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Fitness Equipment

Beat your boyfriend in the gym

Play to your strengths and you'll leave him standing.

Okay, so he may have the monopoly on muscles but there are plenty of areas where women have a natural advantage over the opposite sex in the gym. ‘There are obvious skeletal, muscular and hormonal differences between the sexes,’ says Sam Johnson, a clinical associate professor in the School of Biological and Population Health Sciences. ‘However, many of these differences leave women with a physical advantage.’ Play to your strengths and you can push your fitness to new levels – and leave your man gasping for breath.   

You recover from workouts quicker

A Ball State university study showed that men needed at least 48 hours of recovery time to achieve the same fitness levels as in previous workouts. This compares to only four hours needed for a woman to recover after training and get back to full strength. This quicker turnaround time means that you’ll be able to burn more fat, says Tom Crisp, consultant sports physician at the Bupa Barbican Centre, London. ‘If you typically ride the stationary bike for 40 minutes in the morning, halve it to 20 minutes and repeat the workout at lunch.’ This results in your body working doubly hard to replenish its oxygen stores. ‘And it burns more calories doing so,’ adds Crisp. 

You’re a natural at circuits        

Performing exercises in quick succession with little or no rest in between is an excellent way to build aerobic capacity and muscle endurance,’ says personal trainer Sohee Lee. ‘And it will burn fat.’

So, it’s good news that a Southeastern Louisiana University study found that women are more physiologically suited to this kind of training, and find it less strenuous than men. In the study, men came off worse in every category - oxygen consumption, systolic blood pressure, perceived effort and recovery oxygen consumption.

‘Perform supersets, training opposite muscle groups, so that one rests while the other works,’ says Lee. ‘Circuit training will also raise your metabolic rate for hours afterwards, so you’re still burning calories long after you’ve left the gym.’     

You’ll out run him on the treadmill

’Men and women differ in how they transmit the nerve impulses that control muscle force; a woman’s impulses are akin to an athlete trained for endurance,’ reveals Johnson. ‘This means that women adapt much quicker to longer runs, whereas men are more suited to explosive muscle usage, like a sprinter.’ And adding distance to your run strengthens your heart and improves running economy - you'll use less oxygen to achieve maximum speed and endurance. 

‘Safely increase your run time by up to 15 minutes each week,’ says Crisp. ‘Every fourth week, cut the length by 25 to 50 per cent to avoid overtraining, and then start increasing again the following week.’    

Your muscle definition is better 

Women’s testosterone levels are nothing like a man’s, but while this puts you at a disadvantage in the body-building stakes, it means you have the edge when it comes to looking toned and lean. Scientists from Drew Medical College in Los Angeles have shown that muscle growth depends on blood levels of testosterone. The higher the level of the hormone, the more muscles grow. So women don’t gain much muscle mass when they train with weights. Instead, their nervous system concentrates on existing muscle, which makes for a firmer, leaner and fitter-looking physique, especially if you’re striving for a flat, toned tummy. ‘Do your ab crunches at a fast speed to optimise this advantage,’ advises Lee. ‘The faster you do them, the more you’ll overload the abdominal muscle. Just don’t do it so fast that you can’t maintain good technique.’ 

Your metabolism is faster.
Don’t sweat the meathead grunting and groaning under the weight stack – lifting lighter loads are best for raising metabolic rate. A University of Southern Maine study found that metabolism was fired up more when performing a single set to exhaustion using a lighter load, ranging from 37 to 56 percent of maximum load, compared to an exhaustive set using 70 to 90 percent of maximum load. Optimise this advantage with the dead lift. ‘It’s a terrific exercise for building whole body strength as it stresses the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors and upper back muscles and you can do it with a light weight, or just the bar bell itself,’ says Lee.  

Boost your willpower!

Can’t seem to achieve your health goals? Re-train your brain to resist temptation at every turn

Well, while said colleague may have been blessed with genetics that help her steer clear of the cookie jar, it’s not all bad news for the rest of us. Even those mere mortals among us can hone that willpower to resist mouth-watering temptations.

Imagine resisting those afternoon snacks, that second mini-cupcake or that sugary morning latte with ease – without feeling you’re missing out or being deprived. Sounds appealing, doesn’t it?

Well, it is possible. Don’t believe us? Well, that’s where top psychologist Walter Mischel comes in.

All about marshmallows

At a Stanford University nursery back in the ’60s, Mischel began a series of tests, which looked at the ability of pre-school children to delay instant gratification in return for a bigger reward. In other words, forgo a treat now, for two treats later. 

