Monday, February 28, 2011

What Do You Choose to Be?

Imagine "adversity" is represented by a pot of boiling water.

If you were to drop into the water, what would you be? A carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

A carrot becomes soft in boiling water, and loses most of what makes it good to the water....

An egg becomes hard, with the center being difficult to reach.

But a coffee bean... ah, the coffee bean. In hot water, a coffee bean creates something new and wonderful...

So - when facing adversity, what are you? A carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?

~ Alwyn Cosgrove (submitted by Guy)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thank You For Not Smoking

As I was listening to the radio on the way in to work, I heard that New York City will be banning smoking in 1,700 parks and 14 miles of city beaches - the City Council approved the smoking ban bill by a vote of 36 to 12.

Cities from Maine to California have already banned smoking in public beaches and parks. Smoking is banned in Chicago parks with playgrounds and in Los Angeles city parks.

Never having been a smoker, I don't understand the appeal but what I do understand are the statistics - study after study has shown us that smoking can kill. What doesn't make sense to me is how knowing this, people continue to smoke. Not only are they hurting themselves, they're also forcing those around them to suffer for their idiocy as well - imagine losing someone you love to smoking. It seems counter intuitive to do something that has been proven to take years off of your life but, I guess it's as the quote says, "sooner or later, everyone stops smoking," lets just hope that most stop sooner, rather than later.

~ Sasha

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stay in the zone

One item of training equipment we require all of customers to wear is a heart rate monitor.

It is an extremely simple method for us to monitor training intensity and ensure that when we are not at our cusotmers side, they are working as hard (or as easy) as they should be. It has become a very effective tool for health and fitness participants at all levels.

One thing I have noticed from prescribing countless heart rate training zone recommendations to individuals is that often they feel that the prescribed heart rate is to low.

In fact - I have heard these exact words so many times I have lost count: "these numbers cannot be correct - they are way to low! I cannot run that slowly"

Example: A customer of mine is training for a marathon and after getting Anaerobic Threshold (Lactate threshold) determined, we were able to set her training zones according to this threshold heart rate, which was at 149b/min.

This is a very reliable way of setting up heart rate zones and allows us to assign specific heart rate values to each and every training session.

For example, the Sunday long run had a prescribed heart rate of between 122 and 140b/min. The goal was to have an average heart rate of between these 122 and 140b/min because that would mean the majority of the running time was spent within the correct training zone (Z2 and Z3).

The purpose of this training session was to
  1. Enhance Aerobic metabolism via Lipolytic and Glycolytic pathways
  2. Develop mitochondrial and capillary density
  3. Improve economy of movement
The actual session date showed an average heart rate, at the end of the run, of 151b/min with a maximum heart rate of 167b/min.

According to the heart rate numbers determined through her Anaerobic Threshold test, this average heart rate would have placed her in a zone just above her Anaerobic Threshhold, meaning that a greatest percentage of the time she spent running was in fact anaerobic and not aerobic.

Feedback was that the intensity of the run felt good, and conversation was held throughout the run. But this is not the point of training with a heart rate monitor.

The intensity at which work was being done was in fact not enhancing the aerobic pathways one little bit, in fact, it was doing the following:
  1. Increasing muscle strength and strength endurance
  2. Enhancing race pace tolerance
  3. Increasing speed at threshold.
Clearly a Threshold training session and not a Long Slow Distance run.

The point I am making is that each intensity illicits certain adaptations within the body, and if the same intensity (stress) is applied to the system every time training occurs, then we cannot expect to see a well balanced physiology and ultimately, a desirable outcome on race day performance will suffer.

My advice - listen to those in the know - such as your coach and your trainer. They are the ones with the knowledge and expertise to help you realize your goals.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Rest = Recovery

When you plan your week, including work, family and fitness - do you make sure that you program enough sleep as well? My guess would be that the answer is "no" - or, perhaps something as grand as "I'll sleep when I'm dead", said half-jokingly.

