Last weekend was a busy time in our home. We had a BBQ dinner to celebrate my dad’s birthday. It was our 11th wedding anniversary. And we got a new puppy.
The puppy is a 9 week old labradoodle and sure is cute. She did really well during her first day and made it through most of the night. It wasn’t until 4 am when she started whimpering a little bit.
This was only 30 minutes before I normally wake up but it sure felt early. And combined with how busy the previous weekend was it caught up to me quickly. Tonight I’ll be looking to get to bed early and get things back on track.
And a study I recently came across reminded me of the value of sleep.
The 2018 study looked at almost 1700 teenagers of 13-14 years living in India and the connection of sleep to allergies and asthma. They asked the teens if they had any respiratory problems or difficulty breathing as well as if they had any nasal allergies such as runny nose or coughing.
Along with this they also asked the teens what time they felt tired at night, when they woke up and if they felt tired in the morning. Knowing this they could assign the teens a chronotype such as “morning type”, “evening type” or an “intermediate type”.
What they found is that evening types were 3 times more likely to develop asthma and 2 times as likely to develop a nasal allergy.
These results are even more interesting as the researchers took into account where the teens lived and which ones had smokers or pets in the family. Even when these factors were accounted for they still saw these results.
While the researchers can’t say staying up late causes asthma they do know it disrupts levels of melatonin in the body and affects the allergic response.
The take home message is to put the devices away at least an hour before bed and get to bed earlier rather than later. Early birds get the worms. And early types help avoid getting asthma and allergies.
Bhattacharjee, S., Haldar, P., Maity, S. G., Debnath, S., Moitra, S., Saha, S., & Moitra, S. (2018). Prevalence and Risk Factors of Asthma and Allergy-Related Diseases among Adolescents (PERFORMANCE) study: rationale and methods. ERJ open research, 4(2), 00034-2018.
I always find it interesting the different pre-game/race rituals of the various athletes we work with.
Some are very quiet and keep to themselves before competition. There is not a lot of talk or action. They may be bundled up in layers to stay warm with buds in their ears to block out distractions.
And then there are those that can’t wait to be let loose. They are bouncing around, loud and may even be a little bit obnoxious. American sprinter Maurice Green comes to mind when I think of this type of athlete.
We all can probably identify with one type or the other. For me, I always preferred to be quiet, calm and at rest before a race. I would go over the race in my head and visualize what a good race would look like, how it would feel and what I wanted to do to ensure success.
So what is the goal?
The graph below, the Yerkes-Dodson of Arousal and Performance, explains this well.
On this graph the x-axis (horizontal) shows the level of emotional arousal from low on the left side and high on the right side. The y-axis (vertical) depicts performance with low at the bottom and high at the top. For maximum performance we should seek a medium level of emotional arousal.
In the past, we’ve heard that we need to ‘put on our game face’ in order to perform. And for some that appear a little sleepy or lazy this may be the case. But for those are already ‘amped’ up we may not need more stimulation.
You may have seen instances where athletes use smelling salts prior to competition. This would be when an athlete ‘feels’ they are the left side of the graph, and thus below optimal performance.
On the right side of the graph we have a situation where athletes are overly aroused and thus performance could be compromised. We could think of this in terms of an athlete that is overly excited and thus is compromised in terms of their ability read and react to a stimulus.
So what can we do for the athlete that lives on the far side of the graph and is overly aroused? Tom Brady might have the answer.
A 2019 study looked at the effect of a high five on psychological performance in athletes (1). What they found was a decrease in cortisol levels (a stress hormone) but had no impact on motivation, strength or testosterone. If you are an athlete you can relate to the positive vibe associated with high fiving a coach, team-mate or supporter.
Another option would be the RPR system of Chris Korfist, Cal Dietz and JL Holdsworth (2). This program is based on the premise that most of us exist in a condition of survival or fight/flight. In this state there are limits on how we can perform and we develop compensatory patterns. This leads to potential injury and impedes performance.
The last thing to mention is to remember that there is training and there is competition. Not all training sets are meant to be all-out, best performances. And not all competition requires the same level of arousal. For example, it wouldn’t be unusual for the 100 m sprinter to be highly aroused and do a number of high knees tucks before settling into the blocks at the start. The same tactic before the start of the marathon would be very unusual however. So remember to distinguish between competitive events that are short duration, explosive and those that are longer duration and look to achieve the appropriate level of arousal.
