Do You Even Plank?

If you’ve never seen an advertisement for Abdominal training, or Ab Workouts, or Six Pack this and that, well done. You’re probably one of the lucky ones who haven’t been inflicted with horrific images of back busting silliness all in the name of grabbing attention to a program, product of instagram likes.

Whilst there is plenty of great information out in the interwebs, most of the time we only see the very well marketed, sparkly sensationalised ‘stuff’.

Commonly we’ll see 4 week programs with an irrational progression where arbitrary volume is added by time or repetitions regardless of the readers ability or actual progress. We’ll see recommendations for 3, 4 or 5 minute plank holds or worse still, a list of multiple exercises to target the waist muscles and all at the same time, totally disregarding the readers ability.

My good chiropractor and physiotherapist friends rub their hands in glee, simultaneously frustrated by the lack of  respect for the body.

There is nothing wrong with challenging the plank position every now and then, but there needs to be a solid foundation of strength first.

Abdominal strengthening is much like the strength training of any other part of the body and doesn’t need a special formula for excellent results. For beginners the rules are simple – learn tension for brief moments long before challenging longer efforts (which we’ll get to shortly).

Tension?

In training and coaching we have both the teaching ‘how’ to do something and then we’ll have the cueing. Cueing is a reminder of the key instructions. Generally a frequently used word, or short sentence, again just as a reminder of the important stuff to do.

Tension is one the most important aspects to help develop strength and it could be summed up by one cue – ‘squeeze’. Once you learn the how of building tension to execute a strength movement better the gentle reminder of “squeeze” is often all that’s needed to remind the lifter to, well, squeeze everything to get tight.

The plank is the ultimate squeeze exercise. There is no movement (apart from breathing – that is rather important). The plank is an isometric and something we use in the gym to teach control of tension that is then applied to other movements like the top of the deadlift, or the kettlebell swing, the squat, military press, push up, carries – you see a pattern here? Every strength exercise requires tension, the act of squeezing.

Why? Tensioning up is like loading a spring, compressing it, readying it to recoil with explosive power and awesomeness. Secondly, being tight aka tense, serves to protect the joints, the spinal column in particular and muscles. There is a time for relaxing but not when attempting to deadlift.

Whilst tension practice with the plank is a great tool, performing the plank is also just fine to practice, to get better at planking. It’s ok… really. It’s fine to have a personal goal you know. As a brief side note, you’ll observe many extremists (and social media has an abundance of shouters and followers) who will say you should just do the big lifts and stop faffing around with the small stuff. No one has the right to demand you only do A, B or C. If you want to focus on getting better at something – do it. It’s glorious to celebrate a victory not matter how big or small. Celebrate 🙂

Back to the Plank

Let’s take a peek at a good plank and then a terrible plank before looking at progressions.

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How Much?

Like any other strength movement, short sets are great for maintaining technique and the tension I’ve spoken of.

I typically refer to the volume of an isometric set in terms of breaths. That is, I practice a high tension plank for the duration of 5 breaths for 3 or maybe 4 sets. Can we do 10 breaths? Yes. But master 5 breaths first off.

For a beginner we even take a graduated breathing repetition scheme. Set 1 for 1 breath with the best tension we can muster. Rest then hold for 2 breaths, 3, 4 and then 5. That is 5 sets of gradually more volume for a total of 15 breaths. And that’s perfect – a good starting point for a beginner.

Once the basic plank is awesome, then we can start to play with progressions. We can progress by complexity as shown below or by adding time. This is when we can start to look at holding a great plank for 30 to 60 secs and perhaps more if form is sustainable.

I’ll stop at this point as it’s tempting to provide a challenge haha. If you’ve read this and think you need to work on your plank form, do just that before looking for sexy, fun ways to just make it harder to do. There is nothing sexy or fun about getting a tweaked back due to sloppy plank form.

Got any questions, just fill in the form below.

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Do you Eat like you Drive??

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Most people find that come Thursday or Friday, that their good ol willpower for the week has taken a few hits, dwindled, faded away, leaving urge after urge to give into temptations.

I had just this conversation with a gym member today who explained that she’d had (in her opinion) a bad breakfast. “It’ just took over” she said. She then went on to say, “I may as well just give up for the week and restart on Monday.”

Have you heard yourself say this too?

I used to for sure, as did my wife, my clients of past and probably heaps of people trying to improve their nutrition.

