Training & Recruitment

Exercise Early or Late? When Is The Best Time to Workout?

by Adriana Albritton
Best time to workout: Exercise isn’t optional. It’s not only good for aerobic conditioning, muscle strength, and athletic performance but it improves your blood glucose levels, as well as your respiratory, cardiovascular, joint, and emotional health. Yet many people wonder when is the best time to work out to get the most benefits out of it. We are all unique and different. We have different genes, predispositions, lifestyles, and goals. Therefore, there is not a specific time that is the most beneficial for everyone.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the factors to consider when scheduling your workouts, when exercise timing is irrelevant, what are the benefits of working out in the morning, and the pros of exercising in the afternoon or night.

Factors to Consider When Scheduling Workouts

There is not a time that works for everybody. So, you should keep in mind different factors when scheduling your workouts. Take into consideration your availability and identify your body’s internal clock. Think about the following questions and be honest with yourself: are you a morning person or is your energy level higher in the afternoon? When does working out feel better for you? When is the best time in which you can realistically exercise?

When Exercise Timing is Irrelevant

Sometimes the time of the day in which you exercise doesn’t matter. If you have a condition, exercise training should be a regular component of your healing protocol. But if you are dealing with a health condition or not, the best time to work out is the time in which you are actually gonna do it.
  • Exercise is beneficial for everyone and, many times, the time of the day doesn’t play a significant role. Research has shown that exercise plays an important role in the prevention of many diseases, the promotion of healthy longevity, and the treatment of conditions such as depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease among others.
  • If you have cardiovascular issues, you benefit equally from exercising in the morning and in the afternoon.
  • Exercise timing doesn’t seem to have a great impact on general fitness performance. Studies show that performance and VO2max (the maximum capacity of the body to take in, transport, and use oxygen during exercise – this reflects cardiorespiratory fitness) don’t seem to be significantly affected by the time of the workout (AM vs.PM).
  • The time in which you exercise doesn’t appear to affect food consumption either. Studies show that morning exercise can have an effect on satiety levels (feeling full) in comparison with afternoon exercise but appetite and food intake are not affected by different workout times.
  • Exercise timing doesn’t seem relevant for people with asthma. A study compared the effects of regular asthma treatment (asthma medication and education) along with supplementary physical training at different times in asthmatic children. Children were divided into a morning exercise group, an afternoon exercise group, and a group with no exercise. Children in the training program showed improvements at many levels (respiratory muscle strength, resting heart rate, running distance, and sit-up performance) in comparison with the children who didn’t exercise. However, there were no significant differences between those exercising in the morning compared to the afternoon.
That being said, working out in the morning and working out in the latter part of the day have both unique advantages. Read on to identify what’s the best time of the day to exercise according to your specific circumstances. Learn all the benefits associated with working out in the morning and the pros of exercising in the afternoon.

Benefits of Morning Exercise

The following are some reasons why you should exercise in the morning:
  • If you don’t necessarily love working out, it may be better to do it in the morning so you get it done. Many times, afternoon workouts get postponed or canceled because people prefer to engage in other activities more enticing to them.
  • If you have high blood pressure, you may want to work out in the morning. Moderate-intensity exercise early morning (7 a.m.) has shownto evoke optimal changes in blood pressure and improve sleep overall. Another study showed that post-exercise hypotension occurs at different times of day, but the systolic hypotensive effect and reductions of cardiac output are greater after morning exercise.
  • If you have sleep issues, you may want to work out in the morning. A studyshowed that morning exercise decreases the number of wake stages, helping improve nocturnal sleep quality.
  • If you want to feel energized and uplifted throughout the day, you may want to train in the morning. Exercise has a positive impact on your energy, confidence, and mood. So working out early can positively impact your day.
  • If you want to increase your activity levels during the day, working out in the morning can help. Research shows that exercising in the morning increases non-exercise physical activity throughout the day.
  • If you are a teenager or have adolescents, morning exercise has great effects on them. Research has shown that early workouts are great for their body but also help improve cognitive function during school.
  • If you have a sporting event or want to enhance exercise performance in the afternoon, you may want to engage in low-intensity exercise in the morning. Astudy showed that doing low-intensity cardio in the morning produced higher physical fitness test scores and anaerobic power in the afternoon.