Lautenbach, F., Jeraj, D., Loeffler, J., & Musculus, L. (2019). Give Me Five? Examining the Psychophysiological Effects of High-Fives in Athletes. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback, 44(3), 211-219.
If you said ‘adult-onset’ give yourself a gold star.
Those familiar with this disease understand type 2 diabetes was the kind you were born with and type 2 was the form that developed later in life i.e. hence the adult part of the name.
Bu type II isn’t limited to adults. We’ve seen children as young as three years old with type 2 diabetes.
A new study finds that not only does nutrition and exercise help with managing, or even reversing, diabetes but it also appears the benefits are greater when started at an earlier age.
The 12 month study included 147 participants which were split as 70 in the intervention group and 77 in the control group.
The control group followed standard care for type 2 diabetes.
The intervention group included an exercise and nutritional component. For 12 weeks subjects followed a low calorie approach known as the Cambridge Weight Plan. This daily caloric intake on this plan is quite low at 600-1500 cal per day. After the 12 weeks the intervention group were put on a healthy eating plan.
As for the exercise component, the intervention group was required to do 150 minutes of exercise per week. This works out to 30 minutes of exercise on each week day with weekends off. As well, subjects in this group were required to take 10,000 steps per day.
A couple of features of the participants of this study was that they were young (between 18-50 years with an average age of 42 years) and all subjects were recently diagnosed within the last three years.
So what did they find?
The intervention group lost 12 kg (26.4 lbs) versus 4 kg (8.8 lbs) for the control group. This is dramatic to see a 300% difference in weight loss between the groups.
At the end of the study, 61% of the participants in the intervention group were no longer considered diabetic compared to 12% in the control group. This is a 500% difference between these groups with no medications involved.
We’ve known for a while that diet and exercise help with managing diabetes. This study is interesting as it shows how much more effective exercise and nutrition can be compared to standard care. And when newly diagnosed, and relatively young, there is still the potential to not have to live with this disease.
Taheri, S., Zaghloul, H., Chagoury, O., Elhadad, S., Ahmed, S. H., El Khatib, N., & Al-Hamaq, A. (2020). Effect of intensive lifestyle intervention on bodyweight and glycaemia in early type 2 diabetes (DIADEM-I): an open-label, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial. The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, 8(6), 477-489.
Exercise really is one of the best things you can do in your life.
It’s kind of like the Frank’s RedHot sauce of condiments. Remember their tagline?
Or if you’re more of a movie buff than a chef maybe Windex is a better example.
Because we’re aware of many of the benefits of exercise including increased/improved:
bone & joint health
And this is really preaching to the choir because as a reader of this blog, and possibly subscriber of our newsletter, you already live an active life for the reasons listed above.
But did you consider one of your reasons for increased fitness to be so that you would have improved motor skills?
In other words, is there a physical task you were looking to improve and thought the way you would get better would be by increasing your fitness?
If you hadn’t thought that way don’t worry you’re not alone. Not many people had. And new research published this months is among the first evidence to show this.
The study looked at how running fitness improved motor learning. More specifically the researchers wanted to know what was the mechanism that allowed for better movement.
Here’s what they did.
The had mice run daily on a wheel for a week. And then they measured how the mice on the time to cross a balance beam and their performance on a rotarod measuring speed when they fell off. Below are the results comparing the the mice that ran versus the controls that didn’t.
We can see that the mice that ran were able to cross the beam in less time and attain higher speeds when they fell off the rotarod.
So what do they believe accounted for this improvement in motor skill?
There is a switching in neurotransmitters that occurs in the neurons. Specifically there is a switching from acetylcholine (ACh) to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). With one week of running on the treadmill researchers noticed a switching of these neurotransmitters in the caudal pedunculopontine nucleus (cPPN). When researchers blocked this switching of neurotransmitters no improvement in motor learning was observed.
The effects from one week of running lasted for 2 weeks but were lost by the fourth week.
If you’re someone with two left feet on the dance floor or want to try a new sport this year improve your fitness first to enhance your motor learning.
See the citation below if you’d like to check out the study for yourself.
Li, H. Q., & Spitzer, N. C. (2020). Exercise enhances motor skill learning by neurotransmitter switching in the adult midbrain. Nature Communications, 11(1), 1-13.
The coronavirus has resulted in sports teams and leagues being cancelled until safe to resume. With athletes not practicing or competing with their teams, not to mention schooling from home, this has resulted in a lot of free time for athletes. Many are looking to use this downtime to fill their schedules and establish a routine. A great way to do this is with strength and conditioning sessions.
