreciate her honesty and admittance that looking as good as she does, at her age, takes real effort.

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Another myth that I’d like to demystify is the overused excuse of a slow metabolism. A slow metabolism is in fact very rare. Genetics, too many calories, too little exercise and unhealthy habits such as not getting enough sleep are actually much more likely to contribute to excess weight.

So where to start? Well here are a few inspirational images and tips that might help..

 It really is..

267260559106903474_spxqOJ1H_fAs I already said, any movement counts – walk the dog, clean out your car, do some gardening, go grocery shopping and park the car as far away from the door as possible – or better still, if you can, walk there in the first place. Carrying those heavy shopping bags is a super arm workout! (Just make sure they’re filled with delicious healthy foods and don’t undo all your good work! Refer to my previous posts Food As Fuel and Well-being Through Food, for guidelines on what to fill your trolley with!)

When you can, always take the stairs. It’s about making the active choice, rather than the escalators or elevators or parking your car as close to your destination as possible.

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Next time you’re on the phone, rather than sitting on the couch, walk around the house or get outside and burn calories while you chat.

Meet friends for a walk, jog, swim or fitness class rather than a cup of coffee.

Join a fitness group – great for beginners and they have an added social bonus.

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Just remember the most difficult part is getting started..

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But once you get started you will begin to do these things and make active decisions automatically as they become your new habit.

And remember, best of all.. 

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Good Luck! X

Food as Fuel

I get a lot of messages from people asking me for advice on what kind of foods they should be eating. Some people want to change their habits to healthily lose a few pounds, others want to know what foods to eat when exercising so that they can fuel their bodies but not gain bulk. I decided to put together this post with some advice and information that might help.

First thing’s first, each and every one of us are individuals and what may work for one person may not for the next. I don’t do and never have done diets. Yes all diets work, they make you lose weight because they usually involve some drastic food changes for a short period of time. However, most people usually regain this weight (and more!) once they return to their normal lifestyle. Nutrition and our attitude towards food has to be about a sustainable, healthy way of life that is appropriate for the time and needs You have, rather than a ‘one size fits all’ diet.

Secondly, nutrition and well-being is not just about the food we eat. Sleep, water and exercise are so important. I cannot encourage all three enough. Exercise doesn’t have to be about grueling regimes or running marathons – literally any move will do. It is about leading an active lifestyle. Walking to work, parking the car further away from the shop, cleaning the house or washing your car by hand all count. Additionally surrounding yourself with the right people – those that are positive and uplift you and reducing your stress levels are vitally important. If you are stressed your body produces higher levels of the hormone cortisol which make our bodies cling to fat, particularly around the stomach area.

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It is important not only to eat well but to eat regularly. Snacking at regular intervals, every 2-4hours, throughout the day keeps our metabolism ticking over and avoids getting to a point where you are over-hungry and eat everything in sight. Eating three large meals in the day leaves our metabolism stagnant. Our now slowed metabolism is less efficient at breaking down these larger meals and this inefficiency leads to fat storage as our bodies cannot break down foods quickly enough to use as energy. This usually leads to us feeling sluggish after eating larger meals because our digestive system is under greater strain.

What to cut out? 

Cut out anything processed or chemically altered, e.g.: white rice, white bread. All of these have nasty additives and ‘flavourings’ that are toxic for our bodies because they are man-made and when ingested are identified as foreign-bodies which need to be removed. Our body then has to work extra hard to detoxify itself of these toxins. Be aware that many “healthy foods” are actually packed full of these additivies along with high levels of sugar. Just because something is marketed as healthy or sold in a health food store does not mean it actually is healthy. Case in point – granola/cereal bars. 

Read the labels. If you can’t pronounce or don’t recognise an ingredient on the label neither can your body and it’s going to have a hard time getting rid of it after it’s eaten. Any other refined sugars, sweets/crips, fizzy drinks should be cut out and meat and dairy should be limited. I know this may seem difficult at first but these products are taxing for our bodies to break down.They again slow digestion and suck our energy. Almond milk is the best dairy alternative and actually contains more calcium than cow’s milk. Store bought versions can often contain a lot of extra sugars and very little almond so make sure to read the label first. I like the Rude Health Almond Milk but ideally, making your own is best. Check out my Almond Milk recipe to discover how.

