Which exercise professional is best for you

Which exercise professional is best for you?

Not just their personality. 🙂 Each type of exercise professional has different scope of practice. Learn the difference.

Personal Trainer. Exercise Physiologist. Strength and Conditioning Coach. What’s the difference?

Every industry has it’s own terminology. These can sometimes lead to confusion. This article seeks to clear things up. By the end you will know how to choose which exercise professional is best for you. Please keep in mind that there are differences between countries.

Broadly speaking, the distinctions between Personal Trainers (PTs), Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) and Strength & Conditioning Coaches (S&Cs) come down to three factors:

  1. Health sector or sport and recreation sector
  2. Training general or specific populations
  3. Tertiary qualified or not

Whether you choose to train with a PT, EP or S&C you should:

  1. Check that they are, in fact, qualified (the fitness industry is self regulated)
  2. Make sure they are insured
  3. Check that they have industry Registration (professional Code of Conduct, minimum standards, etc.)

which exercise professional personal trainer

Personal Trainers

  • Professional Registration: Fitness Australia
  • Scope of practice: General population (low risk only, not sport specific)
  • Qualification: Certificate 4 in Fitness (may be completed in less than 6 weeks)
  • Usual work: Fitness, Strength and Weight Loss

A Personal Trainer is a fitness professional involved in exercise prescription and instruction.
Proper exercise prescription may result in improved body composition, physical performance, heart condition and health outcomes. A trainer pays close attention to their client’s exercise form, workout routine, and nutrition plan. The decision to hire a trainer may be due to the perception of proper exercise selection and coaching or motivation and adherence.

PTs motivate clients by setting goals and providing feedback and accountability to clients. Trainers also measure their client’s strengths and weaknesses with fitness assessments. These fitness assessments are usually performed before and after an exercise program to measure their client’s improvements. They may also educate their clients in many other aspects of wellness besides exercise, including general health and nutrition guidelines. Qualified Personal Trainers recognize their own areas of expertise. If a trainer suspects that one of his or her clients has a medical condition that could prevent the client from safe participation in an exercise program, they must refer the client to the proper health professional for prior clearance.

There are scarce studies with men, but some with women. According to those studies, women working with personal trainers achieved:

  • greater increases in strength
  • higher workout intensities
  • higher perceived exertion during exercise
  • self-select heavier loads

than women who did not.

In summary, the scope of practice for a personal trainer is to enhance the components of fitness for general, healthy populations.

which exercise professional exercise physiologist

Exercise Physiologists

  • Professional Registration: ESSA (Exercise and Sport Science Australia)
  • Scope of practice: Specific population (med-high risk, disease/injury management)
  • Qualification: A Minimum 4 Year University Degree
  • Usual work: Fitness, Strength and Rehab / Medical condition management

Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) are allied health professionals.
They specialise in the delivery of exercise for the prevention and management of chronic diseases and injuries. AEPs provide graded exercise therapy and lifestyle interventions for ‘specific populations’. These are clients that have developed, or are at risk of developing, chronic and complex medical conditions and injuries. AEPs work in hospitals and private clinics, occupational rehabilitation companies, employment agencies, seniors gyms and research institutes.

AEPs are not Personal Trainers. They are allied-health professionals and are trained members of the health and medical sector. AEPs are eligible to register with Medicare Australia, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and WorkCover and are recognised by most private health insurers.

AEPs provide training in safe manual handling. They perform functional assessments and fitness tests. They also provide lifestyle education to help people manage their health conditions.

In summary, the scope of practice for an exercise physiologist is to assess and manage the components of fitness for specific, at-risk populations.

which exercise professional strength and conditioning

Strength & Conditioning Coach

  • Professional Registration: ASCA (Australian Strength & Conditioning Association)
  • Scope of practice: Sporting population, primarily sports/teams
  • Qualification: Coaching Accreditation through the Australian Sports Commission; Tertiary Qualifications Available
  • Usual work: Sporting Performance, Injury prevention/management

Strength and conditioning coaches (S&C) have two primary goals.
The first is to improve athletic performance, which usually means improving athletes’ speed, strength,and power.
The second primary goal is to reduce athletic injuries.
Let’s address each.

S&C Coaching for Athletic Performance includes:

  • Developing systematic training programs for both teams and individual athletes
  • Working in close association with skill coaches
  • Teaching proper lifting techniques
  • Supervising and motivating athletes as they work out
  • Assessing their performance before and after the program.

The nature of the conditioning program will vary depending on whether the sport is in season or not. During the off-season, conditioning programs can be quite rigorous. In season, conditioning programs tend to focus more on maintaining athletes’ conditioning than on improving it. Conditioning programs also vary by sport, and even by position within the sport.

S&C Coaching for Injury Management includes:

  • Designing regimens to strengthen body parts that are prone to injury in a particular sport
  • Preventing athletes from getting injured during training
  • Teaching correct exercise and lifting techniques
  • Monitoring athletes’ general health

S&C coach’s may also create nutrition plans for athletes, or liase with nutrition professionals. This is usually designed to provide the best possible nutrition to keep each athlete at peak condition. Additionally, proper nutrition helps to speed up muscle recovery time and provide the necessary energy for competition.

