Hang In There: The Surprising Benefits Of Hanging

Do you want to add something new to your training programme that can improve your posture, your concentration, your stress levels and even make you look a few years younger?!

Hanging exercises are some of the simplest, most beneficial, and most ridiculously underrated moves you can do at the gym. Hanging benefits virtually all of your body and incorporating it into your routine is easy and fun.

Types Of Hanging Exercises

When it comes to hanging you have two main types of exercises - hand hanging and inversion.

With hand hanging, you grip a bar and, well, you just hang in there. This type of movement is a great tool for decompressing your spine, improving your back strength, and reducing the risk of injury.

Inversion techniques, whether you do them on an inversion table, inversion chair, or with anti-gravity boots, aim to reverse the effects of gravity. It puts your body in a very unusual position and its a way of placing controlled stress on your system. The increased blood flow to the brain, the improved lymphatic drainage, and the radical improvement in your posture are just some of the benefits of hanging upside down.

How To Do Hand Hanging Right

 

To perform hand hanging exercises all you need is a bar. Virtually all gyms have them and you can install one in your house for very low cost as well.  You can do it as a stand-alone exercise during work or study breaks or, as I have recently started to experiment with - as a great way to start your day!

A simple hand hanging technique is to spread your arms a little more than shoulder-width apart. Grip with your thumb around the bar at first. It is a stronger grip better suited for beginners (the same goes for when you are doing pull-ups). If you are comfortable with that, try reversing the grip. Although it will be more challenging, this grip engages your wrist muscles much better. No matter what grip you choose, remember to lock your elbows for added stability.

Start with the goal of hanging for 30 seconds. An experienced athlete should aim for 90 seconds to 2 minutes of hanging.

If this seems a bit tedious and you want more of a challenge, try active hanging. The idea is to maintain the same posture, except with your shoulders pulled down. This is especially good for strengthening the muscles around your shoulder joint. If you have ever suffered from shoulder pain, dislocations or similar injuries, active hanging could drastically reduce these issues. I usually have my clients do both types of hanging but to be honest I prefer active hanging as it gives you the extra shoulder stability.

The Benefits Of Hanging From A Bar

There are four main benefits to incorporating hand hanging:

  • Decompression of your spine
  • Improved wrist and forearm strength
  • Shoulder stabilisation
  • Better back mobility

Most people, unfortunately, spend their days sitting on a desk and lounging on the sofa. As you might suspect, this is really bad for your overall posture, the function of your internal organs and virtually all aspects of your physical well being. Being sedentary significantly restricts shoulder and back mobility, as you spend hours working with your arms by your sides.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time is also very harmful to your spine. The vertebrae in your spine  are connected by softer, 'squishier' lumbar discs. As you go about your day and especially if you sit a lot, the pressure on this discs increases. Over time that could cause injury and severe pain. When you hang from the bar, the compression is reversed. In fact, chiropractors do decompression techniques on their patients all the time and they are one of the best ways to reduce back pain. Hanging is a simple decompression exercise that can prevent plenty of problems in the future.

The Crazy Benefits Of Hanging From Your Ankles

 

Did you know that being hanged upside down was one of the cruellest and most agonizing execution techniques during the Middle Ages? A couple of centuries later and we are discovering that inversion, when performed correctly and with caution, can actually have some very impressive (and surprising benefits). Defying gravity by hanging upside down can:

  • Improve blood flow to the brain
  • Improve your posture
  • Improve flexibility and overall mobility
  • Reduce stress and help with concentration, productivity, memory, critical thinking
  • Better your overall circulation (essentially, by resetting it)
  • And even improve the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes on your skin!

The list goes on and on. The benefits of hanging upside down can significantly improve your well-being, quality of life, and athletic performance. There are some downsides as well, though. For instance, the 'getting back on your feet' part could make you very dizzy and even nauseous. Inversion is dangerous to perform alone, especially by beginners. Therefore, only perform this exercise under the supervision of an experienced trainer.

Benefits Of Hanging: Some Concluding Words

 

I really hope that you've  learned something new in this article. This is something that I have been introduced to in the last few months and now that I have seen and experienced the benefits first hand I am hooked!

Get yourself a pull up bar from home or try out an anti gravity yoga class and let me know how you get on...

If you have any tips for hanging exercises or favourite techniques you would like to share, please do so in the comments below. I would also love to answer any questions you might have for me!

Cheers,

David

 


Clicking Joints: What Is The Real Reason Your Bones Moan And Groan?

 

I’m sure you've experienced clicking joints at some point in your life... Whether it's a daily occurrence as you get out of bed and take a walk to the bathroom, or from your knuckles - that you enjoy cracking maybe a little too much!

Why do clicking joints happen? And more importantly, is it an indication of something more serious? It's another question that I get asked a lot and I thought I'd take the time to give you the low down on clicking joints, what actually causes this, and when it could be dangerous. Read on...

What Makes A Joint

Fit woman stretching
Stretching is great for your joints!

 

The bones are arranged in a way that means under normal circumstances they don't touch. The ends of each bone are covered in cartilage which is a resilient and smooth elastic tissue with rubber-like padding that covers and protects the end of bones at the joints. A joint is basically two bones coming together, bound by some tendons, ligaments, and muscles. More importantly, though, each joint has a capsule and contained inside this capsule is a tiny amount of synovial fluid that reduces friction between the joints.

How Synovial Fluid Causes Your Knuckles To Crack

 

When you pull the joint capsule ends either with normal movement or forceful actions like knuckle cracking, you essentially make the joint capsule bigger.

The amount of fluid within the joint does not change but some of the gases dissolved inside are released. "Air" bubbles form very quickly to fill the empty space. The process of these bubbles forming is called cavitation and because the release of gas happens so fast, a sound is produced and that sound is the infamous crack.

Why Cracking Your Knuckles (Or Any Other Joint) Could Be Bad For You

Clicking joints are not usually a cause for concern. They click because of the gas and this is a completely natural process. If you crack your joints often, though, the change of pressure will inevitably affect the ligaments. In fact, micro-injuries can happen with every single click. That is why I encourage my clients to slowly stretch before and after exercise. My rule of thumb here is to focus on active (yet still gentle) stretching and mobility exercises before the workout session and on slower passive stretches afterwards.

When Clicking Joints Are A Cause For Concern

Although clicking joints are usually nothing to worry about, there are some cases where an underlying condition is causing them. These usually fall in one of two categories: inflammation or injury. The difference is in the timing. It would be days, weeks, or even months before an inflamed tissue around the joint cause’s pain. If there was injury, though, you would know right away, especially if you tore a thick tendon.

Injuries That Could Cause Clicking Joints

At the extreme level one of the loudest sounds your body can make is if your Achilles tendon snaps. This is the thick cord that connects your ankle to the back of your lower leg and if it ruptures the sound is similar to a gun being fired!

A tear is more subtle and if it didn't happen at the moment of high tension on the tendon, the tearing of your heel cord could resemble a joint cracking. If you hear your ankles clicking and you suspect there could be some injury, observe yourself in the next few hours. Is there any pain or swelling? If so, chances are you could have damaged the tendon and it would be a good idea to have it checked out by a doctor.

Another common injury is twisting your knee. This type of injury usually happens to football players but with a bit of bad luck, you could even injure your knee running on the treadmill. The clicking sound, in this case, often means you may have damaged the cartilage as well. Once again, talk to a doctor and try to put as little pressure on the joint as possible.

