Breathe Like Your Ancestors

In part ONE breathing as we were meant to, the way we were born to breathe was introduced along with the idea that for many people, they breathe too much. 

In part TWO below, let’s look at what happens in more depth when we over-breathe and when and where it is appropriate.


Imagine yourself living in a hunter/gatherer society. Think about the things which would cause you to feel stressed. A predator perhaps, an attack from a neighbouring group of people. Most situations you could think of would be met with physical action. Now imagine the situations that would cause a positive sense of excitement. Spotting some delicious looking prey or a beehive high up in a tree… Again this excitement would be followed by physical action.

It makes sense that in any of these situations your sympathetic nervous system would be switched on to prepare your body for action. A host of changes occur. Blood is diverted away from the digestive organs to the muscles, heart rate increases, the brain switches into high gear- into a state of hypervigilance, blood sugar levels rise to provide a ready source of energy, and breathing increases, both in breaths per minute and in total volume of air per minute. This is referred to as the ‘fight or flight response’ or simply being in a sympathetic state.

All of this is of course highly adaptive in the short term when faced with a situation requiring a high level of exertion. But each of these effects is problematic when maintained long term, and will lead to impairment of our health. As useful as it is, the sympathetic state is not meant to be our default setting.

The way we are meant to spend most of our lives is in the opposite state – lowered heart rate, plentiful supply of blood to the digestive system, relaxed state of mind (though still possibly very alert) lower blood sugar, and slower breathing. This is known as the ‘rest and digest response’ or being in a parasympathetic state. This is the state that our ancestors quickly returned to after escaping the predator or catching the prey.

Now imagine the types of stress you are likely to be exposed to in the modern world. Stuck in traffic, bills, work deadlines, difficult co-workers or customers, an important meeting. None of these require significant physical activity, but your nervous system acts as though they do. Next think of the activities that cause a positive sense of excitement. A gripping movie, a video game, a sporting match on T.V., or an amusement park ride. Again your body is geared up for action which never eventuates.

All of the effects of the sympathetic nervous system – already only healthy as a short term response – become far more damaging when they are no longer linked to the physical activity that is meant to accompany them. The focus of this article, however, is the way that stress combined with inactivity leads to a state of hyperventilation.

In the stressful situations above, the volume of air breathed per minute increases, ready for physical activity –

But as the physical activity never comes, the body is breathing more air than is necessary.

This sounds harmless enough – what could be safer than air?

But there is a problem. Breathing removes carbon dioxide from the blood stream – when breathing is matched to the level of activity, this is a good thing – a waste product is being removed.

But carbon dioxide is only a waste product in the sense that your body produces more of it than it needs. It is not a ‘bad’ substance. In fact, it is essential to the body in a multitude of ways.

When breathing is in excess of what is required for the level of physical activity, carbon dioxide levels fall below a healthy level. A variety of negative effects of this situation will be discussed in part 3, but for now we will focus on the one which can turn over breathing into a chronic habit which is self-sustaining even in the absence of ongoing stress.

Breathing and Blood pH

It is essential to the functioning of your body that your blood is kept within a fairly tight pH range. The mechanisms which act upon the pH of the blood are mostly relatively slow acting, but one mechanism that can allow adjustments second by second is breathing.

CO2 is a weak acid which is always present in the blood, so if the level of acidity becomes too high, CO2 can be removed by faster breathing as a way of bringing acidity back to normal levels. This explains why we breathe so heavily after intense anaerobic exercise. The lactic acid produced in our muscles has increased the acidity of our blood, and removing large amounts of CO2 will normalise pH in the short term until the lactic acid can be dealt with.

If however you breathe heavily when there is no physiological reason to, CO2 will be removed from the blood and the pH will rise too high. If this state is maintained, the body will alter other processes to reduce the pH back to normal.

One way that your body adjusts the pH is by losing bicarbonate ions. Bicarbonate is a vital part of your blood’s buffering system (If chemistry is not your thing, let’s just say that it helps you deal with acid). If you breathe too much at rest and have lost bicarbonate ions, then your lactic acid tolerance, and hence your anaerobic fitness will be seriously compromised.

