Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Weight Training and Fat Loss

I just had a conversation with my dad. He lives in England, I in Australia so speaking on the phone is our most regular form of contact. We touch upon many subjects and today was one close to my heart and one of which I am quick to offer advice.

Dad was talking about embarking upon a 'diet', to which I asked how long this 'diet' would last for? We then chatted for a while and I explained that he needed to commit to a 'lifestyle change' rather than going on a diet. The ice-cream that had become such a solid fixture in his freezer may have to find itself remaining in the supermarket freezer section and he would have to learn a new route home from work that didn't involve driving through the local KFC or McDonald's. Maybe I'm being a little harsh, it has been a long time since I have lived with my dad to comment too closely on his eating habits but you get the drift. The re-emergence of not so clever eating habits would see his new diet come to a miserable end - not part of the plan I imagine. I want to see him turn his meal times around and send me his before and after shots, I want my dad to be around to enjoy my son for many years to come.

We also touched upon his planned exercise, so, to my dad, along with the newly inspired mum's out there I dedicate today's post.

Weight training and fat loss can be a confusing subject. As a Personal Trainer I come across many people who believe they need to lose 'weight' before embarking upon a resistance program. Another common preconception is that it is enough to eat less and just do cardiovascular exercise in order to lose 'weight'. Technically maybe they are right, they will probably lose 'weight'. We just need to ensure the weight being lost is coming from body fat and the only way to do this is first to find our starting point and track the changes. To do this we use tools such as Body Composition (touched upon in earlier posts - also see link for more details), skin folds are another good tracking tool if you don't have access to something like Body Composition. Jumping on the scales every week is just not enough - they don't give you enough information.

By using diet and Cardiovascular exercise alone you are missing out on a very important component..... resistance or weight training. Weight training is often associated with building muscle and increasing strength, what is not always recognised is the impact weight training has on fat loss.

Weight training increases your lean body mass. Increasing your lean body mass speeds up your metabolic rate, therefore causing you to burn more energy when you are resting - and the amount of energy you burn while you are resting is proportional to the amount of lean body mass you carry. If you use Cardiovascular activity alone your body will begin to breakdown your lean muscle to use for fuel, therefore reducing your lean body mass and reducing your metabolic rate and the speed at which your body burns fat. Weight training causes your metabolic rate to remain increased post workout and you continue to burn fat way after you have put the weights to bed.

So now you know you need to do resistance exercise you also need to know that the program you begin on will not continue to give you results forever. You will need to change it up in order to re-challenge your muscles and continue to see gains. Your muscles will adapt and become more efficient at doing your program, the same program that caused you to hobble down the stairs due to your quads being so tired or saw you hovering over the toilet seat because your glutes and hamstrings hurt for days will not always give you the same results. You will need to change your program every 6-12 weeks depending upon your level of experience - so those of you who have been lifting weights but doing those same weights for the last 6 months and seem to have hit a plateau - keep lifting the weights but its time to make it tough again - change your reps, sets, increase your weights - anything to shock your body and cause it to work hard again.

It is always useful to ask the advice of a qualified fitness professional when embarking upon or changing your programs. Feel free to post a comment, ask a question or contact me at fineforminfo@bigpond.com and I will do my best to answer any queries you may have, you might even want to join one of my outdoor group training sessions held in Centennial Park. I have mum's and bub's sessions during the week along with a Saturday morning session for anyone who wants to join in and get fit, healthy and sexy for summer. You may also want to check out the website of a good friend of mine Jessica Taylor, she offers both pre and postnatal training also within Sydney's Eastern suburbs - see the link in the sidebar.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Friday night is Chocolate night!

I am ticking off a positive week, ok so there are two more days to go before the week is over but tonight is chocolate night so I feel I have achieved something! Having said that I am hoping it is chocolate night I as forgot to place my order with my darling husband (hopefully he knows me too well!)

What is my point? I recently came across a forum on 'non dieting'. I believe the typical meaning of a diet is something that you 'do' for a certain period of time to lose some weight, say four weeks, maybe five if you are disciplined enough, two if it didn't go so well, you then go back to eating as you previously did and the weight lost creeps back on. "No wonder" I hear most of you say, but many people get stuck in this cycle, trying every new 'diet' in the hope that something will eventually work. How can these things work if ultimately old habits re-emerge.

