Want to Train like a Badass?

My thoughts about what being a Badass in the gym means and looks like.

Everyone likes lists – yes? Here’s a list of 20 Rules and Tips for training like a Badass.

First off, what is a Badass in the gym? It’s not (in my honest opinion) the tough looking gym goer with the scowling attitude or the dude with the big Beats headphones or the girl with (whatever is in right now) or the loudest, strongest meathead. It doesn’t even have an appropriate hashtag (#tbc)!

The badass is the one who trains and moves every day to be better than last week. The true badass is more capable, physically competent and isn’t concerned with who sees them ‘workout’. They are the useful person you call when you need a hand moving furniture, pulling out that tree or helping out with all the stuff that’s challenging in life. The badass is a great all-rounder. The badass knows how their body works. The badass just gets the job done. 

  1. Get strong, but move strong too
    • Fundamentally, if you train, you should ideally be working on moving better and getting stronger. Moving includes walking, climbing, getting to the ground… and up. Being flexible and free to move your body as you need when you need. Strength – see below.
  2. Lift, push, pull, squat and carry – a simple recipe
    • The fundamental movement categories humans are designed to be strong and able at include these. Progressively develop your scope and range of strength in each of these.
  3. Learn liftings common features
    • When learning the strength movements above and mobility drills, you will observe common features, instructions or rules and such.
  4. Move as nature intended
    • The human body is built to move and manipulate. Before recent times we had grown superior to other mammals because we adapted so well to our chosen environments. Physically we developed aptitudes and skills like getting up and down from the ground, walking, running, jumping, throwing, balancing. carrying, climbing, lifting, resting in a deep squat, catching, pushing and pulling. It behooves us to maintain that which made us the species we are today. You can clearly see the evidence of the lack of these aptitudes in the sedentary.
  5. Build capacity
    • We ‘are’ built to do more than just leg day, arm day and chest day. Practice all our abilities and every now and then work them together. Lift something, carry it, push it, throw it. Practice good form of course, but challenge yourself a little, maybe getting a little out of breath. Do try to maintain nasal only breathing though.
  6. Turn up
    • Turn up, show up, just start – all refer to the same notion. Do not hesitate and grab opportunities. Many stories of success start with someone meeting and talking to someone they wouldn’t normally talk to. Many successes start with going to an event not normally attended. In 2008 I begrudgingly attended a weekend certification for this stupid looking thing called a kettlebell. At the end of the weekend my curiosity grew. Two years later I certified again under the worlds most intense Kettlebell certification (RKC), I met some of the worlds best coaches and many new doors of opportunities opened for me. Cliche time. If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always had. Just start, even if it’s a small gesture.
  7. Lock away the ego
    • That extra rep, that extra grunt, going hard or going home; really has no place in a sensible, healthy strength, fitness or wellness plan. Yes, hard work is fine when part of a planned program, but if you treat every session like a competition against yourself – it’s a losers game. Injury is high risk. Being able to move well the following day is hindered. Repeating a training session with the same effort will become more and more difficult. Follow a good plan, lock away the ego and smile for gods sake when you’re in the gym. There are way too many serious looking grumps with attitude in gyms these days.
  8. Meet your body where it is
    • There are those old words of advice, ‘listen to your body’. To listen you have to let your body speak. This happens best with routine movement. The more often you move the more familiar you get with the feelings, sensations and limits of your own body. Some days you’ll feel like a super hero and on other days! Well, on some days you’ll wonder why you even got out of bed. However, remember point #6, Turn Up. Meet your body where it is on any given day. Adjust your program. Don’t compare yourself to your training peers or social media performers. You be you. You are your own special snowflake 🙂
  9. Do not punish yourself with exercise
