The Floor Project

An undeniable truth of modern living is that we are all sitting much more everyday than our ancestors did.

Humans were never intended to spend so much time sitting still, resting in or being supported by chairs, seats and sofas. As evidenced by much research, prolonged sitting contributes to ill mental and physical health. An average day may see the average adult sit for 6.5 hours and adolescents 8.5 hours. (Research Link)

These figures are based on a study from 2011 to 2016. Our lives have changed significantly in the past year also, with home study and working from home being a new norm for many. The physical activity outcome from this change equates to even further potential for prolonged sitting.

My goal with the new Floor Project page is to encourage you to spend more time on the floor, as you rest, work, move and perhaps eat a meal or two.

But why is chair sitting such a problem?

Resting has for multiple millennia been carried out not in a chair, or a soft, embracing sofa lounge; but by resting on the ground. Yes, often with some support from cushions, bolsters or a tree! Humans are animals, designed to move, to thrive by being active and resting when needed. Modern humans however seems to live to rest.

Most humans get out of bed, rest to eat, lounge in a supportive chair in a vehicle to get to work and then possibly rest in another chair to work, only to head home to rest up on the sofa. Often people will include going to the gym to sit on machines to workout too! Not everyone works in a chair of course, but the trend is heading that way.

The problem for health is not just the lack of activity directly, but all the indirect affects or tolls on the body.

  • Poor circulation
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased blood sugar
  • Increased body fat, especially around the waist
  • Reduced ocular muscle use
  • Increased risk of dementia, diabetes, heart disease, cancer
  • Increased stress
  • Reduced muscle tone, strength
  • Pain – neck, back, shoulder pain is common with long term sitters

Choosing the floor

Sitting on the ground is not as popular as it used to be in western cultures. Mostly it is looked down upon, as a poorer option to rest in. We no longer have to choose the floor as a resting position as we have money to buy lots of sitting furniture to sprinkle around the home. God forbid we have a space with nowhere to sit our behinds!

I have had a terrible history with back pain, shoulder pain, hip and knee problems that all culminated (with an outcome epiphany) when I took a family trip back to Ireland in 2016. After only a few hours onboard the plane my hips and lower back were aching. In the terminal of Singapore I spent 20 minutes stretching and doing my usual mobility routine which helped, but once I was onboard again, the pain and stiffness set in quickly. After my arrival all the stretches helped but the sudden change to my lifestyle for 4 weeks of sitting in cars, around dining tables catching up with people really made me realise how troublesome sitting in chairs was.

On my return I delved into the work of Katy Bowman and her passion for helping people regain their comfort with resting on the floor, going barefoot and other wholesome ideas. Since then I have moved away from my armchair and spend my rest time, lunch time, work, study and family movie time, sitting on my yoga mat on the floor. In doing so, my back and hips stay happier for longer.

Let’s look at a list of the benefits of sitting, resting on the floor.

  • Reduced hip tension. Prolonged chair sitting shortens the hip flexor muscles causing tight and stiff hips – a leading cause of lower back pain. When you sit on the floor, the extra moving uses and relaxes the hip flexors.
  • Encourages natural movement and stability. Without the support of a chair, sitting on the ground forces your body to engage trunk muscles for stabilisation and encourages joint articulation.
  • Increased mobility. Sitting on the floor is what I like to call moving rest. The frequent shifting of positions continuously uses and stretches muscles throughout the body, without being a workout.
  • Improved ‘get up’. Choosing to rest on the floor brings with it the great practice of getting to the ground and back up. Much study has been conducted into the importance of being able to move down to the floor and then return to standing.
  • Bed time. Think of the last time you stayed up too late to watch TV. Your cosy chair probably made it easier to stay up. When you’re resting on the floor and that becomes too tiring, your body is telling you it’s bed time.

Being totally honest, sitting on the floor can initially to a challenge, uncomfortable and will take a planed approach to get accustomed to it. Much like wearing a pair of your expensive, fancy shoes takes some wearing in time, it can take a wee bit of practice to get your body used to floor time. Of course, I advice you to choose wider, thinner, less restrictive shoes too, but that’s another topic for another day.

Here is a plan

Rather than jumping into selling all your furniture on gumtree and embracing your new floor based lifestyle, let’s just shoot for some reasonable efforts.