Clicking and pain in your feet or toes could be the unexpected consequence of wearing uncomfortable shoes. I have seen it happen to a few of my female clients that were particularly fond of high heels. As hard as it might be, try to switch to flats and the problem usually subsides.

Clicking Joints And Inflammation

Arthritis is the generic term used to describe inflammation of the joints. As scary as it may sound, joint inflammation happens to a lot more (and more diverse) group of people than you might expect. It’s not just reserved for the elderly, I have met girls as young as 17-18 suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. Although there are over a hundred types of arthritis the two most common are:

  • Osteoarthritis that comes with age and it affects virtually all joints in your arms and legs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis which is an autoimmune disorder, essentially your own immune system turning against your joints.

Sometimes clicking joints and pain can mean a serious underlying issue

Although arthritis patients require complex therapy (that this article won’t do justice), there are a couple of tell-tale signs that your clicking joints could be arthritis:

  • Trouble moving the joint
  • Pain and stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Muscle aches around the joint
  • Secondary effects on your entire system - weight loss, poor sleep, fatigue, loss of muscle flexibility or even function. Make sure you watch out for these and seek medical advice if you notice any of them.
Sometimes clicking joints and pain can mean a serious underlying issue

 

More Reasons For Clicking Joints And How To Improve Them

Sometimes the problem just can't be explained. An old injury that didn't heal properly, an incorrect alignment of your joint, over-exercising, all of these could cause clicking joints. Here are a few tips to minimise the cracking:

  • Stretch properly before exercise. It improves joint mobility and it also increases the flexibility of the tendons. This way, you are less likely to suffer an injury.
  • Have at least one rest day per week. Less can sometimes be more! Especially if you are a beginner. Overdoing it could cause injury.
  • Make sure you have enough nutritious food in your diet and you’re properly hydrated. A few of my favourite, joint-friendly foods are nuts and berries(loaded with healthy antioxidants that fight inflammation), oily fish like salmon (for the joint, and brain, healthy omega-3's), and the occasional steak (that contains all important amino acids for your joint fluid).

To help you get started on your way to healthier joints, here is my favourite pre-workout active stretching routine:

  • Push-ups with a twist - a regular push-up except you extend an arm when you come up. I usually do at least ten. If you can't do a standard push-up yet, going on your knees is perfectly fine as well.
  • Stretch walking lunges - I have my clients do a few laps around the gym, alternating legs on each step. Just make sure your knees never pass your toes.
  • High knees with a knee to chest - Essentially, you do three to five high knee jumps and then you hold your knee to your chest for five seconds. Spend at least five minutes on this and your knees will thank you.
  • Inward and outward foot rolls - The most basic of exercises but it makes the world of a difference, especially in clients with feet issues or pain.

So in closing are your clicking joints anything to worry about? Well, if you don’t experience any pain, then NO. But if the joints are painful, swollen or restricted in anyway it could be the signs of something more sinister and you need to visit your GP to find out exactly what is going on.

 

 

What helps your clicking joints? Do you have any tips or questions for me? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

David


Kinesio Tape: Helpful or Just Hype?

 Using Kinesio tape for treating injuries or inflammation is not anything new. It has been in treatment protocols for decades. Most experienced Physio's and massage therapists are familiar with the method. As someone who has struggled with numerous injuries in the past, I'm often seen with bright pink tape all over me!

But when a client comes to me and asks for advice on how to use it? A client without much background in professional sport? Who has not heard it from a doctor or a therapist but from her co-worker? Then it's easy to see that Kinesio tape has become a trend.

Since it is something I swear by, I thought I would share my thoughts with you, rather than just my client. What is Kinesio tape? Who is it for? How does it work (and is it a placebo)? Read on to find out!

What Exactly Is Kinesio Tape?

Basically, it's a tape for your skin. It is made out of a thin and stretchy cotton fabric with adhesive on one side and it's almost identical to human skin in the way that it behaves. Kinesio tape has the same thickness and elasticity and it moves just like your skin does. Athletes love that because it provides support without constricting movement.

Kinesio tape was first developed in Japan for treating musculoskeletal issues. Then their Olympic team started using it and from there it spread all over the world. Professional athletes use it to recover from injury but also to improve form and performance. Taping is one of the most versatile methods in kinesiotherapy, no wonder now it is reaching the general public as well.

What Do You Use It For?

Here is a list of conditions that taping could improve:

  • Acute soft tissue injuries - These are muscle strains, tendon and ligament injury, as well as bruising.
  • Bone injuries and pain - Support for after the fracture has healed, shin splints and even growing pains in teenagers.
  • Joint issues - Poor posture, instability, swelling, misalignment.
  • Tendon and fascia inflammation
  • Inflammatory and autoimmune conditions like lupus, arthritis and fibromyalgia.
  • Low muscle tone and muscle weakness

Obviously, if you have a serious medical condition like arthritis, fibromyalgia or general inflammation  then kinesio tape may well provide some welcome pain relief. However, it should not be seen as a cure-all, but as part of a treatment plan it can certainly play its part.

Does It Even Work?

You can still exercise with Kinesio tape!

So does it actually work?!

I'm sure there are many people out there that will point to a lack of scientific evidence to support the benefits of kinesio tape and maybe they are right to do so. I have experienced first hand the support and pain relief it provides and as a result maybe a placebo effect does come into play each time I now use it.

As with any treatment I offer or fitness programme I design, I am always looking to provide something that is appropriate for each individual. So no matter what I think, if a client really believes that this approach is beneficial to their performance, then that's good enough for me!

How does it work?

Unlike normal strapping tape, Kinesio tape provides elastic support. The traditional strapping technique restricts movement by wrapping non-elastic tape around the area of injury. That is great for the first few hours but it has to be Removed soon after because it restricts circulation and movement. Strapping with a rigid tape can actually slow down the healing process as blood does not reach the spot efficiently. Not enough oxygen and glucose get to the site and both of those are key to recovery.

Kinesio tape provides dynamic support. It protects your tissues, muscles, and joints while still giving you a great range of motion plus preserving circulation. Since it is non-restrictive in all senses of the word, you can wear it for days. Depending on how often you shower, it could last anywhere from 4 to 7 days. Even with rigorous exercise, applications have never lasted me less than 4 days.

The Benefits Of Kinesio Tape

The main benefit of kinesiology taping is it gives you 24-hour support without any negative consequences (like poor circulation or restricted movement). After an injury, your muscles get weaker. Maintaining proper form - be it during exercise or simply in your day to day activities - is more difficult. As a result, you can strain other areas that don't normally get that much tension.

It is a vicious cycle of the post-injury weakness causing more injury. The point of taping is to put the joint/muscle/tendon back to its' correct position. It helps posture problems for that very same reason. As for swelling and inflammation, the benefit comes from the passive lift to your skin. The tape gently tugs on your skin which makes the vein and lymph drainage faster. The quicker the drainage, the easier to reduce the swelling.

Since by-products like lactic acid are also removed through the veins, taping can also help reduce soreness the days following exercise.

 

How To Use Kinesio Tape

I always tell my clients to start with the basics. It's true for exercise, diet, and all other health habits you adopt. Of course, if you have any underlying issues that cause the pain and swelling, you would have to tell a doctor about them. Taping a sore ankle is not the same as taping to reduce arthritis-related pain. In the first case, you could probably get away with just the Kinesio tape. In the second, your healthcare provider should probably adjust the other treatment for arthritis. As always, when in doubt, consult a doctor.