Pros of Working Out Latter in the Day

The following are some reasons why you should workout in the afternoon or night:
  • If you want to release some stress from your day, you may want to exercise in the latter part of the day. Research shows that working out improves the way your body handles stress by affecting hormonal responses and neurotransmitters (dopamine and serotonin) that influence mood and behavior. Exercise, also, serves as a break from stressors and provides a calming effect.
  • If you have issues with stiffness or conditions like arthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid, or osteoarthritis, you may want to work out in the evening. Studiesshow that evening exercise decreases stiffness and increases mobility the following day.
  • If you have type 2 diabetes, you may benefit from exercising in the afternoon. Astudy showed that high-intensity interval training was more efficacious than morning HIIT at improving blood glucose in those with type 2 diabetes. Anotherstudy showed that blood glucose rose during fasted morning resistance training, whereas it declined with the same afternoon workout. Hyperglycemia and blood glucose concentration were also more frequent and higher after fasted morning exercise than after afternoon sessions.
  • If you feel very overheated when working out, you may want to exercise in the afternoon because the body’s ability to remove heat load is higher in the late afternoon. Research shows that, compared to morning sessions, skin blood flow is higher and body-temperature-increments during exercise are lower during afternoon sessions.
  • If you play basketball, you may want to do your strength and conditioning training in the afternoon. A study showed that basketball players had better performance (jump height & power), and reported better sleep duration when engaging in training in the afternoon versus in the morning.
Exercise helps you to avoid disease, live longer healthier, and maintain a positive state of mind. There is evidence to advocate exercise at different times of the day according to specific situations. In the big picture though, there are no humongous differences between morning and afternoon training. The main factor making a difference in your desired results is staying consistent with exercise. The best time to work out is the time of the day in which you are actually gonna get it done, whether you do it in the morning or in the afternoon.
To a Healthier Fitter You,
Adriana Albritton
The Fitness Wellness Mentor

Tips to Boost Growth Hormone

Being in the fitness and mental health field for years as a coach and mentor, I hear some people over forty complain about their discomfort with certain bodily changes. They complain about mood changes, a decline in energy, strength, muscle mass, sex drive, as well as their lower ability to burn fat as they used to. Those are issues that can’t be ignored. They are not only physically uncomfortable and bothersome symptoms but emotionally distressing. In actuality, these symptoms are associated with lower secretions of growth hormone (GH).
Below we’ll take a deeper look into growth hormone and cover the following topics:
  • What’s growth hormone?
  • Growth hormone deficiency
  • Benefits of growth hormone
  • Growth hormone-raising exercises
  • Supplements to raise growth hormone
  • Lifestyle tips that improve growth hormone levels
  • Foods that boost growth hormone

What Is Growth Hormone?

Growth hormone – GH (also known as human growth hormone -hGH- or somatotropin) is a peptide hormone made by the pituitary gland and secreted into the bloodstream. It stimulates growth, cell reproduction, cell regeneration, and overall human development. Additionally, GH is used for performance enhancement and as an anabolic agent.
GH influences other hormones as well. It stimulates the production of IGF-1 (Insulin-like growth factor 1 – a hormone similar to insulin involved in growth and anabolic states) and testosterone (this hormone helps increase muscle mass, fat loss, energy, strength, libido, and it’s involved in mood, cardiovascular / bone / brain health).

GH Deficiency

Unfortunately, hormone production declines over the course of the years. By age 55, growth hormone levels have declined one-third of what they used to be between the ages of 18 to 35. Some people experience growth hormone deficiency even younger, which brings a wide range of symptoms. Severe deficiencies can reduce people’s ability to function – both physical and psychological, deteriorating their quality of life.
Symptoms associated with GH deficiency:
  • Decreased muscle mass
  • Diminished strength
  • Increased body fat
  • Cholesterol abnormalities
  • Issues in the blood and circulation
  • Poor bone density
  • Low energy and stamina
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Lowers testosterone levels

Benefits of Growth Hormone

A recombinant form of hGH called somatropin is used as a prescription drug to treat children’s growth disorders, adult growth hormone deficiency, and growth hormone decline.
GH injections have several benefits:
  • Denser bones
  • Increases muscle mass
  • Helps burn more fat
  • Improves strength and power
  • Lower risks of heart disease
  • Increase positive feelings and sexual drive
  • Better ability to fight cell degeneration – important for antiaging and immunity

How to Increase Growth Hormone Levels Naturally

Fortunately, there are different ways in which you can increase growth hormone levels naturally as well. You can create huge metabolical changes by modifying your exercise routine, diet, and daily habits.

Growth Hormone-Raising Exercises

One of the greatest growth hormone boosters is exercise. Studies show that there is a linear relationship between the magnitude of the increase in GH release and exercise intensity. However, not all types of exercise affect your hormones equally. Research shows that endurance training /prolonged exercise, such as long-distance cardio, results in decreased resting GH, GH, and IGF-1 levels. Resistance training, on the other hand, results in significantly higher growth hormone stimulation.
Here are some of the protocols needed to elicit higher GH responses:
  • Weight training using short rest intervals, heavy loads, and exercise intensity above lactate threshold for a minimum of 10 minutes.
  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIITT): In this exercise strategy, you alternate between short periods of intense activity with periods of recovery – 2:1 ratio of work (30-40 seconds) to recovery (15-20 seconds) is the most common.
Higher intensity exercise and strength training are not only beneficial for your health and training outcomes but they help reduce the impact of aging. Just be mindful not to overtrain in order to avoid affecting GH negatively.

