Four weeks and counting…

It’s just four weeks until I head to the stage for the Pure Elite Fitness Model Championships in Margate on November 2nd. Actually, checking the calendar, make that nearer to three weeks – gulp – and there’s a lot to be done in those remaining days!

For newcomers, this activity involves standing on a stage in a packed theatre with very few clothes on (there are some clothes, it’s not that extreme!) – and being judged on physique, stage presence and model attributes. Think of it as a bodybuilding show without the nasty drugs, and with smaller muscles, but with bigger shorts and bigger smiles! It’s a much more aesthetic and marketable look than a typical professional bodybuilder.

I’m no stranger to this sort of thing – I’ve competed four times in the past, all with the Miami Pro organisation. But this is the Pure Elite organisation and it’s a bit more of a challenge for me – why is that that? With Miami Pro, I was in their over 50’s category – indeed I’m their current World Champion for that age group. But Pure Elite has a different age category structure, so I’m in the over 45’s. This makes a difference as I will be on stage just two weeks before my 58th birthday, so I will be alongside competitors up to 13 years younger than me – and in this game, it’s a lot easier to look good and do well if you are younger.

I’m entering three classes – Fitness Model, Muscle Model and Body Transformation. Muscle Model requires more muscle than the more elegant Fitness Model look, but it’s still nothing like a pro bodybuilder in appearance. And I hope my transformation of losing a third of my body-weight in fat since turning 50 will help me in the final category.

In these final few weeks, I’m training alongside Dan Wynes, who I have been mentoring in fitness for six months. Dan is also entering the show – in different categories to me since he’s only 21. Indeed I wouldn’t be entering this one without Dan’s insistence that I should (although Jenny, my wife, says I didn’t need much convincing!).

Snapshot - 201Over this week and next, I’ll be trying to coax a few last pounds of fat off, and add a wee bit of muscle here and there by turning the dial up on all my training and nutrition activities. I’m now up to doing pre-breakfast cardio 6 days a week rather than 4, and I’ve increased the afternoon weights workouts similarly – with more intensity, and determination to set new personal performance records. On the nutrition side, I’ve reduced my daily calories a little, I’m cutting the sugar and other fast carbs significantly wherever I can, but increasing the protein to make up some of the calorie reduction from the reduced carbs. To help on the nutrition side, I’m also checking I’m taking the right supplements, most of which are from True Performance Nutrition.

The plans from next week are that the training and nutrition parameters for me and for Dan get turned up one more notch – which we will do as part of an intensive week of pre-contest ‘fitness immersion’ in Los Angeles. This is a trip we have scheduled to absorb some of the atmosphere of the fitness capital of the world, and try to live with almost perfect pre-contest training and nutrition for a week.

One interesting point is that the contest journey Dan and I are making is being filmed for a TV documentary, with filming both in the UK and on our LA trip. With an eye to promoting community activities, the documentary is designed to show how mentoring works and benefits both the mentee and – more unexpectedly – the mentor, and also how our initial mentoring relationship has built into a strong friendship that transcends the generation gap between us.

Another interesting aside is that just 6 days before going on stage, I am running in the Dublin Marathon – a commitment I made to raise funds for a very poorly little girl who lives near us (look at to see more). Doing what I can to help Esme is a high priority, and it’s just bad luck – or perhaps over-eagerness on my part – to have two such significant, challenging and personally-important events just six days apart. I’m still working out how to juggle the training and nutrition involved in getting off a plane in London from LA, then getting on to one for Dublin, running that Marathon and then being stage-ready for Pure Elite a few days later.

Jenny is also running the Dublin Marathon – and we’ll try to run together throughout, even though she’s a much better distance runner than me. And, being the amazingly supportive wife she is, she will be shouting her socks off for the two of us when Dan and I hit the Pure Elite stage – as will his girlfriend Liz and his own family, all joining Jenny in the front row of go-mad spectators!

Chris meets Dan at BodyPower 2014

Chris meets Dan at BodyPower 2014

If you’d like to read Dan’s blog and his views on fitness generally and this contest in particular, find it on – and I’ll be giving more information on my exact approach to nutritional changes next week in my blog – then it will be Los Angles, Dublin, Margate in the following blogs. Then it’s an easy downhill run to turning 58 and then Christmas!

Join me at FitFest!