It’s an easy and simple solution. Just give up and try again next week.

But really, is this really going to help the long term goal of improving nutritional habits and fat loss?

We are human. We have faults. We make mistakes. Willpower is not an endless supply of strength. It does dwindle and is much more fickle than you’d believe.

 

What we discussed next has been a massive thought process shift for many clients. A skill like any other skill, the ability to just say, ‘I fluffed up, let’s accept the ‘bad’ meal and move on’, is quite powerful.

Rather than disrupting the process of building a new habit, simply brushing off the mistake as a one off mistake allows us to move on and get back to the game. No need to inflict guilt.

What made the idea stick though was this analogy I posed to her.

“What do you do when you clip the curb with your wheel when driving? Do you keep clipping the curbs until Monday morning or do you deal with it, brush it off as a mistake and get on with life?”

I shouldn’t need to answer that question for you. You can see clearly what it’s aimed at.

We all give in at some point. Often our other half or friends tempt us with chocolate or that big glass of wine. If you do give in, it’s fine. Deal with it by accepting it then move on and don’t wait to Monday to stop hitting curbs.

This might be a real skill to practice. You may start with this: ‘Whenever I drop off my nutrition goals, I will accept it as a one-off, forget it and move on as normal’. Hopefully you won’t have many drop offs and hopefully you’ll not clip many curbs too.

Need any help with your own nutrition goals and habits? Just shout.

It’s Time to Add Life to Your Years

I was once in my 20s. In fact I was once in my 30s and now in my late 40s I can look back and have a really good laugh at myself. I think It’s good to laugh at oneself, at all the stuff we used to value which in hindsight was a total time suck.  This is especially the case in respect of the time I spent on meaningless gym time. Back in the late 90s Friday was always arm day. An hour or even 90 minutes pumping the armacondas from all directions and angles to get them huge for an evening of posing in bars with my redbull and whisky! [enter facepalm emoji here]

Monday was always chest day cause that’s what the Flex magazine told us to do back then and for me, Wednesday was leg day so I was recovered for Fridays evening of dancing the hours away. Did you know that I got offered a position as a cage dancer at one point. Ah, the good ol times. I sure can’t see me getting many offers to dance in a cage at this age, but I do keep my hopes up.

Apart from the fun weekends, I really can’t say I profited physically, from a health perspective, from all that gym time. I can attribute quite a few injuries to overdoing the weekend prep though. Elbow tendonitis, muscle tears, T-shirt tears, hangovers – oh wait, that was the other stuff too!

Yeah there was a learning curve, mostly through trial and error or curiosity, but back in the 90’s there really wasn’t much emphasis on exercise for longevity. What came next just wasn’t part of many educational programs back then. You either trained in group training aerobics or circuits classes or you trained like a bodybuilder. This sadly hasn’t changed much in mainstream commercial gym settings apart from a growth in yoga and pilates but thankfully, many more businesses are gathering a following of longevity trainees. Sorry I can’t think of a better description – maybe you can suggest one?

By longevity I really am referring to training that will give us better traction going into our later years. I want to thrive in my 60s, 70s, 80s and sorry darling wife, maybe even into my 90s.

This wont be achieved by luck alone, winning the lotto or by relying on flexibility, spirituality or watching the sun rise and set. Those things are grand and fine, but they won’t add life to your years.

Read that again. Not years to your life, but life to your years. 

To add this life to your years you’ll need, some practical skills like flexibility, mobility, practical strengths, aerobic fitness and of course good nutrition, sleep and stress management.

I’ll not be going into detail in this post but I’ll draw particular attention to the things I can influence in the gym, like the practical life strengths, mobility and flexibility. No one, I guarantee, will be interested in what you could bench press or how fast you could run 5km when you’re 80. Your immediate family and peers will be more concerned and impressed by your ability to function. Can you get off your chair, toilet, into the shower, get dressed, drive the car, carry in your shopping, pressing linen into the top shelf of the linen cupboards and all the other domestic stuff life will include. “Oh how interesting” says no one, I get it. This doesn’t exactly describe an interesting gym training session haha.

However, a good description of a typical gym session for my current over 50 gym members looks like this:

  • Dynamic warm up – much like this video
  • Squatting movements
  • Pressing movements
  • Pulling movements
  • Rotations stability movements
  • Balance enhancing movements
  • Getting down to the floor and back up with ‘style’ movements
  • Picking up and carrying ‘stuff’ movements
  • Simple flexibility exercises

There really isn’t anything fancy. We use simple equipment when needed and make the routines simple to follow. But essentially each day we practice a very simple recipe.

