More Frequent, Intense Exercise Is Better

I remember when I was young I had a swim meet on the weekend. But the meet wasn’t due to start until the afternoon. And so I asked my dad if he wanted to go play tennis. And he said no and that I should probably rest before my meet rather than go and play tennis.

And this was probably a good idea. I was able to rest up and focus on my races to come.

But I find it interesting how the frequency and intensity of our exercise changes as we grow up from childhood, through adolescence, into our teens and eventually as adults.

When we were younger we thought nothing of having swim practice in the morning, playing football at recess and lunch, followed by swim practice again in the evening. And if there was time we’d fit in some more time to play with our neighbourhood friends.

Now if most of us do one activity in a day we’re spent for that day and possibly for days after. One client and friend, LM, enjoys going cat and heli skiing. He says that he tends to have to ‘fake sore’ with the rest of the group on the trip regarding his fatigue and DOMS (i.e. muscle soreness). Everyone else is suffering after an intense day of carving powder and so he ‘fakes sore’ in order to fit in.

But how much exercise is enough? And hard should we push ourselves?

A new study out of Oxford tells us that more is better when it comes to exercise. And the benefits were greater with more intense exercise.

Here’s what they did.

Researchers observed the fitness habits of over 90,000 adults, both male and female. And they wanted to see the impact of exercise intensity and frequency on cardiovascular (CV) health. CV disease is the number one cause of death and so it makes sense to see the impact exercise has on it.

Previous studies of this type would involve participants self-reporting their exercise. This can sometimes be flawed as we may over-estimate the duration and intensity of training. To overcome this researchers had the participants wear an accelerometer on their wrist.

What they found is that those getting the most frequent and intense exercise had the greatest reduction in CV risk. Those in the top 25% doing vigorous exercise saw their risk for CV disease lowered by 54-63%. On a scale of 1-10, vigorous exercise would fall at about a 6 or 7 out of 10. Or if you use a heart rate monitor this might be about 70-85% of your maximal heart rate.

And if the exercise wasn’t vigourous there were still great benefits to be had. Exercise at a moderate intensity showed reductions in CV risk factors by 48-57%. So even this group is cutting their CV risk in half. Moderate exercise on a perceived effort scale would be about a 3 out of 10 or 50-70% of your maximal heart rate.

The benefits seen applied to both men and women however the results for women doing vigourous exercise were particularly strong.

As well, those more likely to exercise were also:

  • less likely to smoke
  • more likely to maintain a healthy weight
  • more likely to consume a moderate amount of alcohol

The take home message is that it’s OK to exercise ever day. Think back to when you were a kid or watch a new puppy. Sure they may sleep a lot when first born but after a while they play a lot. And they go all out.

Our risk for CV disease only increases as we age yet we get less of what protects us from this disease. If you are not sure how to get started, or if your exercise is intense enough or would like some help to increase the frequency and intensity of your exercise leave a comment below or stop in to Okanagan Peak Performance Inc.

Ramakrishnan, R., Doherty, A., Smith-Byrne, K., Rahimi, K., Bennett, D., Woodward, M., … & Dwyer, T. (2021). Accelerometer measured physical activity and the incidence of cardiovascular disease: Evidence from the UK Biobank cohort study. PLoS medicine18(1), e1003487.

Spotlight on Derek Retzloff

Hello! How’s it going? It’s Trevor here and I’ve got a great success story to share with you.

This story is about Derek Retzloff, and he has achieved some amazing results over the past 2 months with his training.

Derek rocking his Seahawk Air Jordans.

You know Derek, right? Or better known to you as Derek Scott, the radio guy from SunFM (now Virgin).

He might not look familiar but if you heard his voice on the radio, I’m sure you’d recognize it.  Derek is usually in at 9:30 am Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He has done numerous works for SunFM and other radio businesses for over 20 years. For a person who has had to face numerous challenges throughout life, it makes what he’s achieved even more amazing.

From a young age, Derek was at a physical disadvantage. His so called “condition”, which he’ll describe for you shortly, made certain tasks of daily living challenging. Tasks weren’t necessarily impossible to complete, but hard to be efficient. It might be tough to relate but consider the things you’ve struggled with in your life and eventually overcame. Maybe you broke your leg, tore or pulled a muscle, hurt your back and had to sit out from a sporting event or even had to take time away from work. You were presented with new challenges in your daily life, but eventually you got better and were back to health.

