Does your training lift you up, or beat you down?

Assessing how you feel before, during, and after a training session is essential.

Some things to consider while training:

  1. Stress comes when you don’t feel in control. After you’ve done the movement in a few training sessions there should be no stress associated. If it stresses you out or requires too much effort to complete, move on to an exercise you can safely complete.
  2. Rep count does not matter. This is exercise not a prescription or competition. A few good, quality repetitions are better than many partial or cheated ones.
  3. Modifications are good. Have trouble with walking lunges? Use trekking poles, or do them in place, next to something you can use for balance (couch, bench, etc.).
  4. Weight. Start light. Take your time. If you can move it easily, work your way up. When it challenges you, stay there for a few sessions to build confidence in the exercise, set or workout. Repetition trumps variety.

How do you feel after a set? Stressed, exhausted, out of control? Those feelings are to be, mostly, avoided. Anxiety, fear, and worry don’t lend themselves to repetitive behavior. On the other hand, elation, positive energy, and enthusiasm build confidence and pleasure, which lead to increased repetition.

  1. Find out what you enjoy and repeat it.
  2. Build skills in 5 or so exercises you can go back to on a daily basis. Developing skill leads to the ability to increase resistance and difficulty. Variety is not necessary.
  3. Remember why you are exercising: to progress, maintain, become more able/capable, increase energy, increase outlook, enhance performance in all areas, and improve both health and quality of life.

Forced oxygenation and deep breathing change your bodies chemistry. This is a bonus to strength training in a circuit format. Transitioning and actively recovering while training is a skill that once possessed, powerfully changes your approach to movement.

Until you have the skillset you shouldn’t seek out the pain and strain of hard training. Shortcuts lead nowhere worth going. Time spent in foundation building is never wasted.

Think of your fitness training as building skillsets to last a lifetime. Moving well throughout your life is more important than momentary glory obtained in youth.

Pursuing Peak Performance

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Points of failure in all instances define the limits of systemic function. Right Practice must seek to extend those limits through the pursuit of failure… Outside the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of success. Within the formal practice, physical training involves the pursuit of failure.

Michael Livingston, “Mental Discipline

When we train, we must seek to fatigue the working muscle or energy system. Doing the plank, or forward-leaning-rest, focus intently on the position you are trying to hold, tight hips, legs, locked out arms, as well as tension throughout. If a break down occurs, stop. There is no honor in spastic extended effort. In your next attempt at extending your time in plank position use your previous best as your bench mark. The same goes for pushups, pullups, squats, or other bodyweight exercises. Crush the muscle group you are training, keeping body tension throughout. True failure is controlled. It still “looks” smooth and easy. Following this protocol helps with injury prevention and overtraining.

In my running/endurance training I love :30/:30 intervals. 30 seconds of very hard effort, followed by 30 seconds of easy recovery. We must hit these hard, and then back off completely to get ready for the next. The body is adapting and with adequate rest between these intense sessions our fitness builds and expands. New realities, new limits, personal bests, course records, all become possibilities with focused training and recovery.

Respect your efforts and engage in positive recovery practices, daily. The younger crowd seems to frown on stretching, until they become injured. Start your daily stretching practice sooner rather than later. With heightened levels of exertion comes increased strain on the major movers, i.e. hamstrings, groin, and quads in running. Seek to lengthen these muscles on a daily basis via a few simple exercises:

  • Instep-Stretch
  • Pigeon
  • Downward Facing Dog
  • Wide Founder (foundation training)
  • Wide Founder into Windmill (foundation training)
  • Narrow Stance Decompression Breathing (foundation training)

Work + Rest/Recovery = Training

 

 

Body Fat Training

BODY FAT TRAINING

Tackling the challenge of changing body composition is an exciting journey. When you are ready to begin, both mentally and physically, that motivation and energy needs to be immediately harnessed to a plan of action. In the next few paragraphs I’m going to address some of the key tenets of body fat training. This is indeed a general overview, but my intention is for you to walk away with a greater understanding of how I approach these situations with my clients and create programming that gets results.

The presence of an excess amount of body fat is a clear and quantifiable sign that you are lacking balance. I’m not a big fan of “BMI”, but in most cases (non-athletes) it does the job.

Formula: weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703

BMI

Weight Status

Below 18.5

Underweight

18.5 – 24.9

Normal

25.0 – 29.9

Overweight

30.0 and Above

Obese

Height

Weight Range

BMI

Weight Status

5′ 9″

124 lbs or less

Below 18.5

Underweight

125 lbs to 168 lbs

18.5 to 24.9

Normal

169 lbs to 202 lbs

25.0 to 29.9

Overweight

203 lbs or more

30 or higher

Obese

The first box is your status given your BMI. Very simple, and straight, forward information. The second box is giving the weight ranges based off of a height of 5’9”.

