Shock news – going to the gym can make you healthy!

I could hardly believe my eyes – the headline in the news item was ‘Gym could make you ill’. Apparently some so-called health professionals carried out a survey and found out that some people go to the gym when they have a cold, and others don’t always wipe down the equipment after use. These shocking facts COULD make people ill.

What a load of old rubbish. I’d be much more interested if they had carried out a survey and discovered that people HAD actually become ill from going to the gym. I assume that they didn’t because they knew that they wouldn’t find any evidence. Going to the gym is famous for making people fitter, including boosting their immune systems. There are many studies which have shown that those who exercise more get ill less. But that doesn’t make a good headline does it?

This highly scientific study also found that 22% of people avoided going to the gym because of ‘excessive nudity in the changing rooms’. For heavens sake! It just goes to show that some people will come up with any excuse in the book to avoid going to the gym and instead sit on their fat bottoms scoffing the pies which will ultimately kill them.

On the other side I found a ‘shocking revelation’ on the front of one of the newspapers recently. Apparently scientists have discovered that the best way to minimise the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes, and of minimising its impact on your health if you do, is to take up regular exercise. You don’t say, Sherlock! Most other scientists and health professionals have known this and been advocating it for the last 20 years!

I think it’s about time people started understanding risk. Everything you do carries a risk. And so does everything that you don’t do. There is a risk that you’ll be struck by lightning when you open the front door in the morning, but I don’t see headlines warning you about the dangers of getting your pint of milk off the doorstep! More importantly, there is a very high risk that failing to do regular exercise will cause a wide variety of health problems, up to and including diabetes, osteoporosis, dementia, heart problems and premature death.

We all have a choice about how we treat our bodies and our health. We just need to realise that every action and every lack of action will have consequences. Choose the outcome that you want for your life and take the actions known to lead in that direction. If you choose to avoid exercise and continue to eat unhealthily, recognise that you have made a choice. And if that choice makes you ill, accept that it was your choice and live with it.

Conversely, if you do want to change, and will start eating more sensibly and start exercising regularly, I’ll be first in the queue cheering you on and congratulating you on your fantastic, slimming, health enhancing way of life!

I’m just off for a run. What will you do today for your future?

Avoid the winter weight gain nightmare

Now that the evenings are drawing in and the weather is getting even worse I tend to find it a bit more difficult to keep fit and keep my weight under control. I’m not a fair weather runner, you understand. It’s just nicer to be outside when the sun is shining.

After the nightmare of putting on over 14 pounds last winter, I am certainly not going to let that happen again. But one of the problems is that pounds tend to creep up on you. I’ve never woken up one morning, looked in the mirror and said

“Yikes! Where did that 10 pounds come from?”.

Instead the weight creeps on, one molecule at a time. The daily changes are so small it is easy to miss them. Then one day you get a reality check and realise that the months have not been kind to you…

So what’s the solution Well I think now is the time to refocus on what’s important. Even when it’s cold outside I need to remember that the hardest part of a run is getting over the threshold. When I get back I will feel great! And the same applies to the mini-circuits which I sometimes use to try and keep the rest of me in shape. Not to mention the idea of going swimming, which I never seem to have time for in summer, so why not try something different for the winter? The swimming pool is nice and warm, it’s well lit even when it’s dark and gloomy outside, and it never rains indoors!

So now I’m going to focus on doing the exercise – I know I’ll feel good afterwards, and keep an eye on what I’m eating. It’s really just a case of doing what I know works. I found an interesting article about the secrets to long term success with health, fitness and weight management, which really lays out the key points very neatly. In case you are interested, have a look for yourself:

Good luck with maintaining your fitness through the winter. I’ll be in touch soon with more helpful ideas and a special offer for my own book Get Fit, Feel GREAT! Watch this space!

Help! I’ve put on weight over Christmas!

It turns out that I AM human, after all! I’ve been very busy at work for the last few months. And with the dark (and wet!) evenings I often find it difficult to get out and go running as I know I should. Also I couldn’t face wasting another £30 per month on a gym membership which I won’t use (like I did last winter!). Not to mention Christmas (I said don’t mention…oh what’s the use!).