Once the biochemistry has adjusted, this lower level of C02 will be required to maintain pH in the short term, and your brain’s breathing centre will register this artificially low C02 level as the ‘new normal’.

The default unconscious breathing, controlled by the breathing centre of the brain, will increase in order to maintain this new lower level of C02.

Breathing less than this (in other words a normal amount) will feel uncomfortable because your blood C02 level will be higher than the new artificially inflated set point.

Your breathing rate will tend to remain at this artificially higher level…until the next time that you are stressed while physically inactive when the whole process is repeated and your breathing rate increases still more.  

It is in this way that increases in breathing rate become ‘locked in’, and with the passing of time the effect is gradually increased.  

Fortunately this process can be reversed – the breathing centre can be reset so that your automatic unconscious breathing return to a healthy level. Details of how to do this will be in a later article. But to get you started:

Homework :

  1. Try to breathe through through your nose (in and out) ALL THE TIME. The extra resistance of nose breathing is enough to reduce the rate of breathing.
  2. Any time that you are conscious of your breathing ask yourself this question – ‘What is the least amount of air that I can breathe without feeling uncomfortable or stressed.’

Next episode:

What are the actual mechanisms by which hyperventilation damages your health and normal breathing restores it?

This article is intended as information only, and should not be viewed as medical advice. It is not written by a medical professional, and it takes no account of your own individual circumstances.

Back to Breathing

‘You don’t know what you don’t know until you know it’ is a phrase used often when enlightened with an ah-ha moment, or in my recent case, desperation!

Breathing is a natural, involuntary act that just ticks over without really having to focus on it until it takes all of your focus.

A couple of years ago for a variety of reasons my own breathing became something of a labour. Often times I was overwhelmed by the urge to yawn, take huge gulps of air, light-headedness and general misery. My doctor did all the usual tests from lung tests, x-rays and scans and came back with, “well Mr Hunter, your lungs are stronger than the average man your age and your heart function is fantastic – I’ve no idea what is wrong, let me refer you …” I ended the process there, frustrated by a few weeks of wasted time and after some further personal reading, research and clarity that came from talking to a close friend, I came to the realisation that indeed, anxiety was taking over my life and breathing.

Shortly after this time I attended the OS Pro workshop in Brisbane that proved a lovely progression from OS level 1. However, apart from spending time learning and meeting with Tim and Dan I also got to meet other participants and got to chatting with them. Now, as an introvert, this is a challenge to me haha. Idle chit-chat isn’t something I do easily.

One participant in particular (Chris Hall) had an infatuation with breathing and we casually chatted about it – he is a very easy chap to converse with. I didn’t however broach my personal problem until after the workshop via facebook messenger. I explained to Chris in brief my problems and some of the practice we use in the OS system but Chris was very open to discussing progressions that may help me.

We all love ‘simple’ and I threw myself into the simple solutions Chris suggested. Some of these were good daily practice and some, reactive to when my breathing problems arose.

Willing to share his information, Chris is guest blogging on here on FitStrong over the next few weeks.

I’ll not divulge what I practiced as I want you to read the work of Chris in this area… so without further ramblings , here is Part One.

Oh, and my breathing issues were vastly improved within a few weeks and now, not a problem


Baby’s Breath

The Original Strength Resets are inspired by the movements that occur during the
development of infants: Head rocking, rolling on the floor, rocking back and forth while on all fours, crawling, and of course, breathing. Breathing is performed the way that we
naturally did at the beginning of our life – DIAPHRAGMATICALLY and THROUGH THE NOSE.

Both of these factors are enormously important, but there is a third distinctive feature of
the breathing of infants which is also extremely beneficial to mimic – A low rate of
breathing. Newborns breathe a remarkably small amount (even allowing for the fact that they are very small). Many parents have had the experience of wondering whether their sleeping baby is breathing at all.

