10 Minute Workout (3)

Here's the latest in our series of 10 minute workouts! As always, remember to warm up and stretch out to ensure that you don't pull any muscles. Unlike the previous work outs, you will do a circuit of exercises instead of doing a single exercise and then moving onto the next.

16 x Push Ups with Cross Kicks

Get into the push up position and do a complete push up. Before you repeat, lift one foot off the floor and kick (slow and controlled) across to the opposite side (so you kick left with your right leg, and right with your left leg so your kicks go under your body). Make sure that your hips stay as low as possible, and you are not twisting your body or dragging your foot on the floor. It may be easier to take one hand off the floor when doing this.

After the kick, bend the  knee  on the same leg and bring it to the elbow on the same side (right knee to right elbow), then return to original push up position and then repeat the push up and the leg movement on the other side. Alternate with each push up, and ensure that you're breathing in time with the exercise (out when you push up and when  your leg moves across).

This is an extension of one of the exercises featured in 5 Simple Exercises to Better Abs.

10 x Rolling Push Ups

Stay in the push up position. Instead of simply moving up and down in a straight line, you will be moving your chest in a circle (from left, down, right and up again). So move your body weight to your left and then bend your arms down - stay down and bring your chest to the centre, and move to your right. Once your body weight is over to the right, push yourself up and then return to centre. Once complete circle is a push up. Ensure that you're doing slow, controlled movements and are doing a full push up to get the maximum benefit from this exercise.

16 x Lunges

Stand up straight with your arms down by your sides. Take a step forward and bend the front knee so that your back knee also bends towards the floor - stop when the front knee is at 90 degrees. Straighten, and return to the original position to repeat with the other leg. Repeat 16 times.

Repeat this set of exercises 4 times.

The next 10 minute work out will be the last in this series - hope you enjoyed them! If you missed the last two 10 minute workouts, you can find them here and here.

To get workouts, technique tips and diets in your inbox, subscribe using the feedburner box on the top right of this page.  

The 1 Change To Your Diet That You Have To Make

I'll admit that I'm not obsessed with food - I'm not someone that counts calories or obsesses over whether or not to have a biscuit with my tea. However, I am someone that doesn't want to die early because of what they eat, and I don't think I'm alone in that. I believe in eating healthily, and there's a single step that you have to take if you want to do that, which is fairly easy and doesn't even involve depriving yourself of treats or anything that you enjoy, and that's cutting down the additives that you eat.

I've never been a fan of processed food - my parents always cooked fresh food when I lived at home, and it just tastes better. Whenever I eat a ready-meal now I feel slightly sick because I'm just not used to the amount of salt that they put in them. However, when starting to research some of the additives they put in food for this post, I realised that salt is fairly low down on the list of issues with ready-meals and additives in bread and sweets. I'll list some of the most common additives and their effects further down.

Luckily, there's a fairly easy way to cut down the additives that you eat, and really just involves an element of common sense and maybe spending a little extra time cooking. Just eat fresh food - the only thing in a potato is a potato, the only thing in a fresh chicken breast should be a fresh chicken breast. If you pick up a pack of cheese, and you get a list of 20 ingredients there's clearly something wrong here - it doesn't take 20 ingredients to make! If there are more than 3 ingredients in something that I don't understand (or can't pronounce), it goes back in the shelf (especially if they're near the top of the list, meaning there's more of them). Using fresh ingredients does mean that I have to spend a little more time cooking, but it isn't much - it very rarely takes me more than 30-45 minutes to make dinner, and I don't have to stand watch over it the whole time. Trading that vs. ingesting carcinogens every dinner time, I know that I choose.

