Learn to sleep better

Rather than fitness, this month, our Facebook group is talking about sleep.  Seriously !!!  I know, I know.  You’re already thinking that all you need to do is lie down, close your eyes and it just happens.  Or does it ?

We’d probably all understand that getting a good nights sleep is a great way to recharge and improve our mental state, but what if I were tell you it can also affect your daytime energy, productivity, emotional balance, and even your weight ?  Well ladies, I’m here today to tell you that’s EXACTLY what it can do !!! Sleep is an ESSENTIAL part of your fitness regime.  So if you’re serious about getting into shape, sleeping and resting should be a core part of your routines.

Ready ? Set………….  Lets errrrr, sleep !!!

Tip one – Feel the Rhythm

circadian rhythmGetting in sync with your natural sleep-wake cycle (or circadian rhythm to use its scientific name), is a really important part of sleeping better.   A regular sleep wake cycle will result in you awaking more refreshed and energized than if you sleep the same number of hours at different times, even if you only alter your sleep schedule by an hour or two.
Try to go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This helps set your body’s internal clock and optimize the quality of your sleep. Strange as it seems, If you need an alarm clock, you may need an earlier bedtime !  And lastly, I know its soooo hard, but try to avoid sleeping in, even on those lazy weekends it feels you deserve after the week from hell in the office !

Tip two – Control your exposure to light !

sleep
A light box can be a great way to increase your sunlight intake

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone controlled by light exposure that helps regulate your sleep-wake cycle.  Your brain secretes more melatonin when it’s dark—making you sleepy—and less when it’s light—making you more alert. However, many aspects of modern life can alter your body’s production of melatonin and shift your circadian rhythm.
In the morning, try to expose yourself to as much natural bright sunlight as you can. The closer to the time you get up, the better.  The light on your face will help you wake up
Spend more time outside during daylight. Take your work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk your dog during the day instead of at night.

 

At night, we want all the opposite things.  So…… Avoid bright screens within 1-2 hours of your bedtime. The blue light emitted by your phone, tablet, computer, or TV is especially disruptive. You can minimize the impact by using devices with smaller screens or simply turning the brightness down.  Say no to late-night television. Not only does the light from a TV suppress melatonin, but many programs are stimulating rather than relaxing. Try listening to music or audio books instead.
Don’t read with backlit devices. Tablets that are backlit are more disruptive than e-readers that don’t have their own light source.
When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. Use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask. Also consider covering up electronics that emit light.

Tip Three – Food can make a difference !

Breakfast 1
Repeat after me – healthy food, nomnomnomnom !!!

Your daytime eating habits play a role in how well you sleep, especially in the hours before bedtime.  WE want to avoid big meals at night (after 20:00 really). Try to make dinnertime earlier in the evening, and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of bed. Spicy or acidic foods can cause stomach trouble and heartburn.
You also should be trying to avoid drinking alcohol before bed. While a nightcap may help you relax, it interferes with your sleep cycle once you’re out. On the subject of drinking, you should try not to drink too much in the evening as, well, you know.  Lots of trips to the bathroom, nobody wants that !!
Cut back on sugary foods and refined carbs. Eating lots of sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta during the day can trigger wakefulness at night and pull you out of the deep, restorative stages of sleep.

 

Tip Four – Wind down and clear your head !

medtationDo you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well.
If anxiety or chronic worrying dominates your thoughts at night, there are steps you can take to learn how to stop worrying and look at life from a more positive perspective. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime.
If the stress of work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you may need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night.
The more overstimulated your brain becomes during the day, the harder it can be slow down and unwind at night. During the day, many of us overstress our brains by constantly interrupting tasks to check our phones, emails, or social media. Try to set aside specific times for these things, and focus on one task at a time. When it comes to getting to sleep at night, your brain won’t be accustomed to seeking fresh stimulation and you’ll be better able to unwind.

Tip Five – Improve your sleep environment

 

Sleeping
Do you love your bed THIS much ?

A peaceful bedtime routine sends a powerful signal to your brain that it’s time to wind down and let go of the day’s stresses. Sometimes even small changes to your environment can make a big difference to your quality of sleep.

 

  • Keep your room dark, cool, and quiet  18 Celsius is just about perfect for a great nights sleep.  Any higher than about 22 Celsius and you’re going to find it difficult to nod off.
  • Keep noise down. If you can’t avoid or eliminate noise from neighbours, traffic, or other people in your household, try masking it with a fan or sound machine. Earplugs may also help.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable. Your bed covers should leave you enough room to stretch and turn comfortably without becoming tangled. If you often wake up with a sore back or an aching neck, you may need to experiment with different levels of mattress firmness, foam toppers, and pillows that provide more or less support.
  • Reserve your bed for sleeping and sex (Yummy !) . By not working, watching TV, or using your computer in bed, your brain will associate the bedroom with just sleep and sex and make it easier to wind down at night.

