CategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

What you need to know before running a 10k

If you’re worried about leaving it too late to start training, or simply have concerns about committing to your first ever long distance run in front of a crowd, this blog should dispel some of those fears, and help you to separate fact from fiction when it comes to running events.

I DON’T KNOW IF I HAVE THE MOTIVATION FOR IT

We often talk about being physically fit, but your mental fitness and wellbeing is just as important when it comes to training for a 10k or further. Before we tackle how you’re going to run the distance, it’s important to firstly decide why you’re considering doing it, so let’s break it down.

First and foremost, it’s important that you’re joining us for the Great Birmingham Run for you and only you. In other words let’s not get caught up with trying to beat the personal best of a friend, or taking up running because our colleagues run home from work. There are several reasons for taking up running and setting yourself a 10k challenge, but the most important one is that you’re doing it because you really want to – and will be your best source of motivation too.

IT’S BEEN TOO COLD AND WET TO START TRAINING

Granted the recent weather has been particularly grey and gloomy – but for some people these are their perfect running conditions. On those wet and miserable mornings or cold dark evenings, you need to ask yourself what your main motivation is for joining #TeamUoB for the 10k and keep reminding yourself of it.

Whether you’re trying to become a healthier version of yourself, want to eventually run a marathon, or are just hoping to get back into running after a prolonged period of time, this must be at the forefront of your mind when you’re finding training tough.

Every trainer will also tell you that a treat every now and again won’t do you any harm, so if you have to reward yourself with a sweet treat after the particularly cold runs – do it!

WHAT IF I GET A BAD FINISHING TIME

This is where we should say ‘it’s the taking part that counts’, but we know how important finishing times are to any runner. One thing we will say however to anyone reading this who hasn’t signed up for the Great Birmingham Run because they think they’ll be too slow, is just be honest with yourself and you can’t go wrong.

Each and every one of us is capable of running a 10k, whatever your age or ability. That doesn’t mean that we’ll all be running it in the same timeframe – which is perfectly fine. The best way to complete the course is to set yourself a realistic target, especially if you’re just setting out, and then you can improve on this week on week.

If you initially plan your training sessions to build up your running programme gradually, you’ll find it much easier to notice the improvements you’re making. This will also help you to not put too much strain on your body, and prevent you from any pre-race injuries. Pacing yourself doesn’t mean finishing the 10k in a longer time, it just means you won’t burn out before the finishing line. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t run the full distance either. There will be plenty of participants walking (or skipping) too.

I’VE NEVER RUN IN FRONT OF A CROWD BEFORE

Any long-distance runner will be able to recall a time they’ve completely forgotten there’s a crowd there. Huge cheering crowds can be brilliant for your motivation, as they’re genuinely there to support you around the course, and the elated atmosphere really helps too, but the most important people are those who you’re running with.

That’s why #TeamUoB is such an encouraging network of individuals. There’s no better feeling than crossing the finish line as part of a team in a sea of matching t-shirts, but having a whole community there for you before the run itself is really helpful. Particularly if you’re new to a 10k, other members can offer friendly advice from how often to train per week and how far, to what to eat on the day and which trainers will be kinder to your feet!

You may even meet some future running buddies too, or decide to join the Green Heart Runners or Cool Running’s.

I WILL BE CELEBRATING RAMADAN SO I CAN’T

It’s a busy time for those who have to fit in their regular daily tasks along with prayer time, so we hope to be able to advise in any way we can regarding the best ways to exercise. Although Ramadan may not be a time to push your limits or set personal records, there are definitely still ways to maintain a training regime ahead of running a 10k.

We chatted to our Personal Trainers at Sport & Fitness, to find out a bit more about sports nutrition during Ramadan, what they recommend doing, and when. You can find out what they had to say here.

We hope this has helped you to make up your mind about joining us at the Great Birmingham Run, but you can always visit our webpage for more details about #TeamUoB, including how to sign up.

ramadan and exerciseCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Keeping fit during Ramadan

Muslims who choose to fast during Ramadan will abstain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset each day for one month.

It’s a busy time for those who have to fit in their regular daily tasks along with prayer time, but should this schedule and the limitations on consumption mean that you can’t keep exercising during this period?

