All posts by Guy Hoogewerf

It doesn’t have to be a Boot Camp Workout

Can’t face training in the gym or boot camp workout in the park this summer? We get that. Really we do. Sometimes exercise could do with just being more…FUN!

So if you’re struggling to “work out” in the traditional sense, why not take up a recreational sport, and exercise without realizing you’re doing?!

Here are a couple of suggestions to get your creative juices flowing:

Sure, the Thames may seem like an unappealing prospect in the middle of winter, but the summer is here (as well as can be expected in London, anyway!) and there are recreational rowing clubs all over town.

Rowing is terrific for developing upper-body strength and aerobic stamina. And once you get the hang of it, you’ll be able to enjoy the camaraderie of a team sport and the incredible vistas that only being on the Thames can provide…and all the while building a seriously strong and able body!

Figure skating:
Maybe you’re not a fan of the sunshine? Or maybe you’ve always dreamed of jumping on an outdoor ice rink over the Christmas holidays and surprising your friends with your elegant spins.

Either way, figure skating is a terrific way to build phenomenal lower-body strength (you want buns and pins of steel? look no further!) as well as improving balance and coordination. It’s also a supremely challenging skill that works the brain as well as the body. And ice rinks all around the UK offer adult beginners classes during day, evenings and weekends. Get started now, and you could the talk of the Christmas Market rink by Decemeber!

Outdoor pools:
Honestly, what a better way to spend a summer’s day or evening than at a pond or lido, or perhaps even your own pool (if you have one, please invite us over!)

Swimming is a brilliant sport for a number of reasons, all of which are evident by looking at the incredible bodies on Olympic swimmers. We love it for three primary reasons: it is a full-body workout; it doesn’t favor one side of the body more than the other, which results in fewer injuries; and finally, nothing clears your head from a day’s stress quite like a swim. So find your local outdoor swimming facility and dive in!

There are plenty of other ways of keeping fit in non-traditional ways this summer. The key is to be creative and to experiment. Be it Tai Chi at dawn, taking up trapeze classes, or finally learning to ride a horse… find an activity that you’ve always wanted to do, it doesn’t have to be boot camp workout and we bet you anything, the body you dream of will follow.

As for us, we’re quite into the idea of Archery…but then again, maybe we’ve just been watching too much of Game of Thrones!

Drop us a line @AB_MXR and let us know what you decide to take up!

We Love Your Correct Neck Posture

Correct Neck Position AB-MXRNecks.

We kinda take them for granted until we injure them. And really, it’s not a body-part we should neck-legt (see what we did there?) – correct neck posture is  essential.

The neck supports your head, which is quite a feat because it is the heaviest part of your body. Within it, run arteries that supply blood to the brain from the heart, and in particular, a pair of arteries that feed the vital part of the brain, which controls our heart rate, breathing, immune system, hormones, coordination, balance, and sleep…all of which, we’re sure you will agree, are fairly important to you.

And as is often the case with our bodies, despite the neck being kind of a big deal, it is very fragile, because it also needs a certain amount of mobility to allow your sensory functions to operate effectively, and this flexibility places the neck at risk of misaligning or even dislocating.

So given all of this, you can imagine our frustration when we see people at our local gym and on social media *still* doing sit-ups, crunches and the like, unsupported.

It is the very reason why we created the AB-MXR. At the very heart of our product, was the idea that the constant strain on people’s necks during exercise – and specifically abdominal exercise – needed to be addressed.

After months of experimentation with various forms of support, and in close consultation with one of the UK’s leading chiropractors, we finally found a solution.

A padded support, moulded to match the optimal curve of the neck, that when held by its handles, gave the user no choice but to disengage the neck while doing sit-ups. Interestingly, once our guinea-pigs (not real ones!) couldn’t strain their necks, they suddenly couldn’t do an endless plethora of sit-ups. They felt the effect of the exercise sooner, because they had to use proper technique, and work exclusively from their core, without the assistance of their neck to compensate for the weakness in their abs.

After this Eureka moment, we found that the AB-MXR’S alignment hugely benefited a lot of other exercises (try squatting with an AB-MXR for example, and you’ll never look back). And its unique shape made it a versatile piece of equipment that could be used to strengthen virtually every part of the body. Then we had the idea of creating different weighted AB-MXRs (1 through to 5kgs) to make the exercises load-bearing. And while goofing around with it at a trade show a little while later, we discovered that it was incredibly effective for assisted stretches. And so on, and so on.