    • I seriously do not know how this sentiment exists. The concept of subjecting your body to abuse because you chose to eat something you regretted is a matter best referred to some serious time alone to consider your life choices. You really need to know your why. Why you eat what you eat. Why you feel the ways you feel after eating. Why you exercise. Why you value yourself and life. Rant over. Each and every time you exercise, it’s an opportunity to better yourself, not beat yourself. Enjoy food, but know and practice knowing when to stop. Again, enjoy food, It’s a gift. Learn to adorn yourself with exercise methods you enjoy, look forward to, reap benefits both physically and emotionally.
  10. Be safe, effective and efficient 
    • In the hardstyle kettlebell method, we say that anyone can swing a kettlebell between their legs but still not perform a kettlebell swing. The same can be said about just about any other strength and movement aptitude. To do is not enough. To do well with skill should be the goal. Keep in mind too, that this applies not just to physically demanding movements, but to everyday, seemingly simple tasks. Standing, walking and twisting are everyday moves but done with poor conditions leads to gradual breakdowns. “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” —Lou Holtz
  11. Stop looking at the socials for inspiration – just stick to the dam plan
    • Referencing this to both training and nutrition coaching, most failures occur as a result of not following the plan. ‘Jamie, I just didn’t get much out of this program’, says the individual who came to train fours times out of six scheduled appointments! ‘That diet didn’t work, even though I only cheated on a few occasions!’ Stick to the dam plan. This then shifts to looking for inspirations from make believe role models in social media. A brief glimpse into someones workout of the day, meal prep is just that – brief. You may not see how the rest of their day rolls. Their life is theirs, yours is yours. Be you. You deserve it – now get back to the plan.
  12. Use various equipment and objects and ‘see point 3’ 
    • I had one of those epiphany moments a couple of years ago when a gym strong woman struggled to move a large plant pot (empty) from her arms to the floor! Here’s a woman who can lift heavy kettlebells, but can’t lower a common ‘thing’ to the ground. The problem? She couldn’t contextualise her training to the real world. Our gym is now populated with a bigger variety of objects to train with. Not expensive equipment, but things you can find around the house and garden. That paired with building scenarios in the gym can really help to relate the movements we practice in the gym with real world physicality’s.
  13. Don’t rush – work on just getting better
    • Progress is not always a numbers game. Adding reps, KGs, volume, time, speed are all great parameters to adjust and grow. But what about competency? I actually overheard a cashier talking to a co-worker yesterday (I wasn’t eavesdropping, honestly) about how she put the bar thingy behind her head and went down when her knee popped! She is referring to squatting of course but her words and tone told a story of incompetence and unfamiliarity. Move strong to lift strong. Spending time learning how to move really well in the big archetypal movements before adding loads should make sense. ‘Should’, but doesn’t often happen these days of instant gratification. Better is better. You can’t rush better. Just spend time enjoying learning about yourself, and progress.
  14. Never work to failure but embrace the suck sometimes
    • Getting better (see above) at anything takes skill. Skill is practice. Practicing in a stressful environment rarely results in developing good skills. Imagine shouting at a student to learn quicker, stressing them out, getting them all sweaty, hot and bothered and mouth breathing! Learning requires attention in the absence of stressful distractions including working a movement or muscle to the point of failure. Detailed research and anecdotal observations both support training in the effort range of 60-75% of maximum to attain training adaptations. Naturally, to discover those percentages you have to (every now and again when the time is right) get a bit uncomfortable and work up to relative technical maximums or near to. This is not max max, where the trainee collapses in a heap of, well, physical failure. Guided testing is fine when appropriate but should not be a frequent training objective. Practice makes progress. Failure makes for a day in the operating theatre at some point.
  15. Plan your recovery, self care and maintenance