The basic plan below which I’ve imaginatively called The Floor Project is a serving suggestion to play with, to encourage your body to adapt to the demands of floor sitting before embracing the freedoms it will deliver. How quick you get used to sitting on the ground depends on your body, how much chair sitting you do and how much you practice.

You may need to keep your chair close by to assist getting to the floor if you are particularly stiff and maybe use a soft rug, a yoga mat and a cushion can be of use too, to help with comfort.

The sitting position options are numerous. From kneeling, squatting, sitting and lying prone, you have many variations to explore.

Don’t limit yourself to sticking with just one style, shift around and try as many options as you can. Be imaginative. Don’t be worried about what the names of the positions are, just move and be comfortable.

Here I’ve taken 15 different photographs to illustrate your options.

The Floor Project Plan

This plan is basic. You can of course experiment with how much daily floor time is reasonable and practical, but I encourage you to give this plan a go for at least the 4 weeks. Truth is, if you can spend 10 minutes on the floor and don’t feel the urge to get up, why not spend more time down there.

The caveat to this plan is what your body brings to the game. If your legs start to cramp and get pin and needles, well then, practice is up for the moment. Get up, move around and maybe tray again later. The times below are suggested ‘accumulations’ per day. A minute here and there adds up.

Week 1:

  • Aim for 5 to 10 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.

Week 2:

  • Aim for 10 to 15 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.

Week 3:

  • Aim for 15 to 20 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.

Week 4:

  • Aim for 20 to 30 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.

Weeks 5 onwards, I think you can handle more. Maybe you’re ready to move that armchair to the corner and spend your evening time resting on the floor.

If you are more willing, enthusiastic and able, shoot for more, but not to the point of discomfort, pain and such. Just fit in more ground time every day.

Not ready for full blown floor rest?

You can still easily modify your chair sitting positions. If getting to the floor is a trip too far for now, or, if you just have to use a chair at your work station, consider building in some of the above ground based positions on your chair.

You can sit cross legged, side sit, straddle sit and so much more. See below for a few demos. Any frequent change of posture is good. You really want to get out of fixed positions for lengthy periods of time – even 20 minutes in a static position is detrimental. Change is good.

Here is a fun experiment I had on the gym bench. Not quite a chair but close enough. Sure, you might get strange looks sitting at the cafe ‘on’ the chair… or you could sit on the ground. Your call.

Want to get in touch, share a story about getting down to the floor and staying there for a while? Please do, I’d love to hear from you.

Jamie

Over 55 and Want to Move Better and Stronger?

At FitStrong Strength and Wellness I specialise in helping people to move better, with fewer aches and pains and develop essential real-world strengths. 

I am looking for people over 55 who want to get more limber, stronger and physically healthier.

If you know you need to move better and stronger but don’t know where to start, simply fill in the contact form attached below or message me on 0450487237. 

PS this is NOT a Bootcamp 🙂

When?

I am open to start new sessions upon request, day-time or evening. 

No contracts or memberships are needed. We like to keep things simple.

And if you’re not over 55 but like the sound of how we train, get in touch anyway.

Best Workout Ever

There’s nothing like getting to exercise in the comfort of your own home… well, except for having access to a huge number of programs to follow as well.


The FitStrong Online Membership has just that, ‘years’ worth of programs to follow along with. I update programs every month and the membership has a library of short ‘workouts’ too.
Check it out and if interested, it’s just $1 a day!!!

Want a more personal service?

2020 taught us many things. Learning how easy it is to teach sessions online with our laptops and smart phones was one. Now with the click of a button we can meet virtually anywhere together to work through a training session.

Whether you need to give your kettlebells a good workout or you want to get to grips with body weight training, live online personal training is a great solution.

Get in touch below to get started.

EPT

An even simpler solution if you are happy to train alone without the live online interaction is EPT.

‘Email Personal Training’ provides a detailed program for you to follow. With an extensive video library and customised videos just for you, I can quickly compile a program to meet your needs, provided straight to your inbox.

Intrigued?

Here’s to 2021… bring it on

The end of 2020 is almost upon us, and whether you’re glad to see the back of it or not, I plan on making 2021 a fantastic year.

2020 was to be the year I took take Animal Flow out to the parks. It was the year I was going to introduce MovNat, natural movement classes outdoors too, but alas, circumstances prevailed and these were shelved.

However, as the year ends I will be re-planning these awesome outdoor activities (in addition to the undercover sessions) and inviting everyone to try out.

