Patrick’s comments

One of my Personal Training clients is Patrick, aged 52 from West London.  He’s taken a break from my personal training at the moment, having achieved his initial set of goals.

Patrick wrote me a very kind note, which he has changed into a reference on me and is happy for me to publish.  I thought I’d share it with you this sunny day, adding more positive vibes to the day!

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I came across Chris Zaremba and his ‘Fitness Over Fifty’ Personal Training and Fitness Consultancy Service via the Community Channel on Sky.

He came across as a dedicated, sincere and yet easy going chap who through his own struggles and life experience – overweight and with ill-health in middle age – indeed much like me – yet unlike me had decided to do something about it and turn his life around and in doing so he had through entirely his own efforts and erudite research become not only healthy and fit but Men’s World Fitness Model champion with several British trophies to add.

Seeing his website gave me the confidence to contact him – as despite all the accolades and accomplishments – he came across as just like a great person to meet. Thankfully Chris took me on and in the space of 6 months (including breaks due to the birth of my son and despite an operation I needed) managed to help me lose over 2 stone and in doing so become a fit and active individual that is looking to lose even more.

I started with Chris on the 14/12/13 weighing 15st 4lb with 30.1% body fat – that was a very scary 64 lb of FAT with a BMI of 29.8.  Yet by the 3/6/14 I was down to an amazing 13st 12lb with 23.8 % fat / that’s way down to 46 lb fat with a BMI of 26.8.

I feel very confident with Chris’s excellent help dedication and generous support that I will soon be the weight I was in my early 20’s at around or just under 12st. I very happily recommend Chris’s Personal Training and Fitness Consultancy Service.

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Many thanks to Patrick for being so kind as to write these words.  I am very happy to have contributed to his success, which was due much more to him following my advice than me doing anything!

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 :Chris@FitnessOverFifty.co.uk
To Keith on: Info@KeithCormican.com

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!

Meet Dan…

Life has many good feelings. And one is when you help generate interest in others for something that you are passionate about.

Chris meets Dan at BodyPower 2014

Chris meets Dan at BodyPower 2014

This has just happened to me. I met a young guy at a trade show recently and somehow infected him with my enthusiasm both for fitness generally, and more specifically for standing on stage in a Fitness Modelling competition. I’ve been committed to a fitness-focussed life for six years now, and having collected a few championship wins on the way, I know how great a lifestyle this is.

The chap in question – Dan Wynes – was already keen on fitness. Indeed, before I met him he had developed an interest in the teachings, approaches and training strategies of fitness professional Rob Riches. Dan and I have that in common, as Rob was my original personal trainer and is a guy for whom I continue to have massive respect.

A 15-minute chat with me bolstered Dan’s enthusiasm levels. So much so that he decided at the end of our conversation to committing to step up his fitness activities substantially and progressing sufficiently over the next six months and that he would enter his first Fitness Model contest organised by Pure Elite in November. Dan asked me to help in whatever ways I can, and requested that I mentor him right up to the contest date.

Well, I’ve never been a mentor before, indeed I had to check in the dictionary exactly what was involved. However, the combination of me knowing just a bit about the subject, my keenness to pass this knowledge on, and Dan’s desire to learn and put this information into practice, seems to be the perfect recipe for mentoring success. So I accepted, and as a result I will be doing what I can to help him get into the best shape of his life so far. I say ‘so far’, because at age 21 he has many more ‘best shapes’ to come.

The term ‘journey’ is over-used on the fitness world, but I think it’s appropriate for Dan as he plans for the time up to his first contest. I am relishing being his guide for the trip – and I rather suspect that I will learn much from him too as we work together and he heads towards that appointment with the stage.

I am very honoured to be asked, and I will endeavour to repay the trust and confidence Dan has placed in me. I hope Dan finds me a good mentor – but if he slackens at all (which he won’t) he will find me morphing into a tor-mentor instead!

