Keeping Fit Doesn’t Have To Include The Gym

Only a few days left before Christmas – so exciting!

I have a post for you today about keeping fit without having to use the gym. While I do love using the gym, it’s not essential. You can do so much at home or out and about as part of your normal day. Hope you enjoy the article…

When you are busy and on the go all the time, keeping fit isn’t always the easiest thing to do. It can feel as though everything is taking over, and you are letting your health and fitness get left behind, but this doesn’t have to be the case. A lot of people think that the secret to this is getting to the gym, but we are here to tell you that this doesn’t have to happen and you can stay fit from the comfort of your own home. Keep reading this article to find out how.

Watch What You’re Eating

The first thing that you have got to do if you want to keep fit is watch what you are eating. This is going to make up a huge portion of your health overall. Have you ever heard of the expression ‘you are what you eat’? While this may not literally be true, it will have a big impact on the way that you feel. For example, if you are constantly eating takeout, greasy food and processed fats, your body is going to show this in the form of oily skin, spot breakouts, and so much more. If you make the simple swaps and start adding fruit as well as vegetables to your meals, you are going to notice a big difference.

Try and make sure that a third of your meal is fruit or veg, and you will see a huge improvement. It’s not all about being active and moving around, though that is important! Take care of yourself by watching your diet, and you will achieve things that you didn’t think were possible.

Take Up Yoga

The next thing that we are going to suggest is that you take up yoga. Yoga is excellent for your fitness as it allows you to do things that you never thought possible with your body. Not only this though, but yoga is also excellent for your mind and will make you feel incredible when you are doing it. All you need to do is make sure that you get the right equipment such as yoga bolsters, to make it easier for you, and you are ready to go.

If you do this a couple of times per week, you will be getting the exercise that you need without going to the gym, and you will find yourself feeling a lot better than you have been in ages. Yoga is amazing for keeping to your fitness goals, try it and see for yourself.

Walk A Little More

Or, you could try walking a little more. This could be walking with music in your ears just for fun, or walking somewhere that you would usually drive if it is within a reasonable distance of course. Walking is great for keeping you fit and healthy, and doesn’t require you to do anything intense, which is always a bonus if this type of exercise is not for you!

We hope that you have found this article helpful, and now see how keeping fit doesn’t have to include the gym. Good luck, we hope you see the results that you are looking for.

Do you go to the gym?

Do you try and watch what you eat during Christmas? While I do like to keep somewhat healthy, I’m a big believer in enjoying this time of year. Don’t go mad and eat 17 mince pies every day, but equally don’t restrict yourself to the point of missing out and not enjoying the happy times.

Do you exercise over Christmas? I generally stay with my usual routine around Christmas as I enjoy it, and on Christmas Day I try and go to the Christmas parkrun as it’s just so festive and fun.

Everything I’ve learnt with my hamstring injury

I wanted to write a post about my hamstring tendinopathy experience.

This might be fully pre-empting things but I feel somewhat confident I can write this post and that I’m mostly out of the woods).

The affected area was the top of my hamstring, right below my bum cheek. It wasn’t sharp or stabbing pain, more like a throbbing, dull ache. At the beginning I could feel this while walking, while lying down and especially when sitting. Sometimes I would feel an ache in my lower back and down my hamstring.

Running made it feel uncomfortable so at first I avoided this to let it calm down. Though I saw a very good physio who I heartily recommend (South Physiotherapy), it didn’t really help. I had acupuncture, massages, ultrasound… I still felt the discomfort.

I wanted to write this post because during my hamstring tendinopathy injury I read a lot online which was very negative and without solutions. I realise the spirit of the Internal and forums for health issues is not like a diary whereby people write about their issues, solve them and then go back to update people. When you’re fixed, you don’t go back. You just carry on with life. But I wanted something to put out there that might be helpful to someone like me. I know I’d have found this helpful.

Here are some sources that were useful though and hugely helped my recovery –> this journal article and this blog post.

Obviously I’ll preface this saying that I’m not a physio, doctor, coach or any sort of professional who has more than half a brain. I’m merely explaining how I overcame my issue. Whether it’s the full-on correct way or if it’s just something that works for me, I don’t know. But if you can take away anything from this post (if you have this injury) is that there is hope!

