Fitness

The Fitness Mistakes We’re All Guilty Of

Everything from over-doing the cardio to skipping your post-workout protein snack is screwing up your chances of being bikini ready by summer.

RELATED: Should You Workout At Home Or Join A Gym?

If you’re taking it easy on the weights because you’re scared of looking butch, or you’re working your abs until your blue in the face, you might not be getting the most of your rigorous exercise regimen.

Our Instagram posts might make us look like experts, but in reality when it comes to fitness, we’re pretty good at screwing up. But don’t worry we’ve got your back! Here, we look at some of the fitness mistakes we’re all guilty of.

Excessive cardio

Spending hours on the treadmill or your exercise bike might shed some calories, but it won’t help you gain muscle mass. All those perfect bodies plastered across the Internet of fit and attractive women, are bodies that combine high intensity interval training (HIIT) with weight training. Contrary to what our mothers might believe, weight training isn’t just for men. Lifting weights helps to build lean muscle and tones your fat. While doing excessive cardio won’t help you gain muscle mass, or alter the shape of your body.

Being a eat-aholic

Have you ever heard the saying, you can’t outrun a bad diet? Well it’s true! No amount of exercise will counteract the effects of a diet filled with sugar, fat, and excessive carbs.

Going steady with your workout routine

Your fitness regimen isn’t a long-term boyfriend, rather it’s like your latest Netflix obsession, it should be constantly changing. Doing three reps of 15 squats may work wonders to begin with, but give it three-months and despite all the squats, your ass will probably be looking pretty ordinary. Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy, you need to be challenging yourself and stepping up your game with each workout.

In saying that, however, don’t do squats for a week and then ditch them entirely, you need to stick with a workout plan long enough to reap the benefits, then you can up the anti or try something different.

RELATED: Stay-Fit Tips For Busy Women

Being a workout s*#t

Your body needs rest!! We cannot stress how important recovery is for your body. More doesn’t necessarily mean better, it may be a cliché, but quality over quantity ladies! Take the weekend off, or aim for one day on, one day off. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, just do it! If you force your body to work out when its exhausted, you’ll do more harm than good. Your muscles need time to repair themselves so they can grow stronger, and it’s your job to let them.

You might be surprised by how good your body is at telling you what’s going on. When it’s sore and needs rest, you’ll know. Likewise, when it’s energised and ready to go, or something’s too easy, it will know. So just go with the flow.

Image via Yahoo.com

September 1, 2015

Strike A Pose: The Surprising Benefits Of Yoga

Yoga does a lot more than make you look bikini ready in time for summer; it also comes with a myriad of health benefits. From improved flexibility to perfecting your posture, you can’t look past yoga as an all over health treatment.

RELATED: A Beginner’s Guide To Yoga

Who would have thought that striking a pose could improve your overall health and wellbeing? Well, the verdicts in and the surprising benefits of yoga are pretty fantastic.

Improves flexibility

Improved flexibility is one of the more obvious benefits of yoga and will make touching your toes that much easier. After a few yoga sessions you will feel a noticeable difference with your muscles and joints loosening and your posture improving.

Builds muscle strength

Strong muscles can protect you against back pain and arthritis and increases your strength without sacrificing flexibility. Whereas, traditional weight training to improve muscle strength often inhibits your flexibility, not to mention the lean muscle gained through yoga will make you look great in a bikini.

Perfects your posture

Poor posture can cause back pain, soreness in your neck and a myriad of other muscle and joint problems. Poor posture, or slumping can cause pain and degenerative arthritis in the spine that will be a real pain in the long-term. Strengthening your body by practicing yoga will promote good posture by developing a strong core and the flexibility you need to support the weight of your neck and head over long periods of time.

RELATED: Inhale The Benefits Of Yoga

Improves your bone health

Strengthening exercises such as yoga have been scientifically proven to decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis and can improve your overall bone health. This is because practicing yoga increases bone density in the vertebrae and lowers the amount of cortisol in the body. Too much cortisol prevents your bones from absorbing the calcium consumed through your diet, practicing yoga alters these damaging effects and ensures your bones are absorbing calcium the way they should.

Promotes relaxation

Finally, one of our favourite reasons yoga is a completely worthwhile form of exercise, is the fact that it helps you relax. Yoga encourages you to relax, slow your breath and focus on the present, shifting the balance from the sympathetic nervous system (or the fight-or-flight response) to the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter is calming and restorative, helping you to breathe slower and decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. This in turn creates what is often referred to as the ‘relaxation effect’ – the result being a calmer, more relaxed, happier you.

Image via tanzanianow.com

September 1, 2015

Ab Myths: Fact Vs Fiction

Are you killing yourself at the gym but not seeing results? Chances are, someone’s given you some dodgy advice, and you’re the one paying the price. Here, we uncover the biggest ab myths to help you turn your exercise regime around – so you’ll be rocking some killer abs in no time.

RELATED: Should You Workout At Home Or Join A Gym?

Myth: Crunches will give you abs

Contrary to popular belief, crunches may not be the best exercise for strengthening your core. Crunches do very little to stimulate fat loss and burn calories and they only target a very small section of your stomach. If you want to achieve better results, try opting for planks and leg raises instead. However, if you’re determined to shed some weight doing crunches, make sure you maintain proper form so you don’t damage your back.

Myth: You need a gym to lose weight

Not only are they expensive, gym memberships are also unnecessary. Your own bodyweight and a little discipline can be just as effective in burning fat and toning up as fancy gym equipment. In fact, studies have actually shown that weight machines can be detrimental as they inhibit your body’s natural movements. Basic exercises like squats, lunges, mountain climbers, and much more can all be achieved with an empty space in your home or garage.

Myth: You’ll get killer abs by working on your abdominal area

Toned stomachs are achieved from whole body workouts. Yes, planking will help, but so will burpies, cardio, upper body resistant training, yoga, and Pilates! You will gain core strength from a combination of different forms of exercise. A balanced exercise routine that targets all areas of your body will be much more efficient than just spending hours doing tummy exercises.

RELATED: A Beginner’s Guide To Yoga

Myth: Exercise compensates for a bad diet

No amount of exercise will make up for eating a tub of ice cream every day. It’s okay to indulge in your favourite foods every now and again but overeating will create a layer of fat over any muscle you gain through exercise. Abs are achieved through a combination of healthy eating and targeted workouts, not from eating whatever you want, whenever you want it.

Fact: Abs take hard work and dedication

There are no shortcuts to developing abs – if you apply yourself, exercise regularly, and maintain a healthy diet, abs are achievable.

Image via Pinterest

August 13, 2015

How To Sneak In Exercise While Travelling

We often associate workouts with strain, boredom and hard work. No wonder most of us would not even think about exercise while travelling! But being active doesn’t have to be a struggle. Here are some great ways to sneak in holiday exercise and enjoy yourself at the same time.

RELATED: Beauty Essentials For Travellers

Walk

You can easily incorporate walking in your day, no matter where you are spending your holiday. Walk to shops and restaurants, or just as a way to enjoy a moment by yourself. Walking is also the best way to see the sights, mingle with the locals and feel the atmosphere of a place. If there is a beach, forest or mountain nearby, reconnect with nature by taking a walk rather than driving.

Bike it

Depending on where you are, you may be able to get around by bike – a great alternative to driving that it keeps you fit at the same time. Bikes are available for hire at most places that get lots of tourists.

Swim

Whether you find yourself at the beach or you have a swimming pool at your accommodation, take this opportunity to go for a swim – before cocktails! You’ll feel much better about the cocktails after you’ve burned some calories.

Find a buddy

Exercise is much more fun when you’re enjoying good company. Maybe you love a game of tennis and so does someone else you’ve just met at your hotel. Or your travel companion has always wanted to go for a morning jog. Or there is a game of beach volleyball in progress and you haven’t played for years. Take the opportunity and join in.

Play with your kids

Travelling with your kids, or someone else’s kids? Put down your smartphone, turn off the TV and join them for a game of soccer, tag or anything that involves running around. The kids will love it and you’ll be surprised how much younger you’ll feel at the end of the day.

