4 Must-Read Books for Better Health + Nutrition

4 Must-Read Books for Better Health + Nutrition

The main point I want to make with this article is that the vast majority of the information in these books should be common knowledge.

I can’t stress that enough.

It horrifies me to think that this incredibly valuable information is out there, pretty much for free, and yet some people are never exposed to it.

Here are 4 must-read books to help you improve your health + nutrition.

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The Need-To-Know on Your Pelvic Floor + How Elvie Helps You To Do Your Kegels

The Need-To-Know on Your Pelvic Floor + How Elvie Helps You To Do Your Kegels

Ladies, do you do pelvic floor exercises? 

Honestly?

I’m sure, like me, you’re aware of how important they are. Yet, also like me, when it comes to training these muscles, you’ll probably remember that they exist every fortnight or so, and exercise them by squeezing ‘down there’ how ever many times you deem useful (10, 15, 20 times?) before getting distracted by something else.

Needless to say, there are lots of things wrong with training your pelvic floor muscles in this way:  
* You don’t really know if you are squeezing the muscles correctly  
* You aren’t sure if you are squeezing for long enough, hard enough, or a many times as you should  
* You don’t have any way to measure your progress  
* It’s boring as hell, making it very easy to become distracted

Thankfully, some very clever ladies out there have designed a sleek little gadget and app called Elvie to overcome all of these problems.

But first, here's why doing kegels is important in the first place...

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Speedflex Review + The Need-To-Know On Eccentric Muscle Contractions

Speedflex Review + The Need-To-Know On Eccentric Muscle Contractions

I love the concept of heart rate training (more on that coming soon!) and since I tried Orangetheory last year, I’ve been on the look out for more fitness studios that offer heart rate training.

One such place is Speedflex. However, while I was drawn to this studio by my fascination with heart rate monitoring, I found that Speedflex had some far more unique qualities to be discovered...

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Best Compression Tights: top three

Compression-Sportswear-Guide

Having explored the key characteristics of compression clothing in my Essential Guide to Compression Sportswear, I decided to hunt down a few pairs of genuine compression tights to trial.

I opted to try two pairs of tights from leading global compression garment brands, 2XU and SKINS. The third pair is from a small, new UK sportswear brand that I came across by chance earlier this year.

Here, I’ve reviewed all three pairs. I’ve taken into account the unique concept offered by each brand, other technical features of the products (you know I love this kind of geekery!) and of course, the fit and sizing of each pair of tights. I hope this helps you learn what to look out for when finding your own perfect pair of pants!

2XU-MCS-Elite-Compression-Technology
2XU-MCS-Elite-Compression-Tights

2XU MCS

As a lover of the 2XU brand (I’ve previously written about their Heart Not Hype Campaign), I was excited to try their newest tights, the Elite MCS Compression Tights.*

The Concept

As you may notice from the images, it appears as if the tights have anatomical mapping on them. Although visible from the outside of the tights, these are unique panelling points incorporated into the inside of the leggings. They are what 2XU refer to as Muscle Containment Stamping (MCS).

”MCS is a revolutionary fabric support system traced over key muscle, tendon and fascia groups to focus greater compression power to wrap precise areas and reduce muscle oscillation and damage.”

Technology + Features

In addition to MCS, the Elite Compression Tights differ from 2XU’s Standard Compression Tights, by using specific fabric deniers (see my Essential Guide to Compression Sportswear for a definition of that!) in different areas.

Front panels are engineered with PWX FLEX (70 denier) fabric combined with MCS focused to the quads, while rear panels are engineered with an even more powerful PWX WEIGHT (105 denier) fabric for support to the hamstrings and MCS focused to the calf.

As you’d expect from this calibre of compression sportswear, the fabric is sweat wicking, antibacterial, offers UPF 50+ sun protection, and flatlock seams for comfort.

Fit + Sizing

This was the first time that I’d come across any kind of sport or clothing brand where your recommended size is determined not by regular measurements, but by your height and weight.

As is the case with all compression clothing, 2XU advise that when you fall on a borderline between sizes, you should opt for the smaller of the two.

I fell on the borderline between small and medium, however the team at 2XU sent me over a size M to trial, so I’m unsure how much benefit I’m receiving from them. They are tight, but having tried other compression clothing, I know that they could be tighter, and I’d have loved to have experienced their full benefit (including an extra bum-lifting/sculpting effect!).

