Nourish your body, don’t punish it.

At FitStrong I help people get fitter, stronger and more mobile. Not just for the sake of it though, but to become better more useful versions of ourselves.

We work on the skills that lead towards our goals, building confidence, competence and physical autonomy without an emphasis on ‘busting a gut’ or ‘smashing out sessions’. I like to consider training as nourishing our bodies rather than punishing it.

If you know that you need to move better and stronger, why not book in for a chat about what you need and how I can help.

Here’s just one example of working on reactive strength, in this case – balance.

Are you future proofing yourself?

Heading to the gym to lift weights, run on a treadmill or cycle on a stationary is all fine and grand – good entertainment while getting your pump on or raising your pulse rate.

But, is it really natural physical development as per our design? If all you care about is burning calories – go for it. But if you’re invested in personal physical development to enhance your life and into the future, it probably isn’t hitting the mark.

What day to day tasks do you struggle at?

I used to struggle with jumping, more specifically the landing. Feet would hurt, knees weren’t sure what was happening and my back wanted to disown me.

Walking in the countryside entails a bit of leaping and what about those days when the heavy rain turns every curb-side into a river? You need to learn how to leap, jump and especially stick the landing.

So, are you future proofing yourself?

Sticking the landing

Forget Calories…We Move Better and Stronger

At FitStrong I help people get fitter, stronger and more mobile. Not just for the sake of it though, but to become better more useful versions of ourselves. 

We work on the skills that lead towards our goals building confidence, competence and physical autonomy without an emphasis on ‘busting a gut’ or ‘smashing out sessions’. I like to consider training as nourishing our bodies rather than punishing it. 

We don’t however use exercise to burn calories – what a waste of life that is. I do promote wholesome eating. Trust me when I tell you that any time you work on eating more vegetables, more proteins, more water and less processed foods; that great things happen. 

If you realise that you need to move better and stronger, why not book in for a chat about what you need and how I can help. 

Jamie

‘Just having some fun’

How much you Function bro?

Reframing functional training for the masses.

The whole ‘do you even [enter an exercise]’ phrase is a parody of modern gym culture with dudes and dudettes comparing each others infatuations in the gyms with one-another. “Do you even lift”? Condescending proclamation that you are smaller than me, or “Do you even bench bro?” Context: my chest is bigger than yours. Ah, what a wonderful day and age we live in! All in jest naturally but essentially such expressions continue to draw the gym and fitness world towards body part, size and looks focus. Isn’t it about me and not you?!

I’d like to jump in with my effort now albeit rather late in the game but with this question: “Do you even function bro”?

NOT FUNCTIONAL TRAINING

Functional training all started to become a buzz definition in gyms in the wake of its appropriate use in physiotherapy settings. What started at daily activity task specific training to rehabilitate poor movement habits morphed into taking elements of everything a human can do (regardless of efficacy) and turning it into a competition with oneself and others. This meanders into the CrossFit territory which has in of itself and training concept, exploded in popularity. CrossFit has done wonderful things for developing community based fitness lifestyles, bringing popularity back to gymnastics and Olympic lifting and for promoting gyms absent of machines.

My only criticism is that it’s conceptual training model of high intensity generalism leads to high risk factor exercise for the masses who do run blindly towards the high intensity functional training model when in need of a dose of exercise. Nothing wrong with HIIT from time to time, but it needs to be timely and appropriate – not a fix for all. This though is no longer a CrossFit problem but a greater problem in the pop-up copycat gyms who are jumping onboard the model, both in terms of the pursuit of high intensity training and business.

Generalism is a fine approach to improving ones physical capabilities and indeed, us humans are perfectly designed to be generally adapt at all physical expectations. We have evolved successfully by walking, climbing, running, jumping, carrying loads, picking up loads, squatting, pushing and pulling things, rotating, explosively moving and moving with intricate detail and control.

Modern human is potentially losing many of these qualities at a gross scale, but that’s a conversation over a stiff drink sometime.

Adding high intensity to complex movements is where the line should be drawn however.