There’s a full day of fitness fun, presentations and discussions coming up in Chelmsford on Sunday 14 September!

The FitFest event is designed for anybody who wants to improve their fitness levels, reduce their fatness levels or a bit of both – whether you’re a total newcomer to fitness or you already know which bit of a dumbbell to hold!

I’ll be there talking about how I changed ‘From Fat to Fit at Fifty’, my presentation is at 12 but I’ll be there all day helping anyone I can.  There are quite a few people that I’ve helped add years to their lives, and life to their years – and I’ll show you how I do it.

Other presentations by top fitness folk including my fellow Ultra-FIT magazine author Paul Mumford and James St Pierre – its at Unique Results 220-221 Waterhouse Business Centre, CM1 2QE – and the fun starts at 10 and goes on until 4 or later –   I hope to see you there!!

TV update

I have produced a four-part TV series on fitness called ‘Fit Happens’ which is currently being shown in the UK.  I chose the series name because it rhymes with…

Each episode is hosted jointly by me and sports nutritionist Keith Cormican, and takes a magazine-type format – a bit like Top Gear but on a tiny budget!

The target audience is anyone who is interested in learning more about increasing their fitness levels, reducing their fatness levels, or a bit of both.

CK and foodIn the four shows we cover gym training for various body parts, running, cooking healthy recipes, cycling, aerobics classes, cardio, yoga, stretching and a wide variety of viewers’ questions.

We hope we haven’t missed anything, but there’s only so much we can cram into four shows of 30 minutes each!

Its on the Community Channel, which is found on Sky 539, Freeview 63, Freeview-HD 109, Virgin Media 233, and Freesat 651. Each episode premieres Sunday night at 8:30pm.  Then that episode is repeated on Monday at 6pm, Wednesday at 9pm and Saturday at 8pm.

Dates of the 8:30PM Sunday premieres are:

Episode 1 – July 27
Episode 2 – August 3
Episode 3 – August 10
Episode 4 – August 17

Fit Happens LogoAnd remember, if you miss the premiere on Sunday, that episode is repeated three times in the following week – as mentioned above. Keith and I hope you watch and can pick up a few tips that will improve your fitness – not just in the short term, but for the rest of the year and beyond.

We’d love to get your feedback:

To me on
To Keith on:

Fit For Life

I spend a lot of time in gyms these days, either trying to improve my weight-training performance or working on removing some layers of fat – usually both. For this week’s blog, I thought I’d explain why I’m doing this in the first place – and how this spreads into other areas of life. I hope this will show that the level of addiction with gym-based stuff brings benefits outside of the weight room – and I my case, how it’s changed my life completely and forever.

A little personal history first, if I may. Up until the age of 50, I was lazy – did no exercise and ate all the wrong things. I hit my 50th birthday at a weight of nearly 18 stone, officially obese and with a bodyfat percentage figure that I can’t imagine. Something else hit me at the same time – a doctors warning that I was in a pre-diabetic state and was heading for some other serious health issues.

I used that message as a serious jolt to my system, and spent the next few years getting fit – lots of cardio in the gym, and eating much more nutritiously. After a couple of years, I added resistance training to the mix. Which brings me to where I am now – about 11.5 stone, with a bodyfat level of 11% which has dipped to about 7% for fitness and muscle model contests – including my win for my age group at the Miami Pro World Championships in April.

So I could talk and write for ages about nutrition, cardio and resistance training. Indeed, I often do. But there have been many benefits to my adoption of a fitness-focused life – and I hope that describing these will encourage you to spend more time on fitness activities.

Firstly, there are obviously the health and longevity benefits. If I hadn’t changed course 7 years ago, I think I’d now be over 20 stone and pretty much immovable, being out of breath just walking across the room. If I was still breathing at all. Now I hope I have many years of fit life ahead if me and will reach 60 in a couple of years fitter and healthier than ever.

I’ve discovered sports I couldn’t dream of doing – I ran my first ever 1k fun run six years ago, then progressed through 5k’s and 10k’s and now regularly participate in marathons. I’ve also bought a bike or two, and now cycle up to 100 miles on some days. Add in the swimming, triathlons and mountain walking, and the fact that Is I have discovered the joy of exercise – something alien to me 10 years ago.

But there are other benefits. I feel much better about myself mentally, more positive for the future. I now believe it’s never too late – for anything – rather than the pessimistic outlook I used to have.

