3 fitness basics you probably aren’t doing well

In the fitness world there’s always that new thing people are doing. I have witnessed a heap of it over the couple of decades I have been in the industry. The advent of new exercises is one such development. In 2006 the Glute Guy, Bret Contraras came out with the idea we should all be doing hip thrusters. It was such a no-brainer and he henceforth built a very high standing in the community due to his insightful and accurate contribution. It did take a decade before the exercise really caught on though.

More commonly it’s the fad stuff that comes along, things like those plastic pipes that have hand grips that you throw around in different ninja-like movements. Then there was the “half” gym ball fixed onto a platform that supported your back when doing crunches (why were you doing them anyway lol) or served as a landing platform for jumps because in the real world we always jump onto half balls, right? Unless you are training for the Ultimate Ninja TV show then doing them actually has no benefit and could create issues for your motor unit development. You could also hurt yourself. The vibrating plate was another gimmick that seemed to have science on its side and I believe it still does but performing regular lifts like deadlifts or chest presses doesn’t seem practical on such a small platform. These 3 examples and a few others now pretty much gather dust in the corner of gyms unless some of you reading this are still using them…….something I would suggest you stop doing asap.

As I have written about previously the fitness industry is absolutely rife with products and services that continually do not do what they claim they will but because of the human proclivity towards taking the easy route, many of them continue to be utilised.

Popping a pill to lose weight is a far better option than taking care in what you eat. Strapping on a belt that will vibrate away fat is much better than not eating fast food every other day.

The issue comes down to most people really not knowing what they should be doing exercise-wise. And it starts with the basics.

First and foremost lifting light weights will not make you strong, even if you do hundreds of repetitions. Understanding that high rep ranges with light weights usually results in hypertrophy which is bulging muscles, not necessarily strong muscles. Plus and most importantly you do not get the significant benefit of increased growth hormone, testosterone and estrogen release in high rep ranges, these benefits only occurring when you lift heavy weights over smaller rep ranges. The big guys and girls that do high rep ranges and are strong are usually strong because of the “juice” they take. But even these bodybuilders recognise the benefit of lower rep ranges many of them cycling through different rep ranges within their programs.

So continually walking into the gym and banging out multiple sets of high rep exercises in multiple exercise types is the road to no where.

Which leads me to the second basic concept most gym goers do not understand. Your strength training program should be underpinned by free weight, compound barbell, dumbbell and kettlebell lifts. Machines are for the pro bodybuilders not average Joe’s that do not even understand the basics. Trying to “spot train” weak areas or “lagging muscles” with this machine or that is psuedoscience at its peak.

The human musculoskeletal system is a single, homogenous unit and should be trained that way. All of our metabolic, endocrinal, respiratory, cardiovascular and nervous systems respond positively together in unison when you apply resistance to the unit – then and only then begins the process of optimisation. The only way you can mobilise this process effectively is with free weight compound movements.

And finally the last key basic you are not doing is high intensity short duration cardio.

Time and time and time again I see people strapping themselves onto treadmills, bikes, ellipticals whatever and banging out km after km of steady state cardio in the completely baseless idea that it will burn away fat. They’re not entirely wrong, they will burn a little fat but they will concurrently have a negative effect on their hormones hindering muscle growth and a majority of the potential fat-loss plus create long term issues for their joints.

“Ahhh but I use the bike and not the treadmill so my joints are fine, likewise me that uses the elliptical.”

Not correct. Sitting down and pedalling has long been asscociated with hamstring shortening plus chronic hip flexion presenting as tight and misfiring psoas and piriformis muscles. None of these are good. And as for elliptical use, the hip motion/pattern when using this type of equipment is nothing like what we could describe as normal and I would suggest it would similarly result in many compensatory patterns up and down the kinectic chain.

In my opinion short bursts on the treadmill or bike won’t have a significant negative effect but you are much better doing your HIIT outside on tracks, the road or grass. In the gym use plyometrics like jumps, burpees, mountain climbers, jumping jacks etc.

Unless you’re training for a distance event avoid long distance cardio. And even then you may want to take a leaf out of the training philosophy of a pioneer of distance running and one that became a legend, Emil Zatopek who rarely ever ran the race distance in training focussing instead on running faster, repeat efforts over shorter distances. He famously remarked when asked about his training style –

“Why should I practice running slow? I already know how to run slow. I want to learn to run fast.”

Zatopek in his first Olympic games won the 5000 and 10000 metres and on a whim decided to run in the marathon as well. He won gold in all 3.

He wasn’t a plodder, he was an athlete, teach yourself to be an athlete!

Build your training around the basics and reap the rewards –

  1. Lift heavy weights.
  2. Do compound lifts with barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells.
  3. Do HIIT cardio to a maximimum of 15 minutes.

Darren Blakeley, Owner, Optimise Fit, Phuket, Thailand

Optimise is a private fitness training facility on the island of Phuket. We specialise in helping our clients reach their optimal weights, their sports and athletic performance goals and optimising their general well-being. We help change habits around food, training, sleep, mindfulness and more.


Is your body flourishing or in decline? Do you know? Do you care?

