Fit Talk

A 10-day get-fit plan for body and mind

Date added: Jan 2015

It’s not exactly the magic bullet or an overnight sensation. It’s a feel-good kick-start to get your body in its best shape ever, quickly and easily, before you head for the coast.

At first glance, it might look too good to be true, but the fact is it is still a gradual build-up and it works.

Here is a 10-day plan to get yourself moving and in shape. For each of the 10 days, incorporate one new healthy habit and stick with it. That’s all there is to it. The idea is to make change simple.

The pace picks up as you start layering good habit upon good habit, until Day 10, when you’re properly hydrating, eating right, working out and taking valuable stress-busting time for yourself. Best of all, your new habits will make you feel so great; you’ll be hooked for life.

Day 1: Drink water — lots of it

The aim is to flush out winter and sedentary bloat and puffiness (often a result of overdoing the chips, nuts, and other high-sodium foods). Water is critical to the proper functioning of every major system in your body, and it helps you feel full. Buy yourself a 2l bottle, pop a straw in it and keep it close at all times. Try to get through it all before bedtime.

Day 2: Eat every three hours

That’s three meals and two healthy snacks in one day. Here’s the trick: each meal should contain a palm-sized serving of protein, two large servings of veggies (sans the heavy butter or toppings) and a serving of healthy carbs, like wholewheat pasta, or a slice of just-out-the-oven wholegrain bread. Don’t go over the size or frequency limit, and never let yourself get hungry. A great combo: four scrambled egg whites plus one tomato, sliced; one piece of wholewheat toast with one tablespoon of low-fat cream cheese. For snacks, mix protein with fruit. Try 12 raw nuts and a fistful of grapes; or 12 raw almonds and an apple sprinkled with cinnamon.

Day 3: Incorporate some cardio

Today, start working out. Do anything you like, from 10 minutes to an hour (you can split the hour into three 20-minute segments throughout the day if you need to, for time and sanity). Aim for 60 minutes if possible, even if you go slow. Then, over the next seven days, do cardio daily — no excuses. (Remember: you’re trying to start a habit; seven days in a row is not something you need to do for a lifetime!)

Day 4: Add in stretching

Start by doing three to five minutes of very gentle stretching in the morning. It opens the hip flexors and brings some flexibility to the spine, so you’re not starting your day off tight. Finish the day with gentle stretches too, especially if you’ve been sitting at a desk for hours. It will also help your body to relax for sleep. It’s essential to do a full stretching routine after your cardio workout (when muscles are warm), holding at the point of mild tension for 30 seconds without bouncing.

Day 5: Review your portion sizes

You’ve been eating well for five days now, but if you’re like the people who have tried this plan, you’ve probably started to eyeball the portion sizes and guesstimate just how much the right amount is. Go back to Day 2 and use this strict portion guideline for the rest of the programme. If you’ve been hungry at any point in the plan thus far, examine your plate: you may be opting for fat-free dairy instead of low-fat options, or white-flour carbs instead of heartier choices that keep you fuller longer, such as oatmeal.

Day 6: Focus on strength training

While cardio is essential for losing fat, strength training will accelerate your efforts. Strength training builds muscle, which burns more kilojoules at rest than fat tissue. Begin with one to two sets of eight to 12 reps of moderate weight twice a week on non-consecutive days, and choose one exercise per body part: arms, abs, chest, back and legs. Already lifting at an advanced level? Use heavier weights or do more challenging moves.

Day 7: Give yourself a posture check

Remind yourself at least twice a day to stand and sit tall (which has the added benefit of slimming your appearance). Spend a few minutes and look at yourself in a mirror. Draw your shoulders back, press down your shoulder blades, lift your chest, pull in your abs, and try to maintain this posture while you breathe normally.

Day 8: Mix it up

Exchange your daily stretching for a yoga class or book a dance class for your cardio. Exercise should be fun, not all work. If you decide to stick with your routine run or walk, at least vary your route or intensity.

Day 9: Try one new recipe

Nothing elaborate, just something different. You have to learn to eat what you love or you’ll never continue to eat healthily.