For all who supported FitStrong this year, I sincerely thank you, from the bottom of heart. This has been a challenging year but above all, I believe many of us have learned the value of moving better for our health both physically and mentally.

Here’s to 2021… bring it on.

Don’t kill time, love it

How many times do you hear people say they’re killing time in the gym or whatever else? Yeah, I know it’s just an expression but the underlying statement implies time can be just thrown around like some spare change. 

However, time can’t be earned back. If you’re in the gym just doing stuff, you’re not spending time on other valuable agenda items. You know, things like spending time with your family, tending to your home, garden, preparing healthy meals and attending to your career. Actually, much like the last two points there, you don’t just go to the kitchen or work to kill time. You follow particular tasks to accomplish specific outcomes… and that leads me swiftly to my point here. 

Use your time in the gym to accomplish specific outcomes. 

  • Turn up.
  • Do the work.
  • Don’t quit

Three mighty fine rules to live by in the gym, the kitchen, in your chosen career and family time.

If your goal is to move better, practice that. If you goal is get stronger and more useful, practice that. If you want to [enter the goal], do what must be done.

Now, for many people, they might not know for sure what the practice should be to move better, stronger etc.

That’s where the willing professional comes into play and this is where I make my offer to finish off 2020.

‘Express FitStrong’

Well, I could have been more imaginative in the title, but in keeping with the message, it says what it is – express.

Express FitStrong offers the chance to get straight to the point with the minimum fuss. In these 30 minute sessions we’ll warm up and prepare very specifically for the following session. If you’re coming in to work on lower back pain issues – we’ll focus directly on that. If you’re coming in to work on your deadlift strength, explosive power or metabolic conditioning, we’ll get straight to that. 

Our slightly longer sessions do of course focus on goals, but we always include the ‘other stuff’ for a very well balanced routine, but let’s consider the wealth of time for some people and just get to the job at hand.

In keeping with the theme of 2020, this is available both virtually via a choice of video platforms or in person. 

If you’re keen to jump onboard, get straight to the point with express training, email ASAP. 

Optimal Training

Does your fitness program embody the skills and strengths humans are designed to excel at?

  1. It goes without saying that if you do train, it must address a need.

2. If you don’t move well, fix it and learn how to move better.

3. If you’re weaker than a child, fix it and learn how to move stronger.

4. If you get out of breath carrying in the weekend groceries, fix it and build up your work capacity.

5. If you realise that your latter years are fast approaching, get stronger and more agile now and be prepared.

6. Observe the frail. What are they missing, what have they missed and do you want to prevent the same for yourself?

So, are you training to prepare yourself for a healthy and long life? I am trying not to use the word exercise these days as I despair over what modern gym life has become. I really don’t care how big you want your guns to be, how much you bench press or how much weight you can lift off the floor. If it’s fun for you, then it’s good. But, it must add to life now and going into the future.

If you can pick up and wheel a barrow full of soil to the end of your garden and do it again until 3 cubic metres of soil is shifted – I nod my head in praise. If you can still walk and operate the next day, then I am impressed. You are fit.

If you can go play footy with the kids for an hour, before heading home to clean the car, touch up the paint on the coving and make dinner, yes, you too are fit.

If you can practice getting down to the floor with a weight, traverse along an overhead bar, squat up a 40kg weight, heave it to your shoulder and walk for 40 metres before practicing it all again for 20 minutes – then you are practicing being fitter for life. I commend you.

We Homo sapiens have progressed so well and so far in the past millennia only to have lost our ways in the past 50 years or so. Convenience was never meant to take over so much in our lives but it has. We don’t have to or need to be physical any more, not to the extent of our grandparents and those before them.

However, if we all spent a little bit of time performing natural, maybe task orientated movements, we would be using our bodies as they evolved to be used. You can see the evidence of the contrary all around us. Obesity, terrible postures, over reliance on tech, poor movement and postures. As much as humans are living for longer, they are not necessarily doing so with longevity and life long health.

So, here’s a healthy real-world work-it-out session to have a go at:

  1. Warm up with a back to basics movement preparation session.

2. Carry out a round of the following:

  • Carry a weight in front of you for 20 steps.
  • Put it down and pull back up to your left shoulder and walk 10 steps.
  • Put the weight down and sit down without using your hands.
  • Get back up without using your hands.
  • Repeat the routine but carry the weight back on your right shoulder this time.
  • Maybe run through this again, faster, or more efficiently!