From all my client interactions (over too many years to mention) there’s a heap of takeaways. And I’m constantly reviewing them and using them all in a bid to further develop and refine my messaging to new clients. It’s bigger than that though, in a way I’m not only improving my communication but also redefining the entire framework of the product I offer.

We know that there’s a hierarchy to the different components of a healthy lifestyle and that doing more of one thing has a greater benefit to more of another. As an example it’s now very clear from research that building muscle is way more important than your level of aerobic fitness. It is worth noting that to build muscle there’s a requirement for aerobic work so you’re getting your cardio in anyway.

Another hierarchical fact is you can’t out-train a bad diet which is something I’ve referred to previously because training is the least important part of weight-loss. A tennis buddy of mine today told me that training was the most important part of maintaining weight and general fitness which is not correct.

What I have done to summarise and best illustrate how I look at human performance and the hierarchy of importance is create the Performance Pyramid –

In this illustration I am clearly defining what I believe to be the order of importance as to how each of the components relate to one another. There is not unsubstantial research underpinning the hierarchy of the pyramid but it’s not easy to find and I have accumulated it over many years reading books, research papers and speaking with peers in the industry.


  • Promoting healthy hormone release
  • Aiding muscle generation
  • Creating robust joints and bones
  • Sense of general wellbeing


  • Creating a state of autophagy (healthy tissue regeneration)
  • Building healthy, replicable cells
  • Helping your body function optimally

Body Maintenance

  • Sleep, the Circadian rhythm and rejuvenation
  • Massage, joint mobility and muscular elasticity
  • Breathwork and performance

The Mind Game

  • Internal language
  • Adopting a positive mindset
  • Reacting versus responding

Some would think that certain parts of the Performance Pyramid fall outside the realm of fitness but I beg to differ. Fitness is as much about the mind as it is about the body. Without mental clarity and purpose much can go wrong. Without feeding your body properly nutrients that supply your brain and maintain tissue, hormones, blood and the multitude of other bodily fluids we create will be lacking. Not enough sleep and rest will rob the body of calm. So everything is related and dependent on each other for optimal function.

I can hear many of stating emphatically that you don’t have enough time to tick all these boxes.

There are 2 responses to this. One is with a bit of commitment all can be incorporated it’s simply a case of identifying what works individually in a best way forward scenario. And two and most importantly no one can afford to not address the Performance Pyramid because not doing so will result in illness and/or injury that will put you into a downward spiral of ill-health. This I know to be guaranteed.

It is a fact that most humans raise their risk to illnesses and death with weight gain. In researching this post I found THIS article which I am using as evidence for the previous statement.

I was not surprised to see that stable obesity across adulthood and weight gain from young adulthood to middle adulthood increased risk of death but was surprised to see that from middle adulthood to older adulthood a LOSS in weight was also related to increased mortality. How could this be? Perhaps more people die because they lose weight due to illness than get better by losing weight for health reasons? Kind of scary if that’s the case.

You cannot out-train a bad diet and keeping fit means not injured so maintain your body. Think healthy thoughts and be “on the up” mentally and reap many rewards!


Tennis fitness – who needs it?

I have written extensively in a number of different posts on fitness as it relates to sport. I hold a Masters degree in exercise science and I’m a tennis player so its natural I think a lot about my personal fitness for a sport I love to play. My Masters thesis was written on rugby fitness, a sport I also love and played a lot previously. I found that as I researched rugby fitness and drilled down into the fundamentals around specific movement patterns and energy development pathways, it became obvious there was significant crossover in both areas to a variety of sports. In fact it dawned on me that as athletes playing sport we need to tick certain athletic boxes no matter what we play.

Physically and fundamentally as humans we have 2 energy pathways and 7 movement patterns.

In my fitness studio on the island of Phuket, every new client firstly undertakes an assessment designed to determine capabilities in the 7 patterns. We also assess cardiovascular fitness (energy development). There are baselines in both for everyone no matter what goals we’re interested in pursuing sport-wise or fitness and health-wise.

If you wish to be competitive and advance your game, you must have at least a baseline capability in the 9 areas I have highlighted above. Many do not understand this fundamental principle and obviously it applies to all sports (and athletic pursuits) not just tennis.

So forget “specific” tennis fitness until you have achieved baseline athletic capability. You can practice your game until the cows come home but unless you are addressing fitness fundamentals there will be several consequences.

It should also be noted that ingraining specific movement patterns, which all sports require for competency, is a necessary component of training. However these patterns need to balanced with complementary patterns that keep the kinetic chain healthy otherwise chronic injuries can occur. And as as aside to this I do not condone weighted tennis racquets and golf clubs, for instance. These are flawed training aids that over recruit motor units in the joints and muscle tissue completely disrupting your swing pattern whether tennis or golf (or baseball and softball for that matter).

A negative consequence of not building baseline athletic capability is you will get injured and once you’re injured and don’t properly address it, the injury will return and it will compound over time. A further consequence is compensatory movement patterns occurring if you try to return to sport too quickly. “He just blew out the other knee” (or calf, or shoulder) happens frequently because the originally injured muscle or joint is unable to function correctly overloading the opposite one resulting in another, same but different injury.

Other than injury prevention, “fundamental” athletic strength and conditioning (S&C) is the other box that needs ticking prior to engaging in sport specific S&C.

