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.

Sydney Morning Herald: Paleo Diet Criticism

Paleo Diet Criticism

The Paleo Diet has been rising in popularity recently. So too has Paleo Diet criticism.

This post is a bit longer than usual – and hopefully not too ranty!

Paleo Diet Criticism

On the 5th August 2014, this article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper:

http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diet-and-fitness/nutritionists-warn-of-dangers-in-paleo-dieting-20140805-100iup.html

This article is both interesting and error filled. Here are some points with which I took exception. (Some important, some trivial). My critique of the Paleo Diet Criticism will make most sense if you open that article in a new window, read it, and then read it in parallel to the points I’m making. I also wish to clarify certain misconceptions this newspaper article propagates about Paleo. Please don’t misunderstand me. My article is not a knee-jerk reaction to criticism of a lifestyle modification I think works for many people. It’s a reaction to a mischaracterization of Paleo. At the bottom of this article I have linked to a well written piece that is a legitimate Paleo diet criticism. Anyway, here we go!

“The Paleo diet might be heading for extinction, like the cavemen who inspired it…”

Cavemen are not extinct, they are our ancestors. If they were extinct we wouldn’t be here!

“…modern Paleo eating mimics the hunter-gatherer diet of our Paleolithic ancestors…”

Let’s be clear from the outset. Modern Paleo seeks to emulate rather than replicate hunter-gatherer diets. What do I mean by that is? Get ideas of officeworkers carrying clubs while wearing leopard skins out of your head. Forget starting fires with two sticks. This is not modern Paleo. Modern Paleo is eating unprocessed foods. Simple. If you can eat grains and legumes unprocessed, be my guest. Meat, you can. Vegetables, you can. Fruit, you can. Get the idea? That’s all Paleo is – unprocessed foods.

Stanton says we should applaud the low content of processed foods, sugar and salt advocated in Paleo diets but asks, “why exclude plant-based foods such as wholegrains and legumes when a wealth of evidence confirms their health value?

There is an argument to eating minimally processed grains and legumes, if you can tolerate them. (No abdominal bloating / gas / discomfort.) A lot of people (myself included) have ‘gastro-intestinal issues’ with beans. :/
I’m not convinced that grains and legumes do anything for you that a variety of vegetables don’t. Grains and legumes often displace vegetables on the plate. I think vegetables offer more nutritional value.

The article then says

…the chief executive of the Dietitians Association of Australia, Claire Hewat, says there is no scientific evidence to support eating the Paleo way.

yet then quotes her as saying

“A recent search of the published studies looking at Paleolithic diets revealed no more than 10 studies, all with very few participants over very short time frames – most less than three months. And many people dropped out of the studies, claiming the diet was difficult to follow,” Hewat says.

“No more than 10 studies” is not the same as “no scientific evidence”. So either the article mischaracterises or oversimplifies Hewat’s position, or, less likely, she conflates scant evidence as non-existent. It is the case that there have been few scientific studies of the Paleo Diet. These studies tend to be positive (like this one) but also tend to have small sample sizes. These are red flags. For what it’s worth, there is a study about Paleo being healthier than the Mediterranean diet. All nutrition studies have drop out rates.

“Any diet excluding whole food groups should raise suspicions”

yet the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) has no problem with vegetarianism…

“…eating more meat than is needed by the body certainly has risks”.

Yes. So does drinking too much water. Not limited to red meat, the only risk of consuming too much protein I know is for people with existing kidney disease.

“Claims that our ancestors did not experience heart disease, cancer and diabetes ignore the fact that few people lived past their reproductive age and physical activity ensured people were lean.”

I don’t know about historical disease rates, so won’t speak to that. Staffan Lindberg’s Food and Western Disease talks in depth about Papua New Guinean hunter-gatherers, nutrition and disease. Follow that rabbit hole if you dare! In any case, few people living past reproductive age is a great example of not understanding ‘life expectancy from birth’. (A population without sanitation, for example, will have higher infant mortality – which will bring down the life expectancy figure. Fewer people making it out of childhood doesn’t necessarily mean adults died before they got old…

“Two major hazards associated with the Paleo diet are the high content of red meat and the lack of wholegrains”

Covered the wholegrains thing above.
Red meat. Ahhh!. I sigh for two reasons.