There are some basic rules to follow when you apply the tape. First, clean skin is a must. Having any lotion, sweat, or even just water makes the glue weaker. It's best to take a shower before taping and then to clean the area with a cotton pad dipped in 70% alcohol. Make sure the ethanol dries before you apply the tape, though. Also, never use it if you have open wounds or if you have had reactions to acrylic glue before.

As for the actual tape, always cut it round in the edges. This way it will not peel and will last you longer. Don't just stick it on either. You want to have two anchor points where the tape is not stretched. For the rest of the tape, some stretch and tension are more than welcome. It is what gives you the effect.

I have filmed a short video tutorial for an ankle injury taping. Since it's one of the most common issues my clients get, I am hoping it helps you out. If you have any questions on Kinesio tape technique, I would be happy to answer in the comments down bellow!


MCT Oil: What Nobody Is Telling You About The Ultimate Body Hack!

MCT oil has been around for a few years now and has recently gained huge popularity via Dave Asprey and his bullet proof coffee. 

However it wasn't that long ago, that all fats were being deemed unhealthy. So what has changed people's minds so much over the last few years and why should you take MCT oil every day?

Let's dive right in:

What Is MCT Oil?

MCT oil has plenty of benefits to your physical and mental health. Yes, that also includes better cognition.

Your body functions on three fuel sources; carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids. Lipids include fats (also known as triglycerides).

Protein has always been viewed as the building blocks for muscle growth, carbohydrates as our fuel to move and fats as something to avoid at all costs!

I'm sure by now, you now know that fat doesn't make you fat, in fact it is vital for numerous bodily functions.

An example of the "good fat" your body thrives on is triglycerides which are made up of glycerol and three fatty acids attached to it. The glycerol is the backbone and you have the fatty acids sticking out from it. It is found naturally in coconuts, coconut oil and in butter and other high-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows and goats.

So what is so good about MCT Oil?

To digest triglycerides, you need enzymes and bile salts. These transform the fat so it can enter your bloodstream. With medium-chain triglycerides, however, you don't have to do that. They already have the correct structure, to begin with so they are much easier to digest and absorb.

Not only that, but MCT oil can also improve protein metabolism and induce ketogenesis. - another buzz word at the moment.

Ketogenesis is simply another way for your body to distribute energy but has gained popularity recently as the process has been marketed as "turning your body into a fat burning machine!" Part of this statement holds some truth, however there are some side effects to ketosis.

This is a whole other subject that I will go into in a later article but basically, as your body burns fat, the liver produces ketones out of fats. Ketones cross the blood-brain barrier very efficiently, which is why MCT oil is sometimes called brain food.

Here's the key thing, a fat deficiency can seriously tamper with your hormones. Your body needs fats in order to produce oestrogen, testosterone, and a bunch of other incredibly important hormones. When you avoid fats in your diet, you risk an imbalance.

This is why I see first hand how so many female clients now have screwed up their bodies as a result of following poor dietary advice over the years. They have been badly advised to avoid ALL forms of fat in their diet and as a result they now have a hormone imbalance and symptoms such as weight gain, mood swings, lowered immunity, poor physical and mental performance, the list goes on and on.

Consuming MCT oil changes all of this. It gives your body and brain the energy boost it needs, it supports your digestive system and even has antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties.

 

The Reason I Put MCT Oil In My Coffee Every Morning

When people ask me how do I like my coffee, they rarely expect to hear 'With oil in it'. Bulletproof coffee is the real deal when it comes to boosting energy, improving my performance, and giving me a variety of other health benefits.

Obviously, it gives me all the antioxidants black coffee has anyway which are quite impressive. It lowers your risk of getting type 2 diabetes, prevents Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, not to mention coffee lowers appetite and it can help with weight loss.

Another great reason to have MCT Oil in your coffee is that caffeine is also soluble in fats. When you drink coffee on an empty stomach, the caffeine in the water will get absorbed fairly quickly. The MCT takes a little longer to be absorbed. That is why adding it to your morning cuppa gives you lasting energy (and by lasting energy I mean 4-5 hours at least).

Finally, To Sum Up The MCT Oil Benefits...

You have the energy boost and the coffee benefits, but Bulletproof coffee also gives you all the goodness of medium-chain fatty acid supplementation. That means:

  • An easy to digest source of energy. And it is the kind of energy that your brain loves, which improves your cognition visibly (even after your first cup of Bulletproof coffee).
  • Hormone support and imbalance prevention.
  • Burning more calories and an aid in weight loss. MCT oil is popular in the fitness community because it's a fat that helps you burn more fat.
  • Immune and gut health. There is evidence that MCT oil is beneficial to your gut microbiome. It helps balance out the bacteria by fighting the pathogens and supporting the good microbiome species. Since your gut health is related to virtually all other aspects of your well-being (including mental wellness), MCT oil has some major health benefits for your system as a whole.

So there you have it - the reason why I take my coffee with a teaspoon spoonful of MCT oil.

Do you agree with all this?  Do you have any Bulletproof coffee tips and hacks? Or do you just have a question to share? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Cheers,

David

 


Compression Socks: Get Your Facts Right

Your grandma wears them on long flights and now apparently nurses, waiters, and even those with a 9-5 office job are testing them out.

What is this trend about anyway?

Are compression socks any good?

And are there any performance enhancing benefits for runners or are they yet another over-hyped product?

Let's separate fact from fiction once and for all!

What Are Compression Socks?

Compression socks (or compression stockings) are designed to make your veins drain faster and more efficiently. By doing that, they can prevent blood clots from forming in your limbs, travelling all the way to your heart or lungs and causing an embolism.

Do Your Veins Need The Extra Help?

While arteries have a thick muscle layer that contracts or expands in response to changes in the blood pressure, veins don't have anywhere near enough muscle to do that. Instead, they have valves that keep the blood flowing one way only. The valves are pretty efficient in a healthy adult. However, as you age or if you are inactive, they begin to suffer damage.

When the valves are damaged, blood can flow in both directions and it often flows backwards. It can pool and that pooling is what causes varicose veins.

What Could Go Wrong With Your Veins?

Long flights can hurt your veins

Your body is a smart machine but not everything goes to plan all the time. There is plenty that could go wrong with your vein function. Starting with the obvious, inflammation.

Virtually all tissues in your body can become inflamed and the veins are no exception. Phlebitis is the term used to describe inflammation of the veins. It could happen after an IV line is removed, as a result of trauma, or in people with conditions like lupus, and certain types of cancer. It can damage the lining of your veins and cause blood clots to form. Having varicose veins puts you at a higher risk for phlebitis.

Speaking of varicose veins, they happen when a valve is damaged or destroyed. Spider veins is the equivalent of varicose veins for your smallest blood vessels. Both are a result of a sedentary lifestyle, as well as a certain predisposition some people have.

Blood clots might form even if your veins are intact. Deep-vein thrombosis is a life-threatening condition in which clots form in the deep veins of your leg (or more rarely, your arm). That blood clot might travel to your lung or heart where it causes an embolism. Plenty of factors put you at risk for developping deep-vein thrombosis:

  • A decreased blood flow in veins - spending long hours without moving (i.e. during a flight, while you are working, or if you are on bed rest) often causes that.
  • Changes to the blood vessel wall - inflammation and high cholesterol are two things that damage the lining of your vein.
  • Increased clotting tendency - this could be congenital or related to a disease (lupus, cancer, hormone imbalances, including the ones related to pregnancy)

So How Do I Look After My Veins?

