Perfect Form: Squats

I don't think there is a class in the universe that doesn't include a squat in some shape or form. Yet many of my class participants and clients are apprehensive about this exercise, often feeling they are not executing it correctly. Well, if this blog were a bible, this would be the chapter and verse on squats!

Squats are the foundation for many other drills and variations meaning it is important to get your technique right. Technique is also a very important safety consideration as poor technique increases your risk of injury.

The focus of the squat is your lower body, whilst also building up your core and back strength by engaging your bodies largest muscles. This movement requires balance, support and traction, so always aim for quality of movement over quantity. The best place to try this out is in front of your bedroom mirror so you can see for yourself.

Here goes:
  1. Stand with feet shoulder width apart
  2. Squat down so thighs are parallel to the ground
  3. Squeeze your butt as you come back up and return to standing
Basic squat start & mid position

Those are the 3 basic steps to executing a squat; below are some more key points for consideration:
  • Keep the weight in your heels (so you can wiggle your toes when down)
  • Keep a flat back and your chest up 
  • Keep abs tight 
  • To increase the workload, increase the weight of the dumbbells
  • To decrease the workload do not use dumbbells
When you have nailed your basic squat you can mix things up a bit with different variations changing the focus slightly from pure strength to muscular endurance, or cardiovascular fitness. Examples include:

  • Sumo squat (pictured): feet wider than shoulders, toes out
  • Double pulse squat (pictured); 2 squats with narrow feet, jump out into 2 wide squats, repeat for 30 seconds
  • Squat hold; in squat position hold for 10 to 30 seconds
  • Squat jumps; in between each squat, jump into the air and land through your knees straight into a squat
  • Squat arm curls (click to see video)
Double pulse squat

Sumo squat

The key when exercising is to listen to your body. Working out is not always comfortable, but it should cause you no pain!

Elle :) x

P.S Safety always comes first. If you are new to exercise ensure you seek advice from your GP. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, wear appropriate clothing and carry out drills in a suitable space. Technique is paramount, and nothing should hurt. Should you experience pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath etc, STOP and consult your GP. 


The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?! About Sports Products

This episode of Panorama entitled 'The Truth About Sports Products' which aired on the 19th July informed us that 1 in 5 of us in the UK attends a gym, and 12 million of us take part in a sporting activity. Those of us, and much of the rest of the population I suspect, then spend our hard earned money on sports products which we believe enhance our performance; but do they?!

Here is my summary of the topics covered:

First up for the critics were Sports Drinks. We spend a quarter of  billion pounds per year on such products which are endorsed by athletes and widely available in supermarkets next to fruit juice and squash! The long and the short of it is that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims that you get a significant benefit from consuming such drinks (unless you are an Elite Athlete). Carbohydrate based drinks specifically work for endurance athletes who need to replenish stores over long periods of times. However, the rest of us, just need water, sugar and salt. As for sugar free sports drinks; they are just bottles of glorified water, providing hydration only.

Next up, they talked shoes. Running shoes. I myself have training shoes for the gym which I run in for distances up to 5k. Over and above that, I have a pair of running shoes, which I feel help me to perform better when I am running. Claims are, that structured running shoes control pronation (rolling of the foot) which reduces injuries. But evidence suggests that the risk of injury is determined by factors such as distance and recovery which are controllable by the individual rather than the shoes they choose to wear.

I have never bought a pair of shoes based on analysis of my gait, however I have had my gait analysed in a store. My issue with that being, I don't feel they are any more qualified than me to tell me what type of shoes I need to be wearing (and I have a degree in Sport & Exercise Science). Experts suggest we get our gait analysed, but there is no evidence to support that structured trainers prevent injury.

Where does barefoot running come into this? With the recent explosion of barefoot shoes (an oxymoron, I know) onto the market, the question is, are they beneficial? Running barefoot in theory makes our feet stronger, which in the long term can reduce injury. But it takes a special kind of person to pound our pavements with no shoes on.

I currently use barefoot shoes for training. They come on a scale of 0 to 5; I have a few 3.0's and a 5.0. I kid you not, that after having trained for months in my 3.0's I wore the 5.0's one day and they made me late for my class as my feet were restricted meaning I couldn't walk as fast!