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No matter what you love to eat there are always alternative healthier ways to make these foods every bit, if not more delicious – you just need to learn how. 

What to include? 

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Whole foods! Fruit and veggies in every shape, colour and size. Whole grains such as quinoa, brown or wild rice; beans and legumes like chickpeas and lentils; potatoes – sweet and regular, nuts, seeds and dried fruits in moderation. Plus as many superfoods as possible. Top superfoods to include should be cacao, spirulina/chlorella, bee pollen, goji berries (known as the ‘longevity berry’ in Chinese medicine – *Tip* get this guy much cheaper in Asian markets rather than health food stores), maca, hemp, flax and chia seeds. All of which I will be regularly using in my recipes so you can understand their benefits and find out how to use them in really delicious ways!

 When Exercising..

Pre-exercise you should be eating low GI (glycemic index) food. These provide slow release energy and won’t spike your blood sugar levels. A great example is porridge before a morning workout.

Post-exercise: Contrary to popular belief we don’t need massive amounts of protein post-exercise. You need simple carbohydrates along with some protein. Approx 4 or 5 to 1 ratio. Foods should be high GI to replenish depleted glycogen stores – this is the name given to stored carbohydrates in our body that we take in from food and is readily available to use as fuel when needed. Good examples of high GI foods include bananas and brown rice.

Great Workout Snacks:

  • Rice/buckwheat cakes with mashed avocado, a squeeze of lemon and black pepper & boiled eggs (Pictured below is buckwheat cake with mashed avo, dried cranberries, za’atar and sprouts)

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  • Hummus and veggies or My Wheat-Free Bread with hummus or mashed avocado (see avo with za’atar & beetroot hummus below)

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  • Add a poached egg to the above recipe to increase protein and make it extra filling

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Banana date smoothie, figs & oat ball snacksPictured above is a Joyful-Almond Smoothie with fresh figs and homemade oat-balls

  • Coconut/greek yoghurt with berries and cinnamon (ensure its 100% greek yoghurt and not greek style) I added some mint leaves and cacao nibs to my cacao flavoured Coyo coconut yoghurt – available in health food stores; pictured below.

Coconut cacao yoghurt with mint & berries

  • Apple/pear slices with nut butter
  • My ‘Cleantella’ recipe or nut butter on my ‘Wheat-Free’ bread with banana (and some mashed raspberries & cinnamon as seen below)

Toast with mashed raspberries & banana

  • Oats with berries

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  • Eggs with a sprinkle of cayenne/turmeric (see information below for why); Place a slice of lean turkey breast in a bun-tray mould and fill with one egg then bake until the white is set for a real protein punch.

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  • Quinoa with veggies

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  • Chia seed pudding (chia seeds soaked in milk) with cinnamon banana, berries and some nuts

Chia pudding

  • Chocolate milk (post-exercise)- contains simple carbohydrates and protein for recovery; caffeine in chocolate also helps to relax and dilate blood vessels
  • Self-popped popcorn from whole kernels – not store-bought bag; seasoned with some cayenne, paprika or nutritional yeast for a cheesy taste (see my sweet potato falafel post for more info on this)

Snacks

  • If after exercising late at night – hot milk with cinnamon and a banana with almond butter is an excellent choice. Almonds, milk and bananas all contain chemicals that help boost sleep and it has a great mix of calcium, magnesium and fatty acids to aid muscle repair and joint pain.

Top Foods for Optimal Health:

Fruit & Veg:

  • Spinach/Kale
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado – high in healthy fats for muscle repair, keeps you fuller for longer and aids digestion
  • Sweet potatoes – higher in nutrients and lower in calories than regular potatoes
  • Beetroot – increases red blood cells, dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to muscles
  • Berries – antioxidants that help remove free radicals in the body that form after physical activity
  • Bananas – approx. 100 calories, easy to digest sugars, natural electrolytes & potassium to prevent muscle spasm/cramping make these a great choice for athletes
  • Cherries for muscle pain & inflammation and they boost sleep
  • Pineapple – muscle pain & inflammation, plus they help to reduce swelling/bruising; *Mangoes are also good

Grains:

  • Lentils, quinoa, brown/wild rice, amaranth, beans
  • Quinoa is actually a sprouted seed rather than a whole grain. It is a complex carbohydrate with almost twice as much protein as other whole grains. It is one of the only foods to contain all 9 amino acids our bodies need to build lean muscle and it helps to relax muscles and blood vessels making it ideal for post-exercise recovery.

