Monthly Archives: April 2022

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, 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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