The final subject in the programme; nutritional supplements. I bet you currently use some or have given them a go right?! Someone must have, as we spend 100 million pounds on the stuff each year! They all promise to be a short cut to your best performance. The truth is, there are no short cuts in life and you can get all the nutrition you need from a well balanced diet. The Flying Scotsman shared his world record breaking secret with us - his pre-training meal is....drumroll...a jam sandwich and water. What does he have after, in place of a sports drink? Toast, sardines, broccoli and carrots!

I myself have a few "supplements" and products that I like to use; in no way do I think they are magical, I just like them for one reason or another. Overall, I don't think the evidence provides any solutions, it just makes us more aware of what we are consuming.

The moral of the story is, marketing is powerful, consumerism is rife! You just need to work out what works for you and what doesn't. Whatever the solution though, it shouldn't cost you an arm and an leg!

Elle ;) x


Drill Pack 1 - Core

With summer on the approach, and cropped tops (for the ladies) being in fashion this season, I guess you, like me, would like to do a bit of work on your core / abs / stomach / midriff! So I have chosen my 3 favourite exercises to share with you that you can add to your gym route, into the middle of your run to mix it up a bit, or do at home when you wake up/ before you go to sleep!

These drills are one's I use when teaching Nike Training Club. You can become a part of the community and sign up for free classes yourself via their Facebook page.

Drill 1. V - UPS

Beginner - 30 seconds
Intermediate / Advanced - 60 seconds 

Sit upright with knees tucked in to your chest, feet off the floor, and hands in a supportive position behind you. Extend your legs out in front of you as you lower your upper body back towards the floor. Crunch back in to the start position and repeat. To make this less challenging keep your legs bent, and to increase the challenge make sure you kick your legs out straight in front or have your arms by your side, hip height.

V ups: legs extended
V ups: starting position

Drill 2. 90 DEGREE ABS

Beginner - 30 seconds
Intermediate / Advanced - 60 seconds 

Start in a push up position with hands directly under your shoulder and feet together. Drive one knee up toward your chest. Kick out to the side straightening the same leg. Return to start position and repeat on the other side. Once you have nailed the basics of this move, try to rotate more through your hips; if you are having trouble with the rotation, place your foot on the floor when you rotate.

90 degree abs: starting position
90 degree abs: leg extended w/hip rotation

Drill 3. KICK DOWN

Beginner - 30 - 60 seconds
Intermediate / Advanced - 60 seconds +

Lie on your back with legs straight up in the air, 90 degrees from your body. Keeping your legs straight, lower them as far as you can. Return to start position, keeping your belly button drawn to the floor / your spine the whole time. If you need to decrease the challenge, do this exercise with your knees bent.

Kick down: starting position
Kick down: legs lowering

Elle :) x

P.S Safety always comes first. If you are new to exercise ensure you seek advice from your GP. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids, wear appropriate clothing and carry out drills in a suitable space. Technique is paramount, and nothing should hurt. Should you experience pain, discomfort, nausea, dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath etc, STOP and consult your GP. 


RECIPE: Spaghetti with Bacon, Chilli, Feta and Basil

I've just finished eating this for lunch and decided I couldn't wait to share!

Spaghetti with Bacon, Chilli, Feta and Basil
Serves 2, ready in 15 minutes


200g spaghetti
4 slices bacon (cut into strips)
butter / oil
100g feta (cut into cubes)
1/2 red chilli (or to taste)
handful of basil leaves
lime zest
salt & pepper (to serve, if required)

1. Boil the spaghetti as per the packet instructions
2. Warm the butter / oil in a frying fan. Add the bacon strips and cut up chilli and fry gently until cooked.
3. Toss the drained spaghetti into the pan with the bacon & chilli, add the basil leaves, feta and toss.Then add the magic ingredient...the lime zest!
4. Garnish with salt and pepper if you wish! ...and serve immediately!

That is it!

If I make this the night before for lunch, I add the feta after I have heated it through fully!


Elle :) x


Personal Shopper?! ...Don't mind if I do!

I have long accepted that I can't be skilled and talented in everything. When it comes to fashion, I get by, but by no means can I stay ahead of the game! I like to keep my wardrobe on trend by updating with key pieces every now and again which I like and all importantly, suit my body shape.

A few weeks ago, I spotted a competition on Facebook being run by Frame. It was for the chance to win a Personal Shopping experience at Topshop Oxford Circus and to be fed and watered with champagne and nibbles. Quickly as I could, I emailed my entry and soon after got a response telling me I had won!

