How to break through cardio plateaus

If cardio is your thing, try new classes, get outdoors and give interval training a shot.

It’s going to do wonders for your cardiovascular fitness, as well as your fat-burning potential. If you found a fantastic workout five months ago and figured it was a keeper, no wonder you’ve hit a wall!

While you’ve been having fun and shaking that Zumba booty, at a cellular level your body has been eyeing off a comfortable rest.

Poorly designed training programs or monotonous routines are a breeding ground for plateaus and an easy way to waste years of well-intentioned exercise.

If you won’t listen to our experts, how about Albert Einstein? Einstein’s definition of insanity was ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’.  You can’t do the same exercises over and over and expect your body to experience miraculous transformations, either!

Long-term improvements and changes in muscle tone and body shape as well as muscular strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness can only come about if you train your body to respond to new challenges.

Next: Learn how to break through weight training plateaus or use our handy online calculator to find out your BMI and ideal weight.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

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10 ways to bring your holiday home

Returning to work after your annual 4-week holiday can feel like Monday morning on steroids. Extend that holiday with a few simple changes to your routine.

1. After walking throught the door, give yourself the first hour of your time.

2. Only do one thing at a time. Leave the multitasking for work.

3. Eat something you wouldn’t normally eat.

4. Turn the phone off after dinner.

5. Have a laugh. Watch a comedy or read a quirky book.

6. Leave the dishes for tomorrow.

7. Make up the spare room or sofa bed for an away-from-home sleeping experience.

8. Practice mindfulness with meditation or simply focus on breathing.

9. Get your partner to give you a massage.

10. Slow down – deliberately walk slower, talk slower, relax your shoulders.

NEXT: 10 ways to keep fit on holiday

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Sun-specific 
anti-ageing serums

Looking for the best anti-ageing serums? Look for skincare products with 8% vitamin C and 0.9 per cent vitamin A.

Sunscreen goes without saying, but to dodge the sun’s ageing effects you want a crack team of integrative potions.

“When I was 27 I was advised to use a vitamin C serum in the morning to stop pigmentation and a good physical sunscreen with zinc to prevent sun damage,” says aesthetic nurse Mike Clague from The Me Clinic (formerly The Ashley Centre).

Vitamin C, which also goes by the name L-ascorbic acid, is a potent antioxidant that stops skin from oxidising (skin’s take on rusting) in sunlight.

Cosmetic physician Dr Ron Feiner, from Cosmetica Medical Aesthetic Clinic, says daily application of a quality vitamin A – also known as retinol and retinoic acid – may also “afford a degree of skin cancer protection”.

We love

Regenerate Refuel 10% Vitamin C, $110, regenerateskincare.com.

Aspect Dr Exfol A+ Serum, $118.80, advancedskintechnology.com.au

NOTE TO SELF:
To actually work, vitamin serums need to contain a certain percentage of their active ingredient, says Clague, the brains behind Regenerate Skincare. Department store products often fall short of the recommended 0.9 per cent for vitamin A and eight per cent for vitamin C. Sunscreen should have 10 per cent or more zinc oxide, Clague says. When in doubt, shop at a clinic or online.

 

Another ideal product, recommended by esteemed dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon Dr Lanzer, is Retosin Exfoliating Vitamin A, which removes dead skin cells and is excellent for fine lines.

This versatile product is recommended for both prematurely aged and acne prone skins. Designed to gently remove dead, redundant skin cells while strengthening the skin, Retosin aims to revise the appearance of fine lines, dryness and sun damage.

 

NEXT: Face mapping – what is your skin telling you>>

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anti-ageing serums appeared first on Women’s Health and Fitness.

WIN a FREE bottle of Sukin Rose Hip Oil

Do a good deed for your skin and breast cancer research with Sukin’s limited edition McGrath Foundation Rose Hip Oil on sale 1 August to 31 October 2013.

Enter our competition below or buy a specially marked Limited Edition bottle of Sukin Certified Organic Rose Hip Oil, in either 25ml or 50ml, to help Sukin donate AUD$20,000 directly to the McGrath Foundation.

How to enter

1. Simply LIKE the Sukin Facebook page and WH&F Facebook page.

2. Answer the question: How much will Sukin Natural Skincare donate to the McGrath Foundation with their special limited edition?

