It is well-documented that exercise helps prevent and improve a number of health problems but research also shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and depression.

Exercise can help you to gain confidence, take your mind off worries and help you cope in a healthy way.

The good news is that you don’t have to join a gym or spend ££s on kit. All you need is a pair of supportive trainers and comfortable clothing (ladies – a supportive bra is a must). If indoors, just pop on an uplifting cd and dance as if no-one is watching (they’re not by the way!) Or why not get outdoors. Spring has (officially) arrived and everything is beginning to bud. Just going for a brisk walk around the block for 15 to 30 minutes is a great mood booster. Walking by water has the added benefit of calming your mind too.

Walk, jog, hop skip and jump, borrow a hula-hoop but whatever you do, smile or even laugh for yet another great (and free) mood enhancer.

Whether you’re on your own, with your partner or kids, or gossiping with your best friend just pop on those trainers and step outside. A friendly nod or smile to anyone you meet could also make their day.

Only one cautionary note – if you’re wearing earphones, please ensure you remain aware of the environment.

I hope to see you out and about during the Spring and please don’t forget to smile as we pass each other.

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I am not one who celebrates the New Year or makes resolutions at that time preferring to wait until the time is right for my next challenge. Today is the day. Apparently the third Monday in January is known as Blue Monday but this isn’t something that I subscribe to.

This week is the start of a new 12 week period in my life. After succumbing to the vomiting bug last week, I am now back to ‘normal’ just in time to commence another round of Julia Buckley’s Fat Burn Revolution programme only this time I have a different focus – strength rather than fat loss. I do not need to lose weight and my body composition is now lean so fat loss is no longer my goal. With Julia’s knowledge, agreement and advice I am tweaking the metabolic workouts so instead of 2 sets of 10 reps, I am working towards failure in 4 sets of 5 reps. What does this mean in reality?

Basically I am lifting heavier than before. That’s the difference. Gone are the pretty coloured dumbbells and I am now working with adjustable sets. There’s going to be trial and error but that’s all part of the challenge.

However, all other principles of Julia’s programme still apply. In fact nutrition now plays an even more important part in my diet as I have to ensure sufficient consumption of protein and the inclusion of carbohydrates. I’m not a calorie counter (never have been) and admit to a weakness for cakes and croissants. So my dietary challenge is too eat well, eat healthily and to eat right for my specific aims of gaining strength and defining those lovely muscles that have begun to appear.

My other challenge during this period is that I’m not going to use the usual metrics. I will not step on my bodyfat scales. I will not use the tape measure. My guide is how heavy I lift and how I feel.

I already know that I’m going to feel fit, healthy and fabulous by the end of the twelve weeks but I have an added incentive. On the last day of the programme, 13th April (London Marathon day too by the way), I am going to see Russell Watson in concert in Oxford. So I’ll have a fantastic night out, see one of my favourite performers, probably have a glass of champagne too and know that underneath my gladrags is a fit fifty-something bod.

Oh and I have a birthday this week so champagne and chocolate are definitely on the menu along with a day of pampering! Happy New Year to me

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In 2013, Lorraine, Kim, Susan and I ‘met’ on an on-line fat loss programme. We had a number of things in common, not least the fact that we were all 53.

The programme that we were following, Total Fat Burn Revolution, was devised and run by Julia Buckley who is a renowned fitness writer and coach. I was fortunate enough to be part of her pilot for this programme and along with the others progressed to her new venture, Extreme Inferno. Both are 12 week programmes and are designed to torch fat leaving you fit, healthy and full of life.

This programme is not aimed at any specific age group – it was pure coincidence that the four of us were the same age. The proggers (as we were fondly known) ranged from mid-twenties to late fifties and during the year we have celebrated milestone birthdays, engagements, awarding of a PhD, a wedding, a baby, new jobs and house moves. There have also been commiserations over break-ups and job loss but we were all there in the ether supporting each other.

As can be imagined, we all had different reasons for wanting to lose fat but the one aim that bound the four of us was to be ‘fit and fabulous’ in our fifties.

The workouts are grouped into three phases, each lasting four weeks, and as we became fitter and more flexible, advanced versions of some exercises were available.  One joy of the programme is that you can exercise at home or outdoors, you don’t need to belong to a gym. Suitable clothing and footwear along with a mat, some dumbbells and a stability ball are all you need.  Yes, ladies lift weights!

You may have noted that I use the term “fat loss” rather than “weight loss” as in more usual in exercise programmes. This is intentional as the title indicates but also because some people, and I am one of them, wanted to lose body fat held but don’t want (or need) to lose weight. So what is the subtle (or not so subtle) difference? If you lose weight, you will lose fat, hence the reason we generally refer to weight loss. With weight loss, we measure the pounds and focus on the numbers but this number will record total mass including fat, water and lean mass (muscle, tendons and bone mineral deposits). By looking to shed body fat, weight will generally be lost in the initial stages but this may stabilise depending on your ultimate aims. For me, I wanted to maintain my weight (perhaps even increase it by a few pounds) but shift the stubborn fat around my torso.