Mel Siff coined a term that applies to this process and it is, “general physical preparedness” or GPP for short. For instance most frequent CrossFitters are in pretty good general shape which is the purpose of this training modality. The basics of GPP are –

  • Muscular strength and dynamism
  • Joint mobility, strength and resilience
  • Dynamic core and rotational strength
  • Balance and agility
  • Anaerobic capability (many people have ok levels of aerobic capability but tire very quickly during anaerobic work)

A comprehensive list for sure but a skilled practitioner can engage you in all of these quickly, purposefully and safely.

Once you are on the path with these, work that is more specifically geared towards tennis performance can gradually be introduced meaning you get injured less if at all, your game levels up and day to day recovery improves.

This science-based training methodology will mean you are not wasting your time in the gym, time being a commodity we cannot afford to waste, any moment in our lives! Plus and as covered previously, injuries will rarely occur and if they do you will bounce back quickly. And most importantly you will hit the ball harder, make less errors, move more quickly and recover between points much more efficiently.


Ten 1-percenters, building a NEW you!

When I was a youngster and met an older person, I had no mental filter and was routinely shocked at how aging adversely effected people – their looks, mental agility and movements. I have always been pleased that I didn’t ever fall into that category. That was until about 12-13 years ago when I was playing football on the Padang in Singapore. I was early 40’s and figured I was still pretty fit, moved pretty well and (according to trusted sources….) still looked like I was in my 30’s.

I had played a few balls through “the lines” as they now describe them and was going well in this particular match. We were about 20 minutes into the game and we won a corner and their team were arranging their defenders and one of them said, “someone mark the old guy”! I looked around for the old guy and in about 1-2 seconds realised the old guy was me. I went red, seriously. Luckily the hot tropical Singapore sun had me so red anyway no one could notice! But it was a burning red, I was so embarrassed.

Damn!!! I AM THE OLD GUY! Did I let that defeat me? Did it stop me from playing a terrific game that day? Was I mortally wounded by those extremely hurtful words………

Yes. Pretty much all of the above!

Those words swirled around in my head for 20 more minutes until halftime and while I played pretty well that day, I couldn’t get that one comment out of my mind. That time was right about 1 year before I built my fitness business, UFIT. It was also right before my family lost our Dad to cancer. There were several other things going on in my life at that time, it was an interesting period – big change and a lot of challenges.

Looking back it was a catalyst for me to get moving. To really start taking shit seriously. I had been coasting through my life, a lot and it wasn’t serving me being in “coast-mode”. My Dad’s death was a massive wake up call.

I was no longer a young man and my life was slipping through my fingers.

In the 12-13 years from those events my life has changed significantly. To summarise some of the key changes I will bullet-point them –

  • I rarely drink more than 2-3 alcoholic drinks a week
  • I exercise 5-6 times a week and it’s a priority
  • I prepare 90% of my food myself
  • I became vegetarian 8 years ago, animals are too important to me for me to eat them
  • I sleep 8 hours every night
  • I do breathwork exercises 5 days a week
  • I get natural morning sun 3 times a week for 45 minutes each time
  • I give gratitude at night prior to falling asleep
  • I give compliments to people as often as I can
  • I smile and greet as many people as I can every day, especially strangers

The cliche often spoken is the small 1 percenters add up to big gains. These 10 are my 1 percenters and they add up to way more than 10%!

And it has taken me 12-13 years to implement these changes but what a rewarding journey it has been. You can initiate all the above, NOW, today!

For me personally I can assure you the reader that my vitality, my fitness including strength, cardio, agility, speed etc, my general health are all in a very high percentile for a man my age (56). Last Sunday I played 18 holes of golf at 730am, the first game in 6 months and managed 4 pars on the back 9 including pars on the last 2 holes and then played a tough hour of singles tennis in the afternoon. I woke up Monday feeling pretty awesome with absolutely zero aches and pains!

Ultimately as I have written about previously, it’s all about the hormones. As we age cortisol begins to dominate our hormonal profile (as the stresses of life accumulate), as men we produce less testosterone and women less estrogen so our sex lives deteriorate. It’s almost as if nature doesn’t want older people to reproduce, which I think is clearly the case. And older men and women that can manage it are probably robust enough to produce tough kids. But for a majority it is simply not going to happen. Men and women also see a precipitous drop off of growth hormone (GH) which is required for the formation of new tissue necessary for the healthy reproduction of bones, muscle, skin, teeth, everything!

I am constantly amazed at the lack of understanding of basic health knowledge among the general population. As a species we are constantly renewing all of our tissue, all of the time. Bone is regrowing inside to out, teeth, hair, nails, skin, all the same. We age because that reproductive process gets tainted by poor quality ingredients which I hope is no surprise to you, is totally compromised of the food you eat. Yes. You eat poor quality food at your peril and if you do not know the source of the food you are eating and 99% of you don’t, then there’s a problem.

If you are in the small group that purchases (or even better, grows) most of your food and use basic preparatory tools and techniques, well done. But you must also consider water quality, household cleaning products, sleep and rest and the other parts of the hormonal puzzle.

Otherwise physical decline is guaranteed.

