Ok peeps, here’s the deal.  My OH’s best friend is paying a surprise visit on Sunday afternoon – obviously a surprise to the OH, not me!  Best Friend lives a couple of hours drive away, and will be coming to our place in between checking out of his hotel and driving home.  So far, so lovely Sunday afternoon.

The problem is this; I am the least confident cook you have ever seen.  Seriously.  Cooking for people I don’t know reduces me to a little sweaty ball of stress, curled up and rocking gently in the corner of the kitchen.  So I somehow need to find up with a quick, delicious meal to feed to Best Friend (who I hardly know) and his girlfriend (who neither I nor OH has ever met).  This is made worse by the fact that OH teaches on a Sunday morning, so we’ll only be getting home 10 minutes before (or even after) Best Friend.

I could cry off morning classes (somehow) and make something I’m confident with (lasagne springs instantly to mind), but I do love my Sunday gym mornings!  So I’m throwing it open; any ideas for quick, simple and above all EASY recipes that I can whip up to wow Best Friend and his other half?  You could be saving my culinary pride!


Kettlebells and calories

I posted yesterday about my usual warm up, and wondered aloud what effect it had on my workout length and calorie burn.  So during yesterday’s session I made a note of time and calorie count for the warm-up/cool-down, as well as keeping track of reps & sets.  It went like this:

  • Warm-up (as posted yesterday)
  • 5 dead cleans x 1 set
  • 3 clean & press, 3 L snatches, 3 R snatches with 16kg bell.  3 sets
  • 5 clean & press, 5 L snatches, 5 R snatches with 12kg bell.  3 sets
  • TGU-windmill combo, 2 L & 2R, 12kg bell. 2 sets.
  • Cool-down (as posted yesterday, plus some static glute & hamstring stretches)

All of that took 43 minutes and burned 428 calores; the warm up accounted for 5 mins, the cooldown for 8 and the warm up and cooldown accounted for around 50 calories each.  Which means I was actually working for exactly 30 mins, and burned around 328 calories in that time; not too shabby.

All this was pretty much just for my own curiosity, but I read a great article on the subject today that’s worth sharing; “Kettlebells, Calories, Heart-rate Monitors and the Disgrace of Aerobics” (with thanks to @KettlebellWall, where I first saw the article).  The article echoes my own experience, in that many of my friends think they need to do cardio to burn body fat, and their idea of cardio is inevitably a spinning class, a run on the treadmill, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, those things are great if you enjoy them (I spin a couple of times a week, and do the occasional body combat class – they’re fun!), but they’re not the be-all and end-all.  When I tell people that my heart rate goes higher doing swings (or many other kettlebell exercises for that matter) than in spinning, and that I burn at least as many calories, they are usually gobsmacked; the idea that you can get a great cardio workout using nothing but a ball of iron is totally alien.

And that’s without considering the benefits of increased strength, stability and the myriad other things that KB training (and other kinds of weight training) improve.  These endurance cardio sessions that people subject themselves to so often are catabolic, and they often don’t realise that a fair portion of any weight they lose is likely to be muscle.

Just to re-iterate, I don’t want to put a downer on forms of exercise that people enjoy – it’s far better to be active than totally inactive after all.  But there’s such a profusion of myths surrounding fitness, and I think for me the most annoying is weight loss = cardio = mindless tedium.  Fitness should be fun!

Warming up and cooling down

I’ve noticed, browsing other people’s kettlebell workouts, that my own are a little longer than some; probably around 45 minutes as opposed to other people’s 25-35 minutes.  I also seem to burn a few more calories – verging on 750/per hour – not that I ever train with KBs for a full hour!  I suspect this might be to do with my regular warm-up and cool-down, which are fairly lengthy and also get my heart rate nice and high in preparation for the hard work to come.

My OH picked up this warm-up from Tommy Matthews of Optimal Life Fitness, when they trained together a few months ago.  Goes without saying that posture should be excellent at all times – chest up, shoulder blades in tight, etc.

  • Rotate arms forward for a few revolutions, then backwards.  Keep them long, straight and fairly loose.
  • Hold your arms out to either side, palms facing out, then swing them across the body and allow the palms to rotate towards the floor.  Repeat a few times to loosen off and stretch shoulders and chest.
  • Standing straight, rotate to the left through the hips and core. Pat yourself on the shoulder with the right hand, and on the back with the left; repeat on the right hand side.  Continue til you’ve done 4-5 reps each side.
  • Holding your hands close by your sides, bend through the core and slide your hand down your leg; repeat several times each side.  Don’t let the hips swing out, make sure the work is in your abs.
  • Body weight squats, arms held in front for balance. 4-5 reps.
  • Lunges!  Lunge forward with one leg and swing the other arm straight over your head; lock out at the elbow.  4-5 each side.
  • More lunges!  This time lunge backwards and touch your hands to the floor so you almost look like you’re about to start a sprint race.  Stand up, making sure the hips come to full extension.  4-5 each side.
  • Get in push up position, then touch your chest 10 times with your right hand and ten times with your left.  No need to put your hand fully back to the floor each time, just make sure you touch the floor in between reps.
  • Still in push up position, this time move into the T position.  One hand stays on the floor, while the body rotates up and the feet roll to the side to fully support your body weight.  The other arm goes straight up in the air.  It’s almost like you were standing upright with your arms straight out to the sides (like a big letter T), then someone pushed you over. Again, 4-5 each side.
  • Finally, mountain climbers.  I usually get into the position a couple of times each side just to stretch out my hips, before doing a few proper ballistic reps.  On sadistic days I do one push-up after each change of side (if that makes sense).  On non-sadistic days I just do a few push ups afterwards 😉

All of that takes a lot less time to do that it does to read, and it makes a pretty effective warm up for just about any activity.  For the cool down I do exactly the same but leave out the more ballistic exercises; so everything except the forward lunges and the ballistic portion of the mountain climbers.  If I’ve got time I’ll do a few static stretches too, mainly concentrating on my problem areas of calves, hamstrings and lower back.