The tests themselves were centred on actual treats, from cookies to cakes, earning the study the nickname ‘The Marshmallow Test’. The children were left in a room on their own and given two choices: ring the bell, the supervisor will return and you can eat one marshmallow; or wait until the supervisor comes back of their own accord (around 20 minutes later) and you can have two marshmallows. 

The choice was entirely theirs: immediate satisfaction with one yummy treat? Or exercising that willpower for a little longer to get double the reward? Which would you choose?

Surprising results

While the children all had different reactions to the test – some diving in for the first marshmallow straight away and some waiting patiently for the two marshmallows – what was really fascinating was that their reactions to this simple test actually determined their success in later life. Yup, really!

The children who had been able to resist the temptation of those marshmallows were, as teenagers, able to show better self-control in frustrating situations and ‘yield less to temptation’, as well as being less easily distracted, more intelligent, confident and self-reliant. A pretty impressive skillset, we’re sure you agree. And these positive traits continued into adulthood, where they reached higher levels of education, achieved more of their goals and had a lower body mass index, among other desirable qualities. So being able to resist temptation and having strong willpower was shown to have a whole host of positives in the long run.

What is willpower?

Some people are better than others at resisting temptation. But the idea that willpower is an innate quality is simply not true, according to Mischel. He states that willpower is often ‘mischaracterised as something other than a skill’. Willpower is often thought of as an elusive quality. But this research shows that willpower is, in fact, a skill, which you can develop and then choose to use. 

Mischel reiterates that ‘no matter how good we are at self-control “naturally” we can improve our self-control skills’. Wonder how your running buddy always makes it out for that 6am run, while you lounge in bed? Or how your bestie always manages to forgo dessert? Well, it’s not magic – you can do it, too!

Putting it into action

But willpower isn’t just about being really determined to do something; it’s about using strategies to ensure you avoid temptation and get the long-term reward you’re really after. Mischel uses the concept of hot and cold systems to show our reactions to high-temptation situations. The hot system – when you love it and cave in – is geared towards the present moment and, when it takes over, can cause you to forget those long term goals. For example, eating a large slice of cake for elevenses rather than resisting, which will help you achieve your goal of losing half a stone. To remedy this we need to reverse these processes. In Mischel’s words, we need to start ‘cooling the present and heating the future’.

The real world

So, what does all this mean for you? Well, Walter Mischel’s experiments reveal a great deal about what willpower is and how it can be fine-tuned to help you reach those elusive goals – whether that’s losing half a stone, running a marathon or staying away from the cookie jar. Ready to get started?
Here are some of his top techniques to help you boost your willpower – for good!

The technique: Push the temptation away

One of the key ways you can ‘cool’ the temptation is to physically and mentally push it away from you. And bring your long-term goals closer.

Use it: Work buddies offering around the choccy? First up, make sure that choc box is as far away from your desk as possible. Then Google some pictures of your upcoming holiday destination or do a bit of bikini shopping online to keep your mind focused on that longer-term goal.  

The technique: If, then

According to Mischel, one of the best techniques for honing that willpower is to employ the ‘if, then’ strategy. First you identify your ‘if’ trigger point – feeling too tired to exercise, feeling hungry mid-afternoon, canapés being handed around at an event – then you come up with a ‘then’ distraction strategy that will get you out of bed to exercise, away from the chocolate snacks or on the other side of the room from the canapé tray. 

Use it: Want to steer clear of tempting party treats or make sure you stick to that exercise routine? Try this: If the canapé tray comes around, then I’ll go and get a glass of water. Or if I feel too tired to exercise, then I’ll walk home instead of getting the bus instead. Simple, huh?

The technique: Think visually

Another weapon in your willpower arsenal is the ability to visualise the negative consequences of giving into temptation. The example Mischel gives is of a smoker wanting a cigarette – he recommends that you ‘visualise your lungs with cancer on an X-ray the doctor is showing you as he gives you the bad news’. It may seem a bit extreme, but imagining the future in the present moment can be a powerful tool for resisting temptation.

Use it: Lost a lot of weight? Keep a pic of the old you on your desk or near the fridge to remind you of the consequences of sacking off the healthy diet or exercise regime. Or find a picture of someone with a figure you crave and put it in the kitchen to stop you reaching for unhealthy snacks!