I completed the brief for 1 activewear outfit and 1 evening/daywear outfit. I explained that for active wear I'd quite like to look like I walked out of a Ministry of Sound Pump it Up DVD, whilst for the other outfit I tend to wear pinks and greens a lot.

The selection of clothes chosen for me by Jo
Upon arrival, I received my much anticipated glass of champagne and was promptly introduced to Jo, my Personal Shopper (and maybe new best friend!). She showed me to Suite 4 where a beautiful selection of clothes were awaiting.

Like I said, I'm no style icon, so I was open to all the outfits Jo had pulled for me! Any amateur or professional shopper knows you can't judge a piece by the hanger!

My favourite active wear outfit
My favourite activewear outfit (pictured) was a pair of tie dye leggings, white crop top, and grey zip up! My favourite daywear outfit from the selection being a pair of khaki skinny jeans with a floral blouse which can be dressed up for evening with some wedges or down with some vans.

I am very happy with the purchases I made last night especially as it has been years since I shopped in Topshop due to being overwhelmed by the size of the store! And today I am sporting one of the outfits (coral skinny jeans, cream Tshirt top and my wardrobe staple-white vans!)

Huge thanks to Frame, to Jo and to Topshop :) ...and be aware that this service is free of charge!

Elle :) x


RECIPE: Parmesan & Parsley-Crusted Salmon Recipe

Parmesan & parsley-crusted salmon

This is one of my all time favourite recipes (shared with me by my friend Frankie G of JoeBella); Parmesan & parsley-crusted salmon from the BBC Good Food website. 

With only 6 ingredients, it is quick, simple and good value for money. This recipe goes well with new potatoes. Enjoy!

Here's what you need, and how you do it:
  • Serves 4
  • Ready in 20 minutes
4 fillets salmon , look for
organically farmed or wild Alaskan
50g fresh white breadcrumbs
2 tbsp chopped parsley
½ lime , juiced
olive oil
40g Parmesan

1. Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Season and put the
salmon fillets on a lightly buttered non-stick baking tray.

2. Whizz the breadcrumbs, parsley, lime juice, 1 tbsp oil and
Parmesan in a food processor. Cover the salmon with the
breadcrumb mixture and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes
until the salmon is cooked through and the breadcrumbs
golden. Serve with salad or new potatoes.

Elle :) x


We Fuelled the night!!

The last event in what has been a Nike Weekender was the first ever Nike+ FuelFest which landed at Battersea Power Station shrouded in secrecy and exclusivity! And THIS is how it went down...

Nike+ FuelFest Invite

How did they choose who to invite? Nike said in their email -
"We wanted to do something special for the people in the UK who have the same sort of passion for sport as we have. This might have been displayed through one of our Facebook communities, by attending Nike+ Run Clubs, or simply by shouting about it online."
Battersea Power Station

So, all registered and not in workout gear for the first time this weekend I headed on over to South West London hyped and ready to go! Upon entry, we collected our Fuel Bands (which we got sized up for during the week) and headed down the tunnel and into the main space ready to fuel the night!

The main stage

I grabbed a perfectly chilled glass of white wine, some food, and had a walk around to check out what was going on! At the end of the marquee was the stage with screens displaying a count down. The competition was located at the opposite end, where you could trial the new Lunar Hyperworkout+ training shoes and earn a spot on the leader board. 

At the end of the big countdown, we were introduced to our host for the evening, Zane Lowe, who in turn introduced us to the first act of the evening, Magnetic Man. For those who like me have never before heard of Magnetic Man, they are an electronic music project consisting of dubstep producers and DJs. Magnetic Man got the evening off to a fantastic start and pretty much lifted the roof!

My Fuel Band

Things continued to heat up between the boys and the girls to see who were earning the most fuel points from their efforts (dancing) during the night! At this point in the evening, the guys were ahead by 10,000 points. But, they couldn't keep this lead when Tinie Tempah hit the stage to wrap up the evening! Check out Tinie Tempah in the video for the tune Earthquake with Labyrinth.

Getting close to the end of the evening, it was announced that the girls beat the guys gaining the most Fuel points during the evening and a prize given to the person who got THE top score of over 11k NikeFuel!!

So, thanks Nike for a great evening!

Elle :) x


The British 10k 2012 #MyMoments

The alarm clock went off at 6.30am this morning, reminding me I needed to be in London for 8am ready to run the Nike British 10k.