There’s only one problem…
Swimming is not like any other sports. And they need to train differently during this pandemic than soccer, basketball, hockey or football players.
Below are 9 Reasons Swimmers Should Training Differently During COVID-19.
#1 – All Volume Is Not Created Equal – Do you know any swimmers? I don’t mean recreational swimmers or even triathletes for that matter. I mean school-age kids that swim year-round with a club. If not, would you believe they can spend between 15-20 hours per week training in the pool? This includes five evenings per week for 2 hours each plus anywhere from 3-6 days week in the morning as well. Basically this is a ton of volume.
To put this in perspective consider that the 200 m in track & field and the 50 m free in swimming will both take about 20 s. Usain Bolt holds the men’s world record at 19.30 and it’s 20.91 for the 50 m free held by Cesar Cielo.
So swimming the same amount of time as sprinting covers 1/4 of the distance i.e. 50 m versus 200 m. There is no way a runner would ever expect to train the same volume with running that a swimmer does in the pool. For example, if a swimmer put in 75 km of volume in a week (very high) the equivalent volume would 300 km for a runner which is basically running a marathon everyday.
As swimmers look to add more s&c work to their training schedule they should do so slowly as the volume they are used to in the pool does not translate to land.
#2 – Water Is Not the Same As Air – When swimmers move from the pool to dryland for training there needs to be some consideration and awareness of the different medium they are training. Swimmers are used to moving through and overcoming the pressure of water as a resistance. This can be beneficial as it provides resistance and support. As we overcome the resistance we adapt and get stronger. And since our bodies are supported in water there is minimal stress on joints making it a great activity for those with orthopedic issues i.e. swimming is great for those with low back pain.
As swimmers move from the pool to land there should be some consideration of the difference of overcoming water as a resistance compared to air and how this influences exercise selection, tempo of movement and overcoming resistance.
#3 – Horizontal Versus Vertical – When we were kids growing up we trained at a pool in Rutland called the Athans Aquatic Centre. This was a short course (25 m) pool that was shallow enough you could touch at any point along the bottom. When we would finish practice our coach would ask us to swim a cool down and we would walk to the end of the pool and back. Besides standing at the end of the pool between sets waiting for instruction, this would be the only time we would be vertical during practice.
One thing all four strokes have in common is that the body is horizontally positioned. This is the opposite of almost all other sports unless you compete in powerlifting and only do the bench press.
Why does this matter?
Well, with all other sports we are upright and with many this involves movements such as a running, jumping, cutting, stopping and potentially contact or even collisions with an opponent. In swimming if you ever find yourself in a collision with another swimmer someone has really gone wrong.
In terms of training this means swimmers are not exposed to the same axial loading demands as other athletes. Picture a gymnast twirling through the air off the high bar and getting ready to stick her landing for a perfect 10. The gymnast’s load-bearing joints i.e. the feet, ankles, knees, hips and low back have been trained to safely and effectively reduce the forces upon landing. This would most certainly lead to injury if attempted by a swimmer.
As swimmers look to initiate or increase their dryland training in a weight room they should be aware that their joints have not been exposed to the same forces, especially with plyometrics, and should proceed cautiously.
#4 Solo Versus Group Training – In the pool a swimmer can really get in their own head. Once you are face down you don’t hear your coach. You aren’t talking to your teammates. There is no conversation with others at all. In fact, we had one swimmer that trained with us that I believe used her s&c sessions to get out everything she had to say but couldn’t during practice.
Anyways, a weight-room environment will be unique for swimmers. They may not be used to a coach’s feedback and cueing. They not be expecting someone to be talking to them as they perform a lift. And they may not be used to the banter and chatter that can be common place among athletes of other sports. This is important to know as it dictates how a coach may approach and lead a s&c session with a team of swimmers versus athletes of another sport.
One great thing however about training swimmers is that they are used to doing the work themselves. Their sport is all on them. They show up for practice or they don’t. They put in the training or they don’t. Whether they slack off or train hard is up to them and the results that accompany their efforts. When swimmers come in the gym they tend to get to work and take the training seriously. They are self-motivated and hold themselves accountable.
#5 – Plantar Versus Dorsiflexed – When it comes to the ankle joint, swimmers are unique from other sports. With land-based athletes, team or track, we typically coach a dorsiflexed ankle position. This simply means the toes are towards the shin as opposed to the toes pointed away. The reason for this is that it sets the joint to take advantage of the stretch-shortening-cycle (ssc) of a plyometric action.
