The Christmas holidays are imminent, and if you are like most people, you are probably starting to worry about the extra kilograms you're bound to gain whilst indulging in all the treats and goodies that usually accompany the Christmas spirit. It's a fact that you will probably gain a few kilograms but according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, most of us will never lose what we gained, and over a decade that can add up to 5 or 10 kilograms easily!
FitLab wants to tell you that you don't have to put on weight, nor miss out on your festive indulgences. We have put together a few holiday guidelines to live by inspired by Fitbie.com's latest "Avoid Holiday Weight Gain and Stress" article.

Start every day with 4 minutes of exercise
It's no help that around very corner you are being bombarded with holiday cheer and temptation but if you manage a 4-minute high intensity workout everyday like our Tabata sessions, which are just as good as a 30-minute cardio workout, you are well on your way to fighting off the baggage before even putting it on.

Cheat days, not a cheat month
It's not your Christmas lunch or dinner, or the New Year's Eve party that sends your scale on a fast upswing
. It's slacking off for the entire festive period. The worst mindset to have over the Christmas Holidays is "Oh well, I will get back on track in January". Don't fall off the track to begin with. Allow yourself your cheat days, but don't allow these slip-ups to destroy the rest of your holiday.

Allow yourself one treat everyday
Christmas is all about giving and we are not trying to punish you by saying "Be good all the time". You can reward yourself with a small treat everyday, like a small biscuit with coffee in the morning, or a little wedge of dark chocolate. Don't deprive yourself into such a state of avoiding any treats that being presented with a plate of cookies sends you into a whirlwind binge and you end up finishing them all
. Start fresh everyday and save your splurges for the actual holidays: Christmas lunch or dinner, New Years Eve party.

Eat at the dining room table, or turn the television off

Focus
on the food on your plate and not everything going on around you. It's recently been proven in the Appetite Journal that "multi-task eating is mindless eating". When you are eating in front of the television, or reading whilst piling food into your mouth, you are unlikely to be fully aware of what and how much food you are eating which results in unconsciously overeating.

Melt work-stress whilst still sitting at your chair

If you
are not lucky enough to experience a full four weeks off from work over the festive season, an easy breathing technique can help lighten the load of work stress, and lighten the load from your spine since you'll be sitting at a desk most of the time. In your office chair, spread your legs a little wider than hip-distance apart. Fold forward allowing your torso to hang toward the floor in between your thighs. Grab your elbows with your hands and let your head hang as you take in a few deep breaths. Switch the crossing of the elbows and hold for a few more minutes.

There's always time for exercise on the weekends

We know it's a busy season, but the best time to make time for an effective gym session, or a nice jog is on the weekends. Don't be lazy and do nothing. Wake up half an hour earlier and hit the road for a 30 minute jog.

Non
-food rewards
Rewarding yourself doesn't have to be about finally giving in to that chocolate slab with a "rational" explanation as to why you deserve it. Get a pen and paper and write out a list of non-food related treats that you could reward yourself with. It can be anything from taking a long hot bubble bath, to getting a massage, to reading a book, or even spending time with your pets. You could also buy something that makes you feel good like a new perfume.

Get outdoors and play
The fresh air
, the bout of activity, there is nothing better. Try get active outdoors everyday. Play some lawn tennis, go for walks in the Cascades trails, just try do something that will get you out there and active. Involve your kids, and your pets. They could all do with a bit of fresh air and appreciation for the outdoors.

Summer time - Summer rains
So you braved the afternoon Summer rains for a run and your shoes got a little wet. Leaving them out to dry is fine and all but they might not be dry enough by the time you next want to use them, and there is "that smell". Here's a cool little trick: pull the insoles out of the shoes and leave them aside to dry. Stuff the insides of your shoes with some crumpled newspaper - this will absorb the moisture and any smell a lot quicker than simply leaving them out to dry themselves.

Choosing comfort foods wisely
For whatever reason, you might find yourself turning to comfort food over the holiday period. Usually we turn to the bad carbs for pick-me-ups like pizza, macaroni cheese, cookies, cakes, etc. They make you feel better sure, but they are also going to make you fatter.
Turn to the "healthier carb" options for those pick-me-ups like sweet potatoes and air-popped popcorn. Carbohydrates high in fibre are always winners in our book. This non-digestible nutrients makes you feel fuller faster and sustains you for longer.