Each day we practice the skills of:

  1. Squatting
  2. Picking things up
  3. Pushing and pulling things
  4. Carrying things
  5. Balancing

Whilst the ingredients may vary, the recipe is always the same. Simple

KEEP IT SIMPLE

 

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‘Great feedback received just this week’

Heading into Spring towards Christmas we’ll be sharing our successful over 50s program with a greater audience with the release of more daily times for small group training. If you or someone you care for, like you mum, dad, granny or grand dad would be interested, just send them my way or fill in the Expression of Interest form below.

How to Start with Kettlebell Training

Part 1

IMG_8403The title could in reality be about training with ‘anything’. Dumbbells, a barbell, a rock from the garden or a big bag of potatoes. The key in starting and not shelving the notion until Monday is this – keep it simple.

There are millions of training videos, tips, articles and instagram worthy inspirations to blow your mind – let’s do a quick google search here – yep, 48 million search results for Kettlebell Training. I’ve got competition haha.

But my job here is to help you find your starting point. I’m not aiming to motivate you, tell you what to do or sell you something. I simply want to offer a guide for ‘starting’.

For everyone starting out, your starting point will be different. Depending on your background of physical exercise, sports, occupation; you’ll be in your starting point. That does pose a slight conundrum in relation to a prescription, but if I provide categories of movements, there will be something for everyone. Let’s put this in context of a squat with a brief demonstration. A squat is defined as a sitting down movement with the hips and knees bending to their largest (comfortable) range of movement. Forgetting about holding onto a weight for a moment, let’s take a glimpse at a squat (taken from the video to follow below).

The left image is a fine squat to aspire to. The hips descend to below knee height with the back remaining flat. If your squat only allows you to descend similar to the right image, or a little higher, that’s where you are, where you are starting from. It’s okay. It’s not a bad squat – it’s just what it is ‘now’.

The same applies to the other movement categories I’m listing next, from which a good starting program can develop from.

Beginner Movement Categories:

  1. Squat
  2. Hip Hinge (like a deadlift – picking something up)
  3. Press
  4. Pull
  5. Bracing your midsection

We’ll stop there and yes, at just 5 movement categories. That does not mean just 5 movements although that would be just perfect, but 5 categories from which can stem alternatives.

A motivated beginner may start with kettlebells but remember this. We train to make movements stronger. Whether you and your body are ready to add external loading to this equation i.e. ‘we train with loads to make movements stronger’, totally depends on your starting point. And that’s what we’ll look at now, to determine which movement categories can commence with loading (your new flat black kettlebell or garden rock) or stay bodyweight, just you, sans loading.

We train to make movements stronger

To test each of the 5 categories we will take a bodyweight, unloaded version to measure and screen our capacity to move and hold a position. If all good and comfortable, we can be pretty well assured that adding load is good to go. This is not an extremely detailed screening and assessment like I would do with someone in the gym in front of me, but for you to start, it is a simple way to screen yourself to see where you can start and then get started.

 

Squat Screen:

What to Do?

The assisted squat in the video below helps many people focus on the movement of a squat whereas the rocking on the floor helps immensely with developing the mobility required for the squat. Practicing both of these for 2 to 3 sets of 20 – 30 seconds a few times a week will be very beneficial and for the absolute beginner, these two would be a great program starting point.

If you can squat well, grab something light and start practicing short sets of 5 squats holding the weight in front of your chest aka the goblet squat.

Hinge Screen:

What to Do?

This is one of the screens that also suggests the fix. To get better at hinging your hips back, you practice hinging your hips back. Maintaining a flat back throughout is vital. A rounded back is not a good shape to practice in. The free standing movement and the ‘find the wall’ drill are both great starting points. Of course, if this movement seems strong to you, check out this how to deadlift short video.

 

Press Screen:

What to Do?

Pressing is one of those special movements, that when done correctly, feels awesome. Thrusting your arms overhead is one of those human positions of pleasure, happiness, victory. Think of it – what do people do when they win something? They punch their arms overhead. Apart from the feel-good factor, pressing weights overhead also challenges and develops muscles throughout the body. A press (a proper press) is not just about the arms and shoulders. The hips, legs, feet, upper back and torso tense up to assist stabilise the body to allow for a powerful and strong press overhead.