These are high waisted and they have a drawstring waistband for adjustability. While I’ve always thought that a drawstring waistband isn’t particularly sleek or flattering on tights, having tried other compression tights, I can say that this is the best way to ensure that the fit is the best that it can be for the optimal performance.

The 2XU Elite MCS Compression Tights are available on the 2XU website for £110, as well as on amazon at a cheaper price of £98.99.

Skins-A400-Womens-Compression-Tights
Skins-A400-Compression-Tights

SKINS A400

Like 2XU, SKINS specialises in offering well-researched, technical compression garments. I love that they have research summaries available on their website.

I got in touch with the brand to find out more about their research, and consequently decided to trial [SKINS A400 Women’s Tights].*

The Concept

What sets the A400 range apart from SKINS’ others, is the use of what they call Dynamic Gradient Compression.

”All previous compression measurements have been carried out on athletes standing still. SKINS worked with the scientific and industrial research organisation in Australia to develop a device capable of taking multiple readings of the human body in motion. We hooked up SKINS athletes and for the first time ever, were able to accurately measure compression on muscles in motion – as they change shape with increased levels of oxygen-fuelled blood pumping through them.”

I’d be interested to learn more about how this knowledge is built into the garments.

Technology + Features

As well as the above, SKINS A400 tights have 50+ UV protection, sweat wicking and temperature regulating properties, and 360-degree reflective graphics.

The downside to the fabric? It’s very sheer. SKINS commented,

”With regards to the material, it is designed not only for compression, but also for temperature regulation... we wanted it to be as lightweight as possible. We would recommend that you wear same coloured underwear with your SKINS.”

I wore Lululemon Light as Air Thong in Black with my SKINS. I believe that this underwear really is the gold standard in workout underwear (and actually, underwear in general), being lightweight, smooth, and seam-free. But with my SKINS, it was still visible. When walking, when squatting. Even the SKINS inner label is visible through the tights. Obviously, I could cut it out, but that’s not really the point here.

Essentially, despite loving the fit of these tights, I’m never 100% confident in them, and I don’t want anything standing between me and a kickass workout.

Fit + Sizing

It’s a shame that the fabric is a little too ‘lightweight’ because the fit is great. As well as a wide, thick waistband (which sits a little lower than the tights by 2XU), the leggings generally fit brilliantly. The style is flattering and I feel held in.

The SKINS A400 Women's Long Compression Tights are available from the SKINS website for £100. They can also be found on amazon for as little as £78.79 depending on the size.

BoomBoomAthletica-Compression-Mesh.jpg
Boom-Boom-Athletica-Compression-Waistband

Boom Boom Athletica 26.2 Leggings

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of modelling some sportswear for Boom Boom Athletica. They are a relatively new brand to the sportswear market, launching with a limited edition run of their high performance collection. I’ve been trialling the 26.2 Leggings.*

The Concept

The brand was founded by Ann Johansson who is an ultra-marathon runner, keen to infuse style with functionality.

I’ve been a fan of cut-outs and mesh inserts on garments for more years than I can count, so I’m pleased that developments in technology have enabled them to become more widely used, especially in performance sportswear.

The mesh panelling on the Boom Boom Athletica garments are strategically placed to not only look gorgeous, but to ensure breathability where you need it. In the leggings, the mesh is focused at the back of the knees.

Technology + Features

The fabrics used by Boom Boom Athletica possess all the technical features expected of performance sportswear, such as breathability and moisture-wicking properties.

While I’m not an endurance athlete by any means, I can totally appreciate that these pieces would be great for a triathlete. They are chlorine, sunscreen and oil resistant, as well as UPF50+ rated.

Finally, my favourite part, they are high-compression garments. The fabric boasts 35% elastane, which is the highest percentage that I have seen in sportswear. As well as providing the benefits associated with compression, the garments retain their shape really well.

Although I haven’t tried them myself, I can’t not mention the Front Row Spin Leggings, which are truly unique to the sportswear market. The leggings have a custom insert in the ‘underneath’ area for added comfort when on a bike or in spin class.

The insert is manufactured by a specialist supplier more typically associated with £200+ cycling shorts. However, this insert is super discreet and, in fact, took me a while to spot; nothing like the visible heavily padding characteristic of cycling gear.

Fit + Sizing

Being super high-compression, these leggings fit tight. This is obviously intentional. They are a little hard to pull on initially, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you need to jump up a size.