Now the women in the 'non-dieting' forum had varying versions of a similar concept - they all embarked upon a lifestyle change. They have no intention of doing something for a little while then going back. Not all of their theories were the same, there was some discussion about what worked for each person but everyone agreed the way to go was to change for good and to do it in a manageable way, not one that requires HUGE amounts of discipline leaving you feeling you like you have failed if you 'fall off the wagon'.

For me, I try to eat as clean as I can - eating foods that are as close to their natural state as possible, fresh fruits and veggies, protein and grains. As much non processed food as possible. I am vegetarian so yes I do add the odd protein shake or bar to supplement but no more than 1/3 of my diet would come from these sources. I then indulge in my Friday night chocolate night and a takeaway from time to time - yep, even a good Indian takeaway with all the extras - but in moderation. And you should too, do what you need to do to make your lifestyle change just that, for life, not just a quick fix. And when you do enjoy your little treats, enjoy them, don't feel guilty! I'm off to check the fridge!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Its all in the Jeans

So Centennial Park greeted me this morning in a pool of sunshine - I was lucky my husband was home to enjoy time with his son while I escaped for some me time and a run that didn't have to be adapted for a stroller. Running always creates a good amount of head space and my mind began to wander........ to my wardrobe of all places..........

I don't know about you but I always feel good when I look great in that perfect pair of jeans. I realised that I have in my wardrobe, probably like most women a variety of pairs of jeans. I could very possibly open a small shop. They are not even all in the same size. We start on the right hand side with the maternity jeans, then we have the stretchy size 12's followed by the non stretchy size 12's, we then work our way all the way to the left and down to a size 7.

Now please don't think I have gone completely mad and rushed out and bought descending jean sizes in the hope of shrinking to fit into each one, in fact all those pairs of jeans at some stage of my life have been the 'perfect' fit.

From the size 12 on my 21st birthday when I was just emerging from the time in my late teens where I continued to consume the same amount of not so nutritious food that I did despite my parents best efforts throughout high school whilst simultaneously dropping the amount of physical activity I was doing to almost zero. Oh, and what about the calorie laden alcohol that I liked to consume on an empty stomach only to fill up on chips and pizza at 3am. Then don't forget the cold left overs for breakfast. No wonder the kilo's piled on!

Around that time I discovered the gym, a different gym to the one I spent hours of my earlier youth perfecting back flips, handstands and somersaults. This gym had weights, treadmills, x-trainers, you name it, it had it. Bit by bit the gym became an important part of my life. I could run when it was raining and stay perfectly dry, I learnt to lift weights until my legs wobbled and I struggled to dry my hair the next day because my muscles were so tired and sore - it felt fantastic, I hadn't trained that hard since my gymnastics days. And there began my journey from my size 12 jeans to my size 7's. I should mention I also had a good hard look at my eating habits - deciding to drop the big pasta dishes and the nightly bowl of ice-cream with mint flavored ice magic!!!

Lucky for me I had the foresight to keep hold of those pairs of jeans (I hate to throw out clothes "just in case"). I haven't yo yo-ed in size it was more of a gradual decline and now I have the perfect visual tool to share with you!

I have already felt the excitement of a pair of jeans not fitting one week and miraculously fitting the next in the few weeks after Marley's birth - I can't wait to show off my next 'new' pair of jeans soon - I'll keep you posted on how I'm going. Maybe this calls for some more photos!!!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Run, walk, jog, cycle, row, climb

Week 1 day 2 and I'm happy. I have had a pretty good past two days and feel I have gotten off to a great start. The sun is shining again this afternoon which always puts a nice perspective on the world.

I thought I would start to share my training plan with you today. I had an awesome workout this morning and it always fills me with enthusiasm, I love the buzz you get from a great session and its awesome to be able to get my heart rate up after 9 months of slowing down my training.

I am aiming to complete 2-3 resistance training sessions and 3-4 Cardio sessions per week.