Beans & Legumes:

  • Chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peas – great sources of plant-based/vegetarian forms of protein; they also contain no saturated fat (unlike meat) and are a great source of fibre, keeping you fuller for longer

Meat, Fish & Eggs:

  • Oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein and reduce inflammation. Aim to eat these twice a week to reap their benefits
  • Eggs –  great low calorie source of protein
  • Lean meats such as vension, turkey and chicken are good low-fat options

Dried Fruits, Nuts, Seeds & Oils:

  • Nuts in any shape or form (but never more than a small handful at any one time) or try them in nut milk or nut butter form – each provides wide and varied benefits but all contain protein and healthy fats.
  • Walnuts are calories dense which would make them more suitable for longer, endurance sports
  • Dried fruit (figs, prunes, cranberries, dates) are a great alternative to sugary sweets – they’re like nature’s candy! Enjoy them with nuts by making your own lunchbox trail mix and keep it in your bag/car for when hunger strikes and you need a quick snack on the go!

Homemade trail mix

  • Chia seeds – high in fibre, fatty acids, protein, calcium & anti-oxidants; they keep you fuller for longer and are great for hydration thanks to their expansion and absorption properties; they can also help stabilise blood sugar levels
  • Hemp – one of natures richest sources of complete protein, bettered only by spirulina; anti-inflammatory, fatty acids and fibre.
  • Tahini – made from ground sesame seeds which are a good source of iron
  • Coconut oil – cook everything with this. A little goes a long way. This superfood can actually boost metabolism and increase the energy our bodies use despite being high in saturated fat. **It also makes a great hair mask or body moisturiser.

Spices:

  • Cinnamon – helps control blood sugar levels and decrease fat storage
  • Ginger – anti-inflammatory, reduces muscle pain **Add ginger oil to a hot bath**
  • Cayenne – can help with joint pain and weight loss as it has been found to boost metabolism *Also chili/paprika
  • Turmeric – a powerful anti-inflammatory; I love adding this to omlettes, curries and even warm milk with some cinnamon, bee pollen and fresh grated ginger! *Liquid gold*

Baking alternatives:

  • Quinoa, brown rice, almond, coconut and buckwheat flours all make great baking alternatives

Natural sweeteners: 

  • Dates, honey, pure maple syrup, stevia (health food stores) and ripe bananas

Drinks:

  • Green tea – provides caffeine for performance and contains flavonoids for recovery
  • Coconut (water/milk) – one of the highest sources of electrolytes to help replace salts lost through sweat when exercising. It also improves digestion, increases metabolism and coconut milk is high in healthy fats.

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Supplements:

  • Supplements such as spirulina or chlorella  are great additions to smoothies to provide iron especially if you are a female athlete as our red blood count tends to be lower and this means a reduction in the amount of oxygen being carried to our cells. **Spirulina contains the highest concentration of protein on the planet. It is anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, amino acid containing and all round super-duper-food!
  • Maca – has a milk nutty taste and is excellent energy source (add to morning smoothies rather than later in the day so it doesn’t disrupt sleep patterns)
  • Cacao – yes chocolate in it’s unprocessed form is the number 1 antioxidant in the world! Found to boost energy and aid weight loss.
  • Fish oil tablets for joints – especially if not a fish fan

 

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At the end of the day – enjoy your food!  Don’t try and adopt all these changes at once. Small steps are key. Try one new superfood at a time and see what suits your body. Embrace whole foods and throw away anything with additives. When you do you won’t believe how quickly your body can metabolise what you eat and by being able to do this – how much energy you’ll have!

 

*Extra Info  & Helpful Diagrams*

This link I think is fantastic. I would strongly recommend having a look at it. It has 24 really nice easy to follow diagrams that are educational and make eating healthy very achievable. Check it out: Diagrams To Make Eating Healthy SuperEasy

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