Exercise while travelling is for everyone. If you haven’t exercised regularly before, now is a great time to start. On the other hand, if you already have an exercise routine, but feel that you need a break, then you probably do. Your routine will not suffer if you put it on hold for a week or two, and in the meantime, you can still be active in different ways.

July 13, 2015

What To Eat Before And After A Workout

To get the best results from your workout, it’s best to monitor what to eat before and after you hit the gym. Beforehand, you should try and eat at least 30 minutes before your planned workout.

RELATED: Post-Workout Dos And Dont’s

Eating before you workout is important in kick starting your metabolism, especially if you exercise first thing in the morning. Having said that, nobody wants to go jogging on a full stomach – so keep your pre-workout meal light and easily digestible.

Recommended pre-workout meals:

After your workout is when you want to replenish your lost energy. Protein and carbohydrates are key during this time, in order to repair your worked muscles and restore your sugars. You should eat somewhere between 30 minutes to an hour after you finish exercising (don’t forget to stretch!). For the time-poor, try a protein shake or bar.

Don’t forget to drink plenty of water!

June 21, 2015

Is Your Job Making You Depressed?

When you really enjoy what you do, going to work isn’t hard at all. In fact, it’s something you look forward to and are really happy with what you’re achieving. But, if you’re not feeling like that and you’re dreading going to work, is it possible that your job is making you depressed?

RELATED: What It’s Actually Like To Live With Depression

Workplace depression affects everybody differently and stems from different factors. When we’re at our jobs for so much of our lives, it’s possible that how we’re being treated, boredom, or lack of a work-life balance can throw out our happiness and turn us into our job  which is something we definitely are not.

Sometimes people stay in unsatisfying roles because of the money, the fear of not finding something else, other people’s expectations, or the fact that it is convenient. However, staying in a job that is making you depressed is bad for your mental health and also for those around you who can see that you are unhappy.

If your job is making you feel like you have no free time, that you are undervalued and not good enough, it could be the reason that you are feeling a bit worthless and helpless. Are you taking more sick days than you should be? Or are you actually getting sick from the stress your work places on you?

There are a few signs that can help you recognise if your job is making you unhappy:

1. You get anxious before going to work.

And not in the excited way. In the way that you wonder what would happen if you ‘accidentally’ tripped and broke your leg or had a minor car crash just to stop you from getting there. The thought of going into work makes you feel ill and stressed, even before stepping through the door.

2. You get sick often

The stress can wear down your immune system, leaving you susceptible to illnesses that can be easily avoided. You also call in sick more than you should, because your work is making you that upset.

3. You’re under-appreciated

And you know it. You crave the praise that you rarely get and feel over the moon when you receive it. Most of the time you are being yelled at to the point where you don’t feel good enough and you have to claw yourself back into the boss’ good books.

4. You’re becoming your job

All you can think about, talk about and breathe about is your job  in a negative way. It’s getting you down and affecting your personal life, not to mention your sex life. You spend more time at work than others and feel like you’re dragging your feet home every night.

5. You’re not happy

This may seem like an obvious one, but sometimes is the most overlooked. You find it hard to see the positive side of things at work or at home, you’re exhausted, and you genuinely aren’t enjoying your life because of work.

If you feel like your job is making you depressed, it’s important to talk to someone about it so that you can take the appropriate steps to get out with the support that you need.

Image via thegrindstone.com

June 17, 2015

Treadmill vs Cross Trainer vs Exercise Bike – Which is Right for Me?

Facing your fitness goals comes complete with a huge variety of exercise options. From different workout plans for different needs and a piece of exercise equipment for almost everything imaginable, it can definitely be a challenge to find what’s right for you. Whilst some training methods work wonders for shredding those extra kilos, they may be harsh on other parts of the body or simply not be working the right muscles for your fitness needs.

When you’re in the market for a new piece of equipment or you’re looking to change your workout up at the gym, it’s important you do your research first. What may work for the person next to you may not be right for you. To help you kick those fitness goals – regardless of what they may be – we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to find out what will work best for you; a treadmill, cross trainer or an exercise bike?

1. I want to burn calories

If you’re maintaining the same heart rate across all three machines, there’s not going to be a lot of difference in the number of calories you burn. The intensity required to maintain this heart rate however, can vary between each piece of equipment and this is why you’ll get better results from some over others.

Cardio workouts are one of the best ways for burning unwanted calories but it’s still important to find the right workout and equipment for your fitness needs. If your goal is to burn calories, stick to cardiovascular exercises over weight training activities and workouts that are of a high intensity.

Both treadmills and cross trainers (also known as an elliptical trainer) can help you shred calories and fat but they do so at different rates. To burn calories using a treadmill you’ll want to be running (20-40 min workout is good) as this is a faster calorie burner. Alternatively, you can do a 30 minute elliptical machine workout which will generally burn about 400 calories in a 85kg person.

Burning calories effectively though isn’t just about the machine you’re on. How many calories you burn depends also on your body weight and workout intensity and consistency – so keep these factors in mind too. Whilst both pieces of equipment are great for burning calories, an elliptical trainer requires more coordination leaving the treadmill to be the easiest option for many.

2. I want to gain muscle and increase bone density

Cross trainers offer all the benefits of a treadmill but with an extra kick to it. Because they work every muscle of your body instead of just the legs, they’re an ideal piece of equipment for overall muscle strengthening and building. If you’re looking to only target the legs and buttocks area, both treadmills and exercise bikes can give a good workout without a whole body muscle gain.

The advantage a cross trainer or elliptical trainer has over these two though is it trains both your legs and arms at the same time. As your legs power away, your arms are moving back and forth targeting all the major upper body muscles including your chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps. If you want to target different leg muscles to that of a treadmill or bike, you can change the direction of your feet on the cross trainer by pedalling backwards and this will work other leg muscles and buttocks. If muscle gain is your fitness goal, the elliptical trainer will offer a full weight-bearing workout that’s super effective in building bone density.

3. I want something that’s easy on my body and joints

Despite the benefits of exercising, your body can take a huge beating – especially in your joints. If you suffer from pre-existing injuries or knee and joint issues, it’s vital you take a close look into what equipment you’re using and how this is impacting on your body.

As far as low impact goes, cross trainers are renowned for offering a full body workout without the stress and strain on your joints. Exercise bikes too provide a calorie burn workout that’s low on impact and can be a better option if you’re just after something basic. For knee pain sufferers, it’s best to steer clear of treadmills and opt for an exercise bike as the impact of body weight and stress on joints is not a concern. But, like with any piece of equipment if it’s not adjusted to your body properly, it can do more harm than good so get a professional to demonstrate the best way to use it first if joint stress is an issue for you. Here’s a great read on how to set up your exercise bike for a better workout to start you off.

4. I want to use my upper and lower body

Whilst treadmills are fantastic for burning calories and customising a workout to suit your own needs and fitness level, it doesn’t give you a full body workout. For fitness goals consisting of a workout that utilises both the upper and body workout, it’s hard to go past a cross trainer or elliptical machine.

These units are a treadmill, stair master and exercise bike combined and thus, offers maximum potential with a unique combination of fitness benefits. Helping to not only burn calories and boost bone and muscle density, many people steer towards them because it does give you the full body workout. If you are a beginner though, it’s definitely best to speak to a professional before using one to get the full benefits.

5. I want to reduce stress and boost endurance

Exercising isn’t just about calorie counting and muscle gain, sometimes your goal is to simply reduce stress and feel better. Exercising to gain energy is a fitness goal you don’t read too much about anymore with all the calorie and weight loss talk around – but it’s just as important.

The best part about this goal is all three machines are great for a daily stress reduction and healthy boost of endurance. Combined with other factors – like the space in your home, budget and whether there’s any other goals to tick off too, it’s super easy to find a machine that works great for you.

Exercise bikes will boost stamina and endurance naturally and are fantastic for those after a basic workout or if you’re just starting out on the fitness bandwagon. If you’re after more of a challenge or a variety of workout options, treadmills and cross trainers will definitely tick these boxes too.