Although Ramadan may not be a time to push your limits or set personal records, there are definitely still ways to maintain your workouts and schedules. As it’s a time for worship, self-reflection and an opportunity to become a better person, Muslims across the world use this holy month of fasting and prayer to restore not only their relationship with God but their relationship with themselves. One of the main aspects of preparing for Ramadan is to figure out ways to better yourself and implement them during the holy month.

We chatted to our Personal Trainers at Sport & Fitness, to find out a bit more about sports nutrition during Ramadan, what they recommend doing, and when.

Sessions undertaken in the morning after sunrise

Not only does this get the workout done early when you might feel your most energetic, but you’ll have a good amount of fuel to go on.

Pros: You will benefit from eating and drinking from the previous evening and before dawn

Cons: There’s little opportunity to refuel, rehydrate, and recover after these sessions

  • Suhour (the last meal before the beginning of the day’s fast) should be eaten as close as possible to sunrise and athletes should choose foods that contribute to sport nutrition needs for the day. Low GI carbohydrate choices are recommended to allow slow release of glucose.
  • Higher sodium foods at Suhour may be beneficial to promote fluid retention and aid hydration.
  • Eating some slow-digesting casein protein (eg. Cottage cheese, greek yoghurt, other dairy products) immediately before sunrise will provide your body with a continuous source of amino acids for the hours to come.
  • Consumption of ‘‘slow’’ proteins at meals consumed before dawn to help with protein balance over the day is advised.  Sufficient fluids and electrolytes (especially sodium) should be consumed after sunset and before sunrise to ensure full replacement of sweat losses and to prevent progressive dehydration.

Sessions undertaken in the evening, scheduled to finish just before Iftar

Potentially the best time for Muslims to exercise during Ramadan is right before sunset when they will have the opportunity to refuel and recover straight away afterwards.

Pros: You’ll benefit from the ability to eat for recovery at Iftar (breaking fast) and during the rest of the evening

Cons: These sessions are undertaken with minimal pre-exercise nutritional support

  • When training or competition are scheduled late in the day, athletes should be careful to limit glycogen depletion and sweat losses by restricting activity levels and exposure to warm environments during the day.
  • Carbohydrate-rich foods should be consumed at the break of fast.
  • Athletes should try to consume at least 20 g of rapidly digested and absorbed high-quality protein soon after exercise whenever possible, as well as high-quality protein-rich foods at each meal opportunity during the evening and before dawn.

Sessions undertaken in the evening after breaking fast

A good option for those with less free time, working out after eating can be beneficial.

Pros: 2 – 3 hours after the break of the fast gives the best opportunities to fuel and hydrate before, during, and after

Cons: It must be balanced against the importance of sleep!

  • Strength training is best performed later in the day to ensure protein can be consumed soon after exercise in order to maximise training adaptations.
  • Consume small amounts of carbohydrate during exercise undertaken after the fast is broken, even if there is little need for additional fuel.

Finding an exercise routine that fits around this time can be difficult, and should only be taken on by people who are used to exercise. If you’re continuing to work out during Ramadan, cardio and heavy weights are not recommended – your body isn’t functioning on its usual fuel, and exercise could be dangerous if taken too far. If you’d like to chat with one of our Personal Trainers regarding training that works around your lifestyle, email the Gym team today. And remember, if you’re feeling unwell due to illness or fasting, please do not take part in exercise until you feel fully well and able!

Peter and Hasan discussing training in the officeCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Staying healthy during the Christmas period

The holiday season can be a great time to unwind, especially during the world’s current ups and downs. Food and exercise can take a nose dive, however all does not have to be lost according to our resident fitness instructor and registered nutritionist Peter Antonio.

When exercising over the holiday period, try and be as prepared as possible. Check your local gym and pool with regards to opening times and guest pass options. This way, if family and friends would like to join you, then it can be a great way to have quality time, as well as keeping that heart rate up.

Eating is often a focal point at Christmas, and things can revolve a lot around food. This is a great activity to feel close with and connected to your loved ones, and should be part of this season. However, try and include other activities which are not food-focused. This might include going for a walk, attending a carol service, playing board games, watching a classic movie, or even just talking all together with some background seasonal tunes on. We rarely get time to properly catch up with one-an-other, so take the time to see how your loved ones are really doing.