 

*** THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW EXPIRED ***

 

Terms and conditions

1. Entry is open to residents of Australia excluding SA and NT residents, and entrants must be 18 years old or over.

2. The promoter is Blitz Publications & Multi Media Group Pty Ltd ACN 33 083 149 286 of 1 Miles St, Mulgrave, Victoria 3170.

3. The promoter shall not be liable for any loss or damage whatsoever that is suffered (including but not limited to indirect or consequential loss) or for any personal injury of suffering or sustained in connection with any of the prizes offered except for any liability which cannot be excluded by law.

4. All entries become the property of the promoter.

5 The Promoter accepts no responsibility for late, lost or misdirected mail, or for any prizes damaged in transit.

6. To enter this competition, simply LIKE the Facebook pages of Sukin hwww.facebook.com/SukinNaturalSkincare and WH&F https://www.facebook.com/womenshealthandfitness . Then simply answer the question: How much will Sukin Natural Skincare donate to the McGrath Foundation with their special limited edition?

7. The competition commences on the 12th August 2013 and the close date is 5pm on the 16th September, 2013.

8. All entries must be received by 5pm on the 16th September 2013 to be eligible to go into the draw.

9. The winner is based on a game of skill not chance.

10. The first ten entrants drawn with the correct answer will be the winners. The draw will take place on the 17th September 2013 at 11am, at the offices of Blitz Publications & Multi Media Group Pty Ltd, ACN 33 083 149 286 of 1 Miles St, Mulgrave, Victoria 3170.

11. The winners will be contacted by Blitz Publications & Multi Media Group Pty Ltd by phone and email.

12. Once the draw has taken place on the 17th September 2013, no further correspondence will be entered into.

13. Each 50ml bottle is valued at $32.95. Total prize is valued at approximately $329.95

14. This prize is non transferrable.

15. NSW Permit No. LTPM / 12 / 00997.

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12 top-secret training tips

Get Arnie strength, Kate Middleton posture and send fat packing with guru Grant Lofthouse’s top secret training tips

1. Get amazing abs with less reps
Forget everything you’ve seen in the infomercials – going like a mouse on a wheel won’t get you a chick pack any faster. Lay off the 100 sit-ups and instead do planks, with low reps and time. Doing 20 reps and three-minute planks won’t be as effective as lower reps. For an amazing midsection, you also need to do harder exercises such as hanging leg raises and L-sits.

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Living with back pain

If you are over 35 and have no back pain you are one of the lucky ones. A staggering 80 per cent of Australian adults experience back pain at some stage in their lives, writes David Goding.

Most back problems stem from a strain in the muscles, ligaments or joints. Stress, a lack of exercise, poor posture and bad work practices are all considered to be major contributing factors to back pain.

If you are an office worker, for example, you may well experience all these factors on a daily basis. The average office worker slumps in front of a computer for 30-40 hours a week (often more), rarely gets adequate exercise during the week, is frequently stressed and in the process develops poor postural habits.

“The current lifestyle so many people lead is conducive to back pain,” says renowned physiotherapist, Dr Geoff Mackay, who has worked with the likes of Lleyton Hewitt, the Awesome Foursome rowing team and the Australian Olympic team.

“A lot of people are very sedentary, not only at work but in their recreational lifestyle as well. This kind of sedentary back pain is very common and tends to creep up over time. You often develop an acceptance of it at the start but as the pain starts to impinge on your lifestyle you’re forced to do something about it.”

A lot of women manage their back pain with anti-inflammatory medication and have their favourite back specialist – chiropractor, osteopath or simply a good massage – on hand to provide immediate relief. For a while.

“Relief is one thing and cure is another. All these types of treatment only give temporary relief,” Dr Mackay says. “You really need to change your behaviour if you want to confront those pains and get rid of them for good.”

 

Improving your posture

“Our creature comforts – the bed, soft armchair, car, office desk and computer – are the instruments of our torture,” says Barrie Savory, leading back specialist and osteopath, and author of The Good Back Guide.

“People may feel comfortable but they’re actually causing fatigue and gradually weakening their lower back muscles.”

True comfort ultimately resides in good posture. This means choosing the straight backed chair (or ergonomic chair) over the armchair, being careful not to slump at your desk and, perhaps most important of all, keeping your back moving whenever possible.

Take regular breaks during the day, walk to the next room and back, and do a few stretches before going back to your desk. Be aware of how you are standing, how you are sitting and make a concerted effort to form good postural habits.