What fitness goals will you be tackling this week?

By Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Orbit Fitness – the largest supplier of fitness equipment in Perth. You can catch Jayde on Google+ to discuss this piece.

June 6, 2015

Expand Your Knowledge With Yoga Teaching

Yoga has become one of the most popular exercises in the world. People from many different countries in many different climates practice yoga for many different reasons. It has been recommended for stress relief, weight loss, strength and rehabilitation and is known for the amazing benefits you gain from it.

RELATED: Inhale The Benefits Of Yoga

Those who practice yoga regularly are well aware of this, but if you’re looking to take your yoga even further, maybe becoming a certified yoga teacher had crossed your mind?

There are many reasons to becoming a yoga teacher beyond just wanting to teach. Learning more in depth about the practice of yoga and broadening personal understanding of yoga is one of the top reasons that individuals are enrolling in teaching courses. In fact, Yoga Australia has seen a 30 per cent increase in the number of people registering for teacher training in the past year alone.

When you register to become a teacher of yoga, you learn so much more about the practice, including yoga philosophy and anatomy and meditation. This enables you to then gain a more thorough understanding of what contributes to physical, emotional and mental health. While this is beneficial to those around you – as with your extended knowledge you will be able to help their practice – it’s also extremely beneficial to your own practice and the way you view your own health.

Yoga Australia is recognised as the industry peak body for yoga in Australia and has the highest teaching standards anywhere in the world. The primary mission of the organisation is to: develop and promote best practice for Yoga teaching, to support and represent Australian teachers from all styles and traditions, and to educate and inform the general public and professional community about the benefits of Yoga.

When choosing to train as a yoga teacher, it’s important to register with a governing body, like that of Yoga Australia. Not only do you have more support from a wealth of teachers and knowledge, but you can also feel confident knowing that you will receive the highest level of education and also that your accreditation will be recognised internationally.

Vice president of Yoga Australia and chair of their teacher training committee, Leanne Davis (pictured) has over 28 years of knowledge in yoga teaching and loves to share her advice on becoming a teacher.

yoga australia, yoga teaching, yoga

“During teacher training students will be taught the foundations and anatomy of Yoga poses, philosophy and meditation techniques as well as practical skills such as writing class plans, presenting and getting started in your teaching career. As someone who has been teaching for over 28 years, I realised that learning is an unending process and I am constantly inspired and educated by my peers,” she says.

So, now that you’ve decided that you want to expand your yoga knowledge and training in the teaching aspect, how do you know which course to choose? Let’s take a look at Leanne’s top tips for finding the right teacher program for you:

  • Choose the style of yoga you would like to undertake your training in. There are so many different styles of yoga, which means there are just as many training programs for each, whether it be bikram, vinyasa or Hatha yoga.
  • Ask your favourite yoga teachers about where they received their training. This will help guide you and narrow down the style and potential yoga institutes and schools that you can pick from.
  • Check they are accredited with Yoga Australia. Many yoga studios offer teacher training course, but before you commit to any programs being offered, make sure you check they are accredited. This will ensure that the course is recognised and that you will be doing the correct number of hours to be qualified as a teacher.
  • If you’re interested in formally teaching yoga, it’s vital you register your certificate. This will ensure you are kept up-to-date with the world-class teacher training programs and adhere to the standards recognised across the board.

Images via Yoga Australia

May 24, 2015

Using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy To Improve Happiness

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or CBT is generally used to improve poor mental health, however, it can also be used successfully to improve overall happiness. There’s a movement within psychology called Positive Psychology which looks at using therapy techniques to assist in the maintenance of good mental health. So, rather than trying to fix mental health issues as they arise, the idea is to prevent them.

RELATED: Using Psychology Instead Of Diets To Control Your Weight

The way positive psychologists use CBT is to reduce negative thought patterns. The aim is to address the thoughts which lead to behaviours related to them. To provide you with a better understanding, the example I’d like to explain here uses CBT to improve life satisfaction and overall happiness.

How It Works

The way we think is very powerful and it can predetermine if an outcome will be negative or positive. If we approach life as if everything were difficult and that life is basically negative, we’d look for evidence for our rationale. On the other hand, if we believe life is positive and that good things happen, we will search for evidence for this as well.

So, say a person has a pretty good life and no mental health issues, but would be more satisfied and happier with life if they had a better body image. They feel uncomfortable in their own skin and opt to wear heavy clothing in summer to cover up – CBT can address the thoughts which lead to this behaviour.

How It’s Done

In therapy, CBT is often done on paper, but doing it mentally is also effective. Initially, therapists get clients to write down a behaviour they’d like to change. I’ll use the example of the person with a poor body image who is dissatisfied with their appearance – the aim here would be to improve their happiness by being able to wear clothing suitable for the climate.

Now, there’s obviously a thought pattern associated with this behaviour, so the next step is to identify it. For example: do they fear negative feedback from others and therefore cover up? Do they feel like they are hiding in more clothing? There might be a whole list of reasons why they have chosen to behave this way.

Once the thoughts associated with the behaviour are identified, things can begin to change. So in this case if it’s fear of negative feedback, a therapist would challenge whether this has actually occurred. For some, it might have been the odd isolated occasion which has stuck with them; or for others, their fear may have prevented them from doing it altogether. Therefore, no negative feedback has actually taken place. Others may have experienced more negative feedback which has verified their assumption.

Once they understand why they over-dress in warmer weather, the next step to introduce is the ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen’ scenario. If they did wear lighter clothing, what do they expect to happen? Do they think people will look and stare at them, or do they fear something more drastic like their heart will stop beating? Don’t laugh, some people do have this fear of exposing themselves to what they assume will be a negative consequence for a particular behavior.

Questioning ‘what’s the worst thing that can happen’ is a very empowering thought because it enables people to challenge their behaviour for what it is. So, if they wear lighter summer clothing and people do comment, what is the worst thing that can happen? It will probably be that it makes the individual feel bad – and ultimately, this is why they are doing what they do. No-one wants to expose themselves to feeling bad if they don’t have to.

The ultimate goal here would be to change the way they dressed in warmer weather and be able to feel good. This would improve their life satisfaction and their level of overall happiness. Many things we do lead to this and once we can identify what’s stopping us, we have the freedom to move forward, change it and have a happier existence.

Achieving Happiness By Adding Exposure Therapy

To complete the exercise here, I’d suggest the individual try wearing lighter clothing in warmer weather and in the presence of someone they trust. Only when they expose themselves to the new behaviour can they affirm their negative thoughts are faulty. This is called Exposure Therapy and is highly effective in combating self defeating behaviours.

It may take a few attempts to get them to feel comfortable with their new behaviour and be able to do it solo. And as previously mentioned, while they do this exercise they should think to themselves: what’s the worse thing that can happen? In many cases this simple change in thought pattern, combined with exposure to the behaviour, will be enough to improve their overall level of life satisfaction and happiness.

Image via psychprofessionals.com.au

May 19, 2015

5 Winter Sports To Join This Season

I’m sure that doing exercise in winter is on the list of things that you really can’t be bothered to do; just like shaving your legs or painting your toenails. But exercising over the colder months is important to keep up your fitness levels and to keep your body healthy. Like your mum used to say: If you don’t move it, you lose it.

RELATED: Top Tips For Marathon Preparation

During winter, it might be easier to ditch the gym and try a team sport that can keep your motivation levels up, not to mention it’s a bit more fun than watching yourself do squats in the mirror. We’ve sourced out some of the best winter activities for something different that won’t even feel like working out.

Soccer

Between training nights and weekend games, there’s no doubt that soccer can keep you fit. It also takes out two days that you would otherwise be going to the gym and being bored. Joining a women’s or a mixed team would mean meeting new people and learning new skills while having fun. It’s even better if you’re a competitive person.

Netball

Get a group of the girls together and join a netball team, whether it be indoors or outdoors. It can be a weekly fun night or a weekend competition, but either way, you’re still moving about and enjoying yourself while getting fit. You’re also working on your hand eye coordination!