If all those extra calories are of a concern this year, then take the time to research lighter options which might not be weighing you down months down the road. There are endless recipe options out there, so when you find one which you like the sound of, and is a lighter option than what you would usually have, stop the search and just go with it. Sometimes we can lose so much time trying to sift through the bottomless pit of options, that we don’t see the perfectly good ones right in front of us.

It is easy for many of us to feel like the holiday period will be some sort of ‘step backwards’ regarding our waist line and training routine/goals. This certainly does not have to be the case when looked at from a broader vantage point.

For many of us, moving our bodies and getting our heart rate up is just as important for our physical self, as much as our mental self. There is no reason why, with just your own body weight, you cannot do exactly that. It will not be the same as what you are used to, but this does not have to be a bad thing.

Often, we get stuck in the same kind of training and movement patterns, and our bodies are incredibly good at getting used to what we always do. Moving the goal post and doing something different forces our bodies to adapt (i.e., get stronger in some new way). Not only is this good for building on a new area of strength, but our usual routine, and the effect that has had on our bodies, can have a much-needed rest.

We all need genuine down time in order to adapt. Fact. If you do not choose to make this a priority, then your body will make this decision for you. Indeed, this is true for all areas of your life. Try and prioritise your fruit and vegetable intake, sleep, stretching/mobility, and water intake.

Take a step back and recognise if you have been allowing sufficient down time in your own exercise routine. Please feel free to talk to a member of the Gym or Swim team if you are unsure, and for ideas on what you can do exercise wise during the holiday season.

Life is a balancing act, and we can often find ourselves on the floor after having lost our step, with regards to what is important to us, and our families. You, and the relationship you have with yourself and others, is arguably the most important thing there is. Nurture the things that are important to you during this holiday season, and try not to get too caught up in the materialistic side of Christmas. This is called a holiday period for a reason, and shouldn’t leave you more stressed at the end of it.

Man working out in gym on machineCategoriesPhysiology Psychology

Easing back into exercise

Returning to exercise after lockdown

For many of us, the re-opening of the fitness facilities has meant an eager return back to our pre-lockdown workout routines, whether that’s in the gym, pool, squash courts or classes. But is rushing back to what you used to do, good for you? We picked the brains of Sport & Fitness’ experts, Psychologist Christian and Fitness Instructor and Nutritionist Peter, to seek their advice on how to safely ease back into our exercise routine.
Christian Pszyk, Psychologist, says that when elite athletes return to training following injury, a break in the season or another change in circumstance, the key aspect of readjusting to the ‘new normal’ is the management of psychological and emotional expectations, and the same principle applies for anyone who is returning to training after a break.

Typically, our brains are programmed to try and attain our optimal or best performance, regardless of the context of the situation. So, when there are sub-optimal results, despite extenuating circumstances, it creates an automatic response of disappointment, potential dejection and demotivation as our innate experience is that we are always improving, and immune to setbacks.
In order to combat this, the key aspects to bear in mind are those of context and goals. Focusing on the context of your situation helps to create and maintain a realistic perspective, while setting out some simple short-term goals will support structure and the feeling of achievement while you slowly start to find your feet again and build up to your own optimal performance.

Peter Antonio, Fitness Instructor, also recognises that stepping back into the world of exercise after an extended period of time off can feel daunting. You may feel lost as to where to begin, or fear injuring yourself due to a few lazy evenings with no motivation, binging the latest Netflix series!

Fortunately there are ways to get moving again, and step into those running shoes, or in to the gym/pool, without hurting your ego or physical self.
Whatever your pre-Covid state was, know that if you are returning to exercise after being quite inactive, then it is unlikely that you are going to return to the same strength and fitness levels.
Knowing this ahead of time can help mitigate those fears that may come from being unable to swim as fast or lift as much weight, as well as reduce the chances of injuring yourself.
If you approach stepping back into exercise as a gradual process, initially reducing both the volume and intensity you were previously at, then this will allow the body and mind to return to top notch form within minimal risk of injury.
There is a bright, gleaming light not so far ahead which we all need to remember however… that the fitness and strength we once had will come back quicker this time round. You are not starting from zero again, so avoid thinking that all the work you have previously put in was a waste, as this is not the case.
Try to maintain consistency, use and speak to the professionals who work in your respective sport (lifeguards, gym instructors etc), and remind yourself of why you are doing this.