Maintaining accurate workout records for all athletes is an often overlooked but still important aspect of the job. Proper record keeping helps to ensure that individuals and teams accomplish the training they need on the right schedule. The right training increases the team’s odds of success in games over the course of the season.

Conditioning coaches usually meet regularly with the team’s coaches to determine what individual athletes, or the team, needs to work on in the conditioning facility. If working with an injured athlete engaged in rehabilitation, conditioning coaches will also consult with the sports medicine or athletic training staff to be sure they do not ask the injured athlete to do anything inappropriate in training.

In summary, the scope of practice for a strength and conditioning coach is to enhance the components of performance for specific/sporting, healthy populations.

Often a Personal Trainer with an interest in performance, rather than weight loss, will undertake additional training to become a strength and conditioning coach. (Like I did!) 🙂

So, hopefully now you know which exercise professional is best for you.

Please share and comment if you found this article helpful. Thanks!

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Why train Olympic Lifts?

I have been asked the question: “Why train Olympic Lifts if you’re not an Olympic Lifter?”

Simple.

Because they’re awesome.
Seriously though, it’s a good question and there’s a good answer (I think). Here goes.

Why train olympic lifts? - Weighlifting Woman

There are a few point to share that go into my thinking about training.

  1. People should be striving to improve themselves; Be “Better Than Yesterday”.
  2. Improvement can (and should) be objectively measured; see “What is Fitness“.
  3. Most people aren’t as strong as the could be; see “How Strong are You?“.
  4. Therefore progressive strength training is important; enabling greater work capacity, generally.
  5. Fundamental bodyweight exercises and powerlifting movements are relatively simple to learn* and develop strength well.
  6. Almost all physical activities require the application of strength at speed –> Power.
  7. One of the best ways to develop power is Olympic Lifting.

*Before all you powerlifters get upset, I’m not saying powerlifting is simple, just that it is less complex than Oly lifting. 🙂

So if you want to improve your performance at pretty much any physical endeavour, train the Olympic Lifts.

Have a look at this video for a bunch of different athletes from Catalyst Athletics performing Power Cleans.
Note the sort of weight they are moving. Think about their potential power output. Why train Olympic lifts? Now you tell me! :O

Fitness Newbie? Read this getting started guide!

Fitness Newbie?

Get started with these 10 Tips For Success

Stepping into a new gym for the first time can be a bit intimidating and overwhelming.
You might see a bunch of people lifting really heavy things. Doing unfamiliar movements and using peculiar vocabulary. Fear not fitness newbie; these people won’t bite. They’re actually pretty friendly and supportive once you get to know them. It can be a lot to take in at first glance, especially if you’ve had limited exposure to functional fitness training prior to starting at FunFit. But don’t worry; we’ll look after you. The following are 10 things to keep in mind as you begin your FunFit journey.

1.) Have fun

Let’s face it, not all workouts are fun. But when it’s over, you feel a sense of accomplishment (or relief!). You shouldn’t be upset that you didn’t get as many reps as the person next to you. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Smile. Laugh. Introduce yourself to people you don’t know. If you’re not having fun, why are you here?  Do you enjoy your overall time spent at the gym? Do you enjoy the people, the community, the knowledge and support that it provides? If so, then don’t be too concerned with your competitive nature.

The things you’ll learn at FunFit are fun: making your life easier and helping you engage more. Learn new skills of controlling your own bodyweight, kettlebells, movement, olympic lifts. A lot of the stuff you can’t do in a Fitness First. The attitude is different too; the feeling you’ll have the first time you get an unassisted pull-up or move with effortlessness is an amazing sense of power and accomplishment.

fitness newbie: challenge yourself and have fun

2.) Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, over and over again


It’s your time, money, and most importantly, health. If you don’t fully understand something, ask. If you still don’t get it, ask again. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t fully grasp the concept, or you think others in the class will get frustrated with you for taking up too much time. We were all a fitness newbie at one point. We’ve all been there. Learning the mechanics of certain movements like the squat, deadlift, or any of the olympic lifts takes lots of practice and critique from a trained eye. If you need help, just ask.

3.) You’re competing against yourself, not others


When it comes time to doing a workout, don’t feel like you have to do everything, or be able to complete as many rounds as other people right off the bat. Go at your own pace. Let the intensity find you. You need a solid foundation of strength and flexibility in order to progress into more demanding workouts.  Start light, get your form sorted out, and improve from there. Chase your own capacity before chasing the person next to you. Which brings me to my next point…

Fitness newbie: Leave your ego at the door

4.) Don’t be too proud to modify


Learn new movements. Progress to more complexity over time. You have to know your own body and its limits. Most importantly, there’s no substitute for common sense.

5.) What you eat is more important than what you lift

Nutrition is the key to every aspect of your life. It affects your energy levels, your recovery, and your overall defence against disease.

“Junk in, junk out.”