Dance Class

Jazz up your usual workout by taking on a dance class this winter. Hip hop, ballet or even performance acrobatics is a great way to keep fit during winter. Really enjoying your workouts will keep your motivation up and dancing is great to keep your body in shape. Plus, there are so many different styles to choose from so you can decide on something that suits.

OzTag

You may not have played it since school, but OzTag – which is a little like touch footy – will have you keeping warm all night with heaps of running, sprinting and agility movements. You can choose to join a women’s or mixed team and it’s a fun way to work on your teamwork and coordination.

Snow Sports

Perhaps the most obvious of winter sports out there – although not all of us have access to it – but if you’re looking for something different, get your waterproof pants on and head down to the snow fields. Skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing are lots of fun and work your muscles in ways you would never dream. It’s a great alternative to keep you fit and is something you can enjoy with your partner and family.

Image via dundeewomensfestival.org.uk

May 18, 2015

Do You Live in the World’s Happiest Country?

The World Happiness Report has been released this month crowning the world’s happiest country, and boy has it caused some rivalry. Launched in 2012 by the United Nations, the report gives 158 countries around the world a definitive placing based on a number of factors, such as earnings, living standards and perceived freedom.

RELATED: What Makes Australians Happy?

Think your home country should top this list? The winner might surprise you.

No, it’s not the United States of America, home of the brave. It’s not Australia, great southern land of the tanned surfer and carefree attitude. And the United Kingdom didn’t even make it to the top five (no, the arrival of Princess Charlotte of Cambridge didn’t factor into their happiness rank).

Coming in at number one is Switzerland. The European country boasts an average life expectancy of 82.8 (precise, huh!) and most citizens are multilingual, speaking German, French and English. Cold climate countries took out the top five spots, with Iceland ranking second on the list, followed by Denmark, Norway and Canada.

“This report gives evidence on how to achieve societal well-being,” says Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute, Columbia University. “It’s not by money alone, but also by fairness, honesty, trust, and good health.”

Other countries that made the World Happiness Report 2015 top ten include Finland, Netherlands, Sweden, New Zealand and Australia. The United States claimed the fifteenth spot, while Britain crept in at number 21.

On the other end of the scale were war-torn countries and developing nations, most of which were sub-Saharan African countries. Afghanistan and Syria joined the likes of Rwanda, Chad and Ivory Coast at the tail end of the list.

Researchers say they hope the report will be used for good. “As the science of happiness advances, we are getting to the heart of what factors define quality of life for citizens,” says one of the report editors Professor John F. Helliwell of the Univeristy of British Colombia. “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put wellbeing first.”

Three ways to boost your happiness (without moving country)

1. Say thank you

Research in The Journal of Positive Psychology reveals that money and material goods won’t boost our long-term sustainable happiness, but gratitude will. Study leads from Baylor University looked into the relationship between materialism and life satisfaction.

Their conclusion that your pay packet won’t increase happiness wasn’t groundbreaking, but their findings about the impact of gratitude may well be.

Researchers found that feelings of gratitude act as a buffer from the negative effects of materialism. The take home message? At the end of each day practice reflecting on the good that happened that day, whether that be a new purchase or a great meal with friends – cultivating positive thoughts is key.

2. Get out there

Education and social-economic status are often linked to a better level of wellbeing, but research by the University of Warwick suggests that’s not the case. The study, which interviewed over 17,000 participants, found that getting a good education had no correlation to leading a happier life. So on this basis, focus on building life experiences to better your odds for a happier, more balanced life.

3. Have kids

Yep, that’s right. A study by the London School of Economics has found that having two children increases a person’s chance of happiness. What’s more, those who have children later in life have a particularly positive response to building a family. Interestingly, having a third child saw no boost in happiness.

Images via Sprout

May 13, 2015

Natural Ways To Prevent Sagging

Rather than going down the plastic surgery route to enhance the chest area, many women are instead opting for a cheaper and more long-term alternative – exercise. So, use a few of the exercises below to not only tone your body, but to also help prevent premature sagging of the breast tissue.

RELATED: Sex Vs Exercise – Which Is Better For You?

Standing Chest Press

1

  1. Stand up straight with your arms bended at the side.
  2. Hold light dumbells in each hand, then extend them inwards and outwards in slow, fluid motions.
  3. You should be able to feel the burn in your upper arms and chest area. It’s also a fabulous exercise which helps to straighten the vertebrae, and will give your body better posture in the long term.

Planks

getty_rm_photo_of_woman_doing_plank

  1. Lie down on the floor with your arms at a 90 degree angle.
  2. Extend your toes outwards until your heels are up in the air – this will also help press your body foreword.
  3. This workout is best for the core muscles, arms, legs and even the chest which is at the centre.

Ventral raises

3

  1. Stand up straight (or lie down – depends on which feels better) with a weight in each hand. Raise one arm upwards, then slowly alternate with the other.
  2. As your arm is slowly coming downwards, make sure it lines up with your hips.

Push ups

4

  1. Start with your palms flat on the floor and keep your knees down low on the mat for extra stability.
  2. Exhale on every upwards motion and remember to keep your arms bent at the sides.

Back extensions

5

  1. In the same position as the push up, put your arms over the side of your head, then lift and lower the upper body.
  2. This exercise will help to strengthen your arms, back, as well as the chest area by giving it an extra lift. Feel free to use a yoga ball to give you some extra stability if you’re just starting out.

Images via Oxygen Mag, Fitness Blender, iBodz, Womens Health Mag

April 30, 2015

Inhale The Benefits Of Yoga

There’s a predisposed image of what you have to be before trying yoga. As the myth goes, you need to be flexible and thin, be wearing fabulous Victoria’s Secret yoga pants and carrying a green juice.

RELATED: A Beginner’s Guide To Yoga

Well, the green juice and Victoria’s Secret yoga pants are optional, being thin and flexible are not necessary at all, and everyone needs to start somewhere, so why not right now? The two things that is a necessity in yoga class are breathing and an open mind. While you may have to train your brain to be a little more free, your breath is ready for the challenge.

The way you breathe can change your mood and state of mind. Breathing is so important during yoga class because it acts as a sensor to our body and our movements.

Claire Nettley, President of Yoga Australia, believes that breath is the connection between mind and body:

“It’s often said that breathing is the bridge between the mind and body so when we consciously breathe and practise, we’re able to drop into our body and move with awareness, moment to moment. We use the breath as a barometer of how we’re feeling and moving.  For example, if we push ourselves too hard in a pose we may hold our breath. While we may not recognise the limitation physically (or want to mentally), the breath tells us to pull back. It basically helps us to practise in a more conscious way.”

claire nettley, yoga australia, breathing, yoga

Changing the way we breathe during yoga can have great effects on your mind and on your body. It can help to change mood and how we feel. Breathing during yoga is so important because it has many benefits.

“We can achieve many things – how we choose to respond to things, how we behave and how we feel physically. For example, if someone triggers something in us and we’re angry, we might hold our breath and our chest might tighten. But when we consciously tune in, take a deep breath and give ourselves a moment we can respond very differently to how we might have otherwise. Certain pranayama practices can help us relax, perk up or focus. They are many and varied!” Claire says.

But before you go ahead and dive into different breaths during your sun salutation or copy hot the girl on the mat next to you breathes you need to establish what your individual breath is like.

“It really depends on the individual and what you’re trying to achieve. What works for you might not work for me,” says Claire.

“Before we go off and explore lots of wonderful Pranayama practises, it really is important to check in with our regular breath. That starts by watching the breath in any given moment. Do I breathe into my belly or chest? Do I feel tension anywhere when I breathe and if so, where? Is my breath smooth or ragged? Can we watch our breath without judgement or wanting to change anything?  We need to establish a baseline before stepping into other practices or we could create more tension in the body. Without a baseline we won’t know what’s working and what’s not. And again, that will be different for the individual.”

Images via kyrinhall.com and twitter.com

April 7, 2015

Top Tips For Marathon Preparation

Marathon season is just around the corner as runners start lacing up to beat their personal bests and complete their running goals. From now on, fun runs and running events are occurring every weekend, giving runners a practical chance to participate and train for events like the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon in May, the Running Festival in July and the City To Surf in August.