Our experts’ top tips: in summary:

  • Focus on the context of your situation to help create and maintain a realistic perspective of your goals
  • Accept that your fitness levels may have deteriorated and therefore don’t push yourself – work up gradually
  • If you’re unsure, chat to the staff in Sport & Fitness to get their advice
  • Remind yourself of your goal, and why you’re doing this!

We hope you have returned to exercise with us safely and confidently, and would love to hear your stories about getting back to the facilities after the break as well as any feedback, so please do let us know by completing the feedback form on the website, or emailing feedback@sportandfitness.bham.ac.uk.

Two women sat in a studio with their eyes closed in meditationCategoriesPsychology

Meditation: What it is and why you should try it

What is meditation

Meditation involves developing the ability to consciously train our attention and awareness.
Usually, you take a seated position with the eyes closed. Your attention is then focused inwards towards the mind and body. Thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations are usually the focal point, but anything could be used as a point of conscience awareness.
Our day to day lives are usually bound up with solving one problem after the next. We follow our thoughts and feelings without ever slowing down and taking joy in the process. This ‘autopilot’ mode can serve as a great tool to maximise the ease and efficiency of daily tasks, such as walking or driving. However, autopilot is also responsible for taking us from one thought to the next in a spiral of worrying/rumination when we are faced with an emotional problem.
Taking time to purposefully slow down and observe our own mind, can be insightful and illuminating. This observation can bring delight in the simple process of performing a task, rather than simply a fixation on completing it. Too much time spent in autopilot means we end up lacking the mental space we need to process our experiences.
Turing the attention inwards allows you to take note of thoughts and feelings as they appear. Witnessing this, and not getting involved in the sensation, can allow us to see that we can make the choice to let thoughts and feelings pass by, without getting caught up in them.

Benefits of meditation

In recent years, there has been increasing research into the effects of meditation on the physical structure of the brain. As well as the benefits of regular practice to individuals suffering with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Those with a long history of practising meditation regularly have demonstrated increased connectivity between frontal areas of the brain which are important for cognitive control, and limbic regions which are involved in emotional responding resulting in improved emotional regulation.
The default mode network (DMN) has been dubbed the ‘me centre’ of the brain, and is associated with mind wandering and that sense of being ‘lost in thought’. When the DMN is over-active, we experience anxiety, ruminating over the past and future, and a general reduction in happiness. Meditation has been shown to slow down the DMN, and give us the tools to step out of it more often.
Meditation practice has also been shown to increase levels of attention and concentration. This is unsurprising as in meditation, we are training the mind, just as we train the body. As we strengthen the mind through this training, new connections form and new pathways emerge. We increase our capacity for awareness and focused attention.
Far too little time is spent in training the mind, even though it is the filter everything we experience must go through. Cleaning and adjusting that filter, even just a little bit, can have profound effects in our lives.

Types of meditation

There are countless styles of meditation across a range of different faiths and cultures, but broadly speaking, the three listed below are the most common types.

Samatha

This style of meditation is a process of calming the mind, and is often translated as “tranquillity of the mind”. This style of meditation can bring about deep states of relaxation and focus.
Usually, one focusses on the breath. This can be carried out wherever one feels the sensation of the breath the most (e.g. the tip of the nose, chest or abdomen). Complete attention is guided towards that physical sensation of the breath, until there is nothing else except the breath. When thoughts and feelings arise, one would gently guide themselves back to the breath.
Extended periods of time focusing on a single point of awareness can bring about exceptionally deep states of peace, and can heighten your moment-to-moment experience of life. Simply walking or sitting can become intensely pleasurable. You start to slow down and appreciate the subtleties of life much more.

Vipassana

This style of meditation involves witnessing the rise and cessation of all mental and physical phenomenon. It is translated as “insight”, and is involved in cultivating wisdom.
Vipassana method of meditation uses any mental or physical sensation that comes into consciousness, which are then simply observed non-judgmentally. The idea is that thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations are each taken as a point of awareness, until they naturally pass.
This method allows you to see first-hand the transience of thoughts, and how they will disappear if not ‘fed’ by our mind. Feeling anxiety, for example in your stomach, becomes something that you, are witnessing, not something that is part of ‘you’. It can, with practice, be a sensation that is simply observed, and let go of.
Observing the mind in this way can help us gain a different perspective on our lives. This may also help alleviate some of the psychological sufferings that we face when we get caught up in day-to-day worries.