However, we live in a world that doesn’t ask us to put our hands overhead often. Many adults have tight upper back muscles and pectorals and this limits the safe positioning of the arm(s) overhead. But don’t stress, here’s a link to a video with a series of mobility moves to help get those arms up.

If building a foundation of strength is in need, the rocking push up below is a great starting point. Work the range of movement that suits you – you don’t have to get your nose all the way to the floor from the get-go. The second video, the bottom up press helps to develop a straight forearm for an even better press.

If you are good to go, you can get your arms overhead safely without contorting and twisting, here’s a link to a video all about pressing. The techniques demonstrated are applicable to both pressing a dumbbell and the kettlebell.

Pull Screen:

What to Do?

For the most-part, pulling or rowing exercising are a great inclusion for beginner programs and of course more advanced programs. We spend so much of our time with our shoulders rounded, leaning over a keyboard, gripping a steering wheel or folding our arms, that our upper back muscles start to lose purpose! The act of pulling is a step in the right direction. The instructions are simple and clear; pull your shoulders back, followed by elbows until the thumbs reach the side of the chest. If your range of movement is limited by tension in the chest muscles, that’s fine. Meet your body where it is and row. More details are in the video above.

Brace Screen:

What to Do?

Training the abs or abdominal muscles aka the trunk, is a go-to for most beginners but there are a couple of pointers to check-off first. The video covers these but in short, you should be able to maintain a braced or tense midsection, whilst breathing in the nose and out the nose, with your four limbs placed over your trunk and back engaging the floor… like in the video. If this is a challenge, then this is your starting point. No planks or fancy stuff until you can hold this position for a good 5 to 10 breaths. The deadbug is a very suitable progression thereafter. Check the video out.

In part 2 I’ll lay out the program now that you know where you are.

 

 

 

Disclaimer:

The recommendations and ideas on this post are not medical guidelines, but are intended for educational / interest purposes only. You must consult your doctor prior to starting a new exercise program, if you have any medical condition or injury that contraindicates physical activity.

How to Choose a New Gym

Ten year ago if you wanted to find a new gym or trainer, you’d pop up google and do a we search or flick open the yellow pages. For younger readers, thats a big floppy book – ah… a book is a collection of paper containing information, bound together for convenience… sigh!

Getting back on topic, if you wanted to find a gym years ago you searched for it but these days with social media holding such a powerful networking capacity, you have only got to ask however!

A couple of observations:

  1. People are asking for specific solutions from an audience they don’t know, yet somewhat trust.
  2. Those who answer rarely read the full question and reply with their personal preference, often totally missing the actual question details

Quick example I see often is: ‘Hi, I am looking for personal trainer to work with at their studio’. And what do the most replies suggest? Try _____ bootcamp, or buy this App, or my powerlifting club is great. I am sure all of these are great but just not what the person asking was looking for.

An Idea

The following is something of a checklist I like to share for people when they start to consider personal training or group exercise etc.

My intention is not to sell my business because indeed, what I do and what my clients do may not actually be what everyone is looking for.

That’s actually where you should start – know what it is you want to achieve and what you have to give to achieve it.

Consider the following:

  1. What’s your exercise history? Are you experienced, a beginner?
  2. How much time per day/week/month can you allocate to your exercise?
  3. What’s your $$$ budget per week or month?
  4. Know your goals and ask yourself why they are your goals to fully understand your reasoning when it comes to aligning with a prospective trainer or gym.
  5. Make a point to contact the head trainer of each and every gym you look at to check off how their clients train to see if it matches what you are prepared to do. If high intensity interval training isn’t your thing, don’t join a HIIT gym. If you need to get stronger, try a strength focused gym. See below.
  6. How hard or intense is the gyms training system? It does vary. Some gyms focus on high intensity interval training while others train at sustainable strength efforts or focus on ‘core training’, or cardio… know what you like to do. Does the gym even have a system or is it random???
  7. Don’t weigh up the gyms superhero members and their results as it may not reflect your path and or background or the vast majority of that gyms or trainers clientele.
  8. Ask yourself if you actually need to hire a trainer – can you train at home following an online program for a fraction of the cost of a gym or trainer?
  9. As you measure up different gyms and PTs, don’t weigh up or value in price alone.
  10. The gist of this is this: know what you want and really know what the trainers and gyms do with their clients and did I say really know what you want vs what others tell you is awesome for them. Be you. Got it?

