Animal Flow: Albany Creeks Newest Class

Copy of Bodyweight Training Named the #1 Fitness Trend

Animal Flow Class Starts in Albany Creek

Animal Flow is a movement based ground program that’s about connecting our bodies to themselves through the ground.

Say what?

Let’s define what animal flow is to help you grab the value it holds.

Your body for a start; it’s the one thing you get to keep for your whole life, so help it work better. If you can control your body through diverse movements you will truly move better loaded with weights. For a beginner therefore, Animal Flow offers a great entrance level to defining strength and physical autonomy.

‘Learn how your body works and learn how to use it’

The Animal in animal flow isn’t a direct reference to actual animals, but animal movements have been around forever. Animal Flow creator Mike Fitch just figured out a way that we could use these kind of basic animal components to figure out how to improve the function of the human animal.

The Flow component comes from a mixed influence of parkour, gymnastics, dance and breakdancing. A flow uses the surroundings and the environment to move and navigate smoothly and fluidly with complimentary control of our limbs and torso.

Unlike conventional weights based training that utilises very linear up, down, side to side type moves, a flow encourages all planes of movement.

Whilst some of the moves may look complicated and very athletic, each and every movement has both regressions for beginners to start practicing and progressions for the more experienced to practice.

How does a class run?

Each 45 minute class starts with an appropriate warm up that focuses on mobilising the joints and warming the muscles.

The session continues with a focus on some skills, specific stretches and strengths, taken at a pace appropriate to each student.

The skills practiced then get built into a flow, one step at a time.

Regardless of skill level, the flow will flow.

Animal Flow classes will be run in 6 week courses, the first commencing on the 23rd July 2018. To join this first course, click HERE

These courses will have a continuity course for students to continue to develop their skills and strength.

The 2nd wave of Animal Flow courses will kick off the week commencing the 27th August 2018.

To book in or for further information, please fill in the contact form below.

 

Tour de Swing

I don’t follow many sports – I know, how bizarre! A trainer who is not actually a big sports guy?!

Anyhoo, some may know my introduction to exercise was with cycling which led to a short career as a racing cyclist. Great memories of days spent with aching lungs and legs and a face covered in countryside muck!

The pinnacle of the year as an observer was the Tour de France when I got to watch my heroes of the day. Yes, I know, as we all do that most of them were souped up with a pharmaceutical pick’n mix to boost their abilities… sigh!

But, the sport has been cleaned up considerably like many other sports in recent years.

To celebrate the commitment of three weeks of gruelling physical power, strength and endurance I’ve come up with the Tour de Swing.

Not a single bike will be needed as this 3351km challenge, if you hadn’t already guessed, is a Kettlebell Swing challenge.

The goal is to swing for reps what each stage of the tour will cover in km. Simple. A total of 3351 swings over 3 weeks.

If the stage is 200km in length, you do 200 swings.

Click the Pic below to access a PDF with each and every stage of the 3351 swings / km challenge laid out for you.

Tour de Swing

If you’d like to share the time each stage takes you, record on the PDF printed out or share on our Facebook page.

Good luck and keep swinging.

 

BEYOND CHALLENGES AND TRAINING PROGRAMS

(a 6 minute read, so feel free to skip to the proposition at the bottom)

In May this year we launched our two new 12 week challenges with a good response.

These will be repeated soon but, it occurred to me though, that many people might not want just a 12 week training program aka a challenge that takes them from point A to point B.

Some people may want to learn new skills, level up current skills and strengths or may want to just work out with a laid out day to day plan to cover a period of time.

Let me briefly differentiate working out vs training just to clarify.

Training, as the word should imply, is a process of progressing a limited number of strengths, or fitness from your current position to an end goal. An example would be for someone who wanted to be able to run 15 minutes non-stop in 8 weeks when they can only manage 3 minutes non-stop currently. A ‘training’ program would lay out a plan to achieve that based on evidence based best practices.

A second example would be the person who wants to be learn a system to help them be more mobile, less stiff and achey and concerned for hurting themselves. In this case a systematic plan would be built for a predetermined and reasonable time-frame to help the client learn all the essential movements and methods that will help them achieve their goals.

The commonality here is the ‘goal’. The two examples have a goal, an outcome they are looking for. This will always be the case. Just be wary of setting a vanity goal. They can be quite negative in nature. That’s a story for a different time.