Supplements that Help Raise Growth Hormone

Supplementation can aid to raise GH levels. The following are some of the supplements associated with higher GH release:
VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is essential for proper cell replication, immunity system, mood, as well as for prostate, bone, joint, colon, and digestive support. Additionally, research shows that Vitamin D increases circulating IGF1, which as you learned, influences GH.
MELATONIN
Melatonin is a hormone that’s involved in sleep and blood pressure regulation. Additionally, studies have shown that melatonin supplementation increases basal GH release. You take 1–10 mg 30 minutes before bed, getting started with a lower dose.
ARGININE
Arginine helps to build protein, release nitric oxide in the blood, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar, and ease inflammation in the digestive tract. Additionally, arginine enhances exercise performance and boosts GH. A study showed that taking 1,500 mg of arginine significantly elevated GH during resting conditions.
GAMMA-AMINOBUTYRIC ACID (GABA) 
GABA is a non-protein amino acid that functions as a neurotransmitter. It has a calming effect on the brain and helps ease anxiety, stress, insomnia, and balance blood pressure. Research shows that ingesting GABA elevated resting and postexercise GH by about 400%.
BETA ALANINE
Beta-Alanine is a non-essential amino acid that can help increase muscle endurance and training volume, and reduce fatigue.
A study compared the effects of creatine and creatine plus beta-alanine on strength, power, body composition, testosterone, cortisol, growth hormone, and IGF-1. The group taking beta-alanine presented significantly greater improvements in strength, lean body mass, and body fat percentage.
CREATINE
Creatine is a natural supplement used to boost energy, athletic performance, and build muscle and strength. It can promote brain health and the stabilization of blood sugar. Research shows that 20 g of creatine enhances GH secretion.
 L-DOPA
L-Dopa (or levodopa) is an amino acid produced from the amino acid, L-tyrosine. It’s a precursor of dopamine that plays a role in epinephrine and norepinephrine and has even been used to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Besides increasing dopamine in the brain, research shows that L-dopa stimulates growth hormone secretion.
GLUTAMINE
Glutamine is the most abundant free amino acid in human blood and is used in the biosynthesis of proteins. It is crucial for your immune system, as it fuels white blood cells, and for intestinal health. Glutamine also contributes to gaining muscle and performing physically. Research shows that 2 grams help increase GH levels.
ORNITHINE
Ornithine is a nonprotein amino acid important for conditions that involve an excess of ammonia – liver conditions or prolonged exercise. It has an anti-fatigue effect and even helps with hangovers. Paired with arginine, ornithine helps improve lean mass and power output. Studies show that taking ornithine 30 minutes after strength training increases GH.

Lifestyle Habits that Improve Growth Hormone

SLEEP
One of the factors that promote the natural boost of GH is sleep. Growth hormone is secreted during the delta wave part of sleep and follows your circadian rhythm. It is recommended to get a good night’s sleep since most GH secretions are released by the brain into the bloodstream while you sleep. This is the time in which your body repairs itself.
STRESS
Another factor related to inadequate GH levels is stress. It has numerous negative effects. Stress not only has devastating effects on your emotional health but disrupts bodily functions and systems. Additionally, it affects the production of growth hormone and many others.
FASTING
Fasting, or refrain from eating, has huge benefits. It helps to lose weight, decrease inflammation (which is associated with chronic disease), improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and great for heart and brain health, as well as for longevity. Fasting has even produced great results in delaying tumor growth in animals. Furthermore, fasting enhances GH secretion.
HEALTHY HABITS BEFORE BEDTIME
Since sleep is directly related to GH, it’s wise to instill habits that facilitate deep sleep. Eating can spike insulin levels which disrupt sleep patterns as well as the release of GH. This is why you should avoiding food right before bedtime. At the same time, sleeping with the phone, computer, or TV on, and heavy alcohol/drug use disturb your sleeping cycles. Try to eat at least 2 hours before you go to sleep and turn off the electronics in your bedroom.

