Category Archives: lifestyle

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.

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!

I can be contacted –

The “Calorie Counting” Trap

Most cardio equipment will have a calorie counter to tell you how many you have burned. I’ve seen people swimming in sweat, literally a pool of it surrounding their bike, after what must have been a huge grind session and all this with 850 calories expended. That’s right, 850. Most people will not get anywhere near that unless they’re flat out for 50-60 minutes and the average “cals” burned would be 500-600.

Check out how many cals a medium cappuccino and bagel with cream cheese puts into your system. Then you may start to realise counting cals may not actually be the thing you thought it was.

Do you know how they measure how many calories are in a food? Do you think someone actually eating food comes into the equation? Nope. They burn the food and measure the temperature change, a one degree Celsius change is 1 calorie, a basic explanation from McGill University in Canada is here.

A calorie is a measure of energy, which kind of makes sense as it relates to human power. Whether burning the food bears any resemblance to how mitochondria utilises nutrients in human cells to produce energy is, in my mind, highly debatable. I would go as far as to say it’s almost ridiculous.

So how then do people lose weight when they “count” calories? Well, they usually end up eating much less than they ordinarily would so they’re restricting the amount of food and therefore reverse the increasing weight gain paradigm so many of the population finds themselves in.

As I have written about previously, the human population has become subjected to manufactured foods that are highly processed and largely nutrient-deficient. For a lot of the western world this has resulted in an epidemic of obesity, as described by the WHO. Almost 40% of the world’s adult population is overweight and 13% technically obese.

After spending a significant amount of time researching the subject and attempting to understand the primary causes without the pressure of financial interests dictating outcomes, it is clear to me a primary cause is the food we eat. After all, more people suffer from too much food than not enough as is evidenced by the previously linked website.

So exactly what is the issue with counting calories? Here are the problems –

  • there’s a tenuous relationship between the true energy contribution of food and what values are attached to them by the term calorie
  • focussing on numbers distracts people from the quality of the foods they’re consuming
  • focussing on numbers can mean other highly relevant concepts are not considered such as intermittent fasting (IF)
  • focussing on numbers takes away from understanding the origins of food

We should be focussing on IF and food quality, primarily nutrient density and choosing whole foods. These concepts are the ones most people should be building their nutrition plan around and especially that of their children. A focus that is purely on numbers is simple to do but not beneficial and it is based on flimsy science – it’s not the only flimsy science seen in the fitness industry, think 220-your age as a maximal heart rate for training purposes – bunk!

I survey the fitness and health scene frequently and am always questioning what people are doing. Way too many times I see a reliance on calorie counting as a means for determining food selection – this is a big error. Change you ways people!

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!

Getting a good injury

Is there such a thing as a good injury? In most opinions I think people would say no but as most of you will know by now, I don’t usually have opinions most could agree with. Am I a contrarian? I guess I am as discussing something with someone that shares the same opinion is boring, right? Let’s find a subject we can disagree on and chat about that.

Sadly the popular stand being taken on many fronts right now is a collective one. We’re all in this together, let’s all stay home, shut down businesses and social distance to “save the healthcare system”. Collectively done this will result in a success, right? What about the economy, other undetected and untreated illnesses, education, social interaction and family bonds? Nah, stuff all them, we’re collectively saving the healthcare system, you know that one that works so well in the US, UK, Europe etc. So collectively we’re ruining lives but collectively saving systems that didn’t work very well originally anyway – makes sense to this contrarian. Not.

I don’t want to always argue a different opinion it just seems the one that makes sense to me always puts me in the minority.

So you can imagine the surprise of my friends the other day when I pulled up due to a hamstring spasm during a sprint and that I now say this was a good injury. Ok so I didn’t suffer a major tear, in fact I would say it’s a very light sprain almost to the point where 72 hours later I am not feeling it while walking.

With several friends I do an interval fast run/sprint session on Saturday mornings. Gait is a human movement pattern and a basic human function so running is a prerequisite for normal function and something we must practice. You may also think walking is in this category and you are right but we walk all the time so usually there’s no need to practice it. But isn’t it remarkable how good you feel after doing a purposeful walk, especially if done with your dog, or a friend or your partner. There’s really something bond-like going on with us hormonally combining walking with spending time with your favourite animal or human!

Last Saturday we were doing a favourite routine, 3 sets of 5 by 1 minute sprints with 1 minute rest and a 5 minute break between the 3 sets. The first round of 5 we did there and back over 230 metres, the second round there and back over 270 metres and the last round of 5 sprints over 300 metres. The last round getting back in a minute was tough and personally I was right on the limit and the 4th run as we arrived back at the start my hammy spasmed and I stopped in my tracks.

Two athletic men carrying their injured friend during marathon and helping him to finish the race.

I went home immediately and iced it and after 10 minutes I did a gentle stretch before icing again. Through the day I used a compression bandage that I also wore overnight. Sunday I had a busy day and no time to do anything except compression through the night again.