Day 10: Take 10 for yourself

You must add something restful to your life, whether it’s a bath, massage or just kicking up your feet on the couch, closing your eyes and listening to your favourite music. Just 10 minutes can refresh your mind. Pampering is necessary: you can’t get your best body ever if you don’t take time out for regular tune-ups.

Ronald Abvajee heads My Personal Trainer Wellness, and consults to companies on executive health, fitness and productivity. E-mail him at ronald@ mypersonaltrainer.co.za

BootyBootCamp – not more saggy butt!

Date added: April 2014

The butt is a group of muscles that can very much be reshaped and firmed according to your liking.

The glutes are comprised of three different muscles (maximus, minimus, and medius). If you spend a lot of your day sitting on this particularly large muscle group, you will find that it begins to go soft, and lose it’s shape. Because it is a large and heavy muscle, it may even begin to sag without regular exercise. – droopy butt syndrome!

All of the exercises in My BootyBootCamp Workout are designed to get your rear back in good shape-literally. As an added bonus, while you are reshaping your butt, you’ll also be burning a good deal of calories.

The buttocks is like any other muscle, you have to work it to tone it! Now!

Physio Lunge to Lateral Lunge

Why: This is the ultimate tight-booty combo which targets your thighs – especially your inner thighs – and butt.

How: The physio lunge is like a regular lunge, only the upper body leans forwards over the front leg (like a sprinter’s starting position). This shifts the focus on to the glutes and hamstrings. The lateral lunge is to the side, with the hips square to the front and the butt slightly back. Your lunging foot should be at a 45-degree angle. To combine these moves, perform a physio lunge and go back to standing, followed by a lateral lunge on the same leg. This is one rep.

How many: 2 sets of 10 reps on each leg, with no rest between sets.

Single-Leg Bridge

Why: This is great for hip stability and firming and toning the back of the legs and butt.

How: Lie on your back with your left leg straight out and your right foot on the floor, knee bent to a 90-degree angle. Position your hands either side of your body, pull your belly in and bum under as you press down into your right heel and raise your hips and left leg, using mostly your hamstrings. Aim for a straight line from the knee to the shoulder, then lower to the floor. This is one rep.

How many: 2 sets of 10 reps on each leg, with no rest between sets.

Sumo Squat

Why: These strengthen and stabilise the hip region, while shaping the backside and inner thighs.

How: Stand with your feet about one-and-a-half times your body width apart and feet turned out at a 45-degree angle. Perform a squat (for a count of 3 seconds) with your knees tracking outwards over your toes, and your butt back as it would be in a regular squat. It should feel like an awkward ballet plié. Drive back up through your hips (for a count of 1 second), squeezing your butt as hard as you can.

How many: 2 sets of 15-20 squats, with a 30-second rest between sets.

Toe taps

Why: This is the bee’s knees of core exercises. Toe taps help flatten the lower tummy while strengthening core muscles, and are great in a pre- or post-pregnancy training program.

How: Lie on your back, draw up your pelvic floor muscles and contract your core muscles (belly to the floor). Ensure both areas are contracted before you raise both feet off the floor with knees to a 90-degree angle. Extend your left leg and tap the foot to the floor, then use your lower abs to pull the leg back to the raised position. If your hips start cramping, you’re not using your core correctly. Breathe out through your mouth as you lower and in through your nose as your leg comes up. This is one rep.

How many: 3 sets of 12-20 slow reps, alternating the legs, with a 30-second rest between sets.

Deep travels

Why? Targets the inner and outer thighs and butt.

How? Start with your right foot on a low step and your left foot at nine o’clock. Skip carefully to your right so the left foot replaces the right on the step and the right foot lands at nine o’clock. As soon as you land, sink into a deep squat, ideally with your butt reaching knee level. One rep is every lateral movement.

Sets and reps: 3-5 sets of 16-30.

For more information check out www.mypersonaltrainer.co.za or Twitter@ronaldabvajee

Daily Checklist For Building Muscle And Losing Fat

Date added: August 2013

1. Set a goal for yourself and get real about achieving it.

Until you set a goal of how much body fat you want to lose and muscle you want to gain, you're just dreaming. It needs to be specific and written down. If building muscle and losing fat is what you want to do, you must be willing to achieve it at all costs. If you do not want to, you'll continue to give yourself reasons not to workout. Get real and tell yourself that you are going to do this, no matter what.

