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10 Reasons You’ll Come Out Of COVID-19 Fitter

Your gym is closed. You need to keep distance from every one else. You might even be self-quarantined.

You can’t access your coach. You don’t have a home gym set up. And if you’re not an athlete what’s the point of working on your performance and fitness anyway?

Doesn’t really sound like the prescription to improving your fitness and performance?

But it could be.

Below are 10 reasons you’ll come out of COVID-19 fitter than before this all started.

1. Fitter relative to everyone else.

Truth is we compare ourselves to others. Good or bad, it happens. We go on a hike with friends and family and notice we’re the only ones huffing and puffing while wishing there were more stops for selfies i.e. rest and water breaks.

You go on a beach vacation and you notice who goes to the pool and who avoids it. And of those that venture into the water who is all wrapped up and who ditches the cover ups and gets right in.

Whatever the situation, we measure our efforts and progress relative to those around us. And guess what? Something like that doesn’t change during a pandemic. For athletes seasons have been cancelled. Teams have been disbanded. And to prevent gatherings of larger groups there are no practices or training sessions. Most are in a holding pattern waiting until things return to normal.

And while most are doing nothing some are doing something. And if it something isn’t a lot or as much as you normally do it’s more than your competitor that is binge watching Tiger King and already finished the new season of Ozark.

Small, frequent and steady progress always leads to improvement compared to massive training sessions that only happen once in a while. If you are young athlete this is a great opportunity to create some separation and improve while your opponent sits idle.

2. You’ve got the time.

Time is one of the biggest excuses we use to avoid exercising. And during non-pandemic times this is an excuse. But now there’s no reason to not find the time. Here’s why.

First of all, look at all the time that’s freed up in your day. You aren’t stuck in traffic. You don’t loop a building looking for parking. You aren’t commuting going from one appointment to another. You probably don’t need to do as much laundry as normal. For those that can’t leave the house grocery shops have become simply texting a list to a friend. And all of the events are your calendar are cancelled whether this was playing in a rec sports league, going to a concert or play, attending church or anything else.

So let’s agree you’ve got the time.

But secondly it doesn’t take that much time. Sometimes we think ‘I’ve only got 20 minutes, what’s the point?’ 20 minutes of intense exercise done daily will lead to results. Plus, in a regular gym setting there are opportunities to chat at the water fountain. Or to hang out and talk between sets. Or maybe you’re waiting on your favourite piece of equipment to get started. All of sudden these bottlenecks and distractions evaporate.

It doesn’t take that much time and you’ve got enough.

3. You will eat better.

Now is a great time to improve your nutrition. Not only is there a great chance the whole family can eat dinner together but you should see improvements with your nutrition.

This may be because you’re running low on supplies and are finding novel ways to make meals. Or it could be because someone else is doing the shopping for you. If that’s the case you’re less likely to impulse shop. You can’t taste all the samples. You probably don’t include the pillow case of potato chips in the grocery list for your delivery person. And if your list gets misinterpreted you’ll end up trying new foods you otherwise wouldn’t consider. Lastly, being stuck at home means you’re probably making more of your own meals. This way you can control the quality and quantity of what you eat.

4. You will get more vitamin D.

Right outside our door is a huge park and trail network. It’s one of my favourite things about living where we do because there’s no need to drive or go anywhere. I cross the street and I’m on trails with wildlife, fresh air, lakes and incredible views.

Now we built our home over 10 years ago. And I’ve been hiking and running those trails ever since. Typically I would be the only one on the trails when I would go out. Now it seems like our whole neighbourhood is heading for the hills. You see families going for hikes. You see people on their mountain bikes. And kids take their dogs up there as well. It has never been busier.

When you think that most people tend to stay in during the winter months and that many are deficient in vitamin D this change in behavior will have an impact on improving health.

5. There is a greater need.

Have there been times in your life when you should have done something, but didn’t. And then eventually it got to a point when you had to do that thing? Maybe it was writing a term paper for a class in college. Or maybe it was filing your taxes just before the deadline.

Whatever the situation, sometimes the pain or potential punishment has to get real enough before we take action. In the cases above this would be failing a course or getting assessed penalties and interest from the government.

Right now we are cooped up. And things are fluid and changing constantly. Nobody has the answers as to when this will end.

At times like these we need exercise more than ever before. We need to establish some sort of routine when school and work is disrupted. We need to get ourselves moving when we are being told to hunker down. And we need a release when the uncertainty of the situation can wear on you. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the fact that those with poor health to begin with are even more at risk.

6. Your excuses are gone.

Truth from the man himself.

I look at sales as a transaction that solves a problem for someone. I need transportation. You sell cars. To get to an agreeement you need to get past some objections.

Fitness is no different.

‘The gym is always busy’. ‘I forgot my running shoes’. ‘I couldn’t find parking’. ‘My training partner or coach is away’. ‘I’m injured’.

There are lots of excuses we use to avoid exercise. Now many of them don’t exist. If we relied heavily on excuses in the past we’ll probably find new ones.

7. You improve your weak links.

Do you have a favourite restaurant? And if so, do you have a favourite meal there? Do you recommend it to friends when you hear they’re going to your favourite spot?

Of course you do. We all do.

We’re creatures of habit. And we have likes and dislikes.

When it comes to training there are people who love mobility and stretching. This tends to be really bendy people who maybe grew up as figure skaters, dancers, cheerleaders or gymnasts. They love grabbing a mat and spending the hour going through their favorite stretches and yoga-style movements while avoiding the squat rack at all costs.

Or picture the cardio king or queen at the gym. They love doing marathon sessions at the gym on ‘their’ favourite piece of equipment. You know what I mean? It’s not just that they always do the same 60 minutes on the elliptical it’s that they have to use the exact same piece of cardio equipment when they do so.

Now there may not be the same opportunity to access the treadmill or squat rack. And so we need to find new options to stay active. Maybe the bodybuilder spends a little more time working on their mobility and core strength. Maybe the powerlifting gets outside and goes for hike. And maybe the hyper-mobile person tries some at home bodyweight strength training.

