Monthly Archives: September 2021

The gym is the workshop, not the showroom

I am an avid follower of other professionals in the fitness industry. Many of them share so much truly valuable information, especially for their peers that can interpret what they are talking about and then utilise it effectively. Through my time spent looking at what others are doing, reading and researching and testing and refining I have developed 3 exercises to create physical longevity.

As I have got older this physical longevity has become much more of a concern for me. When I see people with sore knees, backs, necks, shoulders and tight hips and very commonly Piriformis syndrome these are signs that they are either not doing enough or any “prehab” in the gym or, well, not even going to the gym.

How many times I have posted about the lack of understanding of what we need to be doing in gyms I couldn’t tell you. I have posted more than 50 times to date and I am guessing more than half would reference this issue. Folks there are things we must go to a gym and do or at least use some type of resistance at home or in a park to develop and maintain certain human function – it’s a physical reality.

In gyms the biggest challenge is people “know how to use the machines” so figure they, “know what they are doing” which I can assure you 95 times out of hundred they do not. This includes the big buff strong guys and girls that strut around looking like they’ve just walked off the set of Muscle Mania all the way to the guy that follows the preprogrammed fat-burn treadmill setting, thinking he’s burning fat – hint: he probably is not.

But again I have posted numerously about these issues.

The strutting around, posturing into mirrors, grunting and hissing while lifting stuff, the dropping of weights at the end of a set, the yelling (“MAN I AM GOOOOOOD” – I have heard this), all of it is “look at me” even though the guilty parties probably don’t realise this.

Gyms are where you work on your body in a way that will benefit you physiologically which if done correctly can lead to long term health gains. Done incorrectly it can lead to long term health problems! A gym is a place of body repair, maintenance, strengthening and conditioning that some people misinterpret to being somewhere to tick a box on their daily schedule, or to do stuff they think will aid them in some way physically but simply cannot accurately define what this is. Or it could even be a place to show off and find a girlfriend/boyfriend.

In car parlance the gym is the workshop not the showroom!

For me personally I want to play tennis, run occasionally with friends, play golf now and then and especially play and referee touch football. I also want to sleep comfortably, wake up ready for the new day and have no aches and pains. And I certainly do not want to be making regular visits to the doctor with this complaint or that.

My mindset to the gym is a little different to many I guess. The gym is not the end game. The gym is where I go to create resilience and build strength, power, speed and agility so that the frequency and enjoyment of my sports is maximised. I also want to maximise the quality of my lifestyle something many simply take for granted – until it’s too late.

Ok so here are my personal problem areas and the weekly things I do to not only take care of them but to rebuild and bulletproof them. I have 2 knees that I have torn menisci in 3 times, I have a long standing (lazy) Piriformis which is a deep lying muscle within the gluteal group and finally I injured my back in my 20’s and have (very) long term bruising/scar tissue in my quadratus lumborum (QL).

All of these contribute variously to low back pain (much less frequent in the past 5 years since I truly began educating myself), groin tightness (almost gone) and knee pain which I am glad to say is no longer present at any time.

Prior to using the following 3 exercises I had pain reasonably frequently post-training, especially heavy deadlifts and squats and also when sitting for long periods especially on flights.

Poliquin step ups for knee health and strength
Lower back stability (QL) – go to 17:40 on the video
This is the Piriformis Strengthening movement. If your right leg is on the bench you hold a dumbbell in your left hand and let it drop to the floor. You should use a high bench or box to give range of motion (I could not find a video showing this exercise)

So there you have the 3 exercises I use for physical longevity. I practice these weekly and do 10-15 reps at weights of about 25% of my bodyweight. Starting out just use a small weight and build up and I recommend you use a dumbbell for all 3 exercises.

You charge how much!?!?

As a fitness coach the first question people ask is what are my fees and when I tell them they usually can’t believe it. It’s like I’ve told them they’re going to die. “Seriously, you charge that much?” is a not uncommon response.

I charge less than a doctor so why pay him and not me? If you had paid me less initially you probably wouldn’t have to pay the doctor more now, right? Plus the time away from your job and all that time you’ll probably spend doing nothing. Plus medication, complications, mental health consequences etc etc.

All because you didn’t want to pay a fair price for your health up front.

Well that’s my opinion anyway.

My business is sickness PREVENTION. There’s a concept called the sickness-wellness continuum and that continuum is towards fitness. If you’re well, how do you measure that? Can you? No, you can’t. Can you measure fitness? Yes, in many ways and I have posted extensively about this previously.

People are highly impressed at my wealth of knowledge especially of fitness as it relates to health. As we get older it becomes imperative we do certain things daily and other things weekly to maintain basic human function.

It is alarming to me how many people are unaware of the need for this type of maintenance, without it the consequences are significant and general physical decline guaranteed. Illness and disease are the next cabs off the rank.