When you’re first starting out, the quality of your food is far more important than the quantity. Eat ‘cleanly’ (as much real food as possible / as little processed food as possible). If you’re eating as cleanly as possible, you don’t even need to worry about the quantity at this stage. You are a Ferrari. You wouldn’t put low quality fuel in a Ferrari, would you?


6.) Training isn’t everything


We are doing a strength and conditioning program that focuses on building general physical preparedness (GPP). It can improve almost every aspect of your life, but that doesn’t mean that it has to be your sport or your lifeblood. I train so that I can do whatever I want: Go out, play sports, learn new things. Having that GPP allows me to take on new challenges. Training is not my life. I train so that I can have a life… and get the most out of it.


7.) It doesn’t get easier, but you get better


Persevere. You get stronger, build a greater aerobic capacity, and become mentally tough.  All of these aspects, combined with experience, allow you to know when to push yourself and when to back off, so that you can do each workout to the best of your ability.

Fitness newbie: keep calm and do your best


8.) You won’t PR every day


Don’t mistake intensity for hard work. Even if you’re having a bad day and the intensity just isn’t there, you can still get a lot out of your time in the gym through hard work. Intensity and hard work are not the same thing. Don’t skip a planned session just because you’re feeling a bit flat. Not feeling too strong that day? That’s fine; scale back. Something is better than nothing.

9.) Respect rest and recovery


Too many people new to training (and even those of us who have been doing this a while) get caught up in over-training. Don’t be afraid to schedule in a de-load day once per week, or a de-load week every 4-6 weeks where you cut the weight, rounds, and intensity in half. You have to think about this from a longevity standpoint. If you’re killing yourself every time you step foot in the gym, week after week, month after month, year after year, you’re going to eventually break down. You need to respect your time outside of the gym. There’s an old weightlifting adage that goes something like: “You don’t get bigger and stronger from lifting weights, you get bigger and stronger from recovering from lifting weights.”

Proper nutrition, hydration and sleep all play their part in recovery, but you also need to listen to your body. If you continuously beat yourself down, you’re going to get hurt, injured or worse. Stay on top of your mobility work. Don’t know what that is? Ask!

10.) Thank yourself

Overcoming inertia and getting off the couch isn’t easy. Especially in winter. Thank yourself for making the effort, training consistently and reaping the rewards. You’re investing in yourself. It’s worth it. 🙂


So, what now?

You’ve made a commitment to yourself. You’re about to start eating better. Your vocabulary will soon include words like burpee, deadlift and snatch. See you in training. Welcome to FunFit.

Ready to get started? Get in touch!

Primal Blueprint Review: 10 ways to better Health

Primal Blueprint Review

There are a number of books on my shelf about fitness, health and nutrition.
The Primal Blueprint is my number one pick for “START HERE”. Other books can (and do!) go into more specifics. The Primal Blueprint is a great overview for the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.

Primal Blueprint Review

The Primal Blueprint is not a weight loss or diet book. It’s a lifestyle program from an evolutionary perspective. Using historical and contemporary hunter-gatherers as a model, it attempts to apply those lessons to life in the 21st century. He does it in a way that’s accessible to nearly everyone.

Mark Sisson is an athlete, coach and student of health. The Primal Blueprint is the distillation of 20 years of his research and experience. Utilising aspects from a number of scientific fields, Mark has devised a concise list of behaviour principles to improve your health, fitness and participation in life.

If you keep in mind that this is a blueprint for general health, fitness and well-being – you won’t get bogged down in minutia. Or throw the baby out with the bathwater because of one or two things with which you disagree.

I like the fitness suggestions because they focus on functional movements, encourage strength training and some cardio for conditioning. Walking more will work for almost everyone.

I like the diet suggestions because they focus on real food. The Primal Blueprint principles are simple, practical and relatively inexpensive. They require minimal, if any, sacrifice or deprivation. Mark is not a drill sergeant. He tries to create a plan that will be sustainable in the long run, by staying positive and allowing for flexibility.

The most important take-aways are:

The 10 Primal Blueprint Laws
The Primal Food Pyramid
The Carbohydrate Curve
Walk lots, Sprint Occasionally, Lift Heavy Things

If you can, read the whole book, cover to cover. Then reread certain parts.
If you can’t/“don’t have time” then read the chapter summaries and ‘snippets’.

The table of contents is as follows

Welcome from Mark
Introduction: What is Going on Here?
Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws
Chapter 2: Grok and Korg- From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind
Chapter 3: The Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy
Chapter 4: Primal Blueprint Law #1: Eat Lots of Plants and Animals
Chapter 5: Primal Blueprint Law #2: Avoid Poisonous Things
Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws
Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws
Chapter 8: A Primal Approach To Weight Loss
Chapter 9: Conclusion

Welcome from Mark

Read this just for the 80% Rule.
The gist. No one is perfect, but strive for perfection. That way, even if you don’t quite “get there” you’re still doing really well.

Introduction: What’s going on here?

Mark compares “Conventional Wisdom” and “The Primal Blueprint”. He does this by contrasting an archetypal hunter-gatherer called Grok, and his 21st century counterpart, Mr Korg. This section contains very brief sections on grains, saturated fat, cholesterol, eggs, fiber, meal habits, strength training, cardio, weight loss, play, sun, footwear, prescription drugs and goals.

