Bridge over troubled torsos
Personal trainer (and former chef) Ian Eassom shares his tips on staying fit and healthy, with the occasional treat…
Here comes the sun! Thank goodness for the longer evenings and warmer weather, the perfect thing to help keep our spirits up during this uncertain period. With lockdown fatigue taking hold, it’s more important than ever to keep both body and mind healthy, active and occupied.
I have some core exercises for you this month, which will help tighten and firm up that forever challenging middle area, plus a low-fat recipe to give you a much-needed treat without setting you back.
These are ‘bridge’ exercises, in which you lift your middle from the floor to form a bridge shape. As with all my exercises, you don’t need much room, perfect for a home workout. The basics of a bridge are as follows:
For the first part, lie on your back with your feet tucked up to your bum. Raise your hips, keeping your core aligned from shoulder to knee while balancing on your feet. Then let your core lower, before going back into the raised position.
The second part of a bridge is the heel raise, so with both feet firmly on the floor, body aligned from shoulder to knees, keeping the body tight, just moving the heel up and down, going onto tiptoes and back to heel. I’d recommend repeating your complete bridge exercise ten times.
Once you’ve mastered that, you can try a single-leg bridge; perform the exercise as before, but when raised slowly transfer your weight onto one foot and extend the opposite foot to continue the line of the body. Return and then repeat on the other side, working up to five reps on each.
The last of our core exercises is the ‘raised crunch’. Lying on your back, hold your arms out pointing towards your feet, but hands slightly wider than shoulder-width, so they form a V from above. Bring your knees towards your chest by raising your legs; at the same time lift your torso up, so your chest is moving to meet your knees (don’t worry if it doesn’t quite get there!). Return to the rest position and repeat.
If you’re finding these exercises too easy, you can use any extra weight you can find to rest on your stomach and increase the resistance, whether it’s a bag of flour, a small sack of potatoes, or even a bemused sausage dog!
After all that exercise, you deserve a treat, but you don’t want to undo your good work. Luckily I have a great recipe for an alternative tea bread, which I promised you last month.
Like me, are you finding the problem with lockdown is that you’re struggling to stay away from the biscuit tin? We all need a little treat now and then, and this tea bread recipe is not only fat-free, but also vegan-friendly and low in sugar. It’s a very easy dish to make and a great accompaniment with any afternoon tea or garden picnic.
340g/12oz dried fruit
225g/8oz self-raising flour
85g/3oz caster sugar
285ml/½ pint tea (using two teabags)
2 tbsp/35ml chickpea juice or 1 egg
Firstly, soak the fruit and sugar in the hot tea and leave for four hours. Add the chickpea juice to the flour and mix to a smooth batter. Pour into a greased 1lb loaf tin and bake at 160ºC for 40 minutes. Test with a skewer until it comes out clean and leave a little longer on a low heat if it needs it. Whilst still warm, turn onto a cooling rack. You can serve either warm or cold, and it will keep in a cool, dry place for around two weeks. Alternatively, omit the chickpea juice and replace with a free-range egg for the same result.
The tea bread pictured is the vegan version and just as delicious. To keep it vegan, there are some great butter alternatives and if you have any vegan secrets that work for you, I’d love you to send me an email with them. Whilst I often eat vegan, I personally enjoy it with a nice chunk of Lincolnshire Poacher and some sliced apple (it’s worth the extra sit ups!).
Next month, I’ll be taking you through some more gym-alternative exercises that you can do in the great outdoors, focussing on stress relief and loosening those shoulders. Until then, take care, enjoy the start of summer and get baking and bridging!