5 minutes with our triathlete pros

With the 2014 Discovery World Triathlon Cape Town just around the corner, we asked some of our talented brand ambassadors, who also happen to be taking part, or supporting, the event on 26 & 27 April, to share their best tips to help those of you who are taking part, and to inspire those who are thinking of taking part in a triathlon.

And if you’ve ever wondered things like what a triathlete likes to eat, what they do in their down-time and what they do after a big event, we asked those questions too!

These amazing triathletes are: Richard Murray, Kent Horner, Vicky Van Der Merwe , Stuart Marais, Cornel Herbst, Frank Smuts, Tiaan Pretorius, Robyn Williams and Colleen de Oliveira.

The pros’ top triathlon tips
Stuart gives us some practical advice to start with: “Find a group to help keep you motivated during training. Join a coach group and make sure you have specific goals”. We’re always going on about the amazing results you can achieve by simply setting a goal. We’re also strong advocates for group inspiration and motivation.

Cornel advises triathletes to, “Stay motivated and focus on the current discipline you are doing rather than what lies ahead.” Tiaan and Richard agree that consistency is extremely important, especially when you’re training. Richard says, “Consistency is key in life and sport. Progress slowly and keep focused as you improve.”

richardAthlete: Richard Murray

So what’s the best way to save time in a triathlon? Frank talks about the importance of the transition, saying, “Pre-play the upcoming transition in your head as you finish the current discipline (swim or bike)”. Robyn agrees, saying: “Practise doing your transitions from swim to cycle and from cycle to run. Elastic laces in your shoes will also save you loads of time.”

She also has some wise words for the dreaded wetsuit transition. “When putting on your wetsuit, first apply baby oil to your forearms and ankles. This will help when you need to take it off quickly when you are done swimming. Put your foot into a plastic packet and then into your wetsuit. Then remove the packet. This makes it much easier to get the neoprene on.”

“To stop your goggles from fogging up, smear some baby shampoo on the inside of the lens. Rinse thoroughly and don’t touch it again.”

Vicky’s top tip? “Don’t panic in the swim. Just breathe!”

Vicky vd MerweAthlete: Vicky van der Merwe

Colleen keeps her advice simple with probably one of the most important pieces of advice for triathletes. And something that’s easy to lose sight of: Having fun. Make sure that this experience is something you will remember fondly for the rest of your life!

Colleen de OliveiraAthlete: Colleen de Oliveira

And when they’re not training like machines?
Family and friends are, of course, high on everyone’s lists. Training for an event is very time-consuming, so any time an athlete gets to spend with loved ones is to be grabbed with both hands.

Keeping things “super chilled” is also high on the agenda. Richard likes to put his feet up as much as possible during the season, and Kent likes to spend time on the couch too. Besides that, he’s keen on “planning new racing and business projects”. You’ll also find Frank “on the couch, legs up, watching sport on TV.” “Reading an epic novel” is high up on Robyn’s list.

kentAthlete: Kent Horner

Food, glorious food
We couldn’t not ask this question. We love food. You love food. And we’re always interested in what hardcore athletes like to eat.

Pizza is the most popular (no surprise there!). Richard, Robyn and Colleen rate this cheesy meal as their top treat. Richard is also a fan of Kauai and counts coffee as a food group. Robyn loves her cakes too, carrot cake and cheesecake being her favourites. “Hence the need to train hard to keep the scale happy” she says. Stuart, Kent and Tiaan love a good steak, while Frank is more into sushi.

And of course, there’s always mom’s cooking, and Vicky and Cornel are their moms’ biggest culinary fans.

Stuart M Swim 1Athlete: Stuart Marais

To selfie, or not to selfie?
Here at Virgin Active, we love selfies. Especially when they’re active selfies. But selfies don’t seem to be a favourite with our brand ambassadors. The general consensus to this question is a resounding no. Cornel says he tries to avoid cameras as much as he can, while Tiaan likes to take pictures of everything but himself. Frank admits to taking selfies, but “only when cycling” to show his buddies “the beautiful views and steep hills I climb!” Fair enough.

We have one proud selfie-taker in the group: Stuart! “Selfies are pictures of people taken when they are out training alone, to try and show people what they are missing out on… Yes, I’m a selfie person!” Hear, hear Stuart!

SONY DSCAthlete: Cornel Herbst

Post-race: sleep or soiree?
So what do these pros get up to after a big event? Mostly rest it seems, though Robyn, Kent and Colleen all agree that what they do after an event all depends on how well they did. Frank isolates himself, “like a wounded bear” and Cornel just wants to sleep.

