Category Archives: fitness

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.

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!

I can be contacted –

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!

Using the treadmill? Injury coming!

I have built 2 gyms, am building one now and was involved in building several others. And I have never bought a single treadmill. A newspaper in Singapore headlined a story about my business as “the gym without a treadmill”. I really do not like them and have always had a strong dislike. Why?

In the old days I just couldn’t understand why someone would drive a car to a gym to run on one and then drive the car home again. I thought being outside running the streets was really fun, beating times and setting personal bests, sprinting and walking alternative power poles, sprinting hills – I loved it.

There was a reason for this running and the variations. I played at a decent level of football back in New Zealand and represented my area on many occasions. The work I did on the roads was prescribed by a variety of coaches and one in particular, Jim Henderson who’s name and face I will never forget had a profound effect on my sports fitness in general. I think he was years ahead of his time when it came to fitness. He had us doing repeat sprints at a protocol of 1 to 1 before anyone was talking about work:rest cardio. And it definitely helped because we won the New Zealand national championship with Jim coaching when I was 16 years old.

So years later seeing fitness and gyms becoming more mainstream it literally blew me away to see what fitness meant to some people and the driving to a treadmill was a big one. It’s not limited to just the treadmill of course. There’s SO MUCH hahaha! Regular readers will know what I mean.

From a physiological standpoint there’s a big issue with regular treadmill use.

There are 7 human basic movement patterns of which a curiously named movement called “gait” is one. Gait means walking, jogging, running and sprinting and from a biomechanical standpoint essentially means hip internal rotation that creates locomotion being forward movement. The key words here are hip internal rotation.

Anyone experienced piriformis syndrome? Psoas syndrome or inactivity or sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction? I am very sure a lot of the issues we face in the hip/glute complex including issues in the lumbar, hamstrings and quads are tied up with treadmill use. Why?

Well locomotion when running requires hip internal rotation. When on a treadmill there’s no locomotion, you don’t move, the tread on the mill moves and as a result peripheral muscles must do their job. These muscles such as quads, hamstrings and calves work as normal but their relationship with the hips and glutes is different because there’s no hip rotation. As a result the muscles in these locations do not work properly, if at all. There’s a serious problem at the interface of these muscle groups and the joints associated with them.

Frequent long term misuse of the human musculoskeletal system results in chronic injury. In this instance it is clearly overuse of treadmills. Ask your physio if you’re experiencing piriformis or psoas syndromes or an inactive SI joint why you are experiencing it and they usually have to guess. There’s never really a standout reason.

I am beginning to think it’s very obvious! Get off the treadmill and get outside.

Going backwards on weekends

A lot of people with jobs they’re not completely in love with or lives that aren’t fulfilling them enough act out over weekends when they’re able to switch off a bit. This is not abnormal behaviour and I would think it’s more frequently the case with people than infrequently the case.

I spent most of my twenties living in Sydney doing a job I kind of liked, never really loved and on weekends letting rip with alcohol a mainstay of the tear-it-up approach to Saturdays and Sundays when not having a job to go to and not having a schedule to follow.

I arrived in Jakarta as a 32 year old with a well paying job on an expat package living in a city that swamped me with its size, vibe and downright craziness.

I’m in Jakarta and I’m living large. Weekends were my opportunity to play up and I did it, big time. Most weekends went like they did back in Sydney, I slogged it through until Friday afternoon and then it was, “what’s on tonight?!” And then suddenly my alarm is going off and it’s Monday morning again and I’m lying in bed wondering where my precious weekend disappeared to?

I did that for close to 15 years. What a waste, oh it was fun but wow, I learned and learned quickly that if I was to continue down the path I was on it would lead to disaster. I woke up one Sunday morning, a raging hangover and surveyed the scene of my body in the bathroom mirror. It was not pretty. A large protruding belly being the piece-de-resistance of my past years “work” there in the Indonesian capital.

I made a decision then and there that changed my life – if it sounds like a cliche so be it but that’s exactly how it happened.

I knew that weekends were ruining me, I was binge drinking on Friday and Saturday nights interspersed with the odd Wednesday or Thursday session. I decided I would enforce a alcohol limit for every 7 days and it was 6 beers. I made that commitment to myself that morning in the mirror. One fine Sunday a few months later and a few kilo’s lighter I sat down to watch my footy team play on TV. I decided to grab a beer and began doing a mental calculation of how many I could drink being the last day of the 7 and to my astonishment it dawned on me that I had not had a drink all week – that Sunday was the beginning of a 2 year tee-total period. I got 2 weeks in, then 2 months, then a year and I decided I was fine without drinking. It did change of course and I did start drinking again and I actually love an ice-cold beer. But it can stop at 1 these days which it couldn’t back then.