Chapter 1: The Ten Primal Blueprint Laws

In this chapter Mark outlines the specific laws of The Primal Blueprint – the foundation of the entire book. If you read up to the end of chapter 1 and actually apply what you learn, your life will change.

Chapter 2: Grok and Korg – From Indigenous to Digital: One Giant Step (Backward) for Mankind

Mark compares the typical day of many Americans (this applies to many Australians now too, sadly) to a prototypical hunter-gather ancestor. It’s a frightening contrast.

Suffice to say, it’s been a different lifestyle scenario for the past blink in human evolution (some 10,000 years), and DRAMATICALLY different over the past few decades.

* Even if (like me) you’re not convinced of the ‘hunter gatherer model’ for health, what with so many factors, both genetic and environmental, that go into health – eating real food is still the right answer.

Chapter 3: Primal Blueprint Eating Philosophy

If you eat real food and don’t eat fake food – you’ll look, feel and perform better.
Sounds hard to believe, but it’s true.
The longer you eat properly, the less you want to eat crappy food- because it makes you feel just that way, crappy.

This chapter also covers the role of insulin in fat storage, cholesterol and the lipid hypothesis of heart disease, the role of healthy fats, macronutrients and transitioning to a Primal way of eating.

*Here’s where people often get hung up. Even if you don’t buy into the insulin/carbohydrate hypothesis and think dismissal of the lipid hypothesis is dangerous – eating real food and cutting down on fake food is still generally the right answer for improved health.

Chapter 4: Law #1- Eat Lots of Plants and Animals (Insects Optional)

Mark has a sense of humour. The Primal Blueprint is NOT a textbook.  It’s professional, yet enjoyable and even comical at times. Perhaps that’s even one of it’s strongest aspects – since what good is great knowledge if the communication is confusing?

In this chapter, Mark gets more specific with eating habits and choices. The vast, vast majority I agree with. A few details here and there I’m not exactly in agreement with, but overall, another excellent portion of the book.

Here Mark presents the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid. On the whole an excellent, clear guide. I would swap the positions of meat and vegetables, but hey, that’s me, and the difference for most people would be negligible.

Regarding supplements, I’m not “anti-pill”, but obviously only take supplements if you actually need them (i.e. you have a tested, measurable deficiency in a vitamin or mineral).

Chapter 5: Law #2- Avoid Poisonous Things

In this chapter Mark argues against the ‘conventional wisdom’ surrounding grains in a systematic way. He goes into detail regarding the effects of grains, legumes, processed foods and sugar on insulin levels and immune function. He also discusses gluten, lectins, phytates and polyunsaturated vegetable oils and their effects on nutrient absorption and health, clearly and logically.

Chapter 6: The Primal Blueprint Exercise Laws

Mark’s stance on exercise and physical activity is far superior to the run of the mill “chronic cardio” and bodybuilding crowd. I have read some accounts of the Primal Blueprint by fitness professionals that disagree with this section. I believe this is throwing the baby out with the bath water. In my opinion, moving frequently at a slow pace, lifting heavy things and occasionally sprinting is a great way to get basic general, functional fitness.

It is true that you can get into far greater specifics with how you lift heavy things, what heavy things and how often. That will depend on specific goals, training age, required recovery, energy levels and a host of other variables. What Mark offers here is a quick guide on how to effectively go from sedentary to moving (or from overdoing it to balance).

He discusses the case against chronic cardio and the importance of functional, compound movements in strength training and in play.

Chapter 7: The Primal Blueprint Lifestyle Laws

Without proper sleep and sunlight the rest is built on shaky foundations.
Also, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” holds true for humans generally.
Mark ties these together and shows how they affect our health (mental and physical).

He also covers the final Primal Blueprint laws of “Avoiding Stupid Mistakes” and “Using your Brain” – making this book comprehensive and not just a typical diet or exercise book.

Chapter 8: A Primal Approach to Weight Loss

The chapter begins by linking, and purposefully repeating which aspects of The Primal Blueprint will help you lose weight (fat)- although I hope by the end of the book that most people will realize that health, body composition, daily habits, and so on, are all inter-related, and very rarely exclusive to one another.

The carb/insulin vs reduced calorie intake for fat loss debate is still raging. The jury’s still out. Studies have shown that just about every weight (fat) loss method that is adhered to is effective – at least in the short term.

The major advantage of the Primal Blueprint method (and others) is that it involves lifestyle change, rather than ‘dieting’. This makes it easier to maintain medium to long term – which makes the results last.

Primal Conclusion

A strong ending for an excellent book. This book is a gem in the field of nutrition and lifestyle.

Mark gets really down to earth and a bit more behind the scenes. Not only in terms of psychology, but also in what a few days out of his life typically look like – specific foods eaten, activities, and so on.

Also, what you appreciate at the end of a health book – a complete list of foods and habits to aim for, and foods/habits to avoid. Simple as it is, I think most people will really appreciate this final section – especially people new to Paleo/Primal thinking.