I think it’s pretty important to mention that these leggings are low rise. A hypoallergenic silicone ‘seal’ around the inner waistband has been applied for ‘safeguarding’.

If you are a lover of the low-rise, I would highly recommend these because I haven’t seen any other genuine compression leggings with such a low-rise waist.

I personally graduated from low-rise pants (leggings, jeans, or otherwise) a few years ago, so this is the only thing that lets the leggings down slightly for me. I think this is partly because I’m used to a higher rise legging, but also due to my body shape.

Whether it’s because the waistband is a little loose or the legs can’t cope with the extreme stretch required to accommodate my quads, I don’t know, but they don’t seem to settle in a very comfortable place for me.

There are only so many times that I can lunge around the room and replicate The Ministry of Silly Walks to encourage them into a comfortable position.

The Boom Boom Athletica 26.2 Leggings can be found on the Boom Boom Athletica website for £98.

##My Verdict In case you hadn't already guessed, my favourite tights were the 2XU Elite Compression Tights. I love the sleek design, anatomical mapping included, as well as how high rise they are, how flattering they are, and how well they stay in place.

As I mentioned, I'd like to try a smaller size in these to see how they compare and whether I notice greater performance benefits.

The 2XU tights are my go-to compression tights. I very rarely reach for either of the others as I don't feel 100% confident in them, but this is purely a personal thing and is no reflection on their compression capabilities.

It is also worth mentioning that the tights discussed here are also available in different colourways and/or lengths.

However, a little word of advice: I always opt for a full-length tight for compression to avoid a 'cankle' effect!

Have you used compression sportswear before? Please let me know your favourite pieces by commenting below or tweeting me @_nataliejohanna!

Profile Protein Whey Protein Shot Review

Profile Protein Whey Protein Shot Review

Update: Profile Protein no longer appear to be trading.

The Concept

Profile Protein launched last year with a really unique concept: a protein shot, not shake. This is something that I’ve never seen done before, but it makes so much sense!

Essentially, Profile Protein want to make it as convenient as possible for people to recover from exercise. Sometimes gulping down 400ml of other products after an intense training session isn’t the easiest on the stomach and can leave you feeling full and uncomfortable, so I think that this concept is amazing.

The shaker is really lovely too. It looks gorgeous, feels great to hold, and is obviously super-convenient to pop in a bag given its size.

Profile Protein Whey Protein Shot Nutritional Information

Nutritional Information + Ingredients

Profile Protein try to keep ingredients to a minimum and their protein shots contain a maximum of five ingredients:
Whey protein concentrate (incl. Soya Lecithin), Flavouring, Sucralose, Natural Colour (Strawberry & Raspberry Blend).

Each serving contains 96 calories, including around 19g of protein, 1g fat and 1g carbs. That’s pretty impressive for a shot!

Taste + Texture

There are four available flavours: chocolate, vanilla, raspberry and strawberry. I have tried them all and can attest to their deliciousness. In flavour, they reminded me of the Petit Filous fromage frais that I used to adore. The shots were sweet, but not overly so, and the flavours tasted really natural.

Profile Protein shots require just 55ml of water to mix 25g protein powder. This may sound like a miniscule amount of water, but the mixability is incredible and I’ve always experienced a smooth texture. Using such a small amount of water with other products would leave you with nothing more than a paste.

I definitely give my seal of approval on taste + texture!

Protein Protein Shot

Price

500g bags of Profile Protein shot powder are £16.99 (or £19.99 if you want to add a shaker). With 20 servings per bag, that works out around 85p per serving - not bad at all!

The Verdict

I really like the product. Ideally, I'd love to see whey isolate instead of whey concentrate, and a natural sweetener rather than sucralose in the ingredinets list. Overall though, it’s tasty and convenient, without compromising on the all-important protein quantity.

Occasionally I’ve found the little shaker a little difficult to drink out of; it’s too tiny to have a spout like a standard protein shaker so you have to remove the whole lid. This isn’t ideal when you’re drinking on-the-go, but then, with a quick shot, this isn’t a big issue.

What I love about the company itself is that the brains behind Profile Protein are a lovely husband and wife team based in Cambridge (my hometown!) who and conscious about what ingredients go into our bodies and ensure that their products are made in small batches, with lots of care.

Definitely the kind of brand that I want to have in my supplements cupboard!