Don’t be a statistic. Take control of your life by making changes to how you live it. Don’t make excuses, you’re only lying to yourself!


Fitness classes? Are they really worth it?

As a fitness coach that studied both Masters level exercise and nutrition science and also completed a traditional personal training course I came to realise there were limitations to both pathways.

The traditional path of PT’s completing any of the multitude of courses out there leads many to a cookie cutter approach to fitness. The individual will usually be able to prepare a session plan, know their way around a gym and give reasonable guidance on technique but there will be glaring weaknesses. The university qualified individual will know most of the science behind what needs to be done but packaging it into session plans and delivering them successfully is highly challenging for these people

This has produced professionals with wide varying degrees of expertise but every one of them probably claiming to be very good at what they offer. And I am not saying they’re wrong in making such a claim – but we don’t know what we don’t know, right?

When it comes to session planning, whether it’s for a class, sports team or for an individual there needs to be several considerations and within these considerations even more thought and planning is then required – the starting points are what are the required outcomes for the session and what are the limitations governing the session? What are the time frames on the work you’re doing? How will you track data that could and usually should be accumulated?

Obviously if there’s a multi person session being planned consideration to a variety of fitness levels being general movement, strength/mobility and cardiovascular capabilities need to be considered plus there maybe people with pre-existing injuries that they know about and even those that don’t realise they’re carrying an injury (this being one of the single worst situations a trainer or coach can find themselves in). Then we need to know what are they training for, cardiovascular endurance, a sport or a skill or component of that sport, general strength or power, speed, agility.

It’s a massive undertaking if your intention and the requirement of the group or organisation is to prepare with any degree of proficiency.

Most of the last few paragraphs falls outside of the skill-sets of many fitness professionals. And it fell outside of mine until the point in time when my studies, real world experience and practice enabled me to say with certainty that I now can accomplish all of this.

So what about classes and how does any of this specifically apply to them?

Unfortunately the easy way out in creating session plans for groups is to tire people out, have them lying on their backs or worse, have them curled up in the fetal position, crying! People love this, they think this is making them better, that this is a good thing!

I am here to tell you it actually is not! There is a time and place for a “rinse” but not frequently and certainly not every class.

So recently I was in a meeting with an owner of a big box gym. He was lamenting the situation he found himself in with respect to his classes. They weren’t working. He was trying everything, Zumba, hip-hop fitness, HIIT, spin, yoga etc. But attendances were low and he was at the end of his rope in understanding why. Then he found a trainer that had recently been working for the largest group class franchise in the world and he knew he had his man to lead his gym to the next level in classes.

Except I had bad news for him. Most class instructors are simply cheerleaders, following a predetermined script that HQ has dictated will be taught on that particular day. There are exceptions, just like most CrossFit coaches do more damage than good, there are always good ones and the same with class instructors – but they’re in a small minority.

To get yourself fit and healthy you need to know your body, where you are at individually with your strengths and weaknesses and where you want to go. Putting yourself into a class that teaches random stuff dreamed up by a person sitting in an office halfway around the world or a trainer that just wants to exhaust you, tricking you into thinking that tiredness equals effectiveness, are recipes for not only ineffectiveness but also increasing your chances of injury.

So if you do want to do a group session, find a trainer that instills confidence in you – he/she achieves this in how they explain the class plan (if there’s no pre-session briefing, this alone is a red flag), are they interested in knowing if you have a pre-existing injury or condition, have you filled out a pre-exercise questionnaire, is there a good warm up process? A proper warm up underpins the session and which by the way isn’t doing 20 squats, push ups and crunches or running around the block 2 times. It is core and mobility drills and possibly some specific movement patterns based on what is happening in the class. If done correctly your heart rate will raise, you will feel energised and ready to tackle what is coming up rather than, “I am already tired and the class hasn’t started yet”, which again is not an uncommon experience.

If you take your fitness seriously find a reptutable business that really cares about your success. They’re out there, you just need to look!


Questions to ask your new trainer before paying any $

As an active member of the fitness industry, as an active proponent of living a healthy lifestyle, as someone that understands, implicitly that being fit directly correlates to being healthier I am concerned at a particular message that’s promoted by many in the industry.

I listen to Joe Rogan who I love. He is easily the most engaging public speaker I listen to and he covers a wide range of topics. I especially love how “they” tried to cancel him and failed and failed miserably!

But even Joe gets it wrong.

The message is, “just move”. In many instances I hear trainers and coaches say it. I see it promoted by companies like Fitbit, have you done your 10000 steps? I see people riding flash bikes, wearing flash lycra (oops) and pedalling furiously on their bikes, “moving” and people strapping on the running shoes and dragging themselves out for a run because all they have to do is move, right?

Wrong. Very wrong.

Are all those people on bikes and running past you on the streets in great shape? How many times do you see the same chap, day after day, week after week, month after month running or riding and still looking the same, not a single kilo lost?

I know some people are not out there running and riding (moving) to lose weight. But most are.

To make a message as simple as “just move” is akin to saying just eat or just drink. McDonalds or Coca Cola, anyone?

To just move is suggesting that jogging on a treadmill wearing headphones and watching a TV screen is something worth doing – talk aout engaged! You get out of something what you put into it and to be so unengaged you have to watch TV while you exercise tells me there’s serious issues related to your fitness “journey”!