    • All the gym time in the world is useless if you are not recovering adequately. Recovery first of all isn’t plopping down on the sofa and chilling out with a protein shake and a season of Stranger Things. Recovery entails nutrition and hydration for sure, including planning out meals, shopping accordingly and eating it of course. Great things happen when we eat more proteins and vegetables and cut back on cardboard carbs. Sleep is the highest priority when it comes to recovery. A crappy nights sleep can derail your day and turn you into a Gruffalo and ruin your training session to follow. Aiming for 8 to 9 hours should be a goal and as I’ve learned recently, the hours before midnight matter more than those after. Yup, off to bed early. Other areas to work on include joint and muscle recovery with a solid mobility practice like Original Strength and booking in for a monthly massage. If that’s not an option, a foam roller or Therapy Gun are great additions to your self care tool box. Ideally, self care every day. Move well, move often.
  16. Play, explore
    • ‘Why so serious’? Great line from a great character in a great movie. Whilst we shouldn’t be planning the downfall of Batman or the city, we all need to play more. Adulting is serious for sure, but having fun feels good, and you guessed it, feeling good feels good. Taking time to explore other ways of moving apart from pressing, pulling, squatting etc should be part of your weekly routine. You just might surprise yourself with some latent skills. You might just be one of those people who can hand stand, pistol squat and jump over tall buildings without knowing it. Go explore.
  17. Eat like an adult
    • Sorry, I’m gona hurt your feelings perhaps! A diet consisting of biscuits, cereals, chocolate spread on toast, fish fingers or chicken nuggets and chips isn’t going to take you to your health and fitness goals. Okay okay, a very infrequent, every now and then indulgence isn’t going to cause havoc but, making processed foods a daily occurrence is a failure to eat like an adult. Eat a variety of vegetables, preferably from local(ish) farmers. Eat naturally occurring proteins, meats or otherwise. Cook with naturally occurring fats rather than factory processed oils. And choose naturally growing carbohydrates when fuelling up is needed. Spices, herbs and some condiments are great to make most kitchen concoctions flavoursome galore.
  18. Embrace the process towards your goal(s)
    • Over many years of training I have discovered, seen and read how focussing on the goals are fatiguing; fraught with distracting stresses. Impatience can ruin many a goal by failing to focus and work on the skills of the processes that ultimately leads to the goal. I’m not one of those people who was blessed with the natural ability to perform a pistol squat. I could barbell squat 200kg at one time but couldn’t do a pistol squat. However, once I started following a progressive skill and strength plan, the pistol squat organically grew out of the honing of all the other skills. Like many others, I loved the steps of the journey towards the pistol squat aka the process, and the final outcome, the pistol squat was a nice end to the journey. But, without following the process, I would probably have given up after many failed attempts at just trying to ‘pistol’. Enjoy the process and let the outcome happen.
  19. Love your strengths but develop your weaknesses
    • Specialisation is a very (modern) human trait. Specialists are admired for their prowess in their specific field or expertise. Odd really considering how limiting of our potential the restraint of speciality is. In the gym, the specialist is the bench guy, or the squat queen, or the person in lycra obsessed with spin bikes. Sporting individuals too, meet the category. But, what other physical qualities are left untouched on the proverbial table when we become a connoisseur? Well, the physios treatment table is often where we’ll find the evidence of a singular focus. Imbalances in posture, muscle tone, strength and such are side affects of speciality. There’s nothing wrong with having a passion, but we are simply not designed to specialise. Humans thrive on being generalists, great generalists. But, we can still love our strengths so long as we still look after other areas. Love your bench press? Well, identify your weaknesses and develop them. Love your cardio? Trust me, get a little stronger and your cardio will reap the benefits. The same goes for the iron lovers – get your cardio in and look back at number 16, find fun ways to get your cardiovascular training.
  20. Be an example
    • You never really know when you’ll be required or challenged to use your strength and fitness. Training can be a great past time, but ultimately if it’s not adding to your health and longevity plan, what is it doing? Like number 19 above talked about loving your strengths and developing your weakness, also identify your usefulness. Demonstrate that often. Use your physical abilities to help others, to be useful. In turn set an example of this practice to your peers, your partner and your children if you’ve been blessed with them yet. Don’t let ego dictate your actions, let the love of helping lead your actions.

