Let talk briefly about stretching

Warning: this is not a jargon filled post with sprinkles of science. It is based however on evidence based practice.

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First off, I’m not going to bash stretching. I’m going to suggest a better way for most people to initiate a stretch that will last longer and improve muscle and movement range.

Most people who stretch use a static stretch. A position is assumed and held for 10 seconds to over a minute. But, many will report no lasting affect and indeed when returning to the same stretch again, they’d be back where they where in the previous stretch session.

Why? Therapists much smarter than I would inform you that no lasting stretch is achieved because the static stretch affects the muscle and the local nerves but not the brain. (Simplest description I dare write) The stretches benefits will last only a short time.

Simply put, the act of stretching the muscle for a period informs the nerve of no further threat and in course, the nerve allows the muscle to relax. However, no learning or adaption will be incurred without the message going to the brain. Intent movement initiated by the brain telling the nerves what to do are learned reflexes. We develop these as babies, toddlers and onwards.

As much as intentional strength activities cause a learned adaptation, the same applies to progressing a muscles range of movement or mobility or flexibility.

So how we do get our brains involved in a stretch? We move into brief moments of muscular stretch with intent. You intentionally move your muscles to take you into the stretch albeit briefly.

There are a few methods that utilise a therapist helping you to tense and release muscles, you can also do this yourself ‘or’ you can just move and have fun.

I prefer the latter.

This wee video below is not a technical demonstration. The rules are simple, briefly move into a hamstring stretching position (in this case) while moving around into and out of various mobility drills or positions you are familiar with. Heck, you can make up moves. It doesn’t have to look pretty or flowing – just move.

Number one rule though, use muscles to pull and push and manoeuvre you into each position to feel a light stretch and do not go to pain.

 

Final word. If you like stretching and it makes you feel better then do it. Make it a frequent practice. I did for years until I found an alternative that helps me achieve some of the physical activities I want to pursue.

Got any feedback, just fire a message off below.

Step Up…You’re Not a Kangaroo!

The 2010s and onwards will probably go down in history as the period in human development that was enslaved by social media. If in 2018 you are not found on social media and not just google, well then my friend, you just don’t exist!

The almighty interwebs will guide us too when faced with all the modern day quandaries, some helpful and some not so helpful.

  • How do you gut a fish? Let Youtube guide you. It’s how I learned actually.
  • How do you market your online PT business? Let’s some random 24 year old personal trainer help you in return for $12k (sadly true, this one!)
  • What’s the best leg strength exercises? Numerous websites will espouse the value of maintaining a diet of squats, deadlifts and olympic lifting exercises.

While this last recommendation is actually not bad it’s possibly not the best choice for most of us wanting and needing leg strength exercises that add to our health and wellbeing account. Yes, squats and deadlifts are valuable. We spend probably 60% of our training programs employing these two but, we also spend time on single leg strength exercises.

There are no real problems with squats and deadlifts for some of the time but it can be common for an individual to have little imbalances in their hips, ankles, particular muscles which will be unknown to the exerciser until something hurts.

Hurting sucks and yes, if you’ve tried some one leg strength exercises, they suck too.

Often times the more something sucks in the gym, the more benefits it holds and we should practice the sucky stuff until it’s not so sucky anymore. 

Balance or lack of is probably why single leg work sucks. The balance issue is most commonly due to the smaller synergistic muscles, the joint stabilisers, not knowing quite what to do when called upon. As great as squats and deadlifts are, they can become quite efficient quite quickly and some imbalances can arise.

We are bipedals designed with the intent to walk, run, climb and lots of other stuff unilaterally – one leg in front of the other. Our bodies are meant to utilise the muscles that control hip, knee and ankle posture and position as well as the muscles that actuate movement.  We are not Kangaroos!

By taking a little bit of time to work on the single leg exercises we can prevent a lot of pain if we were only to train bilateral movements like squats, deadlift, leg presses, kettlebell swings and such.

To compliment our bilateral movements, what unilateral / one legged exercises can we include?

  • Lunges
  • Single leg deadlifts
  • Various staggered stance squats and dedlifts
  • Step ups

Today, I’m going to run through step ups. Now, you might think there’s not too much to consider with technique. You might take steps at home, work and in the shopping centre, but to get the most out of your time doing step ups, there are a few considerations – so hear me out.