The value system for many fitness organisations and programs has a broken gear box, where 5th gear seems to be the only gear. If you’re not breaking a sweat and breaking down with fatigue there’s a “what’s the point?” attitude. However, as expert generalists we shouldn’t be applying high exertions to every function we can perform. Whilst some activities like running (safely) and walking uphill lend themselves well to high efforts, snatching a barbell (intended for single repetition efforts) for multiple repetitions is a complex movement with a high risk to reward ratio. So too are all movements requiring fine skills.

If we value functioning as a better human shouldn’t we practice and develop our exercise skill and quality culture rather than fatigue culture?

What if we used our gym time as contextual strength and fitness practice and development?

As much as I love to finish my training sessions, I certainly don’t rush them to the detriment of movement quality or risking injury, or to beat some arbitrary time. I focus on completing the task at hand well, better than before but within my capabilities. My comfort zones might get shoved gently to encourage adaptation but I’m certainly not allowing ego to take over for some imaginary trophy at the end of it!

The goal is to keep the goal the goal. A now famous quote from coach Dan John. It shouldn’t require definition. My goal, everyones goal in performing physical training should be progressing positively our health, fitness and strength outcomes. It’s not a race but a credit based scheme we keep adding to until we might need to make a withdrawal. For instance, when your partner hurts an ankle during a bush walk and you’ve to support them or carry them back to the car. Or when the car breaks down and you’ve to push it somewhere safe. Maybe something more sporty, when you place high priority on the winning now and health later! Most sports fall into this realm.

Much recent sports science research supports the gradual moderation approach to long-term progress rather than transient (brief) benefits from a 4 week smash in the gym. It seems the body holds onto the benefits of our physical practices from moderate efforts with only occasional higher efforts, well planned in a training cycle.

Contextual Training

Exertion levels aside, the choice of our strength movements are really quite simple. I’ve left this last part for the end of my chit-chat.

Ask yourself this: What does your life require you to be stronger at?

Early I mentioned the general physical qualities we excel at. Let’s look again:

Walking, climbing, running, jumping, carrying loads, picking up loads, squatting, pushing and pulling things, rotating, explosively moving and moving with intricate detail and control.

If you called these 12 categories of strength and fitness, you could take each and slot in a variation that suits your needs.

Whilst walking, climbing, running are simple without much variability, the carrying, picking up, squatting, pushing, pulling and rotations will most definitely have some personalisations.

If you’re a mother or father of two young children these will have very specific personalisations.

If you’re a labourer you will have your own personalisations too, as too will sports people, people who sit or stand for a living and of course the elderly will have a set of strengths and skills required to make life better.

That is the goal isn’t it – to make life better.

I used to love heavy barbell squatting, bench pressing and even bicep curls but to be honest, I got bored after a while once I achieved what I wanted from them and I got frustrated once I started to pick up some overuse injuries. It stopped being contextual to my life. That was up until 2012. Things have evolved since then thankfully.

There is nothing wrong with having a movement specific goal but overall, using gym time to add to the quality of our lives should be priority and using programs that are contextual to our own lives is in my opinion, a step in the right direction.

To continue this conversation on a personal level, if you are intrigued by contextual training for your life, please do get in touch.

Until 2020, have a very Merry Christmas an awesome new year.

Jamie

Just Turn Up and Add to the Bank of Health

If there’s one message for achieving success that I’ve heard, been told, read or observed, it’s this; show up. I was reminded of the very same by coach Dan John during a weekend workshop last month. ‘Just turn up!’ Many of his successes over his athletic and professional career occurred by chance… that is after turning up to an event, competition or taking the opportunity to write an article for a popular fitness magazine.

It can be said that success does leave clues, and it’s pretty clear that being in the right place at the right time is sure to lead to many an adventure, misadventure, offers and opportunities. But if you ignore them until ‘next time’ or for ‘another time’, you’ll have missed the gun and lose time, the one thing you can’t get back.

Everything we do now on a routine basis is because at some stage it became a habit. Either as a necessity or as something we started. It was a habit in the making. It might not be a habit any more, but during the process of forming it, it was becoming a habit. Now it is just part of life. But, to create it, something had to start, we had to turn up in sorts.

Opportunities are created by us not others – we just have to turn up, be there, say yes. 