Remember how those challenges made you feel? Even better, how you felt when you accomplished them? Imagine if you had to live with them your whole life and each day there was something to accomplish. Sooner or later you work through those challenges more fluently and now you’re looking for even more ways to challenge yourself. You won’t let anything stop you or get in your way. That’s Derek for you. Each day he accomplishes something in one way or another. He accepts and embraces all obstacles in life as an opportunity for improvement. If anything, it’s all fun and games to him!  

Now, before I continue to ramble on about Derek and what he’s achieved in a short amount of time, I should back up, and have him tell you himself.

Here’s his story.

Trevor: Give us a background on your surgery and how you’ve carried yourself over the course of your life?

Derek: When I was born and throughout most of my young life, my doctors thought I had something called Charcot Marie Tooth disease, which affected my legs.  I had many heel cord lengthening surgeries and muscle biopsies to try and figure out what was going on. But when I turned 18 the medical system essentially gave up, and I was left undiagnosed.  The results of these surgeries didn’t really prove or help anything, but back in the 80’s surgery was the answer to everything.  I can remember one visit to the doctor, I was told I could end up paralyzed and could lose the use of my hands.  Thankfully that never happened. 

Even with all of this going on, I was always a happy little guy.  I would have been an easy target for bullies and such at school, but thankfully, I always had a great group of friends who looked out for me. Even a few of the bad kids too. 

When my Dad started seeing a massage therapist, he mentioned my situation to her, and that’s when I started with regular massage therapy. I really started to feel a difference.  I was told that my legs were like two cement poles with no muscle definition at all, but that all changed thanks to her.  My whole medical history was a lot of guessing and tests. When I got older, I figured out that I could change things.  Little things happening in my life that led me to believe that I could do more than I a could.  That’s why I have so much fun at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc. They push me every day to do better and make me feel comfortable while having fun.  Not only do I feel better, but I get to learn how certain exercises work and how they transfer to my everyday life.

Trevor: What are some of the challenges you’ve had to face in your life? Could be day-to-day, things that you may have missed out on or really wanted to do.

Derek: Certain things in my life have always been a challenge. I’m now at the point where I don’t even consider them because I’ve come to accept it.  For example, I have a tough time with steps.  I need a handrail to go up a set of steps.  If I want to go to a sporting event or the movie theater, I need to make sure there’s a railing to hold on to, or it’s just not happening.  That could be looked at as a downside, but I choose to look at it as a positive. It means that I can use the disabled section and get a much better seat full of room. 

I’ve always chose to look at the positives and not think negatively about things.  I think that’s just the way I was brought up.  My parents always taught me to be strong, smart, and to always try my best.  I was in casts from the time I was a little guy, but still I was on my bike (two casts on my feet) and sailing over ramps.  When I was in school things were a bit more challenging.  I wanted to play sports with my friends, but obviously it was tough for me.  I still did play, but I couldn’t run or stay on my feet for very long. 

I can remember one time when I was playing on the basketball team in junior high. My coach had me wait at the other end of the court until we had possession.  Once my teammates were close, they would pass it to me.  I tried out for the team and didn’t think I was going to make it.  I was surprised when I did.  Years later, I realized that the coach didn’t want to cut me and let everyone else play. He was trying to be inclusive.  This might seem “okay” to some, but that’s when I realized I wasn’t going to be “that guy” and be made a spectacle of.  

While the game was happening at the other end of the court, people in the stands would be staring at the guy all by himself with the skinny legs. It really made me feel different.  My coach’s intention was to have everyone become a star, and that’s when I realized I didn’t have to be like everyone else.  I quit the team shortly after and felt like I learned a valuable lesson. 

To this day, I know my limits, but that’s all from trying things myself and getting feedback.  Aside from these little things, I really don’t feel much different from anyone else.  At 40 years old, there are plenty of things I don’t want to do anymore, and I’m more than happy with that.  I should mention that I also played competitive wheelchair basketball for many years, and even managed to play for Team Alberta in the Canada Games.  I won a few medals and met a lot of great people. 

I’ve also been involved in the radio industry for over 20 years. I’ve met some of the most popular musicians in the world and have done a lot of very cool things.  My disability had nothing to do with that, that was all me.  That just goes to show that my disability doesn’t define me, it’s just something that adds to the person I am.  I believe that a person can be defined by something and let it defeat them, or you can recognize the challenge, address it and deal with it.

Trevor: Tell us about the huge WIN you had. 

