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From the Blog

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.

Best Be Slightly Behind

It seems like competition has gotten a bad rap these days. We’ve gone away from keeping score. We’ve introduced mercy rules. High schools don’t give out awards for the top male and female athletes of the year. We don’t hand out finishers medals but instead everyone gets a participation medal.

Sorry but this got a laugh out of me. But the truth is we now give out awards simply for showing up. And sometimes you don’t even need to show up but pay the registration fee.

Are we going in the right direction? Is this helping us as a society?

I’d argue that it’s not. And here’s why.

I guess we eliminate acknowledging the best athletes at the end of the year because there can only be one winner. And therefore to protect the feelings of those who don’t win we just do away with the award altogether.

I’d suggest that this fails on two levels. First, the best athlete is robbed of the award they worked hard to achieve. Secondly, the athletes that don’t win don’t feel they are equal to the one that should have won. Instead I’d suggest the ones that don’t win feel worse because now we’re also hoping they’ll buy into the idea that all the athletes are equal. So not only do they not have the same athletic ability but we’re also hoping they’re dumb enough to believe it.

Life is not fair. And because two athletes aren’t equal has nothing to do with value.

When we play this game we set young athletes up for a rude awakening. They will be surprised when they aren’t selected for an interview. They will be incredulous they weren’t hired for the job. And they won’t understand why they were passed up for the promotion.

Business tycoon Jimmy Pattison is said to have fired the lowest performing sales person at his car dealerships. Some people would consider this harsh. Or is he being fair and honest with these people? Would it be better to keep someone in a job they don’t have the aptitude and drive to succeed? Or would it be better to release them from the position and let them get on with whatever they will be successful in life sooner?

What does the research have to say on the topic?

Is there any proof in the literature that competition can be a good thing? And why it might be a good thing to keep score and know how close you are to the winner?

A 2009 study looked at over 60,000 basketball games played in the NCAA and NBA (1). What they found that being slightly behind at half-time, 2 and 6 points for these leagues, was an advantage when it came to winning.

In the NHL the same trend holds true. Teams that are up one goal after the first period go on to win only 33% percent of games.

If this score holds through the end of the first period the stats say the visitor should win. When trailing by 1 goal after 1 period the team that is behind wins 2/3 of the time.

What about testing our own limits? Will we achieve more when we believe we are in competition?

The answer is yes.

In a 2017 study researchers had cyclists perform a 4000 m time trial (2). This is an all-out effort to complete the time trial in the least time possible. If you’d like to see this demonstrated just ask Axel Merckx and he’d be happy to jump on a bike and show you.

After the time trial the researchers had the cyclists repeat the time trial. This time however there was an avatar for the cyclists to follow. The cyclists were told the pace of the avatar represented their best times from the previous effort. The truth is the avatar was set at a 2-5% higher power output than their previous best. The cyclists were able to keep pace with their avatar and thus improve their performance.

So what does this all mean?

Well basically that competition can be a good thing. It can challenge us to do more and bring out the best in us. Maybe there is too much of an emphasis on winning. And if you’re not winning that this is the worst thing in the world. So we create scenarios where there are no winners and losers to protect fragile egos.

Instead I’d rather see a world with fair competition. I’d rather play my best against a much better opponent, and almost win, than play poorly and beat a weak adversary. At the end of the day hopefully it comes down to win or learn. Because if we aren’t keeping score, if we aren’t competing and if we aren’t learning than we aren’t getting better.

What do you think?

Did this post rub you the wrong way? Let me know if the comments section below.

References

  1. Berger, J. A., & Pope, D. (2011). Can Losing Lead to Winning? Marketing Science. 57(5), 817-827.http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/ mnsc.1110.1328.
  2. Stone M.R., Thomas K., Wilkinson M., Stevenson E., Gibson A.S.C., Jones A.M., Thompson A.M. 2017. Exploring the performance reserve: Effect of different magnitudes of power output deception on 4,000 m cycling time-trial performance. PLos One. 12(3): e0173120.

Athletes Avoid CBD

The last few years has seen a huge increase in products with CBD or cannabidiol. But is the research there to prove CBD provides an advantage to athletes? And more importantly is it safe for athletes to use CBD?