Before the guests arrive
Relieve some of the stress you might experience when expecting a hoard of guests to knock on your front door by performing this two-move sweat session. All you need is a set of stairs and to perform these exercises for two or three rounds.
Step shuttles

Place your right foot on the second step with your left on the floor. Quickly switch your legs so your right foot is on the floor and your left is on the second step. Rapidly exchange legs in this way for 20 times.
Incline pushups
Place your hands on the third step, your feet on the floor. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Bend your elbows to lower your chest to the step. Push back to start and repeat 15 times.

Shopp
ing stress - perform this stretch
Calf muscles are tight on most people and feel even worse after a marathon day of Christmas shopping. Perform the curb-side calf stretch to relieve the pain, re-energise, and make flat ground feel great again. Find the nearest curb and stand on the street placing the balls of your feet on the curb. Stand as straight as possible and breathe. Hold the stretch for 5 to 10 breaths.

Festive functions - don't show up with an empty stomach
Eat a
balanced meal first before heading for the treat table at your office party. Have a few treats but keep your concentration on socialising, not snacking.

Drink lots of water
Drinking lots of water before you head out for a festive function will benefit your belly.
It is great for losing weight, but it is even better for keeping the weight off.

Wrapping prezzies and lifting spirits
When you
are knee-deep in pretty papers, sticky tape and shiny red and green tinsel, keep your posture in check. It's easy to get to the point where you are slumped over in an almost collapsed position so when you start feeling like you can't wrap another present, perform this short posture correction stretch. Sit up straight in a chair and lift your breastbone whilst rolling your shoulders back and down. Feel your collarbone spreading wide. Lengthen your whole spine up towards the ceiling. Take a few deep breaths and then get back to work - you have a million prezzies to wrap.

Keep track of your steps
It's a busy time of year
and sometimes it's easy to give into being lazy. Most phone's now days have built in pedometers, and if not, let that be an early Christmas gift to yourself, get a pedometer. Set yourself a daily target of let's say 10000 steps, when you have a pedometer you will get there sooner than you expect as you are already doing so much. But if you don't have a little gadget like this, it's easy to think you have been busy and just flop onto the couch.

Sleep in to lose more
Sleep boosts your body's levels of Leptin which is a natural protein that signals your brain to stop eating. So catch a few extra winks by heading to bed a little earlier the night before Christmas so you can push away from the table sooner on Christmas day.

The day after
Holidays are supposed to be about time with family - everything has been a mad rush up until this point. The day after Christmas
is probably the first break you have had all holiday. Plan a day trip to the Drakensberg for a hike, or spend the day on the dam fishing or swimming.

Resolutions

Make resolutions that you can keep. Set measurable goals! When you do something that feels good, like achieving a New Years resolution, your body releases dopamine, the chemical responsible for the feel-good-feeling. So break bigger goals into smaller, more attainable goals so you can get to achieving and feeling great!
 
 
We opened up the portal for you to be heard, and we have been absolutely blown away by the responses we have received from our amazing FitLab boot campers so far! You are all amazing and we honestly could not feel more proud reading these stories.

Our next "Shout it out" segment features Sharon's testimonial about her experience at FitLab so far! Sharon's story is one of extreme courage and triumph and we are so proud to be part of her recovery story!

If you would like to have your testimonial featured ino ur "Shout it out segment" as well, pop us a mail with your story and a photograph of yourself.
Exercise plays a very important role in my bone density and keeping the cancer in remission.
Hi there,

I am 55 years old (nearly 56 – keep this a secret). I started going to FitLab with Bongani 4 weeks ago an in four weeks I have gone from completing 2 sets of the circuit to 7 sets today. At first I wanted to puke after every set and even thought of giving up but Bongani kept me motivated to keep coming and work through this awful period.  I am so pleased with my progress.

I had cancer 8 years ago and had a mastectomy. The muscle was taken off my back and wrapped about the reconstructed breast to help with blood circulation. I did 8 sessions of chemo and 25 radiation. I have never got back into exercise and slowly put on weight (all the drugs didn't help either). I have explained this to Bongani and he has helped me tremendously.  He always gives me an alternate exercise to do when the other bootcampers are doing something I cant do (because of the said back muscle being removed from its intended place). He has kept me so motivated that I even think of bootcamp when I am not there and look forward to going to my next session.  