This low level of breathing is enough to keep the baby well oxygenated, but with a higher
blood level of CO 2 than you would typically find in an adult. I would argue that just as we were designed to continue breathing diaphragmatically and nasally for our entire lives, we were also meant to continue breathing lightly as we did when we were infants.
When speaking of ‘light breathing’ I am referring to the total amount of air which is inhaled per minute – the combination of the breathing rate and the volume in each breath. Thus light breathing could conceivably be quite deep if the rate of breathing is reduced sufficiently. Alternatively it could mean taking in less air with each breath.
An adult requires 3-6 litres of air per minute at rest. This is enough to fully oxygenate the
blood while keeping a CO 2 level similar to that found in infants. Most of us breathe
substantially more than this. This increased breathing does not lead to any significant
increase in blood oxygenation, but causes a significant reduction in the CO 2 concentration in the blood.

Most people are surprised to hear that carbon dioxide can be desirable. It is only a waste
product in the sense that your body produces more of it than it needs. It is not a ‘bad’
substance. In fact, it is essential to the body in a multitude of ways.

In this book I will outline the ways that a reduced concentration of CO 2 damages our
health, and how returning to a biologically normal rate of breathing will reverse this
damage.
At this point many readers are probably shocked at the suggestion that it could be healthy to breath less. Perhaps a better way to put it would be that there is an optimal amount to breathe, and breathing more than this is detrimental to your health. If you are breathing more than this (as I would argue that most people in the developed world are) then reducing your breathing back to the optimal range will be beneficial.

I am simply challenging the idea that more is better.

There are many substances that are essential to life that are unhealthy or even deadly when taken to excess. Just as too much food or even too much water will damage your health, too much breathing can as well. If your intake of a substance is more than the optimal amount, then reducing that intake will positively affect your health. This is the case with our breathing.

Low C0 2 levels resulting from over breathing is actually a recognised medical condition
known as ‘hyperventilation syndrome’ (HVS). It is usually only diagnosed in severe cases
and even then it is regularly overlooked, but it is actually recognised by mainstream
medicine.
Hyperventilation syndrome is classified as chronic or acute. In the chronic version the
patient suffers from the ill effects of a continuously elevated breathing rate. In the acute
version issues are temporarily triggered by short term increases in breathing (eg stress or exercise).
Many (including myself) argue that there is little distinction between the two: The person who has the acute version is breathing at an elevated level around the clock, but not enough to cause obvious symptoms. When their breathing rate increases (eg due to stress) it only requires a small increase to reach a level that causes symptoms. Similarly the person diagnosed with chronic HVS will be at a very high risk of acute episodes from any short term increase in breathing.

So what are the effects of hyperventilation? There is little point in giving an exhaustive list when this information is readily available online, but some of the common effects include:
Airway constriction – asthma, blocked nose, coughing, hiccoughs
Blood vessel constriction – high blood pressure, poor circulation, cold extremities.
Increased nervous stimulation – anxiety, panic attacks, restlessness, poor attention,
emotional instability.
Digestive system issues – irritable bowel etc.
Immune issues – Immune system less effective against actual pathogens
(lowered immunity) yet highly responsive to harmless
events (increased allergies)
Increased muscle tension – cramps, knots, spasms etc.
Fatigue – especially the ‘tired but wired’ variety.

Most people in the developed world have some combination of these symptoms – even if
many of us rationalise this by saying ‘no more than most people’. The symptoms above are so common that as a society we have virtually accepted them as normal, but being common does not equate to being normal. In the OS community there are a great many things that we recognise as common but refuse to accept as normal:

  • Mouth Breathing
  • Chest breathing
  • The inability to squat
  • Loss of head control
  • The inability to hip hinge
  • Loss of balance as we age

In the same way, over breathing is common, but it is not normal, and neither are the
associated symptoms listed above. We were NOT made to be broken.

Homework:

How do you know if you are breathing more than you should be?

There is a simple test that you can use to check which can be found here.

Next week: Some readers might find it hard to believe that whole societies could develop the habit of breathing too much. The next post explains how our modern lifestyle causes this to happen.

 

This article is intended as information only, and should not be viewed as medical advice. It is not written by a medical professional, and it takes no account of your own individual circumstances.

Squat Challenge

Whilst western society has evolved somewhat in some areas, it has definitely declined in others.