We can’t just move, there needs to be purpose. One of the tenets of the Optimise personal trainers education program is that everything we do in our programing needs to have a purpose. Nothing is random because random training equals random results. Furthermore “movement” especially the 7 human movement patterns should be scrutinised in all clients and corrected if faulty. Way too many times we have found clients that can’t squat properly, do a proper push up or even understand what a hinge pattern means – I wonder truly sometimes what is being taught by trainers.

We as an industry have a duty of care to ensure we are instructing clients professionally otherwise we can and do inflict the worst type of injuries on people – chronic. Chronic injuries occur when repeated movements are performed incorrectly, loaded (obviously the worst) or unloaded. These faulty patterns result in compensatory movements, incorrect joint performance, reduced or excessive range of motion, dangerous loading and many others all of which add up to injuries that should never happen.

I have witnessed trainers performing such acts time and again and it pains me to see it. Most often I cannot do anything about it, unless it is really endangering the individual or others in the vicinity and even then, intervening creates so many issues. Most trainers have egos the size of the average house and do not take advice well, especially unsolicited, no matter how well people think they’re delivering it.

Telling people to move by itself, is a wrong message. Move with purpose would be better but still not enough. People need to move, lift, push, pull, rotate, jump, sprint and more. If the fitness industry wants to level up its standing and integrate more with health services, which is the way fitness must progress, higher standards of professionalism must be attained by more individuals.

Right now it’s a mess. The industry has an incredibly low level of entry. Courses can be done online and people can be “certified” in days. There’s definitely groups trying to correct the situation but while I think it’s doubtful real positive change will ever occur, the consumer can start to become better informed.

Questions you should ask your trainer BEFORE handing over any money –

  1. How long did your qualification take, was submission of coursework and shadowing of an experienced trainer required?
  2. Can you show me your certificate?
  3. Is there an annual requirement to keep your qualification up to date?
  4. Do you engage in professional development outside of maintaining your PT qualification?
  5. Do you have a nutrition qualification? Can you show it to me?
  6. How many years have you been a trainer?
  7. Do you write individual plans for every session? Ask to see some examples and ask the trainer to explain the system they use. Occasionally you can have a trainer that doesn’t write session plans but keeps notes – ask to see the notes
  8. Will you do an assessment that includes posture and movement?

Answers and tips –

  1. A solid certification should take at least 2 weeks fulltime and involve coursework that should be submitted in the subsequent 1-2 months or online/part time for 3-6 months with relevant coursework requirements. Shadowing of an experienced trainer should always form part of a course.
  2. Going online and researching the awarding institution based on what you see on the certificate is essential.
  3. Most institutions should require this.
  4. Are they passionate about what they do or do they already know it all? Good trainers are always updating their knowledge and skill sets.
  5. Same as #2, check out the institution awarding the certificate and determine its legitimacy.
  6. VITAL! More than 5 is very good less than 5 not so much. If less than 5 years then they need to tick all other boxes.
  7. VITAL. All trainers should have plans or at the very least keep comprehensive notes.
  8. If they ain’t assessing, they’re guessing. And that is not good!

Your runners = knee damage and bad back!

So it has been some time since I posted, many months in fact. I have been super busy opening a studio, www.optimise.fit which is a holistic fitness-health service provider. The studio is on the island of Phuket in Thailand and since opening we have created a lot of interest in what we do.

Anyone that has read this blog will know I am a passionate about how fitness relates to health and the numerous ways in which we can harmonise this relationship. I am very happy to be bringing this passion to a bricks and mortar location and all of you are welcome to come visit!

Today’s post is on the flip side of the fitness-health paradigm and how used the wrong way, some things in fitness can have a negative effect. In this case where the innocuous Nike or adidas running shoes are the “smoking gun” in numerous cases of injuries and remarkably, how they never get “fingered” for the crime!

What am I talking about? Quite simply mechanics.

So the graphic above illustrates the kinetic chain, which is the arrangement of muscles, bones, joints and connective tissues that combine to create the human body. On the left we have a neutral kinetic chain (a.k.a a neutral posture) and on the right we have one that is misaligned. And in the middle we have a running shoe and a foot in plantar flexion after the heel is raised by the shoe.

The misalignment (right) is created in this case by having feet in shoes that elevate the heels in plantar flexion (#1). We are told we need the back of the shoe raised and cushioned to protect the pounding down of the heel onto the concrete. Additionally we need a rubber sole to protect our forefoot and an arch support to stabilise the whole foot.

This is what we have been sold on by the likes of Nike the genesis of which was the waffle sole way back in the 70’s (anyone read Shoe Dog?).

Our postures wouldn’t be so collectively bad if we only wore the runners when we run. But we don’t because they have become a fashion item as well and a lot of people wear them all the time.

So what’s going on that is so bad? #2 in the graphic are the knees and due to the raised heel you can see that the knees go into flexion (moving them forward) and by doing so put an unnatural loading into this very important joint. In a neutral position where hips, knees and ankles are aligned loading into the knees is minimal but when wearing shoes with a high heel this forward loading is compromising knee integrity and over time can have serious repercussions. One major issue is displacement of the knee cap and why so many people have issues with this small bit of bone. Shin splints will also be a symptom of this forward loading. The potential also exists for the 4 major ligaments in the knee all having to adapt to an unnatural (forward) position and the integrity of all these also being compromised. There’s a myriad of problems in the knee based on using these type of shoes.

