Fitness Tip for the Week – Identifying Your Obstacles

Have you been making excuses for why you haven’t been able to accomplish things in your life, including your fitness?

Take responsibility for the excuses you’ve been making, so that you can move past them. When you identify obstacles, you are more likely able to come up with strategies to work past them.

Having a training partner can also really help as you hold each other accountable and motivate each other to work out or achieve fitness goals.

Fitness – Cross Training for Fitness

Have you ever been in a workout rut? Are you getting tired of doing the same old thing over and over again? Have you ever thought of Cross Training?

Cross-training is a great way to try something new and boost your fitness and help reduce injury. Here’s a great article that you might find helpful, and I hope it spurs you on to a new level in your fitness program.

As you know we also have a Cross-Training type class here at Fit4Life. It is totalFit with Kirstie on  Monday, Wednesday and Thursday nights. She will definitely help take your fitness to a new level! Come check it out.

totalFIT – Mondays 5:10pm & 6:10pm, Wednesdays – 5:30pm (1/2 hour), Thursdays – 6pm

Jamie – Fit 4 Life Staff

Fitness – Stretching

I thought I would blog a little about the value of stretching. I used to stretch a lot in my younger years and always enjoyed it. Back in my teens and early 20’s, before I did my weights workout I would always do a whole body stretch ‘workout’ for 15-20 minutes. I carried on with this stretching routine for years and became quite flexible as a result, but when I suffered a serious lower-back injury in my mid-20’s I stopped stretching as I found it was aggravating my back. Lately, however, in my mid-40’s I’ve been getting back into stretching and am enjoying it and seeing the benefits once again.

There are some great benefits to stretching and staying flexible, especially as you get older. As we age, our muscles become less limber and the range of motion in our joints can decrease. We start to find that ordinary everyday activities and movements – like bending down to put on our shoes, or reaching up to change a light bulb or get a can of beans off the top shelf – seem a lot harder than they were when we were younger. Also, in modern Western society our lifestyles have become much more sedentary over the past 50 years. We now spend a great deal more time sitting down hunched over computer screens or watching TV, and as a result we lose more and more flexibility with each passing year.

The great news about stretching is that anyone can stretch regardless of their age or current flexibility level. Many stretches are very simple to perform – and some stretches you can do even while sitting watching TV, working on the computer, or even in bed! Also stretching does not have to involve a huge time commitment, but it will provide you with great results! Some of the benefits you can expect from a regular stretching program are:

  • Increased circulation in the blood to various parts of your body
  • Increased energy levels (resulting from increased circulation)
  • Increased range of movement in your joints
  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Faster recovery after injury
  • You will feel better!!

Here are a few pointers to be aware of as you begin a dedicated stretching program:

1. Be consistent with your stretching routine

Like most things in life, you won’t experience the benefits of stretching unless you consistently stretch! One great thing about stretching compared to aerobic (cardio) or anaerobic (weight-training) exercise is that stretching workouts are usually much shorter – in some cases only a few minutes. Put some stretching times into your weekly calendar and watch yourself improve!

2. Be careful when stretching cold muscles

Stretching cold muscles can cause injury, so if you are not warmed up and you want to stretch then you do need to be careful. Some studies have shown that stretching cold muscles actually decreases muscle strength and power for up to an hour after stretching, so usually it is best to do your cardio or weights workout first and then stretch afterwards. There are some fitness practitioners who say you should never stretch before working out – only stretch afterwards – but I think this is a little extreme. As I mentioned in my introduction I stretched before doing my workouts for years and it worked for me. (The reason I stretched before my workouts was that I found that I was too tired after my workouts to stretch, and I never did it unless I did it first!) Ultimately you have to create a fitness routine that works for you, but if you are stretching cold muscles you do need to be careful!

3. Never force a stretch beyond the point of mild tension painful

Stretching should be pleasurable, relaxing and beneficial. Many people believe that to get the most from their stretching they need to stretch to the point of pain, but this is a great mistake. You don’t always have to stretch to the full range of motion of the joint – and beyond! Just take the stretch out to where it feels comfortable and then gently try to stretch just a little beyond that. If you sense pain then back off the stretch to where the stretch is still ‘stretched’ but pain-free.

4. Your flexibility changes

A person’s flexibility levels change from day to day. Your energy levels, your overall health, the weather, and even what you had for dinner last night can affect your body on a daily basis, so you may find you can’t perform your stretching routine in the same manner with the same results at each session. Don’t worry about it; just keep going and look for improved flexibility over the months and years, not necessarily over days and weeks.

