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!

Injury treatment: When to ice and when to heat

Injury treatment: Ice or Heat?

Thank you to Chirotherapy for this special guest post.

When to use Ice

injury_treatment_ice
Use ice if it’s within 5 minutes of the injury occurring. It should be used up to 48 hours after the injury.

If you can recall a mechanism for injury, use ice.
Tip: keep an icepack or frozen bag of peas in the freezer in case of an emergency. You could also use ice in a plastic bag.

  1. Wrap cold source in a tea towel or similar. Place this directly on to the skin above the injured area. Make sure clothing is removed from the affected area.
  2. With injuries that have just occurred, compress and elevate the area where possible.
  3. Leave on for 15-25 minutes depending on the area. Leave on for a longer time for deeper or bigger areas like the hips or lower back and less for more shallow areas like the neck and fingers.
  4. Remove and rest from the ice for as long as you applied it.
  5. Repeat until you have repeated the cycle 4 times.
  6. Use 2-3 times a day for up to 48 hours after the original injury.

When to use Heat

injury_treatment_heat
Heat is a very soothing therapy that can be used to ease tense muscles by improving circulation. Use heat when the issue has been around for more than 48 hours.
Do not use heat if there are altered sensations, pain, numbness or pins and needles running down the legs or arms.

  1. Heat wheat pack or similar item according to instructions.
  2. Wrap heat source in tea towel or similar or by itself over clothing.
  3. Leave on for 20 minutes.
  4. Further repeats are not necessary.

NB: Do not use heat or cold therapy if you cannot feel the difference between hot and cold, like in the case of nerve damage.

In the case of torticollis or “wry neck”, you can alternate between heat and cold as per the ice protocol except swap between the ice and heat sources.

If in doubt, use ice.

USING ICE AND HEAT CAN BURN YOU SO BE SURE TO REMOVE THE ICE/HEAT BEFORE ANY DAMAGE OCCURS.

Thanks again to Chirotherapy for this special guest post.

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.

9 ways bands can help you stretch

Have you ever used bands to stretch?

Aside from providing elastic resistance in workouts, bands are also a great tool for stretching. Improve your flexibility by using this guide for a 9 stretch sequence you can do with just one little band.

See also this video and these drills.

Give these a try and post your thoughts and experience to comments.

Upper Back Stretch
Upper Back

  • Keep weight on your legs – don’t rely on the band
  • Your arms stay as close to your head as possible
  • Try to get your bicep behind your ear
  • Relax and breathe into the stretch
  • Go to discomfort rather than pain
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Lat Stretch
Lats

  • Keep weight on your legs – don’t rely on the band
  • Your arms stay as close to your head as possible
  • Try to get your bicep behind your ear
  • Try to lengthen the whole way from shoulder to hip
  • Relax and breathe into the stretch
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Chest Stretch
Chest / Shoulder / Obliques

  • Keep weight on your legs – don’t rely on the band
  • Your arm stays above shoulder height
  • Try to open your chest as much as possible
  • Try to open from shoulder to opposite hip
  • Relax and breathe into the stretch
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Hamstring Stretch
Hamstrings

2 options:

  • Leg straight and toes pointed or
  • Leg slightly bent and toes back
  • Keep both hips on the floor
  • Band around upper back; Relax and breathe
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Adductor Stretch
Adductors

  • Same setup as the hamstrings stretch
  • Keep both hips on the floor
  • Open hips / take foot out to the floor
  • Band around upper back; Relax and breathe
  • Go to discomfort rather than pain
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Internal Rotator Stretch
Internal Rotators

  • Same initial setup as the hamstrings stretch
  • Put both feet into the band
  • Move your knees to outside the band (the band will run to the inner knee/thigh area
  • Move elbows/forearms to inside the band
  • Put your feet on the floor and add pressure with elbows
  • Hold for 30 seconds to 1 minute

Hip Stretch
Hips

  • Get into squat position with feet on the wall
  • Keep both hips on the floor
  • Run the band under you – at pelvis level
  • Loop the band over each knee
  • Let femurs draw to hips; Relax and breathe
  • Hold for 1 to 2 minutes

Hips and Shoulders Stretch
Hips and Shoulders (Less Intense)

  • Same initial setup as the hips stretch
  • Continue to keep both hips on the floor
  • Take broom handle “overhead” with hands wide
  • Keep neutral spine
  • Relax and breathe
  • Hold for 1 minute

Hip and Shoulder Stretch
Hips and Shoulders (More Intense)

  • Same initial setup as the hips stretch
  • Continue to keep both hips on the floor
  • Take broom handle “overhead” with hands narrow
  • Keep neutral spine (no raised or puffed chest)
  • Relax and breathe; allow shoulder to ‘sink’ open
  • Hold for 1 minute

As at the top: see also this video and these drills.

The Pick-up Password – Safety tip to protect your child

kids safety password

If you’re a parent then you care about your kids.
You want to know your kids are safe.
You want to know where they are.
A simple password can make all the difference.