What’s declined? Specifically I’m referring to strength, agility, mobility and how we interact poorly with our environments compared to history and indeed, other cultures.

Posture in particular has slid downwards… like the chins of many an iPad addicted child!

Humans were never meant to sit for hours a day, were never meant to sit on a chair and where never meant to spend countless hours with a forward hanging head. We were made to move and when we were to rest, sitting in a deep squat is our design.

Now, whilst modern ‘progress’ has given us chairs to sit and rest, it isn’t the same. More clearly, it’s not the same physiologically. The evidence is clear. Knee, ankle, hip and back pain is rife today with an unbalanced number of people.

posture evolution

So what are the benefits of sitting in a Squat?

  • Improved Ankle mobility and stability
  • Improved Knee stability
  • Improved hip mobility and stability
  • Improved thoracic spine mobility
  • Improved intestinal health and bowel movements
  • Improved capacity to undertake everyday activities
  • Improved ability to get to the floor (and up again) as you age

The Challenge

This challenge is simple, yet may prove testing. The goal each day is to spend time in a deep, rested squat position. The time per day is be accumulated and not necessarily carried out in one set – unless you can. You can spend the time over as many efforts as you like.

By the end of the 28 days the goal is to accumulate a total of 30 minutes.

How to record

You can record your daily efforts either with a simple record sheet or use your smart phones Stopwatch. Every time you sit into a squat, start the timer and stop it when you stand. Just continue the timer per set.

Rules of the Squat Challenge

  1. No REST days during the 28 days.
  2. Per day your gaol is to ACCUMULATE the allocated time. Take as many sets as needed. Work harder some days and easier other days.
  3. Foot width – around shoulder width apart. Find what works best for you to allow for maximal depth and relaxation.
  4. Foot angle – don’t stress about dogmatic musts in terms of foot angle. Again, find what works best for you.
  5. How deep should you squat? As deep as you can. If you do need support to gain some initial depth or even comfort, use a chair, a door frame or whatever is safe to hold onto to allow you to sit deep, deeper and deeperer!
  6. No tension – The squat is a RESTED position. Don’t worry about keeping a flat, upright back or tight abs. Just sit and chill.
  7. No pain. Don’t be silly and turn this into a pain enduring challenge. Do what you can do on any given set.
  8. Can’t keep heals on the floor? Raise the heals a little. Use piece of wood, two small weights discs or even the toes of your shoes.
  9. Footwear – best footwear is no footwear. Socks, sure. Shoes, try not to.
  10. Share. Don’t be a selfish squatter – share with others the many wonders of squatting, this challenge and even get the family joining in when you do your squat sessions.

 

Copy of How to PLANYOUR 2018 NEW YEAR RESOLUTION

 

Strong Couples Take the Win

The business of personal training has been defined over the past couple of decades as training one person at a time, one-to-one training in other words. That’s what most people consider personal training as being.

However, as a trainer I have to use my time wisely to reach a greater number of people.

The semi-private model starting to rear its head a number of years ago. Forward thinking fitness business pioneers like Alwyn Cosgrove presented the idea of semi-private training where a small number of clients took the same time slot to run through their program with their trainer.

This has a been a great model to adopt for both my business and for the clients who have jumped on board.

The benefits speak for themselves. Accountability, fun, partnership, camaraderie and a wee bit of competitive spirit help clients to turn up, do the work and ultimately, achieve better results.

What I have noticed though, is that when partners train together, the work ethics jump a notch. Maybe it’s because the frequent chit-chat is reduced (compared to friends or relative strangers) or maybe it’s because each partner wants to prove themselves to their partner or maybe it’s just because partners are more comfortable working hard with all the face-pulling we make during hard sets! Haha – who knows…

.. but what I do know is, that when partners train together they end up with better results.


 

With that in mind, I’d like to fill up some time slots with other couples who want to take on their health and fitness goals.

If you and your partner are thinking of taking up some training, this could be your ideal opportunity.

If you’d like to learn more, please fill in the quick form below and I’ll personally get back to you.