The truth is we probably don’t have access to our regular set up of equipment and training partners and we may be forced to try something new that will shore up a weak spot in our fitness.

8. You’ve held yourself accountable.

Eating well, moving your body and getting enough sleep are important components of a healthy lifestyle.

But they mean anything if not applied with intent, frequency and intensity.

And that’s where accountability comes in. Because the best results don’t go to those with the best genetics. And the best chefs don’t eat the best. And the smartest exercise scientists aren’t the cover models for the fitness books.

It’s the people that make sleep, nutrition and exercise a part of their daily ritual. It doesn’t matter if it’s a holiday, they go for a run. It doesn’t matter if they trave for work, they eat healthily. It doesn’t matter if there’s a pandemic going on, they get enough sleep.

Accountabiliy is the lighter fluid that ignites everything and puts in all in motion. Without it we never get started. When we don’t get started there are no actions. And without action there are no results.

Right now a number of people are figuring out how to hold themselves accountable. And they are learning self discipline. And this will lead to great results during the coronavirus.

9. You will get better sleep.

Sometimes when a client comes to us and says they aren’t seeing the results they’d like to see we look a couple of things.

We want to know if the efforts are appropriate and specific to the goal. We want to know that these efforts are consistent and happening frequently enough. We want to know that there is an intensity of effort. And we want know that there is purposeful intent with the training with every set and rep.

If everything looks good on the training side then we want to look at the other side of the ledger. I say ledger because you should think of this as though it were an accounting situation. Do the inputs balance the outputs? In this case one of the inputs would be sleep.

I would guess many people have the opportunity for greater sleep right now. I already discussed above how we should have more time. And this should allow us to get to bed earlier. Plus if we don’t have to drive the kids to school. Or we don’t have to go in to work. If that’s case than there may not be the same need to set an alarm.

We can go to bed earlier. We can sleep until rested. And with setting the clocks ahead a few weeks ago, with getting outside for more vitamin D and with better nutrition we are setting the stage nicely for better sleep.

I’ve written before here how sleep is the secret weapon for fat loss. Now is the time to take advantage of this weapon.

10. You have access to more coaching.

I’ve also written previously how those who work with a coach get 40% better results than the DIY (do it yourself) crowd.

And if you want to improve your career, it makes sense to look at what the top CEOs and entrepreneurs do. The majority work with a fitness professional on a daily basis.

A few years ago a colleague shared the idea of a coach being something/someone that brings you places. For example, a horse and buggy would serve such a purpose.

But not does a coach bring you places but it does so more efficiently, more safely and more enjoyably. I enjoy following the markets for investing but I still rely on Ben S to handle this area of my life for me. He’s a professional and spends all of his time in this area. I will get better results and mitigate risk by handing the reins (see what I did there?) in this area of my life.

Not only will a coach deliver better results sooner, and more safely, but this is also true when you increase the frequency of coaching appointments. If someone were to work with a coach once every two weeks they would not achieve the same results as if they were working with a coach daily.

Right now our coaches are available on a daily basis. They are coaching our clients every day. On rest days there is a quick call to check-in and see how they’re doing. The coaches are offering more content and classes than ever. You can quickly access more help for stretching, mobility, core training as well as nutritional tips, recipes and recovery strategies.

Once everything returns to normal we’re going to see some clients that achieved some incredible results. The frequency of their training may have improved. They have a higher level of accountability. And their sleep and nutrition are a little better as well. And looking back they will find COVID-19 was a time when they were their fittest.

14 Good Things from COVID-19

The coronavirus sure has changed things for everyone.

Students aren’t in school. Businesses are closed. Borders are closed. We’re hearing daily reports on how many new cases there are, how many have died and how bad it could get.

And I understand the value of putting out credible and accurate updates and information.
But we can really only take so much bad news. If for no other reason than having a positive mood makes you less likely to get sick. Whether it’s the coronavirus or something else we should all want to stay healthy.

With that in mind I’ve put together the 14 best things to happen as a result of the coronavirus.

1. Better Hygiene – How many times a day do you now wash your hands? Before every meal. After every visit to the bathroom. At the start and end of the day. After training and any other activities during the day.

Add to this the extra disinfectant, hand sanitizer, wipes and cleaning supplies we’re using and we’re definitely making a better attempt to stay cleaner even if only manually. Even before the coronavirus research has shown hand washing helps reduce gastrointestinal illness 31% and respiratory illness 21%. (1)

2. Sincerity – Have you noticed conversations are more real lately? For example, when you call someone and ask how they’re doing they answer. They simply don’t say ‘Good. You?’ Instead they will take the time to fill you in on how things are going and how they’re managing. And as the listener, you actually care and listen. You are able to empathize with what they’re going through and this seems to help both.

3. Renewed Value of Human Contact – Before the current pandemic there may have been days when I would get upwards of 100 high 5s, knuckles or maybe even a hug or 2 per day. I haven’t been in the gym since March 10th. And I’m starting to feel like Tom Brady.

Jokes aside I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that we sure miss connecting in this way at the gym and finishing off a session with a high 5 or fist pound.

4. Renewed Value of Human Gatherings – Have you had to cancel some events? Were there some sporting events on the calendar? Even if it was just for work I’m sure there are some things in your life that didn’t happen to prevent gatherings of large crowds.

For me, there were a couple of conferences that were cancelled and a ski trip with some friends. And on Tuesday we’ll celebrate Evangeline’s 5th birthday while in self-quarantine after returning from the US.

5. Stock Market is On Sale – The drop in the stock market can be viewed in different ways depending on your perspective. If you’re retired and experienced the drops in the market you may not see this as a good thing. And you may not want to spend years waiting for stocks to recover.

But if you’ve got a fairly good risk tolerance and time on your side now is not a bad time to load up on some solid blue chip companies. Definitely don’t take this as investment advice but Disney, Apple and travel companies haven’t been this low in years. For example, last week Warren Buffet bought $45 million in Delta Airlines. In the past year Delta traded at a high of $63.44 per share. Last week it hit a low of $19.10 per share or a drop of 70%! I sure I could chat with Joyce B., Dave T and Ben S. about this!