Stuart enjoys “a couple of beers with mates after an event to share war stories.” And there’s always one or two party animals in the group, Vicky and Tiaan definitely love a good celebration after an event. Tiaan firmly stating: “I race and train to party.”

robynAthlete: Robyn Williams

So where does the 2014 Discovery World Triathlon Cape Town feature on our brand ambassadors event and priority list?
For most of our brand ambassadors it ranks pretty high. For Robyn, the World Triathlon Cape Town will be “the biggest event that I have ever competed in. It ranks very high up on the list of ‘races to be nervous for.’”

Vicky had hip surgery last year, so she isn’t yet as fit as she’d like to be, “but I’m working hard to get back to the top of my game. I think this event is a wonderful opportunity to be a part of and I feel fortunate to be able to race.”

frankAthlete: Frank Smuts

Calling all supporters
If you’re not taking part this year, come anyway and cheer on our brand ambassadors and other athletes as they race to the finish line. It’s going to be a super fun day out. And it might even inspire you to start training for your very first triathlon!

tiaanAthlete: Tiaan Pretorius

We can’t wait to head out to the V&A Waterfront on the 26th and 27th of April to support these hard-working athletes and we hope you’ll join us there!

Keeping your body, and your baby bump, fit and healthy

POPFIT NEWSLETTER IMAGEMaking sure you’re getting all the good stuff nutritionally is important while you’re pregnant, because not only will you need more energy and nutrients to meet the needs of your body and your growing baby, you may also have to cope with pregnancy niggles like nausea, heartburn, constipation and tiredness, which a good diet can help!

So we’ve rounded up 8 healthy eating tips to keep you happy and healthy before and after baby is born.

1. Avoid eating raw or undercooked meats, fish, cheese and eggs because they can increase the risk of bacterial infections for you and your baby.
2. The artificial sweeteners cyclamate and saccharin are not recommended during pregnancy. Aspartame and sucralose may be used in moderation, but you shouldn’t have more than four servings of these or two cans of diet beverages in a day.
3. Limit your intake of caffeinated beverages or foods (coffee, tea, Coke or chocolate). Caffeine has no nutritional benefit. It is also a no-no because:
- It’s a stimulant, which means it increases your heart rate and metabolism – which can create stress for your developing baby.
- It’s a diuretic, which causes you to lose water (dehydrate) and calcium, which you need to maintain a healthy pregnancy.
- It hampers your body’s ability to absorb iron by as much as 40% if you drink it within an hour after a meal.
4. Despite marketing claims that herbal teas are ‘all natural’, they could be harmful, especially if you drink too much. High doses of herbs may cause diarrhoea, vomiting, and heart palpitations, so the key is moderation. Tip: Stick to good ol’ Rooibos tea.
5. Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help prevent common problems like dehydration and constipation.
6. Alcohol is toxic to you and your baby, and the more alcohol you consume, the more detrimental the side-effects will be (especially for your baby’s development). Replace that beer or glass of wine with other stress-reducing pleasures you know work for you.
7. Smoking should be avoided while you are pregnant because it’s been linked to low birth weight, which increases your baby’s chances of having a variety of health problems.
8. Manage morning sickness by eating several small meals every few hours. If you can’t keep solids down, keep topping up with fluids – choose smoothies, yoghurt drinks or clear soups. Avoid spicy or greasy foods because these are harder to digest.

And while we’re focussing on your preggy nutrition, it’s important to remember to give your physical fitness some attention too. Coming soon: Pop Fit

We know that being active during pregnancy (and after) can boost energy, improve sleep, relieve stress and keep that baby weight at bay. So we’ve designed a safe, effective group exercise class that gives new moms the fitness they need to make their pregnancy (and getting back into shape afterwards) as healthy and happy as possible.

Pop Fit will be coming to selected Virgin Active Health Clubs soon.

New workout, new body: try it!

2.fitness trends to get you out of your rutTired of sweating it out the same way every session? After an enthusiastic start, things often begin to wane, and then so do our results. So we’ve rounded up the top fitness trends that we’ll be following this year. See anything you’d want to give a try?