We are creatures of movement and our nervous systems, the various receptor sites, the smaller, deep muscles, connective tissues, larger muscles and bones are all working together in a single dynamic unit.

Note the word dynamic. We are organisms that function in a highly complex fashion with many moving parts all contributing to incredibly nimble, powerful and fluid actions. Any little kink in the chain results in interruptions to normal function. And this is the issue.

Once we’ve departed from “normal” we’re in trouble physiologically and the road back is long and arduous. We don’t want to go there!

My specialisations are in firstly screening for normal movement function, intervening in areas that are in dysfunction, rebuilding and then improvements in strength and conditioning.
This means for you losing weight, getting fitter, leaner and stronger, pain relief, joint and bone longevity and gaining all-round higher quality of lifestyle.

I’m a professional that prides myself on only the best outcomes for my clients. I turn over every stone and use a finely tuned systematic approach developed by myself over the past decade as I built Singapore’s most successful independently owned fitness business.

Please understand that you get what you pay for and quite frankly I see a lot of substandard offerings that at best may help in the short term. But at worst these can become a waste of time and money and may even contribute to long term health issues in chronic pain, joint and other physiological dysfunction. You can trust me when I tell you that I more often see bad squats, lunges, deadlifts and overhead pressing as opposed to good ones. This is a major problem for all the functional reasons already stated.

Stop guessing and start taking your fitness and health seriously – you get 1 chance!

Think and Grow Food

I’m on a roll with the Napoleon Hill book, Think and Grow Rich, something I read many years ago and a book title I’m now plagiarising for all it’s worth.

In this post I’m going to prove to you that the more effort you put into in considering your food choice’s, the greater benefits that will be gained. I am guessing you probably know this but are you aware of the consequences of NOT putting more thought into what you eat?

In life we’re constantly beholden to behavioural patterns embedded into us at young and very impressionable ages. Our parents or caregivers that have us under their guidance from when we’re born until around 7 years of age, largely don’t know it but are programming many of our thoughts and actions and of course, all of the consequences that result from these behaviours. And for the majority of us we will adopt many of them for the rest of our lives.

And if these embedded actions are not subsequently serving us in our adult lives psychologists and psychiatrists then pick up hundreds of millions of dollars in fees deconstructing events that led to these behaviours. Hopefully this will then lead to amazing discoveries and the subsequent discarding of the negative behaviour.

“Your (father/mother) does that too, you’re just like him/her”. This applies in too many situations to describe and I’m sure you can relate.

Nutritional behaviours are very high on the list. If Mum or Dad had a penchant for a particular food, only ate at a certain time of the day or night, would always have a particular type of drink with specific foods and other habitual behaviours these were easily taken up by their children. It’s just natural for this to happen.

Once adopted, the ritualistic nature of humans and how we relate to food would continue the cycles and soon enough the consequences of the habits would surface.

Among these consequences obesity ranks highly but other food related medical conditions are also prevalent. Diabetes and heart disease also being high on the list.

If you are unsure of my claim around your habits regarding food and your parents role in this, I invite you to sit back and reflect on some of your early memories of your family and how many of them involved food. I think you will realise I am right!

In other posts I’ve written extensively about the role of mass produced and highly processed foods. They’re a blight in the lives of modern men and women and this is just the supermarket stuff. The fast food industry is now frankly a disgrace with how they source, produce, transport and prepare the so-called “food” that people eat.

We are what we eat and if we eat very poorly then our bodies will reproduce badly. You may or may not realise that our cells are constantly repairing and regenerating and what do they use in these processes? Nutrients from the food you eat and from what you drink.

There’s no way people will be healthy if they’re not closely monitoring their food choices. It sounds like commonsense advice but do you do it? Have you ever done an exercise where you journalled your food and drink and did due diligence on it?

I’m constantly amazed at the number of professional people, the type that record every cent they earn and spend, that are experts in their fields, that consult to kings and prime ministers that couldn’t tell me what they ate yesterday. Could you? Is this important? Reread the previous 2 paragraphs.

In the crazy times we’re in many are examining a lot of the components of their lives. Well, some are, some just can’t wait to, “travel again” or go to a concert, no matter what they have to do to qualify. Others are thinking more about life choices and decisions.

Food means life and the quality of food strongly correlates to the quality of health one enjoys. Growing your own food may seem rather odd to some but to others, this is how they create security for themselves and their families. It may mean leaving the city and finding a patch of land or it could simply be a small garden in the yard with some chickens running around.

In some countries there are abundances of different wild growing fruit, coconuts, papaya, oranges, apples, berries and any number of other edible plants.

Thinking about these things, reading up and hatching plans of the B and C variety is always a worthwhile endeavour because you just never know when the time may come to put one into action.