RELATED: How To Jump Start Your Exercise Goals

Make it your goal this year to complete a marathon and make a commitment to your health and fitness. Participating in running events not only gives you something to work towards, but is often a great way to support charities and fundraisers and to have a great time with friends, family and colleagues.

Participating in a marathon or running event involves much preparation that needs to be started early, so that your body can handle the run. Personal trainer and pioneer of his own fitness app, Luke Heath has some great tips for getting started in your marathon preparation.

The ‘Running Fitness’ package that is available on his app, has been designed in conjunction with exercise scientist and marathon runner Josh Harris, and is specially suited to helping you reach your marathon goals. The boys have created this app specifically for the fun run season, to help you with your preparation and make sure your body is ready.

“Training for a fun run is a great way to encourage yourself to exercise regularly and it gives you something to work towards so it’s a lot more rewarding. By using my latest ‘Running Fitness’ package in the Luke Heath Fitness App you can get loads of running tips and training to ensure you’re doing it right from the beginning and to set yourself up for a win,” Luke says.

Having run marathons before, Josh Harris knows what it’s like to train for such a big event and says: “Increasing your running efficiency can make a big difference to your times. I increase my efficiency by incorporating some technique based speed work and by spending more time on my legs. It’s amazing what you can achieve with just 5 minutes of your time. By incorporating a combination of Luke’s running workouts you can take your running to another level this fun run season.”

marathon running, marathon, how to

The ‘Running Fitness With Harry and Luke’ package features ten different workouts for you to maximise your fun run fitness. It incorporates fitness of the whole body, not just the legs as many people would expect. Training your chest, core, back and legs, as well as using techniques such as interval training, body weight circuits and time trials, you’ll be able to get the most out of your workout and get a great running result; after all, running is about the whole body.

Being a great runner isn’t just about long, moderate jogs to train. It’s about engaging the whole body and having a great technique that will keep you going those long distances. Luke has put together his top 5 tips for mastering the marathon this season.

  1. Quality is just as important as quantity: 5 minutes of speed work a couple of times a week will shave seconds off your time.
  2. An efficient runner is a fast runner: Focus on your running technique each session. Lift your hips, heels, and knees to shave minutes off your goal time.
  3. Variety is the spice of running: Mix up your sessions. Take it to the trails or grass. Running on a softer surface for speed work 2-three times per week will ease the pressure off your joints and muscles.
  4. Strength work is the core of great running: Adding sport specific strength training to your weekly training such as core planks, athletic lunges and burpees will have you powering up the hills and into the finish line.
  5. Recovery Stretch: 5 minutes as a part of your cool down will make all the difference to your muscles and help to keep you injury free

‘Running Fitness With Harry And Luke’ also features additional training tips and warm up and cool down methods to minimise and hopefully prevent the risk of injury. Training properly for such a big event is so important to keep your body healthy and fit and to get a great result.

So what are you waiting for? Get downloading and get running!

Images via sites.newpaltz.edu and www.thorpetriathlon.com

April 5, 2015

Should You Workout At Home Or Join A Gym?

Getting ready to go after your new fitness goals? If you’re wondering whether it’s better to work out at home or join a gym, here are a few things to consider before you make your decision.

RELATED: 10 Ways To Make Exercise Fun

How much time do you have?

When you’re working out at home, it’s easier to fit your workout routine around your lifestyle. You don’t need to spend time getting to and from the gym, nor do you have to consider opening hours. On the other hand, when you think you can work out any time you like, it’s easy to fail to schedule your workouts and not do them at all.

What motivates you?

I’ll tell you upfront – I’m a gym girl. I have more fun when I go to gym classes and exercise with other people. This may work the same way for you, or you may find it more motivating to complete your exercise routine in peace and quiet by yourself.

How well do you handle distractions?

At home, something always comes to mind that needs to be done ‘immediately’ and I simply have to drop my workout and do it! At the gym, I don’t have that option. The only thing you can really do there is exercise, so you get on with it. Unless you get distracted by some spectacular biceps or a six-pack, in which case you’re probably better off working out at home.

What’s your budget?

Workouts at home are free and gyms cost money. And while there are hundreds of other things that you could be spending your hard-earned cash on, investing in your health can be motivating. I remember countless times when I didn’t feel like going to the gym, but still went because I was paying for it either way. Every time I felt great after the workout and was glad that I did it.

Try it out!

It’s not a decision that you have to make once and stick with forever. Try out both ways and see what works for you. Unwilling to pay for gym fees upfront when you’re unsure of whether you’ll keep on going? Most gyms offer free sessions to help you make up your mind.

Either way, whether you choose to work out at home or at the gym, it’s important to make it a regular practice. So take ‘you’ time to find a form of exercise that works best for you.

Image via Pixabay

March 8, 2015

How To: Perform A Pistol Squat

If you’re looking for something to amp up your workout, or you’re just looking for a new and impressive skill to show off at the gym, the pistol squat is for you! What is a pistol squat you ask? While it sounds like something really difficult that only fitness models and navy personnel can do, it’s really just a one legged squat.

RELATED: Best Butt Toning Exercises

Ah, just a one legged squat? That’s not so hard – until you try it. Some people can bust out a pistol squat and succeed on their first try, and those people are freaks of nature. For those of us less blessed in the coordination, balance, flexibility and strength department, a pistol squat can be worked up to, performing variations of this bad boy until you are confident enough to get your butt almost to the floor while lifting your straight leg above the ground.

Let’s not sugar coat it – this move is hard. It takes practice, dedication and determination, but once you have it, it’s pretty cool to whip out on leg day. The pistol squat targets your legs and butt and is a great lower body exercise to really strengthen those areas of your body, but does require flexibility in your hamstrings and hip flexors to perform the move properly, so get stretching!

Before you even try to perform a pistol squat, you should ensure that you are strong enough to do sets of weighted squats, ass to grass style. You should also be able to do 40-50 body weight squats and body weight ski squats (feet together), ass to grass style. You should always check to make sure you have great form in your squats to avoid injury, even if you have been squatting for a while. The best way to do this is to check with a professional, as they have all the knowledge and training to help you get your squats right.

While the first step of pistol squats may have both feet on the ground, you better believe that leg is coming up in the second drill. Start with a high box, bench or chair as a guide, and try the one legged squat with your weightless leg lifted and straight, but try not to sit on the box. The box is used as a guide for the depth of your squat, hence you start with a high box for a shallow squat. As you get more confident, you can reduce the size of your box, which makes your squat deeper and harder. If you lose control and have to sit on the box, that’s fine, but try to train yourself to stay tight and perform the exercise without that interruption.

The next step is an assisted pistol squat, which uses a pole to help you lower yourself down. Try to rely on your legs to do most of the work and use your arms for a little assistance by holding onto the pole – remember to squeeze your abs. You will soon have minimal help from your arms, and your legs will be much stronger.

The elevated pistol squat is the next step. Perform the one legged pistol squat on an elevated surface, like a plyometrics box. The leverage from your lifted leg dropped next to the box will make the movement easier, and then you can move onto a counterweight pistol squat. Arms straight out in front of you, hold a dumbbell, plate or kettlebell in front of you to counteract the weight offset by your hips. As your squat improves, you can lighten the weight.

When you’ve moved through the progression of drills, hopefully you’re able to perform a pistol squat, keeping your weightless leg straight and elevated and standing up with power. After you’ve mastered the pistol squat, you can move on to adding weight, by holding it close to your chest or if you’re brave, working up to the plyometric pistol squat.

Body weight training expert Al Kavadlo has a great video, which you can see below, that shows you an example of each movement.

 

Video via bodybuilding.com Images via pinterest.com

March 3, 2015

Get Fit With Luke Heath’s HIIT Workout App

Completing a workout everyday should be at the top of our priority list. Not only does exercise keep you looking fabulous, it keeps your heart healthy and puts you in a great mood. You can’t deny the benefits of a workout, but so many of us continually skip designated exercise time with excuses ranging from “we don’t have time,” to “we are exhausted.”