End result? I’ve put on one and a half stone (21 pounds or 10 kg). My extra fat jeans, which my wife lovingly bought for me ages ago, but which I have flatly refused to wear as they are soooo over size, now fit me nicely. I feel like an over-inflated space hopper.

Not what you expected to hear from someone with a fitness and weight control website, huh?

As I said, at least it means that I am human. Unlike certain internet fitness gurus I could mention….

But now the good news. I know that I will shift the extra weight, get fit and generally get back to normal. I know this because:

  1. It was so easy heaping all the fat straight on, so it must be equally easy to burn off.
  2. I’ve done it before.

It turns out that you don’t need the latest New Year diet, or a personal trainer, or a super-slimming pill. What has worked for me, and will work again is really simple. All I will do is:

  • I will try to do some exercise every day. Somedays this will be the running which I (normally) love. I’m fully kitted out with reflective and waterproof running tops, and two head torches – one to illuminate the path in front of me, the other (showing red) facing backwards to make me even more visible to motorists, although I tend to prefer running on paths at this time of year. If I can’t run (e.g. apathy, no time, lazy, etc) I will try to do some simple circuit training each day. Nothing complicated. Just sets of abs, squats, pressups, weights rotated in sequence until I run out of time (and / or puff). Ideally a minimum of 10 minutes. Can’t usually manage 30 minutes as it’s too hard!
    If all else fails, I’ll go for a brisk walk at lunch time. It’ll get me out of the office. It will enable me to walk off the frustrations of work, and hopefully stop me from murdering one of my colleagues in the afternoon. And it will get my metabolism working Not as good as a run. But better that doing nothing!
  • I will only have a cappuccino where they make REALLY good ones. I admit it. I love having a coffee after work. So many coffee shops…but only a handful are worth having a cappuccino in. So why waste the calories? If I go somewhere where they make a great coffee, I’ll have one. One or maybe two a week should do. Everywhere else I’ll save my money and calories by having a mint tea (approx. 1 calorie, compared to 150 for a good cappuccino!). I’ll also forego the snack that often accompanies the coffee. No more toasted teacakes for me. Chocolate twist? No. If I fancy scoffing something it will either be a small (dark) chocolate bar (typically 100 calories) or a packet of crisps (‘potato chips’ if you speak American!). Either will be around 500 calories less than my favourite toasted teacake, heavenly though it might be…
  • I’ll try to drink a bit less – I do love a glass of wine with my dinner, but I don’t need to drink the whole bottle…. I’ll also stop having deserts. NOBODY needs to have a dessert after their meal. They tend to be high calorie / high sugar, and often high fat. Just don’t do it. Simple.
  • Finally, I’ll just try and cut down a bit on certain things. Smaller portions of pasta and potatoes. Low fat cheese instead of the real thing. You get the picture.

That is pretty much the plan. As I mentioned, I know that it works. It may take a bit of time, but I’ll easily be back to fighting weight, full running fitness and with a bit of muscle tone in time for Easter (Sunday 8th April, if you want to check up on me!).

I hope that you had a great Christmas, and will have a fit and healthy New Year. If you need a helping hand to get fit this year, head over to and see if I can help! Alternatively, please feel free to email me any time, and I’ll do my best to help.

Fast fitness – how to make time for exercise

Like most people, my daily life seems to involve being busy all day, without having time to think, let alone do the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day. I’ve found that sometimes the only way to make time for exercise is to be a bit innovative. I call it fast fitness:

  1. Get up 30 minutes earlier in the morning. ‘YOU MUST BE CRAZY!’ Believe me, I am the worst person on the world at getting up in the morning. However, I still manage to do it everyday to get to work on time. It seems to be the only way to get the boss to pay me every month. So somehow I manage it. Knowing that I CAN get up if I really have to, I realise that I could get up half an hour early as well. It’s not easy, but if I want to find time for exercise (and I do!) then I’ll just have to do it. Obviously, it wouldn’t be a good thing to cut down on my beauty sleep, so it’s just a matter of going to bed earlier, so I still get the same amount of sleep.
    The 2010 US Time Use Survey found that the average American adult spent 2.7 hours per day watching TV. Many other sources have suggested that the average might really be higher – maybe even 4 hours. Other countries around the world have similar habits. Since most TV is mind-numbing rubbish, it’s easy to forego 30 minutes of TV, especially if that enables me to use that time to go for a run, or do some abs and weights indoors. If there is something really essential that I cannot miss, I’m lucky enough to have a recorder, so I can watch my favourite programs before my new bedtime on another day!
  2. Sometimes I find it best to go for a run as soon as I get home from work. This serves two purposes. It enables me to get the exercise which I know will make me feel good, keep me healthy and prevent me from fatting-out, before I get side-tracked onto household chores, surfing the internet or what ever else ends up eating through my evenings. It also enables me to burn off the stresses of the day in a productive way. This means that I get back home in a better frame of mind than when I got in from work. The pent up fury of some days can also help me improve on my best time for a particular course. I just look on it as focussing my frustration on my running speed. Works like a charm!
  3. I used to travel a lot on business years ago. That was when I had to start running to prevent me from expanding to the size of a small car. Then, I was lucky enough to be able to stay in decent hotels which may have had a pool and gym, so I could get a good 30 minutes of exercise at the end of a hard day. Now I don’t travel so often, but I work for a smaller company, so I stay in cheaper hotels. I still need the exercise, but sometimes there is nowhere safe to run near the hotel. So I’ve invented my own mini-workouts. They are based on High Intensity Interval Training. So I do short, hard bursts of ab exercises, weights (my briefcase often weighs 10kg, and if not my suitcase does!), press-ups, and squats. If the weights aren’t heavy enough I go for several sets of each exercise. It may not sound like much, but 20 minutes of this is plenty to get me puffing and blowing, and get my endorphins kicking in to make me feel good. A quick shower, then I’m ready for anything and feeling GOOD again.
  4. On occasions, the only un-booked time I have in the day is 30 minutes for lunch. It’s very easy to get hooked into sitting at my desk, eating my lunch and surfing the internet. I know, however, that I will feel MUCH better if I take my packed lunch out with me. I walk for 10 minutes as hard as I can along the river which goes through the town where I work. Then eat my lunch. Watching the ducks whilst doing so. Then 10 minutes walk back to the office. I manage to squeeze 20 minutes exercise in, I’ve been out in the sunshine, and I get back to the office feeling ready for whatever it can throw at me. Not as good for me as a half hour run. But much better than 30 minutes surfing the net.

Fast fitness is all about looking for opportunities to exercise. Spotting an opportunity in a seemingly packed schedule just adds to the sense of achievement and well-being that I get. It also means that I don’t have to spend all weekend running to make up for the workouts that I missed. So I can really make the most of my free time. Making time for exercise helps me feel good, and it even seems to make me think less about eating. And that means that I eat less. What’s not to like!

High intensity interval training gets fast results!

If you are interested in getting fit using the minimum of effort (like me!) you must have heard about high intensity interval training. The original idea came from a Japanese gentleman by the name of Izumi Tabata, but many people have looked into his ideas and tried different variations on the same idea..

I found a study which really surprised me. I know that intervals can get quick results, but this was unbelievable!

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, interval training means repeating short bursts of very intense exercise a number of times. But the idea is that the total amount of time taken is much less than you would need to put in to obtain the same results from conventional training.

The thing that shocked me about his study was the time span required to make real differences It was SO short. In just 2 weeks, exercising 3 times a week, the participants in the study managed to increase their speed by 10.1% in a cycling study. The exercise sessions weren’t even that extreme. Each one consisted of between 4 and 6 ‘sprints’, each lasting about 1 minute, and separated by around 4 minutes rest. That’s a total time outlay of around 25 minutes, 3 times a week, plus warm up and cool down time. If you’ve ever tried to improve your speed or endurance before in running or cycling, you’ll know that 75 minutes a week is far too little to make that much difference.