Metta

This style of meditation involves cultivating warm, loving feelings for others and oneself. A common translation of this Pali word is “loving-kindness”. It is a form of concentration meditation, similar to that of Samatha.
Usually, a few key phrases are used, aimed at an object which the individual holds in mind. At first, the object is that of somebody they love (parent, child, or close friend for example). But not someone you have, or have had, a romantic relationship with. The person’s image is held on to, as phrases such as “may you be happy”, “may you be free from suffering”, “may you be strong and confident” are repeated.
The next stage of this practice, is to switch the object to a person towards whom you have indifferent feelings. Then finally, towards a person who you dislike or towards whom you have negative feelings.
Regular practice with this method can be incredibly transformative. Meditating in this way reminds us of how much love and compassion we can feel towards another human being. It can help open up your heart and allow you to hold onto a feeling of genuine love, for extended periods of time. Similarly, it can, and should, also be aimed at yourself. As truly loving oneself is often a necessary step towards fully opening up with others.

Returning to workCategoriesPsychology

The psychology of effectively working from home

Working from home

Working from home and self-isolating can be difficult, but being aware of a few key aspects can help make it easier to deal with, and more positive for your mental health. UoB Sport & Fitness psychologist Chris Pszyk writes about working from home or by yourself, and some different suggestions to help cope with the challenges that it might pose.
With this being a new experience for a lot of people, it is important to consider the impact that being restricted in your freedom of movement will have on your well-being, so that some sense of normality can be maintained. Below are a few aspects that can be helpful when adapted to suit your individual needs. Psychologically, there are a myriad of benefits that can be achieved through routines, mindfulness, and exercise amongst others, with the main ones focused around the release of endorphins, and the reduced output of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone. Managing these two, alongside a variety of other aspects, help us to live healthily and happily, and can therefore help us to manage isolation, and working from home, much more efficiently and positively for our mental health.
Break up work and ‘life’
One of the most important aspects is to separate the different parts of your life, that have now all been brought into the same space. If you have the space, have a dedicated work station that is separate to where you sleep, eat and take time to engage in your hobbies and pastimes. This helps to separate your different activities, and therefore reduces the release of cortisol in relation to your life spaces. In addition, doing small extras like having a morning routine of showering, eating breakfast and ‘getting ready’ for work will be more mentally rewarding, and are positively correlated to self-confidence.
Exercise
Exercising is a huge factor in maintaining wellbeing, and taking the time out of your day to do this is vital. As social distancing and isolation are in full effect, it is a good idea to consider what tools you have available, and make the most of the space that you can use. If you have a treadmill or other equipment that is great, but if you don’t, you can do lots of home workouts, as directed by other staff members, or through online means as well. Not only does exercise help to release endorphins and make us feel better, it can help to break up the monotony of sitting in front of a computer and being alone, as well as helping to maintain good health and improve your quality of sleep.
Be mindful and reflect
Mindfulness is a tool often recommended by psychologists, and given the current situation would be a beneficial habit to start. For those not familiar with it, it focuses on the idea of being present and focusing on the here and now, rather than what might happen and the aspects that you can’t control. In order to help with this, free apps such as HeadSpace or Calm can be really useful to start, and taking time out of your day to reflect and look at all that you have accomplished will help to get through isolation by building your self-esteem.

Look after your space and yourself

There are two parts to this – look after yourself by eating well, drinking plenty of water and sleeping at least 7 hours, but also look after your space. Physically, it is essential that your routine of eating, sleeping and so forth is maintained, and supplementing this by taking the time to prepare food where possible can help to combat boredom and frustration. In addition, keeping your space, house or room tidy, is vital in a time like this, as you will be spending the foreseeable future there, so make sure that it is an area that you are happy in and where you enjoy spending time. This helps by increasing your self-esteem as you feel good about yourself and your space, while also reducing the release of cortisol associated with clutter.
Contact your family, friends and colleagues
Reach out to the people you care about, whether it is a message or a video call, there are lots of apps and formats that are simple to use and great at connecting people. Beyond work and catching up, there are lots of ways to communicate and get involved, whether it is playing an online game together, watching movies simultaneously or conference calling your friends or family for a joint dinner. This helps to maintain your sense of belonging and identity, both of which are closely related to self-esteem and positive mental health as a whole, and can be really powerful to support the people you care about to deal with the same situation.
 