2. Eat 5-6 small meals a day consisting of high protein, moderate carbs, and low-fat.

This is important in keeping your metabolism efficiently burning calories. Constantly grazing on meals every 3 hours will allow your body to burn off what it has consumed quicker and more efficiently. Not only that, it ensures your body has enough protein needed for building muscle. Protein is the nutrient responsible for muscle growth. Make each meal consist of higher protein (builds muscle), moderate carbohydrates (fuel for the body) and low fat (energy and protection).

3. Do INTENSE Weight training 3-4 times a week.

Weight training will not burn a sufficient amount of body fat. It's more for building muscle. What weight training will do is help you burn fat in the future. When you add muscle to your frame, your body has to expend more energy (burn more calories) to maintain that muscle tissue.

4. Instead of a 30 minute cardio session, do 2, 15 minute sessions.

This is definitely a tough thing to do because of busy schedules, but if it is possible, do a 15 minute cardio session first thing in the morning and another session later in the afternoon or early evening. Research has shown that compared with subjects that did a 30 minute cardio session, those that did 2 15 minute sessions burned twice as many calories.

Top 4 Reasons To Exercise Am

Date added: August 2013

Exercising in the morning energizes you for the day--not to mention that gratifying feeling of virtue you have knowing you've done something disciplined and good for you.

Studies have shown that exercise significantly increases mental acuity - a benefit that lasts four to ten hours after your workout ends. Exercising in the a.m. means you get to harness that brainpower, instead of wasting it while you're snoozing.

Assuming you make exercise a true priority, it shouldn't be a major problem to get up 30 to 60 minutes earlier-especially since regular exercise generally means a higher quality of sleep, which in turn means you'll probably require less sleep. (If getting up 30 to 60 minutes earlier each day seems too daunting, you can ease into it with 10 to 20 minutes at first.)

When you exercise at about the same time every morning--especially if you wake up regularly at about the same time--you're regulating your body's endocrine system and circadian rhythms. Your body learns that you do the same thing just about every day, and it begins to prepare for waking and exercise several hours before you actually open your eyes.

You don't have to be perfect

Date added: August 2013

We're so focused on washboard abs that we forget the importance of a strong torso. Here's what's going on beyond the elusive six-pack.

Did you know that most people fail at exercise? That isn't to say that we're doomed from the start, but that it's normal for many of us to abandon our fitness routines from time to time...sometimes for days and weeks, other times for months or years. The good news is that you're not alone and, even better, there's something you can do to make those fitness failures stepping stones to success. Your first step is figuring out what went wrong.

Planning your exercise schedule is great, isn't it? There's nothing like sitting down with your calendar and writing down all the workouts you'll do this week. Just thinking about it makes you feel good, doesn't it? But life has a way of getting in the way of those fitness goals. Maybe you have to work late or you catch a cold. Whatever 'it' is, it will happen and, for many of us, that 'it' sends our exercise plans right out the window.

What's important to realise is this: you won't always be perfect at exercise and, even more important, you don't have to be. What you do want is to make your best effort and give yourself credit for what you achieve, even if it falls short of your original goal. To get yourself past those fitness failures, you have to stop the blame game and start taking some action.

Your first step in turning a failure around is to stop kicking yourself and realize you're not alone in this. We all skip workouts, eat more than we should and get off track from time to time. In fact, many of my successful personal training clients come to me in the middle of their own fitness failures, feeling guilty and frustrated. Heres an example of two (note I have changed their names to protect their identity)

  • John was one of those clients, a39-year-old man who'd been active with cardio and strength training for years. Then he got a new demanding job and realized he'd gained almost 12 kilograms and suffering from back pain after abandoning his routine. He called me after a year y of struggling with his weight, wondering how he'd gotten so far off track.
  • Nthabiseng was another client who came to me after having a baby. Despite her best efforts, she was having a hard time losing her baby weight and an even harder time trying to figure out how to take care of both herself and this new baby. By the time she came to me, it had been months since she'd exercised.