Well, the truth is that you may be hampering your enjoyment of life by taking this approach - in a very cruel twist of irony, in your effort to take life for all it's worth, you're actually getting less out of it.

How much sleep a person needs is, by and large, determined by the individual. Some may be fine on 6 hours, while others need as much as 9 hours. This fluctuates as you get older and can also be influenced greatly by what you're doing during the day (the more physical effort you're putting forward, the more sleep you'll need). But the mistake that many of us make is in seeing sleep as an option - something to be squeezed in when you have those open moments. However, given how important it is, I propose you take a different approach to it - and make an appointment for yourself on a daily basis with the Sandman. Figure out what your optimal amount of sleep is in a day, then schedule that time, like you would an appointment with a trainer, a client or a banker. Then - follow through on that commitment.

Just like proper nutrition is key in a successful fitness program, so is getting enough sleep - trying to "tough it out" is like running a marathon on an insufficient amount of fuel... at some point you're going to hit the wall.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Be the Sore Thumb

This week has been an interesting one in terms of watching friends & colleagues succeed. This week a dietitian, a health coach, and a fitness coach friend were all featured in their respective newspapers; as well as 2 fitness expert friends being on TV in their local markets, and a great friend and fellow swimupstreamer being asked to give expert advice for X-Weighted TV Series' blog.

What strikes me is that in their own way, each of these success stories has been credible and knowledgeable in their own field in their own way for some time- but sometimes it takes a few years or even a few decades for people to come around and realize that the good advice has been there all along.

It comes down to name recognition. If Bill Gates or Nelson Mandala speaks, people listen. The fact is, they were once just an annoying little voice that went against the grain.

If you want to be different, and you want to make a difference, you have to be willing to be seen as different, persecuted, judged, dismissed, and everything else that comes with the territory of evoking change.

Put in enough time, and the very people who judge you will be asking your advice on "how'd you do it?"... which is exactly why you need a strong reason why you are passionate about evoking change. Applause from the crowd is too fickle, and too far into the future - to be the source of your motivation.

Know the difference you want to make, and why - and then take advice from another sore thumb (Ghandi) - "be the change you wish to see in the world".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A few things to consider before you get started

We are moving through February at a furios rate and if you live in the northern hemisphere the end of winter is in sight.

So with the warmer and longer days on the horizon, our thoughts begin to turn toward the events we have lined up for the coming months.

There are a few questions I would like you to ask yourself:
  • How did you end your events season last year?
  • Was your body feeling good?
  • Were you injury free?
  • How was your mental head space?
  • Were you a little frazzled from all the training and racing or were you still motivated to participate.
These are all important points to consider before embarking on the 2011 program.

If you were injured, physically depleted or mentally flattened there was certainly an issue with your approach to training and how you planned your events season.

So before you jump into the deep end of the pool and get "gung-ho" about the approaching season, take a step back.
  1. Evaluate your training and racing in 2010 - what did you do well and what could you have done better? Do not make the same mistakes again.
  2. If you suffered through injury - seek professional assistance and advice on how to avoid the same issues arising in 2011. Perhaps a running analysis by a Physiotherapist. How about getting your bike fit done right? Even getting a correctly structured training plan will make a huge difference.
  3. Be realistic - about your training and events schedule. Is it viable in terms of all your other commitments. Get the balance right.
  4. Keep it fun - when training and exercise are fun and you are 100% engaged, chances of decreased motivation and burnout are reduced.
The key is to do everything in your power to make the coming events season the best one yet - and not fall into the same cycles as you perhaps did in previous years.

Remember: If you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always got!