  1. Red meat is delicious!
  2. The (too much) red meat is bad for you trope. Or tripe. :p

Let’s address number two, as number one is self evident to most people. 🙂
Most ‘meat’ studies don’t discriminate between red and processed meats. D The ‘red meat increases your risk of obesity / diabetes / cancer boat is turning. Slowly, but surely.

This review and meta-analysis from 2010 found:

Consumption of processed meats, but not red meats, is associated with higher incidence of CHD and diabetes mellitus. These results highlight the need for better understanding of potential mechanisms of effects and for particular focus on processed meats for dietary and policy recommendations.

Then there’s this study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 2014 studied approximately 75,000 people over 15 years, looking specifically at the difference in survival between red and processed meat eaters. This is what that study said:

High red meat consumption is associated with an increased mortality risk. This association is partly explained by the negative effect of processed meat consumption, which is widely established. The role of nonprocessed meat is unclear.

Not too controversial so far… let’s see the conclusion!

We found that high total red meat consumption was associated with progressively shorter survival, largely because of the consumption of processed red meat. Consumption of nonprocessed red meat alone was not associated with shorter survival.

So sausages and porterhouse steak don’t have the same effects on health? Wow!

The Paleo diet can be expensive. So is medical care in later life. If you’d like to see how you can manage the Paleo Diet on a budget then please check this out

Paleo is often characterised as ‘low-carb’. It can be, but often it’s just ‘lower carb’ than eating cereal for breakfast, a roast potato for lunch and pasta for dinner. Pretty much any version of Paleo you see will have the proponent suggest you match carb intake to activity level.

Paleo (done right) isn’t a fad. It’s a healthy way of eating that works for many people.
Effort = results. If you aren’t committed to making lasting change then no lifestyle change will last.
That’s not Paleo’s fault or a controversial statement. That’s reality.

That being said, if Paleo doesn’t work for you – do something else!

If you’re really keen – you could have a look at the Dietitians Association of Australia website. Specifically the sponsors – major partners and associate partners. I believe the DAA has a conflict of interest in their position. Feel free to draw your own conclusions as to why this criticism of the growing Paleo movement may have come about…

Please don’t settle for half-baked criticisms and straw men.

If you’d like to read an excellent article that makes legitimate criticisms of Paleo then check out 4 valid criticisms of the Paleo Diet by Jaime Hartman at GutsyByNature.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments.

Recipe: Choc Raspberry Cupcakes

Choc Raspberry Cupcakes

Gluten, Dairy and Guilt Free!

Makes 12 cupcakes

Choc Cupcake

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cup of almond meal
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup of coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 cup of almond or coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of frozen raspberries

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees. Grease a 12 holed cupcake tin.
  2. Place almond meal, coconut flour, coconut sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt together in a bowl. Stir together and make a well in the middle.
  3. Melt coconut oil until liquid. To the milk, add vinegar and vanilla extract. Stir to combine.
  4. Pour liquids (including eggs) into the well and combine until just combined.
  5. Add raspberries and fold through.
  6. Spoon mixture equally into cupcake tin.
  7. Place in oven on middle or lower shelf. Cook for about 25 minutes or until the tops bounce when you press lightly.
  8. Take it out of the oven. Let it cool completely before carefully lifting it out of the tin.
  9. Bon appetit!?li>

The adventurous might like to top the choc raspberry cupcakes with:

Avocado Chocolate Icing / Mousse Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 avocados, peeled and deseeded
  • 1/4 cup of cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup of coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons of maple syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder (optional)

Method

  1. Place all ingredients in a bowl. Blend with a spatula (or electric mixer) until smooth.
  2. Serve as icing on cake/cupcakes or mousse dip with fresh fruit. Freeze it to make ice cream or eat its goodness all by itself!
  3. Thanks to Chirotherapy for this great choc raspberry cupcakes recipe!

    You could also try these snack and dessert ideas: Cheesecake and Chocolate Brownies.

    Do you have a favourite healthy snack or dessert you’d like to share?

Recipe: Kale Chips for the win!