5. Never throw your body into a stretch or bounce when stretching

Stretching should be fluid and gentile. Stretching slowly and gently helps to relax your muscles, which in turn makes stretching more pleasurable and beneficial. This also helps avoid muscle tears and strains which may be caused by rapid, jerky movements.

6. Try to increase your time in each stretch

Time yourself and try to increase your time in each stretch by a few seconds each week. Start with 10-15 seconds and try to extend this by 2-3 seconds each week until you can hold a stretch for 30 to 45 seconds.

7. Never stretch an injury

When a bodypart is injured you need to be careful. Stretching an injured bodypart can cause further soft tissue damage, so it is best to rest the injured area until it is fully healed. After you feel your injury has healed sufficiently, then begin stretching the area again but proceed very slowly and carefully. Stop if there is any pain and continue with recovery treatment (rest, heat, ice etc) until the area is fully healed.

8. Stretch your whole body

While stretching is ‘flexible’ (excuse the pun) in that you can spot-stretch different bodypart’s which you may have specific trouble with, it’s best to stretch your whole body and keep it limber. Your body works as a unit and keeping your whole body flexible is something that will benefit you for life. Some muscles and body-parts like your neck and wrists can be stretched for just a few minutes a day, but it is preferable to have 2 or 3 periods each week where you stretch your whole body for a longer period of time, say 20 -30 minutes. I currently do a whole body ‘stretch-workout’ twice a week for 30 minutes after I have finished my cardio workout and it really helps me feel (and be) more limber. The weblink at ACC NZ provides you with a whole body basic stretching routine.

By following the above stretching tips, you’ll be performing your stretches properly and maximizing the benefits which stretching can provide.

Bryce Staveley – Fit 4 Life Staff

Fitness – Summer Tips to make Working out Fun and Comfy!

Are you one of those people who complain that there are never enough hours in a day to do all things you would like to do? I am! So, I have found what works for me is to multi-task things together so I can make the most out of my day! And that includes my fitness!

I love summer and being in the outdoors so I will often walk or run with the girls I mentor or my friends. That way I’ve caught up with friends, done some exercise and enjoyed our beautiful country we live in as well!!   It’s always motivating and lots of fun when you are with someone else.   Plus you can encourage and be encouraged at the same time!

Because I love being with friends and working out at the same time or training for running races (especially long distance runs)…I’ve realizedthat there are 2 essential items that I need other than the obvious of great supportive walking shoes!!  They are: Ankle stockings and Elastoplast.

It seems that my feet are prone to getting blisters.  So I’ve learned that if you put on ankle stockings before you put your socks on then you can prevent blisters occurring.  It sounds bizarre but it’s true and has allowed me to keep enjoying my exercise with friends blister and pain free.

If you already have blisters on your feet (because you forgot to wear your ankle stockings J, or maybe you have them from a new pair of shoes or jandals) then I recommend you use ‘Elastoplast’ -Spray Plaster.  It’s not too expensive and a great thing to keep in your handbag to pull out for yourself or anyone else when the need arises.  I personally love the spray-on plaster coat because it’s transparent so you can’t even tell it’s on your feet when wearing jandals or opened toed shoes. Everyone hates that “half peel off at the corners” that plasters do which looks tacky and is annoying. This way you are still protecting your feet and preventing bacteria from coming in and can be more comfortable as well.

So enjoy the summer whether working out with your friends or come along and bring a friend down to Fit4Life.  Work out together in our weights and cardio areas or our Zumba classes where it is so fun to work out to great music and with great people (plus there are lots of cool fans going!!)

Try out my 2 essential items and let me know what you think!

Looking forward to seeing you down here at Fit4Life!!

Kirstie – Fit4Life Staff

Fitness – How to increase strength and size

There is a magical thing called progressive overload.

The classic story to demonstrate this concept is the story of Milo of Croton.  Milo was a 6th century BC Greek wrestler. He once carried a four-year-old bull on his shoulders before slaughtering, roasting, and devouring it in one day. He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting with a newborn ox, and carrying it every day.  As the ox grew in size Milo’s body had to adapt to the extra weight.

Our bodies are designed to adapt to our circumstances.  As we lift heavier weights our muscles grow and become stronger.

It happens gradually. As we overload the muscles they adapt to the increased weight and grow stronger. By gradually overloading we produce stronger muscles, denser bone and stronger connective tissue.

If you want to talk about your program and how you improve feel free to stop by Fit 4 Life.

