Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Evaluate your swimming stroke

It is not always easy to improve your swimming performance without some specialist attention and ongoing coaching. A Masters swim group is great to up the training intensity and allows you to swim other athletes, taking the loneliness out of those big, multi kilometer swims.

But is there something you can do, with a little help from a friend, to assist you to improve your swim stroke? The answer is yes.

A simple evaluation of your stroke (we will look at the Freestyle stroke) will give you a few areas that require a little more attention, and provide you with some solid direction to build your swim training around (click on image to enlarge).

Ask a friend or family member to come to the pool with you - ideally not someone with a good knowledge of swimming because we want an objective analysis. Ask them to watch you swim and as you swim, work through the evaluation.

Alternatively they can film you swimming) and you can then evaluate yourself.

Let's get you going with that and next week I will look at the evaluation and provide you with a little bit of insight and a few minor corrections which can be made to help you to improve you swimming performance.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Practice What You Preach

After going through another round of hiring and bringing on a new member of the training team, I figured I'd put a note out to all current and future health and wellness professionals - be sure you are living what you're preaching.

What does this mean in our industry? It can probably be summed up in five simple notes:

5. Take an interest in your appearance. If you want to be considered a professional - then look like it.

4. Be punctual. Just like the above note, you won't be taken seriously as a professional if you don't act it.

3. Be engaging. If I'm bored by you in an interview... I'll assume the client will be as well.

2. Maintain a high level of fitness. I'll add that you must also look fit, as well - which some might say is unfair, that you don't need to be fit in order to coach someone. Frankly, I think that's a cop-out used by unfit or overweight trainers who don't like being held accountable. Would you listen to a doctor telling you to quit smoking if they're puffing on a cigarette while they tell you that?

1. Be humble, and always continue learning. The minute you think you know enough is the minute you plateau. I've been doing this for 10 years, and every year it seems like there's more to learn than the one before...

I don't think much of a man who is not wiser today than he was yesterday. (Abraham Lincoln)


Friday, May 27, 2011

Sum of the Moments

Life is a journey, not a destination. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

How many times have you heard that quote, and of those times, have you ever really let it sink in? We are never going to arrive; we are always going to be working to get there. That's what it's saying.

Do you remember when you were young, and you pictured yourself as an adult? There was a place you always ended up; where you got everything you wanted and lived in the world of your dreams? I am here to tell you, that it's not real.

Life is transient and even if you did arrive, it would never stay the same because of the ebb and flow of living, which would forever be creating ripples in your peaceful pond.

So, if life is all about the journey, how do we get 'there'? We are 'there'. Every day we work for what we want, is one more day that we're choosing to live our lives rather than letting them pass us by. It's the understanding that the destination is actually the sum of the moments, and that the best we can do is learn to make the most out of them, and that's when we will have arrived.

~ Sasha

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Get the most out of the time you spend on the bike

In order to see improvement on the bike, we need to challenge all the bodies' energy systems.

This means working at different intesnisty levels, for different durations and allowing very specific amounts of recovery to optimally tax the body leading to the adaptation (and improvement) we are looking for.

Bioenergetics 101:

  • We have 2 means to manufacture energy: with O2 (Aerobic) or without utilizing O2 (anaerobic).

  • We can acquire energy from 3 sources: Carbohydrates (Glycolysis), Fats (Lipolysis) and Protein.

  • Protein is the least utilized substrate and Carbohydrates the most used.

  • Fat is the most abundant source of energy in the body.

  • We can train the body to be more energy efficient with how it uses the limited Carbohydrate energy it has stored, and help it to become more effective at using the stored fats.
It is in fact a fairly simple process: ensure your training hits all the energy systems of the body:

  • Aerobic Lipolytic & Glycolytic - Long, Slow distance training.