‘The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind’

William James

Learn More About:

StrongFirst

MovNat

Original Strength

Animal Flow


If you’ve got this far…

…Great. You’ve got a framework to start evolving your movement and training mindset. But, I’m not ending this here.

Next, I want to share the ‘then what’ or the ‘what if’, for any of you who have a curiosity about your health, fitness and optimal potential.

All of those 20 rules or tips are fine, great even. I aspire to each and every one and encourage my clients to do the same. If you live by these as standards, you will go far.

However, without being lofty, by achieving these you could maybe consider yourself passing level 1 in a multi-level computer game as it were. The ‘then what’ or ‘what if’ quest I am now proposing is to challenge the rules, the status quo. 

To understand why the rules exist, the how and why they are important you could explore the yin to the yang. What is the boundary, the opposite, the polar or even the compliment to a movement, your comfort level, the foods you eat? Stretch, compress the guidelines. Would you commit your usual 1 hour of practice to an extended 5, 8 or 10 hour period.? Would you take just one movement and dedicate an hour, 1 week, 45 seconds even or a month to practicing it? What would happen? What could happen?

Could you not sit in a chair or such furniture for a day? The floor is a very welcoming environment if you give it the chance.

What would happen if you went to your gym and spent the whole time exploring your ability with crawling? Yeah, they might scold you for ‘being different’ or it might open a dialogue for a very forward thinking conversation.

What if you confront your fear? What can go wrong if you try that cartwheel you’ve always wondered about?

If you scan back to point # 10 – Be safe, effective and efficient – it makes sense. Being safe is clearly an obvious factor to sustain but don’t mistake safe for being comfortable. Uncomfortable is not painful.

Effective is a confronting subject matter for many stuck in their dogma. While there are set in stone methods to achieving effectiveness, there are other ways you might discover. Tim Anderson, co-founder of Original Strength has recently completed the RKC (Russian Kettlebell Challenge) certification without using kettlebells. He crawled, climbed, sprinted, carried ‘stuff’ and trained with everything except the kettlebell. Imagine that. A very specific outcome with a very unconventional method.

Efficiency is skill and aptitude based and dependant on many factors. The commonality in these factors is frequent exposure to exact, very similar or similarish demands. You can see the common features in many fitness, strength and movement elements. You just have to spend time in and exploring them.

I am not saying to push your boundaries in everything you do. But do play the pendulum swing in everything to understand your own ability. I can guarantee there will be naysayers but that’s typically what happens when paradigms are nudged and wrestled.

You might just figure out that your dogma is faltered, validated or just not important. There is no wrong in what you may find.

‘No person is truly free, who is not Master of themselves

Epictetus

Got something to add? Get in touch below.

Where’s your Head at?

Head nods are some of the greatest restorative movements we can practice on a daily basis. Where the eyes go, the body follows but that can be inhibited by poor neck mobility. It’s not uncommon for me to see people increase their toe touch movement by just carrying out a series of head nods.

The vast majority of us live with occupations that sees us with a forward or dropping head posture… then we head home and do some more. Practicing restorative head nods isn’t necessarily going to improve our posture at work, but it goes a long way to feeling better, and feeling good feels good.

Additionally, the head hosts our vestibular system, our balance central. Every sensory system in the human body runs through the vestibular system and every muscle is guided by messages from the vestibular system. Good head movement, without restrictions helps to fine tune our vestibular system and thus our balance, coordination and senses.

Let’s look at head nods then:

Please get guidance from your physiotherapist / chiro / medical practitioner if you suffer from neck injuries, prior to commencing restorative neck movements.

Got any questions or feedback? Get in touch below.

Why StrongFirst?

I get questions often from clients and friends related to why I spend so much time and money attending certifications and why always the expensive ones!

I am not wealthy. Comfortable, yes. My wife and I do ‘invest’ from time to time in the lotto haha but with no success. So, I don’t choose to invest because I can but because I want to.

What I want in particular from my investment in my own education is value (not cheap), quality, no nonsense education and skills.  Just as important, I want to invest and learn subject matters that I consider important to share with my students and clients. Matters that match my personal and business ethos.

***NOT A RANT***  In the fitness industry it is really quite easy to attend any number of certifications and in most cases, in areas that require no depth of experience and even demonstration of time-spent skills, practice, patience and immersion. In other words, you bulk up continued education credits so you can keep your insurance by attending courses you’re not that invested in and walk away with a certification to teach others. You don’t have to be that good at the ‘new thing’ to teach it! I don’t believe our students and clients deserve this level of standards from a professional. Don’t get me wrong, there are many wonderful people in the fitness industry that I look up to, but most attendees to courses rarely shine. It’s no wonder that most personal trainers last only up two years before packing it in.