Attention to foot and lower limb posture should also form part of the mix, as poor alignment or function of the foot can contribute to additional forces travelling up the leg, affecting spinal posture.

“There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to footwear,” says Stuart Imer, a foot and ankle physiotherapist with Foot Solutions. “The key is having accurate assessment and prescription of footwear for each individual.”

 

Strength and movement

“If you’ve got chronic back pain, you’ve got to get up and do some exercise,” Dr Mackay says.

Regular exercise is crucial for a healthy back as it improves flexibility and builds strength and stability. Activities such as walking, running, tennis, stair climbing and yoga all provide an excellent workout for your back.

Including some form of strength training is highly beneficial as this develops core strength and builds supportive muscle that can help to prevent back pain.

“Strengthening the lower back plays a significant role in reducing back pain,” Dr Mackay says. “After the age of 35 we lose muscle mass every year, so instead of sitting around gracefully getting old you should involve yourself in a strengthening program and you will maintain your entire body function so much better.

“Developing good strength in your core has been proven to be highly beneficial in addressing ongoing back pain, particularly strengthening the deep lumbar extensor muscles. Contract your stomach muscles and you naturally contract these lumbar muscles and visa versa.”

Dr Mackay recommends a new technique called Kieser Training. Developed in Switzerland, these gym machines are designed specifically to target the lumbar extensor muscles and have been shown to be extremely effective in the treatment of lower back pain.

“These machines have been scientifically validated to isolate and strengthen that muscle,” he says.

When back pain does strike it’s rarely beneficial to keep still. Studies have shown that the longer you rest, the longer it takes to get better and the worse off you are in the long run.

For every day that you stay in bed, muscles weaken and scar tissue hardens. It is only recommended that you lie down if the pain is unbearable and even then, for no more than two days. It’s much better to keep active if you are able.

 

Being active is the key to beating back pain. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and browse our list of workouts for fitness ideas and inspiration

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Chocolate cupcakes (made with cacao)

Raw cacao can play nicely with mainstream healthy diets – think delicious chocolate cupcakes like these…

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups raw, unsalted walnuts
  • 1 cup dates, pits removed
  • 1/4 cup cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp coconut butter (available in health food stores)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup

Preparation:

Mix all ingredients in a food processor, roll mixture into balls and press into cupcake patties.

Chocolate icing

  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 2 tbsp coconut butter

Method

Mix in processor and spread on cupcakes.

Next: Try these chocolate truffles or browse low-fat recipes.

Don’t forget to connect with us on Twitter and Facebook for daily updates!

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How to find your perfect man

We asked Samantha Jayne, of Blue Label Life, for a foolproof plan

1. Change the rules (were the old ones that good?)

Commit to a schedule of actions based on your new rules, and report to a trusted friend each time you triumph over old patterns – even if it’s minor.

2. Stop being a negative nancy (it’s the top turn-off)

Before you leave the house, stand before the mirror, look yourself in the eye and tell yourself you will find someone who inspires, excites and challenges you.

3. Work your body (it and your voice do 90 per cent of your communicating)

Make a habit of checking in with your body and tone of voice during different interactions, to  become attuned to your automatic setting, and consciously work  to change any negative settings.

4. Dance like no-one’s watching

Book into a dance class and don’t invite a friend. Going alone will push you to engage with other people – you never know who you might meet. Cooking classes are also good for meeting potential partners.

5. Fire the shy factor

To ensure fear doesn’t turn you into an excuse factory for staying home, lock yourself in to two singles events a month. If you think you’ll pike, enlist a plus one to keep you accountable.

6. Three strikes ‘til he’s out

Even if you find fault with Mr Movies, hold your judgment until after date three. If you’re not impressed then, you may move on.

7. Dress to impress

Invest a Saturday afternoon (when you haven’t got a date) in mixing and matching your wardrobe inventory and earmark three outfits that make you feel, and look, your sexy, confident best. When you do have a date, the effort will show. (And avoid track pants in public!)

8. Spend time with the people who make you happy

As the saying goes, you are coloured by the company you keep, so spend time with those you bring out the best in you and you’ll put your best foot forward in the dating zone.

9. Do a double take

Take another look at the one who always makes your double-shot with soy, or re-imagine your dry cleaner – sometimes what you’re looking for is right under your nose.

10. Flash your pearlies

Wear your smile into every interaction; it goes miles towards a great first impression.