  • Aerobic Glycolytic - Longer intervals (Table 1)

  • Anaerobic Glycolytic - Intermediate length intervals (Table 2)

  • ATP - PC - SPeed and Explosive Power - Short intervals (Table 3)

Table 1

Table 2

Table 3

By introducing a variety of different training stimuli not only will you become a more energy efficient athlete, but you will see a far greater improvement in all aspects of your riding.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

"You Can Run But You Can't Hide"

So here's the thing: I'm not a particularly big fan of simply re-posting someone else's writing - I think it's lazy and unoriginal. However, once in a while - someone says something you're thinking, but they do so first and, more importantly, better. This is the case in regards to the following article, which was written by Pete Estabrooks for Impact Magazine (November/December 2010). The bottom line is - I couldn't have said it better myself... so decided I wouldn't try. Thus, without further ado:

You Can Run But You Can't Hide

by Pete Estabrooks (Impact Magazine Nov/Dec 2010)

"I am a fitness confessional, an involuntary body cop. I rarely sit down for a coffee without someone approaching me with the "I just can't lose these last five pounds" story, and my answer never varies. "You eat too much."

That invariably sparks the torrent of: "I watch what I eat. I am very careful about what I eat. I eat low carb, and have a slow metabolism." And my answers: "You watch too often. Apparently not carefully enough. It's not the carbs, it's the quantity. And congratulations on that efficient body." They all fall on deaf ears, and mean the same thing. You eat too much.

After you walk away, here's what I'm thinking. Though more complicated than calories in and calories out, there's a common bottom line. At the end of the day, a properly functioning, healthy body reacts one way to ingestion. Consume more calories than you burn and your body stores them. If you weigh too much, you eat too much. It doesn't matter how far, how fast or how often you run, you are not capable of outrunning a bad diet.

The hours you spend on the road or in the gym, regardless of their intensity, will not discount a bad diet. You can run but you can't hide.

It's not my place to tell someone what to weight, but if you ask me "why can't I lose weight?", it is because you eat too much. How you digest that information and address that issue is up to you, and if you are already active seven to ten hours a week then the answer is not more gym time, but less fridge time.

How, why and what you eat are complicated issues, so if you want to lose those last five pounds, take some real time to work things out for yourself. As much as we are all alike, your body is your personal laboratory. You, and only you, are going to strike the balance between how much you enjoy life and how hard it is to fit your life into your favorite jeans.

I have no issue with your life not being about sacrifice, but if you are too heavy to enjoy the physicality of life or heavy enough that it impedes your health and happiness, then don't eat so much. Eating well, eating good food, is not boring. If you don't find a way to make good food enjoyable, then it will taste like dirt. Buy a cookbook and spend the money to figure it out. Lastly, don't kid yourself that you eat everything in moderation when you have a cupcake today, a bag or two of chips tomorrow, ice cream occasionally, the weekly pizza, a couple of chocolate cookies.

That is not moderation. You just eat a lot of different crap. Try to stick with 80 percent to 90 percent good food and keep the crap to a minimum.

And all calories are not created equal. There is no cell replication fairy in the dead of night that gives our body the highest quality nutrients with which each of our cells are replicated in pristine condition granting us tight, flexible muscles, rock hard bones and glowing visages. Nope, you are what you eat. It's like the late night nutrient union crew scavenging through the remnants of your coffee for breakfast, scone for a snack, deli sandwich for lunch, protein shake after a workout and "too tired to make it" take out dinner for just the right ingredients with which to rebuild, refresh and renew your body. If you feed the machine properly, you build a better you and if not, it's probably just that "last five pounds". Then again, who am I to talk? You always catch me drinking coffee."


Friday, May 20, 2011

Youth in Revolt

The older I get, the more I realise that I should have listened to all of the people that were telling me things when I was younger like, 'Don't rush through your childhood, you'll be a grown up before you know it', or 'Don't wish your life away'. As I am getting older and the responsibility of life is setting in, I realise that it's not that they didn't want me to grow up, it's that they truly understood what growing up meant - how drastically life changes, how the burden of responsibility only grows with the passage of time and how the carefree days of youth slowly fade away to distant memories. It's a sad and unavoidable rite of passage.