But, as I mentioned at the start, we don’t always need goals to make exercise a frequent part of our lives. Yes, during the year we might feel the urge to delve into something based on need, intrigue, interest and desire, but it’s not essential.

Is there a problem with goal centred training programs?

Go, go, go, go! That is the general emphasis for a training program but that is the nature of a training program too. A well designed program will wave or rotate between harder, medium and simpler sessions whilst including suggestions for active recovery. The worst programs are the ones you see as part of a 4 week challenge (usually in newspapers, magazines and social media) where every day is a progression of the previous – a real recipe for overdoing it and inviting injury.

A training program that runs for 8 to 12 weeks will have a systematic, progressive plan to achieve the goal or at least build up towards it. Yep, you might not actually achieve the goal at the end of the time period but with so many variables at play in our lives, this can happen. In all programs I build I do mention that the program isn’t a once off plan. It can be repeated. Many people cycle through a program, take a few weeks of ‘just working out’ for recovery and evaluation before heading back into the same program again, but from a more progressed starting point.

IMG_4550.jpg

There is no problem with waved, well structured training programs being run frequently or back to back. It does come down to the individual and their goals and their why. Why they exercise.

What about challenges?

Continuous hard, testing programs or challenges should be measured out infrequently throughout the year if they are even on your radar. Training at high intensities for lengthy periods is hazardous. Even athletes don’t train flat out all year round – so why should non-athletes?

A couple of weeks of ramping up intensity every 3 or 4 months like at the end of a 12 week program, is fine, often fun and rewarding but should be followed by a celebratory period of lower intensities.

Now, getting to what was meant to be the main topic (yes, I do wander a little once a get writing, sorry!) – general, non-goal centred programs.

Every human knows that maintaining a healthy, well balanced lifestyle that includes frequent exercise is good. We all know exercising will make us feel better, move better and live a longer more fruitful life assuming mother nature doesn’t throw a right hook at us.

Many people choose not to accept this position however, deciding that a slothful life is for them, followed by time with pain, illness and a poorer quality of life. Biased opinion? Heck yes. But am I lying? You decide.

We don’t need specific goals to make exercise part of our lives beyond knowing that keeping generally stronger, mobile and capable of getting out of breath will enhance our lives.

So what does this look like for the average person who matches the above statement?

There was a fun tv cooking show years ago called Ready Steady Cook. In the show two teams had only a limited number of ingredients to cook a great meal. The potential for the meal was vast. How many things can you make with some veg, spices and a meat option? Endless.

In regards to exercise, the ingredients are the things we as humans need to sustain for optional physical health. Let’s list them:

  • Walk, jog, or run. Just get going with whatever gets your pulse up and doesn’t hurt.
  • Have a daily movement / mobility practice. Not necessarily yoga or pilates. There are so many simple methods that we can talk about.
  • Squat.
  • Lift things up with a hip dominant move (deadlifting).
  • Push and press stuff.
  • Pull stuff.
  • Carry stuff.
  • Brace your midsection.

That’s 8 categories of qualities we are meant to maintain frequently. We don’t need to complete them every session, but on a weekly basis we ought to tick boxes.

The potential for how we ‘cook’ them is endless and also quite fun.

Once we think beyond the old bodybuilding paradigm of training (3×10 for each machine in a gym – yawn) there are a myriad of options.

On my website home page there is a pop-up that visitors see that offers 20 FREE Workouts on a handy PDF. In each workout there are all or most of the strength moves listed above, each time built in a different way, perhaps with a tool like a kettlebell, or a sandbag or nothing except your own body weight. The repetitions vary, what each follows or is followed by changes, altering the stress on the body that we need, but, we still encounter and practice all the strength skills we need as healthy humans.

For a non-trainer it might seem all gobbledygook (PS I had to to google search how to spell that hehe) or may be a bit confusing and maybe a stumbling block to your progress or even starting and that my friend is why I would like to propose a wee experimental trial.

Earlier I mentioned that I write training programs that build on specific skills and strengths. But, for possibly the vast majority who don’t fit that category, I would love to offer a solution for just turning up and getting boxes ticked – a ‘general physical training’ program.

THE IDEA

An idea I am toying with is to produce a weekly routine I would release to members of such as illustrious program for a tiny, tiny fee that would include all of the above requirements for optimal physical health. A weekly home routine that will include:

  • A daily mobility and flexibility routine.
  • A weekly schedule of strength sessions including illustrations and videos.
  • Suggestions for active recovery and aerobic tasks.
  • A community facebook page for further support, tips and random puppy photos!

