Higher Tone

Variety is the spice of life and the fuel for fitness


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Get fit in Roath Park

Roath Park in Cardiff is the ideal setting to kick-start your January fitness regime and keep you motivated all year long. This popular park retains its classic Victorian charm and attracts runners and fitness enthusiasts from all over Cardiff. The vast playing fields, pleasure gardens and stunning 2.1km running track around Roath Lake makes this park the perfect setting for outdoor based exercise classes. The Terra Nova Cafe and Penylan Community Centre also provide leisure facilities for indoor classes, especially during the winter months. I will endeavour to introduce you to a number of different and unique classes based in Roath Park which were highly recommended to me from a variety of people committed to fitness in Cardiff.


roath park

Roath Park is an idyllic setting for an exercise class or jog.

  

Outdoor Fitness Ltd

When: Monday and Wednesday at 18:15, Friday at 18: 15 for high intensity threshold training.

Where: Roath Rec playing fields, meet at the Penylan Library and Community Centre.

This challenging outdoor fitness programme combines cross-training with military training techniques and endurance work.  Every class is different, but the aim is to provide a general level of fitness which could be applied to any sport.  The ability groups are not split up, instead everyone works together so you could have an unfit 40-year-old training next to a young athlete.  The instructor will demand different numbers of repetitions from people depending on whether they have a basic, intermediate, advanced or elite level of fitness and experience.  Expect sprint intervals, military style burpees, planks, press-ups and rolling around in the dark and mud.

“This class will push you to your absolute limit and beyond.” – Catherine Morgan

Outdoor Fitness held their first classes in Roath Park in 2008 and since then the sessions have grown in popularity and expanded to other parks in Cardiff including Pontcanna playing fields, Ynysangharad Park in Pontypridd and Morgan Jones  Park in Caerphilly.  The community has grown to more than 100 members and there are a number of affiliated running clubs and triathlon cycling and swimming groups.  The high intensity threshold training (HITT) session is based on the Tabata method of short, maximum intensity exercise bursts with a short recovery period.  This workout will hit your anaerobic threshold hard and provide effective cardiovascular training.  A typical class will only last between 10 to 20 minutes, but it will be some of the hardest minutes of your life.

“Outdoor fitness classes are designed to build self-esteem, confidence and also add a social aspect to your workout.  Our ethos is to have fun whilst getting fit.” – Jeff Webb Managing Director of Outdoor Fitness

Exercising outdoors adds variety and energy to your workout and it has been proved to boost levels of endorphins and serotonin during and after exercise.  It can be extremely invigorating and place you in an almost euphoric state.  The Roath Park Outdoor Fitness classes attract a high standard of people, but the instructors make sure to cater for all fitness ability levels and the first class is free.

Fit 4 Two and Buggy Fit 

When: Monday and Friday at 10:00 for Buggyfit, Saturday 9:30 for Fit Chicks Bootcamp

Where: Meet at the children’s play area by Roath Park Lake

Website: http://www.fit4two.org.uk/index.html

buggy fit

A buggyfit class in action next to Roath Park Lake

“I don’t know why anyone would want to train inside.  Roath Park is the perfect location.” – Clare Wheeler, Founder of Fit 4 Two

The Buggy Fit class is a total body workout, combining cardio with resistance band exercises, core training and a specific focus on pelvic floor muscles.  It is ideal for new mothers who want to get back into shape and still spend time with their child as the babies are brought along for the ride.  The Saturday morning bootcamp is a more challenging session which includes boxing, kettlebells and lots of abs work.  Roath Park is the ideal setting because the gradient is varied and there are a number of little hills and benches for stretching.  There are so many different routes in the surrounding area, so you could never get bored.

These classes are designed for women who want to focus on their fitness before, during and especially after pregnancy.  Fit 4 Two has been incredibly popular, with the average attendance at 15 to 25 per class, sometimes reaching as high as 35.    New mothers are encouraged to wait at least 6 weeks after a normal delivery and 10-12 weeks after a Caesarean section before they start to exercise, but this completely depends on the individual.  It is best to build your fitness level back up slowly and steadily after giving birth and not rush into a demanding routine.