24.03.20

Woman with punch mittsCategoriesPsychology

New Year, Same Me… But Better!

Everyone is well aware of that much-posted typical January mantra: ‘New Year, New ME!’ and research conducted by Strava last year shows that by the second Friday in January, people start to give up those well-founded intentions. However, is this actually a productive way to start the New Year? Sarah Carvell, our Psychologist, tells us more.
So far in 2019 the most popular topic of conversation seems to centre around each person’s promise to themselves that this year will be different. But, as Sarah argued in the latest edition of our Fit Focus Forum, as humans, do we actually want to become a new person, a ‘New Me’, or are we actually striving to become a better version of ourselves? And, more importantly, how do we go about achieving this?
PAT ON THE BACK 
Prior to setting targets for 2019, it is important to appreciate/congratulate yourself on what you have already achieved in the past year as well as re-evaluating your current fitness levels and where you are now. You are then able to build upon this information and can ask yourself that million-dollar question ‘What Do You Want to Achieve in 2019?’.
SET DIFFERENT TYPES OF GOALS 
Setting goals helps to create a pathway for success so that an individual knows how they are going to achieve their outcome goal for 2019. Goals come in all different shapes and sizes but the three main types are Outcome, Performance and Process. Outcome goals help to motivate and structure where you are heading. Performance Goals direct your attention to strengths and areas of improvements. Process Goals help you focus on what you can control.
Think of Goals as Your Satnav! Your outcome goal is the destination then your performance and process goals are the directions. When planning to drive somewhere you would not just concentrate on the destination (or the outcome), the most important thing to know are the directions (performance and process) of how to get there.
By setting realistic performance and process goals, you are taking ownership of your development to reach your full potential, whilst having a positive impact on your confidence, maintaining your motivation and focus when training and directing behaviour towards what you ultimately want to achieve.
TURN YOUR GOALS INTO HABITS
If you view exercise as something you have to do rather than something that simply is part of your lifestyle then it is much harder to keep it going.
Remember; take care of the processes and the outcomes take care of themselves!
15.01.19

pregnancy exerciseCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Baby Bump to Body Pump – can I exercise during pregnancy?

The do’s and do-not’s of exercising during pregnancy is a much discussed topic, and it can be hard to know what is and isn’t safe. Exercise has many benefits for both mother and baby, so we chatted to Laura Randall to find out how to keep fit and healthy during those 9 months.
Laura Randall is a Personal Trainer, Group Exercise Instructor and Nutritional Advisor, with a degree in Sports Science. Here at University of Birmingham Sport & Fitness, there are many class options that are suitable for those who are expecting. Exercise before, during and after pregnancy is encouraged – but there are some considerations to take in to account to ensure that the exercise is safe and effective.

Which classes do you recommend during pregnancy and what kind of adjustments might be required?

‘The good news is – with a few things to be aware of, most classes should be fine during pregnancy.’

Aqua Fit/Natal during pregnancy can provide the same workout for your heart and body as studio-based classes without the risks of falls or injuries. The buoyancy of the water requires only 50% of your body weight to be supported, alleviating stress on your joints and muscles whilst having fun during your workout. UoB Sport & Fitness offers exclusive aqua natal classes taught by expert instructors, which really help mums-to-be to stay active during pregnancy.
CX Worx and Abs classes should be safe in the first and second trimester. There are adjustments you should make when you can, for example, there are some great options to work your abs in 4-point kneeling positions, supporting yourself on your elbows in a supine position to keep the chest lifted, or by doing hover/plank when it is no longer comfortable to lie flat on your back.

I already work out – can I continue?

‘If you have already been doing Circuits, Tone, Body Attack, Body Step or Zumba Step it should be safe to continue whilst pregnant.’

We do suggest some of the following modifications:

  • Take the low impact options to reduce excessive impact through your joints
  • For Step, decrease the number of risers on your bench so you don’t have to step too high
  • Ensure your foot is always planted firmly on the step so you have a stable base of support

In RPM and Cycle classes it’s good to modify intensity by taking regular breaks, reducing resistance, and avoiding excessive speeds and standing positions as you feel the need to.