I’m just trying to help you think about your decisions yourself rather than relying on the deluge of individual responses on social media.

If you have any questions about this or other matters please do ask.

Jamie

Who is Strength training really for?

It’s a funny truism that I am about to tell you that I myself only really saw in the past couple of years. It’s about how some people perceive strength training and what trainers do in the gym and indeed, this perception even drives common beliefs amongst many would-be clients of well intended trainers.

Mention strength training in a conversation and you’ll probably get one of these responses:

  1. “Ah yeah, like Crossfit?”
  2. “Ah, like bodybuilding”, whilst striking a bicep pose.
  3. “Ooh, be careful you don’t hurt yourself with heaving all those big weights!”
  4. “Ugh, I don’t like barbells!”

Okay, you might get some other feedback based on individual experiences but in most cases, people think of the equipment, a popular gym or building bulging muscles like a bodybuilder.

But what about the system of getting stronger? People rarely consider what it is to be stronger, how it may apply to them, what’s involved, the benefits beyond an image and the smart systems used to help people get stronger.

So let’s jump into defining these as I promote them, starting with the health benefits.

Strength and Health 

For most exercisers, hitting the gym is their weapon to kill calories and for others it’s their tool to carve out a physique. However, the connections between strength training and health grow stronger (no pun intended) with the expanding findings of research. Strength training health benefits include prevention or control of chronic conditions such as diabetesheart diseasearthritisback paindepression and obesity. In addition, strength training aids in the prevention or slowing down of osteoarthritis, sarcopenia (age related loss of muscle mass) and osteopenia (loss of bone). None of us want to retire from our working years frail and weak so it should make sense to get stronger.

What does ‘strong’ mean?

Freedom is a common definition of strength that I just love. Consider the opposite – weakness. It comes with frailty, inability, fear, lack of confidence, loneliness, misery – I could go on but you get the picture. Physical freedom is the strength and independence to carry out a full life with autonomy. You may be excused for thinking initially that strength training is the domain of athletes, strongmen and muscly olympic lifters snatching big barbells overhead. Yes, they are strong and it’s expressed in a very specific manner. So too is strength expressed by the farmer who tends to her cattle and sheep, heaving bales of hay onto the back of the truck or the nurse who successfully assists patients in and out of bed along with a myriad of other day-to-day physical roles. I wrote ‘successfully’, suggesting they have the strength to endure this daily demand. A weaker associate will not be so successful. Strength is the freedom to do whatever you need to do, will have to do and want to do, successfully.

Strength and You

How does strength fit into a weekly schedule? “What do I need to do?”

Every human is wonderfully made to perform the same categories of movements with strength. We are perfectly suited to perform the following categories of strength:

  • Pushes
  • Pulls
  • Squatting
  • Picking things up
  • Bracing our torsos
  • Carrying things

Let’s back up that strength to-do list with these essentials:

  • Get down to the floor and back up effortlessly
  • Walk
  • Climb
  • Roll and rotate – confused? Here’s a video
  • Move often

The specifics as to how these relate to you personally will vary now and in the future. But essentially this short list of activities are how we live in the gym. I spend time with people to help them figure out the appropriate variations they need and then we practice them with appropriate levels of exertion. It isn’t just flat out in 5th gear!

I mentioned earlier how people often equate strength with barbells etc, however strength training always starts with moving first. Learning good form and technique is vital for obvious safety concerns but as a baseline, how we perform movements without external loading gives us a benchmark to compare to once load is added. Adding load can be as simple as holding a medicine ball, lifting a kettlebell, a barbell or a rock (it’s a thing, seriously). We add load once unloaded becomes easy, safer, better performed.

How to get stronger

How did you learn how to walk? You crawled, scrambled over furniture and traversed around the kitchen until you could walk unaided. It didn’t happen over-night and took lots of practice. Practice is where the magic happens with every single skill. I very much see strength as a skill that takes practice. In my daughters school there’s a poster in one of the class rooms that reads –

Practice Makes Progress. 

‘Practice makes progress’ concerns performing a task with good form until it becomes better and betterer but the timely immersion also allows the body time to adapt to the stresses involved with the new skill practice.