For us, it’s like the gift that keeps giving, and every day, AB-MXR users write us to tell us how much it has changed their workouts, and to show us their new inventive ways of using it.

But at the core of all that, was a simple idea. Keep your neck safe. After all, you only get one, folks.

If you haven’t tried an AB-MXR yet, stick your neck out and give us a shout! We’d love to introduce you to our little baby.

Natural Cosmetics & Personal Wellbeing

natrual cosmenticsJuicing, eating organic, going vegan…these trends are becoming second nature. We spend so much time making sure we eat clean…but are we extending that philosophy beyond what we injest to our personal hygiene products?

Just pick up any cosmetic in your bathroom and check out the ingredients. You will be assaulted with an unprounceable ingredient list of chemicals that you would never dream of putting in your mouth…and therein lies the problem!

Your skin is basically like a giant mouth that streches all over your body…more sponge that force-field. Hence why products like nicotine patches work – the nicotine is *absorbed* directly into your bloodstream through your skin.

A lot of the chemicals used to create our lotions and potions are likely to have minimal to no side-effects…but parabens, sulfates, synthetic fragrances, and petrochemicals are amongst the primary building blocks of most synthetic cosmetic products, and just a quick google search will show you that they have been linked to diseases ranging from breast cancer to endocrine dysfunction to birth defects.

Studies are being carried out all the time, and evidence is being compiled for us to truly understand as a society what is safe for use in the short, medium and long-term.

In the meantime, we are doing our own research, seeing which products in our toiletry arsenal can be replaced with healthier alternatives. It takes a lot of reading, trying to discern fact from scare-mongering, and it takes a lot of experimentation…and we are enjoying the learning and the process!

We know it is can be cost-prohibitive to switch to all-natural products, and we also appreciate that we have all come to expect a certain performance function from our cosmetics e.g. it is notoriously difficult to find an all-natural antiperspirant that is as effective as an off-the-shelf synthetic one…and smelling bad when you work in a people industry – even one where your product is sweat – is not a good thing!!

So we won’t get on our soap-box (pardon the pun!) and tell you to only bathe with goat’s milk and rub grass into your armpits.

We would however like you to join us in developing an awareness of what risks synthetic personal hygiene products can  carry, and maybe explore a few alternatives. And if you find something that works great, drop us a line and let us know about it, either on email or Twitter. Let’s all help each other get as healthy as possible!

Diet and exercise on the go

Diet and Exercise on the GOLet’s face it – for most people, diet and exercise, eating healthily and scheduling in exercise can be a struggle at the best of times. The human brain is a wilfull mistress, making us envy athlete’s physiques as we poke holes at our own, while simultaneously tempting us to stay indoors watching TV on our comfy couches while eating another bar of chocolate! And even if you have managed to get a good workout/life balance at home, your routine and will-power can be easily overthrown by business and holiday travel, and often, the effects of this will cascade into your life once you return back from your trip.

Here are a few helpful tips to help you keep on track during your travels:

  • Pick hotels with a gym and/or pool:
    Thanks to competition in the hospitality market, it is now easier and more affordable than ever to find a hotel with some sort of fitness facilities. And if you have access to a gym or a pool in the same building as your room, you will find it significantly easier to schedule in even the quickest of workouts within your day while you’re away.
  • Use exercise as an excuse to sightsee:
    If you are on vacation and feel that being indoors in a hotel gym is poor use of your travel time abroad, fair enough! Why not incorporate running or cycling into your sightseeing schedule instead? Urban walking, running or biking are great ways to take in a new city, discovering local amenities that would other sail by you in a taxi or on a subway, while still getting your daily dose of exercise.
  • Pre-book athletic activities:
    Of course sometimes, we have the best intentions to walk everywhere on holiday or work out every day, but when we land, all our resolve gets thrown out of the window because of maybe the weather, or other people’s agendas. One way around this is to pre-pay for activities as part of your vacation package like guided hikes, snorkelling, zip-lining or yoga, so that you have to follow through with them even if your will falters. The add-on benefit of this is that these activities will likely be new and different for your body, shocking it into getting fitter whilst you master a new skill.
  • Enjoy local meals, but take your own snacks away with you:
    There is no point travelling to Thailand or India, for example, and feeling like you can’t let go and enjoy local delicacies, even if they might be slightly out of your ideal diet. However, we find that it’s snacking that really gets us into trouble when we are away! Eating food on the go is tough no matter where you are, and often results in the consumption of quick, unhealthy, and heavily processed snacks with little nutritional value. To combat this, bring the healthy snacks you have incorporated into your regular life away with you, so if hunger strikes between meal times, you can much on a protein bar, or a bag of nuts, with impunity.
  • Drinking in moderation
    Yeah, yeah – we know this one is a toughie! If you enjoy alcohol and want to let go while away, or have to drink during business dinners on work travel, the key really is just to be aware of how much you are consuming, and to not allow drinking to derail your fitness goals while you are away. Maybe decide on how many units you are comfortable consuming per day or week you are away without your exercise routine being compromised [and stick to it!], or maybe only drink the alcohol that you find personally affects you the least the next day (we confess, that’s champagne for us!)