#3 are the hips and these will go into anterior tilt or mild flexion. This has an immediate effect on the lower back which will go into extension. Chronic lower back pain will result.

Human tissues are highly malleable and when subjected to load will adapt shape accordingly. If you have a kinetic chain highly compromised by an unfortunate choice of footwear and it has adopted a faulty structure then you will create long term, chronic problems that could present in a variety of symptoms.

From my experience in over 20 years in the fitness industry and working with many physiotherapists, physical therapists, trainers and a variety of specialists I am very concerned that these type of runners have created a significant problem. Compounding this issue is the number of commercial interests looking to make money in orthotics especially. This type of intervention stops the arch from performing its most basic function (just like arch supports do but it’s worse). Then there’s the rise of ridiculous concepts such as shoes classified as “rocker type” that has created a mainstream acceptance of them which even further remove the user from the biomechanics they’re supposed to be adopting in a running situation. The rocker type shoe manufacturers trot out research that tells users that their product simulates body biomechanics which is true but unfortunately the biomechanics are that of walking, not running.

This research is symptomatic of where science is finding itself, beholden to commercial interests as we see everything from washing powders and other cleaning agents to things like toothpaste all the way to pharmaceuticals being proven to work “based on the science”.

If we produced science showing the negative effects of these shoes and there is potentially a large body of it, people would never buy them but who would fund this research? No one because you can’t make any money from it and the big sportswear companies would hate you!

You can take action yourself and begin to rehabilitate your feet by reducing wear time of these type of shoes. Investing in flat soled shoes from Xero, New Balance, Innov-8 and others will also help!

The effect these type of minimalist shoes as they are known is very positive. There is no heel cushioning nor arch support so several things occur.

One is your arches start working like the spring they are supposed to be. When we walk we go heel to toe but when we run our natural foot action is to land on the forefoot, just watch children run barefoot, they will always land on their forefoot (plantar flexion) and as the foot strikes the heel drops towards the ground and the arch extends (so the arch loads as a spring does as you pull it apart) and before the heel hits the ground the spring reaches the end of it’s elasticity and recoils. Meanwhile the other foot is about to strike due to locomotion and gait and it then too goes through the same sequence – there is a great video here explaining proper foot biomechanics while running.

Bottom line for you all is please stop wearing traditional runners with cushioned heels. They don’t serve you as it relates to your running and most definitely do not help you if you’re wearing them casually – a much better solution for casual footwear are Converse or other flat soled sports shoes

Thanks for reading my latest post please check back in the history of my blog for many other thought provoking reading material!

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3 of the best free things you can do for your fitness

I am keen to help people with their fitness, regular readers will know this by now. Why? Well, why not? I have written 70 posts with 3000 views since February and anyone that has read all of these posts should easily be able to formulate their own training program that helps them get from anywhere they are now to pretty darn fit.

So how much do I make from this? Zip, nada, nowt, nothing!

Because it is not about the money. And no one will pay for it anyway (insert laughing emoji).

When it comes to my fitness business I can tell you there have been so many people tell me I charge too much, I cannot remember them all. I have had bankers, lawyers, dentists, money market brokers, doctors and many others tell me this while they make incomes double, treble, 10 times more than me.

So my question is, do you think most people really value their health? Truly, truly value their health? And as well, do they know HOW to value their health? The answer for these people is NO to both.

Not everyone of course but a vast majority of people. Why is this? A lot of people value their phones, watches, the wine they drink, the holidays they have, the restaurants they eat at and the clothes they wear more highly than their health. This is the truth. Because I see it time and time again. The purchase of instant gratification I think is key.

Think of it this way, the most common question trainers get asked is, “how long will it take?” Why is this such a common question? The answer is in the instant gratification mindset most people have.

When people get sick and go to hospital and pay (“oh man these exhorbitant”) fees, their insurance covers it. Going to hospital to fix an illness is another form of instant gratification. Possibly in their unconscious minds they know they have a backup plan with medical care so they disregard common sense telling them to get exercising and eating healthy. Procrastination is a modern game that many play. Then these same people will complain about the prices they’ve paid for the treatment but this is tempered by the fact the insurance company came to the rescue. More easy gratification!

After the experience of illness and the road to recovery how many times would those people have thought, “if I was fitter and healthier I would not have got so sick and my recovery would have been so much quicker?” Many? Any?

In my experience these people just don’t want to pay for expertise when the consequences of not paying for it aren’t serious enough and if they are, they get bailed out anyway. People should stop gambling with their fitness and health!