What if I want to try something new?

Body Balance, Tai Chi, Yoga and Pilates can be started for the first time during pregnancy and are ideal exercise for expectant mothers who want to keep active whilst making healthy lifestyle changes.’

Always let your instructor know that you are pregnant so they can offer the best options for you to feel comfortable and successful, but stop immediately if you feel dizzy, and don’t be too aggressive with your stretches. Remember pregnancy is not the time to push your body!
Weight training and Body Pump are great for maintaining muscle tone during pregnancy. With the options to use lighter weights, hand weights instead of the bar and reducing your range of motion, you can keep moving and feeling strong. When it is no longer comfortable to lie on your back during exercise, you can turn your bench into an Incline Bench. You may also find during the later stages of pregnancy that overhead exercises may cause dizziness or changes in blood pressure, and with this in mind there are plenty of options to stay below the shoulder line and still get the workout you came for.
Zumba, Sh’Bam and Body Jam are generally safe to do during pregnancy, but you may find that twisting and jumping are uncomfortable so just take it easy and listen to what your body is telling you.

What types of classes should I avoid during pregnancy?

Body Combat and Boxercise during pregnancy aren’t recommended because of the joint instability.’

The release of hormones such as Oestrogen and Relaxin can result in joints being less stable, so the kicks and excessive twisting may aggravate the back, hip and pelvis. GRIT and Sprint are both high-intensity workouts where fitness is taken to the next level by pushing yourself hard – pregnancy is not the time to be pushing your body to its limits.
Excessive inversions (e.g. handstands and headstands sometimes practised in Yoga) in the late second and third trimester are not recommended due to the increase in bump size and so as not to confuse the baby as it prepares for birth.

Laura’s tips – what to avoid

  • Exercises that position you on your back after the first trimester, because this position can hinder blood flow to the uterus, and to and from the heart
  • Exercises where you lie flat on your front after the first trimester due to an increase in bump and baby size
  • Exercise that may cause trauma to the abdominal area – now’s the time to give up your kickboxing and excessive rotation, at least until the baby’s born
  • Exercising in high heat environments – always wear loose, comfortable clothing to class, preferably with layers that can be removed
  • Long periods of stationary or motionless standing, as this can cause changes in blood pressure
  • Any exercise that may cause loss of balance to reduce the risk of falling

Laura’s tips – what to adjust

  • Adjust your core training – whenever you can. There are some great options to work your abs in 4-point kneeling, supporting yourself on your elbows (ensuring you keep the chest lifted) or roll over and do hover or plank work
  • Drink plenty of water and keep yourself cool
  • Reducing intensity when you, and your doctor, think you should
  • Let your instructor know that you’re pregnant so they give you the best care and options available
  • Always remember to listen to your body – it will always tell you what it needs and what it doesn’t, and STOP if you ever feel dizzy or uncomfortable during a class

Check out the range of classes available and book now!

Note: Everyone is different – please always consult a doctor before engaging in any new or strenuous exercise! Letting the Reception team and your instructor know that you are pregnant is also a good starting point – both for health and safety reasons and so that they can ensure you are getting the best and safest workout, or advise on the suitability of certain classes or exercises. Pregnancy is generally the time for maintenance, not for pushing yourself for new fitness goals or working out at high intensities, so do let your instructor know if you have any questions.

05.04.18

nutritionCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Training for a 10k – Nutrition prep

Prior to any run it’s important to ensure you’re fuelled and ready to go. We caught up with Ollie Armstrong, resident Physiologist at UB Sport & Fitness, for some helpful hints on what’s best to eat before a race.

As Lead Physiologist at UB Sport & Fitness, Ollie’s day-to-day is ensuring that athletes can consistently perform to their maximum potential, and so whether you’re an experienced runner or considering doing something like the Birmingham Great Run for the first time, one easy way to help perform at your best is to ensure your body is getting the fuel and hydration required during a race, regardless of duration and length. See below for Ollie’s basic tips for nutritional race preparation.

Before the race

‘Prior to your race it’s important to be fresh and raring to go for the big day. The key is to be properly fuelled, hydrated and good to go – and you can start preparing this from the previous day. Make sure you have a good meal the night before. For breakfast, a bowl of porridge with a banana and some honey, containing both slow and fast release carbohydrates, is a good option. Before you hit the start line (an hour before the race), having a banana or an electrolyte drink will help.’