That’s a few of my favourite tips for getting to sleep – what’s your favourite ?  Don’t be shy, let me know !

Madds x

transgirlfitness 4

 

Breast Massage

In my earlier blog, I wrote a little about how a few simple exercises could be beneficial for toning the pectoral muscles underneath the breast tissue area, which can help improve the general toning and provide some enlargement too.

In addition to these exercises, another technique you can practice is to massage and check your  breasts.  Besides having a beneficial effect on breast growth, self examination of your breasts is an important habit to get into for all women, including transgender women at every stage of their transition.

Why does massage help ?  Well, your breasts are largely composed of fatty tissues and adipose fats, each of which respond very well to massage. By massaging your breasts, you stimulate the supporting tissues and the lymph circulation.  Each of which has a positive effect on the firmness and shape.  It also triggers a healthy hormonal response, increasing the levels of oxytocin, which can be a very effective method to increase breast size.

Done regularly, you’ll notice that your breasts will develop and become more toned and have an improved appearance, which can help improve your self confidence.

How to do it

Massage using very firm pressure using circular, inward & upward strokes for 5-10 min once or twice daily.

  1. Apply some massage oil or breast cream on your breasts. This is to help reduce the unpleasant feeling due to fiction. Oils and creams will make you feel more comfortable while massaging.
  2. Start massaging from the centre of your breasts, use a firm pressure with your palms. Follow the contours of the breasts from inwards to outwards. Ensure your hands are moving from the outside of your body towards the middle in a circular motion. Repeat about 25 times.
  3. Using alternate hand movements, sweep from the underarms area upwards & inwards towards the front. Again, repeat this about 25 times.
  4. Use both hands lifting the breast upwards with firm support, for another 25 times.
  5. Repeat step 2, with lighter strokes and without pushing the bust inwards.
  6. Repeat for your other breast.

For best results, work directly on the breast tissue, rather than through the fabric of a blouse or bra. Use a pressure that feels comfortable and take your time, working the area slowly. You can use this technique laying down or standing up, but use a gentle lotion to get the best effect.
One last thing I want to emphasise while you’re doing this, which is very important ! While you’re doing this, check your breast tissue for any signs of abnormalities, like redness, soreness or lumps. I’m sure that you don’t need me to tell you that this is for signs of cancer or other serious illness, so I’ll just stick with encouraging you to get into the regular habit of doing it. Please !

Love and strength

Madds

 

Indoor workouts for Transgender women

Joanna popped me an email earlier this week to ask if I could come up with an indoor workout for Transgender women, who maybe aren’t able to, or maybe lack the confidence to exercise in the gym, with the peer pressure that can come with it.  Well, what girl could say no to an offer like that ? So after a bit of research about their needs, I managed to come up with this simple routine which allows you to sculpt and shape your body fat to give you a more feminine image.

What you’ll need

  • Stability Ball
  • 3 pairs of small dumbell weights – I’d suggest a 2.5, 4 and 6 kg sets if you’re a beginner and maybe a 4, 6 and 8 kg if you’re a little more experienced.  We don’t want to build up muscle mass, we just need something to give us a good core, for our posture and curvy bits in all the right places eh ?
  • Some ordinary common household furniture.  (more of that later……..)

(1) Elevated Squats

squats

Elevated squats (sometimes called Bulgarian squats) are a great exercise to do in a home workout and have some really positive benefits.

  • Enhances hip flexibility.
  • Its a good fat burner.
  • You can increase weight without making the back compress.
  • Builds and develops your abs and core.
  • Improves posture

 

How to do it

Referring to Picture (A) Extend your left leg back, placing toes on top of a normal height chair  while standing a few feet in front of it with the right leg (you don’t want to use a sofa here because its too soft to push against). Dip down into a lunge, keeping the right knee in line with your heel, until the thigh is parallel to the floor.  Referring to Picture (B) Hold this position and then slowly push up with the left leg to return to an upright position.  Repeat five times.    As you get more used to it, you can add difficulty to the exercise by adding more repetitions (reps) and by holding a dumbbell weight in each hand when you are dipping.