I share many activities with Jenny, my wife. She had pretty much given up on me from a fitness perspective, and we spent too much time apart – as she went off for a run, while I stayed in and watched TV (and probably phoned for a pizza). Our time together has probably doubled, and is much more enjoyable.

Outside of my family life, I’ve become involved In the community through the local running club and organising and presenting fitness training sessions for other, local, over 50-year olds. My oldest regular attendee is well Into his seventies and has progressed in fitness to have a metabolic age of 44 and is still improving. At the other end of the age range, I’m a mentor to Dan Wynes, a fitness star of tomorrow. It’s a particularly good feeling to be able to pass on the benefits of fitness I’ve had to others from 20 to 70 and behind – and be respected as a result. This level of respect, the feeling that I’m doing something that genuinely helps others and be appreciated as a result, is a feeling that was unknown to me in my past life.  So, yes, I have the trophies and a bit of glory on the way, but they are matched in every way by the other joys of being healthy, enjoying life and making a difference to others. It’s infectious, and I hope – well, if you haven’t caught the bug yet, that maybe this article has helped.

By the way, I’m the co-host of a new fitness magazine TV programme. Called ‘Fit Happens’, the show is on Sunday evenings at 8:30, repeated on Wednesdays at 9:00. It’s on the Community Channel – which is FreeView 63, Sky 539, Virgin Media 233. Each week I’m joined by sports nutritionist Keith Cormican, and I hope you get the change to watch – and maybe get some further inspiration towards the benefits of a multi-activity, fitness-focused life!

New Fitness TV Series – Fit Happens

I’m the co-host of a new fitnesIMG_3153s magazine TV programme starting this weekend.  Called ‘Fit Happens’, the show is on this Sunday and for the following few weeks.

Its a fitness magazine programme, covering fitness in a number of different ways – in the gym, in the kitchen, in exercise classes and out in the fresh air.  We’ve targeted this programme at the overall community – its not a commercial enterprise in any way.  If the programmes help just a handful of people find ways in which they can reduce their fatness levels, and increase their fitness levels, then it will have done its job. 

Much as I would have liked ‘Top Gear’ style production values, it was made on a zero budget – so no glamour trips for us (the local park is the furthest we went!).  But the message, I hope, is large.

My co-host is top sports nutritionist Keith Cormican, and he joins me for each of the four episodes.  In this first episode, Keith takes us through cooking a healthy meat meal, while I look at gym exercises for the Pull group – Back and Biceps.  Together we are in the park for the 5k ParkRun, and we have a go at answering viewers questions.  Future episodes include features on aerobics, cycling, yoga, gym training other parts, more tasty and healthy kitchen treats, and answering more questions from viewers.

The first showing is at 8:30PM this Sunday on the Community Channel – which is FreeView 63, Sky 539, Virgin Media 233.  And then at the same time each week for four weeks. 

I very much hope you get the change to watch some or all of the episodes  – and maybe get some further inspiration towards the benefits of a multi-activity, fitness-focused life!

Ignorance or worse?

imageAs I’m a bit into fitness (well, more than a bit), I do tend to think that most other people know at least the basics of what is fit and health-promoting, and what is the opposite. But I may be guilty of making this assumption, so luckily manufacturers and retailers can help those who need a little help. Mr and Mrs Bloggs may not know what healthy food is, but luckily labelling in shops will help them make the right choice.

Or will it? I saw this display in a motorway service area a few days ago. To save the embarrassment of the management there, I’ll not name it – but it was on the M1 north of Leicester and South of Leeds.

If you can’t see the photo well, it has a display labelled ‘Newspapers’ – and underneath it are shelves containing what are pretty obviously Newspapers. So they understand this labelling thing.

Next to it, is a display labelled ‘Healthy Eating’ – so here we’ll find perhaps some chicken or tuna salads, veg snacks, wide selection of fruit, mineral water, packs of nuts maybe. I’ll be generous and throw in some wholemeal sandwiches, a few wraps, and perhaps some low calorie drinks and yogurts.

But the display contained nothing but high sugar, high fat, low protein and low fibre, high-temptation sugar-addiction-fuelling products. Chocolate fingers, Maryland Ciookies, Jammy Dodgers, Oreos in a variety of configurations, packs of Crunchies, Jaffa Cakes and loads of chocolate biscuits varieties.