Circling back to the beginning of my post there are some very simple things you can do that will make a big impact on your fitness and health. Here are my 3 best free things to do –

  • Use intermittent fasting (IF) and no, 16 hours fasting isn’t going to cut it, minimum 18 hours, 20 being optimal. You will lose weight, you will sleep better and you will train better – trust me.
  • Stop going to the gym every day. Go 3 times a week and lift heavy weights, barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells and no machines. Stop fiddling around doing 15 reps of anything and then supersetting 15 reps of something else. Unless you’re a bodybuilder with some expertise you have no business doing this stuff. Pull or push a heavy bar 5-6 times, rest for a few minutes and do it again. On the other days do some sprints on the beach or up a hill and get tired fast, recover and do it again, many times.
  • Find Wim Hof on YouTube and start doing some of his breathwork, it could change your life and WILL bring positive change your fitness regime.

That’s 3 things, start doing them and reap the rewards.


Are you in the “well” zone or are you “fit”?

Frequently I choose to question “conventional” wisdom. I would go as far to suggest that the very term “conventional wisdom” is an oxymoron anyway. If it’s so “accepted norm” or “a social norm” both being terms to describe conventional, can it be wisdom? Wisdom among other attributes is to use experience and insight and I am unsure of these as they relate to convention – like many areas of our lives, dogma is making inroads and dictating a lot of what we believe to be truths and I am very certain this is not good. And probably why I like to contest conventional wisdom.

In recent times the fitness industry has been lumped in with other types of what are complementary offerings such as yoga, Pilates, massage therapies, meditation, breathwork etc and generically labelled “wellness”.

I rather like the founder of CrossFit for a number of reasons. Greg Glassman in my mind is a visionary and also a smart businessman. He’s also a bunch of other things that some don’t like him for and for sure he’s a polarising figure. This doesn’t detract from what he’s accomplished in the world of fitness and I greatly respect him for that.

One of the concepts developed under his watch (he’s no longer involved in the CrossFit business) was the sickness-wellness-fitness continuum, something I have referenced a few times in my posts.

In fitness I will always argue we are not understanding that the intrinsic link between fitness and health is immutable. It is not tenuous, it’s not just likely it’s clearly immutable and if you agree with me and I am thinking most will then why is modern medicine not saying, “go get fit”? Modern medical practitioners, unless practicing fitness enthusiasts themselves will have zero training in fitness and almost zero training in nutrition. They know how to dispense drugs and otherwise to refer you on to a specialist but after that what expertise are they bringing to your health? And this is “healthcare”? I am afraid I do not agree.

Why isn’t modern medicine embracing nutrition and fitness as a service within their scope of offerings? I know that some will recommend better diets and some will suggest patients get some exercise but this is not imparting any expertise. This is simply paying lip service!

Please do not misunderstand my line here. As I have expressed in prior posts our medical practices for emergencies is amazing. The development of a variety of scanning/scoping/imaging, defibrillation, monitoring and wearable technologies has created huge advancements in safety for vulnerable people and people in vulnerable situations.

However, when it comes to proactive measures such as boosting your immune system can someone explain to me what this is (below)?

What have we become when we go to a hospital to “strengthen our immune system”?

Our immune systems are built via exposure to pathogens, trillions of which we come into contact with every single day via the air we breathe, food we eat and surfaces we touch. The old saying that children need to play in dirt in order to expose themseves to these pathogens is rooted not only in commonsense but science as well. The human microbiome is immense and contains bacteria, parasites, fungi and viruses all of which are going about their jobs 24-7. The interaction between this mass of pathogens inside us and those incoming is monitored by bacteria and other pathogens on the skin and in adenoids and tonsils. In rudimentary terms this is our immune system at work.

Now what if we were to regularly apply germ inhibitor to the skin on our hands and covered our mouths and noses with filters shutting down key features of our immune system? Disastrous for our protection.

Our immune system is built via exposure to all pathogens and of course sunlight, sleep and rest (being highly rejuvenatory), nutritious food and water of adequate mineral content and pH (note that most bottled water and ALL tap water do not meet this criteria) and the right type of exercise. It’s quite possible even meditation can provide benefit to the human immune system as is evidenced by this research.

Being well doesn’t cut the mustard and the point is “well” is only a single step away from being sick. Going to a hospital to get treatments to improve your immunity is not exposing your body to how our immunity is built naturally and nature knows best. Striving for fitness and then optimisation should be what human beings do to improve our health including our immune system.

In my diagram above I put people into 3 zones. The “no-where” zone is the most common followed closely by the “I’m well” zone. Very few people are truly in the “Fit zone” and those that are, are primarily professional athletes.

So how do we determine where people are? We measure.

A professional athlete is primarily in the fit zone and cycling between fit and optimal via a periodised approach to his or her programming, a process that utilises frequent testing. Ordinary people can also do this but most do not know how to do it.

Occasionally testing with no reference or standards and no database of previous tests will keep you in the “no-where” zone and not testing and training without any planning you are in the “I’m well” zone. These people usually get flu in the winter or once or twice a year when work or weather influences their health status.

The goal is to be far more resilient than how people are in the “I’m well” zone.

Start logging basic tests, how many push ups in 60 seconds, or squats. Find a route around your neighbourhood, run it and time it or go to a track and do it there. At a track you could do tests over 1 lap, 2, 4 or 10 depending on where you think you need to be with your fitness – are you looking for fitness for sport or looking for body composition gains? Start measuring weights you lift in the gym. Are you tracking your weight? There are many ways you can start utilising a more professional approach to your fitness.

