Monday, 4 May 2015

I could have used Noahs ark.

So this last Friday the region I live has had quite a bit of rainfall. Turns out it is the was the wettest day in 200 years of history. It also happened to be the date that my partner was having her birthday dinner further up the coast. After I had finished my day of work I had to rush back to my house to pack and leave. Even on the way home water was washing over parts of the road I had never seen in my life. I wasn’t sure if I could get out of my suburb to get to the highway, even get to the restaurant for dinner. I left anyway and thought I would go a back way which turned out to be very backed up with traffic. I thought I would go through another suburb which is slightly higher than mine. It nearly turned out to be a very big mistake. As I came down a hill there was traffic control on a section of road. They were controlling a part of the road that was covered by water. I thought, well if the water is too dangerous to cross that the traffic control would turn us back. They didn’t so I continued to drive. This was a mistake, my car is a small vehicle (save the planet, man) and it was struggling to drive through the water, I could smell the exhaust and belts affected by the water and my car was being pushed to the side. I was worried I would get pushed off the road and I was angry that traffic control let many of us cross. I kept the throttle on, if you stop in the water you will have a world of problems. I managed to get to the other side and was thinking how stupid that crossing was. I was concerned that the electrics of the car were going to be ruined. But the car seemed to be fine. A small hatchback on the other side seen my car and just stopped and put on his hazard lights, (good decision).

I travelled down the road and went to get back onto the previous back way I had tried earlier. Near the local garbage dump there was even more water and I saw an SUV try and cross it and after my previous encounter, I was not going to try it. I decided to go up an overpass into another suburb that I knew connected to the highway. As I drive up the hill to the overpass the rain was so heavy that the water seemed like it was flooding up the hill. A small car ahead of me began to slow down and I was shocked because they could be putting themselves at risk of being pushed by the water. They pulled off the road and I continued on. I drove through the suburb until I came to an intersection the moved 800m in 2 hours. I had several phone calls from my mother and partner giving me updates. The highway when I go to it was completely stopped. I thought I may try and go the back way, this was also stopped. I decided to go further to the back and follow a train line. I seen many cars on the side of the road with tyre blow outs and some just broken down. I pressed on into another suburb going through back streets to avoid backed up traffic on the main roads. It was chaos, cars were driving on the wrong side of the road not abiding by road rules. Cars were left in the middle of the road due to what seemed to be flash flood damage. The intersection I wanted to go through was flooded so I decided to go through a shopping centre to avoid the intersection only to come to a road covered in water. I decided to go back to a road that I knew would lead to the highway. When I got to the end of the road a police officer was directing traffic through an opened weigh bridge to get to the highway. People were speeding on the highway and eventually it came to a stand still less than half a mile from where I got out. It then moved slowly, about walking pace. Cars were even left on the highway and we had to swerve around them. We ended up near a part of the highway that near the outskirts of the metro area. It was there we stopped for the next 3.5 hours. People would get out of cars and have conversations. Turns out a truck ahead had broken down and the water was over the road, combined with a king tide we had to wait. So I pulled out my book I am reading and took the time to relax as there wasn’t much we could do. It wasn’t until 10:30pm we began to move slowly and many people were speeding off even though the water was over the road up further. It was only in one lane, but I hung back to be sure it was safe. With so much rain I expected pot holes, but there wasn’t any to be seen. Cars were now it seemed racing each other and I finally was on the run to my in laws. I had long missed the dinner and I arrived at my in-laws at 11:30pm.

I was lucky 5 people died, 3 in the suburb I spoke about earlier and 2 on the route I was going to take until I was told it was closed. The emergency services were stretched and did a great job. Whilst I admit leaving was the wrong decision, it was because of my determination and persistence that I got to my in-laws by the time I did (a bit of luck too). Some took even longer, I heard 10-12 hours. It is important to be persistent and determined otherwise the road to your goals could take even longer.

I don’t have any pictures, sorry. I was not going to stop for happy snaps in that crazy situation.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Turn up the volume.

So I overheard a conversation recently between some people and I heard a woman say that her son was having trouble putting size on his legs. Now we know each other a little so I like a petulant child I blurted out “volume, he needs more volume”. She said to me “oh he gets plenty of protein and he eats tonnes”, I said “oh no I meant volume for his leg work”. The woman said “he is a tiler so he is using his legs all the time and he goes to the gym 6 days a week for like an hour”.
So in response to the above, I begun to explain what I meant. Firstly going to the gym everyday does not mean that you are covering all the bases and frequently we fall into patterns. So it would be important to be taking a log of each session to reflect on and analyse the sessions. I also explained that we use our legs all the time, we are built to use them. We walk on them after all and they are used to a lot of work. More importantly, I explained the idea of volume. Volume in resistance training is often measured in tonnage. As a basic guide sets x reps x weight lifted= volume in a session. To see that as an example 3 x 12 x 15kg for bicep curls right arm = 540kg lifted on one arm. Now that may be added up for the week based on the amount of sessions to give a total volume loaded on a body part of the body.