Now having typed all that, I’m off to do it! 😀

Bank holiday fun

I just finished migrating this blog over to wordpress.  The old site was so rubbish there wasn’t any kind of export feature, so it was a copy and paste every post job, then manually change all the dates.  Argh!  Just glad I did it before the blog was any bigger!

Had a good workout this morning, though it was cut tragically short by a scheduled class needing to use the studio at the gym.  Inconsiderate!  But I managed to get a fair bit of work in before it was time to evacuate; 100 DH swings with the 16kg (5×20), then a set of dead cleans, 3 sets of clean and press, & 5 sets of snatches with the 12kg (5 reps in each set).  I had wanted to get in a few TGU/windmill combos at the end because I’ve never actualy got round to doing that, but it wasn’t to be.

I did get a little ego boost though; the guy who came in to teach stopped for a chat, and asked if I just used the 16kg for swings.  When I said that I snatch it he looked gobsmacked, and said that none of his female clients would ever dream of trying to snatch 16kg.  I was so proud, made my bank holiday monday 😉

Other interesting fact for the day; turns out one of my instructor friends is in turn good friends with Angie Dowds, the kettlebell legend.  I have a claim to fame 😀

Sunday is funday

Today has been the model of a perfect Sunday. Early spin (700 calories) followed by body pump (300 calories). Long hot shower, then home to watch the Monaco grand prix while stuffing my face with roast chicken. I even managed not to sleep through it!

I’ve managed a few kettlebell sessions this week too; still working on my cleans. It’s such a technical movement and I’m struggling to master it. The trouble is this – my 12kg kettlebell has a rubbish grip, very thick, very shallow (ie too close to the body of the bell) and generally badly made. There’s a big lip of metal which does its very best to remove a chunk of skin with every rep, and that combined with the very shallow handle (which means the bell lands very high up on the wrist, sometimes right on the wrist bones) makes it…challenging to use.

But conversely, the 16kg is just a smidge too heavy for me to clean safely; I can snatch it, but my clean technique just isn’t there yet, so I need to persevere.

And in other news, I’ve finally had another weigh in….and remained exactly the same weight. Here’s hoping that I’m gaining muscle, because when you burn 1000 calories in one morning surely you must lose SOME body fat?!

Week 5 – 78kg
Total loss – 0kg (still!)

Snatch test!

I had a great training session this morning – when I went for a sit down and something to drink afterwards, a friend asked if I’d just been spinning. I must have been one sweaty betty!

I wanted to work on my clean technique, so out came the 12kg and I managed 3 sets of 5 loaded cleans. I was wearing bandages round my wrists but my 12kg is just such a stupid shape, with a really shallow grip that it hits almost at the base of my hand. Bah. So I could only manage a few, but they were decent reps.

Then I went for the big time. The RKC snatch test has been hovering around the back of my mind for a while now, and though I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it I gave it my best. The end result; 70 reps with the 12kg in 5 minutes, in batches of 20, 10, 10 , 10 & 20 It was my cardio that held me back much more than strength – the rests were purely to let my heart rate come down a little. Next time I’ll do 80!

Just because I could, I rounded it off with 5 sets of 5 clean & press. The last few barely went up but the sense of satisfaction was massive! The end result was a workout of 37 minutes, average heart rate 161 bpm (max was 196, yeowch) and 413 calories. And a very tired me

Dietary update

I haven’t posted any food diaries in a while, so here goes…in my defence, yesterday was my birthday so the junk intake was through the roof!

Breakfast – scrambled eggs with spinach, on toast (wholemeal). Tea
Lunch – chicken tikka massalla, rice and naan.
Snack (at the cinema) – half a giant bag of peanut M&Ms. Lush!
Dinner – That new oriental stir fry thing M&S are doing; chicken, veg, thai green sauce and noodles.
Dessert – chocolate croissant and a double choc muffin. I had a GOOD birthday

Breakfast – Muesli, tea
Snack – discos salt and vinegar, fridge raiders chicken bites (these are surprisingly nice – try them)
Lunch – goats cheese and pesto ravioli with spinach and ricotta sauce.
Dinner – home made king prawn curry. Incredibly quick, served with uncle ben’s microwave rice, for that lazy factor
Dessert – yoghurt.

I also did a spin class yesterday morning (~500 calories), and I’m off to the gym now to hopefully do a kettlebell session. My fiance runs a class on a Tuesday night and if we run out of equipment it’s the paying customers who get first dibs. Only fair really! If we run out I’ll go and occupy myself in the gym for an hour

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