3. Carry out this routine:

  • Crawl for 10 steps on your hands and feet.
  • Crawl back with an inverted crawl and then stand up.
  • Hurdle step over a weight or a chair then step under a low hanging obstacle.
  • Step back under the low hanging obstacle and either hurdle step or jump safely over the weight or chair.
  • Repeat one more time.
  • Maybe run through this again, faster, or more efficiently!

4. Take a good rest and reflect on how simple this was but how much you worked at doing very natural human movements.

The human body can develop great strength and abilities to specialise in sports. if you’re not into specialised sports you still owe it to yourself to be physically capable and resilient for years. You were meant to move and are meant to move for a very long time.

If you want to practice living strong and fit in this style, please do get in touch. I will be developing personalised real-world routines and creating set routines soon to share with you all.

Yours in health,

Jamie

Get Up Challenge Updates

The challenge continues with every day explorations of our most commonly practiced get up drills at FitStrong.

Today I spent roughly 10 minutes after my main daily routine of Deadlifting and Pressing etc (ask if interested) playing with the ‘side bent sit get up’.

Here’s the time-lapse video.

And here’s a guide to the side bent sit get up:

Get Up Challenge

Earlier this year I spent a few weeks and posts describing a variety of ‘get up’ exercises. For some, the act of exercising getting off the floor and back down again might seem odd, a waste of time (“what muscles does that work bro”?) or best directed to the circus performers, but really, you never know when it’ll come in handy.

Here’s an example. Let’s call our subject Jim. After much waiting, Jim finally got his triple hernia operation. I must add, his hernias arose from his employment demands, not the gym. Anyhoo, surgery went very well but Jim learned very quickly post surgery how the get up technique applied to getting out of bed. After having your abdominal wall poked around at by a surgeon, crunching up and getting out of bed is not a good choice. Using your hip to roll over to get up out of bed made perfect sense.

Here’s the Strength Get Up

Back to the Challenge

If you are a kettlebell fan, you’ll probably be aware of the Turkish Get Up (aka TGU) but there many other forms of get up drills to help you develop mobility, strength, ‘fitness’ and to learn how to operate the one piece of hardware you’ll own until death – your body. If get ups do something great, it’s just that – building physical autonomy.

Over October I’ll be dedicating 10 to 20 minutes daily to practicing the following get ups:

I’ll post these when I can here, my private Facebook group (yes, I am back on FB but with limited purpose) and my Youtube channel.

To get going, here’s todays 10 minutes of Turkish Get Ups

Want to join in?

Study each or any of the above get ups and practice for 10 minutes a day. If that’s just Monday to Friday, sure that’s fine too. You’ll gain many benefits from frequent practice. Not killing yourself with huge efforts mind you, just simple, step by step practice.

You can still do your other training of course. Feel free to share your challenge on your own facebook etc but please use #fitstronggetups or even just post my sites link fitstrong.com.au

Got any questions?

Essential Strength Training for Cyclists

Here’s a training post I wrote for my friends at Queensland Kettlebell in East Brisbane last month:

In the 80s and even early 90s we were led to believe dietary fat was the enemy and that training with weights would make us too bulky. As a competitive cyclist this struck a deep chord. Who wants to lug extra weight around the countryside? 

‘Sigh’! 

When an average days cycling was done, you’d raid the kitchen of every known carb, lean meats including liver (often boiled) and then clean the bike before resting. 

The rules for rest went like this. 

Don’t stand if you can sit and don’t sit if you can lie down. 

The recipe of a cyclists life: Ride – Eat – Rest 

There was also no known reason to get purposefully stronger with anything else but the bike. Specifically yes, riding the bike makes you better at bike riding, but if you value one percenters and optimisation, spending just a little time in the gym can be the missing magic potion.

I only discovered the benefits of strength training during a year out because of my knee injury. I was left with no option but to do circuit training routines with a pair of York dumbbells with exercises I took from Flex or Muscle & Fitness magazine; the only reference for resistance training I could find in the newspaper shop at the time. 

Whilst not perfect, I had a strength routine of sorts to help keep up my strength and fitness and yikes, did I feel awesome when I got back to racing the year after, I even had these things called biceps and deltoids! 

My haphazard routine has thankfully been vastly overhauled since then. The cyclists I currently train follow a very particular recipe consisting of essential ingredients for both the bike and life. 

