Is Quicker Always Better?

I read an interesting article the other day about a new exercise bike called Car.ol, designed to get you fit in 40 seconds using Maximum Intensity Interval Training (MIIT), sometimes also know as Sprint Interval Training (SIT).

Great headline that 40 seconds is all you need…

BUT, beware of the shiny fad.

When you read on, the actual workout is 9 minutes long, during which you perform two 20 second sprints flat out.

The rest of the time you’re resting or warming up or cooling down.

OK – so the science is solid… ish…

The research paper Car.ol’s makers refer you to, found that Maximum Intensity Interval Training (MIIT) was indeed more effective than 30 minutes of cardio.

However, the misleading fact is – the control group did steady state cardio at 50 – 65% max heart rate.

SPOILER ALERT: Pretty much any interval training at intensity is going to get better results than that.

Claire & I are all in favour of promoting new time efficient ways to train that get results.

But two 20 second blocks is quite frankly not enough.

Let me back up to the SCIENCE of it for a second…

Working at high or maximum intensity for short bursts rapidly depletes glycogen in the body.

It boosts your metabolic rate, burns body fat and over time improves your insulin sensitivity (making you more efficient at processing sugar for energy).

Car.ol achieves that, but so will a decent 10 – 15 minute HIIT session and you get more variety, hit more muscles AND have more fun.

If Car.ol floats your boat, then knock yourself out.

But with the price for one session starting at £24 (and you need 3 a week), and a bike of your own costing from £2995, please be aware that you have far better (and cheaper), more effective alternatives.

As you know we don’t like fads.

And we don’t like people (cleverly) skewing science to make their product sound more sexy.

As always, we’re here to guide and support you.

Hitting A Plateau

You’ve gotta rest to be your best!

Rest days are SO important when it comes to exercise.


Because when you work your muscles during a weights workout, you actually make tiny tears in the muscle fibres. The body uses the nutrients you’ve consumed to give you energy to do this.

It’s only at REST that your body has time to repair and grow the muscle fibres – using something called protein synthesis.

When I say grow – I DO NOT mean BULK (ladies!)

I mean the muscles will become stronger, leaner and more toned – giving you the body shape you desire.

So number 1 – rest is important to looking lean and feeling strong.

Number 2 – overtraining puts massive strain on the CNS (Central Nervous System) and can lead to over production of insulin, which can then lead to a rise in cortisol (the stress hormone).

When this happens – in extreme cases, you can move into a adrenal fatigue state and your body will actually HANG ON to fat. We often see this when people do too much cardio.

I once did this to myself so I know all too well!

You just need to listen to your body and if you’ve hit a plateau it could be that you’re not resting enough.

You’re not giving the muscle time to repair. And you’re not giving your body time to recover from cardio sessions.

So I’m giving you permission right now to relax and let go.

Body Confidence

The ultimate thing to remember about body confidence

The ultimate thing to realise about body confidence is….

It’s an inside job.

Trust me I see this time and time again with men and women.

You can be as ripped as Hugh Jackman or look like a Victoria Secret’s model and still not be body confident. I know women who do bikini competitions and have to see psychiatrists after the show because they dislike their body so much.

So what does this tell us?

It’s a mindset thing. Not an external reality thing.

Body confidence is an inside job.

It comes from acknowledging and accepting that you’re a WHOLE being that has some extraordinary gifts to share with the world.

It comes from being grateful for what you DO have.

It comes from being disciplined enough NOT to scroll through social media all day comparing yourself.

It comes from realising that ‘health and fitness’ looks different on everyone and it’s about how WELL and STRONG you feel.

So my advice is this….

Look after your body. Move it. Fuel it well.

Of course this brings confidence as your body responds physically.

But make sure you’re putting in the mental and emotional wellbeing reps too.

Without those reps, you won’t reach the best possible version of YOU – regardless of the size of your waist.


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How To Cheat Death! Well, Almost…

We all want the miracle cure. The pill, the potions, the surgery – anything that might make us look and feel younger.

Well – we thought we’d let you into a science backed secret that’s pretty important you know about. We’re nice like that 🙂

If you remember, last week I wrote about science based ways to train that improve short term Human Growth Hormone production. It’s an incredibly important hormone for longevity of life.

Why? Because HGH leads to increased strength, lean muscle mass, decreased body fat, improved bone density and a faster, more efficient metabolism, as well as having other regenerative benefits. Oh and it also improves mood, energy, sleep and skin tone.

As we age however, it reduces dramatically. Meaning the benefits we get from it begin to diminish.

But we can cheat it.

So how…?

Well, exercise in general will give a short term boost in HGH and the great news is – specific ways of training can amplify the effect for best results.

To recap that is short bursts of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) of no longer than 20 minutes. Followed by resistance training (weight bearing exercise) straight after if possible.

What’s exciting is two more studies not only reinforce the health benefits of varied training that we’ve mentioned above, but actually link exercise to life longevity in a HUGE study.

The first study looked at 4400 adults aged 50 or older who had their strength and muscle mass assessed between 1999 and 2002. The study checked in 2011 who was still living (I know a bit grim sorry!)