Finally, a cheeky self-plug! You might also want to stow away an AB-MXR in your hand-luggage! It’s the perfect piece of kit to take with you on the go – lightweight, highly versatile and chic! If you haven’t tried using one yet, order one and see for yourself.

And don’t forget to tweet us pictures of your holidays at @AB_MXR – we’d love to see where in the world you are!

Sleepy Times

bed and pillows
We are the society that doesn’t sleep.

Where our sleep was formerly dictated by the rise and fall of the sun, today the glow of technology keeps us up all night, and sleep deprivation is paraded as a badge of honour in offices and homes around the world.

Sleep debt and insomnia are now rife and likely holding back your weight and fitness goals (we’re shouting to wake you up, sleepy chops!).

Studies have even found that dieters that don’t get enough sleep lose half as much fat as individuals on the same diet that are getting enough sleep.

But even if you’re more focused on strength training, it’s worth noting that you may need about 7-9 hours of sleep minimum to allow the body to fully recover. Especially the major hormone responsible for muscular regeneration, HGH, is actually triggered by sleep. So staying up all night to watch Breaking Bad actually hinders muscles from regenerating after a training session (Walt causing trouble again!)

It’s also worth noting that when we lose sleep, our insulin sensitivity declines, meaning our body produces excessive amounts of it… which means, you’re likely to feel hungrier, burn fewer calories, and feel less sated after a full meal than one of those smug night sleepers.

Of course, sleeping is easier said than done for some of us… so try to do the following to sleep more and look and feel your best:

Come 2 or 3pm, cut the caffeine. Caffeine has a lifespan of about 8 hours in the body… so quit the coffee and yes, black and green tea, and even chocolate, 8 hours before your bedtime.

Switch off the screens. Ideally within a half hour of your ideal bedtime, cut out artificial blue-light sources – TVs, phones, laptops, kindles. If you really can’t live without them, there are apps that change the blue light to red in the evening, which can help reduce their effect on your circadian rhythms.

Find a bedtime rhythm. A regular bedtime routine will teach your body to yield to sleep, and not fight it. So whether it is a certain piece of music that you play, or a shower you take, or a pyjama you wear every night… train your body to spot the signs of an impending bedtime and welcome sleep like an old friend.

Well… just writing this blog has made us sleepy… so we’re going to switch off our blue device now and snooze.

Slumber well, AB-MXRs!

Water Is Life – Body Training

Body TrainingWe touched on the importance of drinking water in our last blog, but thought it would be remiss of us not to let you know how beneficial water is to the training body all the time, not just when you’re hungry or sweating in the gym…so here is our timely water blog!

The current ‘heatwave’ we are having in London serves as a wonderful reminder of just how important it is to stay hydrated, especially as we lose 2.5 litres during the average day, only regaining 1 litre through food, with the remaining 1.5 litres in theory being replenished by our drinking water.

We all know that our bodies are 60% water and that water IS life…but here’s how being hydrated translates into your fitness goals.

‘Feeding muscles’: Water delivers oxygen to muscles in order for physical activity to be done efficiently. The more water inside the muscle cells, the better they function, and the more they increase in strength, size and capacity.

Also – want that protein to help your gains? Water absorbs the different nutrients in food & transports them through the digestive system, leaving the nutrients better and more readily absorbed by the body.

Drink water to make the most of your food!