2014 fitness trends
1. High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
HIIT involves short bursts of activity followed by a shorter period of rest or recovery. Usually done in less than 30 minutes, this type of class is best for someone who is already quite fit.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Twentyfour and Ride

2. Body weight training
Body weight training is all about using as little equipment as possible, focusing mainly on, well, your body weight. Not limited to just push-ups and pull-ups, this trend will get you “back to the basics” in no time.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Twentyfour

3. Educated and experienced fitness professionals
If you feel like you need help, make sure you choose professionals certified through relevant accredited programmes. Like the pros at Virgin Active!
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Personal trainers and Biokineticists

4. Strength training
Strength training is essential to a complete workout regime for all fitness levels and genders. Make sure you do a strength training session 2 – 3 times a week.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Killer Abs, Core conditioning, Power Pump

5. Exercise and weight loss
Nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand regardless of your goal. Remember to give both of these components careful thought and planning. Check myvirginactive.co.za for awesome meal plans and shopping lists to go with them.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Biokineticists, Dietitians and Personal Trainers

6. Personal training
Education, training and proper credentials for personal trainers (PTs) have always been important to Virgin Active, so if you’re looking for a PT, we’ve got you covered with the very best.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Personal Trainers

7. Fitness programmes for older adults
Virgin Active has created some great, age-appropriate fitness classes to keep our older members happy, healthy and active.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Biokineticists, Splash, Yoga, Pilates and NOVA

8. Functional fitness
Functional fitness is all about using strength training to improve balance and the way you go about your daily activities.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Twentyfour, TRX training and Kettlebell training

9. Group personal training
This is the more affordable personal training option. It’s also for those of us who enjoy training in a small group.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Kickit

10. Yoga
Based on ancient tradition, Virgin Active’s yoga classes utilise a series of specific postures practiced for health and relaxation. This class is perfect for all ages.
What Virgin Active has to offer you: Yoga

What trends will you follow this year? Chat to a staff member in your club to find out more about all of our offerings.

Swim into the best shape of your life

4.itu_imagePhoto: Craig Kollesky
Athlete: Richard Murray

Swimming burns fat and can help you get stronger, fitter and happier. In fact, nothing compares in terms of a full body, metabolism-boosting workout. While swimming can make you lean and mean, it’s also joint-friendly. So there’s really no reason why you shouldn’t add it to your workout routine. But if you need another reason, here it is…

The 2014 Discovery World Triathlon Cape Town
In just a few days you’ll have the opportunity to watch some of the world’s top triathletes, from more than 60 countries, competing in the Discovery World Triathlon Cape Town. And a big part of that race is done in the open water. Which, we can all agree, is quite different to being in Virgin Active’s calm, temperature-controlled waters, right?

So, for those of you who have taken the Discovery World Triathlon plunge, we asked Colleen de Oliveira, one of our awesome brand ambassadors, who also happens to be an incredible triathlete, what her top 5 open water swimming tips for newbies are:

1. Get out there in the open water and practice, practice, practice.
2. Practice your sighting (lifting your head and looking directly in front of you).
3. Take advantage of the draft. This means using the person/people in front of you to break the pressure of the water. Get into their “slipstream” so that the water pulls you along and makes it easier for you to swim.
4. If you are a slower swimmer, start at the back of the pack (you will catch up).
5. Start out relaxed!

Virgin Active has swimming covered
At Virgin Active, we have beautiful swimming pools at most of our clubs. The perfect environment to start training in the water, whether it’s for an event or to supplement your current workout routine.

Visit your club and chat to our friendly staff for more info on all of our swimming offerings. And get ready to rule the pool!

Tracking your time in the pool
Swimming, like all exercise, is best when you have a plan. What do you want out of your time in the pool?

Track your measurements and your movements on myvirginactive and see how you improve as the weeks and months go by. That kind of tracking serves up some major motivation when you see, on-screen, how far you’ve come and what swimming has done to help sculpt your new body.

We’ll keep you up-to-date with all of our exciting new swim services and events. Are you ready to get your feet wet?

Track your diet and get rewarded

8.discovery_healthyfoodWe’ve got you covered when it comes to helping you track your training. We have the myvirginactive Trackers in our clubs and an awesome online tracking tool, and the two are conveniently linked to make it even more useful to you.

But what about tracking your diet? We know that filling up with nutritious fuel will help us perform in and out of the gym. But we also know just how difficult it is to keep our food intake in check.

Well, it’s possible with Discovery Vitality. Not only because they give you cash back and Vitality points on HealthyFood, but because they also give you access to useful tools and calculators on their website.

And one of those tools is their Vitality Food tracker
One reason we battle to reach our goals is that we don’t keep proper track of everything we eat. Another problem is that we often aren’t aware of where we go wrong. The Vitality Food tracker can help you log the food and drinks you take in during the day, and give you a nutritional analysis to help you make better choices.

To find the tracker, all you have to do is log in at Discovery and go to ‘Wellness tools’.

So, what is the Vitality HealthyFood benefit all about?
The Vitality HealthyFood benefit makes healthy eating more affordable and makes it easier to identify healthy choices when you shop.