With swimming we don’t typically coach dorsiflexion too much. Part of this has to do with the sport being water based and horizontally positioned and doesn’t involve much running or jumping. Starts and turns do factor into this and we program accordingly based on which events the swimmers competes in as well as their unique needs.
But for the most part a dorsiflexed ankle is not advantageous for swimming. For one it doesn’t allow for a natural finish to the flutter or dolphin kick. And secondly a dorsiflexed ankle creates more drag in the water than a plantar flexed foot.
#6 – A Variety of Energy Systems – Going back to the track and field example used above, have you ever known a runner? If so, what was their best event? Were they a sprinter competing in the 100 m and relays? Did they compete in the middle distance events of the 1500 m and 3000 m? Or were they in distance racing in 10 k and marathons?
Whichever event(s) they competed in, they most likely stuck to those events. In other words you wouldn’t hear the track athlete tell you their meet schedule as racing the 100 m on Friday, the 1500 m on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. But this is what swimmers do. In a variety of strokes.
Typically when we work with swimmers at our gym we don’t put much emphasis on their aerobic energy system development. They get enough of this in the pool and the sport itself would be the best way to improve fitness in that sport.
Instead what you should strive to do is focus on the energy systems that are under-developed in the pool and consider the age of the athlete. Following LTAD guidelines, the Fundamental Stage can be a great time to introduce speed training. As the athlete ages and matures we look at developing the aerobic battery or stamina as it is referred to in the guidelines. Just be aware that if you include sprints and plyometrics in your programs you ease these in slowly and allow time for tissues to adapt and mechanics to be learned.
#7 – Swimming Is All Concentric – Can you remember back to the time when you first worked out? Do you remember the soreness you felt after that first intense bench press session? Or have you ever done enough biceps curls that it was hard to extend the elbows the following day?
If so, you’re familiar with DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness. Now I’m not saying you can’t feel it after an intense swim practice but it’s not the same as resistance training in the gym. And part of this has to do with the muscle actions involved.
With muscular contractions we can distinguish them based on whether the muscle shortens, lengthens or stays the same length. These are also referred to as concentric, eccentric and isometric contractions. When we have to reduce an external force the contraction will be eccentric as the tissue lengthens to absorb the force i.e. lowering a weight during the bench press or coming down from a jump in volleyball. In swimming we don’t have to account for eccentric loading. All of the force generated is concentric. Don’t get me wrong in that there is still the resistance of the water but it passive until we actively push, pull or kick against it.
What this means is the swimmers need to ease into lifting. The eccentric strength that is naturally developed through sports that involve absorbing collisions, landings, stoppings and cuttings is underdeveloped with swimmers. And this is where injuries typically happen. So in order to be safe and effective focus on learning movements and developing eccentric strength.
#8 – Swimming Is Mostly Upper Body – Aside from the start, turns and breaststroke, swimming is an upper body propulsive sport. And you’ll only do one start in a race and may not swim breaststroke lessening the contribution of the lower body to speed in the pool.
Compare this to many of the exercises included in thoughtful strength & conditioning programs. The list includes squats, lunges, step ups, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, Nordic hamstrings, hip thrusts and more. Does this mean these lifts are bad for swimmers? Should they be avoided?
Definitely not. Lower body training is a great way to increase speed and power in the pool. In the case of a 50 m sprint the dive can be worth up to 30% of the race. And with properly developed elastic power a swimmer can come off the wall on turns further and faster than a competitor. As well, as most of the volume in the pool comes from upper body propulsion, lower body training can be a great way to stimulate the system to grow and get stronger without adding stress to the upper body.
#9 – The Breathing Is Different – You could say breathing is the most important part of swimming. Without it it’s game over.
But how many swimmers consider how they breath? Sure they may be able to tell you which side they breath on but can they describe how they breath? The way I remember it was a quick puff out to clear water from around the mouth before a quick inhale. Now you’ve got to remember I was an 80’s swimmer and so maybe swimmers today are coached differently as to how they should breath. Because in the gym there are specific times and ways to breath.
Our goal with breathing in the gym is to maintain intra-abdominal pressure (IAP), to exchange gas, (carbon dioxide out, oxygen in), to maintain pace and to provide an assist through sticking points. The first point, IAP, is key to ensure we perform a lift safely.
Imagine taking in a big belly breath and setting your abs. This helps us lock down and brace to protect the various structures such as the low back. Another way to think about this to imagine tensing your stomach before some one punches you in the gut.
