GET A FLAT TUMMY effortlessly
Power up your fitness regime with these training tips that will help kick things up a notch and get you that taut tummy fast
You’re diligently turning up for your Pilates class or heading out for regular runs, but aren’t quite getting the results you want or the fitness boost you’d like. Maybe it’s time to give your workout a shake-up with one of these tricks from PTs.
1 BOOST YOUR TRAINING
• Ask someone to film you running. Look at it in slow motion and check which part of your foot hits the ground first. “Landing on your forefoot is the most efficient way to run and improves performance,” says running coach and elite endurance runner Matty Abel. If you’re landing heel first, adjust your stride so the ball of your foot hits the ground first. If you can’t get the hang of it, a session with a running coach can help your technique.
• Count your strides. You should be aiming to take 30 to 37 every 10 seconds. “No matter how fast they run, the best runners have a cadence (leg turnover) of 180 to 200 strides a minute,” says trainer Kylie Edwards. “Most runners need to shorten their stride to reach this – shortening your stride makes you more efficient and reduces stress on the hamstrings.”
• See some sky. “Looking down while running is bad for posture but, more importantly, it impinges on your breathing,” says Marie Bean. “Lift your eyes higher and you open up your face, mouth, nose and windpipe. The easiest way to do this is aim to look at high landmarks like the sky, trees or bridges as you run, and if you’re running behind someone, look over their head, not at their back or shoes.”
• Leave all your apps and trackers at home. “Tracking your runs every time can cause you to lose the joy of running,” says Kylie. “Once in a while, just go out and run as you feel and cover the distance you want to. Doing that every now and again reminds you that running feels good, which then improves your performance.”
2 GET MORE FROM PILATES
• Focus on the last 5 per cent of any move. “This is normally the most important part of any Pilates move but often we spend the least amount of time on it – focus right to the end of every movement,” says Kylie. “Also, carefully control any change in direction – don’t use momentum to help you move.”
• Buy some Pilates socks. “These look like regular socks but have a grippy sole,” says Pilates trainer Kris Etheridge. “They stop you slipping when doing moves or using equipment like the Reformer. This allows you to effectively do more daring exercises without feeling like you might slip and hurt yourself.” Non-slip socks can be purchased online and at most studios that offer yoga and Pilates classes.
• Lengthen the spine. “Too often we focus just on what our arms and legs are doing and take our focus off lengthening the spine but this activates the multifidus muscles between each vertebrae, helping further improve posture, strength and balance,” says Kylie.
• Rest. “People often forget that Pilates is a muscle-strengthening exercise – and that muscles build when we rest them, not as we work them,” says physiotherapist Michael Dermansky. “Take a day’s break between classes and feel the difference.”
3 WHAT TO EAT TO LOSE BELLY FAT
• Weight loss occurs across the body when following a weightloss nutritional and exercise plan, but there are some dietary and lifestyle approaches that may help enhance more abdominal fat loss, such as including green tea (up to 6 cups), reducing sugar, eating smaller meals and more slowly, learning to breath correctly and practising mindfulness and stress management.
• “Excess energy, high sugar, refined carbohydrates, high saturated fat, excess alcohol and excess food can contribute to expanding waist lines and therefore abdominal fat,” tells dietitian, Georgie Rist. “Plus, poor gut health can contribute to weight gain and inflammation which can interfere with fat loss. An unhealthy gut can also cause bloating which may play a role in perceived high belly fat. High salt intake and stress can also cause bloating and expanding waistbands.”
• Gut health is obviously important for a flat tummy, but less obviously, so is our mental health. Many people don’t realise the effects that stress has on belly fat, and by reducing our stress levels we may be able to kick-start our road to flatter tummy.
• When your stress levels are high your body produces more of the hormone cortisol, which makes the body resist weight loss. Stress makes your body think you’re in danger and you might starve, so you hang on to the calories you consume like a squirrel storing nuts for winter.
• “Learn how to switch off and implement stress management strategies, such as meditation, yoga or whatever that is relaxing to switch off your stress hormone, cortisol,” suggests Georgie. “Stress triggers our fight or flight response and is useful when running from tigers in the wild but obviously we don't do that much. Cortisol can also be your enemy when raised long term and when coupled with an unhealthy diet and lifestyle, plays havoc on your health and waist line.”
4 BUILD UP YOUR STRENGTH TRAINING
• Do some jumping moves before you start. Your muscles rely on electricity to move – the power is controlled by the central nervous system and jumping moves switch this on. “This helps light up your muscles for the rest of the session, allowing you to lift heavier weights and get more from your workout,” says strength and conditioning coach Rob Jackson.
• Do weights before cardio. This has a double effect, explains personal trainer Tom Fitzgerald. Not only will you be able to lift more as your muscles aren’t tired, but high-intensity resistance training stimulates hormones that mobilise fatty acids into the blood, he says. “You then burn these for fuel during your cardio training, powering this up as well.”
• Lift the heaviest weights you can. “Heavy weights will not make you bulky,” says strength coach Joseph Agresta. “Warm up with lighter weights, then pick a weight that measures seven out of 10. Now aim to do four to eight reps with that weight. If at the end you couldn’t manage to lift any more, that weight is spot on for getting results for you.”