6. Renewed Appreciation of Travel – We were 2 days into our cruise when it was cancelled. We learned that many of the ports may not let us dock. And the captain decided it was better to cancel and return to Florida than to risk floating at sea until a port allowed you to dock.

Although it was a short trip we had great weather and the food was excellent. We were upgraded to an ocean view room with a balcony and have no regrets at all. Even though we came home early it definitely made us appreciate getting away and having some fun.

7. Reduced Pollution – With the cessation of travel and business the environment has been the big winner of COVID-19. Apparently the air quality in China has improved to such an extent that up to 100,000 lives may be saved. The canal waters in Venice have never been cleaner. And wildlife and ecosystems that had been suffering are being renewed.

8. Home for Dinner – Pre COVID-19 I would be in the habit of working long days. And while I always planned to be home in time for dinner there many times when I’d stay a little later. It might be to connect with a client. It may be to check in with the parent of an athlete. Or we might be busier than expected and I’d hang around to coach.

Since March 9th I haven’t been late for dinner once. It has been great to sit down with the whole family and hear about their days. Vangie leads us in grace and then the girls tell us about the best part of their days. Click the link here if you’d like to read a study on the benefits of eating dinner as a family. (2)

9. Less Time Commuting – Even though we’re isolating for 2 weeks, I’m sure our experience is not that much different than yours. We haven’t been in our vehicles for 10 days. We haven’t been in traffic. We’ve haven’t had to search for a parking spot. We haven’t had to deal with crowds at all. And it’s been great.

10. Memes – You have to admit. There have been some pretty fun COVID-19 memes on the interwebs. This has to be one of my favourites.

Ice Ice Baby done with coronavirus lyrics. Well done!

11. Respect for the Elderly – Typically we value human life based on what it can produce. And when the production stops by leaving the work force the value can be deemed less. Now at least we’re making a better attempt to show respect for the elderly. Sure I get it. Giving someone early access to Costco is not really the best reward to look forward to but at least it shows we’re trying to keep things safe for the older members of our community.

***Personal challenge…if you have family members north of 70 give them a call. See how they’re doing and if they need anything.***

12. We Are All Neighbours – In the past I used to look at disease, famine, drought etc as problems elsewhere in the world. Sure we would do our part and maybe make a donation or pray for those that were suffering. This is the first time I can remember that something such as this effected the whole world. We are learning from each other. And we are feeling the pain of our ancestral lands as they deal with this. My mom’s family is Italian and it’s devastating to see the impact this has had on Italy.

This quickly reminds us how united we are. It’s not a case of ‘we’ and ‘them’ but one of ‘us’. For a feel good story of a priest who contracted the coronavirus and gave up his ventilator so someone younger could use it, click here.

13. Support Local – As a local business owner it’s been amazing to have so many of our clients continue to support us. And it’s reminded me to invest locally where I can as well. Where in the past I may have gone online to Amazon for books I’ll now look to Mosaic Books. And if there’s training equipment we need for the gym we’ll be going to Flaman or Rocky Mountain Fitness. Hopefully others will do the same and Kelowna will recover more quickly than otherwise.

14. Better Prepared in the Future – Remember when you were a kid and you used to do things you shouldn’t? As long as you didn’t get caught you kept pushing the envelope. At the time we were never grateful we got caught but looking back it was probably the best thing for us.

This is a similar time. We’ve ignored investing in health and medicine. We’ve let cleanliness and hygiene slip. And we haven’t listened when given warnings. Maybe this will get our attention and we’ll be better prepared for the next one.

Everyone will agree that there have been some devastating stories as a result of COVID-14. But there have been some silver linings as discussed above. Hopefully when this pandemic ends we’ll continue to appreciate and value the little things that really matter.

References

  1. Aiello A, Coulborn RM, Perez V and Larson E. Effect of Hand Hygiene on Infectious Disease Risk in the Community Setting: A Meta Analysis. 2008. Am J Public Health. 98(8): 1372-1381.
  2. Harrison ME, Norris ML, Obeid N, Fu M, Weinstangel H and Sampson M. Systematic review of the effects of family meal frequency on psychosocial outcomes in youth. 2015. Can Fam Physician. 61(2):e96-e106.

Good Mood Foods

A few years ago a friend and colleague, Dr. Susan Kleiner, gave me a copy of her book, The Good Mood Diet. Dr. Kleiner is one of the top performance dietitians and wrote this book to explain how we can use food to effect our mood.

Last week a study from the University of Toronto was published showing how the foods we eat is related to our moods. Dr. Kleiner’s book was published in 2007 which means she was talking about this at least 13 years ago. And the now the research is coming out to support what she’s been saying all along.

This study is a part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. CLSA is a long term study of 50,000 Canadian adults and follows them for at least 20 years. A variety of factors are examined with respect to the impact they have on disease and disability as we age.

The U of T study found that individuals who ate fewer than 3 servings of fruits and vegetables daily were 24% more likely to suffer from anxiety. And when the level of obesity increased so did the likelihood of having anxiety. For example, when obesity was over 36% the chance of anxiety increased by over 70%.

The authors speculated that with higher levels of obesity there would be increased levels of inflammation. And other research is indicating there may be a connection to inflammation and anxiety.

Besides how many fruits and vegetables we eat and our level of obesity there are other factors related to anxiety. These factors include the sex of the individual, their income, their immigration status, marital status and other health factors.

About 11%, or 1 in 9, women will suffer from anxiety compared to 7%, or 1 in 15, men. The authors do admit to the limitation of their findings as anxiety was self reported rather than by a physician. If someone hasn’t had a medical professional give them a diagnosis how likely are they to assess themselves as suffering from a condition?

In terms of marital status, single people suffer from anxiety at a rate of 13.9% compared to 7.8% for those with partners. The study didn’t specify if a partner meant a married spouse or something else.

Income has a strong effect on anxiety. 1 in 5, or 20%, of those making less than $20,000 per year have anxiety. This rate is double that of those higher incomes. I remember Seinfeld saying the number one fear for a lot people was public speaking and number two was death. But as it relates to anxiety finances plays a big role as we can be concerned about bills, interest payments and taxes.