Personal Conclusion

Overall, I give this book my highest regard and recommendation when it comes to proper nutrition and positive lifestyle habits to develop. This is the definitive book on nutrition and lifestyle change, especially considering how practical the information is and immediately applicable.

There are detractors to this book. Apart from “you can’t please everyone”, there are some flaws in this book. Domestic plants and animals are very different now than in the Paleolithic. Does that mean eating real food is bad? Of course not!

I agree with 95% of the content of this book. The things I don’t agree with won’t stop you from being successful with this lifestyle change. If you get bogged down in minutiae you will find fault with this book, and Paleo/Primal in general. If you see the big picture of ‘eat real food’ and ‘move/use your body in a functional way’, then the Primal Blueprint is a great template.

Like what you’ve read? Please leave a comment.  🙂

If you found this Primal Blueprint Review useful please share it with friends and family.

What is Fitness? Learn how to measure your progress

What is fitness? – A measurable definition!

Fitness is being physically able to do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. If you are wholly-fit, you can do your job, play games and sports, and do the normal activities of daily living on any level you wish without limitations produced by illness, injury, low self-esteem or stress.

Physical fitness is how you look, feel and perform. It comprises two related concepts: Health-related fitness (a state of health and well-being) and Functional fitness (a task-oriented definition based on the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations). Physical fitness is generally achieved through exercise, correct nutrition and enough rest. It is a vitally important part of life.

Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.


Health-related fitness

Crossfit Sickness Wellness Fitness Curve Diagram

This is a depiction of the the sickness-wellness-fitness curve in the 2002 Crossfit Journal Article defining fitness. (I’d look at body composition rather than just body fat; our understanding of cholesterol has developed since 2002; Systemic inflammation (through C-Reactive Protein and other markers) is also something I’d want to measure as a ‘wellness’ marker. This diagram IS a good starting point for understanding Health-related Fitness.)

Health

One way of looking at health is as our ability to survive and thrive RIGHT NOW. What’s your blood pressure? Blood sugar? Mental outlook? Stress level? Immune response? Ability to survive falling off a 12’ ladder? This is perhaps a simplistic view of health but I think it works quite well.

The indicators of sickness and wellness are measurable. The relative health of a person can be estimated using a range of biomarkers. Please keep in mind that across a population there are large variations in “normal”.

Using the scale, “Sickness” implies something may be amiss e.g Blood Pressure is above 140/90. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem or illness, but can spark further investigation and preventative measures if required. “Wellness” indicates normal or average health e.g BP of 120/80. A lower (but not too low) reading would suggest greater cardiovascular efficiency and greater “fitness”. Health and fitness do overlap, but the ‘ultra-fit’ do tend to be more prone to illness than ‘fit’. (Probably due to compromised immunity through chronic stress or inflammation)

Longevity

What if we considered health (the moment to moment ability to survive) over time? We would have longevity. Longevity is health over the long haul.

Longevity CAN simply mean surviving for a very long time. Quality of life does matter. One’s health may be such that any stressor, a cold, a fall, will be more than the individual can deal with. Conversely, perfect health, as measured on the day-to-day level, may curtail longevity. People who have a cold here and there tend to have lower rates of cancer. An occasional drop off in health may translate into improved longevity.

Functional fitness

Capability: Put simply, are you physically able to do the task?

Capacity: What volume of work/task are you able to accomplish?

The Crossfit model of fitness would include the concept that “He or she who does best at the widest variety of tasks is on average the “fittest”.” I would say that would make you the best generalist, or best at Crossfit. Ultimately, your ‘fitness’ is highly dependent on the tasks you wish to do.

Measures of Physical Fitness Summary Table

Recovery

The ability to recover after a physical challenge or illness is in itself an indicator of fitness. Consider two people. Both perform a gruelling task e.g shovelling a large load. At the end of the day, both are shattered. The following day, one is able to continue the task, the other can barely move. They have different levels of fitness / capacity (at least for that task).

Performance Health Longevity Optimal Venn Diagram

Having a performance bias may be at odds with health and longevity. Loads of endurance training may lead to oxidative stress, immune compromise and suboptimal dietary requirements necessary to fuel such efforts. If endurance sports are your thing, that’s fine. It’s perhaps good to know some of the down sides so one might make smart alterations to nutrition and training plans. Similarly if you aspire to be a Super Heavy Olympic Lifter you may need to consume an amount of food and carry a body mass that is absolutely at odds with health and longevity.

Another model is the notion that to be fit one should have a good balance in the development of all the engines that drive human activity: the ATP/CP pathway, glycolytic, and aerobic paths. The specifics of these energy pathways, ways to train them and implications for everyday life will feature in future articles.

What all this boils down to is for general fitness you need capability in various modalities, physical adaptations and metabolic engines, and capacity across a wide variety of tasks and time-frames. This offers a quantifiable way of measuring fitness. Do more work in less time and you are fitter!

Once again – Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.

Technique Tuesday: Dave does a Power Clean

Here’s the first of our new regular feature, Technique Tuesday, in which Tim analyzes the technique and form of a particular lift. This week, the power clean as performed by Dave.