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Have a Confession

I can't help you lose weight. Neither can any other personal trainer, performance coach or strength and conditioning professional. We can help you strengthen your core, improve your flexibility, get stronger, faster, more agile... but we can't help you with the weight loss. Only you can do that, and the only way to do so is by changing your eating habits. Any trainer who tells you otherwise is either naive, delusional or willing to say whatever they need to in order to get you to sign up. Possibly all three...
Maybe admitting that is going to hurt my business - but so be it. If I don't say so, then your departure may be inevitable anyway - because if I don't say it now, then in three months' time (when you've lost no weight because you still eat like crap), you're simply going to think I'm making excuses. If I tell you this right at the outset, then at least the conversation at the end of the quarter isn't "Well, here's why you didn't lose weight and it has nothing to do with me..." - it's "I told you so".
So before you ask your trainer or coach what you need to do to lose those "last 10 pounds", ask yourself how ready you are for the answer....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Not Enough Time?

"The future is something that everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." ~ C.S. Lewis

You only get one shot at life, and as time goes by, days go by, and years go by, you don't get them back. That's it - one opportunity to make the best out of your given time. You will never suddenly have all this extra time because guess what, you don't find time - you make time.

Are you setting time aside for yourself, or are you wasting it doing something else? Like maybe ...coming up with excuses? Isn't it amazing how much time we have to rationalize and create excuses for ourselves. You should think of time as being equal to life. Replace the word time with the word life from now on. When you don't have enough time, you don't have enough life to reach your potential. Time = life. What do you want in your life?

Whatever it is, make the time. Or decide that your life is not worth it. If you don't have time now in your life, then you'd better have time to regret never reaching your potential. The pain of having regrets far outweighs taking the time to plan your day.

Not having time should no longer be an excuse. Make time to accomplish what you want in your life because you will never get back lost time. Stop making excuses and simply ask yourself, "Is this the best use of my time right now to get me closer to my goal of becoming what I want to become?"

~ Sasha

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

It's in the detail

The modern world is driven by trying to continually enhance the efficiency of our systems. Doing things faster, and not always better, always looking for an "easier" way to achieve a desired outcome.

The Health and Fitness industry is no different.

All around us there seems to be a drive toward quantity and not quality, in the numerous spheres of training and coaching. Unfortunately at the cost of attention being given to detail.

Whether we are looking at the execution of an exercise movement or the creation and development of a comprehensive training plan, shortcuts are all to often taken.

And who suffers - our customers and clients.

Not a good strategy for being a successful training coach.

In fact, attention to detail is an essential part of our profession - in all areas, at all times, and it is this attention to detail that differentiates a good training coach and an excellent training coach.

Monday, February 07, 2011

The First Step...

I've had a few conversations this week that helped me - not realize, because I think I already knew it - but rather, understand something a little bit more clearly.

In the world of health and fitness, the first step is not to eat better and start a training program - it's to look deep inside yourself, and develop a strong and healthy relationship between yourself, exercise and food.

I met with a few people this week, you see, to go over their training programs and what they can do as they move forward, and I quickly saw that the main reason they were working out wasn't because they were trying to improve themselves physically, either from a functional or performance standpoint, but rather... because if they weren't exercising, they felt they were going to gain weight.

If this sounds like you - stop right now. Stop working out to burn calories. Stop working out in order to chase down that last 5 pounds, or to outrun the oncoming 10. Because you know what? You're going to lose that race. You're going to run and run on a hamster wheel, and any joy that might come from what you're doing will be lost because you're always going to be looking over your shoulder, looking down at your heart rate monitor, or staring at the backside of a competitor you will never catch.

I want you to choose a goal and an activity that bring you joy and happiness. Where any weight-loss that might come from what you're doing is strictly the happy by-product of living and eating well. Maybe rehab that knee so that you can start running, then try to eat well so that you can run for longer than 20 minutes without your knees hurting, and finally, choose an event to train for that will take you somewhere you've always wanted to go.

Discover the joy of movement, the adventure that is life - find the happiness in the journey and the destination, and get off the hamster wheel.

Trust me - nothing beats the excitement of the start line... or the high of the finish line.