“I am passionate about helping new mums get back into shape and encouraging them to feel better about themselves.” – Clare Wheeler

Bootcamp Pilates

When: Everyday except Sunday, see timetable:

http://balance-fitness.weebly.com/timetable.html

Where: Terra Nova Cafe next to Roath Park Lake

Balance1

The Terra Nova Cafe is a beautiful venue for a pilates bootcamp class

This unique class combines tough kettlebells strength and endurance training with the flexibility and toning elements of Pilates.  The founder of Balance Fitness, Michael Jones, describes the session as combining the Eastern and Western principles in a mind and body pursuit.  The high number of repetitions associated with kettlebells training really improves endurance and cardiovascular fitness levels.  Michael Jones decided to integrate kettlebells with pilates to combine two different ideologies and demonstrate how different disciplines can compliment eachother.

“My classes are designed to help people workout more intelligently” – Michael Jones

The Terra Nova Cafe is an idyllic and tranquil setting for an exercise class with a beautiful view over Roath Park Lake.  The bootcamp class was brought to a close with a number of toning and balancing Pilates moves, designed to test core strength and flexibility.  Michael Jones is looking to add more of a social and community element to the classes both at the Terra Nova Cafe and The Discovery Pub as group classes can have a real sense of camaraderie.  He has 12 years of experience in personal training and fitness instruction in Cardiff and was incredibly helpful with technique throughout the session.

The Terra Nova Cafe is also home to a Yoga for wellbeing class.

Nordic Walking 

When: Everyday except Sunday, see timetable:

http://balance-fitness.weebly.com/timetable.html

Where: Meet at the Terra Nova Cafe in Roath Park or St Isans Road
roath
Nordic walking is a form of high-intesnity walking with specially designed poles.  The concept and technique were developed as a form of off-season ski-training activity.  This sport really helps to build upper body strength and improve endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Balance Fitness offers a number of Nordic walking classes and founder Michael Jones is hoping to build more of a community and social feel around the activity.

“Nordic walking is such a great group sport. I’m really trying to build a community around the classes in Roath Park.” – Michael Jones

Penylan Library and Community Centre

This community centre can be found at the end of the Roath Rec playing field and it offers classes ranging from Zumba to spinning.  A full list of all the exercise classes can be found here:

http://apps2.cardiff.gov.uk/leisureactivities/new_brochure_online.php?lang=ENG&brochure_id=75

Fancy a run?

Roath Park is the perfect location for a 5km run as the terrain is fairly flat and there is a track around the playing fields, through the gardens and around Roath Park Lake.  The route is fairly popular and you will have the chance to take in some stunning scenery.

Here is a map of a suggested route:


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Top 10 fitness trends for 2013

My exercise predictions for 2013:

1) Crossfit

This is a hardcore strength and conditioning programme used to train the armed forces and athletes.  You can burn up to 15 calories a minute with this intense workout which involves timed challenges with squats, push-ups, gymnastic rings, intense runs and weightlifting.

http://www.crossfit.com/

2) ViPR: Whole-body movement

vipr

ViPR stands for “vitality, performance and reconditioning.”  You use a one metre high rubber tube that comes in seven weights, from four to 20 kg in a range of movements.

3) Outdoor gyms

make sport fun
Image courtesy of: Makesportfun.com
Hundreds of public parks throughout the UK now have exercise machines which are completely FREE to use.  This is one way to beat the crowds in your local gym.

4) Suspension training 

suspension
The is a type of strength training which uses a system of ropes and webbing called a “suspension trainer” to allow the user to work against their own body weight.

5) Rebound exercise

jumping
Rebound exercise is a great way to tone up and get in shape, FAST.  It can help to increase agility, reduce body fat and provide a fun aerobic workout.

6) Kettlebell workout

kettlebells

Kettlebell exercises build strength and endurance, particularly in the lower back, legs, and shoulders and the basic movements engage the entire body at once.  Kettlebell classes often involve large numbers of repetitions and you will really see the results.

7) Small group training 

SmallGroup_main
The idea of having one instructor to a group of between 4 to 10 is exploding in gyms all over the country.  It gives you the personalised attention of personal training (for much less money), plus the motivation and camaraderie of a group session.