CBD is one of the active ingredients in cannabis and comes from the hemp plant. Due to all the claims as to how CBD can help with anxiety, pain, cognition and more we’re seeing more and more companies looking for ways to add this to their ingredients.

But what about sports performance? Does CBD lend any benefits?

The short answer is no.

Despite the claims made by the tokin’ athlete there isn’t any research that proves it is effective and will enhance performance. TSN did a special in the fall and interviewed a number of athletes that talked about how they use CBD and how it helps them. And I believe this.

Yes people are using CBD. And people believe that it works. They will take it for anxiety, pain-relief to treat inflammation and more. The problem is that none of these things will enhance performance. In fact, you could argue that taking CBD will impair performance. And here’s why.

When you train you want there to be an inflammatory response. This is necessary to trigger certain pathways i.e. m-TOR, that lead to protein synthesis. Taking a product with anti-inflammatory properties will blunt the natural growth response that should occur.

But besides CBD working against your efforts to get stronger in the gym there is also the risk of a positive drug test during competition. While taking CBD may be allowed THC is not. THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol, is one of the cannabinoids found in cannabis. CBD is not a banned substance but cannabinoids are. An Olympic medallist learned this the hard way.

Devin Logan won silver at the 2014 Olympics and was taking a CBD product. A positive test for THC in December 2019 resulted in a 6 month ban for the slope-style skier. The take home message is that just because a product is listed as CBD is no guarantee that there may not be trace amounts of THC. If there are this puts the athlete at risk for a positive drug test and subsequent suspension.

Devin Logan won the silver at the 2014 Olympics. (photo from ESPN.com)

Going forward maybe wait on taking CBD products. The support for performance benefits in the research isn’t there yet. It may negatively impact gains sought in the gym. And you can’t be sure there isn’t THC in a CBD product.

Top Fat Loss Tips for 2020

This is one of the busiest times of year at the gym. Many put their health and fitness on hold during the Christmas season. But now we’ve flipped the calendar to a new year, and decade, and we’re ready to get started.

Normally fat loss is the number one goal of those going to the gym. After a few weeks of egg nog, short bread and late nights this is worse than it normally would be.

With that in mind I want to share with you some of our top fat loss tips. This will give the best chance to shed the holiday pounds and then some. Plus when you put these habits to practice you’ll be able to not only lose the weight but keep it off.

In no particular order here are our Top Fat Loss Tips for 20202.

1. Sleep 7+ Hours per Night – When we are sleep deprived a couple of hormones get disrupted. Ghrelin, which tells us we are starving, gets amplified. We tend to eat when we aren’t needing nutrition. Leptin tells us we are full and we miss this message. So we end up overeating.

And if you’re someone that struggles with cravings, sleep will help you win this battle. When you are sleep deprived a part of the brain, the amygdala, is stimulated. This is the part of the brain that tells you to have a treat or reward. Additionally the insular cortex which is your will power is suppressed and makes it harder to say no.

Lastly, when you’re sleep deprived you’ll be less likely to pop out of bed for a training session. You won’t be able to train as intensely when you’re tired. And when you do push it will take you longer to recover.

2. Journal – Maybe you’re familiar with the quote from Peter Drucker, ‘What gets measured, gets managed’. It’s pretty hard to improve on something if you don’t know what it is. It hard to know if something is improving if it’s not being measured.

In order to start journalling write down what goes in your mouth. If we just said to write down what you eat or drink a lot of supplements and prescriptions would get ignored. And these play a role in your fat loss efforts. So write down what goes in your mouth, the amounts and times.

Once you’ve gotten in the habit of doing this for a while you will begin to notice trends. You’ll see times when most of your eating happens, or doesn’t. You’ll see how much you eat of certain foods and how little you eat of others. And you’ll start to see the quality of your nutrition.

3. Take Breaks/ Reduce Stress – On a recent trip I was reading about how stress impacts our health. In one study participants were asked to self rate their level of stress. Two groups were then formed based on whether the participants had low or high levels of stress. All participants were then exposed to a cold virus. Those with high levels of stress were 3 times more likely to become ill than those with low stress.