  • Start with a small step and progress to a larger step as you need to
  • Ensure the complete foot is on the step
  • Brace your midsection throughout the repetition
  • Drive pressure through your heal as you start the step up
  • Grip the step with your toes
  • Push the step down with your foot and hip
  • How far forward your knee travels is a personal comfort thing, but to start with, try to keep the knee no more than over the toes
  • At the top when upright – squeeze your ‘butt’
  • Try to control your descent – don’t just drop back down
  • You can repeat the same leg for a set before changing legs or you can alternate legs per repetition.
  • Add weight is needed – if your balance is good

Let’s look at the step up in action…

There are a few variations, but this is the main version we use at the gym.

How to program? 

This is totally dependant on the individual and goal, but for general strength, 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps prove enough. You could use these on a weekly basis to include after squats etc or you could work them harder, with more focus for a few weeks every 2 to 3 months while just maintaining a simple squat etc routine.

Next week I’ll look at another single leg delight.

Want to tell me how much you hate step ups? Please get in touch below.

Quick Recovery Tip

Recovery days may raise the notion that’s it’s a day for total rest, like feet up, don’t move and conserve energy.

Well, in actuality, ‘active moving’ recovery is a far superior recovery method AND preparation method for your next training session.

As well as mobilising our joints, preparing wholesome meals, sleeping a good 7 1/2 to 8 hours is vital too.

Today I just want to share a quick active recovery routine I follow in between my harder days.

Increased blood flow to remove post exercise toxins, joint mobility and regaining muscle elasticity are some of benefits but rather than write it…. here’s a video.

You can follow along to it too 😁

DO 1 THING

LET’S GET OUT OF THAT WINTER FUNK AND START WITH 

1 THING

August has been a chilly winter month for us in Australia, well, the mornings anyway. Daytimes are generally bliss with temperatures in the mid 20s… dreamy, I know.

Anyhoo, the colder mornings and evenings have made it particularly hard for some people to get started either back into their routine after a winter slumber or started full-stop.

It’s easy to create a list of reasons (aka excuses) why you shouldn’t get up and go but it shouldn’t be that hard – don’t be so hard on yourself.

Watch on…

The Vlog

 

If you are interested in training in your own time, in your own space and with a limited budget, get on the early bird registration for fitstrong online, coming very soon.

Short on Gym Time?

We all get those times when we had planned to train but life just got in the way… hey it happens. No drama.

Most of us know how to carry out most of the popular exercises without too much technical jargon or direction but, the ‘no time’ excuse will always raise its ugly head.

I had one of those days today. Sinus headache all morning on top of two online lectures to study left me with 20 minutes roughy to do something before heading off to get my daughter from school.

Once you cut away the fluff that can bulk up a training session you get left with what’s important to get done.

For me today that was some single leg practice and some rows to balance off my main program on the other days.

 I just rotated through step ups, single leg deadlifts and rows.

 Simple. Check it out.

 

 

If you happen to know that you know you should train often but don’t and you know some exercise technique basics too, maybe you know you need some guidance!!! Ye know?!

Maybe consider signing up for early registration for my new online membership program.

  • Weekly programs and workouts with kettlebells and bodyweight exercises
  • Monthly technique tune ups
  • Mobility / flexibility routines (you want to move better too don’t you?!)
  • Occasional challenges
  • Ongoing online support
  • Just $1 a day!!!!

More information will be released early September 2018, but if interested to learn more, just fill out the basics below 👇🏻

Even the fiercest beast starts out as a baby

We all started out laid out on the floor as babies and with prolific contact between our our hands and feet with the floor we learned about our environment very quickly.

This of course led to us progressing to more upright endeavours until we all started to sit (slouch) more.

Maybe it’s a good idea to get back to floor to rekindle all those neuro-physical benefits of ground contact. As a quick remark, I’ve found that many clients squat and deadlift better after some practice of crawling….

Baby Crawl to Beast Crawl

No one ever gets to floor, crawls a while and stands up with smile proclaiming, “wow, that was easy!”

Crawling is tough as your body ties together and links your upper body and lower body together. Crawling also activates cross bracing on the trunk, tying together your opposite shoulders and hips together, you know, natural gait like when you walk, jog, run and climb.

So here’s a great sequence for you to practice.

Start in the simplest of crawls, the baby crawl on all fours (or sixes if you count the feet dragging on the ground). Take a few steps before continuing on your feet and hands in what you can call the Beast crawl.

The rules: you must maintain nasal breathing. If you have to suck in wind through the mouth, your set is done. Rest a bit then repeat.

As the body gets stronger and breathing nasally becomes more prolonged, spend less time on the baby crawl and more in beast.

Simple.