The bottom line is unless you truly understand the role of the food that you consume and are paying attention to the quality of it you are heading into a life of constant medical conditions, illnesses, diseases and premature death. Take control of your life as it relates to your health status by attaching more importance to your food and drink. In this way you will age much more comfortably, have more energy for sports and for life in general and most importantly, be much less likely to fall ill.

And start growing your own food, it may even create a great hobby that is healthy for you and your family plus reduce your reliance on commercially farmed produce.

Think and Grow Fit

One of my favourite books of all time is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I read this book in my early 20’s and it’s had a profound effect on my life since. The basic tenet of the book is that now common saying, “whatever the human mind can believe, the human brain can achieve”. There’s a lot going on within those words as I’m sure you can see when rereading it a few times. Most importantly from my perspective the words are saying to me to let my imagination be free in every sense. So whatever I decide to do or accomplish it is within my reach.

The immediate example from my own life is imagining my fitness business to what it would be in a few years time. There was no timeline or exact numbers in this dream I had for the business but a clear picture of what success would look like for me. And that was large groups of clients enjoying exercising in Fort Canning Park in Singapore. From that dream spawned a multimillion dollar business.

Me on the far left leading clients and trainer’s on a race in Singapore

What we think about is very important as it pertains to our reality. The words we use when we talk to ourselves, especially the quality of these words, is also very important. Significant influences over these words is the type of input we subject ourselves to on a daily basis. Jim Rohn a well known entrepreneur said, “Don’t say, ‘If I could, I would.’ Say, ‘If I can, I will.’” Rohn understood the importance of the quality of the words we use not only in our internal dialogue but also in the language we use when with others. He also said, “we are the average of the 5 people we spend most time with” which will again heavily influence our thinking.

If we think that we can’t, well, we can’t but if we think we can, well, we can. How many times have you watched sport on TV and the analyst has said, “he/she talked him/herself out of that” or “the body language suggests he/she is now beaten”. Or you see the player or athlete with a pained expression and uttering expletives or other negative language under his/her breath.

There are thousands of books written annually about the power of the mind and harnessing it to serve you rather than not serve you.

Just like the information contained being significantly more than just the title of the Napoleon Hill book, the title of this post is trying to relate the importance of your thoughts around the exercise you do and your training progress.

Firstly if you know you can achieve your fitness goals because all you need is a plan and a schedule then this knowledge is power! All of us can do this, it’s a very easy success formula, if I apply the right type of stimulous nothing can really stop me achieving my goals.

Time and again with clients, I prepare detailed plans for their success and in the first 1-2 weeks there’s generally pushback of some sort or another – “I will go into starvation mode if I don’t eat frequently enough”, “I have always eaten pasta with no issues”, “I think I will get big muscles if I lift weights” and the list goes on.

Preconceived ideas, biases and fixed beliefs hold them back even when an expert that just about guarantees their success tells them otherwise.

Fortunately for my clients I am insistent and remind them that one of us is the expert here and I have a track record of success.

In other posts I have referred to my use of breathwork as a means to think (and meditate) more clearly. Upon waking this is the first activity of most of my days and during this 30-45 minutes I am both steering the journey and also at points allowing it to steer me. I like to initially settle on my day ahead and the positive, healthy outcomes I will see in the schedule ahead and then after this allow my mind to wander a bit and see where I go – some of my best solutions to challenges and as well, ideas for business have come during this time.

Living alone gives me the freedom to undertake this activity and I know some readers will be thinking, “I wish! I have kids, animals, a partner and to find time for this would be impossible.”

Do you see how your mindset is defeating you if you actually thought this? Wake up 30 minutes earlier! I don’t have my first appointment until 730am and I wake at 6am and I live alone. Make the time. Don’t make excuses and don’t let your internal dialogue defeat you.

I built Singapore’s largest independent fitness business because I knew I could. It started simply with a thought and then a plan that had logical, achievable steps.

Just like Napoleon Hill taught us you can think and grow rich, I am saying you can think and grow fit!

3 tips for awesome cardio sessions

I have a love-hate relationship with cardio. I love it but I really hate seeing others do it. The reason for my dislike is the hours I see others wasting while pounding out km after km all the while not seeing any results.

In the gym I train at I see regular faces on the treadmills, ellipticals and bikes day after day, week after week, month after month and yes, year after year and you guessed right, with absolutely no change to their physiques.

The old adage of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result rings in my head every time I see this.

Ok a few of these people are possibly running for speed gains so what they’re doing may have a purpose but even these people I want to stop them and say, “you’ll run faster if you lose a few more kilos”.

There are 3 things you can start doing that will improve your cardio gains out of sight.

Firstly, what are you trying to get out of your cardio? Weight or fat loss? Speed gains?