Relax. I know virtually everything you do on a normal day is a risk factor for deep-vein thrombosis. While you can't entirely prevent it from happening, there are easy steps to take for prevention. Here is where the compression socks come in.

Doctors usually tell all patients with venous disease to use compression socks. They are cheap, have virtually zero side effects, and they help a lot. But before I tell you why here is a little reminder. I get clients and people who follow me online constantly asking me about the next great 'health hack'. These can range from supplements to compression socks, to new massage techniques or fancy treatments.

I hate to break your bubble, but you can't 'out-health' an unhealthy diet and exercise programme. If you want healthy veins, healthy circulation, a healthy heart, a healthy you, it starts with cleaner eating and a little more movement.

This reduces inflammation in your body, keeps your muscles happy and doing their job as best as they can, and helps you maintain a healthy weight. So before you jump onto the compression socks bandwagon, try to simply stand up a little more while you are working. Take a bathroom break, go talk to a co-worker, or take a stroll to the water cooler.

It is that simple.

How Compression Socks Can Help Your Veins

Unlike your normal socks and stockings, compression socks use a very strong elastic material to put pressure on your leg. By compressing the muscles together you get an effect similar to that of the skeletal-muscle pump. The socks are tightest around your ankles and they get less constrictive around your knee and thighs. This is the direction in which blood should normally flow.

By constricting the veins of your lower leg more than the ones in the upper part, compression socks increase the pressure and encourage blood to flow to your heart. It is as though your muscles were doing it. Since they imitate the skeletal-muscle pump, compression socks are good for people who sit a lot, as well as for those who stand too much. Either way, they increase blood flow and improve vein drainage. That is how they prevent deep-vein thrombosis and how they could potentially save your life.

Compression Socks: The Verdict

Although they will not make your veins instantly healthier, compression socks live up to their reputation by assisting with any circulation issues. I'd recommend you grab a pair and wear them on your next long flight. Or your next 8-hour sitting day.

Looking at it from a performance perspective, will they make you run faster?

Put simply, No.

They've become a big fashion accessory, particularly in the running and crossfit communities and many athletes swear by them, but in my opinion you won't see any performance enhancing benefits by wearing them.

Of course there may be some kind of placebo effect and if you really believe in them or just really like running in stockings then Who am I to stop you!

I guess they'll keep your legs warm on those cold winter mornings, but they are not going to turn you into a world beater over-night, my advice would be to give them to your granny for her next holiday flight!

Do you have any questions or any other health trends you would like me to share your opinion on? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Cheers,

David


3 Great Reasons Everybody Should Meditate (And Why You Are Doing It Wrong)

Meditation has definitely got a bit of a cool reputation these days. What used to be a practice reserved for the deeply religious or carefree hippy types is now a daily essential for sports performers and CEO's. But what actually is it and why should you make it a daily habit? In this article, I want to give you the top reasons to meditate every day - simple, straightforward, and scientifically backed!

But First... What Is Mediation?

In its' core, meditation is just a mental exercise. It has been around for thousands of years. Virtually all major religions have their own version of a meditative practice. The English word meditation comes from the Latin verb meditari, 'to contemplate' but meditation doesn't necessarily have to do with actively thinking about anything. In fact, the goal is the opposite... Clearing your mind and grounding yourself is at the core of a meditation practice.

It all sounds very deep and spiritually-charged but meditation is not limited to Buddhist monks and aspiring life coaches. The sort of meditation most people practice focuses on mental benefits like stress relief, relaxation, and improved self-awareness.

One of my favourite ways to explain what meditation is comes from the Headspace app (which is a really good place to get started with meditation).

They suggest that you imagine your mind as a motorway during rush hour. The cars are your thoughts and clearly there are tons of them.

At times this can be really overwhelming. Meditation is about stepping back to the roadside and simply observing as the thoughts pass by. Over time, you learn not to fight all of these thoughts flying around and instead, sit back and watch as your mind clears.

Meditation And Your Brain

Meditation is a workout for your brain and in my experience, it's not an overstatement to say that meditation improves virtually all aspects of your life.

In terms of mental health, meditation reduces depression, anxiety, and stress. It is incredibly effective in treating existing depression and can help you overcome ruminative thinking (where you go over a thought over and over) and it also improves your self-esteem.

I've recommended a daily meditation programme to a number of clients and there have been some impressive improvements to their performance at the gym. In less than a few weeks clients come in calmer and more patient with themselves. If they do hit a plateau, they rarely get frustrated but rather adopt an 'I will do what I have got to do' attitude and in turn, they achieve much more impressive results.

Your Brain At Work

Meditation does not only improve how well your mind deals with emotions, it also ups your cognitive performance. Here are a few (science-backed!) benefits:

  • Improved memory (including rapid memory recall)
  • Fosters creativity
  • Makes you more efficient at dealing with stress
  • Improves focus (also in people with ADHD)

I have been lucky enough to work with some very successful people throughout the years. What I have noticed is that those who meditate were not only higher up the hierarchy but they also handled their responsibilities in a calmer, healthier way. New clients that I convinced to take up meditation always say that it has improved their careers and work-life balance visibly.

My advice: If you want to be successful, meditate.

Meditation Made Simple

Building your meditation practice can feel like the exact opposite of relaxation. There are hundreds of different approaches and most beginners become so overwhelmed that they never actually get consistent. It is a mistake I always see in novice meditators. Here is my challenge to you: start with your morning coffee. 

The point is to make meditation a habit.The reality is, most people don't spend ANY time alone with their own thoughts! We are constantly stimulated by noise, music, television and of course our best friend - our mobile phone! For the next seven days, I challenge you to commit to spending five quality minutes alone with your coffee. Focus all of your attention on that morning cuppa. No phones, no radio, no driving, no chatting with your kids or spouse. Just you and your coffee.

Once you manage to keep that up for seven consecutive days, try taking 10 minutes in the evening for some more traditional meditation. The Headspace app is a great place to start and so are the guided meditations you can find on YouTube. Don't beat yourself up if you can't achieve complete clarity of mind from the very first time. What matters is showing up and making it a habit. Get comfortable with being alone with your own thoughts, pressing the pause button on your hectic life and just being in that moment. Over time, you will notice yourself getting better and you'll probably want to commit more time to it. And that is how you build a meditation practice, the stress-free way.

If you have any additional questions or if you have any tips to share, I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Cheers,

David


My Favourite Home Exercise Bike and My Ideas for the Best Home Workout

Having a blog is an amazing thing for me because I can now reach more people than I have ever dreamed of. Connecting with you has pushed me to be more flexible and creative with my fitness advice. After all, you guys come from all walks of life (and so many different places), so what works for my personal clients isn't always a viable solution for my readers. Even going to the gym is not an option for many so in this article, I am giving you my top tips for building one in the comfort of your home. Read on to find why you need a home gym, how to choose the space, and what equipment to get(including a recommendation for my all-time favourite home exercise bike)!

Everybody Needs A Home Gym

Home workout equipment can be pricey and complicated but building your own home gym doesn't have to be. In fact, most of the time all you need is some space for bodyweight exercises. When busy clients ask me about incorporating exercise into their schedule, I tell them it doesn't take more than an empty corner (whether it's in their living room or in a hotel that they are staying in) and 20 minutes. You can get an awesome workout with basic exercises like squats, push-ups, lunges, and planks.