So what is going on here? Either the store (or multinational corporation that owns or franchises it) is ignorant of healthy eating – which is terrible for a food retailer – or they are trying to mislead, trying to get people to buy things that aren’t good for them hoping to sell more of this stuff as a result. Which is probably worse. Either way, it’s either ignorance (from those who should know better) or deliberate deception.

Mind you, right next to it is a stand for Krispy Kreme. Which adds more temptation to buy some more very unhealthful stuff. As you can tell, I’m not a fan of that particular service area and want a Welcome Break from that unnamed retailer.

By they way, on Krispy Kreme – If you can’t trust a manufacturer to spell even simple words correctly, can you trust them on supplying products of nutritional value? Answer – they don’t.

Have a great week, eating more healthily than at that service area!

Fitness TV time…

Snapshot - 101Interested in fitness on TV?

The TV documentary about me – ‘Fat To Fit at Fifty’ – is being shown by the Community Channel tomorrow. It tells my fitness transformation story and how I’m helping others down the same road. There’s contributions from some of my Personal Training clients, magazine editors, plus fitness professional Rob Riches – who is my own inspiration and the guy who introduced me to fitness in the first place. There’s also views from top local PT Russell Lee, celebrity fitness photographer Simon Howard, and my workout buddy, fitness model Alex Hughes.

It is being shown at the following times on these channel numbers:

Tuesday 17 June – 11AM

Wednesday 18 June – 5AM

The Community Channel is on Sky 539, Virgin Media 233, Freeview 63 and Freeview-HD 109.

I hope you get the chance to watch!

Hobby, Addiction or Obsession?

315One of the interesting questions I ponder relating to myself, my clients and professional contacts in the fitness world is how far to take fitness in terms of life’s other priorities. It’s a huge topic, and I think the subject can be opened by considering three questions – how much time should you devote to exercise, how closely should you follow a mega-healthful diet, and how upset do you become if you own objectives on both if those previous points are not met.

Everyone has their own answers to these of course. The fact that the UK has an obesity crisis, with alarming rises in the rates of diabetes and other diseases which have an unhealthful lifestyle as contributory factors, suggests to me that far too many have fitness as too low a priority in their lives.

And there are those at the other extreme. Virtually living at the gym or heath-club, and sacrificing other social activities in order to do so, perhaps creating difficulties with family or friends on the way. The body may be healthy, but maybe the mind is less so. This is a much smaller group than the first – but there are significant numbers, I’ve met a few and there are times when I’ve been guilty of heading towards this route.

If you want to be good at the fitness game, and take it to levels beyond that needed purely for optimal health, the you’re taking it into a sport or competitive activity – even if that competition is only with yourself. To do this requires effort, dedication and time commitment way beyond the amounts most people would put in. But this is the case with any sport, you have to put the effort and time in, and remove or minimise distractions if you’re going to achieve success in your sport. I have t-shirt lurking at the back of my wardrobe somewhere that says ‘Obsession is a word used by the lazy to describe the dedicated’, a true statement but not one I actually choose to wear often these days.

The proper answer for most is somewhere in the middle. Certainly, for most of my Personal Training and Fitness Consultancy clients, they have no plans to follow me to the competition stage and be judged in a fitness, muscle model or physique competition. Most are keen in reducing fatness levels and increasing fitness levels, and to that end, I advise that they follow a decent nutrition regime and adhere to an appropriately designed exercise programme – and would realistically expect them to follow this for maybe 50% of the time. But those that choose to take enthusiasm for fitness activity to beyond the level needed to maintain or regain optimal health will decide to apply more.

Let’s look at my own approach. I try to keep to my nutrition and exercise goals in excess of 75% of the time. But I’m not so fitness-focused that I will turn down a social engagement, or a few pints of decent ale or good restaurant meal. I think this puts me in the ‘Addicted’ camp rather than ‘Obsessed’. But I do monitor my bodyfat amount and percentage, and if I find either creeping up, then I turn up the heat and move the devotion needle a little to the right beyond that notional 75% mark.

Does this make me obsessed? I hope not. I like to be at below 9% bodyfat for contests and professional photo-shoots, and to ensure I’m not too far off that my target is to keep at 12% or below year-round. I only take remedial action and move towards that ‘Obsession’ end once I hit that 12% number – then the pub and restaurant trips have to take a lower priority for a little while.

