The direction of virtual / online training is evolving at FiStrong with specific directions for the key areas I coach.
Generally the online membership has provided programs in a rotating periodisation. From a well rounded healthy program to a hypertrophy based program to a strength based program. The membership site also includes many random 10 minute works outs but honestly, I see no value in these. I gave into peer pressure to provide random acts of exercise. Haha
The rotating program periodisation works great in the gym under my supervision but I acknowledge that’s not the way many online customers want to train.
Moving onwards, I will be providing training programs, or products in three categories.
Health and movement focused.
Fat loss focused.
These will be thorough programs with updates as and when I see the need to update any methods or refinement.
These will be one time only purchases rather than a subscription.
The current online membership content will continue to be available for a one time only purchase. The content of this membership amounts to over 5 years on continual training at this point. That’s quite a volume of structured programming and still very valuable, but it’s not the direction I want to continue with.
To access the library of online membership programs, it can be found under ‘services’ tab on the main website menu. Click the button below to be directed to this site.
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.
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.
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
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.
Aim for 5 to 10 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Aim for 10 to 15 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
Aim for 15 to 20 minutes a day of accumulated floor time.
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.
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
Do the work.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
Much of the time people exercise to accomplish an outcome, a result or even just for the sake of it, because it’s healthy, to burn energy, calories or time!
Whilst just working-out is fine, wouldn’t it be awesome if our exercise endeavours actually prepared us for the physical needs of an active life?
Having bigger muscles might seem like an ideal, but really, when you’re getting old, no one will care how much you benched, how big your guns were or how many insta-likes you had. “What’s instagram”? They’ll ask!
What really matters is how well you will function.
Can you balance, carry heavy ‘stuff’, climb, step up, crawl, run and jump? Can you get to the ground and back up effortlessly?
Strength training with machines, bars and dumbbells and kettlebells are great tools. They will build specific strengths, but they don’t always carry over to the real world apart from building general resiliency. The human skills to move and age with strength, power, purpose and fitness is something that takes a different form in the gym – if indeed a gym is even needed.
At FitStrong we practice all the usual strength exercises from squatting, deadlifting, pushes and pulls etc but we back these up with heaps of practice of natural movement, real world strength and fitness skills that will support you during the weekend gardening spree, house renovations, that big weekend hike and much more over the coming years.
If you’d like to chat about this and how it fits your lifestyle – let’s catch up.
I can design you and your family a routine I can take you through at FitStrong or the local park, or make you a follow-along at home routine, with any variety of things you may have lying around. Traditional gym equipment is not a requirement!
Even though gym restrictions are lifted (and hopefully will stay that way), I am happy to meet virtually with video conferencing, in the park or of course, at my outdoor covered training area in Albany Creek.
I 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.
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.
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 nervoussystem 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.
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 fillyour 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.