According to the study, income matters when it comes to anxiety. According to Seinfeld so does public speaking. This comedian has nothing to worry about in that case.

The number of health conditions a person lives with has an impact on their level of anxiety. Specifically when individuals have 3 or more health conditions they are 5x more likely to have anxiety. Put another way if someone has low back pain, hypertension and diabetes, or any 3 health conditions, they would have a 16.4% chance of anxiety versus a 3% chance for those with less than 2 health conditions.

As for where you were born, immigrants have a lower chance of suffering from anxiety. To me this makes sense. Canada repeatedly makes lists for being one of the best countries in the world to live in. When immigrants move to Canada they must truly believe they have won the lottery. Although immigrants have to overcome learning a new language, culture and customs there is also the added stress of leaving family behind when starting out in Canada. I guess we should take this as a sign of how good we’ve got it here in the west.

So to minimize your chances of suffering from anxiety make sure to:

  • Eat at least 3 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. And don’t just state the goal in this way. Instead think of what you need to do in order to eat 3 servings per day. This might mean including the foods in your shopping list. Or looking at a menu before going out to know what options you have. It might mean packing a lunch with either a fruit or vegetable or both. Think of all the steps that would go into allowing you to eat 3 servings per day rather than simply wishing for it to happen.
  • Live as lean as possible. As increasing obesity relates to anxiety look to decrease bodyfat. First set up the right mindset for success. Next, get your sleep in order. Eat a low-sugar diet and drink water. Journal your nutrition. And pick exercise that you enjoy and can do consistently.
  • Find a partner. I’m not much of a match maker so I can’t really provide much value for the bachelors/bachelorettes out there. The only advice I can give is to be the best version of yourself and you’ll most likely be happier and more attractive to another.
  • Produce something of value. Producers get paid and there is always a market for those that deliver a solution to those in need. Higher levels of education help. But to really get ahead focus more on saving than on earning.
  • Stay healthy. The more health conditions someone faces the greater their chances of suffering from anxiety. We know previous injury is a top predictor of subsequent injury. And once someone is compromised in one area of their they are more susceptible to more health problems.

Reference

Davison, K.M.; Lin, S.L.; Tong, H.; Kobayashi, K.M.; Mora-Almanza, J.G.; Fuller-Thomson, E. 2020. Nutritional Factors, Physical Health and Immigrant Status Are Associated with Anxiety Disorders among Middle-Aged and Older Adults: Findings from Baseline Data of The Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA). Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health. 17(5): 1493.

Eat a Big Breakfast for Greater Diet-Induced Thermogenesis

Weight loss is an interesting topic these days. For some, bringing up the topics of keto, intermittent fasting, plant-based or some other popular nutritional topic of the day leads to heated discussions.

Unfortunately, some conversations are prefaced with ‘I believe…’ and then whatever nutritional opinion follows. Emotions can become so strong with nutrition that facts and evidence get thrown out the window. And positions can be maintained as though defending a religious perspective.

When discussing weight loss there are two predominant positions popping up on social media. One supposes that creating a caloric deficit is all that matters. You can eat fast food every day as long as you are eating fewer calories than you burn in a day. This ignores what the other position claims is vital, which is the quality of the nutrition.

Maybe you’ve heard the expression ‘as long as it fits your macros’ to justify eating certain foods. By macros we’re referring to the macronutrients i.e. proteins, carbs and fats.

The truth is that both sides are correct. It matters how much you eat. A caloric deficit is needed to achieve weight loss. And the quality of the matters as well. You cannot achieve healthy weight loss with low quality nutrition..

But there’s one more piece to the puzzle that typically tends to get ignored. And that’s the timing of our nutrition.

In other words, would you expect eating the same foods in the same amounts at different times to have an impact on our weight loss efforts?

For example, if you ate a 2070 calorie breakfast, a 600 calorie lunch and a 330 calorie dinner…

Would this have any difference on our fat loss efforts than if we ate the following:

330 calorie breakfast, 600 calorie lunch, 2070 calorie dinner.

The answer is that it does make a difference.

A recent study looked at whether there was a difference in thermogenesis based on whether a larger breakfast or large dinner was eaten.

16 normal weight men ate either a large breakfast equivalent to 69% of daily calories or a small dinner of 11% of daily calories. In the example above I used 3000 calories to represent total daily intake, 11% equaled 330 calories and 69% equaled 2070 calories. The participants of the study ate the big breakfast or big dinner for three days. They then followed the opposite protocol of what they did for the first three days i.e. if they ate a big breakfast in the first part they ate a big dinner in the second part.

So what did they find?

Diet-induced thermogenesis was 2.5 higher following the big breakfast compared to the big dinner.

Does this really matter?

It can definitely make a difference. When we are seeking a weight loss goal we want to know how many calories we expend in a day. The total is a combination of our basal metabolic rate (70%), our non-exercise activity thermogenesis (15%), our exercise (5%) and the foods we eat (10%). The percentages listed are averages and will vary based on age, sex, level of obesity, which foods we eat and more.

Total daily energy expenditure – Basal metabolic rate (BMR), thermic effect of feeding (TEF), non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and exercise.

The foods we eat can be responsible for 10% of the total energy we burn in a day. If someone is burning 2500 calories per day than the food we eat, digest and metabolize could be responsible for 250 of these calories. This study found that those that ate a bigger breakfast had 2.5 times the diet-induced thermogenesis. In other words, if breakfast normally accounted for 100 calorie burned this could be pushed up to 250 calories. For someone looking to create a 300-400 calorie deficit per day this is huge.

It get better.

When subjects ate a bigger breakfast compared to a small, hypo-caloric meal they were less hungry during the day and had less cravings for sweets. This is very important when seeking a weight loss goal as there will be less temptation to grab a treat or eat more than is needed for health.

One way we’ve thought about this in the past was to eat like a king, then a prince then a pauper in terms of calories. So early in the day eat the bulk of your calories and gradually reduce these as the day progresses. And for the best results make sure to eat the best quality foods you can at each meal.

Reference

Richter J. et al. 2020. Twice as High Diet-Induced Thermogenesis After Breakfast vs Dinner on High-Calorie as Well as Low-Calories Meals. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 105(3).