Kale Chips: Undiscovered wonderland.

I only got on to these recently. Boy, I’m glad I did!

For those of you who barely know what kale is, let alone how you would make it into chips – here it is:
kale chips

What is Kale?

Kale is a vegetable with green or purple leaves, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be close to wild cabbage. It’s in the same group of vegetables as broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts. When baked or dehydrated, kale takes on a consistency similar to that of a potato chip. Curly kale varieties are usually preferred for chips. The chips can be seasoned with salt or other spices.

Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. It has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat.

When you combine this healthy goodness with the texture of the chip – magic happens!

How to make kale chips

To make kale chips there are a few things to remember:

  • The kale leaves must be DRY.
  • Bake the kale at 170°C.
  • Cook the chips for 12 minutes.
  • Salt AFTER the kale chips are out of the oven.

Here’s what you need to make your own chips:

  • A bunch of kale
  • 1 tablespoon of avocado oil
  • Sea salt (or your favourite seasoning salt)

Here’s what to do:

  • Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  • Remove the leaves from the stems and wash the leaves well.
  • In small batches – spin the leaves dry in a salad spinner.
  • Toss the dry leaves with avocado oil and use your hands to distribute the oil evenly.
  • Line a baking sheet with baking paper and lie some of the leaves on top in a single layer.
  • Make sure the leaves are all flat and not folded over or they won’t crisp properly.
  • Pop the tray in the oven and after 12 minutes, your kale chips will be done!

Once the kale’s out of the oven, season the chips with some sea salt or your favourite seasoning salt.
Bon appetit!

DO NOT miss the deadline or your chips will be BITTER.

Please also check out more recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

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.

Try this Paleo Banana Pancake Recipe

paleo banana pancake recipe

This Paleo Banana Pancake recipe is simple to make.

It’s also quick to prepare, nutritious and delicious.

Typically pancake mixes many ingredients. Most of them fail the “can you eat it by itself?” test. They have ingredients such as flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, caster sugar, eggs, milk and butter.
(For example check out . Have a look on the side panel of ready-made pancake mix next time you’re at the supermarket.

My recipe is way easier and better for you.

This Paleo Banana Pancake recipe has 3 or 4 ingredients. It can be ready in less than 10 minutes. It’s good for you and tastes fantastic.

To make about 6 pancakes the size of a bread plate you will need:

  • 1 banana
  • 2 eggs
  • a big pinch of cinnamon
  • salt to taste (optional)

  1. Mash the banana with a fork or potato masher
  2. Whisk the eggs until fluffy
  3. Combine the banana and eggs and mix well
  4. If using optional salt – add it now
  5. Poor the mixture into pan or hotplate (low/med)
  6. Sprinkle on the cinnamon
  7. Turn when the middle is starting to firm up (about 5 mins)

Add blueberries or strawberries as a garnish or side.

Enjoy the yummy goodness! Please also try delicious Paleo Chocolate Brownies!

Try delicious Paleo Chocolate Brownie Bites

Paleo Chocolate Brownie Balls

This delicious Paleo Chocolate brownie recipe is a version of the one I found on Paleogrubs.com.
Where they used walnuts only, I decided to use mixed nuts. You can get a 250g or 500g bag of almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts and pecans from the supermarket.

For a dessert or sweet snack this is hard to beat. This chocolate brownie mix is easy to make, delicious and nutritious. You know exactly what’s in it. There are no additives or preservatives. The nuts provide a good source of protein and healthy fats. The raw cacao is high in antioxidants. The only trouble you’ll have with these brownies is having them last long!

Ingredients

  • 250g of raw mixed nuts
  • 100g of pitted dates
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/3 of a cup of raw cacao powder
  • A pinch of salt

Instructions

  • Add nuts and salt to a blender or food processor. Mix until the nuts are finely ground.
  • Add the dates, vanilla, and cacao powder to the blender. Mix well until everything is combined.
  • With the blender still running, add a couple drops of water at a time to make the mixture stick together.
  • Using a spatula, transfer the mixture into a bowl. Using your hands, form small round balls, rolling in your palm.
  • Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

For other sweet deliciousness, please check out this Paleo Cheesecake recipe.

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