So, what happened? These clients had completely different situations, but ended up at the same place for the same reason: they didn't plan on how they'd continue exercising with these huge changes in their lives. John didn't take into account the hours he'd be working and figured he'd just stick to his usual routine. When that routine didn't fit, he abandoned it rather than change it. Nthabiseng also failed to plan on how she'd exercise with a new baby in the house. Once we figured out why their failures happened, we were able to use that failure to create better routines to fit their new circumstances.

You can do the same thing for yourself and your first step? Risking failure.

The truth is, you don't know whether something will work for you until you try it and that means risking failure. The good news is that, even if you do fail, you have just given yourself an opportunity to learn something about yourself as you find out where you went wrong and how you need to change what you're doing the next time around. These failures give you a chance to hone your technique, learn more about what you're trying to achieve and tweak your exercise routine until you get it right. You can't do that if you never try.

The problem is that we want to do everything right from the start, even if we've never done it before. But, you won't always get this exercise thing right the first time you try, so your only choice is to keep going despite your mistakes. If you find you've gotten out the habit of exercise, use these simple tips for getting back on track.

Get Back to Your Routine.

No matter how long you've been away, your first step is to get back to some kind of exercise. Even the smallest exercise goal is a step in the right direction and can remind you of your commitment to getting healthy, losing weight, or whatever your goal might be. Start small and ease your way back into a regular routine, setting goals you know you can reach. Even if it's a 10-minute walk after dinner or before work, it's a signal to yourself that you want to stay active.

Be Flexible.

Being prepared doesn't mean you'll never miss a workout. But, you can increase your chances of getting some exercise in each day by being flexible. That means a willingness to change your plans as needed so that you can meet your other obligations while still moving your body. If you find you can't go to the gym because your boss asked you to work late, what could you do instead? Don't abandon exercise just because you can't get your planned workout in.

Stop Kicking Yourself.

We all feel guilty when we mess up - skipping workouts, eating too much, etc. Guilt can be a great motivator, but it can also be a hindrance if you use it as an excuse to abandon your healthy lifestyle altogether. That 'why bother' attitude can keep you stuck in a self-defeating cycle so, instead of feeding on that guilt, use it to propel you forward. Realize that slipping back into old habits doesn't mean you're loser- we all need to go back to old behaviors to test them out, remember how it felt to be that sedentary person as opposed to the new, more active person we want to become.

Let Yourself Evolve.

Don't be afraid to try a whole new approach to exercise. If you find yourself going back to old workouts again and again, even though they don't work in your current lifestyle, it's time to admit that workout programme just doesn't work for you. Many of us approach exercise with ideas of what we should be doing rather than what we actually enjoy doing. Instead of forcing yourself into something you hate, why not allow yourself time to explore different options? Forget about what you should be doing, and find out what you want to be doing.

Forget Being Perfect.

Making exercise a habit is a journey, not a destination. It's something you'll work on every day...some days you'll do everything right, other days you won't. Focus on what you can do today to reach your goals and stop reaching for perfection. You're human and are allowed to make mistakes.

The only difference between a person who fails at exercise and a person who succeeds comes down to never giving up. A successful exerciser isn't perfect but, rather, keeps trying despite mistakes and failures. The next time you slip up, skip the guilt and allow yourself to use that slip as a learning experience. Your mistakes have something to teach you, something that could be the key to your success.

Theres More to Abs than a Six Pack

Date added: August 2013

We're so focused on washboard abs that we forget the importance of a strong torso. Here's what's going on beyond the elusive six-pack.

What You Already Know About Your Abs

Ab myths simply will not go away no matter how many times we trainers explain otherwise. These facts bear repeating:

  • Crunches will NOT automatically lead to six-pack abs.
  • Not everyone will be able to achieve washboard abs. Genetics plays a crucial role.
  • The key to six-pack abs is losing body fat, not doing crunches.
  • Visible abs do not equal strength. Strong abs are strong abs whether there's fat over them or not.
  • Abs are no different from any other muscle in your body.
  • You must work every part of your torso for complete fitness - don't forget your back!
Appearance Isn't Everything

I know we all want pretty abs, but let's ponder the actual function of your abs for a moment. Remembering what your abs actually do may help you appreciate them even without the six-pack.