RELATED: How To Find A Good PT

We also know that we should be doing high energy workouts, especially if we’re looking to burn fat and condition our respiratory systems. While some of us avoid this kind of exercise out of laziness or fear, others know little about the benefits of HIIT workouts.

HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training and has been proven to be very beneficial and can even replace a longer, moderate workout. This means you can spend a shorter time exercising and still burn calories, which means more time for important things like shopping and excessively watching television shows. HIIT workouts are explosive and vigorous and get your heart rate to a maximum, which is great for achieving results fast – just think about that wedding you have to go to in a months time.

Personal trainer Luke Heath is a highly regarded Australian fitness professional and entrepreneur. He is the creator of his own Group Fitness programs, a National Group Fitness Trainer and the presenter of Luke Heath 5 Minute Workout Series.

luke heath, fitness app, hiit workout

Being an athlete and a personal trainer Luke Heath understands what our lives can be like. He knows how hard it can be to fit exercise in when we’re busy and he is very real about how to go about exercise when time is of the essence. Taking into account all of the above, Luke has created his workouts to fit our schedules, so that we reap the benefits while still having enough time to cook dinner and help the kids with their homework.

Luke has developed a super handy workout app brimming with 5-minute HIIT routines to get your heart going and utilise the benefits of a longer workout in a short and explosive five minutes. Luke loves to share the benefits of HIIT workouts and the fast results they can achieve.

“These workouts are perfect particularly for time poor professionals, mums, dads and fitness fanatics who want to see fast results! Using functional exercises that target your arms, legs and core teamed with high-energy exercises ensure maximum fat burning in minimal time,” he says.

You can take the workouts anywhere that you can take your device which means when you’re on holiday, when you’re at the park, or when you’re at your partner’s house, you’re still able to get in a great heart starting workout, that takes hardly any time.

While five minutes may be great for someone who’s on a tight schedule, Luke’s app is also for those people who do have the time to complete a longer intense workout. By joining 5-minute bursts together, you can complete multiple HIIT blasts that target different areas of your body. You can pick whichever workouts you want to do to create your own longer exercise session that will pump your heart and burn those unwanted calories.

workout app, luke heath, hiit workouts

The workout app itself is packed with some awesome features to help you out and keep you motivated. There’s a whopping 70 plus workouts to choose from and with ten new workouts added every month, you won’t have to worry about getting bored.

There are step-by-step photos to ensure you are completing the moves correctly to reduce injury, along with hints and fitness tips. The app also includes a profile page to set up, with before and after photos and weight and BMI tracker so you can see how much progress you’re making and how well you’re doing.

There are workouts to suit your specific needs, such as getting in shape for your special day, or hotel workouts to keep you fit while traveling. You don’t have to spend hours working out to get the results you’re after; you just have to know how to work your body the right way.

The Luke Heath Fitness app contains all the right 5-minute training sessions to help you achieve your body goals.

“These 5 minute workouts can help to compensate for a traditional 30-60 minute workout. Each is structured to be 5 minutes worth of intense intervals of exercises ranging from 15 seconds to 1 minute, with a circuit and ‘super set’ style of training and no rest time – That’s right, no break at all for best results,” says Luke.

Focus on different areas of the body and a mix of strength and cardio to work your body hard and get quick results. The best thing about the Luke Heath Fitness app? You can download it for free and get started on creating your dream bod!

 

March 2, 2015

How To Get In Shape After Baby

Are you trying to get in shape with a new baby? Getting fit can be hard at any time of your life, but motherhood throws extra challenges at you. How can you find time to exercise when you’re sleep-deprived and your baby constantly needs you?

RELATED: How To Lose The Extra Baby Weight

Work out at home with your baby

Combine special connection time with some basic exercises like squats, pushups and plank.

Hold your baby against your chest when you’re squatting. As your fitness level grows, so will your baby and you’ll be adding extra weight to your workout naturally.

To do pushups, lay your baby on a mat on the floor floor and get yourself in a pushup position above her (on your knees or in full plank position, depending on your strength). Then start doing your pushups and give your baby a kiss every time you go down.

Planks are excellent for your core stability and, similarly to pushups, you can do them facing your baby and making eye contact with her.

Take walks

Walking is a great, gentle way to keep active and calm your baby at the same time. If you don’t feel like doing it on your own, join or start a group for mothers who want to walk.

Go to mum-and-bub exercise classes

These vary from mum-and-bub yoga to gym workouts, to outdoor training programs and will give you the additional benefit of meeting other mums in your area and supporting each other in your efforts to get in shape.

Be gentle with yourself

Remember that your body took 9 months to grow during pregnancy and don’t get disheartened if you haven’t lost your baby weight within a month or two. Take your time to get in shape and focus on feeling stronger and healthier instead of that number on the scale. Getting back to your pre-baby weight will come in its own time as a side benefit.

Image via Pixabay

March 1, 2015

Stay-Fit Tips For Busy Women

Finding the time and motivation to stay fit is a challenge for many of us. By the time we’ve gotten the kids ready for school, completed a million of tasks at the office, talked to a cranky client (or a dozen of them), done the laundry and cooked dinner, exercise has become just another chore that we’re unable to face. If you’re struggling to stick to your workout routine, here are a few stay-fit tips that will make it easier.

RELATED: How To Keep Motivated With Exercise

Get plenty of sleep

Sleep is often the first thing to go when we’re busy, but sacrificing sleep is one of the worst strategies when you’re trying to gain extra hours. Fatigue kills your productivity, so everything takes longer, your mood plummets down and your stay-fit plan goes out of the window.

Schedule time for exercise

You will probably not get a whole lot of exercise done, if you’re hoping to work out whenever you have time. It’s best to put your exercise on your schedule and stick with it, even if it’s only 15-30 minutes at a time.

Make use of breaks

Lunch breaks are a great opportunity to get active. Even if you work from home or take care of your kids, you can usually take a few minutes out here and there, and sneak in some crunches or push-ups.

Get an exercise buddy

When you exercise with your kids or a friend, you will have more fun and you will feel more motivated to show up. After all, if you don’t, it won’t just be a simple change of schedule, you will be disappointing another person.

Have fun

It’s not likely that you’ll stick with a high-impact routine that you hate, especially when there’re so many other things competing for your attention. If, on the other hand, you choose a form of exercise that you enjoy (even if an expert or your personal trainer says it’s not as effective), you’ll keep turning up.

Let go of perfection

Sometimes things don’t go as planned. Kids get sick, deadlines take over our lives, emergencies come up. Don’t let that discourage you. It’s never too late to get back onto the fitness bandwagon.

Hopefully, these stay-fit tips will help you start your exercise routine with more ease and stick with it!

Image by skeeze via pixabay.com

February 24, 2015

7 Alternative Ways To Get Fit AND Have Fun

Exercise is great for our body and overall wellbeing, but sometimes getting up at 5am every morning to hit the treadmill is downright boring. If you feel like you’re stuck in an exercise rut, meaning your routine has become dull and somewhat unproductive, it might be time to try a new approach to fitness. Here are 7 exercise alternatives that are so fun, you won’t even realise your burning calories!

RELATED: Top 5 Weightloss Superfoods You Need Right Now

Indoor rock climbing

Rock climbing is a great cardiovascular and strengthening workout. Burning anywhere between 500 and 900 calories an hour, it engages most major muscle groups in the body making it a great alternative to weight lifting, and also increases your heart and respiratory rates. Difficulty levels vary depending on the type of wall you climb and the speed at which you climb it. For first time climbers expect to feel the burn for a couple of days after, particular in your arms, shoulders and back.

Stand-up paddle boarding

SUP is a low-impact, overall body workout that’s perfect if you prefer to train outdoors. It improves your balance, flexibility and cardio fitness and is an exercise alternative that suits all age and fitness levels. By standing on the board your core and leg muscles are engaged as you try to keep your balance, while your upper body is strengthened as you propel yourself through the water with the paddle. If you’re a beginner it’s best to start in calm, flat water. Alternatively if you’re looking for something more challenging, the ocean will give you a more intense workout as you’ll be weathering the waves and current.