Why did I ice and stretch? Some time ago I met a very interesting physiotherapist that suggested I do this with minor strains. His argument was minor tears/strains bunched up a small area of fibres that if allowed to remain bunched up would result in scar tissue forming around it (in a knot). This knot would take a longer time to rehabilitate than if we were to straighten them out while they were still soft and pliable in the immediate period post-injury/trauma. This will be the third or fourth time I have treated a soft tissue injury like this myself and I have a 100% record in doing it this way.

Why then is this a good injury?

Well if I am training and I injure myself I can easily usually determine what went wrong and take learnings from it. Saturday I was simply running too hard and my body failed. I am 56 and am as fit as a butchers dog (true story) and I was pushing myself to the absolute max and my body said, “hold up dude!” Conversely if I was playing tennis, soccer, touch footy or golf and did the same thing I would regard it as a bad injury – my training is designed to keep me operating optimally in my sports and I know my limits there and have learned to not push these boundaries too much. I am no help to my game or my team mates if I get injured at sport.

Through all my training there is a point to it. I never do anything without good reason. I think we all should train this way whether for attaining your ideal weight, all-round health and fitness or simply maximising your quality of lifestyle.

If you want to take control of your health and fitness, get in touch!

5 tips for quicker workouts

I love the gym and I love the energy that regular gym-goers bring. There’s something about walking into your favourite gym and seeing the familiar faces all doing their thing, running, pushing, lifting, jumping and more. I always get a buzz and as soon as my headphones are in I can switch that accumulated energy into focussing on what I am there to do.

I know my plan well in advance of arrival at the gym – I rarely make stuff up on the fly, the exception is when someone is using the piece of equipment I need. And this rarely occurs as I can always switch stuff around.

My time outside of the gym is valuable, I am guessing just like yours so I really don’t want to waste it with poor planning or execution. I love to catch up with people and I factor in a bit of this to my timing but otherwise I try to be strict on my schedule.

The interesting thing is I do watch and see what others are doing and sadly, I see a lot of time-wasting. It’s cool if you’re in the situation that you have 2 or more hours for your daily session but many aren’t in that position or don’t want to be in that position.

So here are 5 tips for you to better manage your fitness time –

  1. Schedule your training for early morning or late afternoon. Lunchtime sessions can be easily derailed by colleagues, customers, family, errands or laziness! The very best time to train is first thing in the morning. Not only is it a lot harder for it to be disrupted at this time by the things that disrupt the lunchtime session, for instance but by training early you will also give yourself more energy for the day ahead. Personally I always preferred afternoon/evening training and I always got it done but other commitments meant I had to switch to mornings – and I soon realised what I had been missing out on! Gym and general exercising in the a.m. is the bomb! If morning really doesn’t work (and I am sceptical why that should be) then after work will have to be it.
  2. Have a goal for why you are training (weight loss, a race or competition, health reasons – there’s a variety of markers you can use and many are becoming more readily accessible with “at home” test kits) and plan sessions around this goal. I do my strength and mobility training on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s and do outdoor strength and cardio sessions on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s and finally I do an interval running session on Saturdays (I also play tennis twice a week). My goals are all around my athleticism as it relates to tennis primarily but not only for that. Within athleticisim I put speed, agility, strength, cardio endurance, joint resilience, power and dynamism. All of us have basic physical function we need to maintain, the next level is basic athleticism and then fine-tuning for any sports or physical pursuits we engage in – there must be a PURPOSE to what you are doing and it must progress. Random does not cut it.
  3. Put a time limit on your sessions. My Saturday session will be 30-45 minutes dependent upon the work-rest protocol for that day. And that is determined by the macro-cycle I am in. My gym sessions are 60 minutes. The Tuesday and Thursday sessions are 45 minutes. I can pare back all sessions if required by eliminating optional warm up protocols and decreasing rest times (I run a clock on all my weight lifting and outdoor sessions).
  4. Ditch the time-wasting exercises. What are these? Anything that doesn’t challenge you! 25 reps of anything will give you a “burn” but I can assure you physiologically you are wasting your time. Same with ambling on a treadmill or watching tv on a bike. You get nothing out of either (unless you’re watching a decent documentary and you may have learned something). Add to that “crunches” of anything, pec-dec stuff, leg extension stuff, bicep curl machine stuff – there’s probably too much to mention. Don’t do this stuff, do exercises and protocols that work, do it time-efficiently and move on!
  5. Plan your sessions or at least have bullet-pointed notes on what you are doing that day. I am AMAZED at the number of professional people I know that are extremely well organised in every part of their lives except their fitness and health. And yes fitness relates directly to health and like health markers, fitness is measurable, unlike the term and concept of “wellness”. What exactly does being “well” mean, anyway?

If you want to get your fitness back on track, check out my online, do it anywhere fitness solution offered in 3 levels of fitness – “HELP I am nowhere right now” (green level), “I have done a bit already” (blue level) and “I am a machine and I need a new challenge” (black level). And for a limited time the first 10 readers that register for a 3TRUTHS Fitness solution will get a 25% discount using this link –

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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!