  • The muscles of your abs stabilize your torso to maintain good posture.
  • Strong abs and back muscles are crucial for preventing lower back injury and pain.
  • Everything you do; walk, bend, sit, stand, reach, and lift, involves your abs and back. If your torso isn't strong or is imbalanced, you can seriously hurt yourself.
  • The Transverse Abdominis (TVA) is often ignored, but is extremely important for every day functioning. It is unique in that it contracts before motions of the arms and legs occur to give maximum stability to the spine.
Getting The Most Out of Your Ab Workouts

As mentioned above, doing hundreds of crunches every day is not the most effective way to strengthen your abs. Your approach to ab workouts should be the same as any other muscle in your body. Specifically:

  • Do exercises to target ALL of your ab/lower back muscles: TVA (the Plank), internal and external obliques (oblique twists), rectus abdominis (bicycle), and back extensions work your lower back muscles. Your exercises should include each of these muscle groups
  • Do between 10-16 repetitions for each exercise. If that's too easy, pay attention to your form. Are you using momentum? Are you really using your abs or are you incorporating other muscles to help you (like your neck or hip flexors)?
  • Work your abs 3-4 times a week with a day of rest in between.
  • Do a complete programme of cardio, strength training and stretching along with your ab routine.
  • Eating a healthy low-calorie diet with your programme is essential for losing body fat.

Now that you're educated on what your abs do and how you should exercise them, check out this abdominal workout that includes exercises for the TVA, rectus abdominis, obliques and the lower back.

Exercises for the Abs and Back

If you're looking for more challenging ab exercises, these unique moves target not just the abs but the lower back as well, for a strong, functional torso.

1. Bridge with Leg Lift

Lie face up on the floor, knees bent. Push body into a bridge position, supporting your weight on your feet and arms. Straighten one leg up, heel flexed and slowly lower leg out to the side a few inches WITHOUT moving the rest of the body. Use the abs to stabilize your body and don't hold your breath. Do all reps on one leg, then switch sides.

2. Balancing Ab Twist

Begin by lying on your side and push up so that your body is supported by right arm, feet stacked. Straighten left arm and balance for a moment, then sweep the left arm down and twist the body, turning it towards the floor while keeping the rest of the body in place. Squeeze the abs and hold for 2 seconds, then go back to starting position.

3. Bicycle

Lie face up with lower back pressed to the floor, bend right knee, pulling it towards your chest while touching the knee with the opposite elbow. Begin a slow pedal motion by touching opposite elbow to opposite knee, alternating each side. Keep the abs pulled in (don't let them bulge out) and breath continuously.

4. Deadlifts

Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of thighs, feet hip-width apart and abs pulled in. Tipping from the hips and keeping the weight close to your legs, lower the weight to mid-shin (or wherever is comfortable) while keeping the legs straight (but not locked). Lift back to starting position and make sure the abs are pulled tight throughout the movement.

5. Back Extensions
Lie face down with hands either behind the back or lightly cradling the head. Lift upper body off the ground a few cm, keeping head and neck in alignment. For a challenge, then lift feet off the ground keeping legs straight (knees don't have to be together), hold for 2-4 counts and lower.

The Workout:

  • Do this workout 3-4 non-consecutive days a week
  • Perform each exercise for 1-3 sets of 10-12 repetitions (beginners start with 1 set of 10 reps)
  • Keep body stabilized throughout the movement
  • Don't swing or use momentum
  • Take 4-6 seconds for each repetition
  • Make sure abs are pulled in tight throughout each movement

Lower Body Shape Up For Summer

Date added: June 2013

The Holiday season is only a month away, so its time to get that body toned, sculpted and ready. To get your summer body ready, I recommend doing the following exercises to shape your lower body 3 times per week with 1-minute bursts or cardio in between, such as jumping jacks, stair running or running on the treadmill. Remember to stretch all major muscle groups in the body after your workout to keep muscles long and lean.