As always, we’re interested in your thoughts and comments, so please post them below!

Quad, Hamstring and Lower Back Mobility Video

Mobility Wod Quote

Here’s the inimitable Kelly Starrett of Mobility WOD delivering a great lesson on how to improve mobility to hips and spine and flexibility to quad, hamstring and lower back.

Also check out an earlier post on thoracic spine and hip mobilization.

Check it out – and do it!

Also have a look at Kelly Starrett’s book, Becoming a Supple Leopard, for more great mobilization tips.

Pregnancy and exercise – a guide for training

pregnancy_exercise

Many people seem to treat pregnancy as an illness. Pregnant women do not need to be wrapped in cotton wool. While pregnancy does mean significant physiological changes, the expectant mother has not turned into an alien! [1][3] A sensible approach to pregnancy and exercise training can mean a happier, [9][11] healthier, [2][3][6][10] fitter [2][3][10] mum. This can lead to better recovery post-delivery [2][4][5] and better headspace [2][9][11] for dealing with sleepless nights!

If in any doubt at all consult your obstetrician. This is especially important if you have complications. Some of the things to discuss include:

  • The type of exercise you like to do
  • Your general fitness level
  • How much exercise you did before you conceived. [1][3]
  • Your desired intensity level [7]
  • Any complications with your pregnancy

Ultimately – see the conclusion below – especially number 5!
 

Some general benefits of exercise

  • You might actually (shock, horror!) enjoy exercise – or at least the social aspect [9].
  • A more efficient engine means more energy
  • Improve your posture [2] and circulation [10]
  • Improve your cardiovascular health
  • Get stronger
  • Improve your work capacity (see work capacity below)
  •  

    Pregnancy specific benefits of exercise

    • Stronger back muscles – help alleviate back pain as your belly grows [2]
    • Stronger core muscles – help prevent incontinence [2][4][5]
    • Relieve stress [9][11]
    • Improve your sleep and ward off insomnia [11]
    • Ward off pregnancy-induced bone loss [6]
    • Prepare for the physical demands of labour (see work capacity below)
    • Improve your recovery after labour [2]
    • Initiate a faster return to pre-pregnancy fitness and weight [2]
    • Increase your ability to cope with the physical demands of motherhood (see work capacity below)

     

    Changes Cautions (things to be aware of)
    Increase in body weight Changes in Balance / Coordination due to increased weight and the distribution of the weight
    Loosening of all ligaments (Relaxin) The loosening of ligaments can make you more prone to sprains and other injuries
    Increase in resting heart rate Don’t use heart rate to guide intensity as it has increased – use Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)
    Decrease in Blood Pressure (2nd Trimester) Avoid rapid changes in position due to decreased blood pressure
    Increase in Blood Volume, Haemoglobin and VO2 Max (First few weeks after birth) Improved performance!
    Abdominal separation (painless) Sit-ups or crunches may worsen this, and are ineffective.

     

    Things to avoid

    • Overheating has been linked to developmental problems for baby in animal studies
    • Lying on your back (from 4 months) can restrict circulation. Modify exercises to on your side.
    • Excessive intensity is thought to have effects on birth weight (3rd Trimester), though there is conflicting evidence and opinions, so this is still inconclusive [2][3][7][8]

    Avoid jolts or falls [3]. Unfortunately vigorous or extreme activities such as horse riding, skiing, mountain climbing are out. You should also avoid most contact sports, such as football, basketball and so on. In the later stages of pregnancy, avoid activities that involve jumping, frequent changes of direction and excessive stretching (such as gymnastics).

    Pregnancy is not the right time to start any new intensive [7][8] exercise, but it is safe to continue with most types of exercise if you’re used to them.
     

    Limitations of Guidelines

    Public health recommendations by their very nature are designed to capture as many members of the public within their umbrella as possible. They are an excellent starting template. They often have current information and links to resources for further inquiry and should not be overlooked.

    A great example of sensible pregnancy and exercise recommendations can be found at:

    http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Pregnancy_and_exercise

    The reason I particularly like these recommendations is their acknowledgement of relative capacity, which is often lacking in Public Health statements.
     

    Relative capacity

    If you haven’t exercised before becoming pregnant, you would approach the new activity pretty much the same way as if you weren’t pregnant. That is, you’d seek the help of a professional who can design a structured program with your particular goals and needs in mind. Gradual development of strength and fitness with incremental improvement over time.

    On the other hand, someone who’s been exercising for years, has built up a baseline of strength, endurance and other general physical skills is going to have greater physical capacity than someone who has not. This woman would be able to do much more than her previously inactive counterpart. Her loads and speed would be reduced compared to pre-pregnancy levels as a margin of safety, but she could still outperform others at her gym of lesser capacity.
     

    Pelvic floor exercises and pregnancy [4][5]

    Strong abdominal muscles support your spine. The internal core and pelvic floor abdominal muscles act as a natural ‘corset’ to protect the pelvis and lumbar spine.

    Your pelvic floor muscles are weakened during pregnancy and during birth (vaginal delivery), so it is extremely important to begin conditioning the pelvic floor muscles from the start of your pregnancy.