Now obviously getting sick is not the same thing as seeking a weight loss goal. But they are similar in that they both involve an aspect of our health. And the take home message is that we are healthier when we have a manageable level of stress.

When someone is stressed they may loss the motivation to train. They may skip meals or make poor nutritional choices. And just how sleep can impair our ability to recover from a workout, stress can impact how effectively we can respond to a training response.

4. Eat for Your Goal – Are you familiar with the expression about taking actions but expecting different outcomes. I’m talking about the one to do with insanity. Do you know what I’m talking about?

Often times we want a result but we don’t make substantial change. We need to make changes with respect to our sleep, mindset, nutrition and activity. Packing a salad for lunch Mon-Fri is not going to move the needle. The changes have to be big enough and for long enough to result in a change.

If today I weigh 243 lbs and my goal is 200 lbs I should be eating for 220 lbs and eventually 200 lbs. Don’t make the mistake of making decisions for too far off in the future.

5. You Need a Deficit – I remember meeting with a client a while back. And this client’s goal was weight loss. As we took a look at their nutrition I heard how they were vegan. They didn’t eat animal products of any kind. And everything was organic. This individual still struggled to lose weight.

Here’s the thing. Weight gain can still occur with the best quality foods. You can still gain weight on a vegan, all organic diet. This is a lot harder to do because of all the fiber that is consumed which makes a high caloric intake hard to do. But eat more calories than what your body needs and you will gain mass.

The other key to (insert favourite weight loss diet) is that it works because it creates a caloric deficit. Stop eating sugar and you eat fewer calories. Stop eating carbs and you eat fewer calories. Stop eating whatever food and you typically eat fewer calories.

6. Seek A Net Result – Have you ever gotten started trying to lose weight. And you’ve been really good for the first part. I mean you are getting 8 hours of sleep per night. You are bringing a lunch to workout everyday. You are waking up and getting to the gym every morning.

You are feeling really proud of yourself. And at the end of the first week or so you look forward to stepping on the scale. You can’t wait to see what kind of result you’ve earned. And what you see is that you’re down a pound. Worse the scale may show you as the same mass.

These female athletes weigh 158 and 162 lbs each. They are lean, healthy and strong. Just remember the scale is only the part of the story.

Screw it!( you think to yourself) I gave it my best effort. I guess I’m just someone who’s not destined to be lean. I gave it my best. Back to my old habits where I can be this weight and enjoy life.

Hold on a second. Fat loss isn’t just about decreasing fat mass. It’s about increasing bone density and stimulating muscle mass.

7. Gym Calories Don’t Count – Have you ever used used a heart rate monitor and tracked how many calories you’ve burned during a workout? Or maybe your favourite cardio machine tells you how many calories you spent during that session. Whatever your method for knowing how many calories you burn don’t use this as the means to achieve your goal.

Here’s why.

First of all most calorie counters are just estimates. And they are based on averages. So you really could be coming up short if you base you energy balance on the numbers you’re tracking. As well, many of these estimates don’t eliminate how many calories you would normally burn at rest. For example, if the session shows 350 calories burned but at rest you would burn 50 calories you could be out by a fair bit if tracking this way.

A common mistake can be to wrongly track calories burned in the gym and then feel that this creates an allowance for indulgences such as ice cream.

Instead a better approach would be to use your training to improve mood, posture, mobility, strength, power, fitness and many of the other things that can be improved in the gym. Yes you will burn calories while training but the bulk of the deficit should come from nutritional changes rather than increased activity.

8. Small Results Work Best – North America is the land of marketing. And we’re constantly pitched the idea that more is better. So if you could lose X lbs per week than 2X or 3X would be even better right?

Not necessarily.

When seeking a fat loss goal we have to remember it is important to not lose health as a result. In other words we want to keep as much of our lean body mass and bone density during the process. And it can be really hard to lose fat mass while adding muscle mass. It can be done but it’s harder.

As well, with fat loss we don’t want to compromise our resting metabolic rate (RMR). Our RMR eats up a huge chunk of our daily calories and if we cut our calories too much this can put the brakes on our metabolism.