If you can only buy one thing for your home gym make it a thick, high-quality yoga mat. This gives you the grip and support to perform so many different floor exercises. Besides, you can replace weights with random objects but nothing can prevent the dreaded crunch-induced friction burn.

How About Cardio?

Great question. You can't fit many cardio machines in a small home gym space. You could do bodyweight interval training but people often aim at a higher intensity than that. If you have been following me for a while, you know how much I love high-intensity interval training. Here are just a few of its benefits:

  • It's quick and efficient. 15 minutes of HIIT, three times a week give you better results than an hour on the treadmill every day. I have personally witnessed it plus there is science to back it.
  • A HIIT workout burns more calories both during and after the session. For the 24 hours after you have done HIIT cardio, your metabolism speeds up and the fat melts off.
  • It can reduce heart rate and blood pressure, even in people who already struggle with cardiovascular problems. In other words, HIIT not only prevents future problems but it actually makes your heart healthier.
  • HIIT exercise reduces insulin resistance. Insulin resistance happens when your cells don't respond to the insulin telling them to use up blood sugar. It's a risk factor for type 2 diabetes plus it makes losing weight essentially impossible (you can't burn fat when insulin is up).

In the gym, I love putting clients on the rowing machine and on the bikes for some HIIT cardio. Then there comes the air bike, which essentially combines the two. It is efficient, it doesn't take much space, and it gives you a five-star HIIT workout. My personal favourite home exercise bike is the Schwinn Airdyne AD8 because it's easy to set up, sturdy, and it gives you a lot of options to monitor your workout.

But What Makes A Home Exercise Bike Great, Anyway?

I get asked a lot about the best cardio machines to have at home and my usual response is which one do you think your laundry will look best hanging on?! As sadly this is what usually happens to so many home gyms. If however you are serious about setting up a training space at home then read on... There are so many different stationary bikes available on the market that choosing one gets quite confusing, even for gym rats like me. The basic difference between the various types is simply the resistance. Exercise bikes use either friction, weights, magnets, or a fan to give you resistance.

On most bikes, you set up a certain resistance much like you would set up a treadmill to a certain speed. On my particular favourite, the air bike, has a fan in the front (where a wheel would usually be) and the faster you spin, the more friction between the fan and the air. Essentially, the harder you pedal, the harder it gets, which allows bikes like the Schwinn Airdyne to have infinite resistance levels.

Another major pro of the air bike is that it engages both arms and legs. It's a full-body exercise machine that adjusts to your level and in turn gives you a higher calorie burn. Plus, this form of cardio removes the impact of hitting the ground (or the treadmill) so your joints and ligaments get a break. A home exercise bike is probably the safest and most effective form of cardio you can do by yourself.

The Perfect Home Gym Workout

Over the years I have seen so many people with good intentions of improving their fitness levels but sadly with no plan whatsoever to actually make this happen. As a result they see no changes and usually quit within a few weeks.

If you want to see change, you can't just spend 20 minutes doing random exercises and call it a day. You need a program that fits your level and fitness goals. This is where I come in to help build and adjust a program. There is a lot that goes into it, but here are my basic tips for building a home gym workout that will give you actual results:

  • Figure out your goals and be honest about them. 'I want to be healthier.' will not get you out of bed if a flat stomach and a toned backside are what you are really after!
  • Don't fear weights. For every workout, aim to spend at least 70% of the time doing strength training exercises. Squats, lunges, push-ups pull-ups and twists should be a part of every training programme.
  • Don't just stick to the standard 3 sets of 10. As you've read in previous blog posts I'm a big fan of Time Under Tension Training. Slow things down and aim to push yourself to the limit. I would suggest that you pick 5-6 body weight moves (that you know how to do properly) and perform each of them slowly for time or until failure.
  • You can choose your own intervals during HIIT cardio. My favourite is 30 seconds on, 15 seconds off. During the on time, you need to go all out and earn your rest period! The air bike is great for that because you can really push yourself and there is no limit. Then during the rest period, you just bike at whatever speed is comfortable. Don't stop but don't worry about the speed or rpm.
  • Avoid doing HIIT on consecutive days. Three times per enough, if you are really pushing yourself.

Finally, I thought I would share how my own home gym looks like!

I would love to hear your questions and thoughts in the comments down below! And if you have a home gym space that you are proud of, share a pic on Instagram and don't forget to tag me @davidosgathorp.

Let's get inspired together!

 


Woman drinking protein shake

The Best Dietary Supplement You’ve Never Heard Of: 9 Amazing Benefits Of Hemp Protein Powder

Every week I get asked numerous questions covering anything from my favourite pieces of training equipment, my own health care, my nutritional programme and some of my unique training methods that I use with my celebrity clients in London. I thought it would be a good addition to post about some of these here on my blog in this new section I have titled: The Can Do Review.

I'm going to start things off here with my take on Protein shakes...

 

Protein Powder. These days everyone seems to have it in their kitchen cupboard. 20 years ago only professional bodybuilders would start their morning with a protein shake– today protein powder is as much of a kitchen staple as fruit and veg.

The problem is I see so many people that haven't followed a steady workout plan in years but still drink protein smoothies religiously, as though that would magically put more muscle on them!

The question I want to answer here is, are protein powders necessary or even healthy?

In this article, I want to address the common misconceptions about whey protein and why I believe hemp protein powder is much a better alternative for you.

Protein Shakes And Your Performance

Speak to most personal trainers and they will often be quite obsessive about  the amount of daily protein that you should aim to consume. A popular number is 46 grams per day for the ladies and 56 grams for men. But that is way too big of a generalisation. For most people the simple approach of consuming real foods and aiming to add a bit more protein to their diet has incredibly positive affects on their body composition.

Benefits of Protein Powders

So do protein powders actually work? well yes, especially when they have branched-chain amino acids which fuel muscle growth and improve performance exponentially. What is more, a higher protein intake helps maintain muscle strength even during times where the client is working out less meaning that getting back in shape after a holiday becomes much easier.

Finally, protein smoothies (as opposed to protein shakes) are an easy way to add other healthy foods into your diet, for instance green leafy vegetables.

The Dark Side Of Whey Protein

Whey protein cons

Although more protein is great for your body, not all protein powders are. Let’s start with something very basic:

What is whey?

I am sure 99% of gym rats don't actually know the answer to this! Let me explain...

To make cheese, you add acid to the milk. This separates the solids (curd) from the liquid (whey). Most of the fat is left in the cheese, while whey contains the protein which normally helps the calf grow. You know what else helps the calf grow? Hormones.

The hormone balance is one of the most delicate and underestimated systems in your body. Throw that off and you are risking issues like extreme weight gain, mood swings, and horrendous skin problems to name a few.

Hormones are present in our milk and some of them pass into the whey as well. Most of them are peptides (a.k.a. small chains of amino acids) and they make it to the final product in very high concentrations. This can disrupt your hormones dramatically and completely negate any positive effects the powder might have.

More Problems With Whey

Sadly, the hormones aren’t the only problem with whey powders. They are also detrimental to your gut bacteria. Damaging this can cause chronic inflammation, which is a risk factor for virtually all chronic diseases (cancer and heart disease included). If that long-term risk is not enough, gut health issues have also been linked to poor athletic performance. Yes, your workout supplement might actually be ruining your progress.

Don't believe me?

Ask ANYONE that's ever consumed a whey protein shake if they've encountered some flatulence issues or an upset stomach as a result!