Foods that Boost Growth Hormone

Now that you understand the types of training that increase the release of GH into your system, it’s time to address your diet. The food you consume plays another vital role in your hormonal system. But it’s not only about what you consume, it’s also about what you remove from your diet. Read on to find out what foods stimulate growth hormone.
One of the compounds that negatively affect GH is sugar. The regular consumption of processed sugar, commercial sugary snacks, sugary drinks, and baking goods should be avoided because they increase blood sugar levels and decrease GH levels, facilitating fat storage. Additionally, try to avoid sugar post-workout and before sleeping so you can obtain the GH boost that exercise and sleep can give you.
WATER
Water is not a food but it’s an essential compound for survival. Hydration is necessary for proper hormone functioning.
COCONUT OIL
Coconut Oil is very unique since it contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), caprylic acid, lauric acid, and capric acid, which are easily converted to energy. Coconut oil has anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-fungal properties. Research shows that MCT increases circulating growth hormone.
RAW CACAO OR DARK CHOCOLATE
Cacao, unlike hot chocolate or a chocolate bar, comes directly from cold-pressed cacao beans and has no added sugar. It is high in healthy fats, magnesium, potassium, iron, and theobromine (a healthy stimulant like coffee). Cacao contains serotonin, phenylethylamine (a neurotransmitter known as “the love drug”), anandamide (a natural antidepressant), and tryptophan (which stimulates dopamine and HGH production). You can get cacao’s benefits by consuming dark chocolate, cacao powder (making a hot chocolate or adding it to smoothies), or cacao nibs (adding them to smoothies, oatmeal, or kefir).
ARGININE-RICH FOODS
Arginine is one of the amino acids that boost GH synthesis. Arginine-rich foods include dairy, red meat, eggs, chicken, turkey, seeds, nuts, legumes, and brown rice.
Whey Protein
Whey protein is made from whey – the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. Whey protein combined with resistance exercise has shown to have a significant effect on growth hormones and muscle strength.
Colostrum: This is the milk secreted during the first few days after a mammal is born. Colostrum contains not only nutrients like proteins, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals but also bioactive components like antimicrobial factors and growth factors, such as insulin-like growth factors I (IGF-I).  IGF-I can mimic most effects of GH and GH’s effects on skeletal muscle are mediated by IGF-I. Studiesshow that colostrum increases blood IGF-I concentration, positively affecting GH.
Raw Dairy
As you know whey and colostrum are dairy products high in nutrients. Other great dairy options that help boost HGH production are greek yogurt and kefir but you must consume high-quality clean sources to get all their benefits. Commercial milk processing (pasteurization, homogenization, and centrifugation) denatures bioactive proteins and RNA molecules and alters the bioavailability of fat-soluble components. It also contains antibiotics, pesticides, and synthetic growth hormones. On the other hand, raw milk is very nutritious because it has bioactive components, including whey proteins, transcription factors, immunoglobulins, omega-3 fats, and microRNAs. Raw milk consumption is associated with hormonal, gut, and lung health, and a lower incidence of asthma and allergic diseases. Check out a US listingof raw milk near you. If you can’t find raw dairy products, at least choose organic.
Grass-Fed Organic Beef
Beef is powerful, containing beneficial fatty acids (CLA- conjugated linoleic acid), iron, selenium, zinc, and vitamins B12, B3, B6, and E filthy. However, not all beef is the same. Conventional beef, unlike organic beef, contains harmful pesticides, genetic engineering (GMOs), bacteria, antibiotics, and the animals live in filthy confined factory farms and are fed corn and soy. Additionally, there is grass-fed and grass-finished beef. Grass-fed animals are fed grass most of the year but can receive supplemental grain feed while those with a grass-finished label graze on grass in the summer and alfalfa in the winter. The beef is 100% grass-fed, grass-finished, organic, and free-range beef.
Eggs
Eggs help provide the good cholesterol needed for hormone production. Eggs are also loaded with vitamins, amino acids, DHA, and EPA that help promote HGH secretion. It’s best to buy free-range organic eggs instead of conventional.
Algae
Various algae that you find in the ocean are consumable and highly nutritious. They help alkalize and detox your body, have anti-inflammatory properties, and high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and essential amino acids. These algae help amplify GH release as well. Some of the most powerful algae are spirulina, chlorella, or blue-green algae. These algae help amplify GH release.
Nuts
Nuts provide a boost of L-Arginine to stimulate HGH and testosterone secretion. They are very convenient and easy to incorporate into your diet.
Legumes
Legumes are a great plant-based source of protein, fiber, and arginine. Fava beans are rich in L-Dopa and a powerful options for increasing HGH levels.
MELATONIN-RICH FOODS
Foods rich in melatonin increase melatonin secretion at night. Melatonin helps you sleep longer and deeper which is associated with enhanced HGH production. Melatonin-rich foods can increase GH release by up to 157% and they include milk, eggs, fish, mustard seeds, tomatoes, nuts, grapes, tart berries, goji berries, pomegranates, watermelons, raspberries, and pineapples.
Goji Berries
Goji berries are at the top of the HGH-producing food list. Goji berries contain vitamins, 22 minerals, essential fatty acids, and 18 amino acids.
Watermelon
Watermelon is high in L-Citrulline amino, an amino acid that converts to Arginine and promotes GH.
Pineapples
Pineapple is not only high in melatonin. It’s a great source of serotonin – a feeling-good neurotransmitter that can relax you and help you sleep. Having some pineapple at night 30 – 60 minutes before bedtime can increase GH and testosterone production.
In the quest to get the benefits associated with growth hormone, you should take specific steps. Boost growth hormone levels by following the suggestions above. Integrating GH-enhancing workouts, the right foods and supplements, sleeping enough, fasting periodically, and dealing with stress adequately can elicit hormonal responses that raise GH. In this manner, you will be more apt to gain more muscle, lose fat, remain strong, have a healthy sex drive, be in better spirits, and experience more antiaging properties.
To a Fitter Healthier You
Adriana Albritton
The Fitness Wellness Mentor

It can take months of hard work to build up fitness, but while your strength can quickly fade if you stop exercising, you might not have to start from scratch again.