Top: my finishers medal. Bottom: the start line

By 9.30am we were amongst the crowds making our way to the start line ready to run 10k for the second time ever, first time in an official race.

We were kept entertained by Heather Small singing "Proud", and Reggie Yates on the decks until 10.05am when we crossed the start line!

It was a pretty flat course; the only thing really against us being the crowds of thousands and the rain! During the 5th and 6th kilometres the rain fell so hard I couldn't see for the water and salt from my sweat in my eyes! This wasn't helped by the fact that I wore non waterproof eyebrow pencil and mascara!! Don't ask me what I was thinking!

For me, the final kilometre was the most difficult. By this time my legs were holding me back, but my mind was strong and my cardiovascular system was capable. However, turning the corner and seeing the finish line is enough to motivate you for the final push to the end! Saving some energy to pose for the cameras at the finish line too!!

At the finish line!

We finished the race in a respectable 1:05:52 and I'm very proud of Alicia and I for this! Thanks to everyone who cheered me on via Facebook, twitter, Nike+ and the British 10k app!

We are off to celebrate at the Nike Fuel Fest this evening; an exclusive event being held at Battersea Power station with Tinie Tempah headlining!

As they say... no rest for the wicked ;)

Elle :) x


NTC Live Festival 07.07.12 ...EPIC day!

So it is almost 9pm on July 7th and I am in bed resting my very weary muscles after one of the most enjoyable days I've had this year!!

Today I worked at the first ever NTC Live Festival held in the Old Billingsgate Market, EC2 London. I arrived at 9.15am for my briefing with Marie And Sonja (Nike Master Trainers) as a trainer at the event for the day.

We were given a tour of the venue for most of which my jaw was on the ground, stunned with excitement! Everything you could possibly want was there waiting for all the girls who worked their butt off to win their golden ticket! ...massage, wah nails, nutrition talks, food from crussh, highland spring water and ever flowing vita coco!!

The main stage before everyone's arrival
We kicked the day off with a NTC class; in fact it was one of the most intense classes I've ever done but made exciting by all the new moves thrown in by Sonja! You know she has been working on her own workout for the app?! Well, if today is anything to go by it is gonna be immense!

A second NTC class followed but not before a lovely yoga class taught by Leah Kim.

Three lucky ladies also bagged themselves a pair of the hottest training shoes out there right now - Nike Lunar Hyperworkout+ -by landing top of the leaderboard in a contest using the shoes and their app.

The day was wrapped up with a set from Katy B. Some awesome songs, with some awesome beats! Almost made me want to go out tonight (until the aching feet reminded me we need to run 10k in the morning!)

Me, before the 2 NTC workouts in outfit #1 of 3! oh, the sweat!
I've come home feeling much like a broken woman yet feeling very satisfied, and proud. As for anyone who attended and participated today it was a huge achievement!

Here's a video if the day:

I'm sending all the girls today a virtual high ten!

Before I go, you need to know that I got my hands on a pair of the Nike Lunar Hyperworkout+ trainers today! Cannot explain how excited I am; I will obviously be reviewing them here on keep it simpelle real soon!

Nike Lunar Hyperworkout+ review coming soon

Before that, I have the British 10k to complete tomorrow morning, and the Nike Fuel Festival tomorrow evening!

So stay tuned...

Elle :)


What I do...

So you know a little bit about me, I thought I'd start by explaining what I do!

I work full time as Academy Development Officer at London South Bank University. It is a sport development role where I manage the Elite Athlete Scheme, work closely with our Operational team as well as oversee the Sports Ambassador Scheme and Student Sport from afar.

I started teaching Nike Training Club (NTC) classes here at LSBU late 2010. From there, I became more and more involved with the Nike Women's Training team.

Currently I teach NTC classes on Tuesday evenings at the Nike Store in Westfield London (6.30pm) and Thursday evenings at the Nike Store in Westfield Stratford (6.30pm) in addition to my University class which is also on a Thursday (1pm).
The women in my Westfield London class always #makeitcount

Although all this keeps me fit, I still like to workout for myself! I try to enjoy running, bikram yoga and Pilates as often as possible, as well a using my Wii Fit to do Zumba and other sports in the comfort of my own living room!

To find out a little bit more about me and how you can connect with me, click here!

Elle ;) x
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