To add insult to injury, the very proteins found in whey powder are not typical for the human body. Bovine milk (and whey) contains large globular proteins that are supposed to make the calf put on up to 80 lbs per month. When these same proteins enter the human body, they disrupt our entire system, causing an immune response, as well as unexpected consequences to our metabolism.

Finally, I am yet to meet a client that prefers plain protein powder to the chocolate-flavoured one. The artificial sweeteners in these products have been shown to increase inflammation, induce sugar cravings, and cause weight gain. And don’t even get me started on the flavour-enhancing agents.

Hemp Protein Powder To The Rescue

hemp protein powder

You want to increase your protein intake but now I've told you that whey powder does more harm than good.

A lot of people aren’t even aware that there is an alternative. Hemp protein powder is clean, natural, plant-based, and it contains all the amino acids you need.

Also, hemp is a sort of super plant. It’s one of those rare cultures that doesn’t need pesticides and fertilizers, and it isn’t ever genetically modified, either (it does pretty well on it’s own). You can use it to make textile, biofuel, materials for the automobile and construction industry. And, of course, you can eat it. Hemp seed are rich in proteins and poly-unsaturated fatty acids. They can be consumed on their own (and they have some amazing heart and liver health benefits) or processed into other products.

Benefits Of Hemp Protein Powder

Hemp seeds are processed into plant milk, which can then be turned into hemp protein powder. Here are all the amazing benefits it has (and why I always recommend it to my clients):

  • It’s a whole protein. Hemp contains all 21 amino acids, including the essential ones that your body can’t produce.
  • Hemp protein powder is rich in branched-chain amino acids. These fuel your muscles directly, with very little processing required.
  • Hemp is a safe and clean plant source – no GMOs or dangerous chemicals here.
  • The processing doesn’t involve harmful compounds like hexane that are often found in whey protein.
  • Hemp protein powder is easier to digest.
  • It doesn’t damage your gut flora.
  • The proteins found in hemp protein powder are ones your body is used to recognising and using. They will not cause an immune response.
  • There are no hormones in hemp protein powder. It doesn’t encourage inflammation but rather prevents it.
  • Hemp protein powder can be just as affordable as whey but with a much higher quality.

How To Choose And Use Hemp Protein Powder

I do have a favourite brand and product that I usually recommend. Remember that a protein powder is simply a supplement, though. Nothing can replace a diet rich in real, wholesome food. Try using hemp protein powder in nutrient-rich recipes, rather than just mix it with water. Some of my favourites are in porridge (with some oats or quinoa), green smoothies, or in a protein-packed omelette.

The Review:

Product: Purition Raw Vegan Hemp Chocolate Protein Shake

 

Suitable for: I honestly would recommend this to all of my clients. It is a very common theme for my female clients to consistently fall below their daily protein consumption requirements. As a post workout shake or as part of a breakfast smoothie this product solves that issue in the healthiest possible way. As a vegan source this product is also an excellent meal supplement for those not getting all essential amino acids in their diet.

Value for Money: At around £20 per kilo it's certainly not cheap, but like most things in life you get what you pay for. You can find plenty of really cheap protein powders online but if you've taken the time to read the article above then you'll now know that the low budget price also comes with high levels of animal hormones, sugar and artificial sweeteners that induce inflammation and cause sugar craving and weight gain!

This is the best protein supplement I have been able to find and I believe it represents a good value product.

My thoughts: It actually tastes very good and even better as part of a smoothie. There's no chalky texture or strange after taste that you get with numerous protein shakes and it is a genuinely great source of nutrition. The price may put some people off, but what price do you put on your health?

The Can Do Review: 4/5

 

 

Hemp Powder Smoothie Recipe

Here is my trusty morning smoothie, featuring hemp powder and more healthy goodness:

2 tablespoons hemp protein powder

1 medium banana

1 cup of pineapple (skip it if you want to cut the carbs)

1 tablespoon chia seeds

1 cup of baby spinach (always buy organic)

A handful of berries (fresh or frozen depending on the season)

Liquid of choice (I love plain Greek yogurt for the good bacteria or almond milk)

If that is all you are going to be having for breakfast, add half a cup of soaked oats and a nut butter you like (my favourite is almond butter) for some extra energy. Enjoy!

 

I would love to hear your thoughts and personal recommendations, as well as any questions you might have. Share them in the comments and I will be sure to respond!

 

Cheers,

David


My Five Absolute Favourite Exercises

As a personal trainer, I often get asked what my favourite exercises are. Truth be told, that is a bit like asking a doctor what his favourite medications would be. I will never get tired of saying that fitness is a very individual thing.

Without taking you through an individual assessment I'm unable to determine exactly what type of training programme is right for you. Some of the exercises I love might hurt you if you have certain issues or there could be better options for your particular needs.

The bottom line here is that you should work with a trainer to find what the best exercises for you are. But still, to answer the question, here is my personal top five. These are all moves that I use myself, performed correctly, I am sure they will benefit you a lot!

The Overhead Squat

Woman doing ovehead squat

This is a slightly intimidating version of the traditional squat but trust me, it truly is for everyone. More than a simple leg exercise, this one is perfect for mobility training. It's a great exercise for your legs, but more importantly, the overhead squat trains stability and mobility in the core and shoulders.

It is one of my favourite exercises to use as an assesment tool. When a new client comes into my studios the overhead squat is one of the first things I have them do. Simply performing this movement will show me any tension or restrictions that exist in the hips, shoulders, and back.
Hunched back, rounded shoulders, rigid spine, and weak core are just some of the issues that you can notice. The overhead squat can also help you correct them.

Here is what I love to do. Start without any weight and simply extend your arms over your head. Watch yourself in the mirror while you perform the squat. Be mindful of any tension or pain you feel in your body. Do ten slow and controlled reps and notice what feels uncomfortable.
Is it difficult to keep your arms extended?
Does it create tension in your upper back? Are the fronts of your shoulders feeling really tight?
Or is your lower back taking too much stress?
How is your balance?
Are you able to perform a deep squat or does the tension in your hips, knees or ankles prevent this?
Is your right side tighter than your left in any of your joints?

Everyone will be different. Use this movement to find out more about your own body. Work on the overhead squat focusing on that weak link. Once this has been addressed you can gradually progress things by adding a small amount of weight each time. This way you can improve any issues you have with your posture, prevent back pain, and strengthen your core and lower body all at the same time.

The Deadlift

How do you build lean legs, a sculpted butt plus some solid core? Deadlift. It belongs in everyone´s list of favourite exercises. The deadlift builds upper and lower body strength like no other exercise. It is the quintessential compund exercise. One thing I particularly love about deadlifts is they build strength around ligaments and tendons. Over time this will really protect you from injury.

The flipside here is that technique is crucial. Here are a few tricks to perfecting your deadlift (a.k.a. not wrecking your back):

Keep your back strong and flat, learn to flex forwards from the hips don't round your back. If you can't help but round it then you need to lower the weight.

Push, don't pull. Yes, your upper body will be engaged in the movement but don't think about lifting with your arms, your glutes and hamstrings should be doing most of the work.
Your feet should always stay flat on the floor, find a position where they are as stable as possible.

Move in time. Make sure your shoulders and hamstrings ascend together. If either lags it means you are using your lower back.

Pull-Ups

Going fancy on equipment is not always the way to go. I believe bodyweight exercises are the true measure of strength. The pull-up in particular is a great benchmark for overall athletic ability.