‘Decreasing fat’: Dehydrated bodies retain extra water from cells (including fat cells), which causes bloating and weight gain. Sweating aside, alcohol, coffee, tea and fizzy drinks all act as ‘diuretics’, forcing water out of the body, leading to dehydration. If you cannot live without your liquid stimulants, you have to drink more water to counter their diuretic nature, and to purify your blood, preventing diseases such as hypertension.

A dehydrated body also causes your kidneys to malfunction, forcing the liver to work twice as hard and compromising its ability to metabolise fat, thereby possibly leading to weight gain.

We can hear you all reaching for your Evian’s already!

The biggest complaint we hear from our clients is that drinking more water throughout the day is a tough task, because it’s flavourless.

To those people we say: If you’re just not that into the (non)taste of water, try making your own flavoured water at home. Adding slices of fruits or herbs adds a subtle, delicious taste to plain water. Be it cucumber, lime or mint…find a way to make water an essential daily part of your life..and reap the rewards of a stronger, healthier body.


Looking for motivation
Fitting exercise into your life if you don’t naturally enjoy it, or are time-poor, is a difficult hurdle to clear. So is eating healthily when you are constantly having to eat on the go, or if you find cravings for comfort and convenience food irresistible.

Motivation and will-power are powerful keys to fitness success. And as simple as it is for us to write that, we know how difficult that is to put into practice.

But never fear, AB-MXR are here, with some quick ways to conquer motivational and willpower challenges:

Wear exercise clothes regularly. If you’re already dressed to work out, chances are you’ll end up working out. You’ll be amazed how much more likely you are to go to the gym or powerwalk to the store if you are already dressed to do it.

Make yourself accountable. Either commit to posting on social media everyday what exercise you intend to do, and updating to let your friends/followers know you’ve done it, or commit to getting fit with a friend. The two of you can then be accountable to each other and push each other through any slumps in motivation.

Cheat meals. We don’t normally condone these but we understand that humans are intrinsically motivated by reward, just as they are demotivated by punishment.

So schedule yourself a treat when you hit a fitness target and enjoy it! Over time, you will hopefully get an intrinsic reward just from completing your fitness goal, and won’t want or need the treat to be unhealthy.

Tupperware. Great planning allows for great results. Take your healthy snacks with you on the go (nuts, kale chips, apples – whatever you fancy!), so when a craving hits, you don’t automatically reach for a bag of prawn cocktail crisps.

Water. Research has shown that 35% of the time that we think we are hungry, we are actually thirsty. Remember that a body functions at its optimum when hydrated, and we eat with more awareness and achieve greater saiety when we are operating on a full tank on water.

So these are AB-MXR’s top-tips to staying motivated for fitness. Just remember that you are not alone – even top athletes struggle to get to practice on some days. So don’t beat yourself up if you miss a gym session or have too much cake – instead, let that be the fuel for your next workout!

Carpe diem, all.

Nuts for Coconuts Oil

nuts for coconutWe told you a few weeks ago about how we all follow different food lifestyles at AB-MXR HQ. The one thing we all share though, is a love for coconut oil.

Coconut oil straight out of the jar, to cook with, to add to protein shakes, even to put on our skin – we are all huge believers, and here’s a few reasons why:

  • Energy:
    Coconut oil is a rich source of MCTs (medium chain triglycerides). Because MCTs are broken down quickly and processed in the liver, they can be used as an immediate source of energy for the body without the adrenaline crashing side effects that caffeine and sugar bring.
  • Health:
    Coconut oil is also the ONLY oil that doesn’t lose its molecular structure under heat, which means it doesn’t release free radicals when cooked, retains its antioxidants for you to absorb, and doesn’t go rancid!

    Coconut oil can also help regulate blood sugar and is fast becoming the healthiest-recommended means for preventing and treating diabetes.

    Studies carried out in many South Pacific Island countries have actually shown that when the traditional coconut-rich diet of Islanders is replaced with modern foods that are processed, and high in sugar, salt and unhealthy oils, there is a direct increase in the rate of diabetes.

  • Beauty:
    Topically, because coconut oil is naturally antibacterial, antifungal and moisture-rich, it works phenomenally as all over body moisturizer, particularly on dry, cracked skin, such as elbows and knees.

And we should just as aware of what we put ON our bodies as we do with what goes IN, especially as the skin is our largest organ and has such strong absorption directly into the bloodstream. With that in mind, an all-natural product like coconut oil is infinitely healthier to be applied topically than an expensive, store-bought, paraben-laden potion.

