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Personal Training & Nutrition

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By Sarah O'Neill, Jan 17 2019 02:57PM

Thousands of people in the UK sign up for new gym memberships every January, and by a few weeks in (around about now...) are already failing to attend. Vitality Magazine asked me to come up with some ideas for workouts for those who hate cardio. Read on if that's you! My team of Personal Trainers WILL NOT FORCE YOU TO RUN IF YOU HATE RUNNING! Exercise shouold be a pleasure and there are many, many ways to get fit without forcing youself to do something you find unbearable.

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Does slogging it out in a spin class fill you with fear? Or maybe you just don’t feel like getting sweaty today? Personal trainer Sarah O’Neill shares the best workouts for the cardio-averse.

For everyone aged from 19 to 64, the NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate aerobic (think cycling or brisk walking) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic (running or playing sport) activity, plus two sessions of strength exercises every week. This means it’s important to get your heart pumping and your muscles moving as often as you can, however it needn’t mean spending hours on the treadmill if you don’t want to.

If running/cycling/rowing (insert cardio nemesis of your choice) isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other ways to challenge your body; you just need to find out what works for you, on any given day. Personal trainer Sarah O’Neill shares her ideas for working out if an intense cardio session isn’t for you…

1. If you don’t like running…

Power walk! Brisk walking may burn fewer calories than running but a recent study showed that it can reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol to a similar extent. If weight loss is your goal, then add hills. Hiking and hill walking increase calorie burn while remaining low-impact, saving those joints from pavement-pounding. Focus on pumping your arms to get more from the workout.

2. If you want to get stronger (not sweaty)…

Resistance training still burns plenty of calories per session and it also has a greater ‘after-burn’, which means your metabolism stays higher for longer. And this isn’t exclusive to lifting weights. Most gyms offer PT-led TRX suspension-training classes, which involve toning up using TRX straps and your body weight. Alternatively, you could invest in your own straps and take them to your local park. Or for something different, try Virgin Active’s UGI class, which involves using a weighted ball for resistance training and stretching.

3. If you don’t have time to shower…

Barre conditioning is on the rise and doesn’t necessarily mean getting hot and sweaty. This ballet-inspired class has an emphasis on sculpting and toning using a barre (a horizontal bar as support for specific exercises). Mat Pilates is also a low-sweat but highly effective workout, using your body weight to focus on your core strength. They’re both ideal if you want something you can squeeze into a lunch break.

4. If you want a workout that also makes you feel relaxed…

Why not try yoga, tai chi or qigong? If you’re overwhelmed by the number of yoga classes on offer, look to hatha yoga for the ultimate unwind. The Universities of British Columbia and Toronto also recommend martial art-inspired workouts such as tai chi or qigong for older patients or those with disabling conditions. The gentle flowing movements are impact-free and thought to reduce stress, improve posture, balance and mobility.

5. If you just want to target your abs…

Ideally, you should be working your abs at least three times a week to keep your core strong. Make sure you hit them from all angles by including my top 10 moves or Vitality’s quick core workout. Slacklining (a low tight rope) is the newest celebrity craze – the immense effort to balance is killer for the core. But if you want to tone at home, grab yourself a hula-hoop. The repetitive thrusting action to keep the hoop aloft is great for cinching the waistline.

6. If you have an injury…

Hit the pool. With 12 times the resistance of air, a water workout doesn’t need to be easy, but the buoyancy and support of the water means you can work at your own level. Swimming with hand paddles can help refine your stroke and assist rehabilitation of shoulder injuries. Or try FloatFit – a great new trend that involves a 30-minute HIIT workout on your own floating mat on the pool. It’s incredible for the core and the effort of concentration to stay on your mat will make those minutes fly.

By Sarah O'Neill, Jan 2 2015 06:00PM

New Year Guilt...

Most of us will have stepped nervously onto the scales at some point since the New Year dawned, maybe moved them round the carpet a few times to get the best reading... January is the month of ‘catastrophe’ buying – from unused gym membership to fat burning pills and potions, as we berate the fifty mince pies that weigh heavily on our consciences (and waistlines).

Detox Junk(ie)

Clearly we all really know these plans and supplements are just a marketing ploy to make us part with our hard-earned cash. But doesn’t it sound tempting right now? Your body feels like a waste disposal site, but subsisting on a perfectly balanced diet of green juice and water is going to ‘cleanse, revitalise and eliminate’...isn't it?

1. The rapid weight loss offered by these diets is utterly irresponsible. Yes, if you drink only green water for 7 days you will lose weight (and sanity). However you will also slow your metabolism right down and regain all those pounds, plus more, when you start eating again.

2. In the most part the Science is wrong. Any drink or weight loss diet that offers to ‘restore your body’s natural pH’ is quite simply rubbish. The body is finely tuned to 'buffer' and maintain pH, mainly via the lungs and kidneys - it doesn’t need you to ingest something rancid in order to achieve this

3. The ‘elimination’ promise...We have a finely tuned waste disposal system (how to put it nicely), which you can assist by increasing the fibrous content of your diet: it is more than able to ‘eliminate’ waste without the need for detox drinks.

The good bits

Where detoxes do make sense is where they encourage us to strip back our diets from alcohol, high sugar snacks, and recommit to exercise and health-promoting foods.

Consider setting yourself the following New Year’s Resolutions to DETOX your lifestyle:


- Increase the amount of vegetables (mainly) and fruits you eat. The Japanese eat 11 a day so aim high.

- Avoid buying supplements unless you really need them. Vitamins and minerals are much better absorbed from foods than pills, so change your DIET not your capsule choice.

- Consider doing the Sarah O'Neill Nutrition re-set. There are lots of balanced, nourishing recipes and healthy snack ideas that won't leave you hungry.

- Identify your bad eating habits and take them on one at a time. It takes approximately 3 weeks to kick a habit. For example, do you devour a packet of Doritos when you're watching TV in the evening? Could you change the time of your main meal to counteract that?

- Invest in a steamer

- Commit to drinking 2 litres of water a day.

- Pimp your cupboards! Chuck out unhealthy or out-of-date food.


- If you’ve let exercise slip throughout December, use January to reboot. Timetable your exercise sessions for the week, diarising them as a firm fixture.

- Book a running race or sportif or set yourself a target for the month such as swimming the channel at your local pool (47 lengths a day of a 25 metre pool!). The act of booking an event will automatically make you feel like you’re taking control of your fitness, whilst providing training motivation through the colder months. Why not fundraise as an added incentive.

- Buy yourself some new exercise kit in the January sales; it’s amazing how motivating some new togs can be!

Feel positive!

December is a month of slacking off whilst January is a month of commitment – so embrace this time, set some goals and be excited about all you can achieve this year.

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