Oh, you want more…. try the above with reverse crawling, going backwards 🙂

Simplest hack to boost your gym results

What’s the best hack to getting results Jamie?

I get frequent and some very awesome questions from both in-person personal training and online clients. One common query surrounds hacks. A shortcut to good ol fashioned time, patience oh, and putting in the hard yards.

I get asked about oils, shakes, best carbs, food timing, supplements, exercise routines, recovery methods for enhanced performance and recovery … all except one extraordinarily simple thing we do every day. This one thing for the most part, we don’t do very well but once improved, really can be a powerful performance enhancer in all aspects of our life.

Drum Roll… Sleep more.

We’ve all experienced those foggy days after waking up prematurely perhaps, or maybe after a late night or an interrupted nights slumber owing to a feisty family of possums who have been practicing their Irish dancing on your roof! This latter fits the description of my last 4 nights … sigh, yawn!

We all know we probably should sleep more, shooting for those recommended 7 to 8 hours a night. Yeah, I know, you’ve probably claimed at some time to do just fine on 5 hours a night like Elon Musk or Donald Trump who claims to sleep 4-5 hours a night and maybe you are one of those rare individuals who claim the same. However, the vast majority of people need 7 to 8 hours of clean sleep per night to recover and rejuvenate.

Contrary to what some say about getting used to reduced sleep periods, the body still needs the 7 to 8 hours+ to sequence a series of bodily processes to recover from the previous day and especially if you exercise frequently and expect to see results.

Board-certified sleep medicine doctor and neurologist W. Christopher Winter, M.D., of Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, and author of the upcoming book, The Sleep Solution, says if it takes you about 10 to 15 minutes to conk out, you only get up once or twice at night, and you wake up before your alarm, you’re sleeping at the right level of efficiency – especially if you feel well-rested throughout the day. “You’re really looking for that happy medium.”

As for conditioning yourself to reduced sleep, If you’re falling asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow or while relaxing in front of the TV in the evening, chances are you’re not getting enough sleep though. It is a fine balance.

So, yes, getting those 7 to 8 hours is a balance you get to experiment with but happens during sleep that’s so important for all you exercisers?

stages of sleep

A brief look at the stages of sleep

1.

  • Between being awake and falling asleep
  • Light sleep

2.

  • Onset of sleep
  • Becoming disengaged from surroundings
  • Breathing and heart rate are regular
  • Body temperature drops (so sleeping in a cool room is helpful)

3.

  • Deepest and most restorative sleep
  • Blood pressure drops
  • Breathing becomes slower
  • Muscles are relaxed
  • Blood supply to muscles increases
  • Tissue growth and repair occurs
  • Energy is restored
  • Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development
  • Provides energy to brain and body
  • Supports daytime performance

You can see the list of benefits of stage 3 and do you think we’re helping ourselves by missing out on these? Can we really recover from our training and work if we’re missing out on essential snooze time?

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Maybe keep track of your sleep over the next few nights, note what time you go to bed at assuming you’re not drifting off on the sofa and of course note what time you wake at. If you’re feeling under par during the and getting less than 7 hours sleep, perhaps it’s time to address what time you go to bed at.

On that note, I’ll stop here so you can plan your bed time – oh, and maybe investigate turning off blue light devices and changing your smart devices night mode to the orange back light.

 

Night night

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Good any thoughts? Drop me a note if you’d like.

Progressing in Life, Gym, Relationships…

First off let me remind you that I’m no expert in anything. Yes, I teach people how to move better, get stronger and fitter and how to make healthier nutritional choices. Whilst I’m not an expert, I am a practitioner of all the above.

Today I am going to let you in on my secret at getting better at the things I hope to make look proficient, natural and better than average – again, I am not at expert.

Every week in the gym I hear people say that they’re not as agile as me, not as strong as me, not as good at lifting heavy stuff as me and not as good at food prep / cooking / choosing healthier food as me. No comment yet as to my beard growing prowess sadly!

Here’s a list of ‘me’:

  • I never visited a gym until I was 26 years of age
  • I crave and salivate over the idea of sweet foods, pizza and burgers all the time
  • I had a serious back problem for the years between 2004 to 2013 because of poor mobility
  • I’m missing most of the cartilage in my knees
  • I stress chronically over everything and I’m poor sleeper
  • I’m naturally good at endurance activities and I’m really poor at strength activities
  • I’m an introvert who loves to help people and loves time alone and yet have a great friendship and relationship with my wife
  • I am a terrible procrastinator
  • I love helping people including myself lead and progress a healthier, stronger life

I am far from an expert in anything but the last point is the driver to improving all the weaker points.