So moving onto the diet and nutritional aspect of the programme. Julia does not recommend a diet but points to a healthy and balanced diet. I use the word diet in the widest sense (it’s worth looking in a dictionary to remind ourselves what the word actually means).  Yes, it is recommended that we ditch the sugar and processed foods and watch our alcohol consumption but then we all know that deep down don’t we? Coined by Julia but adopted by most of us, we now eat and drink ‘mostly healthy, most of the time’. It works – pop over to Julia’s website (www.juliabuckley.co.uk) or look in her book for success stories.

A word about the success stories. They are real. Real life people. Real photos. True stories. I know as I am one of them. Believe me when I say that I have no idea how to enhance a photograph, it really is a case of ‘the camera doesn’t lie’.. If you watch the promotional video, you’ll also get a glimpse of me!

January is traditionally the time to start diets and new exercise programmes. Make 2014 the year you make a difference and celebrate the beautiful body you have. The others and I now rock bikinis and leggings. Sleeveless dresses and tops have reappeared! Go for it and join us as fabulous, fit and healthy ladies.

PS: the programme works for blokes too! 

A full review of The Fat Burn Revolution by Julia Buckley will be posted once I have received my copy of the book.

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We all know that walking is good for you but have you considered Nordic Walking? Originally created as a means for skiers to continue with their exercise and training all year round, this is a fitness trend that has been growing in the UK recently.

You may have seen people out walking with poles – chances are they are Nordic Walking (NW). You can also walk or ramble with a pole or two but I am specifically talking about Nordic Walking.

So what exactly is Nordic Walking? In the words of the experts, Nordic Walking UK, it is a specific fitness technique using poles in order to add two major benefits to walking

  • The use of poles means the upper body muscles are used as well as the legs
  • The poles help to propel the walker along – this means he/she works harder than usual yet the support given by the poles makes it feel easier!

The pluses are that Nordic Walking can be done by anybody, anywhere and does not require expensive equipment or clothing.

You do need suitable footwear (I wear either Salomon or North Face but good trainers suffice) and clothing. I recommend leggings or capris as if wearing flared pants when it is wet, the wetness soon seeps up! Layers are good as you soon warm up and ladies a supportive bra is needed (as always). Poles can be hired from instructors so you don’t need to spend too much money until you’re sure Nordic Walking is for you. However should you wish to buy your own set of poles, NWUK has some advice for you (http://www.nordicwalking.co.uk/blog/2013/11/choosing-nordic-walking-poles-a-useful-guide/)

Interested? Again, NWUK may be able to assist as they hold a register of instructors but for those of you in Maidenhead, Jo Whitfield and I are starting group sessions in January 2014 so please get in contact with either of us for further details. We are both qualified Personal Trainers and Pilates instructors as well as Nordic Walking instructors and look forward to encouraging you to start Nordic Walking.

Jo: joannewhitfield11@yahoo.com       Hazel: hazel@latimerpt.co.uk

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Do you fancy taking your fitness outside? If the answer is yes, why not consider Nordic Walking?

Starting in January 2014, we will be running a five week taster course in Cookham. Limited spaces are available so please call or email to find out more.

A friend of mine, Jo, will also be running courses in Cox Greeen, Maidenhead so to find out more please contact her on 07867 975165  or via email joannewhitfield11@yahoo.com

Suitable clothing and footwear must be worn. Poles are available to hire from both of us.

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Last Thursday evening I ventured up to London as a guest of the lovely ladies behind Zero Calorie Advent Calendar for their launch party. A fabulous evening – where to begin my recollections?

I met many inspirational ladies some of whom I already ‘knew’ thanks to Twitter, others I hadn’t heard of but soon got to know. All are engaged in spreading the word on how to live healthily and well, many are fitness bloggers, most London based.

We met at LuluLemon’s Covent Garden showroom but soon hit the streets for a run with the guys from Good Gym. After a warm-up run (mostly our voices warming up as we chatted away), we came to Somerset House where we were all put to work in clearing out a room. This is how Good Gym operate – running with a purpose. Tasks completed, in record time I hasten to add, we split into 3 groups according to our ability and set off along the Embankment, over the Millenium Bridge and paused for a group photo with St Paul’s Cathedral as our backdrop 1462966_228633683970748_2130117307_n

Then off we set again, this time running over Blackfriair’s Bridge and back to Covent Garden for our post-run treats of bubbly, water or smoothie. Cue the serious business of the evening.

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Becca, Christine and Mollie explained the concept behind the calendar and introduced some of the sponsors of Zero Calorie Advent Calendar and then Nicola of A Mile in Her Shoes explained why she and her fellow trustees had set up their charity which leads run clubs for homeless women as a way to help these women get back on their feet. Many of us present had donated trainers or kit which will either be distributed to these ladies or sold on eBay to raise funds in order to buy the requisites.

So what is Zero Calorie Advent Calendar I hear you ask? Each day during December a new workout, recipe and health/fitness business offer will be revealed to keep those interested in health and happiness on track during the festive season. So party away but please find time to encompass some exercise.

Amongst chat, networking, laughter and photos we also found time to eat (mostly) healthy snacks and finally left exhilarated with our goodie bags. If the other ladies were like me, they also had a big smile plastered on their face for the journey home.

London, running, good deeds, great ladies – what more could I have asked for a November evening?

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