I was drawn to the Hardstyle methods of kettlebell training by Pavel Tsatsouline back in 2009. The methods he wrote, demonstrated and talked about were so detailed, precise and based on both scientific research and personal experiences teaching many, many people to become stronger, more mobile and able individuals. His Russian accent sure made his allure all the more compelling.

Unfortunately I didn’t have an option at that time to travel to the USA to attend a certification and instead (sigh!) opted for one of those fitness industry courses that both left me intrigued and wanting more. ‘More’ happened two years later when we moved to Australia from the UK and I got the opportunity to attend Pavels RKC (pre StrongFirst). The preparation for attending was vast. It was made very clear that 60-65% of attendees fail to pass certification due to poor preparation. You didn’t just turn up and leave three days later with a certification paper. You earned to title of SFG through proficient demonstration, teaching, professionalism over the long weekend and the extensive preparation leading up to the event. It was expected that you had spent time with the kettlebell in action, became skilled and strong enough to get through the certification weekend without the distraction of pain and suffering. The certification weekend was an exercise in testing, learning the hows, whys, principles and sharpening our skills further.

This is why I love StrongFirst or more clearly, Pavels ethos and principles. Training with kettlebells is not about just getting sweaty and forging strength with pure grit and effort. There is the execution of great technique, skill and programming methods to develop lasting strength and conditioning as well as the ability to drawn upon many tools in a teaching toolkit to help the masses. Indeed, the many cues, tips and tricks learned over that three day weekend stays with me every day when teaching.

The level of expertise within StrongFirst with its master trainers, team leaders and collective of instructors makes StrongFirst one strong business and school of strength.

Below, Joe Rogan had the immense privilege of interviewing Pavel. Getting time with Pavel outside of workshops and seminars is rare, so this video is well worth the time to watch. Keep a note pad and pen handy though. There are many learning points to grab hold of.

 

Other than StrongFirst

Apart from StrongFirst, I invest in my education with other great training organisations that similarly teach principle based methods.

If you have read this far, I would encourage you to look into Original Strength and their wonderful movement restoration system.

If you move well and have retained your youthful skills and agility, I would encourage you to look into MovNat and their real world natural movement system. If you want to move with the autonomy, physical competence or become a strongly functioning human in real world of contextual settings and programs, MovNat has a lot to offer. It may just be the way forward in general population health and strength.

Got any experience with StrongFirst, Original Strength or MovNat you’d like to share? Want to learn more about how to incorporate these wonderful systems into your training? Get in touch below.

Jamie

Exercise for the Over 50s

Put away your slippers and forget that advert on the TV for the retirement village because the fountain of youth is very much within your grasp. It always is and always will be.

Okay, so yes, age has a cruel way of catching up on some people but in most cases only because it’s let to happen. You read that correctly – It’s a choice to allow age to slow us down.

Maybe it’s the assumption that we are meant to stop moving as much as we get on a bit or maybe it’s laziness aka too tired or maybe it’s the ‘I’m too busy to exercise’ like exercise to stay fit, strong and mobile is a luxury we choose to avail of.

Copy of Beechtown Market

Physical ageing is very much a choice we make. Being fit, strong and mobile is a choice we have… an easy choice actually.

Your body has been created to last your whole life and adding knowledge and wisdom to the equation adds to your strength of being and character too.

We are meant to be strong, mobile and capable at 80, much like we are in our 20s. No, that’s not a pretentious or lofty statement but very much a reflection of what can happen if we choose to be active throughout our lives.

At FitStrong we have a small group class designed for the over 50s. Believe it or not we work on all the movements those in their 30s work on. We squat, carry out pushing and pulling movements, carry weights and lift things up and put them back down again. I’m not going into details as we do regress these and progress them as and when needed.