If you’re looking to lose weight or fat then stop doing steady state cardio, it doesn’t work anywhere near as well as intervals. Intervals at 30, 45 or-60 seconds work:rest will spike growth hormone plus utilise fat substrate for energy so it’s a win-win.

Remember you must work maximally when doing the intervals and the maximum number of repeat runs you can do will be in the 10-15 range. The most time these intervals will take you is 10-15 minutes, if you’re really fit maybe 20 but that’s it. The key to doing good interval training as I have said is you must work as hard as you can in the work period otherwise it’s wasting your time.

And the absolute beauty of repeat sprints is they will also make you faster. With a bit of tweaking this type of training can apply to not only weight/fat loss but also athletic performance. How awesome is that?

The brevity of a great interval session means it will leave you more time for other work in the gym.

Second, use different equipment for your cardio.

The treadmill is my least favourite piece of gym equipment for several reasons and if you have a love affair with it I hope you end that relationship soon! Biomechanically, the tread on the mill moves and you lift your feet (and obviously don’t have any forward movement) meaning your kinetic chain, being the joints, muscles and bones of your human form, do not work the way they’re intended to. Our kinetic chain works to propel us forward, the hips especially play an important role in this movement pattern (I’ve referred to this in the past, it’s gait, one of the 7 human movement patterns).

On a treadmill we don’t have to gait because the tread moves below us so we simply lift our feet.

I don’t believe there have been any studies on this as there would be no commercial benefit. There was a time I guess when we did research to determine if something was good for us or not, whether the outcome of the research made money or not. Sadly as the world demonstrates to us time and again, there’s very little research done these days without there being money to be made out of it. So research undertaken to better understand the deleterious effects of the overuse of treadmills due to what I believe to be significant gait impingement won’t be undertaken anytime soon. And this is a shame because I believe there’s a number of chronic injuries that could be traced back to the “lazy” pattern we adopt when we are running on a device that doesn’t require us to gait. No gait no hip rotation, no hip rotation and any number of muscles such as the glutes (max and med), hamstrings, calves, adductors and most importantly the psoas, could end up with dysfunction. A lot can go wrong.

Alternatively you could go outside and run, lamp post to lamp post sprint and walk or repeat hill sprints. In the gym you could row or use the air bike (aka the Vomitron in CrossFit circles….

The Assault Air bike aka as the Vomitron

You could do repeat burpees, squat or lunge jumps, there are a number of ways to do interval cardio workouts.

Third, record your sessions.

Time of day, equipment, protocol, personal performance rating, timings, calories, max speeds/reps, everything. Reviewing this data regularly will tell you how you are doing. “If you ain’t assessing, you are guessing”. Don’t guess, record it and beat it next time!

Do you even lift?

If you Google this classic meme there are hundreds of images. Some are pretty funny and some are well, not so funny. I love cats so this works for me!

There is a serious question behind this meme and the answer to this question is not known by many it seems. Even some of the more well known coaches put things on social media that then makes me wonder about their knowledge base and coaching credentials.

So what is it that has got me fired up this time you ask?

The question lies within the meme – do you even lift? Or do you rep?

Rep counting and a fixation on hitting the number is the beginning of the repper versus the lifter “situation”.

A lifter is one that utilises technique, time and tempo in what they do in the gym. The others just do sloppy reps that can be a major problem.

Firstly how does hitting reps pose a problem? It’s clear that many people I see in a variety of settings have never been taught either by someone that knows or by the individual themself doing their own research on how to do things properly. You see a magazine article or a YouTube video and you follow that and you’re good to go. Someone in the gym gives you a tip or 2 or you see the trainer there doing something with a client and figure it will be good for you, too.

I have even had trainer’s in gyms copy stuff I have done and use it with their clients. Hand on heart I can say I have seen this done and the trainer did such a bad job with the client that I had to walk away and not watch what was happening. It was that terrible.

Too many times I have seen injuries resulting from chronically poor technique with an injury that takes months to rehabilitate. I can watch someone in a gym, predict an injury and generally also put a pretty accurate timeline to it. I am not a genius I have just seen this happen way too frequently. Squats and deadlifts are the 2 main culprits, the 2 heaviest lifts we can do as humans.

So much can go wrong with these 2 lifts and this is especially case when the weights get heavy.

Please bear in mind that lifting a heavy weight over a rep range of 3-6 is what gives us the best bang for our buck hormonally and smart hormone manipulation is what brings us the best results.

Counting high reps at 10-15 with touch and go technique has its place in certain situations, in say CrossFit competitions or in deload weeks but in most other scenarios it does not. Touch and go and other reps of this type won’t build the strength and endurance you need.

Look at a variety of resources, watch a variety of videos on technique and learn to appreciate the art of lifting and get stronger, quicker. Or you could consult an expert.

