Getting Fitter and Stronger the Easy Way

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

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

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

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

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

Swing

Elevated Rock

Kettlebell Press

Rocking Push Up

 

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

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

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

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

Anyway, the good stuff – the results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best Training When Stressed!!!

I’ll never shy away from sharing my love of my family, especially my daughter. She’s the smart one who will support me in my old age, you know, spotting me when doing handstands.

Anyhow, this morning on our way to school she brought up the subject of stress and asked how people should exercise to manage stress. She’s got exams and homework and is starting to get exposed to the kind of baseline stress we all live with. I went on to explain how there is normal every day stress and then those times when we get too stressed, and then balanced off by anti-stress, the things that make us feel good or relaxed.

This got me thinking afterwards about all the times adults want to exercise out their life stresses – is this really the best way to deal with high stress situations?

Before watching the video, here are a few terms for you to read:

  • Baseline stress is all the average, everyday stress we live with and accept. Bills, work, stuck in traffic, cold, heat, regular exercise, the final moments of your weekly dose of Game of Thrones and the silly argument over who forgot to buy the beetroot and almond dip and stuff like that.
  • Stress and excess stress results in a hormonal response in the body that releases more cortisol and epinephrine – the stress hormones that fuel us for fight or flight. This is referred to the Sympathetic nervous system response.
  • Anti-stress or the opposite of high stress is relaxing, chilled out and happy. This is the Parasympathetic nervous system kicking in.

We need to have exposure to both of these to develop as fully capable humans. Indeed, without exercise stress we would not be able to progress, to get fitter, stronger and more intelligent. As a species we have thrived on a finely tuned balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

However, when we expose ourselves to too much stress, things go wrong. We get sick. High stress exercise is the last thing we need to add to our lives when we are stressed. Whilst carrying out the basics of our normal exercise routine is fine, adding more exercise stress in the form of high intensity intervals can be a ticking time bomb on our physiology.

Adding relaxing, resetting practices to our exercise schedule is a must during periods of above baseline stress.

We choose the Original Strength movement system as a way to reset our bodies prior to training in the gym and on recovery days but if you like the idea of yoga, gentle walking or listening to your chilliest of your music collection, do that.

That’ll do me for today. I look forward to my daughters next question but if you have any questions or wonders, please do ask.

Jamie

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.

 

 

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.

One Simple Move to Build a Healthier Back

If you’ve ever had a sore, stiff, twitchy or achey back, you’ll recall that you would do anything to get rid of it.

Whilst a couple of pills or a massage might help in the short term, they do nothing to address the underlying reason the back get annoyed in the first place.

In the majority of cases a causal factor is poor strength and mobility throughout the body. The inability to stabilise the spine in awkward position with poorly conditioning core aka torso muscles may result in tweaks and strains and the inability to place the body into awkward positions due to over tight muscles will also lead to increased risk of strains and pulls.

Without going into a lengthy post, I want to share something that helps most people most of the time to strengthen their torsos and in particular, spinal stability.

One movement series we carry out daily is the Birddog. So named due to fact you look like a hunting dog pointing at its quarry.

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The Birddog consists of kneeling on hands, knees and feet (initially) and extending a leg and opposite arm whilst maintaining posture and balance.

The progressions are simple:

  • Hold the limb extended position for a number of seconds.
  • Extend slowly throughout the set.
  • Add in flexion of the torso to bring a knee and opposite hand, forearm or elbow into contact.
  • Keep the feet off the floor at all times.
  • Keep the knees off the floor at all times whilst performing the Birddog on the foot and hand.

The videos below demonstrate these and really, they can be quiet challenging even to those who consider themselves ‘barbell’ strong.

The basics are always mastered before progressing to the next level.

 

 

Good luck.

Jamie

Let’s Get Mobile Albany Creek

For 4 days only, at FitStrong PT in Albany Creek I am offering exclusive access to our Mobility Conditioning program.

WHAT IS MOBILITY FIRST-OFF?

Flexibility and the movement of our main joints without strength control is pointless and opens us up for injury. Mobility therefore is flexibility with strength and integrity.

[HERE, I discuss mobility in more details]

As children we ran, jumped, moved around like little hyperactive monkeys and we never pulled muscles or strained ourselves. We had the original strength we were made to have. Then, via years of being in education systems, seated and then being stuck in a chair either for work or a sedentary lifestyle as adults has led some us to be immobile, stiff, sore and easily strained.