So there you have it, folks. You have our full permission to go nuts for coconuts – nature’s true superfood!

If you want any suggestions on how to cook with coconut oil, drop us an email or a tweet @AB_MXR – we would love to share our years of coconut cooking experience with you!

Fitness and the Elderly

Death Becomes HerFitness marketing has always traditionally targeted youth – those who are most likely the easiest to get into shape and keep that way. Slightly neglected are the older generation, to whom fitness and diet can actually have the greatest impact on their quality of life.

As we get older, our bodies start to succumb to the wear and tear of decades of use. Bones get weaker, joints become more unstable, skins loses collagen and therefore elasticity, your metabolism slows down and you start to lose muscle. While none of this is entirely reversible (and for those of you who have seen the 90s film ‘Death Becomes Her’, maybe that’s for the best!), as the owner of your body, it is your duty to stave off the effects of ageing for as long as possible, in order to allow you to make the most of your golden years.

We all want to have the energy to keep up with our grandchildren, and stay supple enough so we can bend down to pick things up off the floor, or even be able to open the lid on that particularly tricky jar of pickles. Ultimately, fitness isn’t about just looking good, it’s about being able to physically live fruitfully in our environment.

The important things to remember as an elderly exerciser are:

  • Avoid high impact:
    Bone mass declines as you get older, so in addition to making sure you are getting enough calcium in your diet, it probably wise to not put additional strain on your bones by pounding them with hi-impact exercise like running outdoors, step aerobics, or plyometrics. You don’t have to pound the pavement to get fit!
  • Train strength:
    Use light weights, resistance equipment or Machine Pilates to target muscle groups that will make your limbs and core stronger. Major muscles in the legs, buttocks, arms, stomach and back can be easily isolated and strengthened with gym equipment or even by following a home fitness DVD, and will respond quickly to gentle resistance, without injuring you.

    Stronger limbs will add a vitality to your life: the independence to walk to the shop and carry all the groceries back yourself, dashing to catch that bus, or catching yourself when you slip without falling!

  • Encourage flexibility:
    Flexibility keeps our joints younger, more fluid and preserves range of motion. As we grow older, without good range of motion in our joints, we experience more pain and this limits our ability to keep active and exercise.

    Stretching also helps preserve our posture, which is essential to combat the ‘shrinking syndrome’ of getting old, and in turn preserves the health of your back. Find a gentle yoga class to keep you limber for longer, and enjoy feeling the strain lifting from your mind and body.

Ultimately, exercise is a personal activity and no one regime will suit all. So just make the time for exercise as you get older, and find what suits your schedule and body.

Regardless of how you choose to do it though, keeping active as you get older is the closest thing to discovering the fountain of youth – so jump in!

We Absolutely Love Gyms – Especially Outdoors

We love the great Outdoor GymSpring is upon us here and although London’s winter was mild this year, we are excited to shed some layers and embrace outdoor training! We absolutely love gyms – they can be the most inspiring clusters of exercise, but there are huge benefits to training outdoors.

Exercise adapted to an outdoor terrain is more likely to work your body in new and exciting ways. These unexpected challenges to your body can bring big improvements, as the body amps up its strength in the muscles, lungs, heart and brain to deal with the demands of the unknown.

Not to mention the numerous benefits of sunshine…and to the jaded Londoners reading this, don’t even try to claim that there isn’t enough sunshine in the UK! Did you know that London has more sunshine per year than parts of California! (San Francisco, we’re looking at you!) Vitamin D from sunshine strengthens your immune system, makes bones stronger and also improves your mood. Combined endorphin release from exercise and sunshine is bound to lift your spirits and keep them up there!

London’s park-culture cannot be matched so take advantage of it. Exercising in nature has multiple positive effects: providing us with cleaner, filtered air to breathe, alleviating the stress of our often sedentary and stress-filled indoor life, and adding an element of unpredictability to exercise which forces your body to react quicker, building stronger synaptical connections to improve your speed and agility.

For example, research has proven that running outdoors is physically more demanding than any setting on a treadmill – add the occasional puddle to jump over and trees to zig-zag around, and your predictable cardio workout is suddenly a full-body obstacle course!

So enjoy the hills, tarmac, grass, sand and mud! All these surfaces will force you to become the fittest version of you possible!

Tweet up pictures of you in the great outdoors – we’d love to see where you train!