1. Work that bottom! Single Leg Squats -Sculpts the glutes.

Stand on one leg with opposite toes touching lightly beside supporting foot for balance. With hands on hips squat down as though you were sitting onto a chair. Keep chest and eyes up, an arch in the lower back and ensure the knee does not go beyond the front toe. Allow the muscles of the supporting leg to do most of the work as you squat down slowly and come back to standing by contracting the glute muscles. Breathe in as you squat down and out as you stand up. Repeat this movement for 20 reps on each leg.

2. Tone your tummy! Ab Circles on the Ball - Sculpts the entire mid-section.

Sit on a stability ball with lower back supported by the ball. You may do this exercise with feet resting against the wall for balance. With hands at the temples, begin with a side bend to the right, then arch back and come full circle through a side bend to the left and then up to your starting position. Perform 10 continuous circles to the right, followed by ten circles to the left. Breathe in for the first half of the circle and breathe out for the second half. Concentrate on contracting the muscles of the abdomen through the entire range of motion.

3. Firm your backside! Lying Ball Raise - Sculpts the glutes.

Lie face down on a mat with legs stretched and turned out, toes pointed and holding a small stability ball between the ankles. Rest the forehead on the hands. Keeping legs stretched and squeezing the ball between the ankles, contract the glute muscles to raise the ball off the ground as high as possible. Try not to use the upper body at all: Focus on allowing the lower body to perform the movement. Breathe out as you lift the legs and in as you lower. Raise the ball slowly and lower to 3cm off the ground. Perform 15 repetitions, rest and repeat.

4. Get fierce legs! Jumping Lunges - Sculpts the entire leg.

Stand with the back facing an exercise bench or chair. Place the toe of the back leg on the bench with legs in a wide lunge (holding dumbbells or with hands on the hips). Keeping the back toe on the bench, lunge down with the front leg and then explode into a single leg jump and land softly, working through the foot and moving smoothly and continuously into another lunge. Breathe in as you lunge down and out as you jump up. Repeat this movement 10 times and then switch legs. Do two sets of 10 with each leg.

5. Tone your legs! Ball Hamstring Curl - Sculpts the hamstrings.

Lie face up on a mat with the bottoms of the feet on a stability ball. Raise the hips up in the air in line with the rest of the body. Contract the hamstrings to roll the ball in toward the butt, and then roll back out again. Be sure to keep the hips pressed up as high as possible and hips, knees and feet parallel. Breathe in as you roll the ball in towards you and out as you roll it away. Perform 15 repetitions, rest and repeat.

Achieve Your Fitness Potential?

Date added: June 2013

Your fitness strategy is more important than you think. From what you eat , to how you exercise, to your fitness motivation. The following are 6 steps that will take you from the person you want to change, to the person you always knew you could be.

Reflect on Why You Want to Be Fit

What’s your motivation? Take some time and think about why you want to embark on this new journey. Getting fit and staying fit is a lifelong commitment. Deciding to lose weight on a whim might get you through the first few weeks, but once motivation gets low, which it inevitably will, you are going to have to revisit the reasons for why you are doing this. Do some real self-reflection and discover the reasons for why you want to be fit.

Set Action Goals

You probably want to lose weight, and that’s fine, but that’s a results oriented goal. You need to set goals that are going to get you there. What are you going to do today, tomorrow, and next week to take action? Make a goal this week to add in just one healthy habit. Maybe that means drinking an extra 2 glasses of water a day, or maybe it means eating veggies at 2 of your meals. Whatever it is, make sure that goal is an action goal.

Take Action

Our rational brains can get overwhelmed with information and keep our thoughts turning in circles. How do you do this? When do you do that? What happens if this happens? There’s always going to be a reason for why you can’t do something, but in order to make lasting change, you have to take action. Just start. You can tackle each problem as it comes up – if it comes up.

Change the Quality of Your Diet

Start your journey to fitness greatness by changing the quality of your nutrition. I don’t mean a complete overhaul, I mean small changes. Like I mentioned in the action goals, set 1-2 goals for this week and add those healthy habits into your diet. Keep working at them until they are new habits. At this time, focus on adding good habits into your diet instead of taking bad habits out.