Getting in shape isn’t easy. But after all that hard work, how long do we actually maintain it? It turns out that even after the great effort we put into training, taking a bit of time off can mean that we become “unfit” much faster than it took us to actually get in shape.
To understand how the body becomes “unfit”, we first need to understand how we become fit. The key to becoming fitter – whether that’s improving cardiovascular fitness or muscular strength – is to exceed “habitual load”. This means doing more than our body is used to. The stress that this has on our body makes us adapt and become more tolerant, leading to higher fitness levels.
The time it takes to get fit depends on a number of factors, including a person’s fitness levels, age, how hard they work, and even the environment they exercise in – heat & pollution can affect the physiological response to exercise, for example. But some studies do indicate that even just six sessions of interval training  can lead to increases in maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max) – a measure of overall fitness – and improve how efficiently our body is able to fuel itself using the sugar stored in our cells during exercise.
For strength training, some gains in muscle force can be shown in as little as 2 weeks, but changes in muscle size won’t be seen until around eight-to-12 weeks.
Cardiovascular fitness
When we stop training, how quickly we lose fitness also depends on many factors – including the type of fitness we’re talking about (such as strength or cardiovascular fitness).
As an example, let’s look at a marathon runner, who is in peak athletic fitness and can run a marathon in two hours and 30 minutes. This person spends five to six days a week training, running a total of 90km (56 miles). They’ve also spent the last 15 years developing this level of fitness.
Now let’s say they stopped training completely. Because the body no longer has the stresses of training forcing it to stay fit, the runner will start to lose fitness within a few weeks.
Cardiorespiratory fitness – indicated by a person’s VO2 max (the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during exercise) – will decrease around 10% in the  first 4 weeks f after a person stops training. This rate of decline continues, but at a slower rate over longer periods.
If they stop exercising, runners begin losing their cardiac fitness within a few weeks (Credit: Getty Images)
Intriguingly, though highly trained athletes (like our marathon runner) see a sharp decline in VO2 max in the first four weeks, this decline eventually evens out, and they actually maintain a VO2 higher than average. But for the average person, VO2 max falls sharply, back to pre-training levels, in less than 8 weeks.
The reason VO2 max declines is due to reductions in blood and plasma volumes, which decrease by as much as 12% in the first 4 weeks after a person stops training. Plasma and blood volume decrease due to the  lack of stressl being put on our heart and muscles.
Plasma volume may even decrease by around 5% within the first 48 hours of stopping training. The effect of decreased blood and plasma volume leads to less blood being pumped around the body each heart beat. But these levels only drop to where they started – meaning they won’t get worse.

The number of muscle fibres used during exercise decreases by around 13% after just two weeks of no training

Of course, most of us aren’t marathon runners – but we’re also not immune to these effects. As soon as we stop exercising the body will start to lose these key cardiovascular adaptations at a very similar rate to highly trained athletes.
Strength training
When it comes to strength, evidence shows that in the average person, 12 weeks without training causes a significant decrease in the amount of weight we can lift. Thankfully, researchr shows that you maintain some of the strength you gained before you stopped training. What is intriguing is that despite the significant decrease in strength, there’s only a minimal decrease in the size of the muscle fibres.
The reason we lose muscle strength largely has to do with the fact that we’re no longer putting our muscles under stress. So when we’re no longer working our muscles hard, the muscles become “lazy”, leading the number of our muscle fibres to decrease, and fewer muscles being recruited during an activity – making us less able to lift the heavy loads we used to.
The number of muscle fibres used during exercise decreases by around 13% after just two weeks of no training – though this appears not to be accompanied by a decline in muscular force. This implies that the losses observed across the longer periods of detraining are a combination of both this initial decline in the number of muscle fibres we use, but also the slower decline in muscle mass.
The average gym goer who lifts weights would experience a drop in the size of their muscles and over time find it harder to lift heavy loads as they have fewer muscle fibres being recruited.
So, even after all that effort to get fit, we start losing cardiovascular fitness and strength within 48 hours of stopping. But we don’t start to feel these effects for at least two to three weeks for cardiovascular fitness and around six-to-10 weeks for strength. Rates of “de-training” are similar for men and women, and even for older athletes. But the fitter you are, the slower you’ll lose your gains.