 

Are You a Nasal breather or Mouth Breather?

During our warm up mobility section of training I frequently need to remind members to try to maintain nasal breathing, especially on the inhale. This often continues into the main sections of power and strength work but, why?

What’s so important about sustaining nasal breathing?

Before looking at why we should breath nasally let’s first address mouth breathing and why it’s not such good practice.

A mouth breather does so either due to medical matters or habit. As a chronic hay fever sufferer I do have those occasions when I simply can’t breath in or out of my nose. I have to rely on nasal sprays, tablets and eye drops to help decongest my nasal airways. During these periods the quality of my life, work and sleep are terrible.

Other people do have more permanent physical blockages that restrict nasal airways such as a deviated septum or a history of nose breaks. Facial structure too has proven to be an influencing factor. Jaw structure, inflamed tonsils and irregular tooth growth can force the jaw into a slight open position making mouth breathing a habit and not by choice.

Napoleon-Dynamite_612x380

Whilst many people will just ignore the problem and deal with it or not see mouth breathing as a real problem, the health risks are very real.

Here’s a list to scare your mouth closed:

  1. Mouth breathers have a dry mouth. A dry mouth can’t flush away bacteria from the mouth allowing bacteria them to collect on gums, teeth.
  2. Sleep apnea / snoring.
  3. Bad breath (not a direct health concern but, ooh, yuck!)
  4. Increased occurrence of hyperventilation and asthma.
  5. Increase of high blood pressure.
  6. Increased risk of heart disease.
  7. Poor sleep quality.
  8. Increased stress.
  9. Poor exercise performance due to poor oxygen uptake.
  10. Needs a #10… mouth breathing really does make the subject look somewhat dim-witted. Sorry, had to say it!

Okay, so mouth breathing is clearly something to avoid.

To add to the allure of nasal breathing, here’s a list of nasal breathing pros:

  1. Smell plays a vital role in our lives. Mouth breathers miss out on this.
  2. Nasal breathing increases circulation, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, slows the breathing rate and improves overall lung volumes (1)
  3. Our lungs gather oxygen on the exhale. Due to the nostrils being small (than the mouth), higher exhalation pressure during nasal breathing allows the lungs to take up more oxygen.
  4. Nasal breathing warms and cleans the air we breath. Those nasal hairs, they gathered dirt and bacteria. Mouth breathers – they don’t have that mechanism.
  5. The noses smell receptors have direct extension to the hypothalamus. This lovely part of the brain is responsible for many automatic functions in the body like heart rate, blood pressure, thirst, appetite and sleep / waking cycles.

Breathing through the nose has much more going for it than not looking like a zombie but if it’s something you find yourself falling into on occasions, what can be done.

First off, if the cause is medical – go see a doctor.

If it’s a habit, well then, let’s look at some fixes.

Breathing practice exists in many arenas. In Yoga breathing practice is reinforced but at our gym we practice Crocodile breathing or belly breathing. A simple practice you can manage at home, on the floor or in bed.

Here’s how from the Function Movement Systems (FMS)

Begin in the prone posture by positioning yourself face down, so that your stomach is on the floor with your forehead on your hands, both palms down, one covering the other. Make sure the chest and arms are relaxed, and you are as “flat” as you can get; your neck should be relaxed and comfortable.

Breathe in through the nose and feel the air move down past the chest into the “stomach.” When this happens, you will feel the abdomen push out against the ground. This should happen naturally without you forcing your stomach out.

Exhale fully before beginning the next breath cycle.

 crod breathing

Practice this for maybe 15 to 20 breaths. I would encourage this prior to commencing your gym warm up.

Some people have been known to fall asleep during this practice – kind of proves the benefit of nasal breathing albeit embarrassing if you fall asleep in the gym!

Hopefully this brief look at nasal vs mouth breathing will encourage you to take a look at your own breathing patterns and maybe during your next gym session, try to maintain nasal only breathing.

 

Reference:

(1) Swift, Campbell, McKown  1988 Oronasal obstruction, lung volumes, and arterial oxygenation. Lancet 1, 73-75

Move Stronger Challenge

Like oh so many people in early January, getting stuck into a new exercise regime will be high on the agenda. I argue though that before you start pounding the pavements or start hitting the weights, you need to address how well your body moves.