Look forward to a 0.5 to 1 lbs per week weight loss. Not only does this ensure you keep us much of your muscle mass and metabolism it also sets you up for long-term success.

9. Time x Efforts = Results – If I’ve sat down for a Strategy Session with you I may have shared the study comparing three groups. One group gets happy hour daily (max 2 drinks). One group walks 0.5 mile per day. And the third group doesn’t change anything. At the 6 and 12 month points of the study there were only 3 and 7 pounds difference between the three groups.

Imagine if that were you. You start a health habit of walking 0.5 miles per day and your friend is slinging back margaritas everyday after work. After 12 months of effort there is only 7 lbs difference between you.

Would you quit? Would you cry foul and say it’s not fair? I’m not going to lie I might be tempted to quit if that were the return on my investment.

But here’s the thing…the results come later. In the case of this study at the 18 month point there was 70 pounds difference between the groups. That’s a huge outcome. If 200 lbs twins started the study together the walkers are going to be closer to 160 lbs and the drinkers will be closer to 230-240 lbs.

Now those are results that motivate me to keep going if I was in the walking group. And it might encourage me to quit drinking if I was in the other group. Either way the take home message is to know that long term results are based on making small consistent efforts over time.

10. Eat Your Calories – Do you have a favourite drink? I don’t mean alcoholic. This could be juice, pop, milkshake, coffee, tea or something else. Regardless of your beverage of choice it usually goes down more quickly, and sometimes with more frequency, than your favourite food.

If your goal is fat loss you need to limit the calories you drink. You can include coffee and tea but be aware of the calories that come with cream, sugar or other additives. But otherwise you should drink water.

Another benefit of drinking more water is that it will induce more frequent trips to the bathroom. And if you’re someone that can sit for hours on end at the desk this can be a good reminder to get up and move, change your posture and of course, refill your water bottle.

11. The Devil is in the Details – I remember attending a conference and the presentation given by the dietitian explained how much was under-reported nutritionally. And this wasn’t meant to be a strategy to deceive or mislead but simply how many view their own habits.

For example, if you ask people if they drink coffee you may find that they drink 3 cups per day. What is left out is the cream and sugar that goes with each cup. Or the donut that happens with the mid-morning break. This could be the sauces or dressings that provide the extra flavour. Maybe it’s the extra mouthfuls that take place when preparing and tasting a meal. It could be finishing a few bites left on a child’s plate rather than scraping it into the garbage.

Can you see all the ways we can forget or overlook the various ways we take in calories? Remember this if you’re struggling to achieve a caloric deficit and can’t understand why.

12. Make Your Own Meals – When you take a road trip do you like to be the driver or the passenger? Regardless of your preference you’d have to agree that it’s easier to control the outcome when you’re in the driver’s seat.

The same is true when it comes to your nutrition. If someone else is preparing your meals it becomes harder to arrive at your goal destination. And the further removed the chef is from the consumer the harder it can be to hit the target goal-wise.

A chef might not know how many calories you should be eating. They many not know that you are looking to eat more protein, to eat fresher ingredients or eat just enough.

When you make your own meals you are more invested in the process. You have a better idea of what is going in your mouth. You know the quality. And you can adjust macros i.e. proteins, carbs and fats accordingly.

13. Eat More Protein – For a fat loss goal it is usually a good idea to up your protein. This works for a few reasons.

The first is that protein has greater satiety, or sense of fullness, compared to carbs and fats. Eating a serving of protein will fill you up more than some pasta or an avocado.

Secondly, protein takes more energy to digest compared to fats and protein. Think of eating some cotton candy. As soon as it touches your lips it almost dissolves instantly and it pretty digested into a sugar solution. Compared this to eating a steak which takes significantly longer and more energy to digest. This energetic cost of eating is called the thermic effect of feeding and is higher with protein than the other macronutrients.

Lastly, when the goal is to get lean we are looking to create a caloric deficit. At this time it’s a good strategy to up our protein intake. Intake can be from 16.-2.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight. If you tend to think in terms of pounds, eat one gram per pound of bodyweight. This will help ensure you maintain, and maybe build, muscle mass as you lean up.