Pole dancing

In the past pole dancing was often associated with strip clubs and somewhat erotic behaviour, but today it’s a renowned way to tone and firm. It’s a full body workout that combines resistance training with cardio and is especially great for arms and shoulders. There are loads of pole dancing studios that specifically target women who want to get fit and most classes incorporate dance routines, so don’t think that you’ll only be climbing and spinning.

Aerial yoga

What do you get when you combine traditional yoga with calisthenics, dance, pilates and acrobatics? You get Aerial Yoga – one of the newest exercise trends that will have you swinging from the ceiling (no, not the chandeliers) in silk hammocks. Due to the nature of the suspended movements, it’s a full body workout that tones and redefines muscles while strengthening the joints. It’s highly recommended for anyone with back issues and can also be used for physical rehabilitation.

Barrelates

Just like Aerial Yoga, Barrelates is another popular exercise phenomena that combines two different types of sport. Integrating pilates with barre, it’a a fat burning formula that reshapes your entire body through full-body dance movements and muscle conditioning. It’s perfect for those who enjoy the benefits associated with pilates, but are looking to inject some fun into their routine.

Flying trapeze

If you’re chasing a workout that will make you stronger both physically and emotionally, trapeze flying will do just that. It’s great for building confidence, overcoming fears and your adrenaline will be through the roof (enter peaking endorphins). You’ll be knee-hanging, hand grappling and swinging from an eight metre platform, so you will be required to well and truly step outside your comfort zone. Mind you, your biceps and core will love you for it!

Hula-hooping

This is a great exercise that you can do with your kids and also in the comfort of your own home. It’s a cardiovascular workout that slims your hips, tones your butt and tightens your abs. If  you prefer a studio setting, hooping classes are also available so an instructor will be there to guide you. Did we mention Beyonce and Kelly Osbourne have both credited hooping for their figures?

 Image via Glamour

February 20, 2015

A Beginner’s Guide To Yoga

Over the last few years, yoga has become increasingly popular due to the many physical, emotional, mental and spiritual benefits. Regular practice of yoga postures, breath exercises, relaxation, concentration, self-inquiry and meditation cultivates health & wellbeing A low-impact exercise, Yoga postures can be practiced by anyone at any age and at any fitness level.

With the new year already moving into full gear, what better way to start afresh with your yoga practice than with a guide outlining everything you need to know – from what to wear to safety measures. If you’re new to yoga, you want to find out as much information as you can to help build a better foundation to your practice, therefore minimising injury and maximising health benefits.

Here are a few handy tips to get you on the right track and ignite your inner yogi this New Year:

Where should I start practicing and which class or style should I take?

If you’re new to yoga or haven’t practiced in a while, beginner or foundation classes are a great way to start out as they can guide you along the right track and get you motivated. This will help build the right foundations for more advanced poses and yoga styles later down the track.

Another important aspect is finding a qualified and registered teacher to ensure you are practicing Yoga in the safest manner possible. Visit yogaaustralia.org.au to find a suitably qualified teacher in your area.

There are so many different styles of Yoga practice with some more challenging than others. A good place to start is with a Hatha or Vinyasa class, depending on whether you prefer to work slowly or work up more of a sweat. As you become more confident, you can try other styles to see which one suits you most. Your first class is always a little daunting and it’s natural to feel uncoordinated but don’t worry, this is perfectly normal and you won’t be alone. Make sure you let the instructor know it’s your first class and about any injuries you may have.

What should I wear to my first class? Do I need to bring anything?

When practicing yoga, you should wear comfortable clothing that you can move freely in. Consider that you might be doing postures where a t-shirt may ride-up. Yoga is traditionally practiced barefoot, but there are non-slip socks on the market if you’re not ready to get your feet out in public!

Check with the studio or gym where you are attending the class to see if they have mats, otherwise you may need to bring your own. You can get quality mats from most sports stores. When attending your first class remember to bring a bottle of water to help keep you hydrated and a towel to wipe any sweat.

What can I expect in a yoga class?

Try to arrive at least 15 minutes early to your first class and avoid eating anything for two hours before (water is fine). You may need to sign enrolment forms and you’ll get a chance to speak to your teacher. This is a good opportunity to introduce yourself to your teacher, let them know you’re just starting out and you can also discuss any concerns or injuries you may have before you begin your practice. Plus this gives you time to settle in, relax and prepare for your practice in class. Make sure you switch off your mobile phone and enter the room quietly.

Once the class has begun, your teacher will start by going through a series of different postures and poses. They will offer students alternatives and modified poses, geared toward different levels of experience. Listen to your body and only try a more challenging pose if you feel comfortable. Yoga isn’t a competitive sport so don’t feel the need to keep up with everyone else in the class, go at your own pace. The more you practice the easier it will be and you will quickly progress.

Safety measures and precautions

Yoga may look comparatively less impacting on your body than other physical activities; however, there is still a risk of injury especially if you don’t understand how to enter and hold a particular posture or push beyond your body’s limits.

Here are some tips to help you develop the safest yoga practice:

  • Pick the right yoga style: If you are still quite new to yoga, start with a series of classes that are aimed at beginners. That way you can build a solid foundation of knowledge and alignment principles before you try something more challenging.
  • Be in tune with your body: Safety in yoga is about knowing your limitation and being comfortable in staying within those limitations while practicing yoga. As a student, you carry the responsibility of advising the teacher prior to commencing the yoga practice of any injuries or other factors that might affect your safe practice.
  • Pick the right yoga teacher: It’s important that your teacher is qualified and registered as part of a governing body such as Yoga Australia (link thru). This will ensure you are practicing yoga in the safest manner possible and with a teacher who knows what they’re doing . It’s important that the teacher understands how to teach a posture correctly and recognises when a posture, position or breath practice is just not suitable for a particular student. Don’t worry if you don’t ‘click’ with the teacher straight away – it doesn’t mean the practice or style isn’t for you and it might be worth trying a few others until you find one you click with.

The teacher is there as a guide so if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! You are always your own best teacher. Honour what your body is telling you that day and if it says to rest, come out of the post and take a break. There are no prizes in yoga for hurting yourself.

If you have any questions about Yoga, visit the yogaaustralia.org.au for more information and to find a teacher in your area

February 15, 2015

Inspirational Women: Michelle Bridges

Each week, SHESAID features an inspiring woman who has been kind enough to share her story with our readers. She might be a leader in her chosen field, someone still on their own path striving to make a difference or simply someone with a remarkable story to tell. These women contribute their own knowledge, expertise and life lessons in order to truly inspire others.

RELATED: Inspirational Women: Ford + Harris

We spoke to Michelle about setting goals and making 2015 the year to totally transform your body and your life.

Name and role:

Michelle Bridges, TV personality, author and all-round fitness guru

Why is it so important to firstly, write your goals down, and secondly, keep track of them?

When you want to make what I would consider a big life change there are few things you should and shouldn’t do.

The only time to overhaul your life is when you are ready to get honest and real about what it is you want for yourself and your family. When you are crying on your bedroom floor with clothes that don’t fit strewn all over the place and you’re about to go to a New Year party is DEFINITELY NOT the time to overhaul your life! This is what I would consider a BIG life changing plan and one which should be given respect, thoughtfulness and adult consideration.

Writing down your goals is key but so is not overwhelming yourself. I encourage making a plan with time lines so you can keep track of where you are going and how you are going.

How should you get started and why is January a great time to begin?

I actually think the ONLY time that is good to do this is when you are truly and honestly ready. It doesn’t have to be Jan, in fact that might be too much pressure for some people. Waiting till the silly season is over or more importantly when you can maturely and thoughtfully see that your plan, given the environment, is ready to be launched. However, that being said, you need to start. One small action can be the catalyst the next step and then the next step. I’m big on planning though, so time line your actions without overwhelming yourself by having to make all the changes in one day!

What are the key steps you should take in preparing to transform your body and your life?