Here's a list of some fairly scary additives and their effects on your body:
  • FD&C Blue: Previously banned in a lot of EU countries (who later lifted the ban), this colorant causes cancer in rats and further studies have found it to be a skin and eye irritant and allergen.
  • FD&C Red Dye: Derived from coal tar, researchers reported hat this additive may interfere with transmission of nerve impulses in the brain. In 1996, researchers conduected studies that found that even low doses of this additive caused cancerous changes in human cell cultures.
  • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole): used in cereals, crisps and chewing gum as a preservative, this additive accumulates in the body fat and is thought to disrupt the body's hormone balance. It's also been shown to cause cancer in mice, rats and hamsters, and it's considered a carcinogen by the US Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Sodium Benzoate, Benzoic Acid: this additive is added to fruit juices which also contain ascorbis acid, which react to create small amounts of benzene, a chemical that causes leukemia. A 2006 law suit forced Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other companies to reformulate affected drinks - that means you've probably drunk the original (harmful) recipe at some point. 
  • Nonyl Alcohol: in experimental animals, this additive caused central nervous system and liver damage.
  • Polysorbate 80: used in a dairy products and various medical products, this additive causes changes to the womb lining, hormonal changes, ovary deformities and degenerative follicles in mice.
  • Trans Fats and Hydrogenated Fats: These raise the bad 'LDL' cholesterol levels, which increases the rish of coronary heart disease. There is no 'safe' intake level determined.
  • Other colourants such as Tartrazine E102, Quinoline yellow E104, E110, E122, E124, E129 (and plenty of other E numbers) have been linked to hyperactivity and mood disorders in children.
  • Acesulfame K: has been shown to stimulate dose-dependent insulin secretion in rats, and may be carcinogenic. 
There are quite a few more, but I'm sure that gives you a decent idea of the consequences - they don't just make you put on weight; some could potentially cause serious diseases (and have). A large problem with additive testing is that it's often done in isolation, so they will test the effect of that single additive...but that's not how we eat them. They're coupled with dozens of others in ready meals, in sweets and will be eaten again and again throughout the day.

If buying fresh ingredients and making food from scratch will reduce your intake of carcinogens, fats that increase your risk of heart disease and other additives that could accumulate and react to cause various cancers, surely it's worth the extra 10 minutes a day?


Since I've been researching nutrition and diets for this post and others that are still scheduled (such as 'Eating: You're Doing it Backwards' - published on 8th April) I've realised that my diet could do with a bit of an overhaul. As such, both I and Sensei Jim are going to be doing a Food Challenge, starting next week and lasting a month (possibly more). We're going to be:

  •  Eating more protein in the mornings, and ensuring that we have roughly equal amounts of protein in each meal
  • Eating more frequently - 5 times a day instead of 2-3
  • Decreasing carb intake, particularly in the evenings
  • Having a meat-free day each week
  • Allowing ourselves a 'cheat day' on Sundays
  • Cutting down on sugar
  • Cutting out additives/preservatives
At the end of the month, I'll let you know how easy it is, let you know if we feel any better/lose any weight and I'll even give you the best and easiest recipes to try out for yourselves. If you'd like the news and info in your inbox, just subscribe to this blog using the box at the top right of this page, or join our facebook page.

Image courtesy of Joe Pitz

10 Minute Workout (2)

Here's our second 10 minute workout - hope you enjoy it, and remember to warm up and stretch out!

60 x corkscrews
Lie on your back with your legs raised over your body (at 90 degrees) and knees slightly bent. Keep your hands by your sides, palms down. Use your abs to lift your hips off the floor while twisting your hips to the right. Hold that position and then to the starting position. Alternate sides when you repeat the exercise. Repeat 60 times in 5 sets of 12.

30 x dorsal raises
Lie on your front with your hands either side of your head, elbows out and your fingers at your temples. Raise your chest off the floor as much as you can by using your back muscles - ensure it's a fluid, controlled movement. Repeat 30 times in 3 sets of 10.

30 x bicycle sit-ups
Lie on your back with your knees slightly bent and your hands on either side of your head with your fingers at your temples. Raise your shoulders off the floor, twisting to one side. Raise one leg off the floor so that your elbow touches the opposite knee. Repeat in a bicycle motion without letting your feet or shoulders touch the floor until the end of the rep. Repeat 30 times in 3 sets of 10.