Add in Physical Activity

Just like you did with your nutrition, you’ll want to slowly add in physical activity. Once you have a few good eating habits in place, it’s time to start getting active. Don’t go overboard at first. Take small steps until they are habit. Maybe this week you go for a walk a few times.

Once you do that for back- to-back weeks, you can add in another day or two. Eventually, you can set a goal to do a day of strength training or some other more intense physical activity. These will build on each other until you are consistently pushing yourself physically. Whatever you choose to do, make sure you enjoy it!

Push Through Your First Failures

Look, you’re going to fail. Some would even say it’s necessary to be successful. After a month or so of your new lifestyle, the chances are high that you’re going to slip up. That might mean you ate something you know you shouldn’t have, or maybe it means you skipped a workout. Whatever the case, write it off as a lesson, and learn from your mistake. Get right back on track. One bad meal or missed workout isn’t going to mess you up. The key is to bounce right back.

RONALD ABVAJEE: The Essence of Fitness

Date added: May 2013

I talk a lot about weight loss and its relation to health and fitness. It’s not that I think weight loss is the most important aspect of fitness, it’s just because that’s the topic most people are seeking out information for, and it’s the topic I know will help the most people transform their lives.

However, weight loss is just a small aspect of fitness, and in actuality, is just a side-effect of living a healthy lifestyle. The true meaning of fitness and what it means to me? It means taking back control of your body. It’s about owning yourself. It’s about practicing self-control and feeling powerful.

They call it a weight loss “journey” for a reason. It’s a time for self reflection. The closer you come to reaching your weight loss goal, the less you care about losing weight. Instead, your goal changes to wanting to be fit and healthy, both physically and mentally. As you drop the kilograms, you start making new connections in your brain and epiphany moments begin popping up left and right. These “ah-ha” moments create real change, and solidify you in your new healthy lifestyle.

You discover the cause and effect of your unhealthy behaviors, and you’re able to rewire your brain so that it no longer happens. Instead of just knowing you shouldn’t do something because it’s bad for you, you learn why it’s bad for you and why you make those unhealthy decisions in the first place. You become your own therapist. With that complete understanding of how you function in that situation, you’re able to take the right steps to change your behavior for good. You just taught yourself self-control, and you feel empowered as a result.

Being fit and healthy is a mentality, not a look. The look is a side effect of the way you think. Change your thoughts and you will change your body. Don’t beat yourself up over your failures. You will fail. We all do. Use them as a means to learn about yourself and build yourself up stronger for the next challenge. Each time you break through those barriers, you become more confident in yourself. You’ve made another step in the right direction. You’ve made progress. You won.

RONALD ABVAJEE: The Powerhouse that Helps You Burn Bodyfat

Date added: May 2013

Anybody can lose weight. You just don't eat. You will lose weight, unfortunately, the weight you lose will be both muscle and fat.

The goal to successful weight loss is to preserve as much muscle as possible, or possibly even gain some, while at the same time lose as much body fat as possible. Your body fat % is a key indicator of your success, not the scale. In fact, stay off the scale.

Muscle is vital to your success for losing fat. Muscles have these little fat burning powerhouses called mitochondria. Mitochondria are cellular power plants that are responsible for the production of energy. It's in the mitochondria that fat is metabolised. There is a positive correlation between the amount of muscle you have and the number of mitochondria. And it stands to reason that the more mitochondria you have, the more the potential to burn fat.

How do you get more of these little cell powerhouses? You need to be giving your body a reason to create more of them. You do this by performing high intensity exercise (HIIT). HIIT training is just one of these methods. Weight training is another. By creating a large demand for energy up and above what your body can already produce, your body is forced to create new mitochondria in order to be prepared for the next time your muscles call on that needed extra energy.

The great thing about muscle and mitochondria is that they are active tissue. Unlike fat, they need constant energy to maintain themselves - energy like fatty acids. What does this mean? It means that your body will be burning fat at all times of the day - even while you're sleeping. Yes, it is possible to burn fat in your sleep, and that is how.