When programming for any sport, not just cycling, I believe it’s a duty of care to take into consideration life outside of the sport. I ask, ‘what will best serve the sport and not take away from other physical qualities, but add’?  Essentially, I want the individual to be more resilient and better equipped for their cycling whilst also being more useful for life overall. This also addresses some of the issues cyclists exhibit off the bike from feet issues, lower back and shoulder complaints. 

Cutting to the chase, here are my top movements for cyclists.

(Pictures for simple illustration only and not instructional purposes. Videos available upon request)

  1. Cycling Essentials:

Hip Hinging – deadlifts, both bilateral and single leg deadlifts and kettlebell swings

Knee dominant movements – Squats, both bilateral and unilateral, like kickstand squats and step ups

Crawling forward, backwards and inverted and rocking rush ups with varied hand positions. 

Balance Beam walks and balance drills

  1. Life Essentials:

Deadbugs, Birddogs and Rows, both 2 arm and single arm

Single arm Carries (suitcase, goblet, overhead) 

Get Ups. It takes a bit of coaching but proves a great tool to add to the toolbox.

Here’s a variation of the Turkish Get Up to consider

These two components are written into each training session, generally with the life essentials being built into the warm up and finishing sequences. The cycling essentials are placed after warm ups, when fresh. 

The weekly placing of each hinge and squat variation are dependent on the cyclists bike sessions but generally, the heaviest lifts are best early in the week with the explosive work towards the end of the week. 

Reps, sets and intensities are a bit beyond the scope of this piece but should be programmed so as not to compete with the cyclists racing / training calendar.

Generally though, developing the hinge strength should be a priority whilst maintaining stable, healthy knees with squat variations is important. No exercise should ever be taken to fatigue or muscle / form failure. Instead, I like to use an average of around 75% perceived effort. 

Minimum Effective Dose!

If pushed for a ‘program minimum’ for cyclists, I’d really have to recommend the single leg deadlift, swings, walking kickstand squats on a balance beam (yes, seriously) and backward crawling. Just for the laugh though, a ‘minimum program minimum’ would probably take the form of swings and crawling!

It’s always hard to reduce one’s work into a short(ish) blog post. There are always lots of variables when writing an individual’s program. 

If anyone would like to explore these movements further I am always happy to talk… or run a workshop to really dig in deeper!

Notes from two cyclists at FitStrong

Bashier:

A late comer to cycling, Bash took up cycling at 38 to shed a few kilos but ended up with the bike bug. Now 43 he competes in Mountain Bike endurance events around the world from Nepal to Italy. Since starting at FitStrong Bashier reports often how much more aggressive he feels on the bike, even at the top of a climb or after a sprint. His upper body strength now allows him to wrestle the bike over the trails rather than just surviving them. He loves that he never gets visits from the cramp fairy too. 

Bec: 

Bec started at FitStrong with a ‘broken body’ in her own words. On her first visit she presented with two sides of an A4 page listing every injury and surgery she had sustained from other sports and cycling. Bec competes all over Australia in Mountain Bike endurance races. After a short period of training Bec noted how much more connected she feels with her body on the bike. Her reflexes seem sharper, all the imbalances ironed out and her confidence is boosted too with much better upper body endurance. 

Got any feedback or would you like to explore these ideas further? Get in touch below.

Metabolic Training part 2

Last week I re-introduced metabolic training with MovNat Metabolic, their new online program. Here’s that post.

I’ve finished week 1 and was surprised at how the use of such various natural movements and equipments pushed me a bit. 30 seconds of effort always seems longer than 30 seconds of rest! Odd that, hey?!

I never got to the point of sharing my breakfast with the floor, but I definitely had to focus on maintaining my nasal breathing in the latter rounds when the efforts work on a continuous flow, or combo of the sessions movements. It felt a bit like a a last minute dash to get all the yard work done before dinner on a cold day.

It was cold mind you (which helps for this kind of training) but I followed up this particular session with a good 5km walk. It too felt great. The recovery benefits of a walk post training are lengthy and worthy of a good conversation at some stage soon. But a combination of gentle movement to untangle the fatigued muscles, pumping the blood around the body and the behind the scenes lymphatic system stimulation really aids in recovery. Much more so than plopping down in front of Netflix with a protein shake.

Todays movements include the side step up, vertical jumps up & down, push press, side swings on pull up bar and the tripod get up. A fine collection of contextual movements.

Did you know I provide online coaching? If this kind of training tickles your fancy, I would be more than happy to chat about working together.