For legs, volume is where the secret lies. Some smaller muscles and less used body parts such as the arms may be able to get away with doing less volume, but in general volume is key for leg growth. It is assumed that a decent amount of weight is being used. Some programs like German volume training (GVT) have been used to produce massive tree trunk legs. GVT uses a 10x10 scheme with a starting weight that you could do for 20 reps about 60% of your 1RM. Now I won’t get into detail about the program except to say it is hard and puts on size. I know from personal experience Olympic weightlifting styles of training also help put on size. One of my programs had me squat 3 reps at different weights, all above 85% of 1RM for 12 sets. I was lifting about 4 tonnes of weight four times a week. My legs grew like no one’s business. I had to get looser fitting pants.
If you want to finally see those legs grow and get some new pants just to accommodate them, maybe it is time to add some more volume in your session. Now yes, that may mean one less bench day, but your legs and your body overall will thank you. Compound lifts such as squats, deadlifts, leg presses and single leg work also help stimulate whole body muscle growth, to me that is a win-win. So do some more volume.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Want success more than you want to sleep

I find myself reciting the article title a fair bit. There is a tonne of motivational videos on the internet which is where this line comes from. Whilst some have switched off from the day long ago I am writing this article not for me, but to help you. On the other hand, there are some who will work long into the night more than me and these people want success more then they want to sleep. Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about sleeping faster in one of his videos. I found this really funny, but he also talks about working your butt off in that same video.

It doesn’t matter what it is you want to achieve at some point you will have to roll up your sleeves and do some hard work. If it is fitness related most likely it will take more work than you think. But it isn’t the end result where you learn the most and get the benefits. It seems to be the journey where you learn what you can do and endure not the destination. Often you will hear advice given that habits make us what we are or that we are our habits. I think this is largely true. So if you are new to fitness maybe you should focus on creating the habit of exercise. I have talked about goal setting in the past, here. Behavioral goals are very often overlooked, but this is a powerful, subtle goal to set. Setting a behavioral goal to create a habit could see you on the journey to success without you realizing it.

Something you should do is set up behavioral goals to create habits. This will help you become successful easier. You will become your habits. If your habits are exercising, eating healthy and working your butt off for success more than you want to sleep, then the journey will be hard and tiresome but worth it.

Monday, 13 April 2015

This may help.

Something I see often in today`s fitness industry all to often is "experts" trying to create dependency on them from clients. That makes sense in a way, I get it. Someone has grown reliant on them and therefore keeps giving them money to keep seeing them for the service or product. As I write that I can't help but think this is a parallel to a drug dealer and a junkie (in a small way). To me though it seems a little short sighted. Why? Because this industry should not be about a dependency being created, it should be about educating and creating someone that can do it on there own. Now I am not saying you need to get a degree and so on but you should understand the why's and how's just as much as the whats. Many fitness gurus advertise products and services like ,"get shredded abs in seconds", or ,"get the body you have always wanted in X days". It seems to work, these people are making money. Let us conclude that a person pays the money and does the course and is successful. What happens if they get injured and take 3 months off and put on weight and lose the "shredded abs"? They do the course again? What if they can't or they can't afford it? Well it may be a struggle to get back those "abs". What I am saying is that knowledge is power. If you go and see a personal trainer, exercise physiologist or a strength and conditioning coach they are a product of knowledge and experience. For me I want to share some resources that may help you. If tomorrow I woke up and everyone was fit, healthy and chronic disease free I think I'd be happy about that. To be clear some of these resources I used long before going to get a formal education in the fitness field and some I picked up whilst at university.

First one I will point out is Starting Strengthby Mark Rippetoe. If you are starting as a beginner and want to get strong this is a good place to start. If you are reading this thanks to Reddit, Starting Strength has a big following on there. Rippetoe is a smart guy and the keep it simple approach works really well. No BS just a decent book with a decent program that makes compound movements and the barbell king. Now I am not going to get into a deep review of this or anything merely suggest some resources that may help.

Now if you are thinking of going the Crossfit route for fitness. Becoming a supple leopard is a book you should read. Dr Kelly Starret breaks down the "standards" of Crossfit but even more important is the way he tells you that if you can't achieve movement A you shouldn't try movement B until you can achieve X. That is important to me and it helps give some prescription help and knowledge to remember for yourself. Even better though is if you can't get into a position due to a mobility issues he gives out methods to improve that issue.

If you haven't heard that kettlebells are all the rage or you have and you want to get into it. I have written in the past about how my grandparents bought me my first KB (kettlebell)here. I haven't looked back. In order to learn about using a KB though I needed help. I found Mike Mahler's training dvd. I really enjoy kettlebells they are a different but accessible pieces of equipment. If you can't afford a barbell or gym membership a KB may be the answer.

I think the last resource I will talk about is the internet. Granted there are a lot of people selling snake oil but you can now learn anatomy for free via Youtube which I encourage you to do. You don't have to be Bones to have some knowledge about how your own body works. So do some research and be diligent. After all ,Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Disclaimer: If you do buy any of the above mentioned resources I do receive some income off of it. If you choose to go elsewhere to find it cheaper that is fine as long as you are learning.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Sometimes we fall down but we have to get back up.