60 x tricep dips
Sit on a chair (make sure it's not going to roll or slide away from you!) with your hands on the edge with the fingers pointing forwards. Slide off the chair, keeping your hands on it, and keep your legs straight out so that you are supporting yourself on your arms and your feet. Dip down as far as you can and then come up again to the same position - ensure it's a fluid, controlled movement. Repeat 60 times in 5 sets of 12.

Click here if you missed the last 10 minute workout, and if you want to receive workouts, diet tips and kickboxing info in your inbox, subscribe using the box on the top right!

Packed Lunch Alternative - Quesadillas

Quesadillas are a great alternative to sandwiches - you can vary the filling just as much (as long as you use cheese!), and they have far fewer carbs than a traditional sandwich.

I'd decided to fill mine with peppers, onion, chicken and cheese.

Chop the onion and peppers, and fry them in olive oil to soften slightly (you don't have to do this, but I prefer it). 

After you've chopped the chicken and prepared the onion and pepper mix. it's time to start making the quesadillas. Just pile the ingredients into the centre of the tortilla, and make sure you have plenty of cheese throughout it to hold the whole thing together. 

Place the quesadilla mix-up onto a hot frying pan. I prefer to add the second quesdilla when the cheese has already started to melt and I'm about to flip it over. Once the bottom of the tortilla is golden-brown, then carefully turn the quesadilla over to cook the other side. It's quite easy to spill the filling out when you're turning, so make sure your spatula goes right under it so you're supporting the whole thing.
Once you've cooked both sides, you're done! If you feel like giving them a bit of a kick, try adding paprika or chillis to the mixture.

10 Minute Workout (1)

Here's the first in a series of 10 minute work outs. These workouts are intense, and you won't need any equipment that you don't already have in the house (so you might occasionally need a chair or a door!). In addition to the tabata training , these are a great way to get a quick workout in on non-training days.

So here it is:

Warm up and stretch prior to exercising. Ensure that you do stretching before and after the work out to avoid injury and keep your muscles supple.

30 x hamstring raises on a chair
Lie on the floor with your feet up on a chair. Raise your body (keep your arms by your sides) so that the soles of your feet are flat on the seat of the chair, then slowly push down with your feet and arch your back until you're supported by your feet and your shoulders. Make sure all of your movements are slow and controlled to avoid injury and to get the most out of this exercise. If you want to make it harder, rest the heels of your feet on the chair instead of the whole sole of the foot. Do the 30 in 3 sets of 10 - make sure you're constantly moving throughout the reps and are engaging your glutes and abs throughout.

60 x obligue crunches
Lie on your side with your legs bent slightly. Put your hands either side of your head with your fingertips touching your temples, and raise your shoulder off the floor as high as you can, ensuring that it's a smooth, controlled movement throughout. Do 30 on each side, in 3 sets of 10.

30 x rotating push up
Get into the standard push up position and bend your arms until your chest and nose are as close to the floor as you can get them, while keeping your body straight, and then push up (completing a standard push up). While you're up in push up position, extend one hand out to your side and then twist so that it is pointing up at the ceiling, while still at a 90 degree angle from your body. Once you've done that, resume press up position and repeat on the other side. Repeat 30 times in 3 sets of 10.

60 x walking lunges
Step forward with your right foot into a lunge position (with your right knee behind your right foot, back straight, toes pointing straight ahead). Then step forwards with your left foot so that you're in the lunge position with your left leg in front. The aim of this exercise is to walk without letting your legs straighten out (therefore performing lunges). When you take a step forwards, make sure that you're bending both knees and that your knee is pointing towards your big toe. Don't let your knees extend beyond your feet. Repeat 60 times in 3 sets of 20 reps.

Thanks to DFMillington for the image. 