Square off to one of our picks of the best punching bags and you’ll have a ringside seat for improved stamina, strength and endurance

Adding some boxing time into your training schedule with the help of a punching bag comes with plenty of benefits. If you don’t fancy stepping into the ring for some sparring action (we are just coming out of a pandemic, after all), setting up a punchbag at home means you’ll still be able to roll with the punches of Covid-19 and still get that one-two fix you so crave. Throwing on some gloves and wraps in order to fire off jabs, hooks and uppercuts to a punchbag helps to fine-tune those more technical skills in the ring, but it will also help build strength, deliver a hefty cardio blast, increase stamina levels and let you blow off steam all the while. But, alas, if you were of the impression that all punchbags were designed equal, you’d be wrong. Not only do different punchbags vary in terms of how it feels on impact with your fists, but also how it stays put when you strike it and even whether you can add some kickboxing into the mix. So, to avoid being sucker-punched by a bad investment, here’s our blow-by-blow account of what to look for… What should a punching bag be made of? The materials used to form the surface of the punchbag will drastically alter its feel on impact. One made from leather tends to be easier on the eye, but it will also be more durable and comfortable to strike. It’s a similar story for synthetic leather punchbags, only these tend to cost less. There are also bags made from plastic, usually filled with water, which provide a very different striking sensation. Canvas bags are also a durable option, but, again, feel different to hit compared to striking the surface of more commonly used leather or synthetic leather bags. What shape of punching bag is best? Bags come in several different styles, meaning you can pick the one that’s best suited to the kind of work you’re planning to do with it. The standard offers a consistent look from top to bottom and are built for basic punch work revolved around hooks and straights, either hung from a ceiling or free-standing. An angled bag narrows in the middle to make it more suited to uppercut work and combinations, while you’ll also find bags that more closely mimic being in front of another person to give you a more realistic target for when you’re ready to step into the ring. What are the best punching bags to buy? Decathlon Punch Bag 1/8 DECATHLON This ceiling-mounted burgundy bag is shaped to offer a more body-like target for jabs and straights, with the angled design making it well suited to an array of punching styles. It’s made from recycled fabric padding to reduce the post-punch carnage on your hands and is easily wiped down to clear away the sweaty signs of a tough workout. £99.99. decathlon.co.uk   Everlast 2/8 EVERLAST Everlast’s bag doesn’t need to be attached to the ceiling, letting you drop sand or water into the base so it stays put as you get to punching work. The Omniflex neck gives you a target that can absorb heavy hitting and you can adjust the height of the bag to make that target easier or more challenging to strike. £139.99. At Argos. argos.co.uk. At amazon.co.uk   Hatton heavy bag 3/8 HATTON This all-leather bag measures in at three foot and is built for heavy hitting. Hatton has filled it with a material it says is unique to its bags to make sure it can withstand big punches and kicks while keeping its shape over time. Coming with a six-hook chain to attach it to your ceiling, you shouldn’t have to worry about this one budging. £152. At bestgymequipment.co.uk   Mirafit 4/8 MIRAFIT Mirafit’s freestanding option has the look of a big battery, built with high rebound foam to absorb punches and PU leather to make sure it stays in good shape. The base can be filled with sand or water to keep the bag rooted to the spot and is one to step in front of to hone boxing skills or to aim kicks at for MMA work. £99.99. mirafit.co.uk. At amazon.co.uk Taurus Boxing Target Tree 5/8 TAURUS Instead of firing off shots at a traditional heavy bag, the Target Tree lets you work on punching precision and letting fly with more accuracy. All five of the strike zones can be adjusted and the base is the kind that you fill to make sure the tree doesn’t shake as you land a big combo. £599. At powerhouse-fitness.co.uk   Reebok Punch Bag 6/8 REEBOK Reebok’s five-foot punchbag is one to level your best shots at, built to soak up heavy strikes. Being made from leather, it’s especially satisfying to hit and should mean it holds up for years of training. Just be sure you have the space for it: this one you’ll need to hang from the ceiling or use the accompanying straps to hook it up to a boxing platform. £495.99. At sweatband.com   Body Power Striketube XL 7/8 BODY POWER The Striketube stands tall, at well over six foot, giving you a big target to rain punches down on to. Made from foam and PVC, it’s sure to soak up every punch you can throw, while the spring system and base is designed to make sure it won’t budge when you get to putting more power behind those punches. £449. At fitness-superstore.co.uk. At amazon.co.uk   MOST POPULAR FASHION Ten foolproof tricks to looking your best as a middle-aged man By Jeremy Langmead WATCHES The G-Shock ‘Blue Phoenix’ is a lot of watch for the money – quite literally By Simon de Burton GROOMING How to get a killer suntan without damaging your skin By Teo van den Broeke and Alexander Johnston Carbon Claw 8/8 CARBON CLAW Carbon Claw has been making solid boxing gear since the 1970s and this heavy bag is primed for uppercut work. The four foot tall option features a tough leather surface to ensure it’ll hold up with regular punching action. It also doubles up on stitching to make sure it stays strong even at the apex of your Rocky training montage. £334.99. At sweatband.com  