We progress to get stronger in the gym by carrying sub-maximum intensity repetitions. We don’t strain, struggle or stress and in fact aim to avoid failing any repetitions. We want good, clean, repeatable and moderate efforts. There are heaps of workable protocols for carrying out such programs that I’m not going to get into here.

Winding it up…

My goal here in this short piece was to outline how being strong and the process of becoming stronger is achievable by all and cannot and should not be stereotyped by some initial conceptions. Our wee family run gym is frequented by all sorts of people between their mid 20s to early 70s and we all practice and progress in our strength training to add to our health and everyone observes this in their everyday life. Whether it’s just the feeling of increased wellbeing, moving better without groaning or carrying in the shopping with 5 bags hanging off each arm; everyone demonstrates their strength as their life requires.

Your Move

If you’ve been pondering working on your strength, health and fitness for a while, hopefully this short post will offer you some insight into what is required from your time. If you do require any assistance I’d love the opportunity to help you, whether that’s in person or online – yep, I do train online too – don’t you love technology sometimes?

Your in Strength & Wellness,

Jamie

Just Turn Up and Add to the Bank of Health

If there’s one message for achieving success that I’ve heard, been told, read or observed, it’s this; show up. I was reminded of the very same by coach Dan John during a weekend workshop last month. ‘Just turn up!’ Many of his successes over his athletic and professional career occurred by chance… that is after turning up to an event, competition or taking the opportunity to write an article for a popular fitness magazine.

It can be said that success does leave clues, and it’s pretty clear that being in the right place at the right time is sure to lead to many an adventure, misadventure, offers and opportunities. But if you ignore them until ‘next time’ or for ‘another time’, you’ll have missed the gun and lose time, the one thing you can’t get back.

Everything we do now on a routine basis is because at some stage it became a habit. Either as a necessity or as something we started. It was a habit in the making. It might not be a habit any more, but during the process of forming it, it was becoming a habit. Now it is just part of life. But, to create it, something had to start, we had to turn up in sorts.

Opportunities are created by us not others – we just have to turn up, be there, say yes. 

Now, what the heck does this all mean in the context of my area, health and fitness? My first job in fitness back in 1997 happened when I turned up for an appointment at a physio and asked if he knew of any jobs going in the gym upstairs. And yes, sure enough, there was… ka-ching! ‘Winner winner chicken dinner’ as they say’. In the mid 90s I had a wonderful time living my dream of the day, racing my bike in Europe on a shoe-string budget. How? I turned up at events often, got noticed by people and got offered an opportunity.

  • A former client with a life changing back problem hated turning up to the gym every Wednesday morning but he did. He’s now a former member because his life turned around again because he did turn up regardless of his emotions. Now Dave runs almost every day, has climbed Everest (I jest not) and he’s a new man, a much lighter, happier and healthier man to boot.
  • Robyn turns up to the gym three times a week even though she’d prefer to be sitting at home, feet up with a cup of tea to recover from her totally crazy, busy family life. She decides to turn up, work through her mobility and strength routine and goes home again a little bit better than 45 minutes previous.
  • Jim decides to make his life healthier by working on eating more vegetables. He turns up to the grocery store instead of the bakery to buy his least detested vegetables haha. His goal is to buy vegetables he enjoys, to add to at least one meal a day to begin with at the most. Little changes made often will grow over time.

That is the goal of this piece; to demonstrate through a few examples how making little changes often can make them a habit, then a normal part of life, all the while adding to the wealth of health, adding to the bank.

How often do you hear of people taking on big, new goals or challenges, only to either never start them or to blow up in overload due to the enormity of the task? They took on more than a reasonable amount of change than they could cope with. That isn’t a reflection of their poor resolve, it’s just being human. We thrive best on small and often.

Dr BJ Fogg lectures at Stanford University in human behaviour and specialises in habit formation. His very successful program Tiny Habits which I have taken a few times, works on the principle of taking the smallest amount of the target habit and doing it with / after / when you perform an anchor activity. An anchor is something you do as part of a normal day, like going to the loo, brushing teeth, pass by the front door, wash dishes etc. By building the familiar pattern of doing something new with something simple and frequently occurring, the new habit has the best chance of itself becoming a normal, everyday activity.