Though there appears to be minimal research out there for hamstring tendionopathy, what the two sources above agree is having a three step approach. The first step is to let the hamstring settle a bit. You don’t want to be doing hardcore leg strength workouts and you should probably stop running, especially avoid any sort of speedwork or hills which will aggravate the hamstring directly.

The not running part I was really good at. I stopped running completely for seven weeks. In hindsight, I don’t believe I needed to take this much time off had I not aggravating things further with trying to do too much strengthening and rehab at the gym in the early stages. But I read too much online, got carried away and attacked my hamstring with all manners of strengthening, from hamstring curls, Swiss ball bridges, sledge pushes and glute kickbacks. All of which I felt directly in my top hamstring but believed this was it “working” only to find the next few days it was far more niggly and nothing was improving. I also tried to replace running with using the elliptical machine, but this aggravated things too.

What I should have done at the beginning was focused primarily on isometric exercises. These are when you hold your muscle tightly. Nothing moves, but you’re squeezing the muscle. We’re talking static bridge holds. Eventually once I got past my over-enthusiastic gym endeavours and took a step back and focused on the bridge hold, things got calmer. The niggle was still there, but now it wasn’t getting worse or bugging me all the time and the isometric exercises were providing relief.

So, stage one: only do isometric exercises for the hamstring. The best example of this is literally the bridge hold (with a long lever base so it’s your hamstring working not your glute – so push your feet out further from your bum). Increase how long you can hold. Then when you’re solid with that, move to single leg and push the time on that. You can do this just lying on the floor, or you can do (as well as) putting your feet on a raised platform, like a coffee table.

Avoid at all costs: squats, lunges, glute kickbacks, hamstring curls (lying or sitting) and anything that makes the hamstring feel worse the next day. Tendons are a funny thing – it can take 24 hours before you realise you’ve screwed it up. Try and avoid long periods of sitting; get up and move around frequently. DO NOT STRETCH the hamstring. Don’t be tempted. It won’t feel better, it’ll aggravate it. It is literally the worst thing you can do to it.

Stage two is now where you can do a bit more. I found using the lying hamstring curl machine on the affected leg worked wonders. At first I aimed for high reps low weight but actually what really changed the game for me was low reps higher weight SLOWLY (heavy slow resistance).

What you should aim for is a weight that becomes challenging on the 8th rep. Aim for 8-10 reps. Don’t push through pain though! Pain is NOT a good thing. 3/10 discomfort is your marker. Your hamstring should feel tired afterwards but not painful at the time or later.

This is also when you can start to add a bit of running back in (again, no speedwork or hills though). It will still feel uncomfortable but if you have sharp pain, avoid and go back to stage 1. Mild discomfort that doesn’t get worse and that disappears after 24 hours is OK.

During this stage I also focused a lot on improving my adductor strength. I wanted the surrounding muscles to be strong. I used the adductor machine at the gym (that awful machine that people a few years ago used thinking it would zap inner thigh fat). I also laid down, put a medicine ball between my knees and gently straightened my legs out, then drew them back to my chest while all the time SQUEEZING the ball. This is a killer for the adductors and the core.

I still avoided squats and lunges but ramped up my glute work with resistance band walking, clams and heavy hip thrusts. Basically I was gently rehabbing my hamstring while super-powering everything else.

Running was frustrating (for me and everyone around me who had to hear me moan). It was still uncomfortable. Having a physio “re-align” my hips helped unlock me and changing my trainers definitely helped but it was more of a case of being sensible with when I did the rehab and when I ran. And keeping things easy and short – building up gradually. And trusting the process.

So many times after a run I was lost in my negativity and ready to give it all up. I’m very lucky to have such a patient and loving network of support around me. Even my mum, who’s a big supporter of my running but in general doesn’t care for the details, would ask more questions after every run, worrying for me and wanting things to be better. Kyle of course was a pillar of strength for me during this time.