However, what I am starting to realise, and more importantly hope, is that it doesn't have to be that way. Why do we have to let go of the feelings of our youth? I don't mean to suggest that we shirk our responsibilities, instead we need to put them in their place - they are what they are, but they don't own us, we own them. I think too many of us become slaves to our responsibilities at the sacrifice of our personal joy and happiness.

We are constantly putting of until tomorrow, things we would like to do today because they take precedent. We've forgotten what it's like to enjoy the moments, to dream without boundaries, and how awesome a feeling it is to make the impossible, a possibility. So let's not forget to honour our inner child, and listen to the voice inside telling us that the crazy idea is sometimes the best one.

~ Sasha

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Show up to your life.

According to World Bank World Development Indicators 2009 data, life expectancy in Canada is up to 81.2 years.

That's 974.4 months, or over 29,650 days. It sounds like that's a lot of time to do everything you want... however, if you are still adjusting to writing '2011' on your checks and other memos, you may be shocked that 138 days have already slipped by in 2011 (more than a third of the year). Half of a percent of your entire life has passed by before some people have gotten traction in moving this year forward.

The point is, time is at once one of the most limited and the most valuable resources we are ever blessed with. I am a firm believer that life-altering mistakes notwithstanding, you will regret far more those things you failed to do than those things you did wrong.

Hence the title today of 'show up to your life'.
Take the risk or risks you are afraid of.
The only way to know if the job you are in or the relationship you are in is right for you is to dive in with both feet, give it 100% of your best, most passionate effort, and see if your best is enough and you get enough in return.

The life we engineer for ourselves is either by design and effort or by default and indecision. We either make a conscious decision to live our best life, help others and get the most out of it while we can; or we enable life through indecision to just give us what's coming; good, bad, or neutral (but rarely what we ultimately desire).

According to many numerologists, we spend the first third of our life, or for most people, up to age 27, finding some purpose we can attach to our lives and then the next 2/3 trying to live that purpose out. If those numbers are true, and we're lucky enough to live to 81.2; that leaves 54 years to carve out our name in the hearts of those we wish to impact the most. On a 54 year time frame, those same 138 days that have passed in 2011 start to carry a much higher opportunity cost.

Since none of us are guaranteed those 81.2 years, it's best to show up to the one guaranteed opportunity you do have in life... TODAY.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Rediscover the passion

Running is an activity that we have been doing for thousands of years.

What started off as our primary mode of transport, has now become a way of maintaining our health and wellness.

Running is an activity that almost every human being is capable of doing from an early age. Just think back to your childhood and remember how much time was spent running around playing with friends.

It is unfortunate that as we became older, the amount of time spent running declined inversely. Our primary mode of transportation become a bicycle, a car or a bus, and bipedal travel declined even more, to the point that today some adults cannot walk a single block or single flight of stairs, never mind run.

So if one was to consider getting back back to the point where running was an activity that was regularly participated in, how would one go about doing this?
  1. Start by walking:
    Use a 4 - 6 week period of brisk walking to allow the body to adapt to the new stressors being placed on the joints and the connective tissue
  2. Introduce a short run followed by a walk:
    Again, spend 4 - 6 weeks incorporating a run - walk strategy. It might be run for 1 minute, walk for 2 minutes. Perhaps it is run for 30 seconds and walk for 2 minutes.
  3. Stretch after every run - walk session:
    This will ensure you maintain muscle length and assist the body to recover from the training.
  4. Posture, breathing and stride length:
    Posture - Keep the head up, chest open and body relaxed. Breath - rhythmically and deeply. Stride length - Take shorter strides, more often.
  5. Rediscover the passion:
    Strive to regain the joy movement gave you when you were young - this will result in a waterfall of hormones making you feel energized and alive.
Our bodies were designed to move and by ignoring this we are wasting the most amazing creation.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Remember Who's Boss

I think that, at times - leaders and managers expect too much from the people who work for them.