I use this principle daily for my own newish habits. Some I don’t call habits any more as they just happen, they just are because I turned up. I’m not doing the best job at expressing what I’m trying to tell you here. It will take me practice I guess to explain how the simple acts of turning up and making small changes can have very large, longterm benefits. But that’s where I am and hey, this is only a blog, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I just sat down in front of my laptop and started typing instead of having a coffee with an episode of the Simpsons haha

My Grandfather told and taught me many things when he was alive but one thing he encouraged me to embrace was offers. “Never turn down an offer, always say yes”, he told me. He was right.

Never turn down an opportunity.

Yours in health,

Jamie

Strength and Wellness Coaching – what exactly is that?

Let me define my role as a professional strength and wellness coach as someone who has a system for helping people assess their current physical health, and helps them set individualised strategies to achieve improvements in physical strength and fitness, mobility, stress management, nutrition and sleep.

I will define wellness as the successful interplay between exercise, mobility, stress management, nutrition and sleep. When any one or more of these are ‘out of whack’ let’s say, they negatively influence the other components.

If you want to lose 5kg of unwanted fat you’ve gathered up over the past 10 years, the chances of losing it if you’re stressed and over exercising for example, will not prove successful. It does not matter how hard you exercise when stressed, losing that 5kg of fat will be the hardest thing you will ever do. However, with the right approach, considering the other wellness components and best practices, that 5kg will come off.

My role as a coach is not to tell you exactly what to do, but to help you see where you are now, and what steps can be taken, one at a time, towards achieving your goals following very simple and effective habit based approaches.

Why strength? I regard physical and mental strength as a vital component of overall wellbeing, but also place strength on a pedestal by itself as a quality that comes before all else. Strength is the foundation from where we can build all other qualities. As babies we built our original strength to breath, to move, to explore, to allow our bodies and brains to develop further. To move, to run, to live a long healthy life takes physical strength, and not accepting frailty as a given.

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FitStrong Strength & Wellness gym in Albany Creek

How do I provide Strength & Wellness coaching? The physical components of wellness are taught in the gym, in the bush tracks of our countryside and the streets around us. The gym is the perfect supervised place to build strength and movement skills whether that’s on a one-to-one basis or in a small group. Walking, running, hiking, cycling etc really is best developed in nature. I am not a proponent of indoor treadmill or ergometer training unless it is the only option. Our location in Brisbane is fantastic for getting out in the fresh air and exploring the suburbs or rambling through any of our conservation parks.

The skill components of building healthier eating, sleeping, stress management habits are built either one-to-one in person or via social media (private facebook page for members) and bespoke online programs.

Very soon I will be releasing the first product to help get started by setting solid foundations from where to develop awesome Strength and Wellness. This short habit building program will demonstrate how quick and simple it can be to form new habits. Whether you want to stop snacking, want to start stretching more often, this short program will help.

To take part in this short program, please complete the following form and you will be notified when it is ready to commence.

We Need Strength and Wellness

We live in a day of visual fixation. Instagram and other social media has made stars out of bodies, not people. Adoration keeps these money making machines in the news feed while actual heath and fitness professionals scratch their heads in bewilderment.

In the pre bodybuilding era of the 1930s to 1950s, people exercised to perform feats of strength, for their own entertainment and that of others. Spectators gleamed at their performance not just their physiques. These people lived healthy, balanced lives with real, physical jobs and families. Physical culture was a lifestyle not just a ways to claw at attention from those looking onwards.

You might not see much difference between then and now. Just people showing off their bodies. However, one element is missing today. Wellness.

Here’s something I dug up from the Guardian: link

‘According to a 2008 Journal of Health Psychology study, women reported an increased negative mood, depression and anxiety after only 30 minutes of viewing fitness magazines that promote an “athletic ideal”. Social media means you don’t have to buy a magazine to see these images; they’re in your newsfeed. The BMJ has identified exercise addiction as a growing problem, affecting up to 10% of the exercising population’.

What I’m writing here is not a bang on the modern fitness industry, or social media but it is my observation and that of my peers that something dire has happened in the last number of years. More and more people are turning to these (often unqualified) online, social media darlings for inspiration and exercise motivation. With the label of Personal Trainer I am (was) part of that group. To most people the identity or title of Personal Trainer does for the large part sum up an image of a muscly, loud motivator by means of administering ‘hurt’. But that’s not what I do. Yes, I know there are plenty of trainers who practice healthy exercise promotion, but we are few and far between.