    Appropriate exercises can be prescribed by a physiotherapist or a personal trainer who has training and experience with pelvic floor. It is important to continue with these throughout your pregnancy and resume as soon as is comfortable after the birth.
     

    Warning signs when exercising during pregnancy [3]

    If you experience any of the following during or after physical activity, stop exercising immediately and see your doctor:

    • Headache
    • Dizziness or feeling faint
    • Heart palpitations
    • Chest pain
    • Swelling of the face, hands or feet
    • Calf pain or swelling
    • Vaginal bleeding
    • Contractions
    • Deep back or pubic pain
    • Cramping in the lower abdomen
    • Walking difficulties
    • An unusual change in your baby’s movements
    • Amniotic fluid leakage
    • Unusual shortness of breath
    • Decreased foetal movements

     

    Conclusion

    If the exercise you’re doing makes you feel strange or hurts in a non-working-muscle kind of way – stop! The best guide to whether something is working for you or not is how it feels. The rough guide can be summarised as follows:

    1. Get advice for your particular circumstances
    2. Every woman is different
    3. Try things out
    4. Listen to your body
    5. You can still work hard but don’t overdo it.

    Consider exercise during pregnancy an opportunity for ‘maintenance’ rather than for ‘improving performance’.

 

Further Reading

Victorian Government Better Health Channel Guidelines:
http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Pregnancy_and_exercise

Sports Medicine Australia FactSheet:
http://sma.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/WIS-ExPreg.pdf

The website babycenter has some useful articles, including:
http://www.babycenter.com.au/a622/tips-for-a-safe-workout
http://www.babycenter.com.au/a637/when-not-to-exercise
 

References

[1] Lokey, E. A., Tran, Z. V., Wells, C. L., Myers, B. C., & Tran, A. C. (1991). Effects of physical exercise on pregnancy outcomes: a meta-analytic review. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 23(11), 1234-1239.

[2] Nascimento, Simony L.; Surita, Fernanda G.; Cecatti, José G. (2012). Physical exercise during pregnancy: a systematic review. Current Opinion in Obstetrics & Gynecology: December 2012 – Volume 24 – Issue 6 – p 387–394

[3] Horak, T. A., & Osman, A. (2012). Exercise in pregnancy: review. In Obstetrics and Gynaecology Forum (Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 13-16). Sabinet Online.

[4] Hay-Smith J, Mørkved S, Fairbrother KA, Herbison GP. (2008) Pelvic floor muscle training for prevention and treatment of urinary and faecal incontinence in antenatal and postnatal women. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD007471. DOI 10.1002/14651858.CD007471.

[5] Mørkved S, Bø K. (2014) Effect of pelvic floor muscle training during pregnancy and after childbirth on prevention and treatment of urinary incontinence: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2014;48:299-310 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2012-091758

[6] Brandao KL, Mottola MF, Gratton R, Maloni J. (2013) Bone status in activity-restricted pregnant women assessed using calcaneal quantitative ultrasound. Biol Res Nurs. 2013 Apr;15(2):205-12. doi: 10.1177/1099800411423807. Epub 2011 Oct 13.

[7] Salvesen KÅ, Hem E, Sundgot-Borgen J. (2012) Fetal wellbeing may be compromised during strenuous exercise among pregnant elite athletes. Br J Sports Med. 2012 Mar;46(4):279-83. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2010.080259. Epub 2011 Mar 10.

[8] Szymanski LM1, Satin AJ. (2012) Strenuous exercise during pregnancy: is there a limit? Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2012 Sep;207(3):179.e1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2012.07.021. Epub 2012 Jul 20.

[9] Poudevigne MS, O’Connor PJ. (2006) A Review of Physical Activity Patterns in Pregnant Women and Their Relationship to Psychological Health. Sports Medicine – January 2006, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 19-38

[10] Kramer MS, McDonald SW. (2006) Aerobic exercise for women during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD000180. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD000180.pub2.

[11] Goodwin, A., Astbury, J. and McMeeken, J. (2000), Body image and psychological well-being in pregnancy. A comparison of exercisers and non-exercisers. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, 40: 442–447. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-828X.2000.tb01178.x

My love hate relationship with Crossfit

crossfit

My love hate relationship with Crossfit

The motto of our gym is “Better than Yesterday”. Tied into this idea is that there’s no perfect system or perfect person – there’s always something to work on, always something that can be improved.

I first heard about Crossfit from a friend when in Japan in 2006. I remember I tried a ‘mainsite’ workout (scaled) with dumbbells and got through it – barely. At that stage I’d been doing Martial Arts regularly for about 5 years and considered myself reasonably fit for a 25 year old. I was so shot through the core that when I was getting into the shower afterwards I was unable to maintain my spine position and had to lie down. I felt like if I’d stayed standing I would have done myself some potentially serious damage.

finished-a-crossfit-wo-baby

That experience taught me a valuable lesson. Scaling is good but is second choice after progression. (Also, learn what you’re getting yourself into and don’t push too hard at first!)