Hope to see you there.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Balancing Act

Any great business needs to balance 2 key goals:
1. Do great things for people
2. Turn a profit

If there is no intrinsic worth to the work, it's hard to attract great people.
If there's no extrinsic impact on the bottom line, there will be no platform for people to pursue their passion and apply their talents.

The great challenge then, for a great business, is...

How do we get the most out of our teams (work capacity, creativity, and a high level of commitment and buy-in) while managing fiscal responsibility and reserving a portion of the revenue for profit back to the shareholder(s)?

People need to be incentivized to work.
This can come in the form of compliments, the work itself, the ability to work with like-minded people, or through personal and professional development they receive. And money. People do need to be paid for their time in some way, shape, or form.

A business (especially a new business for a shareholder with limited capital resources) needs to develop and maintain a revenue surplus scenario in order to survive.

The two aims can be detrimental to one another, unless there is a clear vision.
A clear vision of the target market. A clear vision on your strategy to different yourselves amongst the competition within that target market. A clear vision of what the right kind of teammate looks like to grow said business. Vision creates the dream, and the planning that must accompany that dream creates the alignment whereby potential conflicting goals can actually coexist if not become complementary.

A great example lies in "green" industries. They outpace "non-green" industries in their growth, and in many cases, also in profitability. You can combine 2 very separate ideals and have them be achieved simultaneously with great vision, great planning, and Herculean effort.

The how-to is as varied as the business this question applies to; as well as the particular philanthropic ideals. Not to mention - there are many possible 'hows'. Today's entry was not meant to answer the how - simply to keep people aware of the questions we need to ask in business.

If we don't ask these questions while we're still in the position to, the inevitable question to answer will become, "how did I work myself out of business?"

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

When combining Resistance and Edurance training...

... it is essential to recognize that Resistance training (Rt) will have little to no impact on the cardio-vascular system and Endurance training (Et) almost no impact on the Musculo-skeletal system.

According the S.A.I.D principle, Specific Adaptations will occur as a result of Imposed Demands.

If you tax the Cardio-vascular system, the majority of the improvements / adaptations will occur in the Cardio-vascular system.
  • Increased number of Mitochondria = more aerobic energy is produced.
  • Increased capillary density = improved blood flow into the muscle
  • Increased Haemoglobin concentration in blood = better O2 transport to muscle
  • Increased stroke volume and cardiac output by the heart = more O2 delivered to the muscles.
Resistance Training on the other hand will result in adaptations to the Musculo-Skeletal system and provides the following the benefits to the athlete:
  • Increases the force production capacity of the muscle.
  • Increases the strength of the Contractile Proteins: Actin and Myosin
  • Improves the ability of the muscle to apply forces as a result of Nervous system adaptations.
  • Possible hypertrophic response of the Slow Twitch Fibers to the Medium resistance - High volume training paradigm.
  • Improves co-ordination and synchronization of muscle groups during activity.
  • A transformation of the overall percentage of FT-A fibers compared with FT-B fibers
But is this where the story ends when we talk about concurrent Rt and Et?

Recent research studies (primarily in distance runners) have shown that incorporating Rt training aimed at enhancing Power i.e. 3-5 sets for 3-6 repetitions at ≥ 85% of max and a program of Plyometric focused training, an increase in movement economy and and endurance performance can be realized.

This is a result of increased power production by the muscle. Basically, the Power training focuses on the strength of the muscle and the Plyometric work focuses on the speed component, resulting in an increase in overall performance.

As a side note, none of the studies found any changes to the measures of the Cardio-vascular conditioning as a result of the Power and Plyometric training..

This is important because it shows that improvements in performance are as a result of better muscular recruitment patterns and better force development which then translates into more economical movement, which results in better athletic performance..

The key take away here is: when assigning resistance training to your endurance athletes, keep intensity high and volume low: 3-5 sets for 3-6 repetitions at ≥ 85% of max.