 

The UK’s fittest man’s eight steps to overcoming setbacks

Zack George wanted 2021’s CrossFit Open to be a glorious run all the way to the Games, but an injury put him out of action. Here, he talks GOM Magazine  through his setback and how you can overcome yours. Zack George is no stranger to a complication, but 2021’s CrossFit Games hopes were dashed by a very different enemy: after Covid cut numbers last year, this was supposed to be the year the UK’s fittest man hit the world stage. Instead, he had to pull out because of an injury. “I’ve been training for a year and a half for this,” he told GOMM from his home, a few weeks after pulling out of this year’s Open. “I felt great the whole training season for the last year. Then a couple of weeks before leading up to it, I was getting a little niggle in my hip flexor.” He rolled with it and pushed through – “probably ignoring the signs” – but after a few of the Open workouts it really hit. “There was a lot of squatting in the third workout and it basically just gave way. There was this massive shooting pain down my leg from the hip to my knee. And from then on I wasn’t able to squat.” He fought through a few more but, faced with a workout that contained 180 pistol squats, front squats and more besides, he finally had to pull out. “I think I had four days of just sulking on my sofa, watching movies, eating about eight chocolate bars a day.” It’s very easy, especially as men, to feel like failure needs to be pushed aside and proactivity used as a remedy. But George wants to remind you that wallowing is a vital part of hitting a wall. “It’s a process that’s important for your body to go through, physically and mentally, because if you try to bounce back the next day and start setting goals, it’s going to catch up with you at some point.” Whether your setback requires a physical rehabilitation like his, or some other recalibration, we need to get better at combining a sulk with a new game plan. Hell, if Zack George can sit on his own and eat junk food for four days, shouldn’t we all cut ourselves a little bit more slack? As he recovers from his latest knock-back, we asked George, in his own words, to take us through his advice for picking yourself up and dusting yourself off. Everyone’s character is different, so they deal with setbacks in different ways. But I think there are some pretty common themes in what people go through in the process of coming back. It’s a very manly thing to just keep on trudging forward and not let anything affect you. For me, I’ve never been ashamed to just say, “I’m not OK. I just need four days of not talking. I’ll be fine after those days, but just during this time I just need to be on my own.” I need to wallow and I need to sulk for a couple of days. I think if more people openly admitted they’re not OK and that they need some time, the process would be so much more beneficial. People would come back from setbacks a lot stronger. What this looks like is different for everyone. For me it was sitting in on my own, not speaking to anyone and just eating rubbish. Whereas for someone else, they might love being surrounded by people. You’ve got to recognise what sort of person you are and how you go through that stage. My girlfriend, Sam, if she went through a setback? She would hate being on her own. She’d want her family around her and want to be talking to people constantly. You might want that one best friend, might go out and go shopping, but just find what your thing is to make you feel better and allow yourself just to sulk and just not be OK for those couple of days. Then know that it’s not going to last forever and don’t fall into the trap of making those couple of days last for weeks and months. I find it really beneficial to set a timeframe on it. Allow yourself three days, whatever it is, just to do that activity that is going to make you feel better. But after that timeframe, get right back into setting goals and a positive attitude. Be vulnerable I had to really push myself to openly speak about it and not just shut down the conversation and say I’m fine. When I’m going through a setback, I tend to just go within and just want to be on my own. I came off my phone and didn’t go on social media. It’s hard, because you have so many people who want to speak to you, but I needed to be on my own. But then you just fester in your own thoughts. You’ve got to hold back that natural urge to just say, “Oh, no, I’m fine.” You’re just holding it in. I had to openly push myself to talk about it and say “Yeah, it’s been really tough, but now I feel good.” I spoke to a lot of people about it. Having lots of other people around you to implement different ideas made me feel really good: everyone’s there to help you and everyone’s there to see you get through that setback. After speaking to them I was ready to get back with my team and start goal setting for the rest of the year, start getting a plan in place for rehab. Identify what went wrong Injuries are so common; it’s always going to happen to some people at some stage in their life. That’s just what happens when you train. You’ve got to make sure that you are looking after your body in the best way possible so that you can carry on training injury-free. Speak to a specialist in that field, find out what went wrong, what caused it and what you can do to prevent this happening again. If it’s physical, a lot of injuries occur due to muscle imbalances, not warming up correctly or lifting too much weight. So first we’ve got to identify what caused the issue. If it’s about overtraining, identify that and then once you’re fully recovered, make sure that doesn’t happen again. If it’s a muscle imbalance, your injury might have always been destined to occur because of the way you lift, or because you might train your chest too much and that means your back muscles are really weak. You’ve got to identify the reason for the injury and make sure