Introducing the 29 Move Stronger Challenge

This challenge is a daily exploration of one movement or a focus on moving better, one particular area of the body. The aim is to add to your physical wellbeing, mobility and strength conditioning. (Conditioning = an improved ability to undertake a task – got it?)

All you need to take part is a bit of space to move and between 3 to 10 minutes a day to play with. You can even make these part of your warm up before other exercise sessions!

Interested?

The daily challenges will be presented via FaceBook on a closed page for 29 Day Move Stronger participants to interact with, share progress videos and such.

To join up, just ‘click’ ==> HERE 

You’ll be sent an info email with what the challenge is and isn’t and link to join the Facebook group. Ooh, and it is totally FREE!!! 

Lift Strong, but Move Stronger!!

Hope to see you there.

Jamie
FitStrong Brisbane

Mobility Moves for Cyclists

Cycling can be a liberating experience. The wind through your hair, the freedom to roam the countryside and the unquestionably healthy exercise that it provides, makes it an easy addiction. However, nothing takes all the pros away like aches and pains.

Many cyclists will report how their best plans were irritated or cut short by back, knee or neck pain. 

Yes, cycling is great for you but let’s be honest, the cycling posture probably isn’t helping you.

In early 2018 I’ll be opening up sessions for cyclists who want to nip this irritation in the butt with a simple but effective program that targets both mobility and strength specific to what a cyclist needs.

Cycling will do wonders for your waist line and cardiovascular health but to get the most out of your time on the bike, keeping your body mobile, flexible and free from localised tension is vital. On top of that, developing crucial strengths will help you master your bike on the road and trails and help prevent fatigue.

In this first of two posts I am sharing my top THREE mobility moves to help cyclists stay ache free.

In a follow up post I’ll cover the essential top THREE strength moves. Yes, there are more than three mobility and strength activities to optimise your cycling time, but start with the basics.

 

 

A New Program for Cyclists

This post and the follow up are a brief glimpse of a new program for fellow cyclists that will be released in 2018.

I’ll be offering this as a 6 week program but for limited numbers of applicants as I want to offer a great service which can often be sacrificed with large numbers of participants.

If you are interested in getting stronger as a cyclist and want to work on eliminating the frustrating aches and pains that maybe keep you off the bike from time to time, get in touch below. You can use this form too to get put onto the early registration list… no commitment is required of course.

Oh, and wait, if you are not local to Albany Creek (Northern Brisbane suburb) I will also be putting together an online program will be nearly as good as the in-person program.

Interested? Send off the wee form below.

 

 

Food for thought!!

Have you ever taken a drink of something and immediately had a recollection of a previous memory of a food, a smell, a person, a time in your life etc?

I rarely drink herbal tea but this morning as I sat down to update some member gym programs I thought, “mmm, let’s have a cup of Peppermint Tea”!

peppermint tea

Oddly on my first sip I was hit with an instant memory of my time in Germany during 1989 and ‘cheese on Pumpernickel’, a flat, dense, rye based bread. Very nice actually.

So this got me wondering about what had just happened and the thought occurred to me, can you use drinks or foods to remember a healthier you?

Recollections are varied of course. Not every memory is of a good time. But, imagine if a food or drink stimulated a recollection of a healthier time in your life, if indeed you are looking for a health overhaul. What if you could recall what you did back then, what kind of foods you did eat, who you spent time with, your hobbies or preoccupations, how you felt in general. Would you use that recollection to try to replicate the conditions that at that time contributed to your healthier self?

Just some food for thought. What do you think?

Right now, I am seriously considering finding some Pumpernickel… yummy!

Keen to read more about how and why your brain gifts you this? Read what Andrea Beaman has to say.

 

Do Cyclists really need a strength program?

‘Investing in your health and the future of your body is one of the most powerful commitments you can make with yourself.’

Whist this a great mantra to live by generally, it is also incredibly important to keep in mind when you’re a specialist. Like cyclists for example.