HealthyFood is a range of food including vegetables, fruit, starchy foods that are rich in fibre, fat-free dairy products, lean protein, legumes and healthy fats and oils. These foods can help prevent lifestyle-related chronic diseases, like diabetes, heart disease and even certain cancers.

If you join Vitality, you can enjoy both the physical and economic benefits of eating healthy. Activate the benefit and qualify for great cash back (up to 25%) at their HealthyFood partners (Pick n Pay or Woolworths).

You’ll also need to find out your Vitality Age and complete a Vitality Health Check once every 12 months to keep your cash back at up to 25%. Completing the health assessments tells you more about your health status and risks and increases your cash back on HealthyFood.

You’ll also be able to earn 20 Vitality points for every HealthyFood item and they will deduct 5 Vitality points for every less desirable item you buy.

The future is active

6,csr_option 2Just like taking an active break from your workout routine, we think it’s important to take a break from the day-to-day stuff, and concentrate on something else that’s very close to our hearts. We’re talking about Future Crew.

What is Future Crew?
It’s collaboration between the Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport (DCAS) and us, aimed at empowering young learners in challenged communities to make positive changes in their lives. How? Through exercise (of course!) and life skills training.

Why?
Well, with the rising obesity in children, it makes sense to be a part of a health and wellness movement that sets out to help fix that.

On top of that, the participating schools are all in disadvantaged areas where gangsterism and drug abuse are major issues. And where role models and positive reinforcement are hard to come by. We see these gyms and mentorships as catalysts for change and a chance to closely link health clubs with schools, sharing skills about fitness and nutrition.

So what does Future Crew actually do?
• Highlights sport as an integral part of a healthy lifestyle
• Helps combat obesity and the growing unemployment rate in South Africa
• Builds self-esteem, discipline and good work ethic
• Increases loyalty and respect towards their schools.

Success so far
We’re already seeing growing momentum in this long-term project. Following the launch of our Future Crew gym at Bishop Lavis Secondary School last year, we’ve had the opportunity to go back and celebrate some of the school’s wonderful achievements. Like an impressive 14% increase in the pass rate and a 10% increase in the university acceptance rate!

We also got to surprise them with a donation of R30 000 (R10 000 contributed by members: thanks Lynne Callanan and Jacky Guthrie at Morningside VA), toys collected by members and staff during the Good Hope FM Toy campaign, a skateboarding demo and a talk by our Brand Ambassador and International Skateboarding champion Jean-Marc Johannes. It was quite a day!

By engaging these learners in sport and sharing knowledge, Future Crew can also identify, harness and tap into their raw talent and help create job opportunities. Everybody wins!

Take a break to boost your fitness

shutterstock_153210086Before you get too excited, we’re not saying become a couch potato while eating anything and everything your heart desires. What we mean is: active rest can be just as important to your health and fitness as exercising is.

Keep this in mind, especially when you may not have a choice. Like when you have visitors or even when public holidays mean the entire family is underfoot and your gym time is just not the same.

Here’s how resting the right way can benefit your health and fitness
While you’re resting, your body gets to rebuild itself. It’s that simple. Your muscles get the time they need to get stronger.

You see, while you’re busy working your butt off at the gym, your muscles don’t have the opportunity to repair and rebuild. So give them time to recover. And give yourself the chance to reap the greatest advantage from all of the effort you put in at our clubs.

But what kind of rest are we talking about?
Well, you definitely don’t get a free pass to simply sit on your well-toned derrière. We’re talking active rest, which is more like light or easy exercise. Think walking, cycling or swimming at much lower intensities than you may be used to. A good active rest day will have you feeling stronger and faster the next time you hit the gym.

It’s important to alternate between hard exercise days and active rest days so you don’t burn out. A good cardio session in between strength days also does wonders for muscle recuperation (rule of thumb is 48 hours in between pumping iron on the same muscle groups).

Feed your muscles
There are such things as muscle-building foods. The ideal recovery mix after a good session (60 minutes) should be a combination of carbohydrates and protein, and should ideally be eaten 30 minutes after your session. And you don’t need to spend lots of money on high protein shakes.

Low-fat/fat-free drinking yoghurts/milkshakes/fruit smoothies, fruit combined with some lean biltong or a simple peanut butter and jam sandwich can also do the trick. If you would prefer to have a shake, opt for one that gives you protein and carbohydrates.

Discovery Health’s HealthyFoods is a great to motivate you to fill your basket with all the right foods for your resting body.

So, it’s up to you. Do you want to see your hard work pay off in the best ways by resting when you should, or do you want to work super hard and not see the results you deserve to see?