Jason – Fit 4 Life Staff

Fitness – Zumba at Fit 4 Life

Come and check out our Zumba classes at Fit 4 Life. We’re fortunate to have Careen as our Zumba instructor. She’s a lot of fun and brings a great energy to the class. Zumba’s for everyone – male or female, young or not so young!!! Zumba’s a great cardio workout, but you can take it at your pace.

Check it out at:

Fit 4 Life Fitness Centre

65D View Road, Glenfield

Thursdays      6pm to 7pm

Saturdays      11am to 12pm

Tuesday night classes starting in August.

Classes are free to Fit 4 Life Members and $8 for non-members (concession cards available for $70 for 10 visits)

Fitness – “Back away from the vehicle” – Tips on Backs from Fit 4 Life

A few new members have joined Fit 4 Life recently who have back pain and we’ve tailored their workout programmes to minimise stress to their back and spinal region. So this week I thought I would write about taking care of your back and spine as it is an area that – if it gets injured – it can really have a negative impact on the quality of your life for a long time.

Back and spine pain is something I know a lot about from personal experience. I seriously injured my lower back nearly 20 years ago and sometimes it still affects me today. In fact if I could go back and change one day in my past it would probably be August 15th, 1990 because that was the day my life changed forever.

People often hurt their back/spine by either lifting a heavy object or by twisting their spine in some unusual direction; and that’s how I injured my back while I was lifting – and twisting – while picking the back of my car up off the ground. (It’s true!)

I ruptured three lumbar discs and dislocated both of my sacroiliac joints. It took me 10 years just to get pain free and that’s only after dozens of physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments and a lot of rest.  The back and hip region are also a major source of muscular strength and power, and my strength was greatly diminished from that day on. As a result of this experience I now live as a ‘wiser weaker man’ like Johnny Cash sang about in his popular song, ‘San Quentin’.

So here are my five tips for managing back pain

Seek professional medical help

When I hurt my back it took about 6 months before I even went to see a medical professional. The reason I didn’t go sooner was because I had the typical youth macho gym attitude of ‘training through the pain’. Every other injury I had had up to that time had gotten better from training through the pain – but this one didn’t… I was still hobbling around six months after the injury until my wife finally convinced me I needed to get professional medical help. I was stupid and could have recovered a lot faster if I had immediately sought proper treatment for my back injury.

If it hurts don’t do it

Another mistake I made was to continue doing exercises like deadlifts and power cleans which kept aggravating and re-injuring my back over the next 10 years. I understand that for serious gym athletes it can be hard to give up exercises that you really like and enjoy – or used to enjoy – before you got injured. But believe me, you will never heal if you keep injuring yourself, and exercises that place extreme stress directly on your injured body part should be eliminated or severely restricted if you ever hope to let your body heal and recover.

Get a good mattress

I was 25 when I injured my back and my wife and I had been married for a couple of years at that time. It can certainly be challenging for young couples to make financial ends meet, so we had bought a cheap $400 bed when we got married thinking it was a good way to save money (which we could put towards other things). That bed worked fine – until I hurt my back. Sleeping on that lousy cheap mattress which had poor lumbar and spinal support was agony. I had major sciatic and disc pain from my injury, and trying to sleep on that cheap mattress was agony! In fact it took a couple of years of disrupted sleep before I decided that the bed had to go. We ended up shelling out $2500 for a decent bed with good springs and support, and it was only then that I was finally able to get better sleep and rest which greatly helped with healing and recovery from my back pain.

Walk regularly

Walking is a great exercise for back health and recovery. The natural gait of walking aligns your spine and hips and allows release of endorphins into your body. I recommend walking as a gentle way to begin rehabilitating your back if you have a serious back or spine injury. (Of course, if you find its aggravating your back in any way then fall back on my second point – if it hurts don’t do it! If it is hurting see your medical professional for alternative exercises).

Know your limits and use good exercise form

This is more of a preventative suggestion, but you should always use good form on your exercises. Jerking, bending, cheating, and excessive straining are techniques which you may be able to get away with for a while, but eventually you will injure yourself if you don’t use proper form. Weight training is built around the system of progressive resistance so you have to strive to use heavier and heavier weight(s) if you want to see progress. However – with the exception of powerlifters – it’s dangerous to do one repetition maximums in the compound exercises like deadlifts, squats and bench presses. Keep your repetitions in the 8-12 rep range and know your limits to decrease the possibility of serious injury – especially to an essential part of your body like your back.