I am looking forward to going from strength to strength. Exercise plays a very important role in my bone density and keeping the cancer in remission. So thank you Bongani. Up until now all I have done is walking and the occasional run. I feel so much better with life.

Keep well and healthy.

Regards

Sharon

 
 
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We're into week twelve already, and time has literally run away with us! We thought we would resume chats with our challengers about their experiences thus far on the FitLab/Complete Living 12 week challenge. Without out any further delay, we would like to introduce Bruce. Since Pietermaritzburg is such a small town, you may already know Bruce through his own blog: Fat & Getting Fit. Here are his thoughts.

Working two jobs you find yourself with very little time. Trying to balance your "nine-to-five" and tend to a sideline business does not only leave you with no time, but also exhausted all the time. On top of this I also blog and this was taking a dive as well.  No energy, no time and no motivation. Life was not so peachy.

How it all started: The best thing that happened to me was bumping into Bongani at a running race I was supporting. He told me about his 12 week challenge and it so happened that he was looking for a bunch of people to test it out. The times fitted in between both jobs (just) and it provided me with a new challenge. My goal was to shed 10kg’s and get ripped.

The first two weeks the gains were amazing. I had more energy, more motivation and I was dropping the kilo’s.

After a month I hit a plateau. No gains, tired (lack of motivation) and not enjoying my eating plan. This is one of the factors that sets FitlabSA apart from any others. The support from Bongani and Steph is amazing. Everybody will have a major low when making a change to their lifestyle, no matter what plan you are on, but to have supportive leaders who are available every day is incredible. Not only the leaders, but also the fellow participants. We have a Whatsapp group where we encourage one another daily and share jokes to keep the morale up.

I may not be 10kg lighter, nor ripped, but the thought of a 3km run is no longer daunting. My fat percentage has dropped, my muscle mass has increased and I am getting compliments daily. I am not discouraged about the scale no longer dropping. It’s just my body type. To me, my challenge so far has been a huge success. Instead of excuses I find the time to exercise, I choose the right foods and am confident I will remain fit for life.


If you are keen to take part in our next 12-week challenge, pop us an email and we will send you the details. Our next 12-week challenge starts Mid-January.


 
 
A boot camp without burpees is no boot camp at all. The burpee is an exercise synonymous with the feeling of torture for many, but you are not alone... We know they are good for us so we push through and do them but man, it would be nice if they didn't inflict such pain. Perhaps knowing what you are doing whilst doing the "simple" action of the burpee will help ease some of the pain. Burpees are not just for athletes, they are for everyone.

Let's talk about the action first. The burpee is a combination of a squat, push-up and a vertical jump. It's important to note at this point that we are not being sarcastic when we say they're for everyone. They are. Especially if you are looking for the following benefits out of your training regime: a leap up the fitness-o-meter, scorching fat, revving up your metabolism,and  conditioning your body - they are the best exercise. The Best!

Once you have grown to love them or force yourself to tolerate them they become easier. With the benefits becoming even greater because they have the vertical jump they are also a plyometric exercise which for those speedsters out there greatly increases the muscles ability to contract faster and harder giving you more power output when you run. Even for those who prefer longer distances, your times will get better very quickly as your power to weight ratio increases.

So next time you see a burpee in your exercise program don't shy away and do them half-heartedly give them your all as they give so much back in return.
 
 

[Contributed by Stephanie Joyner, FitLab Dietitian]

First of all I want you to think of your magic number.

Got it? Great. Now I want you to ERASE THAT NUMBER FROM YOUR HEAD! In fact, while you are at it, please throw away your bathroom scale as well. I am about to explain to you why stressing about getting to that magic number doesn’t make sense.

The body is made up of different components: bone mass, water and other fluids, organs, muscle and fat. When you step on a scale, the number that you see is the sum total of all these components. When someone says they are trying to “lose weight”, what they actually normally mean is that they want to lose fat. So now, if they are measuring their progress on a scale that is only telling them the sum total of all these body components, there is no way to tell that they are losing fat, and not losing, say muscle instead.