The most important nutrient in your body

When I first became a personal trainer I quickly managed to gather a good sized group of clients. I would ride a bike around Singapore visiting clients training them in parks or condo gyms. Then I found a gym to train them at and then decided to create a boot camp business to run alongside this PT business. I hired a few trainers and began building a decent sized client base.

I would get all types of questions during PT and group sessions and often the same questions would crop up. I began using these questions as the basis of small quick talks I would conduct during group sessions bringing them in during breaks in exercises. I would get great feedback from members saying they were picking up valuable tips and that they enjoyed these added bonuses to the fitness gains they were getting from the sessions.

I decided I should start doing formal presentations to my clients and always encouraged them to bring their partners, children and friends and work colleagues. I would get as many as 12-15 people to these talks and often people that hadn’t met me before so it helped me grow my client base as well.

After I had covered what I thought were the basics I began researching new topics for my talks.

Upon doing this I found something quite alarming. I was investigating what doctors were saying about general health and what deficiencies in our bodies led to disease.

Now I know too much sugar, alcohol, nicotine, certain food additives and a ton of other bad things can disrupt our “state of ease” and create dis-ease. And without a whole bunch of other nutrients both macro and micro, deficiency in these will also result in illness and eventually disease.

So what is the nutrient that without it we will be dead within days?

A bit of a give away?

Ok so maybe you didn’t really equate water to being a nutrient but of course it is – our most vital nutrient.

And before you go, “DOH, MAN”, hear me out! There’s loads of science around dehydration and the role this plays in the development of illnesses and then diseases. I am not talking about tunnel vision, jelly-legs or exhaustion as you dehydrate during a sports or athletic event. I am talking about chronic dehydration over years that is a direct contributor to many diseases, some interesting research is here. Research has suggested in the US 75% of the adult population is chronically dehydrated.

You may know that the average man or woman is about 65-75% water (the range quoted by various sources suggests anything from 60-80%). That’s right we are primarily made of water, when we are first born we are as much as 95% and the reason why babies can be as flexible as they are. At that bottom range 65% you are chronically dehydrated. And as my previously linked research clearly shows this can result in the early stages of many diseases.

So while doing this previous research for my talks I determined chronic dehydration was a big problem. That in itself as we have seen poses challenges to our health but is not the truly alarming problem.

The biggest issue is in how we rehydrate or remain hydrated. Simply put we don’t drink enough water but it’s reallt that we don’t drink enough good quality water. In many cases, bottled water is fundamentally bad for us. Why?

First we must look at mountain and spring (artesian) water. The characteristics of these waters are a pH of between 7.3-8.1 and a high content of micronutrients, stuff like magnesium, calcium, potassium, silica and sodium.

The key is this type of water is what we have been drinking for millennia. It’s like whole and natural foods, our bodies recognise this water and can assimilate it very easily.

Our human digestive system has been built on whole, natural foods and fresh water – not anything manufactured nor processed.

Introducing a lot of foreign material to our human systems is bound to create problems and it is clear this is what we are facing with our nutrition. I don’t need to rattle off the main culprits because I know you know them – they’re everywhere and ever-present in our daily lives. And it includes water.

The very worst waters are the ones that are processed so these are deionised, distilled and reverse osmosis (RO) waters. Water filtration can also be a problem if the filters are removing good nutrients as well as bad. RO water has a pH of 6-6.5 (acidic) which is similar to distilled and deionised water at 5.8.

The issue with processed waters such as RO, distilled and deionised is they are removed of micronutrients. So it’s been found that they attract and absorb micronutrients in your blood and tissue leaching from your body these minerals. If that isn’t bad enough the pH is acidic so their interaction with your stomach and its acidity results in acid reflux and other similar issues. An imbalanced acidity in your stomach could also lead to chronic diseases like cancer.

If you think I am overreacting have a read of this article here, found on a reputable website that is almost promoting the consumption of these type of waters but as you read down it also lists multiple illnesses including cancer as a potential problem. I find it troubling that a website like this promotes the consumption of something that they go on to say are potentially illness and disease causing agents.

I will remind you that we are 70% water and if a lot of this water is being replaced with a low pH and mineral leaching substance what good can possibly come from this? None.

I am not trying to promote bottled water but it is a good, reliable source and many brands are now supplied in glass which is recyclable and yes, this has a cost of course but so does plastic. If you happen to live near an aquifer or deep well then you are very lucky.

Finally I haven’t discussed tap water. I hope you now realise why. I care very much for my cat so she doesn’t even drink that stuff. So you definitely shouldn’t be, either.

3 nutrition mistakes everyone makes

There is a claim that fitness people make, sometimes these people are industry professionals but usually it’s a bit of a “urban myth” bandied around by gym freaks, bro’s and junkies. And that is “getting fit” is 10% rest, 20% training and 70% nutrition – “abs are made in the kitchen” kind of thing.