In fact, this study actually defined what you would need to do using conventional training to achieve the same results. They found that ‘normal’ intensity exercise could achieve the same results in just 2 weeks (which again surprised me!) but in this case you would need to spend between 90 minutes and 2 hours on each exercise session. So it’s theoretically possible…but who has that much spare time these days.

Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that intervals can completely replace endurance training. To build up to a marathon you will need to do some long runs. And if you want to burn some fat, the total energy burn of endurance training significantly outweighs that possible with interval training. Also, interval training can be so intensive that you run more risk of overuse injuries to muscles and joints.

But as a way of giving your performance a great boost in a short period of time high intensity interval training can make a huge contribution. You just need to be careful not to push too hard. As always – push, but listen to your body, especially when it say ‘NO!’.

What is the difference between health and fitness?

The terms ‘health‘ and ‘fitness‘ are often used interchangeably these days, but there are important differences between them, even though they do intereact. Let me explain.

‘Health’ is a general term describing the overall status of a person. Being ‘in good health’ implies being free from illness or disease, and not suffering from any impairment or pain. It’s rather vague, but being healthy does not necessarily mean that you are fit. And health can be affected by many things – food, environment, disease etc.

‘Fitness’ on the other hand, is more a measure of the amount of physical capability than a measure of well being. Fitness is almost entirely a result of action. Certainly food and drink can influence fitness. But the main way of increasing fitness is through exercise. And increasing your fitness has been shown to boost health is so many different ways -reduction in risk of cardiovascualr disease, reduction in the risk of contracting many cancers, and boosting the immune system being just three of them.

It may seem like a question of semantics, but it IS important to know the difference between health and fitness. Being healthy is seen by most people as something that they can’t influence.

  • You’re either lucky to have good health, or you’ re not, right?

But fitness is something which is completely within the control of every person. Everyone (even Olympic athletes!) can improve their fitness by doing more of the correct sort of exercise. Vigorous cardiovascular exercise increases cardiovascular fitness, so that the more you do, the more you are able to do. Obviously you don’t want to go overboard – that’s a good way of getting injured. Just a steady progression of doing a little bit more each time you exercise priligy.

And the best thing about it is that it is completely in your control.

  • You can’t just be lucky and increase your fitness. You can only boost fitness by working at it.

So you have a choice – either you want to improve your fitness (and as a additional benefit, your health) or you don’t. If you do, you just need to do some work. If you don’t, you can’t blame any one or thing – you have just decided not to improve your health and fitness. Make no mistake – is really is a choice, but it’s up to you which way to jump!

Play Tennis for fun and get fit by mistake!

Last weekend I played tennis for the first time in 30 years. My wife and I are lucky enough to live near a tennis court that is very rarely used. So we went to a supermarket, bought two bats and some balls (for £15 total!) and started playing. I know that they should properly be called racquets, but believe me, when they are in untrained hands like ours, they are definitely bats.

To say that we were truly dreadful would be a considerable understatement. Passers-by initially found it fascinating to watch, until they realised that no one was safe from stray tennis balls…

We had a lot of fun. We got well and truly puffed out, mainly running after balls that we had no chance of hitting, but also going outside the court to collect the balls that went over the fence. They don’t make the fences high enough, do they? Or that’s what our spectators thought!

All this made me think. I’ve been reading a lot recently about the benefits of short, high intensity intervals in training. As a runner, you can never convince me to abandon long runs where to buy cialis australia. They are great for endurance and running efficiency, and I really enjoy running through the countryside in a world of my own.

But short bursts of high intensity exercise (running or other forms) are well known for improving performance very rapidly. And that is just what playing tennis is about. A burst of running as fast as you can, followed by a rest.

Even though I do a fair bit of running, this 1 hour of tennis gave me quite a workout, and the next morning I could feel muscles that I didn’t know that I had. It MUST be doing me good! And it really was great fun. It may not have been much to watch – Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams we are NOT – but we enjoyed it, and it gave us a good workout. What a way to take advantage of the summer evenings!

