Your Festive Fitness Fix

24 Dec 2021 10:52AM by The Virgin Active Team

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When it comes to fitness, our top tip is to keep moving. Whatever your goal, staying active as much as possible will lead to a happier and healthier mind and body. That said, you don’t always have to do the same workouts. Variety is the spice of life after all. Need some inspiration? Here’s how you can shake up your workouts. 

Quick exercises to train your body and mind

These are all exercises that train not only the muscles but the mind too, developing inner and outer strength. Best of all, they need little equipment (perhaps a yoga mat) and you can do them all from the comfort of your own home when you don't feel like heading to the gym floor.

• Planks 
• Meditation 
• Pelvic curls. 

Using planks for total body strength

A plank is a simple static movement where you hold yourself in the top of a push up. To start, lie on the floor on your front with your hands under your shoulders. Then, push up so your body is in one straight line from head to toe and your hands are gripping into the floor.

Planking engages several muscle groups, and strengthens your core, helping to improve your posture as well as arm, shoulder and glute strength. 

Do planks regularly to relieve back pain, which is understood to be one of the largest single causes of disability in the UK. By improving your posture and strengthening your core, this can help to ease pressure placed on your back. Physically doing a plank is quite simple but it's holding the position for a longer time that's the tricky part! As you get stronger, you'll be able to hold your planks for longer.

Relieve stress with mindfulness 
Meditation is all about letting go and training your mind to focus on your breath. When your mind starts to wander, you need to bring it back to concentrate on your breath again. Stilling the mind in this way helps with mindfulness and also relieves stress and reduces anxiety. 

By learning how to quieten our minds and simply focus on our breath, we can teach ourselves how to remain in the present moment and focus on the here and now. Being good at meditation takes practice and you may find when you begin that your mind begins to think about other things rather than remaining still. 

Pelvic curls to strengthen your spine

A pelvic curl is a typical exercise used in Pilates. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Inhale and on your exhale raise your bottom, lower spine and upper spine off the floor, curling them to the ceiling. Lower everything back to the floor on your inhales and raise them again on your inhales.

Toning your abdominals, hamstrings and stretching your spine – the pelvic curl is an important exercise in Pilates. You should find that your abs do most of the work in this exercise, enabling you to lengthen your spine. 

Pelvic curls are great exercises if you are recovering from a back injury but check with your doctor first!


Different ways to find your strength

Developing your fitness? Give out Punch and Cycle classes a go. They’re perfect for strengthening your lower and upper body. Add a few strokes in the pool to the mix and you’ve got a well-rounded strength routine.

How Punch makes your fighting fit
Our Punch classes are a great way to stay fit. They require you to constantly change your position, change the way you think and adapt your posture – improving strength, endurance and balance. 

By swinging and moving the muscles in your arms, you're building your upper body strength. When you move quickly, and take a boxer crouch in a wider stance, you're also toning and strengthening your legs, back and core muscles. Most importantly, if you want to get your heart pumping while burning calories and lifting your mood, boxing increases your endurance and is a great cardio workout. Why not check out our Punch classes to get you fighting fit?!

Swimming for strength
Who doesn't love pool time? It's a great way to stay healthy, make new friends and have fun while enjoying a great workout. The most common swimming styles are breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly and front crawl. 

When you swim in water, it increases your heart rate because water is 800 times denser than air. But, although it’s a powerful workout, it takes impact off of your body so it's ideal for those who want a workout that is more gentle on their joints. 
You'll boost muscle strength, cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Regularly swimming will give you healthy lungs, a healthy heart and tones muscles all over your body. It gives you a thorough body workout and also helps to relieve stress, while improving flexibility. 

Workouts on wheels
Want to get in better shape? Cycling is a great workout for mental and physical health. It is a good mood booster and is an amazing way to control or lose weight, if you're looking for a good cardio workout. 

Cycling is very versatile and absolutely anyone can get involved because you can switch up the pace and intensity to suit your level. Want to start slow, or perhaps take it at a gentler pace? Try our Cycle classes on our App to take things at your own pace. Want to push it further? You'll certainly enjoy our Tempo Cycle and Power Cycle classes!