Learning to use your body is truly empowering. The pull-up is challenging, yes, but it is also very rewarding. Most clients I work with hate it, I admit. At least they hate it at first because it seems impossible. But in fact anyone can progress to a pull-up. Here are the steps that have helped even complete beginners to achieve it:

Start with a row.
Move on to bodyweight row (in an upside down pushup position).
Go for band-assisted pull-ups.
Attempt the real deal.
Progress your training by working with a partner have them assist you to top of the movement and lower yourself down. This eccentric development will turbocharged your pull-up goals!
The Plank

Yet another bodyweight move. The plank belongs in my all-time favourite exerices as the king of abdominal work. Much like the deadlift, the plank is compound, it builds strength to protect you from injury, and it improves your posture big time.

There are studies that show planks to be the single best exercise for abs. They provide 100% activation of your abdominal muscles. Crunches only give you around 60% depending on your technique and the type of crunch.

I recommend planking every day and you will see a serious boost in fitness level in no time.

My secret tip for holding a plank longer is to relax the upper body, draw your belly button in and really focus on the core. When you tighten your abs your entire body becomes more stable. Less shaking means you can stay in the plank for longer. Of course, you have got to start small. 30 seconds to a minute is a good bench mark for a first timer but try to increase that by 10 seconds every other day. You will be surprised at the difference this makes! The goal of a serious "planker" is to achieve a 3 minute hold.

The Kettle Bell Swing

You can`t have a full list of my favourite exercises without mentioning Kettlebells. There are so many options, infinite modifications, ways to target every single muscle on your body. In my opinion, though, nothing can beat the simple, well-executed Kettlebell swing. It is a full-body workout in a single exercise.

What makes the Kettlebell better than other weights? The design. With the handle on top and the weight concentrated in the bottom, the center of gravity is significantly lower. You are forced to use muscles which builds strength and mobility.

The swing is mostly a hip movement, not a shoulder exercise so my biggest advice for you is to loosen up your upper body. If you grip too tight you put unnecessary tension in the back and shoulders. Hold the Kettlebell as you hold the remote control. Strong enough not to drop it but no additional clenching. Focus on the rhythm and really activating your glutes with every swing.

Do you have any favourite exercises of your own? Which of these do you think everybody should include in their workout routine? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

Cheers,

David


Local Business Marketing Guide For Personal Trainers

Maybe you’re looking to become a personal trainer or are an established fitness industry professional. Either way, in a world where everyone in the health and fitness industry is trying to plug their s**t on social media and the internet, in my opinion the power of other local businesses as a marketing tool is being neglected.

The way a local community used to work was your reputation was established and maintained through word of mouth, consistent integrity, and a close knit network of other businesses which had your back. With the advent of social media, a lot of that traditional thinking seems to have gone out the window!

Some of this is a bit old school but I always look to do what my competitors are NOT doing to get the edge on them, and so far these methods have never failed me.

If you’re a new personal trainer or an established fitness business that’s struggling to get new clients through the door then you may find these hacks useful.

The best thing is: most of these ideas cost nothing or very little, unlike Facebook and other ads which can slowly drain your cash.

All of the principles in this post were inspired by my new book, The Trusted Trainer which helps those looking to become a personal trainer and established fitness professionals alike.

Hack 1: ‘The Big Reveal’

When I was starting out, trying to become a personal trainer and make a big impression and generate a lot of publicity in my local community, I didn’t have much money.

With the help of other small local businesses, I designed a big publicity stunt that was featured in the local paper (yes people do still read them) and was all over social media giving my business great free marketing and a good handful (4-5) new fee-paying clients.

Organising a before and after publicity stunt gives your PT business great free marketing.

Here is what I did:

  • I contacted a small local hairdresser, beautician, dentist to offer teeth whitening and female fashion brand and asked whether they would be interested in partnering up and offering a small amount of their time for free;
  • I targeted small businesses (not big companies) as they would be more likely to be seeking additional publicity and invest their time;
  • I used Upwork to have someone create me a cheap logo for the event, we called it ‘Highgate’s Finest’;
  • The scheme was: offer a complete female makeover and transformation to the winner of a raffle prize – my part of the deal was to write the training programme and to spend a few hours each week with the winner – it didn’t take much of my time at all;
  • The ‘makeover’ process lasted six weeks and involved a minimal time commitment on my part;
  • We contacted the local paper who did a piece on this process and included before and after pictures (the actual pictures turned out really well); and
  • The great thing about this is that people love before and after transformations – you only have to look at the popularity of before and after instagram posts or programmes on TV to prove that – so it’s always going to drum up publicity in a local paper or magazine/newsletter.

This produced many new enquiries and eight new solid clients for my business.

A feature in the local paper generates great business, especially in the early days when you are trying to become a personal trainer

Hack 2: Get a small local coffee shop on-side

There is a little boutique coffee shop located next door to my gym. It was really important to my business early on to get them on my side when i was trying to become a personal trainer:

Why?

  • They roll out the red carpet for me and my guest (be it a potential business partner or an important client) which creates a fantastic impressioA local coffee shop can double up as your corporate hospitality area in the early days – get the owner onside quickly!
  • n on my guest – it’s like having my own mini corporate hospitality area;
  • I know and control the environment (I feel like it’s ‘my home ground’ which immediately gives me a psychological boost);
  • If I’m negotiating or agreeing the terms of a business deal or trying to win over an important personal training client, it’s one less thing to worry about – I don’t want to be worrying about whether I can get a table or whether the service will be poor (this was a great help when I was trying to become a personal trainer).
  • I always get the best available table and amazing service from the  because I take time out in my personal life to make the restaurant and the owner feel supremely valued – I get the same in return. I’m not talking Starbucks or Costa here, focus on small local coffee shops with character and individuality.

“If you’re always getting bad service, you’re probably a bad customer” – a philosophy I like to live by!

How did I do this?

  • I took time to get to know the manager and their family and we have open conversations about stuff going on in the local area throughout the year.
  • I always tip very generously (usually around the 25% mark, which is a lot in the UK!) – a cup of coffee costs me 50 pence extra every time but it creates additional goodwill which is key;
  • I pay extra attention to the staff and am never rude. I’ve found through experience that in any organisation, *everything* (good and bad) gets back to the important decision makers, so always be cheerful and interested in what other staff have to say no matter how far they are down the corporate hierarchy, don’t neglect them (especially if you are trying to become a personal trainer).

 

Hack 3: The Menu Makeover

Similar but different to Hack 1 above, it helps to have built up a solid relationship with a local restaurant for a few reasons.

Again, you should take time to build up a good relationship with the owner and his/her staff to solidify the relationship and don’t forget to tip handsomely.

A few simple tweaks to a local menu can stand you in good stead with locally-based customers

Here’s an initiative I ran a few years ago to help generate new clients for my personal training business:

  • I approached the restaurant and asked whether they would let me pay for their menu  to be reprinted (this was at minimal cost, you should be able to get this done for around £30 at a local printers);
  • I said that I would also review the menu and find the healthiest food items (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
  • There was a small section on the menu that explained what the healthy choices were and the number of calories in the healthy option. This was accompanied by a small logo advertising my gym and a written offer for a free consultation.
  • I had control of the menu printing process, which meant I could control the branding and publicity given for my gym. I didn’t overdo it, I just went with something subtle that could be seen by health conscious customers.

Hack 4: Schools – Relationships with local schools and PE Sessions

I have, in the past (especially when I was at the early stages of trying to become a personal trainer) run very good initiatives with local schools in the community offering free PE lessons and mini talks on health, exercise and diet.