As you perform a rep you will want to slowly release your air. Think of squeaking air out of a balloon rather than letting the balloon just fly off around the round. When you slowly release the air from the balloon the pressure in the balloon is maintained. If the balloon is let go the air rushes out all at once and loses pressure quickly.
It might seem counter-intuitive to spend time teaching swimmers how to breath in the gym but it is different from how it happens in the pool. A little coaching here at the start makes lifts safer and leads to better results.
Could You Benefit From Swimming Specific Strength & Conditioning?
Swimmers can benefit hugely from strength & conditioning. However as you can see from above there are a number of factors to keep in mind that make training swimmers different from other athletes.
If you would like some help with s&c for swimming reach and I will offer you two weeks of programming and coaching on me. Send an email to athletetraining (at) shaw (dot) ca and we’ll be in touch to see if working together would be a good fit.
Let me start by saying this, I love training older populations. Why? For a number of reasons.
I can always learn something each
session and gain valuable life information.
The effects on quality of life as
a result from resistance training can be dramatic.
The ladder is why I coach. Coaching provides me the vehicle to affect
positive change and impact for a high number of individuals. From a career standpoint there is nothing
better than to see the impact on quality of life, from evidence based
resistance training, on my older
Recently I have read two solid research studies
on how older populations respond to resistance training and I thought I would
summarize and share what I have learned so you can better understand how strong
of an impact resistance training can have for you as you age.
Paper # 1
The authors of this paper
were looking to see the prevalence of unresponsiveness in older men and women
to create more lean muscle mass, muscle fibre size, strength, and physical
function following a resistance training program.
Who was in this study?
Participants included healthy older men and women
who were greater than 65 years old. The
participants had to be considered healthy and independent. They also had to
have no history of structured exercise training for at least 5 years.
What did the resistance training program look like?
Participants took part in a 12 and 24 week training program. 110 individuals took part in the 12 week program while 85 of those people continued into the 24 week program. The program consisted of 3 supervised training days a week that were supervised by professionals. This program started with higher volume (reps and sets) and less intensity (how much weight you’re lifting as a percent of your 1 rep max for a given exercise), and progressed toward lower volumes and higher intensities as the program went on.
What measurables did
they look at?
Participants were tested before the program, at
the end of 12 weeks, and at the end of 24 weeks. The participants tested for the following.
Strength via 1 RM leg press and 1 RM leg extension
Lean Body Mass (weight of muscles and other lean tissues in the body)
Muscle Fibre Size in type 1 (slow twitch) and type 2 (fast twitch)
Physical Function via chair rise time (how efficient can you get in and out of a chair. In my opinion this is the most important measure as it is a good indicator of impact on daily living). Participants had a number of reps to achieve for time. Participants increased in physical function if time went down.
What were some of the
After 12 weeks
There was a significant increase in lean body mass of 0.9 kg. Yes, that means in just 12 weeks the mean increase among the participants was 2 pounds of muscle!
1 RM leg press and 1 RM leg extension had a mean increase of 33 kg and 20 kg, respectfully, from initial testing.
Chair-rise time dropped a mean 1.3 seconds from initial testing.
After 24 weeks
There was a mean increase of lean body mass of 1.1 kg.
1 RM leg press and 1 RM leg extension had a mean increase of 50 kg and 29 kg, respectfully, from initial testing. I don’t know about you……but I consider that a huge deal.
Chair-rise time dropped a mean 2.3 seconds from initial testing.
Objectives: Similar to paper 1, this paper also looked at the prevalence of non
responders in older populations, with a few main differences. The study was
only women and compared the results of two different types of resistance
training programs, one being higher volume and one being lower volume.
Who was in this study? The study consisted of 376 women. In order to be eligible to participate in the study, the women had to be 60 or older, healthy with no conditions that could affect outcomes (attested to by physician), and had not participated in resistance training for at least a year.
What did the resistance training program look like?
The women were divided up into two training
program groups, a low volume and a high volume group. The participants trained
2 times per week for 12 weeks. 1 session was lower body and 1 session was upper
body. There was a minimum 48 hours between
bouts. Sessions were monitored by 1 supervisor
for every 5 participants.
What measurables did
they look at?
Participants went through a series of tests pre
and post program testing a range of different qualities.
Body Mass in kg
Waist circumference in cm
Strength via 1 RM bench press and 1 RM leg press
Physical function via chair stand test. This test is simply how many times you can get in and out of a chair in 30 seconds.
Muscular endurance via 30- second bicep curl test. This test measures how many times the participant could curl a 5 kg weight in 30 seconds.