Carbohydrates

‘For long-duration races, some people like to carbo-load in preparation for a race. This is less necessary for a 10k but if you are thinking of doing something longer, carbo-loading is something to consider. This involves eating minimal carbohydrates four days before your race to cause depletion. Then, two days before your race, aim to eat three to four carbohydrate-based meals and have carbohydrate-based snacks throughout the day. Rice, pasta, bread, cereals, fruit, starchy vegetables and low-fat milk and yoghurt are nutrient-packed, carbohydrate-containing choices so you will have maximal fuel during your race. However, it is important to trial this in the build up to competition as it can have an adverse effect for some people.’

During and after

‘Make sure you drink regularly throughout the day. The best way to drink throughout the day is to sip and not gulp. Straight after the race, an electrolyte drink is really useful to replenish immediate carbohydrate stores, and a form of recovery food or bar with a combination of carbohydrates and protein is also good.
‘It’s also really important to rehydrate following your race. Rehydrating and replenishing energy stores is essential in the few days after your race to avoid becoming ill.  Milk is an effective rehydration drink due to its high carbohydrate and protein content. To stimulate muscular repair, you should aim to eat 20-30g of protein. This is a really good way of regulating body temperature too. Antioxidants (e.g. blueberries) can also help the acute recovery process by mopping up potentially harmful molecules (free radicals) which will reduce inflammation in the muscles.’
Read more about the Birmingham 10k – how to sign up, training plans and more info – on our events page.

10k mental prepCategoriesNutrition Physiology Psychology

Training for a 10k – the mental prep

With the Birmingham Great Run 10k looming just around the corner, we chatted to our Sport Psychology Lead about how best to prepare for the challenge.

Matt Thompson has been a Performance Psychologist at the University of Birmingham for nearly 4 years, and so who better to ask about keeping on track during training?! Whether you’re an experienced runner or you’re trying out your first race, self-belief and motivation can be one of the most debilitating factors when building up to race day. Matt poses three questions which will keep your eyes on the prize even during the ‘it’s cold outside, I want to stay in bed and eat chocolate’ times.

Why am I doing this?!

‘The answer to this question can be a major source of motivation. Be honest with yourself – this has to be a genuine reason that means something to you. Whether you are doing the Birmingham 10k because you want to be that healthier version of you, or because you’re trying to raise funds for a charity that is close to your heart, or because you are desperate to get that sense of achievement from beating your personal best – write this down and put it somewhere you will see it when you need that extra motivation boost. You could even print out a Birmingham 10K poster and put it on the back of your door! On those wet and miserable mornings or cold dark evenings asking yourself this question. Reminding yourself of the answer can provide the motivation you need to get you out pounding the pavements!’

How am I going to do this?

‘You need to work back from your end goal and plan how you’re going to achieve it. Are you going to run so many times a week? What days work best for you? What times work best for you? First of all – get advice regarding your programme. Speak to a specialist or use one of many great guides online. Secondly, you MUST be honest with yourself here. I often tell myself ‘this week I will get up earlier and run at 6am three times a week’. I have literally never been able to complete that challenge! I know that mornings are not the best option for me. So I have to be honest with myself and plan to run at other times. Make a plan that you honestly think will work for YOU, then go for it!’

What could stop me from doing this?

‘Preparation is key! There will be barriers. For each of us these will be unique: fitting training around a busy lifestyle, managing an old injury, a love of chilling on the sofa and binge-watching the latest box-set! Think about what could possibly stop you from achieving your goals and then prepare how you can reduce the chances of that negative scenario happening, or deal with it if it does. For example, if you have tried running in the past but stopped because of shin pain, then that could be a possible obstacle that could stop you from training and achieving your goal. In that scenario there is lots you could do to influence that: get a gait analysis done at your local running store and make sure you get good footwear that’s right for you; plan your training so you build your programme up gradually; get a foam roller to help relieve any tension and see a physiotherapist or other specialist for advice. Preparing for what could stop you achieving your goals makes it less likely that they will.’

Oh, and one more thing!

‘Remember you are human! You will skip a session or make poor decisions every now and then. That is OK. Try not to go overboard when you do and then get up, and go again. Good luck and enjoy!’