Let me explain a common occurrence: Susan decides she wants to lose weight. To do this she starts a low calorie diet coupled with an exercise programme consisting of a lot of cardio (running, spinning etc.). This is a typical method followed by most people when trying to lose weight. After a month Susan sees that her weight has gone down by 4 kilograms, which she is happy with. Unbeknownst to her, she has actually decreased her body fat levels by very little and has burnt up some of her muscle stores. This is why the number on the scale is reflecting lower than when she started.

So what is the big deal, she lost weight, who cares whether it was muscle or fat?

Well, actually it does matter. The higher the amount of muscle our body has, the higher the rate at which it “burns” calories. Basically, more muscle means a higher metabolism. Besides this, more muscle and less fat means you look more toned, leaner and trimmer and you significantly decrease your risk of chronic disease.

Lets look at another situation:

Kate is the same age and weight of Susan. Kate seeks advice before starting her weight-loss programme. She is advised to not worry about weight but rather to look at muscle mass and body fat percentage. She starts an exercise programme consisting mainly of resistance exercises with a bit of cardio, and gets a tailored eating programme designed to help her “burn” fat and build lean muscle.

After a month she checks her measurements (not on a bathroom scale but rather on a scale that measures weight, muscle mass and body fat percentage). She see’s that although her weight has only decreased very slightly, she has lost 2 percent body fat and gained half a kilogram of muscle mass. She feels great in her clothes and she can feel her body toning up and becoming leaner. She uses a measuring tape at home to measure her waist, around her arms and thighs and these measurements confirm that she is losing centimeters.

Now imagine this scenario but in someone who does not have the background knowledge Kate has. She has been working out religiously, sticking to her diet plan but is still not seeing the “results” she envisioned on the scale. Meanwhile, she is actually losing body fat percent and gaining lean muscle! Without this knowledge, this can be enough for someone to just give up and go back to being a couch potato.

If you used to think like this, I hope that this has enlightened you. If you do want to “lose weight” (i.e. body fat) and get into shape Fitlab boot camps are your answer. I am on hand to provide the nutrition advice you need and Bongani will get you fit in no time with his mix of resistance and high intensity exercises.

Go to Complete Living to find our more about changing
 
 
We opened up the portal for you to be heard, and we have been absolutely blown away by the responses we have received from our amazing FitLab boot campers so far! You are all amazing and we honestly could not feel more proud reading these stories.

Our first "Shout it out" segment features Melissa's testimonial about her experience at FitLab so far! Melissa has not been part of FitLab for very long, but the results are showing already.

If you would like to have your testimonial featured ino ur "Shout it out segment" as well, pop us a mail with your story and a photograph of yourself.
"...each person just needs to find the exercise that works for them."
Hi Fit Lab team.

I am a newbie FitLab Boot Camper. Monday, 4th November marked my 4th week attending Boot Camp. I attend three sessions a week, and thoroughly enjoy them! I love that each session is different, be it the workout or the group of people attending it. Boot Camp has a attracted a great bunch of people who are all friendly and encouraging.

My second session at Boot Camp included a 3km road run, that I laughed at because I couldn't see myself running 1km, let alone 3km. Fortunately with the great support from Bongani and Steph (she makes running look so easy), I managed to complete the 3kms and in good time! This has sparked a love for running, and each run I now go on I am eager to better my time.

I haven't noticed any weight loss on the scale, however I feel a lot "lighter" and my clothes are fitting a lot better. I had to go to Jhb for work and Bongani assisted in providing me with a training plan to use at the gym where I was staying. I greatly appreciated his assistance while I couldn't attend the sessions, however I quickly realised why I don't enjoy gym and
that is because I get bored so quickly. I was missing Boot Camp!

Because of this my outlook on exercise has changed, and I have come to realise that each person just needs to find the exercise that works for them.

Melissa
 
 
Whether you have lost weight, gained strength and muscle, improved your fitness, or simply changed your attitude towards keeping fit and healthy - we want to hear from you!

Please send us your story along with a photograph of yourself so we can show you off to the world. If you would prefer your photograph being taken by our FitLab photographer just let us know and we can arrange one for you at your next boot camp session.

Send your story here!

We look forward to hearing from you.
 
 
We're excited that we will be exhibiting at Lynwood Club tomorrow for the Health, Beauty & Fitness Fair! Hope you can all make it - there are plenty cool things and demonstrations taking place!