Screen Shot 2016-03-18 at 8.00.19 PMThe FitStrong Mobility Conditioning Program is designed to help us reclaim good movement, posture, strength and fitness.

WHEN?

Over the Saturdays of July 2016 at 11am I’m offering an extremely affordable way of accessing this unique program for just $10 per session.

Each session will last 45 mins and cover a variety of reparative drills, movements and challenges and to be honest, it’ll be fun too.

Bookings are essential as only 5 sessions are available per session.
To book, just get in touch below or email jamie@fitstrong.com.au

RUN OVER THE FOLLOWING SATURDAYS:
9th, 16th, 23rd and 30th.

 

Motion is Lotion

A wise man once told me how motion is lotion. How true these words ring with me.

Let me explain.

I’m getting older and I seem to be training greater percentages of people in my age demographic. Yes, I still train people much younger and older than me who present themselves with their own physical strengths, limitations and goals but, what I see in everyone in their late 30s to 50s is really quite specific.

frustrated-woman

The pain points that resonate are both actual pain points as well as intrinsic pain points and drivers. The problems facing each of us include:

  1. Posture related issues from years of working behind a desk
  2. Old sports injuries or other acquired injuries and strains
  3. Stress from work and modern life
  4. Lack of exercise full-stop

These are the problems or burdens of course, the pain points are deeper and emotional. Lets look at the above list to develop the pain points you may see reflected in yourself.

  1. Posture issues = pain, stiffness, sore heads, poor sleep. These things are what you want to feel less of and experience more of the opposite.
  2. Old injuries = almost as above but if you exercise or still desire to participate in your sport of choice, you might want a way to still exercise, play sport but without the old injuries resurrecting.
  3. Stress = relationship strain, poor work performance, no balance or escape. You simply want away from those stressful environments to work on activities that are not stressful. Play, fun, uplifting physical activities have been shown time and time again to help cope with stress.
  4. Lack of exercise = feeling weak, unfit, old, achy, tired all the time, unable to cope with stress and pretty much most of the above! If a lack of exercise is acknowledged it can be daunting and confusing deciding how to start an exercise plan.

For all these issues, the salutogenic factor is the lotion of motion.

Motion is the purest and simplest remedy to many physical and emotional strifes.

manky_old_trainer_by_heitchbee

Old Trainer!

As a trainer, getting older, with a list of old injuries from sports, early gym endeavours (yep, I made a fair few mistakes in the early years and I paid for those experiences) I can empathise with my peers. Now, 5 years ago I would be advocating all the big barbell lifts. Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, Military Press and flipping big tyres but you know what, as fun as they are, they just a few things we can do, should do and are designed by nature to do.

Moving well should be the first priority, long before a barbell should be hoisted up for action. If we can’t move ourselves through a variety of positions, then should we really be attempting to move a heavy external load? If you feel you can answer that with an honest rational, then please do.

We owe it our bodies to best prepare it for life and all nature has planned for us in the future. How do we do that then? By just playing with movement.

I’m not saying to drop the kettlebell or barbell exercise, don’t get me wrong, I love my kettlebell training but, I probably wouldn’t be able to do exercise with kettlebells or bars if it wasn’t for the other ‘stuff’ that I play with.

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I’ve always loved calisthenic movements, even though I play mostly with the simplest, rudimentary forms of them but, they keep me lubricated,  greased and ready for doing the heavy stuff.

In the past couple of years I’ve been introducing more body movement activities, from the systemised Original Strength to other movements, and less heavy activities especially for my age demographics. Mostly, the pain points get addressed, actual pain is reduced, the sense of wellness increases and one great testimony I receive is …

I leave the gym feeling better than when I came in!

That right there, is what I want to help more people with. But, to start with, I need to get more people on board with doing more body weight exercise.

The problem most exercisers have with unloaded body weight exercise is that they see it as something too easy, something real beginners do cause they don’t have weights equipment to do trix with yet!

kill-bill-volume-1-silly-rabbit-trix-are-for-kids

And yes, Trix are for kids, but kids mostly still move and play…..AND SO this brings me to close this rather lengthy post.

This week I’ve introduced a Strength Mobility Challenge to FitStrong.

No weights, no kettlebells, just three body weight movements most people can do.

You are more than welcome to give it a try and post your results below. I’ll be running open events for FitStrongers to give it a go too and of course, I shall undertake the challenge very soon myself.

Here it is:

 

 

 

Good luck, move well, move often and smile 🙂

Jamie

I’m not flexible, I’m mobile!