My plan looks a little like this:

Mon - Cardio - steps (the steps just off the board walk in Coogee are my favorite and Marley seems to enjoy hanging out in the Babybjorn and coming along for the ride)

Tue - Gym - Full body workout

Wed - Cardio - run/walk - if you are running with a pram or stroller find a path that is relatively flat you don't want little heads bumping around too much. I find Centennial Park is great for this.

Thurs - Gym/Park Full body workout

Friday - Cardio - Steps

Sat/sun - Gym if possible and a nice walk with my boys

So, lets talk the different types of training. Essentially you have Cardiovascular activity and Resistance or weight training. Today I am talking Cardio. Aerobic exercise is a fantastic tool when your goal is to lose body fat. The term aerobic means exercise with oxygen. For fat to be burned oxygen must be used and for oxygen to be used the activity must be sustained for a prolonged period. If an activity cannot be sustained for a longer period i.e sprints. it is called anaerobic.

So........walking, jogging, running, cycling, stair climbing, rowing are all classed as cardio or aerobic activities. Most people will find that continuous aerobic activity for 30 minutes or more will be effective for fat loss. "So can I take a casual stroll for 30 minutes and expect to burn fat?" I hear you say. You can, and to an extent yes it will, however as time restricted mums it might be better to use your precious time more effectively and work at a higher intensity.

The optimal heart rate zone for fat burning is generally between 60-80% of your maximum heart rate.

A simple and generalised way of calculating your maximum heart rate is 220 - your age.

i.e you are 30 years old, so, 220 - 30 = 190, your estimated maximum heart rate is 190

then 60 - 80% of 190 is 114 - 152 bpm

It is handy to know these figures but it is important to listen to your body, how it feels and how it is responding to your training. Another good test is the talk test - If you are in your target heart rate zone then you will be breathing more heavy than usual, but not so heavy that you are hyperventilating. You should be able to hold a conversation without gasping for air. Pretty much the harder you are breathing the more fat you will burn BUT only so long as you can sustain your chosen activity for the required amount of time. (30+ mins but no more than 60mins)

Do make sure you have been doing your pelvic floor exercises and have had your postnatal check ups before heading out for a run - yes, I like everyone else want to get back into tip top condition but it is not worth risking injury or bladder problems! Check out the Pelvic Floor link if you haven't already done so.

Right now I'm off to check on my little boy then to put my feet up - ready to hit the pavement tomorrow, maybe I'll see you there!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chocolate and doughnuts

I have been thinking today about the things I am sharing with you, about how in depth I will be. About ensuring I don’t put on a persona that makes it appear that I am cruising through the next twelve weeks with my target in sight. It may look like that from time to time but I can tell you now and I will tell you then that it will not always be so. I am a very focused person when I put my mind to something – I put myself on a track and although at first it is often hard to stay on board the longer I persist the easier it becomes. I know I will be deterred at times and I know I will be in situations that will make it difficult for me to stick to my planned eating or training habits but I will always have a choice – ‘the fish and chips or the grilled fish and salad?’, ‘to go for my planned morning run or not?’

Yes my life now has a new priority and he will always come first, if my son needs me I will be there and if that means I miss my gym session then so be it. Having said that I can prioritise other parts of my life where possible, and for me, getting back into shape and feeling fit, healthy and strong is a priority. Summer is looming and I want to look great and to feel good about myself – I want to feel attractive to my husband, I want to turn the odd head in the street and know my hard work has paid off.

When attempting to change my eating habits I am challenged by just that – my eating habits, I was in pretty good shape and had a good diet prior to and throughout my pregnancy, however since I was getting bigger and my tastes were changing week to week I became slightly more lax about the little extras, allowing myself the tim tam (or 7), the whole block of chocolate, the doughnut or two (not quite sure what that was about!) I have a sweet tooth and I know it – I now have to re-create my habits, and after a while I won’t miss these things so much. I will enjoy cheat meals maybe once or twice a week – though cheat meals I must stress not whole cheat days!!!