J

How to Make Your Training More Efficient

Time for a pop quiz!!!

What percentage of people wish they more time? A recent article I read mentioned that up to 80% of people wished they had more time.

Does that surprise you? Would you be included in the 80%?

If most people wish they had more time…

And most have goals to be leaner, stronger and healthy…

Than it would make sense to find ways to be as efficient a possible with the little time we have when it comes to training.

With that in mind here are 10 Ways to Make Your Training More Efficient.

1. Put Yourself on the Clock – Are you aware of how long regular tasks take you to do? For example, how long would it take you to unload the dishwasher? If you’re not aware then set the timer on the microwave for 4 minutes and see what happens.

Typically we think things take longer than they really do. And unless we’re on the clock and aware of diminishing time we can adopt a casual pace and stretch things out. Imagine packing for a flight that leaves in 2.5 hours and you need to leave for the airport ASAP. You might be able to pack in 5 minutes and be out the door.

With your training set a count down timer at the start of your workout. If you have 20 minutes set it for 18 and hit ‘start’. Change your settings so your screen doesn’t go blank and you’ll be able to see the time counting down as you train. You’ll have a greater sense of urgency and make the most of your limited time.

2. Get Off Line – Make sure to turn your data and notifications off while you train. Set your phone to silent mode. We’re not talking about doing this for hours on end but just enough time for you to train and not be interrupted.

Consider your own routines…when you have to get something done, how distracted do you become? Does an incoming text message cause you to reach for your phone? Does the ping from FB have you checking to see who it is? After a recent social media post are you checking likes and comments?

Even if this isn’t you, it’s just a god habit to turn off anything that could be trying to get your attention.

3. Make it an Appointment – If you find it hard to make the time for exercise than maybe you should consider making it an appointment in your schedule.

Think about the other things for which you make appointments. How often are dentists appointments not completed? How often do you get interrupted during a doctor’s check up? How many job interviews aren’t completed because something else got in the way?

If you find it difficult to make the time and then complete a training session than maybe put it as a calendar and make it a regular appointment.

4. First Things First – Do you find you’re busier earlier or later in the day? Or do more surprises await you upon rising or come on during the day?

Most people find they get busier as the day goes on. Emails and calls come in. Meetings run long. Other departments or team members need a moment of your time.

There are lots of ways the day can fill up. Not only does training first thing in the morning lessen the change of a distraction derailing your training but you will be more effective with any cerebral or academic tasks that follow.

5. Make Sure You’re Fueled – Have you ever had a day where you haven’t had enough to eat? But you want to stay on top of your training and so you keep your appointment. You may feel weak and lacking motivation. It’s hard to bring the intensity. Rest breaks can get dragged out. And in the end it takes you a fair bit longer to get through the workout.

One way to ensure you can go hard and need minimal rest breaks is to be properly fueled and hydrated. When time is that important make sure you don’t compromise intensity due to a lack of fuel or hydration.

6. Pair Opposing Movements – What gets taxed when you deadlift? You may feel it in the glutes, hamstrings and through the posterior chain. What doesn’t feel it too much on a deadlift? Probably the chest, shoulders and triceps. So when you think of what gets worked and what doesn’t with an exercise this provides clues as to what you can pair for maximal intensity.

With the example above it may make sense to pair a deadlift with a chest press. With this pairing a couple of advantages are presented. The first is that you can train each movement more intensely. The other is that you’ll need less rest to complete all your sets.

Here’s an example to see how it could work.

Option #1

Deadlift 3 reps @ 90% 1 RM

Rest 60 s

Bench 3 reps @ 90% 1 RM (then repeat sequence 3 more times)

Option #2

Deadlift 3 reps @ 90% 1 RM

Rest 60 s

Glute Ham Raise 6 reps @ bodyweight (then repeat sequence 3 more times)

When the exercises don’t target the same muscles and movements you can train more intensely withe less rest. When the movements are too similar you’ll have to dial back the intensity, increase the rest or both.

7. Prioritize Weak Links – This one is obvious but gets overlooked. If a chain has a weak link that is where it will break. And the integrity of the chain is limited by the weakest link.

Imagine each of your lifts or movements represents a link in the chain. Your bench is the best in the gym. And you can do as many pull ups as your age in years. But your squats are limited to 135 lbs for a few reps because of some knee pain. Unless that gets addressed it’s harder to see overall improvement.

So how do you figure out your weak links?

The first place to start is movements that hurt. Next, where do you lack range of motion? Can you touch your toes? Can you reach overhead? Can each arm touch the opposite shoulder blade?

If this still isn’t clear send us an email and we’ll figure it out for you.

8. Go During Non-Peak Times – Do you shop at Costco? If so, have ever gone Saturday over the noon hour? It’s insane in there. The first clue should be after circling the parking lot for 15 minutes then hunting high and low for a cart. We would have been better off to go for lunch and maybe come back later, if at all.

Do you do the same thing at the gym? Do you go when it’s busiest? Do you find yourself waiting to use equipment? Do your trips to the fountain and rest breaks between sets become opportunities to catch up with your gym friends?

If this sounds like you the best time to go to the gym, or Costco, would be when no else does. Most gyms are busiest when people aren’t in school or at work. Once school lets out or the work day ends things can get busy in an instant. Try going at an off-peak time so you get more training done with fewer line-ups for equipment or interruptions.

9. Cut Your Time in Half – Remember the example above where I suggested setting the timer on the microwave for 4 minutes and then seeing how far you could get with unloading the dishwasher? Well the next thing to do would be to repeat the experiment but now set the timer for only 2 minutes. See how close you can get to getting the job done.

Two things will happen. One you may actually be able to get the dishwater unloaded in under 2 minutes. Not to brag but my record is 1 minute 47 seconds. The second thing that will happen is that even if the 2 minute timer goes off and you haven’t completed the task you’ll have an incredible pace going. And once you have this quick pace working for you it’s easier to keep going. This will allow you to complete the job in the least amount of time possible.