But gradually things got better. My hamstring would niggle less, become uncomfortable later and later during a run. Afterwards it would feel better. I remember when I ran eight miles and that night I felt my hamstring gently throbbing while I laid in bed and I worried and worried. The isometric exercises helped calm things down and acted as a good pain relief. And taking bigger gaps between each run helped. Then long runs stopped bugging me during the night. My body was healing quicker as it adapted.

Stage three is adding back in things like squats and deadlifts. I’m not quite there yet. I think I could add them back in but with Chicago literally round the corner I want to avoid anything that aggrevates my hamstring.

Stage three is adding back in things like squats and deadlifts. I’m not quite there yet. I think I could add them back in but with Chicago literally round the corner I want to avoid anything that aggravates my hamstring. I’ve ramped my long runs up (two 15 milers under my belt) and feel confident I’m heading in the right direction and not putting my hamstring at risk of regression. Obviously 26.2 miles in a few weeks is really going to test things but my plan is to be sensible. Realistically I am terrified and worried of going back to square one. If this wasn’t Chicago I would have canned it.

Basically my advice for this injury is: it will take time to recover. There is no magic pill, no trainers, no massage technique, no amount of icing or medication, no stretching or foam roll battering that will make everything better.

Rest is also not best. During my injury I had friends and family, who were enduring my continual frustrations, saying I should stop everything I was doing. Stop going to the gym. While I will fully admit that there were a number of weeks I shouldn’t have gone quite as ham on the rehab as I did and should not have tried to replicate my running on the elliptical machine, rest would not have solved my issue either. This injury requires rehab which involves strengthening and monitoring. Gently getting into a position where you can actually build your hamstring back up without reaggravating things. It’s a delicate balance.

In terms of cross training, I found the stair machine to be the best thing. Cycling (including spin – which was horrendous for it), the rowing machine and the elliptical machine really didn’t work. But ultimately it’s the strengthening of the hamstring that is the way forward.

Sorry for such a waffle but I wanted to write down my findings for this. If this helps just one other person, then I’m happy.

Good luck!

Game on, Chicago

I really don’t want to jinx things, but it looks like things are definitely getting there with my hamstring.

I obviously need to continue to play things safe and not suddenly be like wheyyyyyy 18 miler booooom. This hamstring injury (hamstring tendinopathy) is one that can easily be triggered again and regress. So I continue to proceed with caution. But *whispers* things are going well.

Daily discomfort is minimal – if it’s even there. Previously when it was at its worst, I’d feel it All. The. Time. I’d feel it walking. I’d feel it lying down. Now it’s rarely ever there. And happily sitting doesn’t trigger it anymore.

Most importantly, running isn’t an awful experience. There were runs at the start (like only a mile or a tester run) where it’d feel so uncomfortable that I’d feel this great stab of fear thinking “I cannot run 26.2 miles like this” and really doubt getting more training done. But now the discomfort is minimal. It’s still there, but every run it gets a bit less.

I ran 12 miles at the weekend and it was a run that gave me great confidence. Yes it did feel uncomfortable towards the end, but not the worst discomfort I’ve felt over this injury.

And the rest of the day it felt fine! Even the next day it felt absolutely fine. My first few runs when I was coming back I’d feel my hamstring discomfort a lot more post-run and that night and the next day, then it would die off again. But now it’s not there anymore.

Running those 12 miles felt like an absolute joy. Listening to a podcast, zoning out, having that time just running for a long time. Yes it was hard (Jesus how did 12 used to feel so easy??) and yes it wasn’t perfect, but it was so much better. I know I’m at that point in the injury lifecycle where it’s going. Every day is better, every run is better.

After speaking with a professional who knows a lot about this injury, he advised upping my hamstring strength routine and planning out my runs in relation to that a bit more sensibly. With the strength I was previously taking the weights very gently on the hamstring curl machine (as to not cause any regressions) and doing about 20 reps at light weight. Now I’ve upped the weight and I do around 10 reps, so it starts to get tough at the last rep. And he gave me a few more exercises to incorporate which focus primarily on my hamstring.

Previously I was very much focused on my glutes. But now I’m focusing on my hamstring (I still work my glutes and the surrounding muscles but the focus of my rehab is most definitely the hamstring now).