Life sometimes throws us obstacles. Now some call it an act of god, some say just chance, I say it’s an opportunity be it a well disguised one. Well, life has thrown me an obstacle. I recently was playing a game of volleyball. Whilst contesting a ball I jumped up to hit the ball back over the net and at the same time someone else on the other side jumped to stop me. He came down first I came down second and landed on his foot. In basketball this term is called a “broke ankle” and well for me whilst not being a broken ankle it was no party. So I left the court and sat down, I could barely walk, somebody got me some ice and I iced it for the rest of the game. When I left I put my shoe back on and laced it tight. I needed to add some compression. Now I figured since I could sort of walk on it, I didn’t see a doctor right away. I got home and did the usual first aid. I spent hours with it elevated and iced. It was beginning to swell. To add to matter, I had a friend's 30th birthday dinner to go to. Whilst at this dinner it was a buffet so I had to make a walk a couple of times. Over the next few days I limited the amount of walking I was doing. And like DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) it got worse on the second day. Swollen, bruised and reduced range of motion. At one stage I had a sack of fluid on the top of my foot that would jiggle when I walked.
So it has taken a few weeks for the bruising to reduce and the swelling is still present. I have seen a doctor and luckily there appears to be no ligament damage or fractures. I have it pressure bandaged up and if you have an ankle issue they can be a handy thing to have. I also have access to a ankle brace and I will recommend it to patients that have a chronic injury, but I want them to always move towards not wearing it so all the tissues get stronger. But here is the kicker to this article I am not writing to share some soppy story. You see, this is an obstacle for me but I have training on about how to handle this. Some people would use this as an excuse I won’t be. So I can’t put weight on that ankle, but my other leg works and so does the rest of me. This is the real crux of this article some people find excuses and sometimes they are legitimate, but my ankle injury is not an excuse to not exercise or begin to eat junk and say why me.
People create pros and cons to the situation, I’d prefer to look at the pros of this situation. I could have no leg, it could have been blown off. I have options to work with. You know, what if I didn’t have university education and experience to back it up I would still be looking at ways I could progress. The difference isn’t in how much I know or how much you know. It is about how you approach the obstacle you are confronted with. Weight loss, injury and many other things with a small reframe of the situation we can see the positives and benefits we can take from this obstacle and create a opportunity from an obstacle.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Never fear the talented

Have you ever seen that person who seems to be able to do anything really well? Like the universe has given them something special. I know I have. These people seem to breeze through life and things just fall into place. They can do anything easy and eat anything with no repercussions. Many will say “they are lucky”, or “they are talented” or “they have great genes”. I have had heard people at various competitions say “oh that person is so talented”, and they’re right. What I have noticed is often people that are talented seem to lack a key characteristic to true success. I am talking about persistence. Now I am not saying talent doesn`t count, just look at the Williams sisters, they are talented and hardworking. Granted they seem to be able to work less to accomplish more but they have also been persisting their whole lives at tennis so the line could blur between talent and persistence.
For the most part though persistence and effort will triumph over talent. Often I see talented people fall by the wayside because it comes to easy so they don`t appreciate what they are doing. You may point out various people and situations that are different. To the everyday human persistence is what counts. I have two degrees and various other qualifications. I have been lucky to be born into a situation where I could access that opportunity. It took persistence and effort to achieve those things and come out the other side once I took advantage of the opportunity. This applies to almost everything in life. We cannot choose where we are born but we can choose to a large degree what we do about our situation thereafter. Often when people fail something be it a diet or a training plan we look to blame some outside force. Whilst there may be some truth to their excuse for the most part the onus lies with that person. Like getting financially independent it takes persistence and effort. Having a long lasting relationship takes persistence and effort. Having a healthy body and active lifestyle takes persistence and effort.
What is persistence and effort? It means trying and keep moving forward. Some days things won`t come easy or most days they won`t. That doesn`t mean quit and make excuses. That’s the time to persist and put in the effort. They are times that count and you grow. I can tell you I thought about giving up and I have been lucky to have a partner support me and tell me to remember who I am. Who I want to be. Do you want to be that person that quit and didn`t get what they wanted and blamed someone else or pointed to the talented person because they did it easy. Don`t be that person, never fear the talented and persist, persist, persist.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Ain`t No Mountain High Enough