Having a system for school pickup is a must. Most parents tell their kids if they are going to be picked up by someone else. Sometimes the parent might forget. Sometimes the child may not remember. A simple, yet effective solution is the pick-up password. The parent and child agree on a password. Only the parent, child and authorised collector know it. That way, if someone forgets an arrangement there is a quick solution.

Situational examples:

“Hi Billy.”
“Hi Mrs Jones.”
“Billy, your mum asked me to pick you up from school today.”
“Oh, ok. What’s the password?”
“Oh, yes. Your mum said you’d ask me that. The password is (correct answer)”
“Thanks Mrs Jones. Let’s go!”
(Gets in the car)

“Hi Billy.”
“Hi Mrs Jones.”
“Billy, your mum asked me to pick you up from school today.”
“Oh, ok. What’s the password?”
“Password? She didn’t tell me one!”
OR
“The password is (incorrect answer)”
OR
“Get in the car. I don’t have time for this!”
“Thanks anyway Mrs Jones, but my mum said “No password, no go!”
(Billy now goes to find a teacher)

Simple steps any kid can learn:

  1. Choose a password you and your child can easily remember
  2. Any time you arrange someone to collect your child remember to tell them the password!
  3. At pickup, your child will challenge the collector for the password.

If the password is correct, your child knows they are safe to go (and will probably be chuffed with the system!)
If the password is incorrect your child knows to run and find a teacher immediately.

Using a simple (polite) challenge/response system like this achieves a number of things.

  • Your child is safer at pickup time
  • You and your child will be more aware of personal safety without any fear or paranoia
  • Remove situational ambiguity so your child can practice making confident choices
  • Give your child the ability to say “no” to adults in certain appropriate situations

The exact wording can be modified depending on the age of the kids involved. The message must stay clear.
This tip (and many others) are the sort of thing taught in the self defence classes at FunFit.

Do you think this system would work for you? Please post your thoughts to comments and share this with parents you think could benefit. Thanks.

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.

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.

Paleo Cheesecake Recipe

Paleo Cheesecake

This is a version of a Paleo “Cheesecake” Recipe I found at paleocupboard.com

This recipe is gluten and dairy free – and actually tastes really good. At Christmas I even got complimented on it’s tastiness from my mother in law!

A couple of major diversions from the original include using raspberries rather than blackberries (out of season) and using the actual raspberry ‘pulp’ as a topping, rather than the juice as a compote. You can freeze the juice to make popsicles if you have the equipment.

Ingredients Directions
CRUST TO MAKE THE CRUST
  • 1 1/2 cups raw almonds
  • 10 pitted dates
  • 2 Tbsp. raw honey
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
Blend the almonds for about 5 seconds. Add the dates and honey and blend until the dough sticks together. Take your pan and press the dough into the pan and along the sides. Place the crust in the refrigerator while you work on the other layers.
FILLING TO MAKE THE FILLING
  • 3 cups soaked cashews
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
Blend the cashews for about 15 seconds. Add the remaining filling ingredients and blend until very smooth. Pour the filling into the crust, making sure the top is smooth, and return to the refrigerator.
TOPPING TO MAKE THE TOPPING
  • 2 1/2 cups raspberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp. raw honey
  • 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
1. Place the raspberries and water in a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Allow the berries to cook down (about 15 minutes), stirring regularly. Add the raw honey and vanilla extract and stir to combine. Place the berry mixture in a fine mesh strainer held over a small bowl. Press the mixture with the back of a spoon in order to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Spoon the berry “pulp” over the top of the filling layer, making sure it is evenly distributed out to the crust layer. Allow to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.

Paleo Cheesecake CrustPaleo Cheesecake Crust and FillingPaleo Cheesecake

New Year Resolutions: How to make them work

This is a special guest post from Lachlan Heasman.

New Year’s resolutions have the same reputation as pre-election promises. As early as the second of January you find yourself keeping the resolution that you actually made, rather than the one you might have liked to have made. Having these good intentions can sometimes be effective, but most of the time are not as our past behaviour is the strongest indicator of our future behaviour.

One simple way of to overcome this problem is to be specific and challenging in what you intend to achieve. For example having a resolution that you will “get fit this year”, is not as effective as “being able to do 50 push ups – in one go – by Easter”. Here you’ve moved from the vague to the specific and (maybe) challenging.

Specific Goals

Another simple way to stick with your resolutions is to make a simple plan. If the goal is 50 push ups, then the plan could be “whenever I go to turn the TV on I will do as many push ups as I can”. This plan has three important elements, 1 – you need to goal (specific and challenging), 2 – you need an action that will help you attain a goal, 3 – you need a situation that will trigger you to do the action. You then put your plan together like this: “When situation X arises, I will perform action!”.

Intentions

Intentions

For a reminder on SMART goal-setting, click here.

Of course this is not the panacea for keeping your resolutions. You need to actually care about goal you have set in your resolution, you also need to be committed to taking action, and the situation needs to be something appropriate and workable.

So here’s a test for you when kicking back in front of the cricket on the 2/1/2014. Ask yourself the following;

What do I want to achieve this year? Or this quarter?

How much do I care about this?

What am I going to do to make this happen?

What are the situations where I will be making this happen?