(2) Standing shoulder press

shoulder push
The Standing Shoulder Push

Although you can also do this exercise sitting down (which allows you to press more weight) my personal belief is that its better for transgender women to do it standing up.  My reasons for this are that, you don’t want to increase your muscle mass or bicep measurements, (So there’s no need to add weight) you want to reduce fat and sculpt your body shape.

 

Also doing the exercise standing upright allows you to improve your core stability, which will help with your posture, which is particularly important when waling in heels ! (Am I right girls ?)

How to do it

Referring to Picture (A) While standing with your legs ahip width apart take a  2.5kg dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height.  then bend your knees and dip into as deep a squat as you can/  The key here is to keep your knees in line with your heels and toes. Referring to picture (B) on the way back to standing, press the arm holding the dumbbell straight up into the air over head.  Repeat 5 times.  Unlike last time, where you could add more weight to the exercise, I wouldn’t personally add more, certainly don’t lift more than the 4kg one, just do more reps !

(3) One leg (Romanian) dead lifts 

dead lift
The one legged dead lift

This is a great exercise for improving your balance and strengthening your hamstrings and gluteals (the posterior chain of muscles) If you get  have difficulty balancing, place a hand against a wall to steady you for the first two times you try this exercise and get your confidence.  Once you have got your confidence, you can then try lifting small weights.  (Remember,, we are not trying to build up muscle mass, just tone and sculpt our figures and help the HRT balance our fat correctly.

How to do it

Referring to Picture (A) To start with . stand with your legs a hip width apart with either the 2.5kg or 4kg dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Bend forward from the waist while allowing the hands to flow freely towards the floor. Meanwhile, lift one leg off the floor until it is in line with your torso, eventually coming parallel to the floor, as shown in Picture (B).  Move back to regular standing position. Continue with the same leg and then switch legs.  Repeat 5 times for each leg and build up the repetitions as you get more comfortable.

(4) Stability ball press

exercise ball press
Stability ball press

This is our first exercise that will use the ball and if you’re not comfortable with your balance and core strength, it’s a tricky one !!!

 

To start with I recommend that you try this without weights, just to make sure you get your balance sorted an used to how the ball moves.  The last thing you want is to be wobbling about with weights coming crashing towards you !!

 

How to do it

Referring to Picture (A), start by sitting against the ball with your knees slightly raised.  Then holding your back against the ball push up with your legs and allow your back to roll across the ball, so that you are in the position indicated in (A)  Then, if you can, hold a 3.5 kg or 4kg dumbbell in each hand and starting with them at your shoulder level, as shown in Picture (B) press straight up towards the ceiling and bring back to starting position.  Repeat 5 times.

(5) One Arm Rows

arm
One Arm Rows

One arm rows are a great exercise for improving stability and reducing arm fat.  Remember, these exercises aren’t about how much weight you can lift, rather, its about toning your body, improving your core and shaping what you already have.

 

One arm (or one leg) exercises are great for working on a particular muscle set and this one in particular is great for improving your stability muscles , which reduce the chance of injury and improve posture.

 

 

How to do it

Referring to picture (A) start as if you are preparing to do a press-up.  Place your dominant hand (the one you wrote with) on the ground and using your other hand, grip a 2.5kg dumbbell.  Pull the dumbbell up to your side and release back down. Repeat five times !

(6) Sit-ups (or pop up abs)

situp
Sit ups (or pop ups)

I’m going to finish up this routine with a variation on an oldie but a goodie, the common sit-up !!!  Some people refer to this variation as a “Pop up ab” but I’m more of a traditionalist at heart.  The variation is, that instead of just holding your legs flat as you raise your torso, I want you to raise your knees too !!!

 

Whatever you call it though, this is a great, underestimated exercise that really works both ends of your abs making them great for shedding middle age spread, that a lot of girls can suffer with.

How to do them

Nice and simple this one – just lay on the floor as Picture (A) and then slowly raise your torso and knees to your middle as shown in Picture (B)  Ideally you want to get your heels as close to your bum as you can.  Repeat this five times !!

And there you go, a nice simple routine for you to do in the comfort of your own home.  I’ll follow up a little later with a couple of other routines I would like you to do based on yoga and Tai Chi a little later, as well as some details of essential kit for you to keep at home and some explanation of some of the technical terms that we’ll be using in our chats later.

If you’re looking for some guidance as to how many reps and sets you should do I would personally suggest

  • Novice             1 set of five reps
  • Beginner         2 sets of five reps
  • Intermediate  3 sets of five reps
  • Advanced        4 sets of five reps

In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you think from this simple routine.  Is it what you are looking for ?  How are you doing ?

Madds