This month, Virgin Active’s Master Personal Trainer Tom Atkinson is helping you reach your fit goals. In his first post of the three part series, he gave us the low down on the importance of warming up and why you should start your routine with the hardest part of your workout – compound lifts. In his second post he told us about the importance of assistance work and gave us exercises that will improve our arms and abs. Now, in the final post of the series, he is giving us the low down on HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), why you should warm down after working up a sweat and dietary do’s and don’ts to help you look your best.

Ditch the hour treadmill session – HIIT is here

Running on the treadmill isn’t pointless, but you can ditch the long, boring cardio sessions and get more out of your time in the gym – balancing your resistance training with some high intensity intervals (this is the HIIT thing you’ve kept hearing about). Things such as treadmill sprints or deadmill sprints (with the treadmill turned off), battle ropes and rowing intervals will hit the spot. If you want more of a challenge, give Tabata training a go – 20 seconds of high intensity training followed by a 10 second rest, repeated eight times. Tabata can be done as a cardio workout (for example, sprint on the treadmill, followed by walking and repeated), or with weights – such as thrusters, kettle bell swings, tyre flips and battle ropes.

Post-workout stretching

Post-workout, you should start with static stretching then maybe perform some foam rolling. The main areas to stretch are the glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, back and chest. If using a foam roller, concentrate on glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings and the mid-back. Granted these are not the only stretches to perform, but if your time is restricted, you want to make sure these are covered.

Quick-fire food dos and don’ts

Your diet can make or break your hard work, so take on board the following tips to boost your summer body.


  • Aim for 3-4 proper meals a day. If you are already doing this, carry on but look at what’s in the meals. If you aren’t getting enough then up your intake and always eat your breakfast.
  • Make sure your diet is high in protein at every meal, with high quality proteins such as meat, poultry, eggs and fish.
  • Don’t avoid fat and stick to the good stuff such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olives and their oil varieties.
  • If trying to lose weight, reduce your intake of carbs and utilise them post training at first. Increase them once you feel you are progressing.
  • Eat your greens with every meal.
  • Drink lots of water – aiming for 2-3 litres per day minimum.
  • Don’t restrict calories too much to lose weight and make sure you keep your diet high in protein, fats and greens.
  • Avoid takeaways and alcohol as much as possible.
  • Snack on high protein or protein and fat foods such as nuts and seeds, nut butters, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt.


  • Skip breakfast (or any meal for that matter).
  • Have cheat days rather than a cheat meal.
  • Prioritise supplements over real food.
  • Snack on sweets, fizzy drinks or nutrient lacking ‘treats’.
  • Choose processed foods over real food – get comfortable in the kitchen.
  • Take sugar with you tea or coffee and limit milk in both – you would be surprised by the calories.
  • Fall for the ‘healthy’ label on foods – always read the ingredients.
  • Think all your work in the gym justifies a food binge or alcohol – it doesn’t so keep your goals in mind.
  • Over consume fruit – yes it’s healthy and nutrient dense, but it’s also full of natural sugars.

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