Summary

Going forward pick the tip you aren’t currently doing but would be easiest to start doing. Track this habit, whether you do it or not, until it becomes automatic for you. There is no set time course as to how long it should take. Once you have a habit on auto-pilot pick the next habit and track it until it is a habit for you.

What a 4 Year Old Taught Me About Habits

It’s New Year’s Eve and we’re not only about to start a new year but a new decade. Plus it’s 2020. Very few people were around for 1919 and fewer still will be here for 2121. So this is a special one.

Many will be looking to start anew. This might be wiping the slate clean and getting a fresh start. It’s like making your bed and cleaning your room. You feel a sense of accomplishment and want to keep it up as long as you can.

I’m sure this is how many feel with their health and fitness as we prepare for a new year. And if we flashed forward 12 months to this time next year I can tell you right now, without any doubt, whether you will be successful or not. And I know this because of one thing.

And that one thing is your habits.

Let me share a quick story about habits with you. It involves our 4 year old daughter Vangie. Every since Vangie was old enough to communicate with us I’ve said the same thing to her at dinner time. I ask her:

‘Vangie, do you want to say grace?’

Similar to our family…holding hands and praying before we eat.

Sometimes she rolls her eyes. Other times she’ll ask why we have to? And on occasion she’ll just start eating.

But even if she’s reluctant to do so she’ll always lead our family in grace. She’ll add her own version every now and again as well. We’ll usually hold hands as we pray but she may mix it up and cross her arms to the opposite sides and want the other family members to do the same. She’s also be known to link with the person beside her with knuckles and finish the amen with a fist pound.

Anyways, right now I’m writing this from Playa del Carmen where we’re on vacation with our family. There are 25 of us in total including 12 kids and 13 adults.

Last night we were out for dinner and part way through Vangie yelled out ‘Wait! We forgot to say grace!’

So she made everyone stop eating, join hands and a four year old led us in prayer.

Now what does this have to do with your health and fitness in 2020? How can a story of a 4 year old help you to achieve all of your goals?

Because it’s your daily habits that will result in success or failure. It’s not if you went for a 10 km run today. It’s if you will walk 15 minutes everyday. It’s not if you got 9 hours of sleep 2 weeks ago on Thursday. It’s if you will get 7 hours of sleep every night. And it’s not if you cut out all carbs and go full keto for the next month. It’s eating just enough whole foods at every meal.

Practice enough small, daily positive habits to achieve massive success.

Your success won’t be determined by an intense workout once in a while. And it won’t come down to a 21 day challenge to avoid certain foods during that period. And it won’t be because you were able to sleep in a little longer on the weekend.

Your success will be due to the smallest increase in positive habits that you can do forever. If you walk for 5 minutes a day can you bump this to 10? If you get to bed on time 3 nights out of the week can you make this 4? If you buy lunch at work daily can pack a lunch once a week?

Do you see the pattern? Figure out where you’re at to set a baseline and then aim to be one better. And as we’ve said in the past your decision making filter for health and fitness decisions should always be:

  1. Is it healthy?
  2. Can I do it forever?

Answer these to figure out what to do. And then do it daily.

Because if a 4 year old is asked to do something often enough, even if it is not something they want to do, soon enough they will start doing it on their own. And they will get other kids, and adults, to join them. Talk about the power of habit!

Now I realize many people won’t know where to start. They won’t know how to set a baseline. They may have no idea what their goals are, what one better would be, or how to get started.

As well, just like Vangie, some people need a dose of accountability. They will need someone to remind them. They will need someone to encourage them to do what they need to do, especially at times when they don’t want to do it.

Lastly, there will be some people who know what they want. And they can make themselves do it. And they also realize they will get a better result with the plan, structure, guidance and support of another. These are people who have had decent results in the past but always wondered what they could do with a coach in their corner?

Regardless of which person you are I challenge you to take control of your health and fitness right now. In the same way 2020 can mean perfect vision I want this to be the year you have a clear vision of the results you will achieve this year.

Leave a comment after this post or stop by Okanagan Peak Performance Inc and we will see if working together would be the right fit.