A Q&A with Sunday Times fitness expert Lara Milward

Last week, we were delighted to hand over our Instagram to the amazing Lara Milward, The Sunday Times fitness expert, who talked to us about all things fitness. Lara gave us the motivation we so desperately needed, just at a time when we could slowly feel it slipping through our fingers, as we approach week six of lockdown. 

Lara started her fitness talk by giving us 3 points to remember:

START – do one thing that gets you moving each day. Getting started is the hardest bit, grit your teeth and go!

COMMIT – make it a regular thing. Like anything that you practice, it gets easier.

REFRAME – choose the positive words e.g. I choose to eat this because its fuel for my body

Lara then went on to answer your questions . . .

What is a good target exercise for fat above my bottom, I feel like a have a tummy above my bottom!

Unfortunately, you can’t ‘spot’ reduce where your body will lose body fat. To lose body fat you need to move more and eat less – that is the ONLY equation that works. Having said that different body types carry fat in different areas so it can feel like you have a ‘problem’ area so I understand the question. Good nutrition is vital and I’m afraid it isn’t easy and it needs to be for the long term if you want to see results. Try and remove sugar from your diet; it’s amazing how many products have ‘added sugar’. One good starting point is to avoid foods that have more than 10g of sugar per 100g of product. (When you read food labelling it will say ‘of carbohydrate – how much is starch and how much is sugar.?

What is a good exercise I can do daily to see results?

If you can only do one, you will hate me but it’s a burpee, but it’s a great exercise that uses your whole body and you get your heart rate up. If you could do two I would say squats and planks, 20 secs on 10-sec rest for 4 minutes blocks, that system of training is called Tabata, started by Joseph Tabata in Japan, a great way of getting exercise in small amounts per day and easy for all of us.

I joined the gym start of the year as I’m too overweight for treatment. I’m really panicking now gyms are closed, what can I do at home without any equipment that will actually make a difference?

You really don’t need a gym to exercise. Any form of movement is good; dancing to your favorite music, gardening, going up and down the stairs! Try the Tabata I talked about in question 2. There are many many free online classes at the moment; choose one or two you like. Put the times in your diary and get started. Starting is the hardest bit but once you do, commit and make it regular. If you want to lose body fat, please pay honest attention to your eating habits. It’s 80% nutrition, 20% exercise. Try and make sure half your plate is vegetables (not potatoes) at every meal; even breakfast and get rid of the sugar.

I have PCOS ( polycystic ovary syndrome) and a high BM1, is there anything I can do at home to help reduce my BMI?

All medical advice is that exercise will not harm people with PCOS and regular exercise and good nutrition will help reduce your BMI. Personally, I don’t like BMI as a measurement and would rather use % body fat. Keep a food diary and make sure you are exercising for at least 30 minutes a day whilst in lockdown.

What time of the day is best to exercise to make a difference?

The best time to exercise is what suits you! Some people are larks and some people are owls. Do what suits you and what suits your routine so that you can make exercise happen; make it easy for yourself to achieve.

Since we have been self-isolating I have even less energy and motivation to exercise, any advice?

Many of us feel demotivated, low, anxious, and lethargic at the moment. It’s a very strange and unsettling time. Movement and exercise are clinically proven to lift the depressive mood. Exercise releases endorphins and endocannabinoids which improve your mental health. Regular muscle motion releases myokines or ‘hope molecules’ into the brain to lift your spirits. I always find the more I do the more energy I get. Music will help and maybe get a friend online to join you to exercise

Me and my partner want to be at fit as possible for when our treatment begins again, any top tips? 

My top tips would be to keep going, to commit to regular workouts; to vary them, and to progressively make them harder. ‘Fit’ never has an endpoint I’m afraid because your amazing body can keep getting fitter and fitter and it’s usually our minds that stop us going further so keep going and well done!

Do you have any advice for balancing hormones and burning fat? I have PCOS so I struggle with weight gain.

All the above advice is relevant. Regular exercise and good nutrition will help your hormonal and physical health all round. Get rid of sugar and ‘white’ things like pasta, white bread, biscuits….. choose good food that comes from plants (not made in plants) that you know will make you feel better – it’s a positive choice!

What are the benefits of stretching, can it make any physical difference to my weight?

I’m afraid to say stretching won’t make any difference to your weight. It will release tight muscles and make you feel more relaxed and centered but it will not help you lose body fat. Nutrition Nutrition Nutrition. Not diet, nutrition.

My bad back is stopping me from doing exercise, is there anything I can do about it?

I would need to understand your personal history in order to make a professional comment as you may have suffered a trauma to your back. In the absence of trauma or injury, many people who are otherwise in good health, have back pain due to bad posture, weak core muscles, and weak gluteal muscles. I suffered from a sore back after my second child and regular Pilates worked so well for me that I became a pilates instructor! Many physiotherapists use pilates for rehabilitation because it is so effective.

Huge thank s to Lara Milward for answering our questions. We are delighted to say that Lara will be back tomorrow, Friday 1st May at 10:30 am UK on our Insta Live to answer all of your questions about fitness. 

 

Lara writes regularly for a range of publications and has been featured in Women’s Running, Vogue, Good Housekeeping, The Times, Red, and The Sunday Times Magazine. To learn more about Lara, click here

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