Pump-kin iron

Personal trainer (and former chef) Ian Eassom shares his tips on staying fit and healthy, with the occasional treat…
With the cooler, darker mornings, we sometimes need a bit more of an incentive to keep up with our exercise routine. All those promises we made ourselves felt great in the warm summer sun, but it can get harder as the days get shorter and colder.

Luckily I’ve got a tasty treat in store for you this month, which will help you with your recovery after a good workout. But before we start thinking about food, I have some great moderate intensity exercises for you, to keep those autumn chills at bay.

For these exercises, you’ll need something heavy. I use a weighted ball, otherwise known as a ‘medicine ball’ (this one is 3kg), but if you’re feeling seasonal, a nice big pumpkin will do just as well! A medicine ball is a great versatile piece of equipment to enhance your bodyweight workouts.

A medicine ball push-up adds to the intensity of a standard push-up and works the triceps. Place both hands on the ball instead of the floor and perform your regular push-up style move. The instability of the ball means your triceps and core are working harder to keep you balanced. If you’d like to try something even harder to really test you, then a rolling push-up is the one for you. To do this, keep your hands shoulder-width apart and place one hand on the ball and one on the floor, go into your usual dip, and as you push up, quickly roll the ball to your opposite hand, before going down for your second push-up. Continue to alternate for a tough set of push-ups that will leave you feeling pumped!

We’re no strangers to squats within these pages, but a quick reminder is that a squat involves lowering yourself from standing to an almost seated position, but without letting your knees go further forward than your toes. However, adding a medicine ball to the equation adds some complexity. Hold the ball in front of you, and as you lower, keep it steady. Then when you return to a standing position, hold the ball above your head to get your arms working too. If you need to intensify this further, why not add a core twist into the routine, turning left or right when raising the ball? This will work your oblique muscles too. Although harder, you are working more muscles with one exercise, so your workout can be shorter.

Yes, another squat for you, and this one is a belter. Start standing with your legs twice shoulder width apart, slowly descend on your left leg, keeping your right leg stretched out straight, so that your weight will be over your left leg. Return to a standing position and repeat over your right leg. Again, adding a twist will work your obliques and holding the medicine ball increases the intensity.

The last one with the medicine ball, don’t worry! Lying on your back, hold the ball between your ankles. This will take some practice and don’t be surprised if the ball gets away from you a few times at first. Once you’ve mastered gripping it, bring your knees up towards your chest, then slowly kick out to your starting position.

Take care not to strain your neck, which should be comfortable, angled in line with your back.

That was an intense set of exercises, so you’ve earned a treat after that little lot!

This month, I’m making a seasonal dish that will give you what your body needs after that workout. What’s more, it’s gluten and dairy free. There are lots of empty calories in white flour and sugar, so instead this batter is thickened with coconut flour for tasty slow-burn carbs, giving you the calories you will need after your workout, but without them going straight to your waistline.

200g pumpkin (pureed)
6 eggs
340ml almond milk
6 tbsp coconut flour
4oz oats
4 tsp peanut butter (thinned down with warm water)
1 tsp (heaped) cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
Handful of blueberries
Handful of crushed walnuts
Mixed seeds
1 banana
Honey (for swirling)

Add the eggs to the pureed pumpkin in a large bowl, together with the almond milk, coconut flour, oats, baking powder and cinnamon, whisking into a thick batter.

Pour into a baking tray (roughly 10cm x 30cm) and bake for 20 minutes at 180ºC, or until firm. Spread the thinned peanut butter over the top, and sprinkle the chopped banana, blueberries, walnuts and seeds, before whirling over some honey.

As well as the protein from the eggs and coconut flour, the added nuts and seeds give you plenty of omega 3 to support your muscle building hormones. The blueberries and honey will help with post-workout inflammation too.

To finish it off, dredge a little icing sugar over it to give it that naughty edge (but not too much mind!). This can be served warm or cold; I enjoy it as a brunch dish on its own, but it is also nice as a dessert with its natural sweetness.

Next time, one of my clients will be assisting me in demonstrating some new exercises for you. See you next month!

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