8) Tabata training

Want to get fit fast but think you don’t have the time?  Try the exercise craze sweeping the nation, tabata.  The high-intensity workout, typically involves 20 seconds exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest, repeated continuously for 4 minutes or 8 cycles.  This fat burning miracle will burn calories fast, but it is not for the faint-hearted.

9) Fusion classes

aerial yoga

Fusion classes will be perfect for you if you’re feeling frustrated with your usual exercise routine.  Classes such as piloxing (pilates and boxing), water aerobics and aerial yoga sound hilarious.  They will also help you to train and tone a wider range of muscles.

10) Women and weights

This is one fitness trend that is here to stay.  More and more women are starting to introduce weights into their workout.  Lifting weights also helps to burn stored fat, increases muscle tone, bone density, and self-confidence.


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New Year, New You

How to make your New Year’s fitness resolution count this January.

fitness

Queues for the showers, zero mat space and a line for the treadmills which will take longer than the time you’re allowed to spend on it?  It must be January at the gym.  Every year this predictable phenomenon occurs due to thousands of individuals signing up to yearly gym memberships, full of good intentions for the New Year.  You can already start to see the numbers diminish in late January and by mid-February, things are back to normal.

I’m here to try and help you keep on track of your New Year fitness and health goals with a number of hints and suggestions:

1) Set a REALISTIC goal

Start by having an honest conversation with yourself and decide on a resolution which is achievable within a certain deadline.  It’s no good pretending you will have the time to run 10 miles everyday if you have a demanding job or schedule.  The number one killer for a New Year’s resolution is placing too much pressure on yourself.

Set a realistic deadline, for example: I would like to work my way up to a half marathon within 4 months.  The deadline can easily be changed along the way depending on your level of commitment and progress.

Take the next few days to set out your game plan.

dream

One of the easiest ways to stay on target over the next few months is to sign up to an event.  This will introduce a competitive element and added incentive to your training.  I’ve always been tempted by the gruelling Tough Guy competition, but this would involve an exhausting training programme and I’m not sure how well I would cope with burning obstacles and pools of freezing water.

If you think you’re up for a challenge, check it out:

http://www.toughguy.co.uk/    

Don’t go it alone

It can be really helpful to enlist the help of a training partner to keep you motivated and positive.  The alternative is to join a running/ cycling/ exercise group to make your workout more enjoyable and sociable.

Choose something you actually enjoy

This is probably the most obvious, but the most important piece of advice.  It’s best to focus on an activity, sport or form of exercise which you know you can really throw yourself into and have fun at the same time.

2) Track and reward your progress

My goal this year is to keep a workout log to make sure I meet my targets.

There are a few different ways to keep track of your progress such as the Nike Plus iPod Sports Kit.  This incredible device transforms your iPod into a personal trainer by providing real-time, spoken feedback that alerts you to workout milestones.  It fits inside your trainer and you can then track time, distance, pace, and calories burned by transmitting the information wirelessly to your device for instant feedback.  You can see it here on my Christmas gift wish list:

https://highertone.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/top-10-fitness-inspired-christmas-gift-ideas/

Another option is the Nike + Sports Watch which is easy to use and gives you great running data.

watch

Reward yourself with a little treat- a new gadget, running accessory or new music each time you pass a milestone.

3) Kick one bad habit

I’ll be giving up sweets for as long as I can bear.  What’s your weakness?

4) Go the distance

There’s always the opportunity to go further and train harder than you anticipated.  Don’t be put off by the January crowds in the gym.  Wait it out and you will be rewarded.  Remember- no one ever regretted a workout.

gym

My local gym at 5pm on 29th January

This really surprised me.  Saturday at 5pm is usually prime time, but clearly people have not decided to kick-start their New Year’s resolutions. Gyms are often really quiet around midday or late in the evening, so try and target the less busy times during January.

6) Change it up

Alongside your main fitness routine, try some additional exercise classes to avoid getting stuck in a fitness rut.  It is very easy to get bored of your usual workout, especially if your are just running alone or going to the gym.  Try a group fitness class, the camaraderie really helps, especially if you are lacking motivation.

What is your New Year’s Resolution?

I’d love to hear from you.  The 3 most inspirational goals will be posted up on Higher Tone on January 1st.  Feel free to send me as many as you like.