I mentioned earlier that I’ve been guilty of heading down the route of obsessed in the past. I think I’m good at spotting if commitment to fitness and sporting activities are taking over too much of my life, but it creeps up insidiously on you – well it does in me, anyway. To ensure it’s under control, I’ve given Jenny, my wife, a notional electric circuit with a big red warning light connected to a button under her control. The ‘obsession button’ is rarely pressed by her, but we keep it ready. It doesn’t really exist, of course, other than as an agreed concept between us.

There is an exception to my self-imposed rules. In the final four weeks leading up to a contest or pro photoshoot, by agreement with Jenny I de-wire the obsession button. That t-shirt also probably needs to come out at that time. But that’s only twice a year, and having won my last contest in April, the fictitious circuit is now back enabled for the next few months.

In reality, everyone will have their own levels of priority setting for fitness depending on their own goals and other activities they enjoy. Anyone who has a least a certain level of enthusiasm for fitness either as a hobby, leisure pursuit, sport or competitive activity may find it interesting to ask themselves those three questions I posed at the start, and ensure that the level of priority for this in their lives is where they want it to be.

Have a fitness-building but obsession-reality-checked, sunny weekend!

TV Times

The TV documentary about me – called ‘Fat To Fit at Fifty’ – is now being shown by the Community Channel.  It tells my fitness transformation story and how I’m helping others down the same road.

There’s contributions from some of my Personal Training clients, magazine editors, and fitness professional Rob Riches – who is my own inspiration and the guy who introduced me to fitness in the first place.  There’s also views from top local PT Russell Lee, celebrity fitness photographer Simon Howard, and my workout buddy, fitness model Alex Hughes.

It is being shown at the following times on these channel numbers:

Monday 19 May – 11AM
Tuesday 20 May – 5AM

The Community Channel is on Sky 539, Virgin Media 233, Freeview 63 and Freeview-HD 109.

I hope you get the chance to watch!

A fast 12

In my blogs, I try to pass on various tips that either increase fitness levels, reduce fatness levels or – ideally – a bit of both.  Sometimes these can be a bit complicated (especially when I find myself in the wonderful world of macronutrients ratios and timing), so this week I’ve taken a much more simple approach.

A key way to get the body burning more bodyfat as fuel is to give it no alternative – but without activating the State of Alert or Starvation response.  And the best and easiest way to do this is to maximise what is already the body’s longest fat-burning period, which is overnight, starting from a few hours after your last meal.

The easiest trick I know for this, is to have a 12 hour period every day (overnight) without eating.  So, if your last consumption of food or drink was at 9pm, don’t have anything else until 9am.  If you’re out late and eating or drinking until 11pm, then tomorrow’s breakfast is at 11am.   It’s that simple.

The body will use the fuel from the carbs in your last evening’s meal or drinks for the first part of overnight, then will turn to it’s built-in fuel reserve for the next few hours – until you ingest some food or drink again.  That built-in fuel reserve is your body fat.  So prolonging this second period significantly helps in making the body turn to its fat reserves for fuel.

Don’t be tempted to grow the fasting period to beyond 12 hours, as this can have the opposite effect – a long fast period can put the body into what is known as the State of Alert and elicits the Starvation response – with the body going all unwell on you and clinging on to bodyfat, as it thinks times have gone really tough and no food is coming for goodness-knows how long.   But 12 hours as a fast is fine, and to do it well, you should do this 12 hour gap every day.

To make this more effective, try to have some exercise in the morning before the end of the 12 hours.  Ideally light to moderate cardio – nothing too strenuous that puts you out of breath.  I find 40 minutes on a cross trainer at level 12 or 30 minutes slow jogging does the trick for me.

And if you want another tip, have some black coffee before that exercise session – this opens up the fat cells and encourages the release of fat to the bloodstream for use as fuel. By the way, black coffee is allowed in the 12-hour non-eat period as it has no calories.  Black tea and water are the same, allowed as they have no calories.  So the idea is not really avoiding meal or food in that time, it’s keeping clear of anything with calories.

Of course, what you eat and drink in the other 12 hours of each day is very important too – but outside the scope of this week’s blog.  Talking about that would get me started on macronutrients ratios again, and I’m giving that subject a miss today. So for a simple rule, that really helps in reducing fatness levels, get into that everyday 12 hour fast, quick!