However, the elements that culminates in the greatest successes is the ‘other stuff’ we practice.

These elements are taught at the Original Strength workshops by Tim Anderson and the team and after first experiencing in them in 2015 I realised that these movements and practices (yes I’ll get to them in a moment) really are the missing links in adult exercise and we’ve all done them before… back when we wore smaller clothing and watched Tom and Jerry on the little TV in the corner.

Yep, how we moved when we were children was how we developed into stronger, fit and agile young adults and we were meant to continue that process of living actively. But, high school, college, university, that 9-5 job and everything that we piled onto our schedule kind of shoved the exercise into the, ‘must do when I’ve got time’ list of chores!

But, moving well and staying strong is not a chore, it’s how we are made. Denying our body these stimulations leads us down the road to frailty, unable to bend over without pain, never mind touch our toes or run up a flight of stairs.

The big 5 movement categories that we did as children also reinvigorate or reset adults. Just like hitting Ctrl, Alt, Del on your keyboard to reset your frail computer, resetting our bodies can allow us to slowly regain more youthful movement, strength, agility and overall fitness.

The big 5 movement categories?

Simple. If you spend any time watching the kids move around when toddlers, you’ll have noticed how they lead every movement with that big head of theirs, despite it being considerably heavy compared to the rest of them. They rolled from their front to their backs and vice versa. They rocked until they discovered crawling which ultimately lead to getting upright and without an athletic coach, discovered how to climb, walk and run. You’ll maybe have noticed how they didn’t actually suck in their guts. They actually used their abdominals to breath… the way we are all meant to.

The 5 movements:

  1. Breath Abdominally
  2. Move our head around with control
  3. Roll on the floor (rotate our bodies)
  4. Rocking on all fours (move into deep hip positions like squatting down)
  5. Crawl (use our four limbs to move in a gait pattern, left leg, right arm move together etc)

What Adults don’t do so well?

  1. Breath Abdominally. Many adults chest breath as a result of fatigue and stress.
  2. Move their heads. Many adults complain of stiff necks and an ability to look up, over their shoulders or even tuck the chin into the neck accompanied by frequent head aches.
  3. Rotate. Not quite rolling on the floor but it’s the same movement pattern. The ability to segment our lower from upper body in movement is a vital ability.
  4. Get into a squat position. How many adults can rest in a squat position? Sadly not many due to tight hips, ankles and knees.
  5. Whilst adults do not travel on all fours like toddlers and babies, crawling taught us gait movements. Yet again, many adults fail to move well when walking, jogging and running. It should be smooth, proud and comfortable. However, watch people out walking around, running and such and you’ll see activities that far from resemble smooth, proud and comfortable.

Ooh, let’s break the doom and gloom theme of that last section. Our bodies are wonderfully created and have the capacity to rebuild and ‘reset’ to its former glory.

Getting stronger, fitter, healthier all start with getting back to basics and doing these often and doing them well. It doesn’t need to be a military bootcamp session either.

Walk, look around you beyond the screen of your smart phone, stopping sucking in your stomach, don’t avoid the stairs and probably most importantly, get down to the floor… and yes, get back up again and consider checking out how well you do move. See below.

Coincidently, many under 50s are benefiting from practicing these resets too. Maybe being younger, the feeling of losing some mobility is a new and unpleasant experience compared to those who have lived with being stiff as planks for years on end.

Do I need these resets? 

I don’t like standards in general as they attempt to generalise qualities but, the following are movements we should be able to do without discomfort in the absence of any recent injury or trauma.

  1. Reach your arms fully overhead without arching your back. Can you stand, back against a wall and reach your arms overhead to touch the wall without taking your back off the wall?
  2. Sit into a resting squat. Can you bend your knees and squat down so to rest?
  3. Touch your toes. Can you keep your legs straight and hinge over to touch at least the bottom of your shin?
  4. Can you stand on one leg and balance for 10 seconds?
  5. Look behind you. Can you stand upright and rotate through your neck and shoulder girdle to see behind you?