I recently rejoined the instagram world after a 6 month break after finding myself feeling down and miserable, as I compared myself to the war zone of fitness information being broadcast. If it wasn’t another fitpro trying to sell me his or her 6 week program to making 7 figure $$$$ as a gym owner, it was the brigade of muscly dudes and dudettes making me feel physical inferior.

Coming back after my break I’ve blocked those feeds and prefer to share my healthier approach to becoming fitter, stronger and healthier.

And with that, I have rebranded FitStrong Personal Training to FitStrong Strength & Wellness.

FITSTRONG STRENGTH & WELLNESS Banner 2019

This has been a process of plentiful thought but after 22+ as a trainer I want to stick to my guns and promote the healthiest methods and practices to becoming fitter and stronger – just like the banner says!

Of course I’ll still be carrying out personal training, small group training, seniors classes and online training and such, but I will be actively promoting the other vital components that actually allow us to become fitter and stronger. I’ve written about them before but in short… here’s an infographic:

Fitness Map

Over the coming months I intend to write about each of these 5 areas (yellow boxes) in more detail to ‘map’ their position in an optimal lifestyle program of sorts. This will become the overarching drive of business going into the future and I am really excited to start into this new strategy.

My goal as a trainer is to help people. It really is that simple. What I identify as important is that we live well, with strength, agility and resilience, both physically and mentally.

Rather than following the tribe of social media stars I am going to start my own tribe and in the words of coach Dan John, the Goal is the keep the Goal the Goal.

the GOAL is to keep the GOAL the GOAL (1)

 

Got any feedback or questions? Please contact me below or if local to the greater Brisbane area, call me on 0450487237 or hey, get me on Facebook or Instagram .

Yours in Fitness, Strength & Wellness,

Jamie

Getting Fitter and Stronger the Easy Way

IMG_8186I don’t always lead the way in our strength programs. Giving clients the option to choose their strength movements gives ownership to that move, to making it their move.

In our latest program we chose two main lifts, an upper body strength move and a lower body movement.

We developed these over 8 weeks without straining and stressing and supported the program with other exercises. We simply expanded our comfort zones – no maxing out, crying or vomiting!

‘This was perhaps one of the most relaxed, chilled out programs we’ve ever done.’

Below I’ll demonstrate some of our key chosen movements (not instructional) and then talk briefly about how they were trained and how they tested out this week.

Swing

Elevated Rock

Kettlebell Press

Rocking Push Up

 

The key component of each target movement and indeed, the other movements employed in a training sessions was NOT to max out, not to strain, stress and grind out the reps. This was perhaps one of the most relaxed, chilled out programs we’ve ever done. We put faith in a fresh understanding of high intensity training that I talked about here.

At the start of the program, session one was used to identify baselines for the two main movements. What weights were considered light, medium and heavy for the swing, how many push ups / elevated rocks were considered moderate and what was considered a medium weight to press.

This was all based on trialling sets with progressive intensity until medium was felt. I’ll not go into details about how we conducted this as it’s not the purpose of the post but needless to say, we identified medium.

From here we backed off to 70-75% of medium on the pressing movements and gradually waved the volume of the sets from just 1 rep to ladder of 1,2,3,4,5 over the 6 weeks and the swings and elevated rocks we kept at 10 seconds per minute for 10 minutes per session. We gradually used heavier kettlebells in the swings. Really quite simple stuff.

Anyway, the good stuff – the results.

The Swing was tested with the 100 swings test – the goal, to swing 100 times in under 5 minutes. Even though we never encountered 100 swings in that kind of intensity (the most we would do over 5 minutes was 35 swings) everyone has tested out with 100 swings in well under 5 minutes and interestedly, finished fresh and not huffing and puffing! We have carried out swing tests like this in the past, but for everyone, they used much bigger weights.

The elevated rock goal was maximum reps in 5 minutes. Probably tougher than the swing 100.

The elevated rock tested out with a total of 70 in 5 minutes. This is quite a feat – I dare you to try this one!

Pressing. On testing the single arm press, everyone finished with a personal record weight for reps.

The overarching goal of the program was to demonstrate how we can indeed increase our work capacity or fitness if you want to call it that and increase strength too but without ever working ‘hard’. Maybe it also demonstrates that you could still accomplish training goals when feeling kind of tired some days. If all you have to do is turn up, do the stuff and go home.

Turn Up, do the ‘Stuff’, go home, repeat. Simple!