Look, I’m just throwing this out there to help me reach and help more people. Not everyone has the time or logistics to train at the gym, so if you would like to be part of this group program, let me know and when I’ve the official launch organised before the end of the winter, you will get your sign-up invitation.

Just fill in the quick interest form below.

If you want any further information just get in touch.

If you’ve got a name for the group, please suggest that too!

Diet Motivation?

So many people want to use exercise as their main tool to lose body fat. But in all honesty, exercise is a weak tool for this job. Yes it has it’s place but the priority is nutritional.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, that you might have to start paying attention to what you eat. But what if you could see the future? What if you could glance at your life once you achieve your goal?

One useful tool to help motivate you to start making changes is a ‘Visualisation’ exercise where you do just what the last sentence talks about.

Here’s some homework:

Write a note to yourself, from the perspective of when you’ve achieved your weight loss goal. Imagine how your life will be.

Don’t get too off-point, be specific. Here are a few questions you could answer.

  • How does your life differ?
  • Why has it been important to you that you’ve achieved your goal?
  • How are your relationships with friends, your partner, your family and colleagues?
  • How do you feel now as a person?

Once you’ve written your note, read it back to yourself. How does it make you feel? Do you have some ideas coming into your head about where to start and maybe which areas you’d like to start with? Have your values changed perhaps?

Any revelations – please do share below.

 

 

Featured image from Lego.

Optimising your Breathing

Getting Started

The previous three articles (back to breathing, breath like your ancestors, eight benefits of optimising your breathing) have made the case that most people breathe more than necessary and could benefit from reducing their breathing to a more appropriate level.  This article provides some first steps in this process.

You will obtain better results by buying and reading one of the books written on the topic, or better yet getting personalised coaching, but many people will want to try out the idea before they make a commitment. And many others will want to get started before their book arrives or before they find an instructor. So here are some ways to get started.

Breathing has the unusual distinction of being both a voluntary and involuntary activity. Thus it is possible to reduce your breathing for as long as you maintain attention.

Unfortunately, when you stop paying attention, your breathing will return to its current ‘default setting’.

However if reduced breathing is maintained for more than about twenty minutes it will begin to make changes to your breathing centre – to recalibrate it towards normal healthy breathing rate. This article will look at some of the ways to do this. The same types of processes can also be used to quickly raise CO2 levels for various short term effects which will be discussed in the next article.

The first step towards reducing baseline breathing is to recognise the factors that contribute to increased breathing in the first place, and try to stop them from happening:

  • Breathe through your nose. Mouth breathing makes it almost inevitable that you will over breathe, due to the lack of resistance to air entering your lungs. It is possible to over breathe through your nose, but due to the smaller airway you will hear and feel your breathing if it is excessive.

 

If you suffer from nose blockages there will be tips in the next article for dealing with this on a short term basis. Generally once your breathing is reduced to a healthy level, nose blockages will be drastically reduced.

This can present something of a vicious cycle.  You need to breathe through your nose, so that you can reduce your breathing, so that you can unblock your nose so that you can breathe through your nose…. For some people medication may be needed in the short term to break this cycle and make full time nose breathing possible.

Many people even tape their mouths shut at night or use this glue as a way of ensuring that they nose breath throughout the night. Personally I prefer the tape, but for anyone with a beard or very sensitive skin around the lips, the glue is a more realistic option.  The improvement in sleep quality can be remarkable.

  • Breathe diaphragmatically. Breathing with your chest muscles tends to increase your breathing rate both directly, and as a result of activating the sympathetic nervous system. Practicing diaphragmatic breathing in a variety of positions (eg the Original Strength breathing drills) helps to make diaphragmatic breathing automatic.
  • Manage stress. As discussed in part two being stressed or excited while physically passive is one of the causes of chronic over breathing. There are probably many stresses in your life that are unavoidable, but we all tend to have a certain amount of stress that can be cut from our lives, so it is worth looking at the stresses in your life in order to identify any that can be removed. It is also worth minimising activities that are exciting but sedentary. If you crave excitement try to get it in ways that are physically active. When you are being sedentary try to do things which are actually relaxing.
  • Avoid overheating. One of the ways that we cool our body is through increasing breathing. In cold weather try not to overdress. Many people wear an extra jumper ‘just in case’ because they hate being cold. If the idea of risking feeling cold bothers you, try carrying the extra jumper just in case, and only put it on if you actually start to feel cold. As your breathing reduces you will find that your cold tolerance increases, and you will require less warm clothing. There are two reasons for this.
    • Reduced breathing means that you will lose less heat through your breath and stay warmer.
    • Increased carbon dioxide levels will cause your blood vessels to dilate. This leads to better peripheral circulation which will prevent cold hands and feet.