I went back to the gym 6 weeks after my son was born and started by taking things easy, ensuring I didn’t go too hard too fast, listening to my body and acting accordingly, making sure I was doing the basics (pelvic floor/core exercises). I’m feeling stronger now and ready for this challenge. Always listen to your body, especially after it has been through such an amazing and physically challenging time, move at your own pace and cover your bases – risking injury is not worth it in the long run. Seek help where you need it and mostly enjoy your process. I hope you enjoy mine too.


Another amazing day in Sydney! Does this mean summer has arrived? I hope so, there is nothing better than starting the day with some exercise in the warm morning sun, you always feel so much better for the day ahead - I find I look better too, I think its the extra bit of colour in my face and the skip in my step that comes from getting the blood pumping. Always a good thing, especially given Marley has taken to waking up for an extra feed the last few nights!

My husband and I have been running a Saturday morning group fitness session for the last 5 months, we began in the depths of winter (and my pregnancy) and are now relishing coming out the other side with a bunch of participants who didn’t drop their form despite the cold months and will soon be bikini ready and hitting the beach. This morning I greeted my group in Centennial Park ready to go, the sun on our backs, beginning the weekend in the best possible way and enjoyed an awesome sweat session! Well done guys.

So today I wanted to touch on a question that is often asked by postnatal women when commencing an exercise program;

Will exercise affect my ability to breastfeed?

Straight up and the short answer to this question for the everyday exerciser is ‘no’. Participating in a moderate level of exercise should not affect your ability to breastfeed your baby. However we are all different and it would be wise to monitor how different intensity of training effects your milk supply and ensure you are consuming enough calories to compensate. Keeping a food and exercise diary is a fantastic tool both to keep you on track and to look back at later on. The benefits of regular exercise not only include increased cardiovascular fitness and maintenance or increase of Lean Muscle Mass but it has also been shown to have a positive effect on mental health and mood which I myself know is of great importance after the birth of a new baby.

There have been various studies on the affects of exercise on breastfeeding, I have provided relevant links on this page so you can read more for yourself.

From a personal point of view I do believe that exercise should always be accompanied by a healthy eating plan or vice versa. If you are spending more energy you need to consume more energy. A healthy weight loss nutrition plan (I chose not to use the word ‘diet’, the goal is to create an eating plan you can comfortably maintain for life) for a breastfeeding woman would include more calories than that of a non breastfeeding woman. I will touch upon this more when I talk about my own eating plan in upcoming days.

Until then, enjoy the sun and eat well

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How's your Pelvic Floor?

What awesome weather!!! This beautiful day prompted a friend and I to grab our sons, our prams, runners, singlets and sunblock and hit Centennial Park for a jog. Almost an hour and two very sweaty mum's later we parked ourselves on the grass by the duckpond to enjoy our surroundings.

We chatted and puffed our way through various topics of conversation during our bout of exercise including one very important post pregnancy topic; Pelvic Floor.

I'm sure most people are aware how much pressure is put on your Pelvic Floor during those wonderful 9 months and how much emphasis is put into reminding you do your pelvic floor exercises both during pregnancy as soon as you are feeling up to it (down there) after the birth. But who's reminding you now? How many more things do you have to remember to get through in your day now you have your baby home than before you gave birth. Back then it was all about you and about doing all the correct exercises to keep you healthy to ensure the safe arrival of your baby. Now, its all about baby - you have to make sure you remember you. And if you intend on not leaking the contents of your bladder on occasion let alone participating in an exercise program its time to go back to basics and start working that pelvic floor. What are you waiting for?!!

I have added a helpful link if you want a more technical description of your pelvic floor and its functions, as well as a few great exercises for you to practice before hitting the pavement. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Two kilo boobies!