I did my Certificates III and IV in Fitness in 2008 and got my Crossfit Coach’s Certificate in 2009. Looking back I recognise how important the ‘mainstream’ skill set has been in terms of my understanding of simple anatomy and physiology. The Crossfit Certification has been instrumental in my growth as a Strength & Conditioning coach and the application of functional movements to the prescription of exercises to my clients.

Had I never encountered Crossfit I am fairly sure I wouldn’t be nearly as effective as a trainer as I feel I have become. That said, had I not had the grounding of the Cert III & IV, and just had the weekend Crossfit Coach Cert – I would be downright dangerous.

Let me be clear – I am not saying that all Crossfit coaches are dangerous. Most aren’t, some are. Some ‘mainstream’ coaches are dangerous. I’m just saying I feel I would have been a dangerous trainer without the conventional skills and experience to be my (and my client’s) seat-belt.

What does all this have to do with a love-hate relationship with Crossfit?

What-is-Crossfit-Infographic

The concept of Crossfit is great. I think the idea of constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements is fantastic. The implementation of that idea has evolved, for me, over time (Better than Yesterday). No longer do I program 20+ minute AMRAPs where at the end of the session you feel like you need to be scooped up with a trowel. The sledgehammer has been replaced with a scalpel. Clients who have been with me for the last 5 year would readily agree that the programming has changed – and for the better. A progressive overload strength program is now the bedrock. A strength-endurance or Olympic lifting progression is alternated cyclically. Constantly varied (within a thought-out pool of purpose-driven) Metcons of no more than 10 minutes duration rounds out the ‘cardio’.

Great results for clients (with very low injury rates) have been the result.

Many a coach seems to confuse ‘constantly varied’ with ‘random’. Random workouts is an easy out for the coach as they can just check the Crossfit main site or other Crossfit gyms WOD feed for ideas to pinch or modify. This method does the coach and the clients a disservice. Copying another coach’s programming without understanding the intended progression (if there is one) or appropriate scaling (if you must use scaling) means the workout will not be optimally challenging for the client(s) or fit their needs or goals.

‘High intensity’ is not the same as ‘wiped out’. If your client doesn’t walk out feeling better than when they walked in – this is a symptom of overloading them and can be steps down the path to adrenal fatigue – or unhappy clients who get sick of ‘punishment’ (especially if it is associated with eating habits). At the end of a workout the headspace should be ‘proud of my achievement of completing a tough workout’ not ‘I’m glad I survived and kind-of dread next time already.’

‘Functional Movements’ are hard to get wrong. You do need to remember to ask yourself “functional for what?” The movement you ask the client to perform should have some link to the things they want to be able to do in their everyday life, or specific sporting event or challenge they’d like to participate in. Doing a hard workout full of functional movements is good – and better than hard non-functional movements – but there needs to be a point. There needs to be a WHY this movement is good for you and how it applied to YOU.

There is huge variety in the quality of training in the fitness industry. There is huge variety in the quality of coaching in Crossfit. My major criticism of Crossfit is that (perhaps due to the prevalence of the competition aspect, bromances or macho vibe) people do things they shouldn’t. (Clapping Fran??? – see below) Often those things are cool TO BE ABLE to do – but can and should aren’t the same thing. I don’t think this was addressed in 2006, and I still think it hasn’t been adequately addressed in 2014.

Very, very keen to hear your thoughts.

Goal Setting: Planning to Succeed – this is really Important!

Do you know how to set a goal that will help you achieve what you want?

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore

Goal setting may be one of the most important skills you can learn.

In fitness, knowing what you want means you and your trainer can put together a plan to work towards your goals. Whether you want to lose ‘weight’, improve your strength, get leaner, improve your core strength, get more flexible/improve mobility, increase your cardiovascular or muscular endurance or have sport-specific goals has a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads.

In martial arts, knowing whether your true interest lies in MMA, fitness, kata (patterns), tournaments or street-realistic self defence can have a huge impact on the style you choose or the emphasis you want to put on different aspects of your training.

Start the process by choosing 1-3 targets. Limiting the number means you won’t get discouraged if you have lots of things you’d like to improve. Map them out – making sure they are SMART:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time-based

Specific
This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific they must say exactly what is expected and why is it important.

A specific goal will usually answer five “W” questions:
What: What do I want to accomplish?
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Who: Who is involved?
Where: Identify a location.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Measurable
This stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if it is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether progress is being made toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to you stay on track, reach target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
How much?
How many?
How will I know when it is accomplished?

Achievable
This stresses the importance of realism and attainability. While an attainable goal may be a stretch to achieve, the goal is not extreme. That is, it is neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and capacity to reach them.
An attainable goal will usually answer the question:
How: How can the goal be accomplished?

S.M.A.R.T goalsGoals-mistakes

Relevant
This stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter sandwiches by 2:00pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable, and time-based, but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish it. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered relevant.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match my other efforts/needs?

Time-based
This emphasizes the importance of grounding goals within a time frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps efforts to be focussed on completion on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in life. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
When?
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?

Using these criteria – think hard about what you really want. Write it down. Start planning. Start achieving your goals!