Just 5 standards. Did you answer Yes to all? If so, clap yourself on your own back as a big well done – mmmm, and if you can’t do that then maybe read on. Just read on anyway!

If you answered No to any of these, you have a need to address your mobility issues. Indeed, a lacking in any of these qualities can result in aches, pain and injury. These qualities are simple, given human movements we can encounter in any given scenario. How about a quick look over our shoulder and ouch, a neck muscle spasm? How about dropping your phone or something and quickly trying to catch it and ouch? How about scrubbing the bath tub and pulling a back muscle?

These few examples are actual stories from clients I have worked with. Thankfully they are all fine specimens now.

Where am I going with this (longer than expected) blog post?

I am so passionate about helping people to move better so that they can live a strong and mobile life that I want to share the programs I run. I’ve lived in pain in the past and that forms one of my ‘Whys’ in my business practice. I really don’t want to see other people living in pain when they can in most cases* allow their bodies to fix themselves.

What I want to share

30 Minute Discovery Sessions

It’s hard to plan how to get to point B in a strength and wellness plan if we don’t know where point A is.

The 30 minute discovery session offers an opportunity to discover your starting point, discuss goals, concerns and leave the session with a clearer direction in mind.

The session includes:

  • Movement screen to see how well your body moves.
  • Goal Discussion.
  • Clarity on what direction you could take next to achieve your goal.
  • Answers. An opportunity to ask all the questions you have.

How to start? Fill in the contact form below.

Private Sessions

The next step towards your goal is following a step-by-step training program. Our programs are designed rather than just random workouts. Training sessions in the gym focus on building up movement skills, learning how use that wonderful body to press reset, and slowly say goodbye aches and pains. Repetition is key to success in every endeavour and especially so in physical wellbeing. To help gel new habits we’ll agree upon suitable homework tasks.

Ready to take control? Fill in the contact form below.

Mobility Workshops

Over the cooler months of May to October I will be running a series of workshops that will help you learn how to reset your movements, help you find ways to move better so that you can pursue other physical goals or simply to help you get on with life without those niggles.

Dates and times to be confirmed but get onto the early bird list here.

 

If there is anything you would like to know, please do get in touch. I am here to help.

Jamie

 

 

*Yes, in most cases general stiffness can be self addressed but in some cases when really neglected, muscle tension needs to be encouraged by the skilled hands of a therapist. I know some of the best in the Brisbane area and am happy to share their details – just ask.

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.

 

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.

Why You Need Crawling in Your Life

Crawling is awesome and it’ll boost your fitness, strength, coordination and give you killer abs in just minutes a day…. hold on haha, that’s just too short, a bit like an infomercial and to be honest, not telling the story very well at all.

I re-discovered crawling in the past few years and I can only praise the movement and thank those for bringing to light just how awesome crawling is. I literally owe my ability to do more things now (note: and without pain) than I could even when I could squat 200kg!

So, what’s all the fuss about? I’m sure you may have seen some news reports on TV or in magazines etc. so, let’s start here, with a couple of observations.

Walk into pretty much any gym and what do you see? People exercising is probably your first thought before getting to details like running, cycling and rowing on stationary machines. You’ll note people too, in some very solid metal structures doing seated exercises for their legs, arms and back etc and yep, you’ll possibly see some people squatting, pressing and lifting barbells and dumbbells. Probably 90% of all this myriad of activities look impressive to you and to be honest, well done to those individuals for making the effort to rock up and exercise. Doing something is better than doing nothing at all you’ll agree, but, that’s where I’ll turn this around a little.

Most of the gym activities look fine until you look under the hood of what’s not happening or should I rephrase that as ‘not required to happen’.

A few big components missing from most gym training especially on sturdy machines is balance, stability and in particular reflexive stability.  The structure of the machine and its moving parts that you press, pull or whatever, takes away the natural movement from you. So, whilst you do get to target a few specific areas or body parts, it is far from being a whole and human movement as all you end up doing is moving in the directions that the machine allows for.

In life when you need to perform a physical task, it’s your whole body that’s expected to react by means of reflexes to undertake the task.