The technique: Be the third person

Another great technique suggested by Mischel is to imagine yourself as a fly on the wall in the situation. It’s a good way to remove yourself from the ‘hot’ impulses and give yourself the space to think calmly and rationally. 

Use it: Done a gruelling workout, but now gagging for a sweet treat? Take five minutes to sit down, imagine yourself as a fly on the wall and think rationally about the situation.

The technique: Enjoy the rewards

One of the best bits about exercising your willpower is that when you start to succeed, the benefits – a smaller waistline or a new PB – provide such a great reward that it makes your new behaviours easier to maintain. But Mischel emphasises the fact that, as with learning any new skill, ‘practice,’ is key.

Use it: Record each triumph! Every achievement on the road to your long-term goal deserves a little celebration, so keep a journal dedicated to recording your results – whether that’s the distance you’ve run, the inches you’ve lost or the number of pull-ups you can now do.

Motivational magic

It’s worth remembering that the key to willpower is actually wanting to achieve your goals. If you don’t want to do something or you’re not that bothered, it will be hard to conjure up any sort of willpower. As Mischel says, ‘you have to want to change, with the emphasis on want to’. So, before you take on a big goal, ensure that it’s something you really want. 

Get snap happy with the latest way to get your coconut fix

Rock that bikini with pride this summer with these deliciously healthy foods. 

Yo've booked your beach break and bought a new two-piece, but the fear of stripping off has got you panicked. Sound familiar? Then now is the perfect time to kick-start a summer eating plan so you look and feel amazing in time for take-off. 

This ancient South American grain packs a healthy protein punch, making it an excellent slimming aid. Super-versatile, it can be used to bulk out soups and stews and used in place of your usual carb choice. 

Looking for a fruit that works overtime for your health? Cherries are rich in the antioxidant anthocyanins, which increase fat-fighting enzymes. Plus, these little beauties could maximise workout results by warding off post-exercise muscle pain. 

Want to wage war on wobles? Stock up on salmon when hunger hits. This oily fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which keep skin cells plump, whilst keeping you full - curbing the the urge to snack.

Wonderful for adding flavour to food, garlic helps the liver to filter out toxins in the body. These pungent cloves are also packed with a molecule called allicin, which helps keep your immune system healthy, reducing the risk of summer sniffles. 

Packed with healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados help your body manufacture a compound called glutathione, which is needed to detoxify harmful substances. Plus, the good fat content will help to keep summer skin looking its best while filling you up - so you snack less! 

Nothing says summer quite like a fresh punnet of strawberries, and the good news is that this British seasonal staple is actually a slimming food. They rank low on the glycaemic index, which means they help to control the blood sugar fluctuations responsible for food cravings. Plus, they're a powerhouse of skin-perfecting vitamin C.

Cheap and versatile, eggs are a fab source of appetite-curbing protein, making them a dieter's best bud. A 2008 study published in the International Journal of Obesity reported that eating eggs for brekkie helps to boost weight loss for those following a calorie-controlled diet. 

Lemons are like a magic wand for weight loss. They're detoxifying and help to promote proper digestion, which keeps bloating at bay. If they're not already part of your morning routine, you're missing a trick. Sipping on a mug of hot water and lemon filters away any impurities in your system, boosts the metabolism and keeps your cells hydrated so your skin glows. 

Make dark green vegetables like broccoli a priority on your plate and the weight will fall off! Why? This green superfood helps your body to flush out everyday environmental chemicals due to its rich sulphur-containing compounds. Steam your veg instead of boiling to keep the nutrient content intact. 

Raw nuts act like a wake-up call for weight loss. Brazil nuts, almonds and cashews are all loaded with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which help to speed up the slimming process to get you in swimwear-worthy shape.

Get snap happy with the latest way to get your coconut fix

If you’re not already a coconut oil fan, these clever sachets from Jax Coco are sure to do the trick.

Containing one of the purest extra virgin coconut oils in the world – and produced in less than two hours after the coconut is dehusked – the beneficial oil in Jax Coco Snaps (£8.99 for 24 sachets) is extracted with a state-of-the-art centrifugal system to retain more of its health-giving nutrients.

Perfect for life on the go, simply grab a single-serving size snap and add to a smoothie, your morning coffee, afternoon tea or evening hot choc. If you’re heading off for an impromptu night out after work, a little coconut oil will tame frizzy hair and give it a brilliant shine. Or, swept across your cheekbones, will bring out the natural pigment in your complexion.

We love! 

Find out more at Jax Coco
Stock up on sachets at Honestly Healthy Food



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