Endurance via 6 minute walk test for distance.
Flexibility via Sit and Reach test measured in cm. Sitting on the floor with your legs straight and feet pressed against a box, how far can you push the slider? (think about sitting with legs straight and together and trying to touch your toes.)
What were some of the
Both groups significantly decreased their waist circumference and there was no major difference between low and high volume groups. It is worth noting that a decrease of at least 4 cm was seen in 242 participants (this is 64% of the study subjects!), and was almost evenly divided between the two groups. Why is this important besides your pants fitting better? In other literature, a decrease of 4 cm has been linked to an increased life expectancy of 5 years! (3)
1 RM Leg Press ( lower body strength)
High volume initial was mean 13.31 kg post was 40.24 kg
Low Volume initial was mean 12.82 kg post was 38.12 kg
1 RM Bench Press ( upper body strength)
High volume initial was mean 9.97 kg post was 21.01 kg
Low volume initial was mean 10.14 kg post was 20.79 kg
Sit and Reach (flexibility)
High volume initial was mean 18.17 cm post was 28.07 cm
Low Volume initial was mean 18.00 cm post was 28.96 cm
30 second chair stand
High volume initial was mean 9.63
reps, post was 20.69 reps.
Low Volume initial was mean 9.44
reps, post was 20.74 reps.
What are my big takeaways from
these two papers?
There are no non-responders to resistance training in older populations.
Remember, all the numbers I mentioned in the results section is the average across all the participants. Each person had different levels of responsiveness to resistance training. There was a large number of variability in results between participants BUT every person improved at least one quality significantly in both studies. The most interesting was in paper number 1, there was 1 subject who actually decreased from their initial tests in 1 RM strength, lean body mass, and fibre size but had BY FAR the most improvement in chair rise time. The take away from that nugget? Even if you are not seeing improvements in the weight room or scale, you can still be significantly improving your life and that’s what it is all about!
More does not always mean better.
From paper #2 we can see that there are significant changes in the lower volume group as well as the higher volume group and there was not much difference between the two either. These individuals were training only twice a week and saw marked changes across a number of qualities. If your busy schedule has been stopping you from starting, let this be you sign to get started! I believe we can all carve out 2-3 hours a week to train. If all you can commit to is a couple of days a week don’t sweat it, you’re going to improve and work towards your goals.
Don’t be afraid to push yourself.
All of these participants were performing some decent intensity strength training sessions. As an example, in paper 2 all participants were training each set until ‘momentary failure’. Meaning they were using loads that by the end of the set they would not have been able to do more reps with good technique. Note, this is different than failing on each set, before someone usually fails it means there were probably some technical breakdowns a few reps before (this is my opinion, not a reference).
Strength training is a great option for
In paper 2 the absolute changes for the sit and reach test were incredible. Direct stretching was not included in the participants program which means that this was most likely a result of getting stronger! This makes sense when you think about it. I want you to imagine a bridge with no support in the middle. If we make that bridge longer, the weaker the middle will get, and might collapse in the middle. Well, if we think of a muscle in the same context, if a muscle is weak and lacks enough strength the best option would be to tighten and make itself shorter increasing its mechanical advantage. If we get those muscles stronger, your muscle will feel more comfortable resting at longer lengths which will mean more range of motion. This is why I opt for strengthening as a better option for gaining more range of motion rather than just static stretching alone.
We’re all aging, and I don’t know about you, but I want to age with a high quality of life. If this sounds like you, resistance training is a powerful way to keep or even regain some quality of life as you age. I hope you have received value from reading this and if you did please share this with someone you know who can benefit from this as well! Take care, train hard and train safe.
1. Churchward-Venne TA, Tieland M, Verdijk LB, Leenders M, Dirks ML and de Groot LC. There Are No Nonresponders to Resistance-Type Exercise Training in Older Men and Women. J Am Med Dir Assoc. 2015 May 1;16(5):400-11.
2. Barbalho, M. D. S. M., Gentil, P., Izquierdo, M., Fisher, J., Steele, J., & Raiol, R. D. A. (2017). There are no no-responders to low or high resistance training volumes among older women. Experimental Gerontology, 99, 18–26. doi: 10.1016/j.exger.2017.09.003
3. Cerhan JR, Moore SC, Jacobs EJ, Kitahara CM, Rosenberg PS and Adami HO and. A pooled analysis of waist circumference and mortality in 650,000 adults. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014 Mar;89(3):335-45.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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