Love Life Supplements Primal Power Review

Primal-Power-Paleo-Protein-LLS

The Concept

Primal Power is a whey protein powder also containing healthy fats. It’s a really unique product within the sports nutrition industry, and one that I love.

The product was designed with a paleo diet in mind, something that LLS founder Ben Law passionately follows. However, there are lots of other people, like me, who would find massive benefits in taking it.

Like all of the Love Life Supplements products, this is produced to really high quality standards, in the UK.

Nutritional Information + Ingredients

A typical serving contains 215 calories, including 20g protein, 10g fat, 6.6g carbohydrates (only 2.5g sugar) and a brilliant 9.2g fibre.

The proteins in this drink are a standard blend used in many sports supplements. It’s the additional ingredients that make this product really unique.

Medium Chain Triglycerides

The fat content of the shake comes from the addition of MCTs, which are derived from coconuts.

MCTs are metabolised in a different way to most fats as they are sent directly to your liver where they are immediately converted into energy.

MCTs are really easily digested and are so tolerable, in fact, that they are often used in medically treating people who are unable to digest other types of fats well.

LLS also sell MCT oil, which is great for adding to smoothies or making bulletproof coffee.

Flax Seeds

As well as being a great source of fibre, flax seeds contain one of the richest sources of the plant-based omega 3 fatty acids, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA).

Fructooligosaccharides

Fructooligosaccharides are considered a soluble dietary fibre, and are used in Primal Power for their prebiotic effect. Essentially, they are the food for ‘good bacteria’, which is great news for your gut!

Digestive Enzyme Complex

The digestive enzymes in Primal Power include amylase, protease, lipase and lactase for aiding digestion of carbohydrates, protein, fats and lactose.

Natural sweetener

Unlike many protein powders that are full of artificial sweeteners, typically sucralose, LLS use stevia to sweeten Primal Power for a really natural taste. Read my post on the benefits of stevia

Love-Life-Supplements-Primal-Ingredients

Taste + Texture

Primal Power is available in two flavours: chocolate and vanilla. Both taste deliciously natural and a lot like drinking ice cream.

A serving of Primal Power is 50g of the powder. This is quite a large serving size considering that the average for a regular protein shake tends to be around 25g-35g, but the mixability is brilliant and the shake is always amazingly silky smooth and easy to drink.

Price

The RRP for a 1.5kg tub of Primal Power is £39.95 on the LLS website, although it is often cheaper.

It is very hard to compare the price to other protein powders as it isn’t an ordinary whey protein powder by any means.

While I would say that it isn’t cheap, I would absolutely advocate that it offers value for money.

Vanilla-Primal-Power-Protein-Love-Life-Supplements

My Verdict

I love this product. It’s truly unique and it’s great to know that it is made in the UK with the finest natural ingredients. As well as the use of MCTs, Primal Power contains plenty of ingredients to aid your digestive health, something that I’m really passionate about.

I think this protein is perfect to take first thing in the morning. I always have protein after waking up, with breakfast, and Primal Power has become one of my favourite options. The fats are great for giving you energy to take on the day.

To be honest though, Primal Power is great taken at any time of day, whenever you need a boost. Ordinarily, I try and avoid consuming fats immediately post-workout with my protein shake as they slow digestion, but MCTs are different in this respect and are perfectly fit for purpose here!

Despite this, I would probably only consume Primal Power once a day due to the fact that I get plenty of healthy fats elsewhere in my diet, and the fact that is isn’t incredibly affordable, although it is definitely value for money.

YorkTest Food Intolerance Test Review - My Results

Food&DrinkScan-YorkTest-Food-Intolerance-Review

Eliminate the Guess Work with a YorkTest Food&DrinkScan

As I mentioned in my Food Intolerance Test Guide, which looked at gut health, as well as symptoms and types of food intolerance, having an inflammatory reaction to foods can massively affect your wellbeing. As I’m always determined to better my body, I took the comprehensive Food&DrinkScan from YorkTest* to learn about my unique ‘food fingerprint’ so that I can tailor my diet for optimal health and fitness.

While a standard elimination diet could help me identify food intolerances, they take a lot of time and effort, and are very difficult to conduct, with some symptoms taking hours or days to present themselves. YorkTest have banished the guess-work by providing me with a specific list of foods to which my body is reactive, so that I have the perfect starting place for improving my diet.

Food Intolerance Testing with YorkTest

I chose to take a FoodScan with YorkTest because I was familiar with the brand and new that they were well-established.