We learned these reflexes naturally when we were kids. We moved around, explored our environments, stumbled, fell a few times but got back up and made improvements. Our balance, reflexes and control of our whole body became awesome.

We developed our original strength.

Sitting on a machine is far from this natural awesomeness!

Now, it’s not just gym machines that I’m pointing fingers at. Many other elements of modern living have enabled physical non competencies and allowed our bodies to forget what human movement is.

Between sitting too much generally, at work and at home and rarely getting to the floor for any reason, we are gradually forgetting what our human movement is and we’re gradually losing connection with our bodies. Our bodies are losing grips with the simplest of activities we’re meant to be able to do comfortably and without risk of strain!

I know, that last bit may read a bit woo-woo, but seriously. Look around you at other adults, and not just our seniors and check out how they move, kneel down to tie a shoe lace or pick up their child. It shouldn’t look like a labour, but in most cases it is.

Soooooo, before I get much more righteous, what has crawling got to do with this demise and doom’n gloom etc?

First off, crawling is a movement pattern that’s natural but much more importantly I consider the act of crawling as a great big switch.

Let me explain

The crawl is indeed something we all did as young kids to move around until we discovered the ability of walking. It prepared and taught us quite a bit. Check out the learning list:

  • The movement pattern of gait; crawling, walking, climbing, running, sprinting with a simultaneous opposite arm swing. Seriously, try walking or running without your arms and you’ll figure out that it sucks!
  • It ties together our bodies muscles and developed the reflexes that allows for balance and coordination.
  • Head control. keeping that big mellon of ours steady whilst we moved around.
  • Develops eye body communication.
  • Develops mobility and stability in the 4 knots of the body; the two hips and two shoulders.
Why is this important for an adult, why do we need to crawl then?

In the quickest and easiest way to rationalise the why – adults are failing to move well.

In communities where adults have to move around frequently, get to the ground and back up easily and frequently, they move well generally. They walk tall, with good gait, arm’s a swingin’ and they probably don’t suffer the same lifestyle related issues compared to those communities who choose not to move often.

The simplest demonstration and practice of a crawl pattern is the static crawl and crawling in place.

Check out and even try this ‘Cross Crawling in place’ explained by Mark Cheng

If you can do this successfully then you’re in a good place physically. Struggle, wiggle and wobble a little? You need cross crawling in your life.

Now, let me explain one thing. The crawl as practiced by an adult should be used in my professional opinion as a tool to wake up dormant muscles and to reactivate forgotten movement skills to repair our function, posture and general wellbeing. It’s a tool that should be a in tool box with other great, purposeful health and fitness activities.

While it might get you a little out of breath, it’s not a fitness solution alone, not an interval tabatta tool or something that should be rushed or raced through.

On that note, how to crawl

There are a variety of methods of crawling from baby crawls which keeps us on our toes, knees and hands to more progressive variations like the spiderman crawl and leopard crawl.

To begin with, the baby crawl is where is starts. Mindful, slow crawling with the head up, looking where you’re going and having fun exploring the ground in the crawl position. If this proves a challenge, the crawling in place as per the video above is a great solution.

The spiderman, leopard crawl and other variations should only be practiced once the baby crawl is controlled. By control, I like to test this by having myself and clients do the baby crawl with a water bottle or yoga block on our backs and trying not to let it fall off whilst crawling. If our hips are dropping, balance falters, then we need more work.

To learn more about how to carry out the more advanced crawls, please watch the following videos but, in all seriousness, I really think more people need to start out at home practicing the baby crawl for a period of 1 to 5 minutes then getting up an moving on with daily activities. If this challenge is overcome, then the world of more fun crawls awaits.

Leopard Crawl

No space to crawl?

Multidirectional crawling

And, here’s Original Strengths Tim Anderson talking about the Spiderman Crawl

If you’ve managed to read this far, maybe you’re interested and you’d like to explore crawling more.

If so, fill in the contact form to arrange an introduction to your ‘core’ and crawling.

Peace,

Jamie Hunter

FitStrong Brisbane

Albany Creek, Qld 4035