Now, what the heck does this all mean in the context of my area, health and fitness? My first job in fitness back in 1997 happened when I turned up for an appointment at a physio and asked if he knew of any jobs going in the gym upstairs. And yes, sure enough, there was… ka-ching! ‘Winner winner chicken dinner’ as they say’. In the mid 90s I had a wonderful time living my dream of the day, racing my bike in Europe on a shoe-string budget. How? I turned up at events often, got noticed by people and got offered an opportunity.

  • A former client with a life changing back problem hated turning up to the gym every Wednesday morning but he did. He’s now a former member because his life turned around again because he did turn up regardless of his emotions. Now Dave runs almost every day, has climbed Everest (I jest not) and he’s a new man, a much lighter, happier and healthier man to boot.
  • Robyn turns up to the gym three times a week even though she’d prefer to be sitting at home, feet up with a cup of tea to recover from her totally crazy, busy family life. She decides to turn up, work through her mobility and strength routine and goes home again a little bit better than 45 minutes previous.
  • Jim decides to make his life healthier by working on eating more vegetables. He turns up to the grocery store instead of the bakery to buy his least detested vegetables haha. His goal is to buy vegetables he enjoys, to add to at least one meal a day to begin with at the most. Little changes made often will grow over time.

That is the goal of this piece; to demonstrate through a few examples how making little changes often can make them a habit, then a normal part of life, all the while adding to the wealth of health, adding to the bank.

How often do you hear of people taking on big, new goals or challenges, only to either never start them or to blow up in overload due to the enormity of the task? They took on more than a reasonable amount of change than they could cope with. That isn’t a reflection of their poor resolve, it’s just being human. We thrive best on small and often.

Dr BJ Fogg lectures at Stanford University in human behaviour and specialises in habit formation. His very successful program Tiny Habits which I have taken a few times, works on the principle of taking the smallest amount of the target habit and doing it with / after / when you perform an anchor activity. An anchor is something you do as part of a normal day, like going to the loo, brushing teeth, pass by the front door, wash dishes etc. By building the familiar pattern of doing something new with something simple and frequently occurring, the new habit has the best chance of itself becoming a normal, everyday activity.

I use this principle daily for my own newish habits. Some I don’t call habits any more as they just happen, they just are because I turned up. I’m not doing the best job at expressing what I’m trying to tell you here. It will take me practice I guess to explain how the simple acts of turning up and making small changes can have very large, longterm benefits. But that’s where I am and hey, this is only a blog, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I just sat down in front of my laptop and started typing instead of having a coffee with an episode of the Simpsons haha

My Grandfather told and taught me many things when he was alive but one thing he encouraged me to embrace was offers. “Never turn down an offer, always say yes”, he told me. He was right.

Never turn down an opportunity.

Yours in health,

Jamie

12 Week Challenge

Are you one of those people who just plod along regardless in your training? I’m often a fan of just turning up to the gym, doing what’s on the plan and moving onto my next to-do item. Other time however, I love to charge forward with a challenge.

If you are this way inclined and love the occasional challenge, our 12 Week Kettlebell Challenge will tickle your fancy.

This 12 Week program addresses essential components over 4 week blocks with plenty of opportunities to hone and fine tune your kettlebell skills as the intensity gradually increases. Best suited to the trainee with experience with kettlebells but, tutorials are provided throughout.

The online program is easy to follow … why not check out more information here.

click here

 

What’s included:

  • Detailed program with video demonstrations and teachings
  • Ongoing support for any of your questions at the click of a button
  • Downloadable content for easy access a the gym
  • Access to other valuable online content

Got any questions? Ask below.

Move Stronger Challenge

Like oh so many people in early January, getting stuck into a new exercise regime will be high on the agenda. I argue though that before you start pounding the pavements or start hitting the weights, you need to address how well your body moves.

Introducing the 29 Move Stronger Challenge

This challenge is a daily exploration of one movement or a focus on moving better, one particular area of the body. The aim is to add to your physical wellbeing, mobility and strength conditioning. (Conditioning = an improved ability to undertake a task – got it?)

All you need to take part is a bit of space to move and between 3 to 10 minutes a day to play with. You can even make these part of your warm up before other exercise sessions!