Entrance is free and light refreshments and snacks are available! Hope to see you there!

Just a quick thanks to our "models": Janine Armand & Bruce Frost! You guys have done such a good job making FitLab look like such fun purely by enjoying the mini-boot camp session for the photoshoot! A big thanks goes to Candice Christie Photography & Design for putting together all our marketing material, including taking the photographs as well!
 
 
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We're into week seven and we thought that we would get to chatting to our challengers about their experiences thus far on the FitLab/Complete Living 12 week challenge. Today we're featuring Candice's thoughts and over the remaining few weeks we will feature each of the other participants as well.

The photograph featured along with my post is definitely not one I am proud to show off... Aside from showing off my husband, that is. But, how else do I demonstrate my "starting block" moment, if not by showing you where I was at the beginning of the challenge. In my eyes: a heffalump. I can say that now because I am six weeks into the challenge and feeling great and on my way to looking great too.

I think I lived in denial for a long time before reality actually set in about me partaking in this challenge. In fact, when people started commenting on how good I am looking at week four already, I kind of stopped and thought: "really?", "was I different to how I am now and I haven't even lost that much?" and "was I honestly that big that people thought I was a fatty?" I guess I never realised how much I actually needed the twelve week challenge in my life!

My fitness level at my starting block position was a big fat null. I started attending Fit Lab boot camp twice a week about a month or two before I started the challenge and I was probably the most unfit I had ever been at this point. I still remember, with great embarrassment, the very first night I attended boot camp it was a fitness test. If you are a regular boot camp attendee you know that the fitness tests are paramount to seeing the results of your fitness levels improving... Well, my 1km time trial on this very first fitness test was non-existent. I ran one lap and I was K.O. I still remember Bongani (our trainer) looking at this new girl like "What The...? That was only one lap" to which I signalled, whilst trying not to faint, that I am having an asthma attack.

Well... I have come a long way since then. We're into week seven now and since the uptake of the challenge, the centimetres have been dropping, the fat percentage has fallen, my muscle mass has increased, my physique rating is looking a whole lot better than my starting block, and, I have successfully lost unwanted kilograms. Aside from all this I have also learned a whole lot about what it means to feed your body the right food when it's hungry, and also what I am capable of in terms of fitness. I mean, hello. I was the girl who never left the computer to eat anything, never mind the right food, only to wolf down big unhealthy dinners because I starved myself all day. And I was the girl who couldn't run 200m without nearly fainting from asthma. I am proud to say that this week alone I have run 5km, twice! Yes. And I ran the whole way. I also force myself to eat throughout the day because I have very quickly learned that there is no way your body will work at burning the fat off if you are not feeding it the nutrients it needs to burn the fat off. Now that I am in week seven though, it doesn't feel like I am forcing myself anymore. This new way of eating has become my lifestyle and I am very happy to report that I am absolutely loving it!

So far, and we are only halfway, the 12-week challenge has been life-changing. Stephanie, our dietitian, and Bongani, our trainer, have been such an amazing support to us and in truth, if not for them motivating us and being our pillars of strength in times of weakness I, for one, would not have made it this far. They are just wonderful. If you have a million questions, they have a million answers. Since this is a pilot-study as well, they have listened to our every concern and adjusted this programme to better suit us wherever necessary. The finished product, which our group is well on its way to experiencing already, is going to be absolutely phenomenal.


At this point I would also like to stress the benefits of exercising in a group. It's not just me who struggles to get up at 04:30 on a Thursday morning for tempo runs. We all do, and we all egg each other on. The group dynamic is by far better for someone like me who so easily dissuades myself from leaving the couch or the comfort of my warm bed. It's also comforting to know that we all struggle with similar things, and we are all human.

I am greatly looking forward to the last half of the challenge! I can see my health and fitness improving and I can see me finally on my way to entering a half-marathon by the time the 12-week challenge is over, and before then, maybe a 10km. This new lifestyle has seen my asthma improving quite drastically too. To the point that I rarely need to take my pump now days. Although it goes with me wherever I go, it's more for "in case" than a certainty. This kind of relief can only be understood by fellow asthma sufferers: to no longer have that hindrance on you every time you exercise is breathtaking and it's exhilarating.

Till the last day of the 12 week challenge I will push on! See you at the finish line.