 

Practicing reduced breathing

Within the OS system one of the basic resets is to simply spend time focusing on breathing through your nose, using your diaphragm. This is done in a variety of positions in order to make breathing diaphragmatically automatic regardless of what you are doing.

Seeing as you are already doing this (you are, aren’t you?) it is an obvious opportunity to practice reduced breathing at the same time. Your aim is to reduce your breathing to the point that you feel a mild ‘air hunger’ or desire to breath more, but you do not want the process to be stressful at all. If you attempt to restrict your breathing too much you will activate your stress response- which is the opposite of what you are trying to achieve.

There are many different techniques to help focus on breathing less, but before discussing them I would like you to try simply breathing less. Lie down and spend a few minutes breathing nasally and diaphragmatically, and simply be mindful of trying to breathe as little as possible while still remaining comfortable.

       Ask yourself the question ‘how much do I actually need to breathe?’  

When you do this, look out for some signs that you are successfully raising your blood CO2 levels. You may find that any of the following happen:

  • You start to feel calmer and more clear headed
  • Saliva increases and becomes thinner
  • Your extremities become warmer due to increased circulation
  • Muscle tension is reduced
  • Your eyes start to water
  • Your airways become more open

 

Go on …. Try it for a few minutes, then come back and keep reading.

Some people will have a significant amount of success simply by following the instructions above, but it is more effective with some extra tips.  Here are some to try.

  • Focus on the feeling of the air through your nose – cool as it comes in and warm as it leaves. Use this as a form of feedback. The more you slow your breathing the less you will feel the movement of air through your nostrils.
  • Lying on your stomach (crocodile breathing) gives great feedback that you are breathing with your diaphragm. This is one of the reasons that it is a popular position for breathing practice within the Original Strength system. The resistance also provides excellent feedback about how much you are breathing, which makes it great for reduced breathing exercises.
  • Use the elastic recoil of your lungs to exhale. Many people do not realise that their diaphragm has a resting position. You fill your lungs by contracting your diaphragm and if you then relax it your lungs will deflate very slowly until your diaphragm is in its resting position. At this point your lungs will be empty-ish (similar to the end of a normal exhale). Exhaling passively using the elastic recoil of your lungs will slow down your breathing considerably. It is also super relaxing…which indirectly slows your breathing still further.
  • To take this method a step further you can leave your diaphragm relaxed at the end of an exhale. In some ways this could be thought of as holding your breath (you stop breathing) but in other ways it is the complete opposite. Instead of tension it is about relaxation – you are not so much holding your breath as releasing it. Wait in this position at the end of each breath until you feel like you actually need to breathe.

 

Resetting your breathing centre through exercise

Perhaps the simplest way to increase carbon dioxide levels (and hence reset the breathing centre) is through exercise while nose breathing. As the amount of breathing required is increased during activity, it becomes extremely unlikely that you will be able to breathe more than necessary while nose breathing.

Go for a walk, run or combination of both depending on your level of fitness and the state of your breathing. Simply go as fast as you can while maintaining nose breathing, and staying relatively comfortable. Even people who are used to running up large hills are likely to find that they need to walk up the hills when they first begin – the trick is to not let your ego get in the way. There is no need to think about your breathing –just focus on maintaining nose breathing, and continuing to move at the fastest pace that is comfortable.

The same principal can be applied to any physical activity. Simply let your pace be governed by how much you are able to do while nose breathing. In addition to the benefits to your breathing, this is also a great way to avoid overtraining by limiting your intensity.

Should you ever mouth breath while exercising?

Purely from a health perspective, probably not. From a fitness and performance perspective the answer is a little more complex.  For example:

    • Most people will find that they can perform better if they mouth breath during competition, and possibly during some of their most intense training sessions.
    • During strength training it is advisable to breathe out through pursed lips as a way of maintaining intra- abdominal pressure.  This is a way of producing more resistance than the nose would provide, and therefore limits breathing at least as effectively as pure nose breathing does.

Nose breathing however should be the default option, and mouth breathing the carefully considered exception.