Interested?

The daily challenges will be presented via FaceBook on a closed page for 29 Day Move Stronger participants to interact with, share progress videos and such.

To join up, just ‘click’ ==> HERE 

You’ll be sent an info email with what the challenge is and isn’t and link to join the Facebook group. Ooh, and it is totally FREE!!! 

Lift Strong, but Move Stronger!!

Hope to see you there.

Jamie
FitStrong Brisbane

Do Cyclists really need a strength program?

‘Investing in your health and the future of your body is one of the most powerful commitments you can make with yourself.’

Whist this a great mantra to live by generally, it is also incredibly important to keep in mind when you’re a specialist. Like cyclists for example.

I was once upon a time an immensely dedicated cyclist. It became my career for a while until an untimely injury took me out of action. To some degree, looking after the health of my body may have prolonged my career but, oh if only I knew then what I know now… sigh!

Cyclist may spend anywhere from a few hours per week to up to 25+ hours per week on the bike. This specialisation is what get us addicted to our shiny steeds but specialisation also results in imbalanced physiology. Essentially, whilst some muscles become awesome

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That’s me at the front 🙂

at their task, other muscles become overworked and underworked. Addressing this latter point forms the bulk of the overarching intentions of an intervention strength and mobility plan.

Now, a strength program to a cyclist may invoke mental images of Arnie in his hay-day, all lumpy and swole and spending hours in the gym pumping iron. Maybe a slight exaggeration but to the inexperienced it’s an assumption that to get stronger, it will require quite an investment of time.

Actually, the kind of program a cyclist may need to help maintain the balance in their physiology can start to offer benefits with as little as two 30 minute session per week, or less. So no, you don’t need to become a protein drink swilling meathead. ‘Phew, you can relax’!

An effective program for a cyclist would start off addressing the torso. The torso or what some may refer to as the core is what ties together our hips and our shoulders. Pictures those long bike rides, a hill climb or a dreaded head-wind… it’s no longer our legs that are doing all the hard work. The upper body all of a sudden has to join in the party. But if the torso is unconditioned or fatigued, it’s not going to play ball and then that’s when we realise our shortcomings as the lower back and arms get tired. Watch an experienced and well rounded cyclist take on a hill, a climb or any stressful situation and it’s a thing of grace or beauty almost. The whole body moves fluidly to get the job done.  Compare that to an unconditioned cyclist who seems to wobbling, ducking and diving to wrestle their bike along the road…. not very graceful looking is it?

If we were to take a minimalist effective strength program for a cyclist, what would it look like?

Without going into too much information or specifics (we’re all special snowflakes so that’s hard to write anyway for the masses) here’s a list of what would need to be considered.

Mobility:

The rather crunched up posture of a cyclist is a necessity for a bike ride, but can leave the body feeling a bit stiff in all the wrong places. An effective training session would kick-off addressing this. The movements in particular would offer a ‘reset’ of sorts to unwind all the tight corners of the torso, hips, upper back and neck in particular. The Original Strength program designed by Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert is a fantastic solution in this case. The system they promote uses the fundamental movements of a developing baby to toddler to child to address what we as adults should have retained and maintained over the years. The rolling, rocking and crawling moves prove a real gem at both loosening what up tightens you and switching on what needs to be activated.

Yes I am biased as we use this daily in the gym but only because it works and it’s so easy it looks like it shouldn’t work, but it does, so there!

Stability:

Strength training for the most part is a process of getting the grey matter in your head communicating better with the body to recruit more muscle to do a task with more ease. It’s not the process of growing muscle although that can happen (if you’re not careful haha). When the brain muscle communication is swifter the body reacts better and hence reacts to instability more readily. You want a wobbly body on the bike or a stable power-house?

What movements would be used in a routine?

This very much is a personal thing but here goes, a generalised list (with links too):

  • a full body mobility routine as discussed above (Original Strength)
  • single leg knee, hip dominant moves like a lunge or a step up
  • single leg hip, knee dominant moves like a single leg deadlift variation
  • explosive hip dominant movement like a properly taught kettlebell swing or a deadlift
  • abdominal dominant movements like a dead bug, plank variations and loaded carries like farmers walks.
  • Upper body pushing an pulling strength moves but not the bench press! Let’s move on from that.