So my 30th birthday approaches shortly and I am frequently asked if I feel old or am I scared of getting older? Do I feel old? No, not at all. Am I scared of being thirty? Off course not. I am however scared of not achieving more, I feel like I haven`t quite achieved enough yet in my lifetime. You see my birthday follows closely to my anniversary. Generally my partner and I go away to celebrate to different and sometimes random locations. This year was no different as we both visited an area neither of us have been.
Where we stayed there were two nearby national parks. So on our first free day we decided to go on a hike. When we arrived I saw the very aptly named “the pyramid” through the trees. A mountain made of granite with its large tip bare of any trees. Once we gathered a limited understanding of some very crude maps we sighted the trail and began walking. From the beginning I wanted to climb to the top of it. I have had quite a bit of experience climbing indoors/outdoors and bouldering so I felt comfortable with the idea. The trail itself was 1.6km (1mile) long which is nothing to walk at all. But at the same time the trail also ascends to 1200m (3/4 mile). So in a word the trail gets steep and my partner is as good at climbing hills as I am at swimming. (Which would make sense to you if you read my previous posts and knew just how terrible I was at swimming). Now really this was a challenge for her. We had to stop a few times to allow her to get comfortable with the height and steepness of the trail we were walking. I thought that she was going to turn back at one stage early on, but after a few minutes she had become comfortable and we went up further.
Now this trail ascends through forest, brush and bush with giant granite boulders and formations protruding randomly from the earth. Then we came to a clear area which was the base of the climb to the top of “The Pyramid”. At this point my partner chose to stay at the base where she would take photos of the view at 960m (3149ft). She didn’t feel comfortable with the steep terrain combined with the bare granite that she felt wouldn’t grip. I took off up the mountain which quickly began to slow me down as it was getting steeper fast. I was guided by a track marked with spray paint every few metres.
As I ascended I went through a channel of granite and passed two fathers with their two young children. On the way up we passed a teenage couple and they told us there is a section that is a “bit slippery”. Granite has lots of grip when dry but when it is wet it`s dangerously slippery. I went through the channel and took some photos of lizards that lived up there. I came to a section with some running water and then I began to traverse the outside of some granite to try and follow the marked trail. The recommended trail began to slope off to one side where there was a shear drop. The ground was too slippery and my feet stumbled. I managed to steady myself and decided that there must be a better way. So I climbed over the granite boulder and through some trees. I came across a couple with the boyfriend trying to get around the outside like me. “I told him and his girlfriend about the safer route I took. They went that way and I passed them.
As continued on I found myself pausing as it was getting very steep and I couldn’t help but wonder how I was going to get back down. I was scared and my heart was pounding. I told myself I was going to get down and I had no option but to continue. I had come this far I might as well see the top. I took control of my breathing and relaxed. The trail corkscrews up clockwise and I climbed some boulders and got to the top. I couldn`t see my partner so I had to crab walk down the face so I could see her. She took my photo and I began to make my way back. The air was getting cold and the clouds looked dark. I knew I had to get off of this rock. As I made my way down I had to crab crawl again just before the slippery section. It was at this point I had originally seen the two fathers with their kids. They had gone through the same trail I did to avoid the slippery section. One father got down like I did as we passed and crab crawled. I went back down and hung onto the channel to stop me getting to much speed. It began to rain when I reached the base. Two wives/mothers were sitting at the bottom waiting for their husbands. I said “you should call your family back it could get really dangerous”, luckily they had already done it.Really it was to dangerous to have young children on that trail. I caught up to my partner and we started to head back down. By now it was pouring. We tried to hide under an overhanging rock but we were already soaked so we thought we will just continue. We decided to walk a few other tracks, taking photos and enjoying the rain as we went. We were worried about the people on the mountain and wondered if they had gotten off safely. I had no climbing gear to help them if they did get stuck I would be little use. Turns out when we got back to the car after our hour ,3.5 km detour they had just managed to get down from the mountain. They has some scratches but were ok. I felt relived.
Now it turned out whilst I was on the mountain trail my partner had climbed up even higher. It was something I hadn’t realized with all the excitement until we were reflecting on the photos later. Alone and eager to try she inched up using the same method of step by step weaving through the limited rock formations she could find to help her feel comfortable with the steep terrain. It reminded me of a thought I had when I was sitting on the mountain top. Fitness is often like that day, it is a hard slog to get up there and it can be risky or painful but it is worth it. We got soaked that day but both my partner and I could`ve quit and turned back at any time. Neither of us made excuses we just took one step at a time. My partner really did a great job and she seemed really happy with herself. I am very proud of her because I know how big of a challenge it was. That makes me happy when someone persists and achieves and off course you can do that to. Just persist and try and it will be worth it.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

You don`t need all that jazz.

So I am a bit ADHD, I lose interest in things or get distracted. Exercise is no exception to this, so every 4-6 weeks I change up my training program. Now it may be small changes, such as variations of the exercises I am doing. Sometimes I do a re think and change the whole thing. Now over the years I have acquired a fair bit of equipment and I will try to train different things. So for one block of training since I have kettlebells I do kettlebell training. I also have a weight set and for a block after that I might do a barbell block or use both pieces of equipment. To be honest, I have a bunch of equipment, but really the number one thing I have is my mind and my body. I don’t mean calisthenics necessarily either, I am talking about using my mind to lead my body. Recently I made some paralette bars out of pvc.
This piece of equipment is used to perform various gymnastic moves. I thought I would like to challenge myself and do something different. To be honest, I thought it would be easier to use these bars due to the helpful grip component and try out some moves. Turns out not so easy and to be honest, I kind of like that. It challenges me and it highlighted some areas I could improve. They were cheap to make too. I made them for $31 and about 30mins worth of time. That’s the thing I want to highlight in this article is that really it is your mind and your body that you are training and to be honest, if my equipment disappeared, I`d be upset but at the same token I don`t have to have equipment. You probably don`t either, seems when people make the choice to start exercising they have to get the latest gym wear and awesome shoes, etc. To be honest you don`t have to have all that kind of stuff. I was told that exercise cost too much. I suggested to this person 1. Could they afford to be unhealthy? 2. Exercise can be free or low cost. I built my paralette bars and many pieces of equipment many pieces are cheap or free. Really, it is about being creative if you have two buckets you could fill them with water and lift them up. You can use furniture or logs or a wheelbarrow or walk home from shopping and every time you stop do a different exercise move.
Exercise is about being creative and improving your health. It isn`t about the latest gym wear or shoes and we need to remember that when we put up barriers to exercise. Children are great exercisers and they are very creative many times using the world around them. Could you find ways to exercise using the world around you relatively cheap or free?