Next time – Ways that reduced breathing can be used for immediate short term relief for various health issues.

(Spoiler – it works way better if you are also making long term changes to your default breathing pattern, as described above – so get started!!)

 

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.

 

 

12 Week Challenges

Many trainers will agree that a training year has seasons. There’s a season for pushing forward towards a specific goal and other periods where training kind of takes a back seat, when just the basics get maintained. Both are vital actually. For physical and emotional / mental recovery, down periods of just turning up, ticking boxes and heading home, are just what the doctor ordered.

Our 12 Week Challenges are designed for those other periods where you’ve got fire in your belly and target in sight.

The two challenges I have laid out last 12 weeks each but can in actuality, last much longer. Both are built with blocks of specific outcomes, from basic skills of strength and endurance to more advanced levels. Each block may be repeated until the trainee feels properly armed to move on.

The challenges

The Bodyweight Challenge is a simple and great fun program that allows you to explore a variety of bodyweight strengths, motor skills, mobility and dexterity – in other words, get awesome ownership of your own body.  This program is suitable for trainees with a basic understanding and experience of moving their body on the floor. If you can squat yourself down and up and hold the plank position – this will suit you.

Minimalism is a key component of the challenge. You’ll need very little time and just a comfortable space to move around. On that note, you’ll not really need too much space, just a safe space to crawl a little and allow your arms and legs to move freely without knocking over ornaments or the TV!

The 12 week program is built with 4 blocks of 3 weeks each.

Each week you’ll ‘play’ with three different movements only. I don’t want you to get overwhelmed by too many exercises. The aim is to get really immersed in the minimal necessities of the challenge and push yourself.

Each week will see you progress the movements with an optional time progression should you want to intensify the sessions.

Each block too will progress your skills and strengths until we get to the final block where we really get to have fun. In this block everything you’ve covered and learned will be tested with each session being a flow of 3 or more movements. Flows are a superb way to exercise in a non-restricted manner. No restraints – just moving through the movements you’ve practiced over the weeks.

The challenge will be presented via a downloadable PDF that you can either print out or refer to on your smartphone or wifi connected device. There will be video links with demonstrations to highlight the key forms and techniques.

Should you opt to carry out some of the sessions during your PT, you will be guided through the steps.

Throughout the challenge, email support will be unlimited. Any questions about regressions, progressions or substitute moves will be dealt with swiftly.

12 Weeks DONE FOR YOU Bodyweight Training Program

For just $20 this 12 week program is yours – interested? 

 


The Kettlebell Challenge is magnificent Strength, Power and Muscle program that allows you to develop a deeper array of motor skills, strengths and mobility – in other words, an awesome functioning body.

This kettlebell challenge is designed for experienced kettlebell users. Although reference will be made to good techniques, specific tutorials are not part of this challenge. If you need guidance please get in touch.

Minimalism is a key component of the challenge. You’ll need little time commitment and just one, two or maybe three Kettlebells to play with – don’t worry if you only have one kettlebell, this whole program can in fact be carried out with great affect with just one kettlebell. More variety would be better, but not essential.

The 12 week program is built with 3 blocks of 4 weeks each.

Block one

Builds a foundation of functional hypertrophy with the important strength moves. During this phase we also build a strong midsection and lower back.

Block two

The focus is on starting to master the skill of strength. The principle goal is not to get out of breath but get stronger.

As a secondary component, we do introduce more power movements in this 4 week period too to optimally recruit every muscle – so your fitness won’t leave you.

Block three

We take all the skills and strength we’ve developed over the past 8 weeks and let them shine in this 4 week block. Sessions will be a little shorter but you’ll be using the time wisely with explosive routines accompanied by secondary conditioning elements.

The challenge will be presented via a downloadable PDF that you can either print out or refer to on your smartphone or wifi connected device. There will be video links with demonstrations to highlight the key forms and techniques.

Should you opt to carry out some of the sessions during your FitStrong Brisbane PT sessions, you will be guided through the steps.

Throughout the challenge, email support will be unlimited. Any questions about regressions, progressions or substitute moves will be dealt with swiftly.

12 Weeks DONE FOR YOU Kettlebell Training Program

For just $20 this 12 week kettlebell program is yours – want to start?