Single leg hamstring bridges

Just to be clear though, if you’re suffering from this issue too, you need to have a gentle and gradual build-up. It’s taken me many weeks to get to this point and it was only after talking to this specialist and him checking my strength and mobility that I was given the all clear to fully work the hamstring harder. The first few weeks of this injury you wouldn’t necessarilly do that.

I also asked if he thought me doing Chicago was sensible or if I’d do myself any long term damage. He said as long as I didn’t regress or get worse, Chicago would be fine. This is EXACTLY what I needed to hear. Someone who knows their stuff giving me solid advice. My mind is so much calmer now.

So going forward I’m running three times a week, one of those being a long run. Though realistically I won’t be going that long… probably 16 miles top. And between that I have set hamstring easy and hard days. So far so good! My hamstring is responding well. It’s getting stronger. The discomfort is getting less.

The thing about this injury is that you have to be patient, be sensible and not neglect rehab. It won’t get better on its own with rest. You have to push it and strengthen it. But it’s a very fine balance of not pushing it too hard and knowing when to back off. I think the past 15 or so weeks have evidently shown this for me! I’m going to do a more thorough post later on how I combatted this (though I don’t want to speak too soon because this could all fall down again!!).

I’ve read a lot of forums and I just want to put something positive into the Internet about this injury because so much of it was doom and gloom and never feeling normal again. I’m not quite back to normal, but eventually (all things being well and me not being an idiot) I hope to provide a bit of positivity from what I’ve learnt and experienced. (TOUCH WOOD!!)

Have you ever had a long-term injury?

Do you do regular strength work to keep an injury at bay?

A non-running update

So I haven’t been running for about two weeks.

It actually hasn’t been as hard as I thought it would be. Of course I’ve missed it. I’ve missed my lunchtime runs with Kyle, my parkrunning at the weekend and the lovely long runs on a Saturday. It has been sad in that respect.

I had a hard week last week with my granddad not being very well. My parents dashed up to see him in North Wales, while I had to stay behind to look after all the dogs. It was hard only knowing what was happening through phone calls and WhatsApp but there wasn’t much else I could do sadly. He’s such a strong man (he’s on Strava regularly walking and cycling!) and very competitive and strong-willed, so it was upsetting to have things change so suddenly. But because he is so strong-willed I really hope that he can pull through and get back to a relative normal.

Running would have been a great way to kill off some tension and stress, but I had to remain sensible and not make the niggle worse. Instead I was rather over-sensitive and delicate through the week – tough for all those around me I’m sure!

But with regards to the niggle, I’d rather take a bit of time now rather than have that insidious injury cycle that I’ve known far too well in my time. Instead I went to the gym a couple of times after work and the weekend to use the elliptical machine while watching Roma on my phone (a slow, black and white foreign film. Very good but I’m glad I watched it in a place of limited distractions).

What is my niggle exactly? I’m not sure but I know I’ve had something similar before. I’m almost certain it’s to do with my hamstring which has always had a weakness and why I can no longer do heavy deadlifts, It causes my calf to become quite uncomfortable and stiff, and can even make my foot feel a bit off. It’s like a nerve thing rather than a muscle thing. It just takes time and TLC to calm it down, and luckily it pretty much has calmed down.

Kyle has been lovely and helped take my mind off of not being able to run. He even came to a gym class with my on Saturday. Normally I’d be missing parkrun and being a bit grumpy about that, but instead we had a lovely lie in until 10.30am! Though to be fair we had a very late night after watching Glass and then going to Red Dog Saloon for ribs and chicken wings.

We went to a midday circuits class. I love going to the circuits classes. Yes they are super hard and intense, but because you’re only doing one exercise for 50 seconds and then changing you can get through it. It’s so varied and there’s always a good atmosphere with the others in the class, I really do enjoy it.