If you want to get fit, but you feel stuck in a rut, try something different and fun. There are many possibilities – tennis, badminton, swimming, squash… And down here in Cornwall there is Pilot gig racing – rowing in the sea in teams of 6 or 8. If you want a workout that will really stretch you, try rowing! Chances are, you’ll enjoy it so much you won’t even realize that you are getting fitter!

Rob Knowles 27 July 2010

Summer of sport inspiration

Now that summer is with us – the sun has actually come out in Cornwall on more than one occasion, and it’s only July! – thoughts turn to sport and holidays. What with Wimbledon, the football World Cup, the Tour de France, the wonderful one day cricket internationals (sorry to any Australians who maybe reading this between bouts of sobbing inconsolably) it would be easy to spend all your spare time watching the Sports Channel. And why not?

However, while you are watching, don’t just be dazzled by the skills of the players, and the euphoria of winning (oops, sorry again to the Australians!). Take a little time to observe the physique of the sports men and women. Even in cricket, which many people consider to be a lazy mans sport, you don’t see any overweight players these days. It may look a bit tame if you don’t like the game, but let me assure you that fielders have to have a pretty good 100m time to be able to run after the ball and stop it reaching the boundary. And they do this many times every day. A recent study showed that an average first class fielder ran 15.5km (9.6miles) per day, with many high intensity bursts of running interspersed. This is not a sport for a couch potato!

Even Motor Racing, which on the face of it seems to be the laziest sport of all, is not immune. I know that the drivers basically just sit there driving for a couple of hours (I do the same myself quite regularly…). But racing drivers are different. They have to be at the peak of fitness. When Formula One driver Mark Webber broke his leg in November 2008 he was competing in a charity 250km challenge involving trekking, kayaking and riding a bike. Not the actions of a lazy car driver.

Obviously genetics must come into this at some stage. We are not all given the basic equipment to enable us to ride 3642km on a bike across France in 23 days, however much training we do. However, everyone can get better. With training we can all get fitter, improve our endurance, build up muscle, and burn off fat. It just takes effort.

So don’t just sit there enjoying the sport on TV. Let it inspire you to reach your challenges. The Tour de France might be a bit of a stretch But what about running your first marathon next year? Or entering a Triathlon for a new challenge?

Elite athletes were not born able to win world records. They trained and trained and trained. Let the great weather and the exciting summer of sport give you the spur you need to improve on your best. You’ll be amazed at what you CAN achieve!

Rob Knowles 6 July 2010

Don’t let the bad weather stop you getting fit!

The summer is here and there is no excuse for not getting out and enjoying the sun!

I hope that you are having a great summer, getting out and about, and doing so much exercise without realising it that you are really beginning to feel the benefit.

However, I feel some of you may be suffering like us – down in deepest South West UK the weather for the last 2 months has been….lousy.

For all you people planning a late holiday in Cornwall, I’m sure the weather will improve – honest! But so far it has been pretty wet (the grass and bushes are growing like crazy), and it hasn’t even been very warm – maybe 16 – 18°C. In a ‘proper summer’ we should be having 25°C plus.

What has this got to do with getting fit? Well everything really. One of the most difficult things about getting fit can be finding the motivation to get out of your chair and start doing some exercise. Walking, jogging, running, swimming are great. But if the weather is foul it’s easy to think ‘Maybe tomorrow’. Unfortunately, this year that would have meant staying in and never getting any exercise at all.

There are two things that can help, though. Firstly, if you have got your motivation properly worked out, you will have written down your goals, and why you want to achieve them. When you are struggling to get out of the door, think about your goals, and why they are important to you. Think how good it will be when you have achieved them. This should help to give you the extra kick you need to get started.

For more information about how to get your motivation sorted so that you WANT to get fit, go to

The second point may be more difficult to believe – but once you’ve tried it

you will know it is right. Going for a walk or run when it’s raining actually makes you feel better about yourself than going when the weather is nice.

Don’t get me wrong – I love running in summer. Blue sky. Sunshine show. The world is just such a great place to be! And when you get home again and have a shower, you feel great.