you are changing your training in the future so that doesn’t occur again. Once you’ve identified that, make sure you’re doing the right rehab exercises so you can get back towards training. Train around your injury If you get an injury, a lot of people’s default reaction is “oh, I’m out of training now”. But you’ve got to be willing to change your training programme – speak to the experts and learn how you can train around that injury. For me, I’ve got this hip injury, so I can’t do many squat movements. But there are so many other movements I can do and so many other weaknesses I can work on, which will allow me to be a better athlete when I come back, even though I couldn’t squat for eight weeks. An injury might be an opportunity to work on weaknesses that you’ve always put off, because you don’t like doing them, and now you can dedicate the time towards them. Tell people if you’re injured Some men think that it’s a weakness if you’ve got an injury. If an instructor asks, “Has anybody got any injuries in the class?” and you’re the only one who puts your hand up, a lot of people feel like they’re being a wimp letting the instructor know. MOST POPULAR CULTURE That’s not the case: you’re just being smart, you’re being realistic, you have an injury and you need to train around that. Injury is not a weakness or a sign of weakness, because everyone, including the top athletes in the world, gets injured. It’s just a thing that happens in life and you just need to break that barrier and stop thinking you’re a bit of a wuss. That’s not the case at all: you’re trying to improve your body and trying to improve yourself and you don’t want that injury to happen again. You shouldn’t be embarrassed about saying you have an injury. That mentality can save you months and years of repeated injuries. It’s OK to have bad days down the line After an injury, you’re going to have a couple of days of feeling sorry for yourself and then you’ll have a great couple of weeks of feeling really motivated. You’ll have good goals that you’ve set ahead, have a great couple of weeks, your rehab will be going really well. And then all of a sudden you try to push it a little bit too much and you feel like you’ve gone back a week. That often happens with injuries: you start to feel really good so you try and push a bit too much. And then you feel an injury again, when you just thought you’re getting on track. Those days are 100 per cent fine to have. You will have them, just like if you’re training at full capacity for a couple of months, you’re going to have days where you walk into a gym and you just don’t feel like training and the session was rubbish and you couldn’t lift near as much as you could lift the day before. It’s not that you’ve got weaker or more unfit, you’re just having one of those days where you’re just not on top form. MOST POPULAR You’ve got to be dedicated, but you’ve also got to be realistic and know that not every day is going to be a breeze. Just because you have a bad day doesn’t mean you turn that into a bad week. Just know that bad days are part of training. It’s part of the journey of achieving a fitness goal. When you have those, allow yourself to have those days. If you ignore them and push through it as hard as possible and not allow yourself to have that rest day when your body’s telling you you need it, that’s when I feel like those days can extend into weeks. Maybe step back the training or maybe have a rest day. Speak to the people around you and say, “Today’s not feeling too good.” Maybe speak to your physio and they can assess what you’ve done the last couple of days and figure out where you may be pushing too much. Take it back a little bit, push forward in a slightly different direction, and change the programme slightly. There’s more than one goal After you’ve had those days of sulking, you’ve got to sit down with your team and say, “The goal I was aiming for is no longer achievable.” You’ve missed your training window, you’ve missed certain competitions, you may have missed a deadline for work, but you’ve got to identify what went wrong. The goal has to change and you’ve got to let that sink in. It doesn’t mean you’re never going to achieve that goal, because you can always try again next year. For me? I’m going again next year, but I’ve had to identify the situation right now and then set new goals. I think that’s so important in being positive and moving forward for the rest of the year, because that one goal you’ve been working towards for so long is no longer achievable in this year. We sat down and we straight away found some competitions that I wouldn’t have aimed for if I was still competing in the Games. So there are good opportunities to compete in a competition that I wouldn’t have competed in before. Find the positives in retrospect If I have a setback, I want to make sure I get every positive aspect out of the situation that I possibly can. If I’d been competing in the Games, I would have been very militant and very dedicated with training and not focused on other aspects of my career. I would have turned down different opportunities because I was so focused on my training. Whereas now I’ve said to myself: Right, I’m not able to compete in the Games any more. I’ve got a big competition I’m aiming for in October, but that gives me three or four months of time where I can try to get my profile out there as much as possible. I want to try to turn this negative situation into a positive and hopefully get a lot of work done. When we get to five months down the road, I want to be in a situation where I think, “We’ve done a lot.” I want to be in a position where I think, “If I was training for the Games, I wouldn’t have achieved all of this.” That will make me feel really good about the situation, because I’ve turned the negative setback into a positive and achieved a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t have achieved otherwise.