I was once upon a time an immensely dedicated cyclist. It became my career for a while until an untimely injury took me out of action. To some degree, looking after the health of my body may have prolonged my career but, oh if only I knew then what I know now… sigh!

Cyclist may spend anywhere from a few hours per week to up to 25+ hours per week on the bike. This specialisation is what get us addicted to our shiny steeds but specialisation also results in imbalanced physiology. Essentially, whilst some muscles become awesome

IMG_1519

That’s me at the front 🙂

at their task, other muscles become overworked and underworked. Addressing this latter point forms the bulk of the overarching intentions of an intervention strength and mobility plan.

Now, a strength program to a cyclist may invoke mental images of Arnie in his hay-day, all lumpy and swole and spending hours in the gym pumping iron. Maybe a slight exaggeration but to the inexperienced it’s an assumption that to get stronger, it will require quite an investment of time.

Actually, the kind of program a cyclist may need to help maintain the balance in their physiology can start to offer benefits with as little as two 30 minute session per week, or less. So no, you don’t need to become a protein drink swilling meathead. ‘Phew, you can relax’!

An effective program for a cyclist would start off addressing the torso. The torso or what some may refer to as the core is what ties together our hips and our shoulders. Pictures those long bike rides, a hill climb or a dreaded head-wind… it’s no longer our legs that are doing all the hard work. The upper body all of a sudden has to join in the party. But if the torso is unconditioned or fatigued, it’s not going to play ball and then that’s when we realise our shortcomings as the lower back and arms get tired. Watch an experienced and well rounded cyclist take on a hill, a climb or any stressful situation and it’s a thing of grace or beauty almost. The whole body moves fluidly to get the job done.  Compare that to an unconditioned cyclist who seems to wobbling, ducking and diving to wrestle their bike along the road…. not very graceful looking is it?

If we were to take a minimalist effective strength program for a cyclist, what would it look like?

Without going into too much information or specifics (we’re all special snowflakes so that’s hard to write anyway for the masses) here’s a list of what would need to be considered.

Mobility:

The rather crunched up posture of a cyclist is a necessity for a bike ride, but can leave the body feeling a bit stiff in all the wrong places. An effective training session would kick-off addressing this. The movements in particular would offer a ‘reset’ of sorts to unwind all the tight corners of the torso, hips, upper back and neck in particular. The Original Strength program designed by Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert is a fantastic solution in this case. The system they promote uses the fundamental movements of a developing baby to toddler to child to address what we as adults should have retained and maintained over the years. The rolling, rocking and crawling moves prove a real gem at both loosening what up tightens you and switching on what needs to be activated.

Yes I am biased as we use this daily in the gym but only because it works and it’s so easy it looks like it shouldn’t work, but it does, so there!

Stability:

Strength training for the most part is a process of getting the grey matter in your head communicating better with the body to recruit more muscle to do a task with more ease. It’s not the process of growing muscle although that can happen (if you’re not careful haha). When the brain muscle communication is swifter the body reacts better and hence reacts to instability more readily. You want a wobbly body on the bike or a stable power-house?

What movements would be used in a routine?

This very much is a personal thing but here goes, a generalised list (with links too):

  • a full body mobility routine as discussed above (Original Strength)
  • single leg knee, hip dominant moves like a lunge or a step up
  • single leg hip, knee dominant moves like a single leg deadlift variation
  • explosive hip dominant movement like a properly taught kettlebell swing or a deadlift
  • abdominal dominant movements like a dead bug, plank variations and loaded carries like farmers walks.
  • Upper body pushing an pulling strength moves but not the bench press! Let’s move on from that.

 

Okay, yes, this is very vague but the specifics of what to choose depends on the individuals level of ability, aches, pains and what is available to use.

Any particular movements don’t need to be taken to maximum efforts, but sustained technique with a moderate level of exertion for as few as 5-10 repetitions for a few sets.

Routines could be laid on over a leisurely 60 mins or could be packaged up into a circuit or into a fun complex to get the session over in as little as 15 mins!!