Now, having put that out there, allow me to clarify. In this workforce lacking any sort of initiative, personal accountability, work ethic or drive, this might seem like an odd statement. But it has more to do with our expectations in terms of what level of self-management we put onto staff.

Allow me to offer an example.

One of the best managers I ever worked under was about 12 years ago. He gave me my tasks, gave me the deadline - then let me go at it. One check in about midway through to see if I needed anything - then he was away again. Anything I asked for (in terms of equipment or additional information) was available immediately upon the time it was requested - but otherwise, hands-0ff. One mid-contract evaluation to let me know what I could/should be doing to excel, and a final review of how things went at the end of the contract. It was exactly the sort of style I needed. Did this make him a great leader?


You see, one of my co-workers was given the exact same type of management, and hated it. He wanted weekly meetings, full of feedback on what he was doing well, what he could have done better... a single review and final evaluation wasn't enough. Being left to his own devices made him feel like he wasn't being led at all, and therefore - his supervisor evaluation was vastly different from mine.

This is one of the qualities that differentiates a good leader from a great leader, and highlights what I meant by "expecting too much". Firstly, a good leader has a style and approach that ensures that the tasks get done - but a great leader both recognizes the different styles and attitudes of the employees and adapts their approach to motivate and inspire that individual. Now, I recognize that this isn't always realistic, and goes back to the other side of the pendulum where the employee can't expect to have their hand held the entire time - however, I do think that we need to take the time to modify our approach to ensure our message is getting through.

I mean, let's be honest: if they are self-aware and adaptable enough to do modify their approach so that they are operating at a high level no matter how their manager is working with them and leading them... they are probably on the wrong side of the desk.


Friday, May 13, 2011

Work Versus Win

Recently, I started watching American Idol and besides seeing James Durbin voted off last night, I have enjoyed the show thus far. However, if you asked me to name the winners from any of the previous seasons, the only one I could think of without cheating using Google, would be Carrie Underwood (and it's not just because I recently saw her cheering on our competition during the hockey playoffs).

All kidding aside, it seems like a pretty gruelling process to make it to the finale of Idol - they work and train almost everyday, anywhere from 3 to 4 months and are forced to live away from home for the duration. They are subjected to constructive criticism after each performance and if they can't figure out the fine line of adapting as an artist while staying true to their direction then America deems them unworthy and sends them home.

So, why can't I remember any of the seasons previous winners - besides the fact that I didn't watch the shows, I think it's because most of the contestants believe they've made it when they've won. Reality is, the real work is just beginning and Idol is the training wheels. Winning Idol provides the opportunity to the contestants to make a career but it's up to them to do the work. Which is why I am not devastated that James didn't make it to the finale - he seems like someone who's willing to put in the work for a career instead of just a win.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sport Science VS Exercise Physiology:

There is a difference

The field of Sport Science and Exercise Physiology is growing extremely rapidly, and in Canada, statistics are saying that the profession of Sport Scientist is going to become one of the fastest growing professions, in North America, over the next 20 years.

Exercise Physiology is hot on its heels as a fast growing, and highly sought after qualification.

So what is the difference between these 2 designations?

The Exercise Physiologists' primary role is to study muscular activity in the body, and the associated functional responses and adaptations of the bodies physiology, to certain stimuli.

Basically we are scientists who conduct controlled investigations of responses and adaptations to the human physiology, utilizing human subjects within a clinical setting.

In other words – we are science geeks, with a ton of cool and expensive equipment, doing tests and experiments on athletic and non-athletic populations.

The Sport Scientist on the other hand, is a professional who helps both athletic and non- athletic populations achieve their individual peak (sporting) performance.

They have a wide knowledge based in a number of different sporting-related subjects, such as:
  • biomechanics
  • sports nutrition
  • physiology
  • anatomy
  • psychology
  • injury prevention.
They are not however Personal Trainers or sports coaches.