When the weather is awful though, it really is worth persevering. Firstly, as you will be exercising, you will warm up. If the weather has been awful it may be the first time that you’ve warmed up all day. I know this works for me.

Also, the sense of achievement when you get home is HUGELY more than if you go out on a nice day.

You have overcome the elements!
NOTHING can stop you from achieving your goals!
You are getting fitter despite everything!

Trust me – this really works. One time I had to cut short a run because the strength of the wind was so high that the rain drops actually hurt my forehead as they were blown into it.

When I got home, I was REALLY wet.

But I felt GREAT!

Really invigorated by the exciting weather. And with a real feeling of achievement that I actually went for a run in really nasty weather. It helped my fitness. It helped my motivation to keep going even more.

I’m not suggesting that you give up the nice weather walks, jogs or runs. But just try going out sometimes when the weather is awful. You won’t believe how good it can make you feel about yourself!

Find out more about how to get fit, fitness motivation and feeling GREAT!

Here’s hoping that you won’t have to try my idea for another few months (but expecting that you will…).

Rob Knowles 18 August 2009

The causes of obesity

I heard something on the TV news the other day that made me laugh out loud. The newscaster said ‘The causes of obesity are many and varied, and clearly much more research needs to be carried out to find a solution’.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think that obesity is funny. But there is just one cause of obesity – consuming more calories than you use. There are things you can do to change what you eat, and how much energy you expend each day, but the only cause of obesity is a consistent, day-to-day imbalance between the number of calories that you use and the number that you consume.

Going a level deeper into the problem, I can think of just 5 reasons that may have led people into the bad habits that create such an imbalance:

  1. Ignorance. They don’t know how harmful to their health being obese is. They don’t know about the health time bombs of heart problems and cancers that they run a serious risk of contracting, or about the likelihood of dying much younger than their healthier contemporaries. They are just happy going along, treating their body badly, without a care in the world. I would like to think that there is no one in this group in the world. Education is a good thing, and hopefully everyone should have the basic information about their bodies to make informed choices about how they want to treat them, and what the likely outcomes are.
  2. They don’t care about being obese. They are happy with the way they are, and with the health problems which they will inevitably face as a result of obesity. I don’t understand people in this group – why would you willingly put yourself through such a torture? But if people are genuinely happy in their skin, they have made a choice. I know some people in this group, and they have every right to be how they want.
  3. Those who can’t see the truth. They don’t see anyone fat looking back at them when they look in the mirror. Or think it’s someone else’s fault that they are overweight. Perhaps they were force fed with cream buns, or defied science by putting on weight despite only drinking water and eating 2 dry biscuits a day. I more info

    don’t think so!

  4. They have low self-esteem. They feel bad because of the way they look. Or maybe they feel bad for other reasons (bad relationships, stressful work, etc) which makes them comfort eat. They just don’t think that they are worth spending the effort on to improve. The only solace they get in life is from enjoying eating what they know they really shouldn’t.

    I suspect that many of this group would like to change but just can’t see a way out of the darkness. They can’t find the willpower to do anything about it. I feel really sad about this group, as they are living through hell, when there is a way of changing themselves, their health and their self-esteem.

  5. They have no willpower. I can sympathise with this group too. I know how hard it can be to make the changes that you know need to be made. It can be difficult getting out of bed early on a winter’s morning to go for a run. It can be impossible to resist eating too much at a barbecue. Only having one drink at a party can be unbearable. But again there is a way to overcome this. Anyone can learn how to have a will of iron, if they want to.

So what is the solution? For the first group, education is the essential ingredient. The more you know, the more you are able to make informed choices about your health and life prospects. So the more information you can read about health and weight, the better.

The second group seem pretty happy, so I won’t worry about them – just wish them good luck (they will probably need it later!).

The third group are really difficult to help, as they won’t believe anything you tell them. Their only hope lies in the patient and persistent support and encouragement of friends and family to help them see the error of their ways. It’s going to take some time though…

The last two groups really can be helped, and should be. I’ve written my own book about how I lost weight and got fit called Get Fit, Feel GREAT! which has a lot of information about how to transform your health.

Rob Knowles 23 July 2009