Bryce – Fit 4 Life Staff

Fitness – Gasp, gasp….I can do it!!- Getting Fit in my 40’s

Exercise and me are like oil and water!! We don’t really get along, but I’ve hit my 40’s and after a decade of having kids, raising kids and basically neglecting the whole exercise thing, I’m back in the gym. It certainly has helped that the hubby and I have opened Fit 4 Life  and I can go for free!!! The Lord knew I needed that.

I was pretty scared though. There is something about being the most unfit person in the room and wondering if you can truly do the exercises, wondering if you will be crippled with pain the next day (I hate sore muscles!!) and wondering if there will be any lasting impact from today’s puny effort. It took me a few weeks to really feel confident enough to get back into the gym, but a new weights program helped. My kind hubby made one for me and a friend. It’s been a lot of fun!! I have seen some weights go up and I haven’t been crippled by muscle soreness which is good (maybe those weights need to go up?)!

The next challenge was a group fitness class. About 6 months ago I purchased the Zumba Fitness DVDs and finally got round to working out. I actually enjoyed it!!! I was dying from un-fitness, but enjoyed it. The last time I did any kind of group class was in 1994!!!! I never LOVED them so when Zumba Fitness started at Fit 4 Life last week, I was once again filled with trepidation!!! Will I make 50  minutes? Will I look like an idiot? Will I die? 🙂

I pushed all my doubts aside and plunged in!! It was like I had just been swimming by the end because my hair was soaking, my face was like a beetroot, BUT I had a great time and even more important, I conquered a fear!! My hubby told me so many times how proud he was that I had done it ( I think he had  his doubts that I would turn up!!).  Zumba Fitness was so much fun because it really did feel like dancing and I love to dance and I had a great time doing it with friends and people I have met at Fit 4 Life.

Exercise is still not my favourite thing, I long for the day when I look forward to it, but for now I am trying to get fit in my 40’s!!!! If you’re like me and it’s been awhile since you and exercise have been “friends” come and join me down at Fit 4 Life. We want to promote a healthy fitness philosophy here at Fit 4 Life and that  means just getting up and doing something everyday….not being a ‘superhero’ exerciser!!! The perfect place for someone like me!!!!!

Christy  – Fit 4 Life Staff and fellow “exerciser”

Fitness – Running For Normal People – 10 lessons I’ve learnt from running!

I understand if you see the word ‘running’ and are getting an immediate allergic reaction.I was fairly active at high school (but don’t stop reading!) so for me, picking up running was not too out-of-this-world. However, I amnot crazy about running. I am not one of those who would say that I love it. I don’t. What I do enjoy about it is the challenge of it and achieving a goal I’ve set, but let’s be honest. It is physical exertion and it is hard work. I’d SO prefer be sitting and eating oreos.

I started running five years ago. I started because I had hardly been doing any kind of exercise right through four years of uni and had just gotten married… and thought it’d be a good thing to try and keep up some kind of fitness. Even though I say five years, I’m not consistent. To make myself feel better, I call it having running ‘seasons’ (haha). A running season for me is when I have a two or three month plan to gradually work towards an event or goal. Off season is when it is too hot, like summer, or when I’m just plain lazy for weeks.

I’ve learned that I have a tendency to be obsessive about things and have the potential to have unhealthy motives for running (or any other activity). Motives like desiring unnecessary weight loss or simply to be ‘thinner than everyone else, whatever it takes’. Now, don’t get me wrong, weight loss for the right reasons and in the right context is not bad, but I mean it from the point of view where it commands a large portion of my thought life and life goals in general.

So in these last few years, as I have grown in figuring out this area of how to have a healthy and realistic body-image (and am still figuring it out), running has actually become a psychological exercise for me, to learn some self-control in the sense of conciously doing it moderately and being careful of obsession, and yet still knowing when to be disciplined and persevere. Does this make sense?

Anyway… here’s what I’ve learnt

1. Just start somewhere, anywhere.

If you can only run for 2 mins on your first try, that’s great! Try adding another minute next time. Or walk for the next minute, then run again. Slowly extend it.

I know not everyone will grow to like it but why not give it a go. (If you have been inactive for a while, it would be best to check with your doctor first of course!)

2. Patience- Give it time.

It takes a while for your body to get used to running, don’t give up after a first try. Sadly, it is not an instant thing, so be patient. It does take a while to notice any changes in fitness, but your body does learn! You will be surprised!

Doing a little bit regularly is generally better on the body than doing a massive run or workout sporadically.