Working with a weight loss client, my initial assessment always incudes weight, body fat, and BMI measurements. These give a solid baseline to work off of moving forward. Nutrition is the next topic of conversation. Here I utilize a food journal. The client is assigned the task of writing down everything they eat and drink for a week. This only works if 100% honesty is given. From this I can establish patterns and ask poignant questions (the “why”). Body image is a process. We begin by working backwards, creating a roadmap that got you to where you are now. We then work forwards with new planning, techniques, and strategies to cement new habits into your lifestyle.

My expertise and main area of interest is in prescribing and planning effective training sessions based on goal and desired outcome. We first must establish what type of movement you enjoy, or have enjoyed in the past. If you’ve lost weight before, what worked? How long did it work for? Why did you stop doing it? Answers to these questions help us in your program design. Your complete physical activity history is crucial in this process. If you liked playing co-ed volleyball in college, there is a good chance you might enjoy group exercise, and a more social setting for your fitness. If you enjoyed distance running, there is a good chance you may enjoy cardiovascular fitness training. These are just two examples, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to fitness training for weight loss. The first is the idea that long, low-mild intensity cardiovascular workouts are the best way to go. The theory here is that it takes 30 minutes for your body to begin burning stored fat; so a more patient, persistent approach to exercise is needed. These workouts are 60-70 minutes. The second school of thought is that it is best to utilize high-intensity interval training to attack fat loss. These workouts include maximal effort intervals, followed by periods of rest and generally last about 30 minutes total length. The catch with high-intensity intervals is that they increase EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). This causes an increased metabolic effect, burning calories throughout the day, giving you a larger total caloric expenditure.

Both of these methods work. Not everyone will have an equal preference for one over the other. My opinion is that you should utilize both methods in your weight-loss training plan. The more discipline we can place in your physical and nutritional life, the more effective and efficient we will be in achieving success. The confidence that will come from knowing you can, and have done, both methods is not to be taken lightly.

The next piece of the programming puzzle is strength training. Here our goal is to increase your lean body mass, build your confidence in your body, and make you more efficient. Strength training is the bind that ties. You are building a new you, laying a solid and broad foundation for the future. Specific, personal, and customized planning is employed to ensure you get the biggest bang for your investment (time). These sessions are generally 30-45 minutes of full body circuit training. Our focus is on movement, not simply resistance, weight, and repetition.

When we train to decrease body fat and improve our body image we are essentially changing our lifestyle. We are instilling healthy habits that are repeated throughout each and every day for the rest of our lives. This creates permanent, lasting change.

Last, but certainly not least. It’s not easy! Arm yourself with a strong supporting cast, and an eagerness to stay the course. Invest your time and resources in knowledge and guidance. Never stop learning and experimenting with your own life.

The Spirit of Training: Intention

I’ve been strength training a long time. It’s been on my mind ever since I walked into the gym at the tender age of 13, enrolling in my first “weight lifting” class so I could use the YMCA facilities without adult supervision. The gym was a place I could work on myself. Watching strong bodies move was motivating to my younger self. I wanted to be impressive. I longed to develop strength and power. I associated being strong and athletic with confidence, standing out amongst my peers, gaining attention and admiration.

This became a passion, that ebbed and flowed for many years, mostly mimicking bodybuilding style training, which although good for hypertrophy (muscle growth), it was not the most efficient style of training. Alas, I knew no better, but it kept me coming back for more week after week. I was constantly learning.

After 10 years of purely weight training I had a chance encounter with a rock climber in a gym in Albuquerque NM. In between sets of bench presses and bicep curls I kept glancing over and watching his powerful, extremely lean body, moving on the climbing wall. It was impressive to say the least. Watching muscle, fitness and athleticism being displayed in that manner was completely new to me, and from it, a curiosity was born. I saw potential. I saw the future. I desired a transformation.

I spent three years becoming immersed in functional training. Movement based strength training. Bodyweight, leverage training. I utilized controlled, suspension based exercises: gymnastic rings, pull-up bars, medicine balls, stability balls, climbing ropes. Every rep engaged the core. I learned what “body tension” felt like. Each rep was confidently approached. I believed in it’s successful completion before the attempt was made. Over time, I transformed. The previous struggle of controlling the weight, was now a struggle to control my body. A monumental shift in focus. The gym/studio became a place to grow. It had purpose again. It was no longer a routine, expected daily event. I engaged in 2-3 intense sessions per week, while focusing my other efforts on the sport I sought to improve at.