Despite my somewhat disparaging introduction it’s clear they are not far wrong. Nutrition is indeed a crucial component of the machinery that is required for you to meet your fitness goals, no matter what they are.

There are few sports or athletic events that require bulk. Maybe some positions in American football, some in rugby but fat front-rowers are rapidly becoming a thing of the past (except maybe for a couple of teams), some of the throwing and lifting events in athletics but even in these now you can see participants improving their physiques – and I am pretty sure this is due to improved nutition.

Plus darts of course, in this “sport” you definitely need to be fat….

For you as a recreational gym-goer or exercise enthusiast to ensure you achieve your goals without being derailed by poor nutritional habits, unknowingly or otherwise, here are the top 3 problems I see frequently in the habits and behaviours of clients and friends.

#1 – you are eating too much food and probably drinking too much as well.

Over consumption of food (and drink – alcohol and soft drinks/soda’s) is the number 1 by a huge margin problem for most people. The excuses are many, it says on the label it’s less fat, low fat, no fat. You know what all 3 statements really mean right? This food is heavily processed. Processing is generally not good for you. It’s like pasteurising milk which is essentially the ruination of this food as this processing eliminates all the bacteria good and bad and many would argue there’s actually little bad in milk anyway. What about the, “it’s only fruit, fruit is good for you” (the biggest issue in this is juices, I could write an entire post on the juice issue – no, a large glass of orange juice in the morning or at anytime is not healthy. Mind blown? Do you know how much sugar is in that glass? It’s healthy sugar you say? No. Such. Thing. Sorry to burst your bubble on that one). Excess consumption of fruit is also not that healthy even if you are chewing it all rather than juicing it. Lastly in many western cultures we are taught to never leave food on the plate so this can pose a big problem at buffets for one.

I could also go into the incredible levels of chemical modification food companies make to foods to keep them from triggering satiety and to keep you eating. And to make them bigger profits. They also do this to improve shelf life something that also makes them more money but contributes to your medical issues. And therefore makes the medical industry more money. There are conspiracy theorists out there that make very good arguments that we are being poisoned by food companies whether that is knowingly or unwittingly I will not comment but there are some very odd chemicals that somehow pass for inclusion in food, the sweeteners aspartame and saccharin, glyphosate, high fructose corn syrup, transfats, blue and yellow #’s, there are so many it’s hard to understand how they do it – until you realise that food companies are generally self-governed. Regulatory bodies are dotted with industry players that spend time with feet in both camps, switching back and forth from industry to regulatory roles, this happens in all industries including pharmaceuticals. Pretty messed up really.

Bottom line is eat less and eat healthier, whole foods. Your shopping trolley/cart should have as much raw and fresh food in it as possible. The more packaging especially tins, cardboard boxes and plastic bottles/bowls the more processed food you are eating and the more chance you are over-eating.

I can assure you you could probably eat and drink half of what you typically do in 2 weeks and still get by just fine. And you would drop weight – guaranteed. Try it.

#2 – you’re eating too late at night

Many people are busy. There’s way too much to be done, meetings, kids, study, training/exercising, after work calls……so food becomes the last thing to do every night. Bad, bad mistake.

I knew a Swedish guy when I was in my early 30’s and he was in his 50’s at that time. He was a fit guy, a very fit guy and I asked him one day what were the secrets to his lean, muscular physique. The first thing he said was he didn’t eat after 6pm. I thought he was joking. Not that he didn’t eat after 6pm but more to the fact that this was one of his “secrets”. In my mind there was no way this was a factor in keeping him lean. This was before I began my journey as a fitness professional and I hadn’t even thought about doing a masters in nutrition and exercise at this point and even after I graduated, I never thought for a second eating late in the evening could be a factor in weight gain (or indeed hindering weight loss).

How wrong I was. Here is an excellent article highlighting research that has proven eating later is not beneficial for those looking to lose weight.

For me personally once I began to stop eating at 7pm my weight management improved markedly (6pm is slightly too early for me).

#3 – you’re not intermittent fasting and if you are, you’re probably doing it wrong

Time and again I come back to this. If my Swedish mate had not eating late as his key secret mine is using intermittent fasting (IF). IF has literally changed my life and changes that of my clients.

Here’s the kicker though. Way too many times people have said to me, “oh yeah I did intermittent fasting but it didn’t work”. When pressed it turns out they were doing 16/8’s which is eating for 8 hours and fasting for 16. Done properly this protocol could work but people will add things like, “coffee doesn’t count right, I mean I can have my triple shot, chai macchiato latte with soy milk and that won’t count, right?” Or, “I always drink only black coffee. Sometimes i will put a half teaspoon of sugar but that’s ok, right?”