11. Believe it

Visualise yourself in the type of relationship you want and focus on what everyday life looks like there. Believing is half the battle – believe that!

Find out why you should fall in love and get more relationship tips.

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Beat comfort eating

Any woman who has tasted double chocolate chip cookies or delighted in the sight of a cheese and dip platter understands the pull-power of food as a form of comfort

Beat comfort eating with these practical tip

And let’s face it, when it comes to feeling sorry for ourselves at the end of a long and emotional day nothing seems more welcoming than a fully-stocked fridge or a supermarket trolley full of endless possibilities.

WHY WE DO IT

The image of a bleary-eyed pyjama-clad woman seeking comfort in a block of chocolate is so ingrained in popular culture that commercials advertising the latest sweet treat seem to capitalise on our tumultuous relationship with sugar-laden foods. But why is it sweets that we turn to? And why don’t men seem to comfort eat?

According to a 2005 study conducted by Cornell University comparing the difference between male and female eating patterns, women are slightly more likely to turn to comfort foods high in fat and sugar when they’re feeling lonely, guilty and depressed – whereas men are more likely to pick steaks, pasta and soups when motivated by positive emotions. The same study found that women were 50 per cent more likely than men to admit feeling guilty about indulging in comfort foods.

Research suggests that comfort eating is a learnt behaviour instilled in us from childhood. “As children, if we’re crying or need soothing, adults will often offer comfort food and because of this, comfort eating is a learnt reaction that we link to feeling better,” says DAA [Dietitians Association of Australia] dietitan Susie Burrell.

As adults, sweet treats replicate the same feeling of comfort triggered by a lollipop from the doctor or a Freddo Frog from our parents as a reward for good behaviour. But as adults, we use food to salve bigger and deeper problems. “Comfort eating is linked to an emotional response, whether it be a sadness, a loneliness, a depression or a guilt and the food is being used as the soothant for that,” says Burrell.

“It’s not a physiological reaction, such as craving carbohydrates at 4pm, but rather an emotional one.”

To overcome comfort eating we must first address the root of our problems. “The first thing is to try and identify the trigger,” suggests Burrell. “In what situation are you comfort eating? Is there a set pattern? Is it happening on a Saturday night? Is there something wrong at work? Have you had a fight with your boyfriend?”

Essentially, it’s about taking the problem away from the food and identifying the trigger. The next step is to find an appropriate way of managing it. This may mean enlisting the help of a counsellor or psychologist to help you address your problems.

Many people will admit to comfort eating but when you ask them why they seek comfort in food they’re not entirely sure. Heather Mckinierny, a self-described partially-reformed comfort eater says that the first step for her was recording her eating habits in a food diary. “My psychologist suggested it – and at first I was mortified. I felt as if my power had been completely taken from me, but it turned out to be extremely helpful.”

Heather identified that she was most likely to turn to food on the nights when her husband was entertaining clients or working late. “I felt insecure in my relationship and instead of discussing my fears with my husband I subconsciously turned to chocolate. I never got to the point of binge eating [which is characterised by secretive, excessive and planned outings], but it completely undermined my hard work at the gym and my efforts at making healthy dinners. Come 9pm, I’d grab a handful of Tim Tams and would be back for more in the next ad break,” she says.

Heather sought marriage counselling and says that she now has greater control of her eating habits and is a lot happier in her relationship.

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Modern-day meditation

According to research, meditation reduces high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. David Goding investigates its far-reaching health benefits.

The science of meditation is at once very simple and incredibly complex. On a basic level it requires little more than inner calm and focus though it provides us with a wealth of lasting mental and physical benefits. In fact, meditation may well be the third cog in the wheel of health — along with diet and regular exercise — that provide us with ultimate health and wellbeing.

A recent US meta analysis of 20 individual studies conducted by Connecticut University found that regular meditation produced slower heart and breathing rates, improved blood flow and decreased the chance of suffering from depression and mental health issues.

These benefits are widely acknowledged to have a multitude of healthy flow-on effects, including the ability to lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and blood glucose levels, improve respiratory function and even reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In stimulating the nervous and immune system response, meditation has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of asthma and reactions to allergens.

“Regular meditation helps you to develop coping mechanisms that enable you to deal with obstacles in life,” says Jenny Petridis, Meditation Facilitator from Prana House.

“Physically your body becomes a lot more relaxed. You don’t realise how much tension you hold in your body and most of the time we don’t breathe correctly. As well as having psychological benefits, the practice of meditation initiates changes in physiological functioning, including reduction in heart rate, oxygen consumption and stress hormones.”