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Stick it to me

Do you like to have people smoking near you? I don`t. Do you like people with the flu, coughing near you and spreading their germs? I don`t. Do you like to drive your car without wearing a seatbelt and risk crashing? I don`t. If you become remotely offended in this article I really don`t care, but please think about your position before you attack me. You see I am confused, I am confused about why there is a movement towards not protecting humans against a long time enemy we have fought long and hard against for our survival. I am talking about disease.
Now I don`t know about you but I am vaccinated against a variety of diseases. Many of these jabs were not my choice but that of my parents. They exercised their parental rights to get me vaccinated just as they did when they made me wear a seatbelt in the car or a helmet when I rode a bike. Now in my opinion, these three things are all very similar. Each of them are designed to be preventative measures against insult to our body. It was also widely accepted back then that vaccinations like wearing a helmet was a safe way to protect your children. Now it appears the argument is vaccinations cause a variety of adverse reactions. I do wish to side note that many of these adverse reactions are extremely rare and the evidence that is relied on by many anti-vaccinators is a paper that has long been discredited and settlements in court about adverse reactions that have been taken out of context. People are now moving towards vaccinations being the boogie man that hurt people.
Now I am curious if any of these people were around when Polio was a big killer? I am also curious if they are vaccinated themselves? I wonder if these people are truly aware that the decisions they make affect people and populations around them. The recent Measles outbreak that has occurred is great evidence. Measles is no joke and neither is Polio or many other diseases. They argue it is their right to not vaccinate their child and send them to school. Do they drive their cars whilst their child is unrestrained? I am not arguing about what these people’s rights are but I am arguing about the general population’s right to be as protected as possible from disease, which on the whole is due in a large part to vaccinations. They seem to argue that it is ok to risk a child under 6 months who can`t be vaccinated. Not so much with words, but by merely having their child or them around to potentially pass on a disease show that they are ok with the risk. It is the definition of arrogance in my opinion. It is a misguided sense that it will never happen to me or my child.
Now I generally write about fitness and health. I get that this is an opinion piece, but it is an opinion based on common sense. We use to say, well it is survival of the fittest, but the game has changed. Humans have worked long and hard to reduce risks to our lives and that is part of the reason why our species flourish. It is simple for me there is no point writing about exercise or health if our lives were like they were 40 000 years ago, it wouldn`t matter. Things would not be like they are now without seat belts, helmets and vaccinations. I`ll leave you with this thought, millions of cars are driven and they pose a risk of accident and death. A seat belt makes a significant difference in survivability, but some people do suffer whiplash. Ask them if they preferred to crash without a seatbelt, the answer is obvious. So I ask how many outbreaks do we need to have before people start wearing their “seat belts”.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

It’s not how hard you train but how well you recover

The last post was about sleep and how we don’t get enough. In this article I mentioned how important sleep is for recovery. If you haven’t heard yet, you don’t build muscle or get stronger when you are training/working out. After we have challenged our body, it improves various tissues and abilities to try and cope the next time it is challenged. So hitting the gym every day for 3 hours and working hard to work towards your goal, without adequate rest may be the reason you are feeling tired all the time and just feel crap. There is good news once you have identified the problem you can fix it. But what if you are still feeling sore and just seem to struggle? Well, there are various recovery methods that can be used and many are cheap that can help aid your body's recovery.

Firstly, just want to cover some quick information, muscle soreness often occurs 1-3 days after a big session this is known as DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness). If you are not sore after a session that doesn’t mean your body isn’t healing to get you, “them gains”. Something you should know our muscles will recover quicker than our neurological system. If this is new to you, let me explain, your muscles are the engine and the ignition system if your neurological system. Basically, your nervous system governs how much your muscles can give. The neurological system can take much longer to return to 100%.

So what can we do to aid the body to recover? Well, we have talked about sleep already. But there are other methods. The first one is just as, if not more important than exercise, it`s nutrition. The pre and post nutrition intake can make a big difference. Depending on what kind of exercise you are doing can dictate what kind of foods you could be eating. If it is intensive try to stay away from anything that can lead to an upset stomach or something that will be terrible if you vomit. Try to have a pre-workout meal about 1.5 hours before exercise this may mitigate the risk of vomiting. The pre workout meal helps provide the nutrients to fuel the workout and improve performance. As for the post workout meal, try to get your meal within 30 minutes after you train. Now this isn’t a hard rule but research has shown that 30 minutes after a session the body is at the optimal state to absorb the most nutrients to aid recovery. I`d recommend a pre-prepped meal for easy access with some protein and carbs. Also in the coming days, research shows that taking about 20-30g of protein every couple of hours can help keep the protein synthesis fires burning. So taking a heap of protein in one go may not be ideal.
So let’s talk water. Not hydration I assume you are doing this and I won`t go into depth about how important hydration is for recovery. But there other ways we can use water to improve our recovery. Firstly, the contrast shower, we use hot and cold water in an alternating fashion. This helps the body relax and begin the recovery process. I have seen multiple protocols for this, I personally use a 2mins hot and a minute’s cold. I repeat this for about 10 minutes. I will caution this can be tough as the cold feels really cold. I do contrast showers if I can’t get to a pool. I love to use the pool for recovery. When coming home from weightlifting training I jump straight into the pool and I begin to do some walking forwards and backwards, leg swings, arm swings, etc. Try to use movement that use muscles you have worked during your session. The cool water of the pool helps return the body back to a normal temperature state and relax the nervous system. The hydrostatic pressure of the water helps with muscle swelling (edema). An Epsom salt bath can be handy as well. The magnesium helps the muscle soreness and recovery and helps relax the nervous system. Dissolve about 500g into a hot bath and relax. Do not do this if you have high blood pressure or kidney issues.
Now back on dry land there are some key things we can do. The warm down is the biggest one. It helps the body works out metabolites built up from training and helps relax the body. After a weightlifting session I like to go for a 30min walk this way I get some recovery and I cover the exercise guidelines of moderate cardiovascular exercise. Now if you don’t have time for that, a simple 5min jog or a 5 minute walk followed by some stretching may be fine. Stretching is something we all should be doing be it around our exercise or just when we are in front of the TV. Stretching and yoga can help ease DOMs and relax us before bed. We can also do some self-massage of our muscles as well as this aids blood flow and helps relax our muscles like stretching. You can use a foam roller and all those instruments of release if you like.
The most important part of the recovery protocols I think is about returning the body back to its normal state and using blood flow to get nutrients to tissues that need it. It will relax the nervous system so the body can get to 100% regeneration mode. Try some of these out and see how they work for you. Get back to me in the comment section about what you like and dislike. I am still thinking of ideas for an online course. Contact me with what you would like to see.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