Dan will be blogging his own progress over those months, and I invite you to read and subscribe to his blog on www.DanWynesFitness.wordpress.com – and we’ll both let you know how we get on!

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!

Lower Slower

My blog this week looks at something I see taking place every day in the gym (yes, I do go every day at the moment). It’s a bad habit which people slip into, and I hope I can correct a few with these sentences.

It’s to do with the speed of performing any exercise. This really relates to any resistance exercise, whether it’s with dumbbells, barbell, cable machine, fixed-path machine, Smith machine or anything I’ve forgotten. Oh yes, body weight too.

It’s the principle of ‘lower slower’, a term I came up with to describe that the lowering phase should be executed more slowly than the lifting phase. Every resistance exercise has a lifting phase – technically called the concentric phase – and this is when you are pushing the weight up – such as standing up in a squat, pressing the bar in a bench press, sitting upwards in a floor crunch or curling the dumbbell towards you in bicep curl. This phase can be seen as moving the weight in the opposite direction that gravity wants to move it, and isn’t the bit I’m talking about, so I’ll move on.

The other phase is the gravity resisting phase, what happens as the weight lowers. I see many people struggle on the lifting phase, then let gravity take the weight downwards again, without any work for the muscle in that second stage. In fact, this phase – if timed correctly – is more beneficial for strength and muscle building than the lifting phase. And the correct timing I’m referring to is for it to be slower than the lifting phase – at least twice as long per rep.

The lowering phase is called the eccentric phase, technically, which is a term I hate as it sounds like it’s for weirdos only. I’ve also seen it referred to as the ‘anti-grav’ phase, which is nicely Star Trek I guess, but does get a few raised eyebrows. And not just from Mr Spock. So I tend to stick with the term ‘lowering phase’ – easily identifiable as the opposite of the lifting phase.

In some exercises, the lowering phase needs to be thought about, as it may be slightly counterintuitive. For example, the lowering phase of a lat pull down is as the bar goes up – it’s the weight stack that is lowering at that time. Similarly, on a tricep push down on a cable machine – the weight stack lowers as the hands go upwards, and it’s this lowering of the weights that makes that the lowering phase.

By lowering quickly, and letting gravity do all or most of the the work for you, you are missing out on most of the benefit from performing the rep in the first place, as I said before. But worse may be to come – how does a rapid lowering phase usually end? Maybe with a slam into the ground or bang on the weight stack of a machine, or perhaps a sudden jolt on your body’s anatomy as you halt the rapid movement pretty violently. The first offers no benefit to the body, the second is potentially seriously injurious.

The number one offending exercise is probably the deadlift. I’ve seen some people really struggle to lift the bar to back-straIght position, then just drop the thing. Apart from the effect that has on the other gym users (and the structure of the building), they are missing out on so much of the benefit they are aiming for. Much better to use less weight, lift as before, then lower slower to within a nanoprobe’s distance of the floor, then commence the next rep.

So, for the next few times you are undertaking a resistance exercise, think of the lowering phase, and how you can do that more slowly. Lower slower, my friends. Have a great weekend, live long, and prosper.

Getting the approach right

For this week’s blog, I thought I’d share an email I received earlier this week from a chap called Kevin and my response.  It’s about medical suitability for exercise, and some overall guidelines on nutrition and activity for someone of 50+.  It’s really about getting the approach right in this fitness-up, fatness-down personal project.

I’m blogging this as I hope my comments will be appropriate for a wider audience, perhaps including your good self…

Any questions or comments welcome, as always, on Chris@FitnessOverFifty.co.uk

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Kevin wrote:

Hi – I’m 52 and l used to smoke heavily but quit 6 years ago. After that l put weight on (4 stone) which was due to a combination of beer, junk food and not doing anything to burn off calories. My job is not physical either. I am now dieting and eating a healthier diet of meat fish veg and salad. I have lost a stone in the past month but l want to lose more and get fit. This is not a fad/new years resolution but a serious attempt to change my lifestyle. The main worry is am l eating enough and will exercising now at my age be dangerous, do l need to take medical advice?