The ability of meditation to reduce stress has seen its introduction to hospitals in cases of chronic or terminal illness, where it is used to reduce complications, promote immune system functions and an improved attitude by the patient. In short, reduced stress means improved health.

How meditation affects the body
Meditation has been shown to have a direct effect on the two major players of the autonomic nervous system, which regulates the functions of organs and muscles throughout the body, including the heart and the digestive system.

Firstly, it works by reducing the activity in the sympathetic nervous system. This is the part of the autonomic nervous system responsible for the ‘fight-or-flight’ response when stressed — causing heart rate and breathing to go up, blood vessels to narrow and muscles to tense up.

The effect of meditation on blood pressure is measurable and the benefits to our heart health significant. Muscle tension drops to almost nil during meditation. As pain is often tension related this results in considerable pain relieving benefits.

Secondly, meditation increases the activity in the parasympathetic nervous system, the part responsible for the ‘rest-and-digest’ response — causing heart rate and breathing to slow, blood vessels to dilate improving blood flow as well as stimulating the digestive process.

A 25-year US study conducted by the Office of Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health found that that the longer people meditated, the greater the benefits. They found that subjects that had meditated regularly for five years were physiologically 12 years younger than the non-meditating subjects. Those that had meditated for less time were physiologically only five years younger than the control group.

Backing this up is a separate study conducted by Dr David Orme-Johnson, a research psychologist at Iowa’s Maharishi International University, that found that regular meditators over the age of 40 visited their doctor 73.7 per cent less than non-meditators, had 87.3 per cent fewer admissions to hospital for heart disease and 55.4 per cent fewer admissions for tumour related illness.

How meditation affects the mind
Meditation has also been shown to significantly calm brain waves leading to a generally more relaxed and less anxious state of mind. EEG analysis shows that brain activity during meditation is actually very similar to that during sleep.

This has been shown to improve cognitive function and offer significant benefits for conditions such as depression, anxiety, headaches, stress, ADHD and insomnia.

Meditating before bedtime has been shown to be one of the most effective remedies for breaking the pattern of sleeplessness and offers a very real alternative to sleeping drugs. This is particularly relevant when you consider that lack of sleep is not only on the rise throughout the Western world but is now the number one reason people visit their GP.

When creative visualisation or guided imagery is used on top of this the results can be even more powerful.
“Setting out the positive intention in meditation really enables you to feel that you are the creator of your world,” says Petridis.

“This kind of visualisation is commonly used in the sporting arena. If you visualise yourself winning that race, you start to feel that you are actually winning the race. You are rewiring the brain and it’s as if your brain is tricking your body into doing it.”

The technique, once perfected, can be used for all manner of purposes, from simply going into your day with a positive outlook and purpose to achieving physical healing, depending on your focus. As a mental rehearsal it can be used before a stressful or potentially painful event such as surgery or childbirth in order to relieve anxiety and pain.

Getting started
Meditation is probably the best ‘self-help’ therapy you can do. Though some people find meditating a lot easier than others, everyone can achieve a meditative state with practice, at least to some degree.

“A lot of people say they can’t meditate but in most cases it’s about finding out what works for you, what resonates,” says Petridis.

There’s no right or wrong or strict rules you need to follow, you don’t even necessarily have to sit still. You could meditate while gardening or going for a walk.”
Petridis says that a lot of people get put off by the perceived seriousness and levels of concentration involved.

“A lot of people are intimidated with meditation and think they have to sit in a certain posture and there can be nothing going on in their mind,” she says. “You need to think to yourself that it’s going to be fun. Look around and see what entices you and when you do go to a meditation class don’t take it so incredibly seriously, just relax and enjoy it. Stick with it and don’t be hard on yourself and you’ll find that it will naturally happen.”

To start with, Petridis suggests setting aside 15 minutes three times a week for the practice of meditation.

“Everyone can find 15 minutes to meditate,” she says. “Find a quiet space, take some time out and concentrate on doing some deep, even breathing. Before you know it you’ll become addicted to it and you’ll probably end up increasing the amount of time you spend meditating.”

To obtain information on Buddhist centres and activities in your area go to www.buddhanet.net For information and locations of Transcendental Meditation go to www.tmprogram.com.au

For information about visualisation meditation go to www.createyourday.com.au

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