I am serious these are things people have actually said to me. So no wonder the 16/8 didn’t work but anyway, 18/6 is the sweet spot and 20/4’s are even better.

Look guys the fact is we are wired exceptionally well to store food as fat and then harvest it for fuel when food is scarce or until the next hunt is done. We store fat because we are biologically wired to do it to survive. This is a several hundred thousand year adaptation that we have wrecked in a couple of generations. Foods that have long shelf-lives, refridgeration and 24 hour food delivery and supermarkets have contributed to an obesity epidemic.

We are gluttons (see #1 above) and over-eat continually so the best antidote for this is to intermittent fast, that way you will burn fat as fuel and instead of being in a state of carb-dependence getting jelly-legged and light headed if you haven’t eaten for a few hours, you become fat-adapted and can go hours and hours without even thinking about food. While not eating you are using fat stores for energy and in the process getting leaner.

There are many problems that modern living throws up at us when considering our nutritional needs and habits and behaviours. These 3 above are easy fixes that will result in immediate changes – go right ahead and try them!

The top 3 mistakes you’re making in the gym

As a fitness professional that has spent years of my life in gyms I see many mistakes people are making in their attempts to reach their fitness goals. This costs people time, money and effort that is all wasted often doing things that have no scientific substance. I will offer some thoughts around these.

On a macro level I have posted a few times about planning. Look guys, no plan, no outcome it’s that simple. I find it extraordinary that so many intelligent people seem to switch off in the gym and wander aimlessly around doing stuff randomly with seemingly no plan whatsoever. The funniest thing is seeing this happening and knowing it’s happening and watching these people actually doing it with purpose. Often I see people like this rushing around the gym, sweating, headphones in, looking all serious and like they are actually following a plan. They don’t fool me.

On the flipside to this there’s the casual dude that wanders in, moves slow and deliberately, scans the gym for what equipment is available secretly hoping that the bench press or bicep curl machine is free and with zero preparation, ambles over and begins doing reps, all the while smiling, nodding to the other regulars with an ocassional high 5 or a covid-friendly fist-bump. Between sets he’s chatting amiably about usually crypto’s but sometimes what stocks are hot. There’s zero rush just a calm demeanour on the exterior of course, inside he’s secretly wondering what the fuck he will be doing next so he looks like he has a plan.

Clearly having a plan is paramount so it’s a big error if you don’t have one. But as I have said this is not what I am here to talk about today.

Here are the 3 big mistakes being made by those of you that are following a plan.

Firstly you do not vary your reps enough. Lifting heavy is important for all of us, it’s the default regime most of us should be following primarily to have the most positive effect on our hormonal balance. Most people don’t of course they lift in the 10-15 rep range which as I have mentioned frequently in the past, will not get the optimal hormonal response (in fact it will create a negative one), a great post on this is here.

Occasionally however it is absolutely ok and even beneficial to take a week or 2 doing higher reps. At this time doing longer cardio work is also an option so instead of doing work and rest at 30/30 secs or 60/60 experiment with 90/90 even try 2 or 2.5 minute work/rest intervals. Your output will be at a lower level of intensity but that is ok because as we know, sometimes a change is as good as a rest.

Higher reps when lifting weights is associated with hypertrophy of muscle which essentially means muscles getting bigger. Lower reps when we are building for a positive hormonal response will also result in strength gains. A couple of classic pictures demonstrating that are here and by the way these are masters athletes, 40 years and over –

Bodybuilders that primarily use rep ranges of 10-15 and higher
Athletes that use lower rep ranges of 3-6, in this case men and women CrossFitters

Schedule in a higher rep week or 2 every 6-8 weeks. By doing this you won’t impact significantly on your hormone balance, for men (having more testosterone than women) you may experience a bit of muscle size increase (not so bad really!) and you will give your tiring body a bit of a break or, as explained in the next section a good segway into lower reps again.

Second big mistake is not scheduling rest weeks. Too many people frequenting gyms are tired, worn down and out and are fast losing their motivation or desire to exercise or train. Warning signs are everywhere you just need to see them.

The dreaded training “plateau” is the number 1 problem that occurs. You may have successfully ignored your tiredness or lack of motivation because once you get in to a gym it’s amazing how an atmosphere can transform how you’re feeling. We have all felt it I am sure. And this is fine on slow days but when you accumulate a few of these days in a row there’s a bigger problem at play. I have literally just posted about this problem here.

If you schedule it it will happen – so schedule in your rest weeks, they should be every 5-6 weeks. During these weeks do light running, yoga, mobility drills, some bike riding or just simply take a break. If you are paying attention and I know you are, you will see that in many cases you could take a rest week and come back with a high rep week (or 2) and then do 3-4 weeks of heavy before another rest. Over time you can formulate the system that works best for you.