You are getting sleepy

We live in a fast paced world, it only seems to be getting faster and our time is constantly strained or misused. We have jobs, family, hobbies and whatever season of a TV show we are currently watching. We take things for granted, simple things really. These simple things play a massive role in our lives, more than we realise. To be honest, if we get a lot of the basics done right the bigger picture becomes easier to manage. One of those basics is sleep. Seems simple, but getting good quality sleep seems to be a forgotten art form for many.

Does sleep matter that much? Whilst that is a general question the answer is obvious, yes it is. But why is does it matter has been researched for quite some time. Now you may have said “our body heals and restores”, you would be right. There are other reasons though, we heal when we are awake as well, but it seems we restore best when we are asleep. This may have to do with the fact that we are asleep and it seems like we heal and rest up since we are not consciously aware of time. We also seem to consolidate memory and begin to defrag the hard drive. Recently, scientists discovered that during sleep, our brain is very active in removing waste created by cells when we are awake. That is a big deal, but it is obvious we need sleep. Shift workers will often have an increased risk of various diseases due to disturbed sleep cycle. Sleep deprivation in rats leads to them dying. Now we are not rats, but sleep deprivation in humans can have some disastrous effects. Even with only a few hours less of sleep over a few days you may have found yourself craving sugar. That’s because of the hormone Leptin, it is affected by sleep duration and cannot signal properly that you are full. To make matters worse a peptide secreted in the stomach called Ghrelin signals an increase in appetite. That alone could be bad for those trying to lower their calorie intake.
So what can you do to improve sleep? Lay off the stimulants, energy drinks, coffee etc. I try not to drink coffee after 2pm and if I do I go decaf or have a fair bit of water to try and flush it. To add to the consumption theme try not to eat too much before going to bed it can make you uncomfortable and the thermic effect of digestion of food doesn’t help either. Alcohol has been shown to upset our sleep cycle so try to moderate your alcohol intake.

When you go to bed do you sleep on a bed of nails? Probably not, but it is important to have an environment that is conducive to you sleeping. The temperature should comfortably cool 60-75F and limit distractions in your room. Electronics in your room are a big distraction and have been shown to interfere with your sleep. So turn off the TV, put down the phone or leave them out in the lounge.
Try and get your exercise done earlier rather than later. I have a rule to try and not train after 9pm. For those of you that are morning people you may get your exercise out of the way no problem. It is important to try and be consistent with when you go to sleep and when you wake up. Try to keep it within 30mins or so of your goal sleeping and rising. Try to get to sleep before midnight. I have noticed a lowered training output if I sleep after 12pm no matter how good it is. It may be helpful to read or meditate, even a light stretch before sleeping will do wonders for your sleep quality.
But how many hours should I get? The general guidelines seem to be about 7-9 hours. How do I know if I slept well? Seems obvious, but I thought I’d measure it to find out. There are many ways to track this. I used the app Sleepbot on my phone, I put it on and then put the phone under my pillow and it tracked my motion whilst I slept as this seems to correlate with sleep quality and cycle. I personally was not a fan of having a phone under my pillow and trying to sleep. It was like my body wouldn’t go through a complete cycle when using it. I stopped using it and slept better. You may like to try a sleep log or a Fitbit or similar as they are on your wrist.

Sleep is a big part of your life, health, recovery and overall wellbeing. It is important that you get this one basic right. All of the supplements and recovery techniques cannot replace a good quality night’s sleep.

Make a comment below about what future articles you would like. I am considering creating a online course, what should I make the course about? Comment or contact me via email

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

A challenge done.

So I wrote about how not only should we set goals but we should set ourselves challenges and get us out of our comfort zone. You can read the article here but in that article I mentioned that my challenge was to swim 1 kilometer (0.65 of a mile). For some of you reading this it is no big deal but for me it was. I considered that it would take at least half a year of swimming to get to the point of swimming 1K. I went to the pool last week, I asked my partner to go with me as she is a great swimmer and I figured I might need someone to save me from drowning. You see I wanted to see how far I could swim in a session much like testing before starting an exercise program. Well it turns out that in one session I hit my challenge I set for myself. Yep I managed to swim 1k, I was really surprised by myself and I will mention that I did stop a couple of times for short rests. So I have upgraded my challenge to swim 1k without stopping. So to get to that I plan to swim 500 meters first without stopping, gradually progressively overloading how much I can do by adding 100-250m each week.