I look back on the last 20 years and there are some awesome takeaways when it comes to my fitness and health, becoming a personal trainer, building a highly successful fitness business, shareholders, landlords, employees, market developments, Govt regulations etc etc. As a result of all of this and among the variety of things I do I am developing a personal trainers coaching course and am using the first iteration of it with some people that I will be employing.

In my opinion one of the key elements is understanding that we can measure fitness and we can measure sickness but that word, that description that sits in between sickness and fitness, “wellness”, we can’t measure. Medical people can help us not be sick and therefore by default we are “well” but what does this mean? The founder of CrossFit, Greg Glassman asked this question and still does. It’s not measurable and therefore a grey area whereas fitness, that can be measured and generally the fitter we are, the healthier we are, health being something we can also measure.

I work with clients very closely on a variety of their lifestyle habits, all of which are based on the 4 pillars I have previously written about here. When we discuss habits it is no surprise to me that most struggle over weekends maintaining discipline around food and alcohol. Late nights with parties and catch-ups also derail the best laid plans. There is definitely a western societal predisposition to Friday and Saturday nights being ones to play up a bit, drink a little more, eat a little more, stay up later and it has a really tough outcome come Monday morning and noses back to the grindstone.

In the business I built in Singapore, my management team had a Monday morning meeting at a fairly leisurely 9am kickoff. One member of the group missed the meeting constantly because he just couldn’t get out of bed on a Monday morning. In another business in Thailand my head coach struggled to get out of bed for a 7am class on Monday’s, every other day he was fine. The rock band Boomtown Rats sang “I don’t like Mondays” and I think this resonates with many people.

I have clients now that have their great work through a previous week completely undone by weekend habits. Does it happen to me as well? Sure it does but on Monday I know how bad the damage is because as regular readers will know I weigh myself every day. It’s a habit, I do it because I want to know if my other habits are contributing to a healthy Darren or otherwise. A weekend of some indulgence needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. Afterall increasing weight is closely linked to increasingly bad health so why wouldn’t I be checking it?

My advice to everyone reading this is weigh yourself frequently. Check out the numbers on Fridays and Mondays over say a month or 6 weeks. Is there a trend? Where is the trend heading, up or down? Examine your behaviours over the weekends. If you’re deviating significantly from “normal” and it’s contributing to weight gain, how do you better manage this behaviour? You may not want to and that is fine but there are 2 things here.

  1. don’t be surprised to find yourself increasingly frequently visiting the doctor
  2. don’t also be surprised finding your energy, concentration and moods deteriorating

I hate to sign off on a negative note but only you can fix stuff that’s broken. Acknowledgement of a problem is the first step, identifying how to solve it and then an action plan follow.

Just Do It!

Is running ruining your fitness?

An intentionally thought provoking title and actually a title that has a lot of substance. Generally most people get running for fitness gains completely wrong.

The only exception to this statement is for people that run because they compete in running races. Otherwise you’re probably actually derailing your real fitness goals by engaging in too much running. This also applies to excessive bouts of cardio in gyms on ellipticals, bikes, treadmills, rowers, ski ergs and stairmasters (yes, they still make them!)

Skinny-fat, anyone? And no this isn’t a new Starbucks type of coffee. It’s what a lot of people that engage in excessive cardio are described as and a very uncomplimentary description it is.

Even well regarded resources such as Healthline have weighed into the debate on “skinny fat” and its article here talks about the condition.

But here’s the problem and Healthline’s article manages to reveal it very accurately. Moving from a state of skinny-fat to lean and strong can be achieved “with exercise” but like most advice around this subject it doesn’t go into to any detail what exercise(s) should be done.

This is very common in my understanding of where we are at right now in the fitness industry. A large group of people working but lacking a lot of the basic education around the keys to client success. And a larger group regular people wanting to “get fit” with even less understanding of what it takes.

It’s obvious that there are many new people in the fitness industry being one of the key industries of growth in the new millennium. Prior to the year 2000 I read an article suggesting fitness would be a boom industry after the clock ticked into the 2000’s, as long as the Y2k bug didn’t destroy the planet first!

Running seems to be a natural thing for us to do as humans and it is, gait is one is the 7 basic movement patterns so walking, jogging, running and sprinting are natural movements.

The issue is that coupled with the movement pattern we also have an energy demand and a hormonal response. So there are a number of factors at play when we run. Plus there’s also the issue of the human musculoskeletal system that is surprisingly fragile when we undertake movement patterns frequently over time. Sitting is a big issue because sitting is not a natural position for us. Commercial drivers of taxi’s, trucks etc have added issues. These positions produce chronic joint issues over time.