Regards

Kevin

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My response:

Hi Kevin

Many thanks for getting in touch.

If you’ve any doubts about your suitability for exercise, you would always be wise to seek medical advice.  Any personal trainer – such as me – would ask you to sign an industry-standard medical declaration in advance, and that declaration asks you to self-assess your suitability, and asks you to seek your doctor if you’ve any doubt.  In addition, any decent personal trainer will discuss your response to this questionnaire, even if it is perfect (actually, especially it is perfect) to ensure that the trainer is happy with the responses given.  There will once again be the advice given that even though the form indicates nothing of alarm, medical clearance should be sought if there is any concern or doubt.

However, if your underlying health is good, you have no medical conditions, and your blood pressure is in the normal range, then it’s likely that you’ll be fit for exercise.  But start slowly and build up – you aren’t in your twenties any more, and the body doesn’t take as well to adaption to and reaction to stresses at your (and my age) than it does for those half our years and less.  Take any ache seriously and take a day off exercising where it hurts.  I’m a big believer in listening to your body, a skill we all have but sometimes don’t use   But, just to confirm, once again, see the doctor if you’ve any doubts.

It sounds like you have adopted a much healthier diet, which is great, and the foods you mention are indeed the right way to go.  My nutrition advice, in one sentence, is to cut the calories overall, and within that, cut the sugar, other ‘fast’ carbs and saturated fats the most, and fill in some of those calories eliminated by upping the protein.  Beyond that sentence, maybe add some extra protein in the shape of a protein shake.  Meat or fish, both with loads of green veg and/or salad is a winning combination for dinner.

On the exercise front, combining your new diet with moderate cardio exercise is good for losing fat.  And the ideal time to do cardio is first thing in the morning, pre-breakfast, therefore continuing the body’s overnight fat-burning period.  If you do this, some black coffee or a fat burner (I can recommend one) would be ideal to take beforehand, but don’t have anything with calories (such as milk or sugar) prior to the cardio, and of course keep hydrated. Come back to a good breakfast with protein as well as carbs after.

Make sure you are doing some resistance training too (weights or weight-simulating machines) to add back some of the muscle that you will probably lose with the diet and as part of the cardio.  This is best later on in the day, and try to do this at least two or three days per week. If you only do this once or twice per week, do exercises that cover the main muscle groups only across the whole body (chest, back, quads, hamstrings), ideally with compound (multi-joint movement) exercises.  If you can do three or more sessions a week, then something more complex on a body-split basis is appropriate, and you can probably add in dedicated biceps, triceps, shoulders and calf work as well as abs training to those bigger muscle groups, and add some isolation training to the compound moves.

There’s a lot more on all these aspects on my web site – which I encourage you to look at.

Finally, if you’d like something more personally tailored to your needs, I offer a one-to-one Skype consultancy session that may help, or we could meet in Central London for an hour, or longer if you want have a Personal Training or in-gym Fitness Consultancy session.

I hope this is of help to you, please let me know how you get on or if I can help further.

Chris

I want to tell you a story…

Well, its not any story, its actually my story.

I’ve created a article for a Los Angeles-based web site called MyFitTribe, as they were keen to tell the world about an obscure 57 year old Englishman that they know.

Depending on how well you know me, and how many of those nearly three-score years  I’ve spent in your company, you may already know some of the info in the article.  Whether its all new or not, I hope its of interest.

http://bit.ly/1kRC7Hf

My thanks, of course, to MyFItTribe for asking me to do this.

Enjoy the article, any questions or comments as always, please, to Chris@FitnessOverFifty.co.uk

I’ll be back with more blogging next Friday (probably…).  And, as usual, have a healthy and fit sunny weekend!

Chris