 

8 Benefits of Optimising Your Breathing

If you have been following this series you may have started to think that I am making some rather wild claims about the degree that over breathing may be harming you, and the extent to which normalising your breathing could improve your health. I have described light breathing as the ideal based on evidence that it is what we were born doing (part 1) and that it is how our ancestors breathed (part 2) But some readers are going to want to know the details – what is actually going on in your body when you change the volume of your breathing? (If that is you then thanks for making it this far) Here are eight ways that optimising your breathing volume can affect your body:

 

  • CO2, oxygen and the Bohr Effect.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room –‘won’t you get less oxygen if you breathe less?’ Believe it or not, increasing your breathing above the optimum amount barely changes the amount of oxygen in your blood.

If you were to measure the oxygen saturation in your blood it might be 99%. Deliberately hyperventilate and it will rise to 100%. Reduce your breathing as much as you can bare and it might fall to 97% (I am assuming you are not an expert free diver or escapologist who has trained yourself to ignore all of your body’s signals to breath – these people can hold their breath until their oxygen saturation falls below 50%. Even in this extreme case, it might take three minutes of breath holding before oxygen saturation falls below 90%).

You might think that maybe this extra couple of percent of oxygen that can be gained might still make over breathing worthwhile, but there is another factor at play.

C02 concentrations are far more sensitive to breathing volume than oxygen concentrations are, and higher C02 levels encourage the release of oxygen from your haemoglobin. So breathing less means that your blood picks up virtually the same amount of oxygen in your lungs, and then releases a much greater proportion of this oxygen into the cells of your body.

Breathing less actually means that oxygen is delivered to your cells more effectively.

This phenomenon is known as the Bohr Effect. It seems strange… until you consider how it enables your body to function during exercise. We are all familiar with how exercise leads to an increased requirement for oxygen leading to an increase in breathing and heart rate. But what happens when the activity is localised. For example if you are kayaking or bench pressing how does your body know to deliver large amounts of extra oxygen to the muscles being used but not to the leg muscles?

The answer is the Bohr effect – the working muscles produce C02 which then facilitates the release of extra oxygen in that exact area. Resting muscles have low levels of C02, so most of the oxygen that passes through them remains stuck to the haemoglobin. This allows the oxygen to be delivered to the muscles that actually need it. Every muscle in the body will receive an oxygen supply tailored to how hard it is working, as ‘measured’ by the amount of C02 that it is producing.

This mechanism is also the reason that breathing too much, and reducing C02  to a sub-normal level, will actually impair the delivery of oxygen to your cells – and if you have been breathing too much, reducing your breathing to a biologically normal level will improve oxygen delivery.

 

  • Effects of C02 on smooth muscles.

C02 has a powerful relaxing effect on smooth muscles. Conversely, low levels of C02 lead to the tightening of these muscles. Many health conditions are either caused or exacerbated by the constriction of smooth muscles. In asthma the muscles of the airway constrict. A blocked nose is largely caused by the constriction of the nasal passages. Tightening of blood vessels will produce high blood pressure as well as poor peripheral circulation which manifests as cold hands and feet. Over-excitability of the muscles of the digestive system can lead to irritable bowel. Simply reducing breathing rate can have a significant effect on any of these conditions.

 

  • Effects of CO2 on skeletal muscles

Skeletal muscles are also sensitive to the relaxing effect of C02. Over breathing reduces the level of this natural muscle relaxant, contributing to the stiff, tight muscles, prone to knots, cramps and spasms, that so many of us have come to accept as inevitable.

Poor reflexive stability is of course a huge contributor to the muscular conditions listed above – muscles lock up in order to keep an otherwise unstable area safe. Sometimes, however, even after regaining reflexive stability, some muscles will remain overactive. In other cases the stubborn refusal of some muscles to relax is the reason that regaining reflexive stability is difficult to achieve. In either of these cases it makes sense to try reduced breathing in order to utilize the muscle relaxant effects of C02.

Often when we hit a dead end working within the OS system, we return to breathing as the foundational reset. This approach has been regularly found to help. I would argue that part of the reason it is so helpful is because many people inadvertently reduce their breathing. This increases their C02 levels resulting in the relaxation of muscles that would otherwise remain tight. If this effect was pursued deliberately the effects would be substantially more pronounced.

 

  • Diaphragmatic Breathing

Over-breathing and the associated low levels of C02 makes diaphragmatic breathing far more difficult than it would otherwise be. This happens in two distinct ways:

  1. The tightening effect of low C02 on the muscle of the diaphragm makes it physically more difficult to use the diaphragm to breathe.
  2. Using the diaphragm to breathe requires a certain amount of relaxation. Low levels of C02 cause a state of mental excitability. It is possible to breathe diaphragmatically in this state if you are practiced at it, and are doing so consciously. However you are unlikely to breathe diaphragmatically automatically in this state of high arousal, and learning to breath diaphragmatically in this state will be particularly difficult.