How to Avoid Injuries When Training

As with any sport, kickboxing carries a risk of injury if you don't take the proper precautions and don't respect the sport. Most injuries occur if people haven't prepared properly for their training session or if they are not showing adequate respect towards the sport or their partner, and end up hitting too hard or hurting themselves by doing techniques inaccurately. There are a few simple ways to avoid injuries, to ensure that you can continue training safely.

1) Warm up properly
We really can't stress this enough - lauching straight into exercises without warming up properly (and stretching) is dangerous. In the best case scenario, you may just pull a muscle. In the worst case, you could ruin your joints for life. If you turn up for your training on time, you will be taken through a rigorous warm up and stretches, which help maintain your fitness levels as well as getting you ready for the techniques/sparring/working on the punch bags. If you happen to turn up late, your sensei will tell you to do a quick warm up before you join the class - it's imperative that you do this properly, or you risk injuring yourself.

2) Pay attention, and express techniques accurately
There are mistakes that a lot of beginners make, such as hitting with the wrong part of the foot. The techiques in kickboxing are designed to inflict damage to the opponent (if used at full strength) without hurting yourself. Work through techniques slowly at first to ensure that you are hitting with the right part of your body (your sensei will tell you to 'show your weapon' clearly to make sure you're doing this), and if you're unsure of how to do a particular technique then ask!

3) Show respect to your partner and those around you
This does not simply mean bowing and touching gloves. Showing respect to your partner also means not hitting too hard when sparring, not pushing too hard in partnered stretching and generally ensuring that you are not going to injure anybody around you. Good communication is key, but common sense should tell you when you are doing something dangerous. Try to be aware of what's going on around you to avoid falling on/over other people as well.

4) Don't push yourself too hard
As athletes, we often want to push harder than our bodies want to go in order to achieve results, and see muscle ache and mild discomfort as the price we pay. It's important to understand the difference between 'good, normal' pain (such as the dull ache you experience when stretching, or the muscle burn during intense workouts) and 'bad, damaging' pain. If you feel pain in your joints at any point, or sharp pains, ease off whatever you are doing and sit down if you feel the need to. Equally, if you are asthmatic and feel short of breath, don't be afraid to sit down and recharge.

We've recently put up some new punchbags, and it's great to see students really pushing themselves on them. When you first start punching and kicking at full-speed and strength, it's recommended that you wear wrist wraps and build up instead of simply throwing punches as hard as you can to ensure that you build enough strength in your joints to take the power of your strikes.

If you take these precautions, you should be able to kickbox and train for decades without suffering serious injury. Serious sportsmen and women often suffer injuries simply because they are pushing their bodies harder than they want to go - taking good care of yourself entails working out safely, as well as eating and exercising well.

Be a Better Kickboxer in 10 Minutes a Day

To really excel at a sport, you can't just turn up to training once a week and forget about it for the rest of the time. To truely become a master of it, rather than someone that 'goes kickboxing' you need to dedicate yourself to it. That doesn't mean hours of training every single day, and it doesn't mean that it needs to be in your thoughts constantly - you need to rest, and you need to do other things! However, a small amount of daily exercise can help you push yourself further in your training sessions and help you progress faster - whether that's getting your kicks higher, moving faster when sparring or being able to train harder right through to the last minutes of the lesson.

Stretching (2 mins a day)

Kickboxers aren't just strong and fast - you need to be flexible too, otherwise you'll never get your kicks up above the belt. Stretching before bed or during an ad break on tv won't make a huge difference after a day or two, but in a month or two you'll notice that your kicks are getting higher and your body is more supple.

Tabata (4 mins a day)

You've probably read the last post in December on how tabata training can help lose weight and stay in shape. It's quick, but by no means easy. Choose an exercise you need to improve on (such as push ups) and just work on that for a few minutes a day. You'll be amazed at the results.

That Extra Bit (4 mins a day)

This is the easiest part since you don't need to 'set aside' any time to do it. Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk to the next bus or tube stop, walk to the corner shop instead of hopping in the car - basically, take advantage of the daily opportunities to get a bit more exercise.