Thirdly you’re more than likely doing cardio incorrectly. I genuinely hurt to see women especially do excessive amounts of long, slow cardio believing they’re “burning” fat – ouch! And it’s not only women I just hurt more when I see the fairer sex doing it. As we know from previous posts long slow cardio only results in imbalancing hormones by spiking cortisol. Too much of this hormone means you cannot effectively shed fat and build muscle and in fact do the complete opposite.

There are reams of research confirming that HIIT cardio protocols will increase growth hormone levels exactly what we are looking for.

Plus this type of cardio will raise your anaerobic threshold meaning if you do run recreationally or competitively you can sustain a higher speed for longer periods. It will also help you develop a “kick” for that last gasp sprint for the finishing line.

Ditch the long-winded cardio and use HIIT to spike healthy hormone release.

And collectively stop making these mistakes and start making gains in your fitness program.

Is your training burning you out?

When I was in my late teens I was playing a decent level of soccer. I had broken into my local team and had offers from other teams in the area and eventually played at 2 other clubs. I was also playing representative soccer playing and scoring against the New Zealand Under 19 team that were due to play in the World Cup later in that year (this was a team I was eligible to play for myself and that is another interesting story).

My club coach had played professionally in Europe and could still get around the pitch and would join in some practice games. He was still pretty fit and I wondered why he still didn’t play but he was always complaining about his knees. In his day and even in mine, “sports science” was a term not yet invented so the idea of doing activities that could create more resilient and better functioning joints, as an example, was in realm of fantasy.

One thing my coach did understand very well was managing workload. My appetite for training was insatiable as is common for most ambitious young footballers and every opportunity I got to train was taken. My representative team had given me a running program plus we were in the middle of the club season when halfway through a training session I realised I was running on empty. I got through it ok, went home and slept well but the next day at work I was gassed. My soccer game at that time was running, I could run all day and the following Saturday I was feeling very flat and after the game my coach had some wise words. He said and I’ll never forget it, “You can’t keep going to the well without giving it a chance to refill because it will run dry eventually”.

He of course was referencing the extra fitness work I was doing for my rep team and was reasoning it was the cause of my dip in form. I was doing too much, way too much.

The consequences of my overtraining were not catastrophic of course but had that game of soccer been a final or had I injured myself by over-extending then it could have resulted in injury.

Through my adult life I have remembered those words. In my training they are constantly in my mind and I take rest weeks at about every 6-7 weeks. Sometimes these will be complete rests of several days or a week or more and other times it will be “de-load” weeks.

I have also realised that changing my work around from heavy weights and low repetitions to lighter weights and higher reps to bodyweight only and mixing in different HIIT protocols along the way makes a huge difference to my levels of fatigue.

But also sometimes you just have to say, “fuck it, I am not training today, I am just not in the mood”. String a few days like this together over a week or 2 and you know you’re missing a trick, you need a proper break. You’re burning out.

I am big on using a schedule. But I am not big on habitual behaviour, it has its pluses and minuses but as a rule I am not that keen on habits as they often overrule our conscious brain.

I am always examining my habitual behaviour and always trying to mitigate the multitude of negative consequences they bring.

So when it comes to training we need to be more organised than simply doing what we’ve been doing for the past week, month, 3 months etc. Unless we interupt the habitual behaviour we will end up burnt out.

If you plan for it it will generally happen.

From time to time when you realise you will not be giving your best in the gym on a given day and you instead go have a coffee and a bagel, exactly what I did yesterday, you are simply listening to your body. I hadn’t slept well that night before plus there was an outdoor session scheduled and it was pelting down with rain.

In my mind this was a one-off and they do happen from time to time.

The outdoor session was duly cancelled but one client insisted he go do it so he sent me a session outline which I signed off on. I was very tempted to tell him to take a day off as I have noticed he is pushing very hard at the moment and we are in fact on a de-load next week. I asked him how he felt today in the gym and he admitted to being a bit fatigued so next week is timely but I should have stood him down on the outdoor work yesterday. Even at my management level of clients it’s a fine line and some clients simply don’t want to rest, they’re getting success and they thirst after more.

But as I learned the hard way many years ago now, your body is just like machinery and will not work optimally every time you switch it on unless you maintain it correctly. You must follow basic maintenance protocols around rest, fuelling, strengthening (replacing worn out/worn down parts) and resilience (oiling/greasing joints) plus you must keep fine-tuning your machine.

A fine-tuned athlete can do extraordinary things as Israel Dagg demonstrates above.

Don’t burn yourself out because the consequences could be very harmful. Mood swings, lack of energy and performance and an increase in the potential for injury are issues you could face. Plus of course if it’s making you tired it’s not making you better so your appetite for the activity will quickly wane.

My best advice is to also seek out a professional that could help a lot when it comes to program management.