It was Kyle’s first time going (and I won’t lie, probably his last!). Though he used to do a lot of strength training in the past with his brother, this was an entirely different kettle of fish. Without sounding awfully patronising, he did really well. But he was a little broken afterwards (and a day or so later too). It did make me feel somewhat good that I’ve conditioned myself to not find the classes ridiculously hard – I mean, I’d be pretty rubbish if I was destroyed after each class despite having gone for so many months now! Though I should probably look to challenge myself each class and push up the weights to make it harder…

So I’m going to attempt running today. My leg genuinely feels normal, so I’m feeling rather positive. But we will see. Fingers crossed.

How do you cope with not running?

Have you ever gotten your partner to run or do a workout with you?

What was the last film you went to the cinema to see?

My motivations for the gym

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you probably know two key things about me. One, I see myself as quite the injury-prone runner. And two, I love leggings. Happily I’ve been able to complement these two things into a very productive outcome. Just hear me out…

I’m a big fan of going to the gym. Yes I love running, of course, but I do really enjoy going to the gym as well. It hasn’t always been this way. I saw the gym as the enemy. A place of bewilderment and boredom. I would drag myself there when I was no longer able to run because I was suffering from a sore knee, hip, painful IT band or something along those lines. So I’d go to a Spinning class or use the elliptical machine, grudgingly. But never sort the actual issue out – the root cause.

After numerous of physio appointments it finally got through to me that I needed to actually make strength training part of my weekly routine. Sadly I’m not one of those seemingly superhuman people who can just run and do nothing else.

It was tough though. It took a lot of research, YouTube videos, physio help and guidance to become stronger, confident and actually happy to go to the gym.Where do leggings come into it though? Well, one of the reasons I love the gym is that I can be a bit more exciting with my fitness clothing. I don’t wear leggings when I run because I just prefer to wear shorts… but at the gym, leggings are my staple. What you look like at the gym really doesn’t matter of course, but for me it really helps to be wearing something I feel comfortable and, yes, look good. It helps make me feel good.

I’m quite a boring person with what I wear normally so it’s nice to be a bit more “jazzy” at the gym where anything goes in terms of colours and patterns. One of the sites I love is The Sports Edit. They have a fantastic range of very stylish gym wear – and items that will last, not fast fashion that you will chuck away after a few months.I was sent a pair of leggings and a top from the site to review and I can happily say I’m in love. Now you know I know my leggings. I know what makes a decent pair, what’s flattering and, most importantly what actually works at the gym in terms of comfort and actually exercising. These leggings are GORGEOUS. I’m not really a huge pattern fan but these are subtly different. I love how sparkly they are (they don’t actually feel sparkly and don’t drop glitter everywhere – something I was a bit worried about).
They’re the Alloy Ombre High Waisted Leggings from the brand Beyond Yoga and when I wore them at the gym I got quite a few compliments. One person asked if they were they my “disco leggings” for Christmas. I mean, I guess he’s right, they’re perfect for the Christmas season! But I will be wearing them all year round 🙂 They have a lovely high-waisted fit, are thick enough to be squat proof but not too thick to not be breathable.
The top is the Under Armour Accelerate Tank White 2.0. I love how simple it is but also that the back is open to give a bit of air and also so you can show off your sports bra at the back (I have some quite nice sports bra with some funky strapping which is always a shame to cover up under a t-shirt). I’ll be wearing this top for both the gym and running.In terms of my gym routine, currently I’m at the gym three-four times a week. I tend to do circuit classes which work the entire body, but in a more weights-focused way. Think less cardio, more strength. I also ensure I do at least one legs and glutes focused day. We’re talking squats, lunges, hip thrusts, single leg work and resistance band routines. I’ll do heavy barbel squats and hip thrusts to really target increasing my strength and then higher rep, lighter weight exercises to focus more on the endurance of my muscles. I can happily say I’ve remained uninjured for a good while now and I’m almost certain it’s because of my stronger body.

What keeps you motivated at the gym?

Do you have different clothes for running compared to what you were at the gym?

Do you look for gymwear that will last a long time or whatever is cheapest? For me it’s generally long lasting and quality – but this does tend to be more expensive, but in the long run it works out better!

**Full Disclaimer: I was sent the leggings and top for free in exchange for a review on my blog. As always these are my own honest opinions!**