If you are interested in finding out more about the challenge and would like to possibly partake in the next one starting in January 2014, get in touch!

 
 
Hello, we want to introduce you all to Tabata, the new "it" word in fitness. And soon-to-be included as part of our workout sessions at boot camp, especially on those hard-to-exercise in cold and rainy nights.

Tabata is a form of high-intensity exercise created by a Japanese researcher, Dr Izumi Tabata, in which you perform an exercise at the highest intensity possible during a 20-second burst, and try to recover during 10-second rest periods. The exercise is repeated until you total a whole four minutes. It isn't just one exercise that you can perfect like doing push-ups but is usually designed with a combination of exercises that are designed to make you gasp for air after the four minutes.

In an article from bodybuilding.com (a definite must read to find out more about Tabata), a list of Dr Tabata's pre-approved workouts are featured. This protocol workout has been provided in an attempt to ensure people are doing the right kinds of bodyweight exercises for the high-intensity requirements of a true Tabata workout purely because "copycats" claim certain workouts to form part of this Tabata regime but can either do more harm than good, or just don't work you out at all.

Before featuring them below, there are a few tips that you need to take into account when performing any Tabata workouts to get the most out of them.
  1. Warm up for at least ten minutes.
  2. Use full-body weight exercises that engage as many muscle groups as possible.
  3. Exercises using bodyweight, a weighted vest, or free weights are all acceptable.
  4. Go full-tilt in the 20-second bursts. Don't slow down.
  5. Try hard to find your breath during the 10-second rests. Good luck.
  6. Be prepared to sweat… a lot.

The Tabata Protocol Circuit [bodybuilding.com]

Exercise 1: The Cockroach
Areas Trained:
Full-body, emphasizing legs, glutes, arms and core.

Instructions:
Starting on all fours, crawl as fast as possible forward for four paces. Stop, get up, and jump in the air. Turn around, get back on all fours, and repeat.


Exercise 2: Rotating Jump Lunge
Areas Trained:
Legs, glutes, and core.

Instructions:
Start in a lunge position with your arms in a circle. Swing your arms around to one side, then jump the lunge on to the other leg, swinging the arms in the opposite direction. Use the arm swing to provide momentum.


Exercise 3: Sprawl and Jump
Areas Trained:
Full-body, emphasizing legs, arms, glutes, and core.

Instructions:
Sprawl out to the side, putting both hands and one foot on the ground. Bring your top leg toward your chest. Push off with the hands and get up into a standing position, then jump. Repeat on other side.


Exercise 4: Weighted Wood Chop
Areas Trained:
Biceps, shoulders, core and legs.

Instructions:
Lunge to one side, holding a light weight (2.5-5 lbs.) with both hands. Swing the weight up from the floor to above your opposite shoulder. Repeat, alternating sides.

Exercise 5: Frog Jump
Areas Trained:
Legs and glutes.

Instructions:
Drop into a squat, then jump in the air with the knees tucked up. Repeat quickly.


Exercise 6: Single-Leg Burpee
Areas Trained:
Full-body, targeting legs, glutes, biceps, triceps and shoulders.

Instructions:
Start in the push-up position. Jump in with one leg, and then jump up, bringing the opposite knee toward the chest. Repeat on the other side. If this is too difficult, perform the burpees with both legs.


Exercise 7: Single-Arm Kick-Through
Areas Trained:
Biceps, triceps, core, glutes, and legs.

Instructions:
Start in a push-up position. Shift your body weight toward the right arm, and then kick to the left with the right leg. Alternate the movement on your left and right sides quickly.

For a less-advanced version, keep both hands on the ground and alternate knees to the chest rapidly, similar to a mountain climber.


Exercise 8: Crab Lunge
Areas Worked:
Full-body, targeting arms, core, glutes and legs.

Instructions:
Start in a deep squat and lean back into a crab-walk position. Take a small weight (2.5-5 lbs.) in one hand, using the other to balance on the floor. Swing the weight back over your head, adopting the crab position. Alternate sides and repeat quickly.

We're excited to introduce this form of training into the FitLab boot camp circuits. They are not to be taken lightly though. Because of the high intensity of Tabata workouts, it would be wise to assess your physical condition honestly before attempting them. Prior consent from a physician may be necessary in some cases.