I am really keen to get your comments back in regards to your challenges and how your exercise testing and programs are coming along. For those of you that are reading for the first time I have linked the other articles I have written to help you set your challenges, test yourself and plan a exercise program.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Plan Ex

So you read the last article and if you didn’t, read it here. My previous article looked at some tests that you can do to find out where you are before you start an exercise program. You should have a program to follow. You could pay someone to do it or you can educate yourself on how to write one. That way you can just go ahead and see if you can hit your goal without anyone else’s help. This article will provide a little bit of guidance to help you design your own program.
First thing is you need to determine your situation. You are an individual and things like age, gender, work and family life as well as medical history and even self-confidence will determine what your plan will look like. Your goal/challenge will play a huge role as well, you wouldn’t write a plan to swim a mile then take up boxing and not swim at all.

So let’s get to some variables of the plan. This includes repetitions, sets, rest, frequency, intensity, tempo, progressive overload and types of exercises/activity. Repetitions (reps) refers to how many times you do a particular exercise or movement e.g. 12 reps bicep curls. Repetitions will have a relationship with intensity. Generally the heavier the weight (intensity %1Repetition Max) the less reps you will be able to do. If you are trying to improve strength without putting on to much muscle mass you would use 1-5 reps with an intensity of 85%-100% of your 1RM. If you are trying to get bigger muscles use the 8-12 rep range with intensities of 60-85% of your 1RM. Now if you want to increase your endurance use 15-20 reps with greater than 40% of your 1RM. Now I am aware that I am using resistance examples but you could use cardio based exercise. Cardiovascular examples include 3 repetitions of sprints or running 1 repetition of a mile. These examples can be linked to intensity as well. Cardiovascular exercise intensity is often measured as heart rate BPM (beats per minute) or percentage of maximum heart rate. These are measured by a HRM (heart rate monitor) For example 3 sprint reps at 80-90% of maximum HR or 1 mile of running at 140-150bpm. Rate of perceived exertion (RPE) could be used for either modes of exercise whereby the exerciser will chose a rating off a scale to describe how hard they are working.

Now I briefly want to talk about tempo many people these days pay no attention to tempo but it can be a real game changer. Have you ever been at a gym and seen a guy doing a bicep curl slowly down and quickly up? That is an example of tempo. Tempo is how long you should take to lift the weight up, pause, put the weight down and pause. Tempo is measured in seconds and it often expressed 2110 as an example. So 2 seconds to lift the weight up, 1 second to pause, 1 second to lower the weight and no pause at the bottom. The table below can give you some guidance. Keep in mind that every one of these variable are related and if you normally do a weight with no tempo and then you slow it down to suit a specific tempo that weight will get hard real quick. Tempo can also be used in cardiovascular training you may run a mile in a set time period say 1 mile in 7 mins.

So I covered the use of reps and intensity but you don’t generally do 10 biceps curls on their own and that’s that because we need to challenge the muscles to grow. You do sets which is basically how many lots of reps you will do. So if you do 8 squats you may rest and do another set which means you did two sets of eight reps or 2x8. It is important to understand that all of these variables are interrelated with each other. So for reps 1-5 you may do 4-7 sets, reps 8-12 sets would be 4-8 and endurance 15-20 reps would be 2-4 sets. So you will notice that for the greater amount of reps for endurance there are less sets to be done. I explain it like a see saw the more reps you do in a set the less sets you will do. Please note for cardiovascular training these may be different you won’t likely do 2x20 mile runs especially if you are starting out.

Rest is often overlooked but I believe it can be one of the most crucial variables of a program. Why you ask, well if you shorten or lengthen rest periods it can change how your body responds. But to keep this basic I’ll give you some basic rest times that accompany the sets, reps and intensities. The strength 1-5 range will see people rest 2-6 mins, muscle building 8-12 reps 2-5 minutes and endurance 15-20 reps 30secs to 2 minutes. These are all done for certain reasons mainly to give the body a chance to recover from the previous sets and reps efforts.
Leading from rest is frequency or rest between sessions I like to call it. This is about how often you exercise. The American college of sports medicine recommends 15mins of cardio a week and resistance done 2-3 times a week. But how many days per week? Well that’s up to you but I would recommend alternating cardio with resistance or upper and lower body workouts. Be aware that if you have a big session doing upper body you wouldn’t do upper body the next day. Frequency will depend on your plan design, the harder the session depending on what you did the more rest you may need between sessions.

Now that I have explained some of the other variables I will introduce volume. Volume is the amount of work that you are doing in a session. It is calculated in resistance training by sets x reps x load e.g bicep curls 3x8x20lbs = 480lbs and that is in one session and as you can see it quickly adds up. Other ways of measuring training volume are miles covered total or time at a certain HR (heart rate). It is important to understand that total volume is measured per session and totalled for the week. To much volume and you can burn out or hurt yourself, not enough and you may not be getting all the benefits you could for your time. Prescribing volume will depend heavily on what your program has in it. I know that Olympic weightlifters measure their programs volume with tonnage. Side fact 1980’s Bulgarian weightlifters over a year may lift 41 000 tonnes of weight.