In my opinion food journalling and noting what and when you eat and if you are intermittent fasting (IF), monitoring your fasting hours (you may be surprised at how little you are actually doing when you add them up week to week) are crucial to getting you to the Fit zone. IF is an almost non negotiable tool in getting to this zone – even if you don’t always do it at least starting it and engaging in it for a period thereby learning the lessons it teaches you about how much food you really need is mandatory.

If you really want your fitness to improve your health it’s time to take it a little more seriously. Take onboard some of my tips, remove any reliance on medical healthcare and take on a wholistic approach with measurable parts to the process. And enjoy the experience!


Injuries? (backs, ankles, shoulders, hammy’s, etc!)

Last Friday morning I woke up as I always do and did my breathwork. I love breathwork, other than understanding that practicing doing our most essential function can only improve our most essential human function, it also really peps me up for the day.

I then went about my usual routine but as I reached for a bottle of water I felt a sudden, familiar pain in my lower back. And then it got worse, getting back up to fully erect took a full minute and a half, it was excruciating. I stood there knowing exactly what was going on, an injury from 35 years ago was back haunting me!

Playing football (or soccer as we knew it then) for the Mosman Soccer Club in Sydney was a lot of fun. It was a great club with many senior and junior teams based in one of Sydney’s most affluent suburbs.

I had found myself living in this leafy suburb after my then girlfriend had been transferred to Sydney with her job. Mosman lies on a hill above Balmoral Beach and down at that beach there is a park and one afternoon I joined a bunch of guys kicking a football around there. They soon signed me up to their team, Mosman 5th grade and I was soon scoring hattricks every weekend, which is a true story 🙂 I found myself in the Mosman first grade team that following season and that team played on Alan Border Oval (yes, Alan Border is from Mosman apparently), a gem of a playing surface befitting the local surrounding landscape of trees and old-style colonial homes.

On a Saturday afternoon game while challenging a high ball I fell very awkwardly and landed on my back. Mosman SC at that time had the services of the Australian national soccer team physiotherapist and his diagnosis was a very bad strain of the quadratus lumborum (QL), a deep rooted muscle that envelopes the lower spine.

Years later the injury would flare up frequently as I didn’t have the willpower or knowledge on how to deal with this existing injury. Over time it got so bad that it was limiting my sports and curtailing fitness regime.

One health practitioner, a person that knew me and my body well suggested I stop doing deadlifts entirely and limit my squat range. This he suggested would stop future issues with the problem area. I really respected this guys opinion and took his advice, adhering to it for the subsequent 5 years. At this point I met an amazing physical therapist who did some intense work on the injury zone freeing up the scar tissue and this coupled with a much better understanding of lifting technique meant that I again began lifting heavy deads and doing full range squats. At this stage full participation in my favourite sports had also resumed.

Subsequently I have gathered even more knowledge on the QL and am actively strengthening it with an awesome exercise I found on the Knees Over Toes Guy YouTube channel.

I always push the boundaries when I train and my rehab/prehab stuff is no different and I think I pushed it too far this past Wednesday. Coupled with a rigorous session Thursday it resulted in the huge flare up Friday – it’s all I can think of. It is many years since I had this injury reoccur so I quickly accepted this as being ok considering how far I have come in managing this situation.

I had to be with a client in about 40 minutes from after it took me a minute and a half to stand upright. right after picking up that bottle of water. I didn’t have time to roll my glutes which I knew would help so I continued slowly with the usual morning routine. Getting on the scooter was tough, getting off it tougher but once at the gym I jumped on the roller and started the process of getting moving again.

By that first evening it was much better. The next morning even after 8 hours of inactivity it was better still and 28 hours post injury I was moving pretty well. I had a physio session with my regular physio and she is aware of the existing injury so treated it well.

It helped me enormously that I knew so much about the original injury. It is obviously not the only injury I have ever suffered and I have learned from them all but this one is one of the oldest.

As we age we all accumulate injuries we know of and even ones we aren’t aware of. They happen out of the blue, picking something up like I did, reactionary movements like a leashed dog all of a sudden chasing a cat straining an arm or shoulder or a quick jump on the car brakes giving a mild whiplash. Chronic poor movement or sitting (or lying/sleeping) patterns exacerbated by uneven support (soft cushions and mattresses) are commonplace in modern life. Sitting in cars/trucks/planes/taxi’s, badly designed office spaces and simply watching TV can all result in chronic injuries. I have even recently posted about how bad treadmills can be for human movement.

Proactively dealing with them is of the utmost importance. It goes back to optimal function something we all should strive for – you cannot optimise something that is faulty or broken.

Understanding that we can take measures to improve how we work, how we relax and how we rest coupled with a rudimentary understanding of how our bodies work and how they respond to many of the situations we find ourselves in plus activities we participate in will go a long way to improving fitness and health.

Curiosity has led me to this point in my professional life. I am a seriously curious person and when I apply this curiosity to my passion for fitness it uncovers a lot of very interesting things. And I love to share this stuff!

My wish for everyone is that they take it upon themselves to discover more about the most important thing they will ever own – their own, your own, body. Getting it into seriously good working shape will improve your personal performance significantly. First base is sorting out any impediments to its optimisation. Then get ready to soar!

What are you waiting for!