It’s great to educate young minds (or at least help their teachers and parents get the information they need to improve kids’ health) on topics such as exercise and healthy eating as this information was never available when I was at school.

More importantly this will generate MASSIVE goodwill for your business. Think about it – a school is a key hub in your community, if you are regularly contributing positive things to the welfare of the pupils, teachers, parents and grandparents will take notice and you’ll develop a good name among an older audience who have cash to beef up your bank balance! 😉

Hack 5: Don’t be afraid of the Dentist

 

A winning smile often means health conscious clients for your business

I have a very good business relationship with the local private dentist in town close by to my business. It has turned into a very lucrative strategic partnership over the years. He refers a lot of clients to me on a regular basis.

Why is it useful to have a dentist on your side if you are trying to become a personal trainer?

  • Tooth and gum health is an indication of overall health and in particular, heart health. If your dentist suspects that lifestyle choices and a lack of exercise is contributing to oral problems he will recommend lifestyle changes to diet and exercise – I have had very many referrals to my business from this dentist;
  • Private dentists are always keen to grow their businesses and establish strategic partnerships. They tend to attract the kind of clientele that are concerned with their appearance and have the money to take your personal training business to the next level.
  • Clients will regularly ask me for referrals to a good teeth whitening professional. My local dentist offers this and I am able to say with confidence to my clients that this is the guy they should use.

 

Hack 6: Get the local hairdresser working for YOU

We’ve all been stuck in a conversation with a hairdresser or barber, some good some bad. They are paid to cut hair but also have expertise in people skills. Above all others, hairdressers are ingrained into the local community like few other businesses are in 2017.

Think about it, a haircut is a rare occasion where people are forced off their phones and into a physical store to interact with a real person. This puts a hairdresser in a unique position of speaking to hundreds of people a week in your local community for an extended period of time.

Get the right type of client into your business

Maybe you haven’t thought about it like this before but a hairdresser is in a position of trust (particularly for women!). If you have determined that women are a key target market for your personal training business, then it’s great to have their hairdresser on side.

If you get the hairdresser on side, he or she is going to sell and market your business.

Here’s how to get your hairdresser onside:

  • Build up a relationship first before mentioning business or trying to sell them something;
  • Refer people to him/her: initially your team members and well known clients, making sure they mention that you sent them (aim for 5 referrals);
  • Listen. People value things they invest in. Get the hairdresser to invest by talking to you for an extended period. Listen. This goes for everyone you interact with in a business setting; it’s way more important (and powerful) to listen than to speak;
  • Offer the hairdresser and its staff a discount (I suggest 25%) on PT sessions and a free consultation for each member of staff – you will know what is appropriate for you;
  • When you’ve got him/her on side, ask if he would mind if you gave him/her a little set of business cards to put on the side. Don’t give him too many, you’ll come off as a cheap takeaway pizza shop. A key principle of marketing is scarcity, give him 10 business cards and top him up next time;
  • Make your business card simple – black background with white text will stand out – simply put the words (obviously insert your own details) – don’t worry about branding and other bullshit at this stage – keep it simple:

PERSONAL TRAINER

HIGHGATE

079123456789

  • Get ready for a steady stream of new clients from your new free sales team 😉 When I was trying to become a personal trainer, this was really valuable to my embryonic business.

 

Hack 7: The Charity Giveaway

 

In the early days I used charity raffles to generate lots of high quality leads and goodwill for my business. Offering your services as part of a raffle or charity auction prize are massively useful to your business because:

(a) you help the local community which creates goodwill and

(b) they promote your business to a large number of people at once.

Free charity give away – my method:

You need to make a bit of an investment here, but not in cash – in time. Here’s what to do:

  • Go on Upwork and get some ‘Personal Training Vouchers’ designed (don’t pay more than $5-$10 for this);
  • Look for events in your local newspaper or yearly recurring events – school fetes and festivals are best.
  • Speak to the organisers (early) – don’t leave it to the last minute.
  • Make the prize something BIG – the key is to ensure that your prize is first prize (you must always think big – second prize won’t carry the same notoriety).
  • I recommend offering around five hours of PT consultations as the prize;

 

Hack 8: The Florist is Your Friend

It may sound weird, but a florist is a very useful ally to have on your team sheet if you are a personal trainer.

There are countless occasions where you’ll need flowers on hand as a personal gesture for a client to keep in their good books and stand out from all the other trainers that don’t bother – birthdays, wedding anniversaries and engagements and other celebrations.

In the past, I have sent clients bouquets of flowers on key dates for them and have decorated the studio with subtle floral arrangements – something the female customers ALWAYS comment on as a selling point.

A florist can really help you create a gym or training environment that works for all of your clients – unless you own a gritty bodybuilding gym!

This is particularly so if you are targeting the family friendly and women’s niche – a highly lucrative market that I focus on. For this demographic adopting little feminine touches is crucially important to your success as a personal trainer.

I talk about the importance of adding ‘the feminine touch’ in my book. One of the mistakes personal trainers make that can be fatal to their business is not catering for their target market.

Use the principles mentioned elsewhere to get a florist on side. Charm them, tip well, refer business to them and offer them free or discount personal training sessions. You’ll find it’s worth the investment and can bring some much needed creative and feminine flair to a  traditionally male-dominated gym floor.

Estate Agents Sometimes Get a Bad Rep But They Can Really Help Your Business if You Do the Right Deal

Hack 9: Move in on the Estate Agents

Without a doubt your local high street will have an estate agent, if it’s anything like mine then there’s probably five or six of them, meaning there’s no excuse for you to not go for this guaranteed hack. It will take a little bit of work on your part initially but if you play it right this could be the single biggest source of referrals for your business… so what do you need to do?

Estate Agents sometimes get a bad rep but they can really help your PT business if you do the right deal

Firstly you need to write a little report titled “The Top 10 ways to de-stress after moving house” include a few generic lines on sleep, watching a movie, going for a walk etc and then go for the money shots – get a massage, find a personal trainer, eat well etc. add your logo and contact details to the report hand over 10 of these reports to the agent asking them to leave them in the welcome pack they give to every new homeowner. Throw in a branded postcard from your business that simply says “Welcome to INSERT AREA” and add a hand-written message wishing them good luck in their new home and offering a free consultation with you once they are settled in their new home.

Now you need to do a deal with the agent, this is the easy bit. Estate agents love cash so don’t waste your time offering them discounts off personal training just simply tell them that you will hand over £50 for every client that signs up with you for a 10 session / 3 month / 6 month programme, you need to determine what’s appropriate. Make that first payment to them as soon as possible and they will quickly come back with more.

Hack 10: As a Personal Trainer, Strive to ‘Have The Solution’

One of the chapters in my book is given over to the importance of having the solution for your clients.

As a personal trainer, you work in a person-centred business. As such, you need to be seen as a trusted advisor to your clients. That means not only will you need to deliver excellent health and fitness advice, you will also be able to advise them when they turn to

you for a whole range of other problems that they may have from time to time.

In most cases, simply knowing where to look is the answer that solves the client’s problem. I advise all new PTs to fill out the below table with their small business contacts in the local area.

Obviously you will have done your due diligence on the list below that all businesses are legit and provide a decent service. It will have a negative effect if you just refer people to businesses not known to you.

The client will be thankful that you know someone that can solve their problem, and the business will be grateful for new custom and will hopefully return the favour to you in due course. Everyone wins!