As you can clearly see, both of these professions can, and should, play an integral role in any individuals desiring an improvement in health, fitness and performance.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Pain, Training and Life

Pain is such a relative thing.

There's nothing more challenging than working with people for whom the fear of pain is so great that they avoid anything that has the possiblity of hurting them.

On the other hand, there's nothing more rewarding than seeing people who are dealing with serious physical obstacles, and who push themselves right to the line (sometimes beyond it) because the other choice - avoidance - is not an option.

Two examples of the latter come to mind.

I currently work with someone who has had spondylolisthesis (you can look that one up) and arthritis in his shoulders. I've researched the conditions, spoken to physiotherapists, and laid out a general plan to get him moving forward. Everytime we push a little further, I ask him how he's doing - and pretty much get the same answer. "I'm hard to kill - don't worry, I'll let you know". The other guy I used to work with suffered from Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - again, I'll let you look it up. But suffice it to say a) it can be debilitating, and b) he's got one of the worst cases I've seen. And every day, he'd come in the gym and I'd cautiously try to help him move forward... and almost inevitably, as we were stretching at the end he'd tell me about work that he did around the house the previous weekend that was infinitely higher risk than what we were doing in the facility. When I'd point this out, he'd shrug - things have to get done. Life has to get done - or we stop living.

I hope that if I'm ever faced with adversity like these two, that I'm able to keep the same positive attitude - and, more importantly, that I have enough courage to recognize that sometimes living in fear of pain is worse than the pain itself.


Friday, May 06, 2011

The Station

Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long trip that spans the continent. We are travelling by train. Out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flat lands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day, at a certain hour, we will pull into the station. Bands will be playing and flags waving. Once we get there, so many wonderful dreams will come true and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering - waiting, waiting, waiting for the station.

"When we reach the station, that will be it!" we cry. "When I'm 18." "When I buy a new 450SL Mercedes Benz!" "When I put the last kid through college." "When I have paid off the mortgage!" "When I get a promotion." "When I reach the age of retirement, I shall live happily ever after!"

Sooner or later we must realise there is no station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad. It is the regrets over yesterday and the fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot more often, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more, cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

~ by Robert J. Hastings

Monday, May 02, 2011

It's Your Time to Choose

1916 - Manitoba becomes the first province in which women are granted the right to vote in provincial elections.

1917 - The "Wartime Elections Act" strips the right to vote off of all "enemy aliens" - those born in enemy countries that arrived in Canada after 1902.

1918 - Women gain full voting rights in federal elections.

1919 - Women gain the right to run for federal office.

1940 - Quebec becomes the last province to recognize a woman's right to vote.

1947 - Racial exclusions against Chinese and Indo-Canadians are lifted.

1948 - Racial exclusions against Japanese Canadians are lifted.

1955 - Religious exclusions are removed from election laws.

1960 - The right to vote is extended unconditionally to First Nations people (previously, they could only vote if they gave up their First Nations' status - this requirement was removed).

1970 - The voting age is lowered from 21 to 18.

1982 - The Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees all adult citizens the right to vote.

1988 - The Supreme Court of Canada rules that mentally ill citizens have the right to vote.

2000 - Legislation is introduced making it easier for people of no fixed address to vote.

Considering how hard it has been to earn the right to vote has been for so many people - does no one else find a 60% turnout a slap in the face to everyone who fought, scraped and clawed for the opportunity to take part in the decisions to run this country?

In the end, what matters is not simply who you vote for... but that you get out and vote in the first place.

To all of those who say they "don't have time", "can't be bothered", or "are too busy"... firstly, you should be ashamed, and secondly - your opinion has ceased to be relevant. Don't like it? If you haven't voted - then you have no voice. Keep your thoughts to yourself, and allow those of us who appreciate this right, this opportunity, and this country to make the decisions.

There's probably still time. Get out and vote, and tell me to shut my mouth.

Otherwise - zip it.