3. It can be helpful to track what you are doing and celebrate every little bit of perseverance or progression.

Write down how long you managed to run or run/walk. This is so you can see how you are progressing. Don’t use this to tell yourself how crappy you are, but as a positive thing of what you are doing. Even if things plateau, keep going out there. If you are running 5 mins, three times a week, that is still 15 mins and better than doing nothing.

4. The mind is powerful, even in physical exercise.

Don’t let negative thoughts paralyse you. When running, focus on things around you.  Look to the next road sign, the cars, the beautiful weather, the people around you, God’s creation, etc. Don’t focus on ‘how much longer’ or ‘I probably look like an idiot running so slowly’ or ‘Are my shorts riding up?’…  When I’m running up a hill, I actually say prayers, (because I actually do want to pray but also) to distract my mind from wanting to give up!

5. I like having a goal because it also sets me off on having a plan.

Whether it is just getting round the block, enduring a certain time or doing an event like a 10km, I’ve found that it helps me have something to work towards and feel good about after. If not, it is easy to not push yourself or not even get out of the door.

6. Flexibility is your friend. (As wisely noted by famed philosopher B Staveley.)

Learn to walk if you are tired, to be okay if you skip a run you wanted to do, or to run at a different time than you planned, etc.  If you aren’t meeting your goals (like in point 5 above), that’s okay. Move on, tomorrow is a new day. Or if you are setting goals that are too hard to reach, re-write them. Don’t focus on the idea of failing, but don’t be afraid of it either.

7.  Be sensible

For example, listen to your body. If you have injury-like pain for example, in your knee or heel or ankle, then stop and walk instead. See a professional to figure it out. Physical pain, like sharp pains are an obvious signal from your body that something could be wrong, do not ignore them. You want to be able to walk and run for life, so stopping for a few weeks or months is small in comparison to injuring yourself for years. I have a knee issue so I am careful to work on making it better or not running too much when it starts to hurt.

8. Motivation is always going to be an issue.

Fit or not, fast or slow, running (and exercise in general) needs motivation. It is always going to be too hot or too cold, too late or too early, and we’re too busy or too tired. Even ‘hardcore types’ struggle with this somedays. Find out what makes you tick.For some, a running goal is good enough, for others, they find running with someone else makes it so much better. What else might motivate you?  Or conversely, examine what you might be afraid of. For me, when I started, I was self-conscious and nervous that people will stare at me and this became a deterrent or excuse. So, I liked running in the right outfit, sounds geeky but at least it made me ‘fit in’ and look like a runner! (A bit of ‘fake it ’til you make it’.)

9. It is always good to have VARIETY and REST.

Change things up in terms of where you run, if you are running longer, do some shorter runs but maybe make them faster, etc.   Cross-train or do something else. Go for a swim, a walk, a fitness class, do weights, park further away at the mall and carry your shopping to the car, etc. This just helps you use other muscles that you may not use much during running, which are indirectly helpful for running, or general fitness. Running resources also always advise you to have days off to rest.

For me, sometimes ‘not running’ makes me guilty (which I personally feel can become unhealthy over time) so in doing something else, it is still moderately active but forces my mind to learn that I will not suddenly gain 5 kgs if I do not run that morning. I don’t think obsession is always bad, it just needs extra attention to be kept in check.  At times, I have intentionally had a day or days off, or spaced out my running days, so that the running schedule does not rule my life and it reminds me to keep my motives in check.

10. Evaluation

Evaluate it from time to time. Like other things in life, it is good to ask yourself how it is going, is it having a positive or negative impact, and why we are doing what we do.

For me, like I touched on in the above, point 9, my motives or intentions for running can start off as good and healthy, like to keep up a level of fitness and be challenged physically, but as time goes on it can start to veer off to just wanting to impress others to think that I’m a dedicated runner or gets tangled up in weight and eating issues, etc. So it is helpful for me to take a step back and evaluate.

So that’s me, I know it was quite a broad overview, but I think these points can be applied to other areas of life, not just running. For more specific running advice, feel free to ask me, or there are tons of resources out there on the web. I hope it was insightful and helpful.

Meawhile, writing this post just took over my running slot for this morning. Oh well. I’m a bit tired anyway. (haha.)

Sarah – Fit 4 Life Staff

Keeping a Grip

One of the things I have been looking into lately is grip strength.  I had someone come into the gym who wanted to work on his grip strength and so I did some research and found some interesting stuff out there.

It doesn’t really matter how ballooning your biceps or chest are, if you don’t the strength in your hands and forearms you won’t be able to lift heavy weights.  There are a lot of interesting videos and write ups on the internet but here are a few I found with some useful information:


Jason – Fit 4 Life Fitness Instructor