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12 Days of Christmas Workout

Christmas, traditionally a time of gluttony, overindulgence and excess can often result in festive fun turning into festive fat.

fat santa 2

You can enjoy a guilt-free holiday with a sneaky but intense 5 minute workout, repeated just once a day for the 12 days of Christmas.  This high-intensity program will improve cardiovascular fitness, endurance and even initiate calorie after-burn (when you continue to burn fat even after you’ve stopped exercising, ideal).  This means you can indulge and feast on mince pies and egg-nog to your heart’s content.

So here is my Christmas present to you, the 12 Days of Christmas Workout.  Be warned, it’s a killer.

Everyone probably already knows this song, but if not, the program works in a cumulative way.  This means you do exercise 1 once, then 1 and 2 (with 2 repeated twice), then 1,2 and 3 (with 3 repeated 3 times), continuing until exercise 12.  When you have completed all the exercises, repeat the whole workout in full once more.

1) Burpee x1

2) Side plank and reach under (one on each side-hold for 5 seconds)

3) Sit-ups x3

4) Lunges x4 alternating legs

5) Press-up x5

6) Leg Raises x6 alternating legs

7) Squats x7

8) Reverse Lunges x8

9) Star jumps/ jumping jacks x9

10) High speed high knees x10

11) Leg extensions (either alternate legs or both together for advanced) x11

12) Bicycle crunches x12

Burpee

  1. Drop into a squat position with your hands on the ground
  2. Extend your feet back in one quick motion to assume the front plank position.
  3. Return to the squat position in one quick motion
  4. Return to standing position. 

How to video:

Side Plank and reach under

How to video:

You can either have your arm straight (as shown in the video) or bent with the lower arm resting on the floor.  This exercise will really strengthen and tone your core muscles.

Sit-up

If you want a flat and toned tummy, this is the exercise for you, as the move will strengthen both your hip flexors and abdominal muscles.

IMG_1341

Bicycle Crunches

This is a tough exercise, but it is the best to target your rectus abdominis and give you rock hard abs.


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The Art of Kicking Ass

Martial Arts have an impressive number of exercise and health benefits as well as being great forms of self-defence, stress relief and a boost to confidence.

martial arts

Benefits

1) Cardiovascular health- high intensity martial arts exercise programs and fights will significantly increase your heart rate and test your rate of recovery.

2) Reflexes– to be a good martial artist, you must have very fast reflexes. Research has found that by participating in martial arts, you not only improve your reflexes while performing the activity, but actually experience faster reaction times in other every day activities.

3) Increased muscle tone- by participating in martial arts, you can greatly improve the amount of muscle mass in your body and consequently look more toned.  The higher your muscle mass, the higher your metabolic demands will be which means you will burn more calories each day.  High levels of muscle mass also lead to increased agility.

4) Weight Loss- during martial arts classes and fights you will burn a high number of calories with the diverse range of movements and footwork.

5) Improved Mood-  you will definitely leave any martial arts class on a high.  Performing martial arts is a great way to relieve stress and frustration.  The endorphins released by physical activity appear to be active in your body for as many as four hours after exercise.

kickboxing-woman-abs

With so many different types to choose from how do you decide?

Unarmed martial arts can be broadly grouped into techniques focused on strikes and grappling:

1) Strikes: Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Taekwondo, Kickboxing, Karate, Capoeira and Boxing

2) Grappling: Jujutsu, Judo, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Wrestling etc

It’s also a good idea to decide whether you just want a good workout without learning any intricate moves of techniques.  If this is the case then it might be better just to try a Kettle-bell workout class or cardio kickboxing.

If you want to be the next Jade Jones (2012 Olympic gold medallist), then try:

TAEKWONDO

Olympic Games 2012 Taekwondo

Jade Jones (blue) won the 2012 Olympic gold medal in Taekwondo and the BBC Cymru Sports Personality of the Year

Translated from Korean, “TAE” literally means to jump, kick or smash with the foot, “KWON” means to punch or destroy with the hand or fist and “DO” means art, way or method.

This sport will really improve your co-ordination and flexibility.  Many of the moves require core and spinal strength for upright kicking moves. Range of hip and shoulder motion is also important, as is balance. Whether balancing on one foot, performing a front or side kick, or striking, many moves require your legs and arms to work together to either defend or attack.