Planning the order and type of exercises will depend on what you do you want to achieve. Generally exercises are ordered from compound to isolation exercises, heaviest and most taxing to easiest. This may seem obvious but if you do 3x8 of bicep curls and then try to do some chin-ups which your biceps are heavily involved in, your chin-ups performance may suffer. So you would do bench press before you do dumbbell fly’s or you would squat before you did leg extension. To add fuel to the fire if you do cardio before weights or weights before cardio has been contentious within the research. It has been shown it depends on what you are trying to emphasise so this should be taken into account.

Finally the main thing we need to remember is that we are trying to improve something whether it be running further or faster, lifting heavier or more reps we always need to be improving. If you are not progressing you may need to look at your plan or give it a bit more time and hard work. This variable is known as progressive overload and to put it into a simple example you may start walking for 10 minutes each day and every week add 2 minutes to each day and over the course of a year you will increase your walking time a hell of a lot. The body adapts over time but as a caveat via the S.A.I.D principle, (specific adaptions to imposed demands). So keep in mind whilst the example may get better at walking that doesn’t mean they will get better at squatting and heavy weight. So now you are asking how do I go about overloading? Well there are a few ways, you may decide to add a rep each week if you can or instead of 8 reps you do 12. You may decide to add a pound or 0.5 of a kg each week or an extra minute to your run. It is about those small steps that your body can adapt to so you improve gradually, safely and for a long time.

So there you go these are the main variables that you can manipulate to build a plan. Keep in mind that all of the variables are all interconnected and will effect each other. Take it easy and record it in a journal so you can log each session. That way when you design a new plan you have notes about your previous sessions to help guide your.
Like most things in science there are a few different ideas on how many reps, sets and rest times should be used for strength, hypertrophy and endurance. Please keep that in mind if you find that someone tells you that hypertrophy (muscle building) is 10-12 reps as an example and it is different from information here.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Testing time

The new year has dawned and if you have set goals and/or challenges most likely at least one is health and fitness related. If your a physical enthusiast already this article will also be of some help. You see when you open a bank account it starts with zero and you put money into it. You can always see a balance and understand how your money is going. The human body is a little bit different. Often we will see if we put on fat mass or muscle mass, it can be quite obvious. But other markers used in health and fitness are a little less easy to see and should to be measured. After all how do you know if you are improving?

There are thousands of tests we could do. To be honest a blood test is a great idea I think. You can get an idea about how things are going. This can be done via doctors, in some countries private companies can provide these kinds of services. But within the realm of health and fitness is exercise, to improve you will most likely be using some form of plan. Whether you're chasing a stronger squat or maybe you want to run a certain distance in a certain time, there will be a test of some kind that can be used to find where you're at. Now it is important that you choose a test that is valid for what you want to test. You wouldn't use a strength based test to test aerobic endurance. Please remember the law of specificity applies and some tests will have a skill component. There are plenty of studies about some tests having a higher skill based component then others e.g vertical leap, higher skilled jumpers can jump higher.

I am going to write about two tests you can use and either you may love or hate. These can be used to give you a baseline of where you are at. The first one is a staple and you probably have done it and hate it. The (cue the evil music) beep test. The beep test or multi stage fitness test is still used by many organisations. The test allows you to test how much oxygen your body can maximally uptake. It uses running a very common form of exercise and it relates heavily to the cardiovascular system, endurance and aerobic capacity. This test is also simple to do and yes you could do other tests some can cost you a great deal of money that will test these variables. The beep test is conducted over 20m(65ft) and you can find a mp3 or a youtube video online. You really just need to find a suitable area to set up some markers of some kind and after a suitable warm up ,start the mp3 and take the test. Be sure to record what number you finish on. You can use the resources posted here to help fill in the gaps. Be aware this is a maximal test and you should be of some reasonable shape with no health problems, particularly cardiovascular problems. For those of you that can't take this test you can do a sub max test such as a Rockport fitness test.

Now for the second test maximal strength, I am throwing one out I love, the one repetition maximum (1rm). This is a max strength test that can be done with many different exercises such as the bench press, squat and dead lift. Generally the 1rm isn't done with isolation exercises such as the bicep curl. It is a hard test and does rely somewhat on how skilled you are at the movement. As with many tests motivation will also be a factor. This test though on paper can seem simple but start and light and work your way up.Yes there is a protocol to follow and it is important to note whilst there is a protocol there is still some debate about how to best find the 1rm. Use this video as it shows the protocol for the Bench press and use the percentage changes and rest times. This protocol can be used for for other exercises. Make sure you have a spotter and if you are new to all of this preferably get some help from someone with experience.Consider using the 5rm or 10rm which means you will use lighter weight and in theory limit the chance of injury. After you have this 1rm you can use a calculator to find out the various percentages. By the way calculators will use different equations, this one gives some different equation answers so you can choose.

Now be warned these are tests and if you are not up to it or max testing is contradicted you can use other tests. Make sure the test is actually testing what you want to test and make sure you can do it safely and it is repeatable to be tested in 6-12 weeks. I would love to hear about what tests you chose and why and what you got on them. Comment below and share.