Do the same thing with your workout. If you believe a workout will take 60 minutes cut this in half. Set a timer for 30 minutes and get started. See what you can get accomplished in half the time. If you get everything done in 30 minutes this tells me you were really slacking the times when you took 60 minutes. And as with the dishwasher example, if you don’t complete the training session in 30 minutes keep going and see how close to 30 minutes you can finish. This can become a challenge to beat your time for your next workout.

10. Don’t Forget Body Weight Training – Sometimes training can take a while because we think we need special equipment including barbells, dumbbells, kettlebells and more. There can be time to go and get each piece of equipment. There is time to add and remove plates from the bar. As well, if equipment is in short supply we may spend precious time waiting on another to finish with a piece of equipment we need to do our workout.

Instead a great alternative can be to do bodyweight workouts. Imagine sprinting 20 meters and then walking back. This could be followed by three forward broad jumps. After four sets of these you could do some pull ups, some push ups and some get ups. Five rounds of this and you’d be done everything in under 20 minutes. And nothing is more challenging than sprinting, jumping or doing as many pull ups as you can.

Getting a great result in the gym can be enough of a challenge as it is. Make sure a shortage of time doesn’t become something that prevents you from getting the best results possible.

And of yeah, late Friday night is the best time to avoid the lines at Costco.

Vitamin D supplementation – Is it worth it?

Do you take supplements? If so, which ones do you take? And why?

A popular one these days is vitamin D. We’ve seen a rise in the number of people taking vitamin D during the winter months when there is either less sunshine or it’s too cold to get out there and get some rays.

So why the need to supplement with vitamin D?

Well this vitamin is required for calcium absorption which plays a role in our bone health. This relationship is seen whenever you drink milk.


On almost every milk container you’ll see a mention of vitamin D.

According to the Institute of Medicine we should get 600-800 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day. Higher levels of 1-2000 IU per day are still deemed safe. As our bodies cannot produced this vitamin it is important that we supplement.

Compounding the challenge of our bodies not being able to make it is the fact that we spend more of our days indoor. And with technology and global markets we don’t operate precisely on a circadian rhythm. Graveyard workers might be asleep during the part of the day when there is an option to get sun.

Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with higher levels of a number of diseases and health concerns including cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis, stroke, depression, decline in cognitive function and auto-immune disorders. Naturally we have seen an increase in the number of people being prescribed and taking supplemental vitamin D.

So how is this working?

Unfortunately supplemental vitamin D is showing to not be effective. A recent study with over 25,000 subjects lasting 5 years showed no impact on cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Unfortunately it gets worse.

There seems to have been an over-correction with our concern for exposure to the sun. We have known that being further from the sun is associated with higher levels of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and mortality. And this is worse during the darker months of winter. This is then made worse as we’ve scared everyone into never getting any exposure to the sun.

What this has resulted in is an increased risk of mortality for sun avoiders compared to sun worshipers. And by increase I’m talking about twice the rate of mortality of the diseases mentioned above.

Should we concerned about skin cancer?

We don’t want to disregard the potential harm that can come from too much sun exposure. And we can be a little smarter about how we think about being in the sun. Be more cautious with younger children especially when it comes to burns at a young age. Pay attention to the UV Index and plan your time in the sun when levels are 3 or lower. And if you’re in the habit of taking vitamin D you don’t need to stop. It will still offer health benefits, it still helps with bone health and most of us are deficient. It’s just that it may not confer the all the additional health benefits we were hoping for.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/26992108/?fbclid=IwAR2CgQWHMoSqgUE_DVa2xZcT83S5QOGSlj5DYHiTcZznvcxD9ABxND09Rj4

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31959477-vitamin-d-a-magic-bullet-or-a-myth/?from_single_result=vitamin+d+review+myth

https://www.outsideonline.com/2380751/sunscreen-sun-exposure-skin-cancer-science?fbclid=IwAR3Yv2zPD59_jNLDhadrMlY2JAPmxAhH49NMdHYrlwHVc78mBLelujYAxFw#close

Small Investments = Huge Returns

No one is perfect. Even in the areas where we see greatness there are still times when mistakes happen.

But the average person may look at greatness and think it could never happen to them. For example:

I could never be an expert in my field.

I could never achieve financial freedom.

I could never have a lean and pain-free physique.

We assume those that have achieved success are blessed with talent and abilities that we don’t. We got short-changed when God was doling out the gifts. And there’s no point trying, failing and then proving to yourself and the rest of the world that this is true.

Don’t give talent too much credit for success. Sure you need to know to pull instead of push. But then it’s work hard and persistence.

Do you feel this way? Do you have self-limiting beliefs?

Many people doubt what they’re able to achieve. And this has less to do with talent and more to do with not meeting a minimum threshold of effort or not making the effort for long enough. Sometimes it could be both of these.

In Napoleon Hill’s book Think and Grow Rich, Hill tells the story of a prospector giving up on his quest for gold. Later when others resumed the dig they struck gold 3 feet from where the previous efforts had stopped.

How frustrating would that be? To be so close to success and to quit. This is what happens to many with their health efforts. They haven’t seen the outward sign of their sacrifice and so they pack it in.

You can succeed in any area of your life. And here’s how.

If you read 10 pages per day that would be 3650 pages per year. This would be equivalent to 12 books a year or over 300 journal articles. If you did this for a year or two do you think you might be an expert on the topic? If you weren’t you’d be well on your way.

If you were to move with intensity for 15 minutes per day you’d be down 10 kg per year. Keep this up for a couple of years and you’d be down around 45 pounds. How would this improve your health? How much better would you sleep? How would your knees feel with almost 200 lbs less pressure on each?

Let’s say as a young person of 15 years you got your first job. And you committed to investing $3 per day until retirement. This would be $100 per month and yield a 6% return with compounded interest. At retirement you’d have almost $400,000 saved. Not a bad nut to add to your nest egg as a reward for the dedication of small, consistent investing.

This graph shows investing starting at 25 years instead of 15 years. Same principle but an even better result when you start 10 years earlier.