Taekwondo is all about the kicks, so it is really important to target, strengthen and stretch your hamstrings.

One Leg Dead-lift Balance (from about.com):

onelegdeadliftbalance

  1. Stand on the left leg with the right foot slightly back, resting on the toe.
  2. Hold a weight or barbell in front of the thigh and tip from the hips, keeping the back straight and the abs braced, bring the weight towards the floor.
  3. At the same time, lift the right leg up as you lower the weight, taking the leg up to hip level.
  4. Squeeze the glutes of the left leg to pull back up and repeat for 8-16 reps before switching sides.
  5. Keep the move slow and controlled and concentrate on keeping your balance at the same time you keep the core braced. If you feel wobbly, keep the back foot on the floor.

Taekwondo classes in Cardiff:

United Taekwondo International Wales: Wednesday and Fridays at 6:30

St Peter’s RFC, Minster Road, Roath

Cardiff North Taekwondo

http://cardiffnorthtkd.com

Training at Heath Sports and Social Club, Heath Park on Sundays and Wednesdays.

Cardiff Martial Arts

Training at Channel View Leisure Centre, Llanrumney High School and Pontprennau Community Centre

http://www.cardiffmartialarts.com

KICK-BOXING

kickboxing

Kickboxing is a great way to target your core muscles

This will really knock out the boredom from your workout and blast body fat fast with a range of toning and body-sculpting moves.

Kick-boxing burns an average of 500 calories an hour, some estimate 810.  The exercise targets your arms, shoulders, abs, thighs and bum all in one workout.  It is also an incredible form of stress release.

Kickboxing keeps you moving at an intensity that you probably not be able to replicate while doing cardio exercise on your own, so take advantage of the group energy of the workout to get the most out of this form of exercise.

Roundhouse Kick

kickboxing

Warning: Do not perform this move without first thoroughly warming up and stretching

The roundhouse move is a as your leg moves in an arc.

  1. Stand with right foot forward in fighting stance.
  2. Bend your right knee bringing your heel towards the glutes and pivot on the left foot, turning your hips to the left.  This is not shown in the picture.
  3. Strike from right to left in an arc with right foot, extending kick from knee, toes pointed.
  4. Retract and return to fighting stance.

Classes in Cardiff

Vitality Gym:

Wednesday 20:00-21:15

http://www.vitalitygyms.co.uk

This class will really help you to bring strict discipline to your everyday life.

Cardiff Karate and Kickboxing Academy

http://cardiffkarateandkickboxing.com

These award-winning classes are designed for men and women of all abilities and ages.

Boxing and Boxercise

Boxercise is an addictive exercise class based on the training concepts boxers use to keep fit.  A typical class may involve shadow-boxing, skipping, hitting pads, kicking punchbags, press-ups, shuttle-runs and sit-ups. Most boxercise classes are aimed at men and women of all ages and fitness standards.  It is a fun, challenging and safe workout because no class actually involves hitting an opponent.

Woman boxing and exercising

Bonus:

Increased mental agility and decision-making

Improved hand-eye coordination

Increased stamina: High-level boxing boxing is around 70%-80% anaerobic (high-intensity) and 20%-30% aerobic, therefore training increases stamina in heart and lungs

Raised core strength: To take a punch and hold your balance, your abdominals need to be strong and toned – this strong core stability can reduce the risk of back pain and improve posture

Arm Exercise

Strengthen your upper body and blast those bingo wings with:

Tricep Dips:

  1. Sit with your back to a bench or chair and have your legs either bent (beginner-shown in picture) or straight (advanced)
  2. Place hands on the bench so they are pointed towards you
  3. Raise body up into a seated position
  4. Bend elbows out behind you to lower your bum to the floor
  5. Push back up until arms are straight
Classes in Cardiff:
Elite Fitness       http://www.elitefitness.co.uk/
Boxercise– punch your way through a variety of pad work and bag exercises.
Friday 17:30 with Kyle
Pads and Abs– a studio based women’s only boxing and Ab’s workout with pumping music.  Get ready for your summer vest top and leave on a high.
Tuesday 17:30
Boxfit Express– Learn to box and get your body fighting fit.
Monday 18:45
Or
Vitality Gym
Boxercise 17:15