Now, you may consider these weaknesses as an apt description of normal for the vast majority of the population – so I am average, ‘yay’!

You could be thinking I may have some otherworldly control of my will. Ha! Nope. Trust me, when the overload light in my heads dashboard is flashing, I have negligible will power. Every morning starts, like most of us, with the will to win the day or at least to get through it. But you know, stuff happens throughout the day that chips away at the will power block until it’s gone at some point.

This past fortnight I’ve been working on our home improvement list that’s included quite a few trips to ikea. I remembering thinking to myself about assembling flat packs years ago and how fiddly it was (including some early ikea pieces), how some parts didn’t quite marry up, how a screw or 3 was missing and how the piece of furniture seemed to loosen up within a few months. I had this in my mind as I drove home with our chest of drawers, kind of dreading the assembly of our new furniture addition.

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There is no long story to cut short – I had the chest of drawers up and assembled without a single blister in 45 minutes. The second piece I bought the week after, a larger chest of drawers I assembled whilst having a phone call with my wife overseas and now, another week later, I’m embarking upon assembling a 40 box storage system for around the TV (the Best system, look it up).

That initial fear driving home was quickly quashed as it became very apparent that ikea was on their A game after I completed the first piece.

The instructions first off, tell you everything you need to know. To scale illustrations of each screw, whatchamacallit, dooda and fiddlymadink. Each step is clearly illustrated without fuss or confusion and little tips are given along the way. Each piece of the chest of drawers was incredibly well designed and the assembly even seemed intuitive, like a smartphone as it where.

What the heck happened? How have ikea mastered the ability to make building their flat-packs so easy?

I imagine it’s been the cumulative affect of fine tuning over many years. Making mistakes, taking feedback, learning and moving forward with lots of little adjustments. This is probably a continuous process, not something that happens once a year, you know, like after Christmas or lent, or because a birthday party is coming up and you’ve to fit into that little black number!

Uur, you get what I mean! They practiced making thing better and they progressed.

So what has this got to do with me, my imperfections and how it seems like I’m better than average at a few things?

Because I fine tune all the time.

Practice MakesProgress

Practice Makes Progress

  • I do my mobility activities that works best for me. (10 minutes minimum)
  • I practice my strength work frequently, working at a comfortable effort that’s sustainable and progressive. (20-30 minutes of time a few days a week)
  • I stretch daily. (5 minutes while watching TV or listening to a podcast or waiting for a client to arrive)
  • I think about what I’m going to eat, make sure I’ve shopped accordingly and prepare meals in advance whenever it’s convenient. (cooking a meal for 3 that’ll last a couple of days takes 20 minutes of my time max – the cooker does the rest)
  • I drink water first thing and keep a water bottle close-by throughout the day.
  • I tell both my wife and daughter that I love them daily.
  • I walk daily whilst focussing on breathing nasally.
  • I chill out daily either with a good TV show or a great podcast.
  • I make sure I get to eat the foods I enjoy but only every now and then.
  • I sometimes set plans. For my training goals, nutrition for fat loss goals, house improvements, weekend trips, eating out and of course, daily meals. This takes just a few minutes, a brief discussion with the family and wambam, it’s in the diary.

I am certainly not ‘just’ better, stronger, fitter and more agile than everyone because it’s who I am, it’s because I care enough to make these things part of my daily life practice.

‘If it’s at all important, do it every day’

If you care to progress your life and think it’s too much, there’s too much to do, here’s how to start:

  1. Make a list of everything you would like to progress.
  2. From this list identify just ONE item that you consider the easiest to start working on. Not necessarily the most important, but the easiest for you to start.
  3. What do you need to do to start progressing this item? Make a list – take the easiest item from that list and write it on a note.
  4. Stick this note somewhere you list first thing every day. In the bathroom, in eyeshot of your toothbrush, or next to the kettle, a screen saver on your smartphone – who cares – just somewhere you’ll notice it every morning.
  5. Take action. If you need help to do it, get the help.
  6. Own that first item before moving onwards.

Before I sign off, my gym goal for the year is get my first unsupported handstand. Yeah I know, I’m 45 years of age and really don’t need to do a handstand, except I’d like to try to do it. It’s on my goal list.

My handstand lists simplest thing to work on first was wrist mobility to support me. My current item is a tuck balance, where Im supporting myself briefly upside down with my knees tucked into my stomach. From here I’ll gradually work on getting my legs up in the air.

No rush, just reasonable steps to practice towards progress.

Practice Makes Progress