If you or someone that you are working with is struggling to use the diaphragm, then the relaxation provided by reduced breathing could be the missing ingredient.

 

  • Parasympathetic  Superhighway

The parasympathetic state is sometimes known as the ‘rest and digest’ state and is the opposite of the well-known ‘fight or flight’ response. It is the state that our bodies are meant to be in for the majority of the time. As described in part two, problems arise when we move into fight or flight mode, but then fail to do any actual fighting or fleeing (or any other form of physical activity) This is when our body tends to get stuck in this mode.

One of the best known ways of moving your body back into parasympathetic land where it belongs is through slowing the breathing. Slowing the breathing rate helps to bring the body back towards a sympathetic state – but you may have noticed mixed results when people ‘take some deep breaths’. Some relax very effectively while others show no change or even become more stressed.

Why?

It depends again on the total amount of air being breathed each minute.  Higher C02 levels (from lower breathing levels) push the body into parasympathetic mode. Lower levels  (from more breathing) stimulate the fight or flight response.

Imagine three stressed people who decided to calm down by means of some deep breathing.

  • The first breathes more deeply and slows the breathing a great deal. As a result this person is now breathing less air each minute. They will relax primarily due to the increase in C02 which results, but also partly due to the calming effect of the reduced number of breaths per minute. This is the person who quickly decides that this whole deep breathing thing is great and sticks with it.
  • The second slows the breathing enough to keep the air breathed per minute the same as before. This person experiences no benefit from reduced breathing, but will still become slightly more relaxed as a result of the reduced number of breaths per minute. This is the person who can see that maybe there is something to this whole breathing thing but then quickly loses interest because ‘it’s not helping that much’
  • The third deepens their breathing but barely reduces the rate of breathing at all. The total amount of air breathed per minute increases. There is no benefit from reducing the breaths per minute, and worse, the increased air breathed per minute will reduce C02 levels and drive the person further into a sympathetic state. This is the occasional person who (understandably) does not get how this could be helpful at all. Of course this person may still be getting the benefits of abdominal breathing and nose breathing (providing they are doing those two things). They just won’t have success at using their breathing to move into a parasympathetic state.

Reduced breathing is one of the fastest ways into a parasympathetic state, and many people who have had success with breathing exercises have actually experienced this by accident.

 

  • Less air = Less allergens, pollutants and pathogens

This effect is so obvious that it is easily missed. If you are breathing twice as much air as you need (Which is very common) you are taking in twice as many pollutants allergens and pathogens as you would otherwise be.  Reducing your breathing to a normal level would halve the amount of unhealthy materials that you are taking in.

 

  • Nose breathing

If you have studied the benefits of nose breathing you will know that the impacts on your health are huge. (If you have not, I recommend you go and do some research).

Reduced breathing makes it far easier to maintain nose breathing around the clock. There are two main reasons for this:

  • Excessive breathing leads to congestion of the nasal passages, this will make nose breathing difficult at best and impossible at worst. Reducing breathing to a normal level will relieve this congestion and clear the nose.
  • A person who is accustomed to a larger than normal intake of air may breathe easily through their nose at rest, but they will find it difficult to engage in physical activity without resorting to mouth breathing.  Practicing reduced breathing makes it not only possible, but comfortable to maintain nose breathing during all but the most intense activity

There is also a great positive feedback loop that you can put into action here. Just as reduced breathing makes it easier to maintain nasal breathing, the reverse is also true. Breathing through your nose helps prevent over breathing. The increased resistance when breathing through your nose means that while it is still possible to breathe too much, you are probably going to notice.

 

  • Snoring and sleep apnoea

Snoring and sleep apnoea are caused by the collapse of the airways while sleeping. This effect is more likely when air is moving through the airways at higher speed. If the automatic breathing rate is reduced it will continue to be lower during sleep. The air will move through the airways more slowly, meaning that collapse will be far less likely. This can reduce or reverse sleep apnoea and snoring.

Next episode:  I will discuss techniques for reducing the total amount of air breathed, not just consciously ‘in the moment’ but the amount that occurs automatically when you are not aware of 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.

 

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