 

Okay, yes, this is very vague but the specifics of what to choose depends on the individuals level of ability, aches, pains and what is available to use.

Any particular movements don’t need to be taken to maximum efforts, but sustained technique with a moderate level of exertion for as few as 5-10 repetitions for a few sets.

Routines could be laid on over a leisurely 60 mins or could be packaged up into a circuit or into a fun complex to get the session over in as little as 15 mins!!

It may seem a little confusing, I know. I’ve just told you how important it is to get stronger and more mobile yet I’ve not given an exact plan to follow.

Here’s an offer for you

In the new year 2018 I am launching a program just for cyclists that will focus on all that I’ve spoke of here. The intention is to offer options of simple one-to-one sessions or small group training sessions for times that suit the busy lives of cyclists. I certainly don’t want to take away from precious bike times, that’s for sure.

I’ll be offering this as a 6 week program but for limited numbers of applicants as I want to offer a great service which can be sacrificed with large numbers.

If you are at all interested in getting stronger as a cyclist and want to work on eliminating the frustrating aches and pains that maybe keep you off the bike from time to time, get in touch below. You can use this too to get put onto the early registration list… no commitment is required of course.

 

Oh, and wait, if you are not local to Albany Creek (Northern Brisbane suburb) I will also be putting together an online program will be nearly as good as the in-person program.

Interested? Let me know using the contact form above.

 

One Simple Move to Build a Healthier Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

The progressions are simple:

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

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

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

 

 

Good luck.

Jamie

Men Wanted … for Thrivival!

Survival vs Thrivival!

Wow, now that’s a mouthful. Hopefully it got your attention whilst everything else on the internet vies for your attention too. 

Right now there is a growing population of men entering into their 40s and heading towards their 50s, me included. We’re faced with a couple of issues in this age category. There are some of us who have been physically active since leaving school who may have picked up a few tweaks along the way. Of course, there are some too who have been either lucky or strategic (whether intentional or not) to have avoided any injuries, aches and pains. 

There are also those of us who got side-tracked after school or college and now wonder what happened to that 30″ waist and the last 20 years.

At this point, as a 44 year man, father and husband and full time trainer, I’m looking at my daughter growing up and wondering about chasing grand children around and still being able to contribute in another 20 years time. I don’t want to be like so many other 60+ men who have fallen from physical grace, struggling to achieve even the most basic of day to day physical tasks. 

But, I am man who prides himself in being able to move well without pain, who can still throw around the weights albeit with sense and planning and I still want to and plan to do just that for another 20, 30 maybe 40 years. If I can age like the late and great Jack LaLanne, still active and leading by example in my 90s, then I will.

I won’t get there by chasing arbitrary numbers in the gym, beating myself up along the way like so many other gym rats in pursuit of a random goal. I will succeed by practicing the skills of strength and mobility pertaining to what I enjoy, what I need and want to focus on. In fact, this is exactly what I have been doing for the past few years along with most of my keen and eager gym members and friends, practicing the skill of strength. Members have progressed to be able to exercise without pain, regained confidence, lowered stress and have been able to get fitter and stronger than their 10 year younger selves. 

No pain, know gain.

Thrivival (just the word I’ve coined for this piece) is about thriving in our own lives so we can live, long and happy, pain free and able to contribute to the lives of our family, community and circle of friends. 

I don’t want to go into a lengthy, explanatory article here, but I want to invite other men like me, to discover how to still train for strength, to move better without creaking and find a way of exercising that isn’t threatening, but empowering. 

Nuf said!

To recap, I’m looking for a small bunch of men aged between 40-50 (maybe older, why not) who are looking to improve their health, strength and fitness but, without getting busted up along the way. 

Men who want to:

  1. Move without aches or pains
  2. Leave a training session feeling better than when they came in
  3. Rediscover how to use your own body to get stronger and tougher

Spots are limited and I’m looking for men who want to start now between early morning sessions and mid morning sessions at least twice a week.

If this is you, please fill out the form below.

Jamie

 

Just a very, very small glance of some moves we practice.
The list of options for YOU is huge.