So does running. Even though we’re moving, we’re moving in a set pattern and if that pattern is being influenced by joints and/or muscles that aren’t working efficiently then we are on a collision course with a chronic/overuse injury.

We’re also having a deleterious effect on our hormonal balance, I’ve shared these 2 pics several times in posts previously, both world champions, one is skinny and is always fighting with a compromised immune system and the other is strong, lean and healthy. And all of these symptoms and results are directly related to the way in which they each train. Yes they both run but there the similarities end.

Bolt V Kipchoge, muscular, lean and healthy V skinny, not as lean as you would expect and not real healthy

Bolt does fast intervals over short distances, lifts heavy weights and weight gain to him just means more power which means another world record or medal.

Kipchoge runs miles and miles at a continuous, steady state, likely doesn’t lift weights because he probably doesn’t have the time and weight gain is bad because it slows him down and means he’ll miss a medal.

Why do these 2 scenarios occur? One training style creates a growth hormone dominant profile and the other, a cortisol dominant one. It really is that simple.

Which picture do you want?

My advice is cut down your running and general cardio and do high intensity intervals for fitness and body composition gains, the science and real-world results prove this is the right approach!

James Bond training sessions

Imagine for a moment you are James Bond and you have to be super fit to do the amazing shit you do. Plus it’s an urgent job this time and you have like 2 weeks to shed some pounds and get stronger. Recently, unlike the old dude that had a kid that he didn’t know about and that was happy spear fishing on a Carribbean island driving a Jeep around, you have been out playing poker in the biggest casino’s in the world while chasing unimaginably beautiful women around dodgy night clubs in Hong Kong – and have the paunch above your belt to prove it. Q can provide you with what you need to get in the best shape you can in 2 weeks because Tomorrow Never Dies and you don’t want to Die Another Day. Sorry. Kind of.

Sadly whatever incredible equipment Q could have dreamed up for you does not materialise and all you have is a rack of dumbbells.

What does Q suggest?

Firstly he doesn’t have you sitting down on a recumbent bike doing dumbbell whatevers while watching tv, mainly because you can’t use a bike and certainly not one with a tv attached to it and secondly because this is just plain silly –

Q created workout – not.

Q knows that the single best thing he can do in a short period of time is tap into your hormones and let them go to work. You can see immediate weight loss and greater strength by doing this.

Q prescribes the following –


  • Dumbbell floor presses, 5-6 reps followed by dumbbell renegade rows, same reps. You want the bells to be heavy enough so that you are struggling to get that 5th/6th rep. 5 sets with at least a 2 minute rest between sets.
  • 10 minute EMOM – min 1, as many burpees as possible in 30 seconds and rest 30, min 2, push up supermans for 30 seconds, rest 30 and min 3, go back to burpees and continue for 5 rounds of each. Supermans are demonstrated here, go to 30 secs and do the variation that callenges you most!

Tuesday – run. If you are a regular runner, run 1 km at a faster pace than you would usually run and then rest. However long that takes you to run, rest the same period, so if it takes you 5 minutes 30, rest for 5 minutes 30 and then do it again and do at least 3 rounds. If you can’t run, power walk and if you cannot do this either then you risk facing the wrath of Q!


  • Dumbbell front rack lunge walks, 10 reps followed by dumbbell standing woodchops, 5 each side. Same thoughts on the dumbbell selection for these exercises as per Monday. 5 sets of both with at least a 2 minute rest between sets. If you don’t know what a wood chop looks like check out this guy, he goes a bit too fast so slow them down but otherwise, he demonstrates pretty good form.
  • EMOM 10 minute (work for 1 minute, rest for 1 minute for 5 rounds). 30 seconds of mountain climbers (as fast as possible) then straight into 30 seconds of squat jumps, rest 1 minute and keep repeating for 4 more rounds. Count your total mountain climbers and squat jumps and maintain your numbers!


  • Same as the Tuesday run


  • Dumbbell deadlift (2 arms) straight into dumbbell bentover row, down to deadlift and back to row, keep repeating for 5 of each, THIS is a pretty good video explaining the movement with a barbell (you will be using dumbbells because Q told you too, of course!) Do 5 rounds of this with a minimum 2 minutes rest and again with heavy-ish dumbbells.
  • EMOM 15 minutes (work for 30 seconds on and off for 3 exercises, 5 rounds). Minute 1 do 30 seconds of dumbbell thrusters, minute 2, 30 seconds of switchunders (go to 1.05 minute and use these side kick throughs he calls them) and minute 3, 30 seconds push up T rotations.

Do this workout, 007, for 2 weeks! BOOM! It’s For Your Eyes Only so no sharing and make sure you get the wole program done, 100%, because it’s No Time to Die.

Enjoy because even if you’re not James Bond this workout will work wonders and thrash The Living Daylights out of you.