"YorkTest Laboratories have over 30 years of excellence in laboratory diagnostic testing, and are Europe’s leading provider of food and drink specific IgG antibody testing programmes.

When deciding to test for food intolerance, York Test offer several options. You could start with the ‘First Step’ test which provides a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ indicator of whether you have a food intolerance. Should you receive ‘yes’, you can follow up with a full test programme.

The comprehensive tests are the FoodScan, which tests reactions to 113 foods, and the Food&DrinkScan, which tests reactions to 158 foods and drinks.

However, with a money-back promise if no reactions are identified, I would recommend launching straight in with a full test programme to fast-track yourself to better health with a little less hassle.

York-Test-Food-Intolerance-Testing-Kit

The FoodScan Testing Process

After ordering and receiving your test pack, all that is required of you is a finger prick (to draw a tiny amount of blood to sample) and return of the pack in the pre-paid envelope. It’s a very quick and simple process.

Once it reaches YorkTest laboratories, experts carry out an enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA) test for food-specific IgG antibodies.

The reactions are then clearly, visually indicated on a report, which is sent to you very quickly, and followed up with a call from a nutritionist, to answer your questions and advise you on your next steps.

My Food Intolerance Test Results

After doing my part of the testing (I detailed the Food Intolerance Test Process in my guide), my results arrived back with me within a few days. I was so excited to see them, but they weren’t quite what I was expecting.

The accompanying letter stated that I had a high number (25) of reactions and borderline reaction ingredients that were tested for.

Some foods I already suspected that I was intolerant to or had an unexplained dislike for, but others came as a complete surprise.

Essentially, the protocol from here is to eliminate the foods that I am reactive to, and eliminate or reduce my consumption of borderline foods (which may or may not elicit a reaction).

All of my reactions can be seen in the images within this post, but especially after talking to Sarah, the YorkTest nutritionist, there are some results that are worth mentioning in a little further detail...

Food-Intolerance-Test-Results

Egg

I showed a reaction to both egg white and egg yolk. I’m not very fond of eggs and only recently learnt to like them when scrambled (I was determined, as they’re such a nutritious food!) so I thought this wouldn’t bother me too much. However, I realise I consume quite a few other foods that contain egg as a hidden ingredient, from pancakes to meatballs. If you can recommend an alternative binding agent for recipes like this, please let me know!

Cow’s Milk

With cow’s milk, the first thing that is important to point out is that this is not an indication of lactose intolerance (as outlined in my Food Intolerance Test Guide post).

The IgG antibodies used in this kind of intolerance testing can only bind with proteins. Therefore, my reaction to cow’s milk is in fact indicating an intolerance to whey and/or casein. Unfortunately the test does not differentiate between the two.

As I consume a lot of protein shakes (predominantly whey) to supplement my high protein intake, this will make a huge impact on my diet (read: at times, thinking about this intolerance result makes me want to jump off a cliff).

I wish that the the scan tested for whey and casein separately because I could easily consume one or the other in isolation if need be.

Screening for whey and casein reactions separately would make this test infinitely more valuable, and I’d love to see YorkTest introduce this kind of testing to reflect the growing popularity of supplements based on these ingredients.

Gluten + Wheat

As I mentioned, this food scan tests a reaction to proteins. Wheat contains four proteins; albumin, globulin, gliadin and gluten. The fact that I am intolerant to wheat, indicates an intolerance to all of these proteins. However, gluten is found in many other food products so this is indicated separately as well.

This came as no surprise to me as I’ve experienced a range of issues when consuming gluten from bloating to extreme lethargy. I’ve avoided having bread on a regular basis for a long time, and haven’t eaten pasta for as long as I can remember (except once during my trip to Technogym Headquarters in Italy).

It’s great to have this intolerance confirmed as I’ll now make more effort to avoid gluten in other, less obvious, products, such as soy sauce.

Yeast

My reaction to yeast is one that I found particularly interesting. It isn’t something that I considered I might have an intolerance to, although I know that an overgrowth of Candida (a form of yeast) in the body can have large, and obvious, symptoms (thrush, for example).

While I’d considered that consuming sugary foods which can fuel the growth of yeasts in the body (leading to cravings for even more sugary foods - something I’ve definitely experienced!), I’d never given much thought to the consumption of yeast itself.

But now, it feels like yeast is in everything.