Today I learn't the truth about my body. I was actually quite surprised as it turns out I only lost 200g of lean muscle mass during my pregnancy (I last had a Body Composition scan in September 2007) I am however carrying extra fat which I am keen to dispose of, you can see this spread around my hips in the picture of my scan that I will post to accompany those Week 1 photos. I'll run through my stats below:

Current as at 17th September 2008
Total Body weight 58.6kg
Body Fat 27.2%
Fat Mass 15.9kg
Lean Body Mass (including Bones, Blood, Muscles and Water) 42.7kg

My goal to achieve by 13th December 2008
Total Body weight is not that important to me, I am interested in my Body Composition however I will still track it.
Body Fat 20%
Fat Mass 10kg
Lean Body Mass 42.7kg or above

The stats that I am mostly interested in from here are the Body Fat % and the Fat Mass, obviously I'd like to see both these numbers decrease. I will however be keeping an eye on my Lean Body Mass, this number should not drop, I want it to stay the same or to increase. This is why including a resistance program (weights) within my training regime is so important, I want to burn fat for fuel and maintain muscle mass. Without resistance training my body would also utilise muscle mass for fuel ultimately slowing my metabolism - the complete opposite of the desired effect. So all you walkers out there - keep going its great BUT think carefully about adding some weight training into your weekly routine, not only will you speed up your metabolism but you will also be decreasing your risk of osteoporosis.

I also made a slightly interesting and amusing discovery today - not your usual focus in your Body Comp scan but Jarrod and I thought we would find out how much extra weight I am actually carrying in my newly enlarged breasts! Having began my pregnancy with a small B cup, they quickly gained a mind of their own and grew......and grew......to that point at which a month into my pregnancy and with no sign of a baby bump as yet I was asked by a couple of intrigued males if I had in fact had breast implants during my Christmas break! "I'm pregnant" I replied to their slightly reddening faces. So today I discovered my breasts alone weigh 2.3kg!!!

Next Scan date 8th October 2008 - 3 weeks from today.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Planning to succeed

So tomorrow is measurements day - I'm even going to crack out the camera afterward and share one of those scary 'before' shots with you. I feel in two minds about the Body Composition scan, on one side I'm excited to discover my starting point but on the other a little intimidated by being confronted with my body fat and laying it out for all to see. Nothing like a good motivation booster mind you.

Then comes planning - menu planning, exercise planning - I'm a great believer in planning, a great saying is "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail". I don't intend on failing so I do intend on planning. With my little baby in tow often planning gets a great big push out of the window so at least a days meals organised in advance will ensure I gain the right amount of nutrition and relieve me of the brain work involved in trawling the seemingly bare cupboards to create a meal that would usually end up consisting of the closest and easiest thing to make - I grew to love those cans of soup for a while there!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Getting started

This week is used for goal setting, planning and preparation. Its important that I know where I am starting from and decide where I want to get to. So, I have booked myself a Body Composition Scan with Dr Jarrod Meerkin at Body Composition Australia, this is an awesome way of measuring how my body is made up. I will find out my fat percentage and its distribution, my lean muscle mass and my bone density. All very important details when embarking on a mission to change your body shape.

Most people want to lose weight right? Wrong..... what we really want to lose is fat. 'Weight' can be lost in various forms, I am going to develop the right program and eating plan so that I lose 'fat' weight and not useful fat burning muscle mass. I want to speed up my metabolism and turn into a fat burning machine - bring it on!!!

For example, if I was to eat less and walk and walk and walk I might start to lose some weight, but, without also embarking on a resistance training program my body would also burn up muscle mass for energy, slowing down my metabolism......not part of the plan.

By discovering my body composition I can also re-measure at regular intervals to ensure I am gaining the results I am aiming for and tweak my program and eating plan where needed to ensure I stay on track.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


Its been 7 weeks since first meeting our little man, we are, the three of us, settling into our new pace of life. We have been blessed with a beautiful and mostly contented little boy, though we ALL have our moments.

My mission now, like many new mums is to gradually regain the body I had 'before baby'. It is 13 weeks until we spend Christmas in Perth, this is my time frame.

I am lucky however that I know where to start. Being a Personal Trainer I have the tools and knowledge to help me on my journey. I am going to talk numbers, percentages and measurements, calories in and calories out, metabolism and muscle groups, posture and pelvic floor. I am going to share meal plans and exercise programs, my ups, my downs, good days, bad days and cheat days along with the additional challenges motherhood throws at me.

We all have our own journey, motherhood can be one of the most challenging and rewarding times of our lives. What follows is only my account, my experience, my challenge, but if I can help just one of you feel confident about yourself again, to rediscover the body you once had or even discover a whole new you I will have done what I set out to do.