A new gym floor workout 

Why not try something different on the gym floor? Not only will it push your body further, but you'll get to try something new to keep your workout fresh and exciting!

Running at your own pace 
A session on the treadmill is a great way to start any workout. It acts as a good warm up because it boosts your heart rate and breathing, gets your muscles moving and generally prepares you for other training exercises like lifting weights. Running improves overall cardiovascular health, helping your heart and lungs to stay fit and strong. 

Then there's the Skillmill – a self-powered treadmill that reacts to how you move, including how you slow down, speed up and work on your agility. Because you control your own speed, the Skillmill is great for High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), so you can push your limits and reach higher levels of endurance. Why not give it a go!

Tone your torso

A classic exercise for the abs, sit-ups are a simple and effective way to tone your torso by working the core-stabilising muscles. You'll also work your hip flexors, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques, as well as your lower back. 

Start sitting up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keeping your feet on the floor, gently lower down and use your core strength to sit back up again. In the beginning, you may find it easier to hook your feet under something to help stabilise yourself. 

Did you know that sit-ups actually target more muscles than crunches? Start with 5 and then gradually add on. See how many you can do. It's a great exercise for getting your heart rate up on the gym floor. 

Burpees for a healthy heart
A burpee is essentially a push-up, followed by a jumping squat, working every muscle in the body. You don't need any equipment to do a burpee, and it's a great way to get the blood pumping around your body. Research has shown that burpees are a great exercise for toning the abdominal area and stomach. Including burpees in your workout routine can boost blood flow and work the heart and lungs. 

Burpees are known as a calisthenics exercise, because they use body weight for resistance, which in turn can build muscle strength.


Easy ways to switch up your workouts

These exercises will all build strength, improve posture and boost agility and flexibility. Give them a go!

Use Grid Training for total body strength
Want to kick start your power, get those endorphins pumping and increase your overall strength? With Grid Training you can do it all. Our 45 minute sessions are a powerhouse of kettlebells, dumbbells, bikes and treadmills that get every muscle moving and the adrenaline pumping. Lead by motivational professionals, you can work out the way you want to and take things easier then you need to. Things can get harder too, if you want a challenge. The community spirit is strong in Grid Training, so you can get involved in team challenges and partner workouts that bring the heat.

Find a Grid Training class on your timetable!

Swim the stress away
Spending time in the pool, doing lengths or taking some swim coach sessions is both relaxing and energising. Enjoying regular swim lessons releases the feel-good happy hormone serotonin, which helps our mental health. It explains why in the water, people tend to feel less stressed. 

Learning to swim can also help you to meet other people and make new friends you can train with. Recovering from an injury or illness? Swimming is a gentle, low-impact workout that is easier on the muscles and joints because the body is suspended in water which acts as a cushion. Over time, as you grow stronger in your breaststroke, backstroke or front crawl, you'll increase cardiovascular strength, agility and stamina in the water. 

Beginners or newbies to swimming can take advantage of our swim coach sessions. Speak to a member of the team at your club for more information.
Squat away 

A classic move in any fitness routine, a squat is a strength training exercise that gets your core muscles working, as well as your rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse abdominis and erector spinae. What we mean is, you'll be working your arms, shoulders, chest and back and will put all of the muscles in these areas to work. 

To squat, start with your feet hip-width apart. Send your hips back as if you were sitting in an invisible chair. As you reach your invisible chair, push up into your heels and stand back up again.

Doing regular squats can help your body manage daily tasks like bending, carrying large or heavy loads and climbing stairs more easily. Squats can also strengthen your core, relieve back and shoulder pain and help to strengthen your ligaments and tendons. When you do a squat, several groups of muscles have to work together. These muscles are in your buttocks, thighs, groin, hips and calves. When you have mastered a basic squat, you can switch it up and use barbells, kettlebells or weights to kick things up a level.

Whatever you try, we'd love you to share your fitness journey with us. Whether it's a few squats before dinner or saving some time for yourself for a quick jog, let us know how you feel - we know you'll feel better for it in your body and mind! 

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