As well as being an integral ingredient within many products, yeasts can also occur naturally, growing on the skin of some berries and soft fruits. It is even present in mushrooms and stock cubes. It’s almost impossible to avoid while having a balanced diet.

Not only that, but all alcoholic drinks depend on yeasts to produce the alcohol, although distilling and filtering will tend to remove most of the yeast. While I’m not much of a drinker, from now on I will be sticking to spirits such as gin or vodka (especially as I’m reactive to many types of grape - and therefore wine!).

One thing that I discussed with the YorkTest nutritionist is that my reaction to yeast could have been influenced by a recent course of antibiotics. She agreed that this could be the case. Just one dose of antibiotics could alter gut flora for up to a year! While this doesn’t really help my situation, it’s definitely interesting to know.

Food-Intolerance-Results-Guide

Resolving Food Intolerances

Thankfully, IgG food intolerances can be resolved. This is because the IgG antibodies in the blood only live for a couple of months. If the problematic foods are avoided for 3-4 months, by the time the food is reintroduced into the diet all the IgG antibodies programmed to attack the food should have left the bloodstream.

However, a lot of people develop intolerances because the gut wall, which separates food ingested from the blood stream, gets damaged by antibiotics, painkillers, alcohol and too much wheat gluten and this may cause incompletely digested food proteins to get into the bloodstream and trigger your immune system to attack.

Therefore, as well as avoiding problematic foods, it’s also important to take actions to repair the gut.

Next Steps

It’s going to be really difficult to cut out my ‘reaction’ foods. It will require a lot of planning and a lot of dedication, but I’m really keen to see what improvements I can notice in my health and wellbeing from persevering with it.

Something that I need to constantly remind myself of, is that inflammation does not always manifest itself in obvious ways. So although I may feel fine, or not notice a particularly uncomfortable reaction, that’s not to say that an issue isn’t present. Especially with an existing medical condition (read my [‘about me’ section][0] to learn more), I need to make sure that my levels of inflammation are kept as low as possible.

Since getting my results, I’ve got really wrapped up in considering foods in terms of whether I’m intolerant to them or not, and forgetting that just because I’m not intolerant to things, it doesn’t mean that they are okay to consume. Sugar is a great example of this. As I know that I have a problem with yeast (which feeds off sugar), limiting my sugar intake as much as possible will be especially important.

Other things that I will be doing is staying as hydrated as possible (cue me nipping to the kitchen to grab a drink mid-writing flow), and taking supplements that I know to be beneficial for gut health (stay tuned for a future post on this!).

Finally, I’d love to re-test in a few months to see if any of my reactions are different. I’m also really keen to take the Gut Health Test to learn if I have any imbalances in my gut flora that I can correct (and also for my own learning and pure fascination!).

Edit: since taking this York Test, I have re-tested with Cambridge Nutritional Sciences - a fantastic service that settled some of my answered questions. I would recommend CNS Food Print 200+ over York Test. Read more about my CNS Food Print experience.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the test, and any advice that you may have regarding how I can amend my diet in the least painful way!

Les Mills Immersive Fitness™ has Launched!

IMMERSIVE-FITNESS-LES-MILLS-NATALIE.jpg

Les Mills IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ has just launched in the UK, and as a huge fan of Les Mills workout programmes, I was really excited to be one of the first to try it. I headed to the UK’s first IMMERSIVE studio at David Lloyd Rayne's Park for a completely mind-blowing workout.

What is IMMERSIVE FITNESS™?

IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ is a workout concept developed by Les Mills. If you haven’t heard of Les Mills, why not?! They are the creators of globally-successful group fitness classes such as BODYPUMP™, BODYCOMBAT™ and RPM™ (a studio cycling workout). Well, RPM™ has now been taken up a notch. 

THE TRIP™ is the name of the 30 minute class that I experienced, fusing RPM™ with the IMMERSIVE concept to complete a truly unique exercise experience.

During the class, the lights are lowered and rich visuals on a screen taking up the entire wall of a purpose built studio transport you through galaxies, space-age cities and across oceans. The virtual reality changes with each workout track, ensuring a variety of hills, flats, mountain peaks, time trials, and interval training. Throughout the whole class, the instructor’s cues are not only synchronised with the music, but the on-screen graphics, which is really motivating and helps to completely immerse you in the ride.