It may seem a little confusing, I know. I’ve just told you how important it is to get stronger and more mobile yet I’ve not given an exact plan to follow.

Here’s an offer for you

In the new year 2018 I am launching a program just for cyclists that will focus on all that I’ve spoke of here. The intention is to offer options of simple one-to-one sessions or small group training sessions for times that suit the busy lives of cyclists. I certainly don’t want to take away from precious bike times, that’s for sure.

I’ll be offering this as a 6 week program but for limited numbers of applicants as I want to offer a great service which can be sacrificed with large numbers.

If you are at all interested in getting stronger as a cyclist and want to work on eliminating the frustrating aches and pains that maybe keep you off the bike from time to time, get in touch below. You can use this too to get put onto the early registration list… no commitment is required of course.

 

Oh, and wait, if you are not local to Albany Creek (Northern Brisbane suburb) I will also be putting together an online program will be nearly as good as the in-person program.

Interested? Let me know using the contact form above.

 

What to eat for performance and getting leaner?

Yes, what a topic to confuse everyone. The choices are numerous and every single ‘diet’ has one common theme – a total energy deficit. Whether it’s a low carb, high carb, high fat, high protein or whatever diet, there will always be a calorie deficit involved.

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So whilst change is hard, let’s keep the advice simple, and real.

If you really want to get those muscles strong and lean, any well structured program will deliver but only if your nutrition is dialled in.

A progressive strength program will run in phases to set you up, get you strong, then probably have a hiked up period of boosting your metabolism. To get these specific adaptations in the muscles we need to focus on a limited number of movements, perform them well and repeatably. 

To get a return of investment from your efforts and muscles the eating advice is clear:

If nature grew it out of the ground, off a bush or a tree, or it ran, flew or swam (plants and critters in other words) you eat it. Don’t be fearful of carbs – just keep them natural.

Here’s a wee list of what I find works the best to stay lean:

1. First off, cut added sugars. Seriously, if you want to drop excess weight, start with dropping the sugary stuff.

2. Replace the frequent starchy food for vegetables. Bread, potato, pasta – gone. More veg – in. This is especially important on non-exercising days.

3. Good news. You can eat your starchy carbs post exercise, but one portion, not a plate piled high with chips or pasta. 1 portion = a potato or a wrap or a palmful of rice.

4. Per day you will have to be sure to consume your proteins. Aim for non-processed protein sources and these can be non-meat plant based proteins if you prefer.

How much?

  • Men = 4 – 6 palm sized portions a day.
  • Ladies = 3 palm sized portion a day.

5. Eat HEAPS of of vegetables. I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again – to fill you up and to provide your body with oodles of nutrients and minerals, eat a variety of vegetables. Aim to have every colour represented every day. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower are great and versatile.

6. Water. This is Australia folks, we sweat. Replace those fluids and help your body flush out toxins by drinking around 8 glasses a day – or just more than you’re currently drinking. A great tip that has helped others is this. Every time you take a sip of water, take a second sip.

7. Last point. Don’t get hung up on recipes. Just prepare food and meals that you enjoy eating taking into consideration the points above.

 

My best advice is to take a week by week progression, much like the exercise component.

Week 1: How can you make breakfast (your first meal regardless of time) a little better. What can you prepare and eat easily without fuss? A quick omelette? Yoghurt with added berries and seeds? Boiled eggs? Experiment.

Week 2: The same process with Dinner. Maybe make a big dish that’ll last a couple of days, for lunch too. Like shredded pork? Cook up a shoulder overnight, and shred as needed – yum. How about a bolognese sauce that can be eaten with so many options? Fun and simple to prepare but make enough and it’ll last a few days.

Week 3: Maybe it’s time to hone in on the shopping list. Write a list that reflects the meals you like to prepare and eat and shop accordingly – that easy.

If you are not the main meal preparer – talk to who is about what you are trying to do and work with them. Support them as they help you.

You get the idea? Gradually try to implement the tips to progress your meals to good, better and betterer. I used to write ‘best’ as the final goal, but really, that’s unattainable in the real world.

Strive for continued better.

Any comments or advice or feedback – just get in touch below.