Here are 5 starting points:

  1. Answer the question: “What do I want?” You need to know where you are going in order to get there, right?
  2. Get real and honest with yourself. Start to do the work around why you buy into your excuses. This is REALLY big work and it takes time and guts and probably support along the way. But, until this has been done and continued to be worked on, everything else goes down the drain.
  3. Make a plan which is realistic and achievable. That means it’s something that you can do long term. When I say long term, I’m talking about a new way of living.
  4. Get some support. It’s not a deal breaker, but supporters are worth their weight in gold!
  5. Get organised. Habits and routines are fool proof ways to achieve what it is you say you want. Consistency is king in my books!

Why is 12 weeks a good amount to time to see results?

In 12 weeks you learn so much about yourself and you start to engrain habits which become rituals. That being said, these are habits and rituals which continually need to be honed and sharpened for your life. It’s all balance. There are times where you loosen the reins and times when you dial it in but for the most part you get yourself into habits which support the kind of life you choose to live. It’s a choice. And it’s your choice.

January 23, 2015

Victoria’s Secret Angel Workout Tips

Doesn’t everyone wish they had the body of a Victoria’s Secret model? Well now you can, with these easy workout tips which will surely motivate you to get moving!

Combined with healthy eating and regular physical activity, you can shed the Christmas weight before the new year!

RELATED: The Ultimate Arm Workout

Side lunges

Stand with your feet hip-length apart and take a step sideways. Bend your knee at a 90º angle, and repeat on the other side. Use a dumbbell to increase your stamina, and give your arms a workout as well.

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Outer thigh lift

Use an exercise ball, and shift your weight over to one side. This exercise works the lateral muscles, and tones the entire upper-thigh. Make sure your legs are aligned, (one should be extended, the other bent). Keep the abs and legs tight as you elevate them.

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Crunch

Who knew a simple crunch exercise would be so effective? Lie down flat on your back, and keep your knees bent at the middle. Position your hands behind your head (for extra stability and without putting pressure on the neck). Then simply crunch upwards before releasing back down onto a flat back.

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Leg raises

Lie down flat on your back, and elevate your legs upwards. Keep them pressed together for extra stability, and rest your hands on the abdominal muscles. Lower the legs halfway, then slowly pull upwards without curving the back.

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Abdominal twist

Sit back into a chair position, making sure your legs are slightly bent. Relax your arms, and slowly twist from side to side.

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Images via ChaCha, How Stuff Works, Sassy Fit Girl, Fit Dad Chris, Lean it Up

December 24, 2014

#MondayPerson Campaign For Beyond Blue

The #MondayPerson campaign is a workplace mental health initiative developed by Martin College to support Beyond Blue. According to John Martin: “To get involved, you just need to show us your Monday face! Take a photograph of yourself and upload to your Facebook or Instagram account. Make sure that the post is public, and to tag your selfie with ‘#MondayPerson’ and ‘#MartinCollege’ and Martin will donate a dollar to Beyond Blue on your behalf.”

Yes folks, it’s that easy to show your support to help Beyond Blue and Martin Collage with their campaign. John Martin, Head of  Martin College was kind enough to answer our questions about their connection with Beyond Blue.  He spoke about why it was initiated, what they are doing and how support from our readers and the wider community will make a difference.

Why has Martin College decided to support Beyond Blue to reduce the stigma of mental health, specifically in the workplace?

Martin has chosen to support Beyond Blue in order to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around mental health issues, particularly in the workplace, because statistics indicate that a growing number of Australians are dissatisfied at work and unhappy in their careers. While many symptoms of depression, stress and anxiety can be debilitating, very few people experiencing these conditions seek help.

Please explain what Martin College and/or Beyond Blue have chosen to do.

Martin has chosen to donate $1 to Beyond Blue for each selfie that is uploaded to a user’s Facebook or Instagram account and includes the hashtags, ‘#MondayPerson’ and ‘#MartinCollege’, up to a total of $25,000.

Please explain how this initiative was instigated.

We began to realise that many of our students had come to us out of dissatisfaction and frustration in their previous jobs. Many of them were looking to change their lives and had suffered from depression, anxiety or stress at some point in their career. We understand that this is a significant issue, but is rarely spoken of, so it made us want to be part of a solution to raise awareness and help reduce the stigma.

Why was this type of promotion chosen?

This type of promotion was chosen because it allows Martin to support Beyond Blue financially while also getting the public involved. This element of social participation helps us raise awareness of the issues at hand, as well as raising funds toward the financial goal of $25,000.

What steps have been taken to launch this initiative?

The campaign kicked off internally at Martin & our overhead company on 24 November, with ambassadors promoting the selfie initiative to staff members at Study Group campuses across Australia and New Zealand. Ambassadors and volunteers engaged with the public on 1 December in Sydney’s CBD to encourage their participation, with Brisbane following suit the following Monday 8 December. The initiative is also being actively promoted across Martin’s website and social media accounts.

Ultimately, what is Martin College and Beyond Blue hoping to achieve?

Through their #MondayPerson initiatives, Martin hopes to not only raise awareness of mental health issues, but also to encourage people to take charge of their career and future happiness. The flexible online and on-campus study options make it easier than ever to obtain a career-changing qualification in as little as twelve months. Martin wants to put individuals on the path to a career they are passionate about; one that they can’t wait to get to each morning – even on Mondays!

What will support for this initiative achieve?

Support for this initiative will raise awareness of workplace depression, stress and anxiety, and help remove the stigma that is associated with mental health issues.

Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Just an understanding that if you or your friends or family are suffering from workplace mental health issues, that you don’t need to suffer in silence. This issue effects so many Australian’s and is should be made more public. We want people to take charge of their happiness and to live lives free of these sorts of issues.

Martin is an education provider offering Certificate, Diploma and Bachelor courses in the areas of Business, Marketing, Events, Tourism & Design. With flexible on-campus and online study options, Martin has been helping thousands of students across Australia get the right education and career training for the past four decades. To learn more about how Martin can help you get the job and life you want, visit martin.edu.au today.

Image via www.facebook.com/babyology

December 15, 2014

Why Walk 10,000 Steps A Day?

A friend of mine was looking at her pedometer and complaining that it was nearly impossible to reach the goal of 10,000 steps a day with her busy schedule. I got curious. I thought I was an active person. I walked everywhere, I spent a lot of time outdoors with the kids. Surely, 10,000 steps weren’t a problem for me!

I downloaded a pedometer app for my iPhone and it was time for a reality check. Even with my relatively active lifestyle, I was only walking around 7,000 steps a day unless I consciously looked for more opportunities to move.

RELATED: 10 Ways To Make Exercise Fun

Why 10,000 steps?  The recommendation for 10,000 steps originated in Japan in the 1960s. Dr Yoshiro Hatano found that an average person takes between 3,500 and 5,000 steps a day. An increase to 10,000 is totally doable for most of us and it would mean a marked difference in people’s fitness and wellbeing.

The easiest form of exercise

Almost anyone can do it. You don’t to pay gym fees or find special equipment, you don’t even have to take too much time out of your day. You have to get to places anyway, so why not substitute some of your driving for walking?

Proven health benefits

Walking strengthens the cardiovascular system and reduces the risk of stroke and heart disease. It helps manage cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and obesity. It strengthens the bones and improves balance. If that’s not enough, walking also reduces mental stress. How many of us would say ‘no’ to less stress?

Time for learning and creativity

I usually use my walking time to listen to audio books or podcasts. Often new thoughts just pop into my mind. You can do it, too. Just remember to bring a notebook to capture your great ideas.

Opportunity for ‘me’ time

If I tell my extroverted, type-A husband that I’m going for a walk because I need time for myself, he won’t get it. In his minds this can easily translate into “I don’t want to spend time with you, so I’d rather walk in the streets aimlessly”. On the other hand, when I say that I need to do my 10,000 steps, he can relate – I have a measurable goal and I’m going after it.

It’s been a few months since I’ve downloaded the pedometer app and I’m still hooked. It’s like playing a computer game – you’re always trying to get a higher score to get to the next level, only there are a lot more benefits than just having fun.

Image by fotshot via pixabay.com

October 24, 2014
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