Les Mills Immersive Fitness The Trip David Lloyd
Les Mills Immersive Fitness Cinematic Class David Lloyd
Les Mills Immersive Fitness RPM Video Game

My experience of THE TRIP™

My IMMERSIVE experience was completely sensational. I didn’t think once about the length of the workout, I just kept pushing myself harder and harder and loved every minute of it.

While riding through the space-age city, it felt like I was in a TRON video-game and while climbing up steep glaciers it was like being in a movie. My favourite part of the workout was when, while sprinting laps around the digital velodrome, we were leaning forward into descents and pushing sideways around corners. The combination of these perfectly cued movements with the incredible cinematics, made it feel like I was in a theme park simulator. I even felt my stomach lurch a couple of times; in a good way, of course!

Les Mills Immersive Fitness David Lloyd Class Workout

This workout would be fun for absolutely anyone (so long as you’re willing to suspend your disbelief a little) and would also be a great way to introduce children and teenagers to workouts that would otherwise seem daunting. 

I couldn’t stop raving about the class for days after trying it. I’m looking forward to it being rolled out into more clubs nationwide so that I can ride THE TRIP™ again and I’m excited to see where IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ goes next...

Have you manage to squeeze yourself into an IMMERSIVE FITNESS™ class at David Lloyd yet? Let me know what you think to the concept!

Tabata: a session with a master trainer + the science

Tabata Class Richard Scrivener Master Trainer

Recently, I’ve introduced a scientifically-backed exercise protocol to my training sessions: Tabata. Since I had my first sweaty experience of Tabata with Master Trainer Richard Scrivener, I’ve been hooked. 

What is Tabata?

Tabata is a form of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is something that I have been a fan of for a long time. However, Tabata follows a unique structure; 20 seconds of exercise at maximum intensity, followed by 10 seconds rest, repeated 8 times. That makes this super-effective drill’s duration just 4 minutes. That’s doable for anyone, right?

Tabata Workout HIIT

The Science of Tabata

What I really love about the Tabata protocol is that it was developed in response to pioneering research conducted by Professor Tabata. His research comparing two experiments is totally fascinating:
Group 1 followed the Tabata protocol, working at 170% of their VO2 max during the 20 second exercise blocks. 
Group 2 worked at a VO2 max of 200% for 30 seconds, but had longer rest periods of 2 minutes, and repeated this for 4-5 rounds.

The Tabata method increased both anaerobic and aerobic fitness.

How is it possible to work out above 100% of your VO2 max?

Your VO2 max (100%) is the maximum amount of oxygen that your body can use during exercise. Working at your VO2 max and below means that you are in the aerobic zone, meaning ‘with oxygen’, and can likely sustain the exercise for a long period of time. Exercising above your VO2 max means that you are in the anaerobic zone, ‘without oxygen’, which can only be sustained for a very short period of time.

Essentially, there’s an inverse relationship between how intensely you can exercise, and how long that exercise can be sustained for. So, if you feel that you could do longer intervals, you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough. If you decide to try the Tabata method, be sure that you putting everything you have into each of the 20 second bursts. Go all out!

A Tabata Workout

A full Tabata class, like the one that I took with Richard, lasts for 20 minutes. This incorporates a warm up, a few minutes of cardio to start increasing heart rate, a break down of the exercises that will be included in the Tabata, the official 4 minute Tabata workout, some core conditioning, and a cool down.

Tabata Workout Structure

 

Exercises for Tabata

A number of different exercises can be used to form a Tabata from body weight exercises, to treadmill sprints. I also really like to use a spin bike or rowing machine to ensure I get lots of variety in my Tabatas. When you’re selecting exercises to include in a Tabata, be sure to choose explosive movements that will challenge you. Some of my favourites include burpees, mountain climbers and squat jumps. 

My Verdict on Tabata

I’m sold. If I can improve both my aerobic and anaerobic fitness by adding just 4 minutes of HIIT per session, I’m damn well going to do it! I love that I can easily add a blast of cardio onto the end of a weight training session to ensure that I’ve covered all bases during my workout. 

Be warned: it’s brutal. You will sweat, you will be out of breath, and your muscles will fatigue. Don’t expect to end your workout with a Tabata and then be off the gym-floor and in the shower a minute later.

I spend more time recovering from a Tabata than I do completing it, but I push myself hard because I want the best results.

I recommend downloading a Tabata timer app and giving it a go!

Have you tried Tabata? Let me know what your favourite exercises to incorporate are!