A large component of my training focuses on moving well and that’s a journey I started after old sports injuries slowed me down and made my life a general discomfort, a stressor and forced me to stop a lot of the things I enjoyed… Gosh, what a miserable way to start a blog post!

Let’s fix that right now.

In the present day, I move a lot better, pretty dam well by average standards, my aches and pains are largely under control and I do get to play more, running around the bush (countryside for non-Aussies) and swing, press and squat my Kettlebells. Life’s generally rocking sweet \m/(><)\m/

IMG_0314When I share my training sessions or demonstrate some movements I get called bendy or flexible, “ooh, you must stretch all the time”, they say!

Actually, I do only one stretch most days (video below) but I do practice a fair amount of mobility.

Now, mobility isn’t just a description of not being confined to a chair for large periods of time as it often applies to some of our seniors. Mobility is something much more, but also includes the ability to get out of a seat too.

Mobility is NOT flexibility!

Flexibility describes the movement of a joint or the range of movement of a limb or torso often with the aid of gravity pulling upon it or a force being applied to it. Think of the hamstring flexibility stretch where stretchees (think I just made up that word… mmmm) sit on the floor, grab their toes with the legs straight and pull themselves forward. Or maybe a chest stretch with an arm pulled backwards against a wall or a post. Whilst these are fine stretches to temporarily relieve a general tension, mobility adds a much more applicable element, that of strength and integrity in the joints.

A lot of our daily practices from sitting, prolonged standing, chronic stillness to even sports can, over time, lead to a lack of good movement or the ability to control a limbs movement without restriction. These are often due to imbalances or over dominant movements, but that’s a topic for another day.

The Dangerous Deficit

Aye, that heading does sound like a bad title to an even badder book about finances but it’s not.

While being able to move to a certain range of movement before the body stops us is our flexibility, being able to use our strength to attain a full range of movement is mobility. Where there is a large difference between the two, a movement deficit, there is a greater risk of injury during physical activities.

Being able to control a movement to a certain point is done so with control and integrity, but once you go beyond that point, is there still control and integrity? Nope. The chance of injury has now increased and should loading be applied… well, the risk sores higher.

So you may be asking if flexibility is bad, well, no. It’s the difference between your flexibility and mobility that’s the problem.

You can be flexible and mobile but should not be flexible and immobile.

You clear on the message? If not, please get in touch and I’ll happily elaborate further…. and check out the videos below 😀

Everyone’s got to have the sickness

‘Cause everyone seems to need the cure

-Metallica

Yep, stiff and sore people are flailing their bodies around gym mats in the hope of curing what ails them and their tight this, that and the other, but dammit, what they need is to get stronger in their movement practice.

A mobility plan doesn’t need to be very hectic, painful or even that challenging to begin with. Like every physical endeavour, mobility training can be taken to extremes and I’m all for progressing but for most of us and definitely beginners, a slow and reasonable routine should be followed, practiced and really ‘owned’ before looking at advancements for their enhancements!

Where to start?

Well, I’m a lovely young man, well that’s what the old people describe me as and everyone else doesn’t think too badly of me either, so I’m happy to share some simple demos below just to give you an idea of what could be included in a personal mobility plan.

If you like reading, check out the Original Strength books from Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert, it is probably the one system that has influenced me the most.

The simplicity of mobility training makes it often an easy component of exercise to ignore or belittle, especially when the movements may look odd, unloaded, don’t require any equipment etc. But by embracing an every day practice without duress or stress can lead to great outcomes in physicals wellness which will include improved strength.

These are some of the basic mobility drills everyone can and should play with on a daily basis.

Rocking:

Segmented Rolling:

Windshield Wipers:

Squats:

Frog stretch: by Master SFG Jon Engum

My only stretch:

Brettzel Stretch 1.0:

Brettzel 2.0:

Click HERE for other mobility sessions. 

You really don’t have to make a big deal about mobility practice. It’s just something to build into a daily habit and may mean starting with just on move that you feel adds to your day. Maybe something that frees up an irritating tight spot or a movement that is fun or inspires you to get on with your day with vitality or maybe a mobility drill that you find challenging like crawling.

In any case, the point here is to find a movement practice that you will actually practice. Just get it done, thrive and move on with your day.

As an example, here’s an actual example of what I do early morning before my first clients arrive.

This year I’m running frequent  Mobility Workshops. If you would like to attend, please get in touch to get onto the mailing list. (no junk, just notification of upcoming workshops)