Strength. Movement. Sport. Image. All these things are linked. When I saw these elements linked in action it opened up my eyes to the future. If I was to stay fit and keep progressing I needed to attach myself to a lifestyle activity that required utilization of my competitive nature. A fusion of my passions so to speak. I had no idea where this would lead, and really, did not care. Total immersion requires this blind faith following of routine. When the goal is to change your body to complete a task, OR to be more efficient in the activity, repetition and structure is the key. Deviations, in the beginning months and even years of training can be highly detrimental to progress. This relentless requirement, which was completely self-imposed, thrusted me forward.

This period of development is a permanent stamp on my approach to fitness. If I look closely at this training period I see simplicity and minimalism at it’s best.

Tools employed:

  • Bodyweight, Gymnastic Movement
  • Leverage, Suspension Training
  • Core-Specific Exercise
  • Intense, Focused Sets of Maximal Effort and Focus
  • Rings, Medicine Balls, Dumbbells, Ropes, Bars

Learning the exercises. Failing or encountering difficulty is key to development. From here we can break down the weaknesses that caused the failure. This process of developing strength through controlled movement connects and unifies us with our bodies. Sport gives us this unification. The gym enhances our development in sport. Downhill ski racers are powerful, sharp and controlled athletes. Rock climbers are strong, powerful, gymnastic movement specialists. Distance runners are masters of efficiency and pain tolerance, striving for the perfect balance. Wrestlers are the ultimate fusion of endurance, power, strength, flexibility, balance and technical movement. What unifies these activities is movement. We seek to understand movement NOT in a complex matter, but in basic steps. Gym training, properly imposed, should be about understanding movement and effort, and about learning proper progressions of exercises, and correct implementation.

Complexities, fads, trends, extremes… they will come and go. We will always have our bodies and we will always have Sport. Constants. Choose to learn, not shortcut. Choose sport and lifestyle over quick fix programs. Find your passion. Be intrigued by activities that inspire you. Even if you never intend to explore a proficiency in them, let them be a source of inspiration. Let yourself be impassioned. Read a book about someone who accomplished something that was truly hard. Learn about sacrifice and devotion. Gain confidence from human completion of projects, goals, and life events. Come to the realization and understanding that you are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.

Mindset trumps everything.

Onward and Upward!

Reclamation

As I continue on this fitness endeavor, both professional and personal, I cannot help but wonder what the evolution of this industry will produce. The information available is far reaching, diverse, contradictory, and to a greater extent dogmatic. Fitness, as well as nutrition, has become a form of “faith” made up of a multitude of factions, each with their devout followers. Most of us find our path or form of practice (in this case fitness) through guidance from friends, family, media… enticing advertising and marketing, etc. Whether it be the club, gym, studio, box, garage, or whatever the label may be.

What is missing in this search is the desire of the individual to truly learn and commit fully to what ultimately is the deciding factor, education. Yes, we must learn about ourselves and what factors in our life have led us to the place we are at in the present. Not just learn, but admit, honestly, who we are as a person, how we make decisions, why we choose what we choose. This education can be undertaken individually, but more often than not we go in search of a guru, teacher, or a “fitness religion” that we feel best expresses who we are or want to be.

Personally, what I feel is needed is a society wide reclamation. A reclamation of our health and fitness from the inner-core of our being. I believe we were not put on this earth to merely feel comfortable, and seek out the path of least resistance, avoiding work, honest, meaningful work to overfeed, drink, and consume ourselves into complacency. In the present, can we be strong enough to forge forward, one choice, decision, at a time? I mean really think about all of the decisions we make and take ownership of them? Good and bad, smart and dumb.

Before we invest hundreds if not thousands of dollars in a membership, guru, program, or whatever it may be, we need to take the time to do a self assessment, including, but not limited to:

  • Lifestyle Factors
  • Career/Job
  • Goals/Desires
  • Motivations
  • Habits
  • Past Failures and Successes

From this you will see some obvious connections between these elements. It is within those connections that you must analyze your pattern of decision making. Ultimately, we are creatures of habit, and we become what we repeatedly do. Understanding this is not easy and most often avoided, but without this understanding we really can go no further.

Reclamation. It is personal. Decisions you make for yourself that lead you closer or further from your goals/wants/desires.

Decide to start on your path. Get to know yourself. Then and only then can you progress.

Enjoy the journey.