Maybe you’ve been chasing a strength or performance goal for a while. And it seems impossible to get any closer to realizing your potential. But you get 5-6 hours of sleep per night and struggle getting up in the morning. Injuries and colds come on more frequently now as well. Getting an hour or two of extra sleep per night could be the difference between staying where you’re at or reaching the next level of performance.

Lastly, how would your life change with being a little closer to your best friends? I remember my gramma saying

‘In order to have good friends you need to be a good friend’.

Wise words gramma. How would your life change to call a close friend or family member that you don’t see that often? Pick one friend per week and give them a call to check-in and reconnect. If you turned it around how would you feel to have someone you like do this for you?

Take home message

You can have pretty much anything you want in life. Talent or ability isn’t what holds you back. It’s having the right plan, making small consistent efforts and staying with it.

Are you ready to have a little more? Would you like to have better health, fitness and performance?

That’s the easy part. Decide whether you want it or not. You don’t have to say ‘Yes’ and it’s not for everyone.

But if you would like to see what’s possible…

And you’re tired of previous efforts not leading to success…

Than you should connect with one of our coaches. We can figure out what is reasonable for you to achieve, what the prescription should look like and hold you accountable during the process. You can email athletetraining (at) shaw (dot) ca or text 250-212-2972. One of our team will be in touch to offer solutions and help you started on the right track.

Use Portion Control to Get Leaner

It’s no surprise North Americans are getting more overweight and obese. Some will point to sugar as the culprit. Others cite inactivity as the problem. While both of these could play roles in our expanding waist lines there’s no denying we’re eating larger portions than in previous years.

So why does this happen? Why are we eating larger portions? A review of the research identifies two reasons (1).

The first is that we seek value for food. We look get more in return for our financial investment. Think of many times people opt to super-size a combo meal at a fast food restaurant. It’s not that the portion of fries and drink that normally accompanies a meal is insufficient. It’s more of a case that for a nominal increase in price you get substantially more food. You’d be stupid not to, right?

There’s no denying portion sizes have increased over the years.

The other reason that we are eating larger portions is due to portion distortion. We have been exposed to such large portions of food that we have been conditioned to recognize these as normal. In the marketplace we are offered portions that are 3-4 times what a standard portion should be. But the public perception is that is these amplified portions are the standard. No one bats an eye when we are over served. If we were to go the other way and were served a standard portion, one at 1/3 to 1/4 normal market offerings, we’d cry foul and the restaurateur would hear about it.

Another study looked at how the size and freshness affected how much popcorn we eat (2).

What they found when given a small versus a large tub of stale popcorn, subjects ate 34% more when they had a large tub. Even though the popcorn was stale at 14 weeks old, people ate about a third more just because they were given a larger bucket.

I find this interesting and disappointing at the same time. If you asked most people I believe they’d say they are able to resist treats that don’t taste good. I mean 14 day old popcorn has to taste pretty awful. But when subjects are given bigger tubs of stale popcorn their discerning palates go out the window and they eat 34% more.

Given enough of it we’ll eat 34% more food whether it be stale popcorn or gross candy.

So you might be thinking, that’s fine, I never ear stale popcorn anyways. Well guess what wiseguy? When offered fresh popcorn in small or large buckets subjects at 45% more when more was available.

The take home message is that no one counts calories. And we are over-served when we eat out. ‘Normal’ portions can 3-4 times what a standard portion should be. And even if a treat isn’t tasty be careful as we still overeat when more of it is served.

Going forward use smaller plates when eating meals. Limit treats to special occasions. And use bigger plates to encourage eating more of the foods we may not get enough of i.e. fruits and vegetables. When you head out to eat consider ordering an appetizer with a salad or maybe an entree to share.

References

  1. Steenhuis, I.H., Vermeer, W.M. Portion size: review and framework for interventions. 2009. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 6( 58) https://doi.org/10.1186/1479-5868-6-58.
  2. Wansink B and Kim J. Bad popcorn in big buckets: portion size can influence intake as much as taste. 2005. J Nutr Educ Behav, 37(5) 242-5.

Top Coaches Share Their One Best Tip

Do you like getting advice? What about advice from the best people in the world?

For example, when you think of finances or investing, who comes to mind? Would you listen to what Warren Buffet had to say? What about Ray Dalio? Or Alan Greenspan?

Success leaves clues. And we can learn a lot from the best in the world. Fitness, performance and nutrition are no different. I’m always curious as to what the best in our industry think by attending live educational events, reading and picking their brains on social media.

Recently I asked a number of the top people in our industry the following:

‘If you could share one piece of advice with an athlete what would it be?’

And I compiled their answers below for you. While I would have loved to include all the answers below, for brevity I couldn’t include them all. Too see all the replies you can see the full thread here on my Facebook page. (see the January 18th post)

In no particular order here The Top Coaches Share Their One Best Tip.

1. Don’t expect people to help you. Help yourself. And get your parents to do your research and lead the charge. Natural selection can be cruel and inefficient. Derek Hansen click here to view Derek’s bio

I like this as it speaks to advocating for yourself. You need to work for what you want. Ask for help. And when you think of building your IST (integrated support team) your parents should be the first people you turn to. They know you the best, probably like you more than most people and genuinely want to see you succeed.

2. Embrace variety: in food, in training, in friends, in activities, maybe not in spouses – Dr. Susan Kleiner click her to view Dr. Kleiner’s bio

I remember one of the definitions of a living organism is that is responds to stimuli. And when we stop being exposed new stimuli we stop responding. Imagine doing the exact same workout everyday. After a while we adapt and the results slow and stop. Or imagine only being exposed to certain types of view points or opinions? We may stop considering how the other side sees things, lacking understanding and empathy. Nutritionally it’s more fun and healthier to experience flavours and textures of food. I remember the expression to eat a rainbow when it comes to selecting fruits and vegetables. Off-seasons can be a great time to experiment with variety and try new things.

3. Live (and train) in the moment. Focus on the task at hand and be purposeful in all you do. By applying yourself to the task at hand, the end result will take care of itself. – Mike Van Tighem (like a really hot restaurant in a big city with no signage out front, I could not find a bio online for Mike)

I remember reading a business article a few years ago. And it talked about asking Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Steve Jobs the same question. No one knew what the other had said but they all gave the same answer. The question was:

‘What do you attribute most to your success?’