Incredibly those assessed with low muscle strength were over twice as likely to have died…

Interestingly muscle mass didn’t have an effect, it was purely the strength result. So functional strength decreases your mortality risk, as well as having plenty of other all around health benefits.

The second study looked at data from 80,000 adults in England and Scotland who’d completed surveys about physical activity during the 1990s.

The headline from this study is that those who’d done any kind of strength training were 23 percent less likely to have died during the study period, and 31% less likely to have died of cancer.

However, before you ditch your cardio and start lifting the weights, you might want to know this fact: those who did strength training and aerobic exercise had a 29% reduction in mortality. That’s almost a third…

In summary, mixing up strength training with aerobic activity not only gives you all kind of hormonal and health benefits, but can significantly reduce your mortality risk.

You’ll live longer, and because you’re training this way, you’ll have a better quality of life too.

This is exactly how we train, how we set up our programmes, how we train our clients. We’re looking for varied, challenging training that’s fun, and not only meets aesthetic goals, but delivers health goals over the long term. Now the data suggests it can also prolong your life.

Love to hear your thoughts and questions, so feel free to give us a shout.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2018 Mar;50(3):458-467

American Journal of Epidemiology. Volume 187, Issue 5, May 2018, Pages 1102–1112

Muscle Dysmorphia – A Personal Account

This week The Guardian ran a great piece by Sirin Kale on the rise of muscle dysmorphia (

For those of you that don’t know what muscle dysmorphia is, it’s a psychological condition where the subject feels they need to be bigger and more muscular, despite already being big and muscular. Tagged “bigorexia” it can become a devastating and all consuming obsession with serious emotional, mental and physical issues.

Mainly affecting men, self-referral is rare (often only when something has gone catastrophically wrong) and so it remains often undiagnosed and untreated.

The piece is full of stories of young men who’ve take muscle dysmorphia to an extreme. The symptoms: excessive workouts, eating disorders (too much, too little and/or binges), steroid and performance enhancing drug (PED) abuse.

Worryingly muscle dysmorphia is on the increase for young men, driven by media images of rippling torsos and six packs. Bigger is better is the clear message and it’s no surprise that in the UK we’re also seeing an increase in PED abuse, particularly for young men.

I’ve got personal experience of muscle dysmorphia, and I continue to witness it within the fitness profession. In the worst cases people are physically ruined. I see a lot of lies, deceit and people misleading others and hiding from their own behaviour.

So – in the hope of helping others with this article – I felt compelled to share my story.

25 year or so ago I was a fresh faced fresher at university. I was eager to carve a new identity, to fit in, to be self-confident. To me the key was to have a good body.

I’d been a fat kid until I was sent to boarding school where a combination of lots of sport and physical and mental bullying meant I shed the pounds. I threw myself into sport and weights with vigour. Among the sports I played through my teen years and twenties were rugby, rowing and boxing – all sports that value power. That meant lots of gym time.

However, my earlier fat kid taunting told my subconscious mind that despite the often insane amounts of exercise I was doing, I was still a fat kid. It came to a head during my first year at university, where I would train for 1 to 2 hours a day, but then have a salad for lunch and dinner, convinced I was still too fat.

Of course, I was working against my body. I wanted to bulk up and get big. I should have been eating everything I could get my hands on, but convinced that the person in the mirror was still fat and my muscles weren’t showing through enough, I did the opposite. The result was I didn’t see the goals I was looking for.

I was lucky. Over time I gradually let go of my behaviour and educated myself on how to nourish my body. But it’s a pattern that persisted until fairly recently (I‘m now 46). Until about 4 years ago, I would still leave food on plates even though I’m still hungry, not eat pizza crusts and make strange, irrational food choices because there’s a voice in my head telling me if I eat it I’ll get fat.

Thankfully I’ve worked on my psyche as well as my nutritional knowledge and I love my food and my training. Most importantly I learnt to love my body too. I do often wonder though how much I may have stunted my development by being so calorie deficient during my growth spurt years.

Sadly, I see muscle dysmorphia all the time in the fitness industry, and it’s getting worse, with social media playing a massive part in fuelling it.

I know a PT who looks amazing. But he should. He obsessively weighs and measures all his food, pre-packing it in boxes each week and eating at set times. He won’t go on dates as he won’t drink or eat food that isn’t on his programme. He’s depressed, lonely and aside from this there’s another price to pay. Every 6 to 8 weeks he’ll totally lose it, have a massive weekend, binge on drink and drugs, feel terrible, beat himself up about what he’s done then commit even harder to the rigidness of his regime. He’s been running this cycle for years.

So my advice:

  • Guys – please don’t look at these big muscly dudes and think it’s natural. It’s not – and they’re putting their body under huge stress that will wreak havoc in years to come.
  • Also – realise their looks come at a HUGE price – no social life, no love life, obsessive behaviour and a general lack of energy and lust for life – not to mention erectile disfunction!
  • And finally – stop comparing. Try if you can to see your body as a glorious gift that is more than JUST aesthetics. We lack perspective in today’s ‘body conscious’ society – so cultivate gratitude.

If this resonates please feel free to share – and of course reach out to me. It’s my mission to pass on my knowledge so that you can start living a happy, healthy life for good.

James x