And the answer they all gave, independently, was focus. We live in a world that is constantly competing for your attention. Movies used to start with previews are now preceded by commercials. Social media shows us ads based on our search history. And friends rarely meet up without a device to stare to deal with awkward pauses.

With your training, be in the moment. You will get more out of the training experience. You will learn more. You are less to likely to be injured. Try and eliminate external distractions and focus on the moment.

4. You are much more likely to be one yard short than one pound short… (more important for young athletes who want to be “big”… speed is the most important capacity to develop) – Christian Thibaudeau click here to view Christian’s bio

This is a such an important point. Some athletes would benefit by being bigger. Some athletes would benefit by being fitter. All athletes would benefit by being faster. Unfortunately even when we seek speed as the end goal we will spend too much time lifting and not enough time sprinting.

Consider the following…

The fastest movement that can be done in a weight room is the barbell snatch. When done correctly the bar can reach speeds of just above 2 m/s. Compare that with sprinting which can reach speeds of over 11 m/s.

So the fastest Olympic lifting movement is at best 5.5 times slower than top-end sprinting. And sprinting doesn’t require a platform, a barbell, bumper plates or other gear. Plus sprinting trains something that may actually happen in competition.

5. Do the hard thing – Devin McConnell click here to view Devan’s bio

Sometimes the best advice is the simplest. And this tip is very simple. It can be very easy to always do what comes naturally to us. With energy system training maybe we’re great for one sprint but can never recover to do it again. And we ignore working on our fitness. With our lifting sessions maybe we focus on what we see in the mirror and forgo everything else. And with our overall preparation maybe want to live like everyone else but expect extraordinary results. So we don’t get enough rest. We don’t eat enough quality foods. And we don’t have a plan for success.

What is it that is hard for you? When do you seem to get off-track? Figure these out and put your attention here.

6. Embrace the obvious. Focus on the process and the results will take care of themselves. – Dan John click here to view Dan’s bio

Sometimes we know what needs to be done in order to have success. Yet we falter. Maybe this is due to procrastination. Maybe it’s due to fear of failure. For some it might just be laziness. Regardless of the reason success comes when we recognize what needs to be done and take small, consistent steps in that direction.

When you are committed to the process you establish habits that are hard to undue. And one positive habit helps you make other positive choices. For example, if you made getting to bed every night by 10 pm a goal you will lose weight. You are less likely to sleep in for your morning training sessions. Once you train you are more likely to make healthy nutritional choices. And with enough repetition of going to bed on time you will lose weight.

7. Prepare to perform. Don’t prepare for perfection. Jordan Cheyne click here to view Jordan’s bio

Athletes will all have those days when everything comes together. Their training was on point. Their taper and rest was ideal. They were properly fueled during the event. And if there is equipment involved, it worked well with no mechanical distractions.

But while this can happen it is rare. Sometimes the elements aren’t in our favour. Maybe we experience GI distress. Perhaps travel or accommodation can be altered at the last minute. Many more things could go wrong at the last minute. Yet we still need to perform.

Don’t take anything for granted. Prepare for all conditions. Have contingency plans in place. Train in unfavourable conditions so you have experience when things aren’t ideal.

All of this ensures complete preparation and develops mental toughness. And then all that is left is to perform.

8. Once you have an opportunity beyond whatever level you had managed to successfully graduate up to, play the game that got you the higher opportunity.

Many athletes gain try-outs to a higher level and change their game. Stick with what got folks interested in looking closer at you.

Along the way, become defined by 1-2 things that stand out far above others.

There all many athletes who are good at everything, who don’t make it to the top.

You must also have a couple of differentiating abilities.


These are usually specific skills that define you as a step above.

In hockey that could be things like always making the first pass up ice crisp and accurate, always getting a strong shot from the point thru to the net, winning high % of face offs, being a relentless prick in front of the net, a knack for open ice hits, etc – without a couple of attributes that stand above everyone, being good at everything rarely pays off
. – Peter Twist click here to view Peter’s bio

Peter’s tip reminds me of a book, Out of My League, by Dick Hayhurst. The book tells the first person account of a player trying to make it through the minors to Major League Baseball. The author explains the stress and frustration of trying to make and stay in the big leagues. And sometimes the challenge is that a team drafts a player because of an ability. But the player feels more comfortable playing another style. If the player goes with what they are confident and fails, the teams cuts or demotes the player for not listening and ultimately failing. If the player tries to do what the team is asking but doesn’t have the confidence or skill this will become evident and more than likely they will fail.

As Peter suggests find out what you are really good at and then be the best you can possibly be at that one thing. If you know the name Dennis Rodman than you know what it was he was going to be the best at. He was going to out rebound the other team. But forget it if you were going to ask him to drive the lane, pull for a three or anything else.

Sometimes this one thing can very obvious as to what you contribute. Other times it might be so straight forward. In that case consider what you do as well as everyone else but what no one else is willing to do.

9. Athletes can do things the average person cannot. Almost everything the average person can do so can an athlete. To achieve greatness athletes must choose things that they average person can’t and won’t do. Chris Collins click here to view Chris’s bio

If you know me you’ll know I’m rarely impressed with talent. Sure it’s fun to see big numbers put up at skills competitions and competitions. But usually the players that set records at combines or in testing aren’t the same ones that go on to have hall of fame careers. Instead what is more important is to have enough talent and ability and then make positive choices repeatedly.

Consider the following…

When a star high school athlete graduates they may move on to a university program. And now there become options and choices available to them. Mom and dad aren’t there to remind them to go to bed. No one is watching if they go out partying. They are able to choose this all their own.

The thing is that anyone can stay up late. Anyone can go to a party. Anyone can experiment with this substance or behaviour. There is nothing elite or special about doing what everyone can do. Compare this with making an all-star team, or qualifying for Olympic trials or maybe even going to the Olympics. This is something special that not everyone can do.

Talent will only get you so far. In order to be truly great you need to say no to some things along the way. You need to do the things others won’t do and decline the things anyone can do in order to maximize your potential.