Derek: I have such a great time training with Trevor each day. I told him after one of our first sessions that I felt bulletproof when I walked out of the gym.  I still feel that every day.  Not just at the gym but in everyday life.  Little things, like picking something up or having more stamina when I’m out walking around.  Due to my disability, I pretty much always need to sit down.  I compare it to an hourglass.  From the time I stand up, turn it over, I’m going to need to sit down shortly after.  That’s just something I’ve come to accept. 

Usually, wherever you go, you can find a bench or somewhere to sit down, but with Covid, those benches and seats have been taken away.  I can recall a trip to the mall recently where I walked from my vehicle, all the way to the back of the store, and then had to wait in 2 lineups. I got all the way back to my Jeep and wasn’t tired.  It was something that hadn’t happened to me in a long time.  That’s thanks to Trevor, Chris and everyone at OPP, but also thanks to me.  I’m not ashamed to say I’m proud of myself, or that it was easy to do because it wasn’t. 

 I work hard at the gym and I love seeing the results of my hard work.  I also want to mention as a result of the benches disappearing, I bought a walking cane for long periods of standing but have never used it.  If I decided not to take my fitness seriously, change my eating habits, and focus on myself, I’d be worse off.  Aside from my wheelchair basketball successes, I’ve never really considered myself an “athlete”.  I know it’s just a word, but it makes me feel special. 

When I get Chris’ emails calling us athletes and peak performers, it makes me smile.  One of the things I love and respect so much about OPP is that, never for a single second have they made me feel different, or like I couldn’t accomplish something.  Thanks to their extensive knowledge, they’ve set me up with a program that works for me and makes me feel great.  It can be intimidating in other gyms when you have skinny legs, or need assistance from a bar to stand up, but at OPP I’ve never felt that way.  Trevor has been such a great coach in recognizing what I can do and always pushing me to do “one more” or try just a bit more weight.  It makes me feel so good to push a little more, go a little bit faster, or dig deep for that last ounce of energy.  I don’t just feel it, I AM bulletproof!

Trevor: How have you been able to achieve these goals? And what are you looking forward to in the future?

Derek: I can’t say enough great things about Chris, Harry, Trevor, other staff members and OPP in general.  I also know a huge part of it is me.  I’m the one responsible for myself and if I don’t do all the things it takes to make my training effective, that’s on me.  I was that guy who always said, “I don’t want to go to the gym”, or, “yeah one day I might give it a shot”, but that all changed.  As strange as it sounds, I’m almost happy that COVID came. It gave me a lot of time to sit and think about myself and what’s important to me. 

I didn’t eat a lot of fast food, but I did eat more than I probably should have.  I want to get rid of my cheeseburger locker (tummy) but know that it’s going to take a lot of work to do so. Especially in my late 30’s.  I decided that if I was exercising but still eating the bad stuff, my training really wasn’t going to make much of a difference.  Just making little changes here and there, I started to notice some positives. 

I’ve only been at it for about a month and a half, but I’ve already noticed that my biceps are rock hard. I’ve got some muscles on the sides of my tummy that I never had before, and thanks to my trip at the mall, my endurance and stamina has increased big time.  As daily activities become less tiring, it takes longer for that to happen, and I’ll call that a huge win.  As I continue my training, I hope to continue improving my full body strength and stamina, so little things like steps, or tying my shoes aren’t so difficult.  As great as our coaches are, it’s ultimately up to us as athletes to work our hardest and to get the most out of our coaching.  And hey, what investment is better than yourself?!

Thanks.

Trevor: I hope you’ve enjoyed the read so far, and hopefully you have a couple more minutes to listen to what I’m most proud of Derek for. You’re already aware of how hard Derek works and what he’s accomplished with his training. Instead, let me tell you what he does for me and the rest of us at OPP.

From the moment he rolls up in the parking lot, a wave of energy spreads through the facility. He always walks in with a smile from ear to ear and can’t wait to be the first one to say “hello”. He’s a spark. What I mean by that is, his positive attitude and friendliness projects on to the people around him. Whether it’s chatting about football (he is a huge Seahawks fan), hip hop, daily adventures, or his low-key obsession for Jordan shoes, the conversations are endless. Looking back on our first couple weeks together, we didn’t chat as much. It’s kind of funny now, but he was always trying to catch his breath from the previous set. Since that’s gone, there is more time for chit chatter, and don’t get me wrong, when it’s time to work it’s time to work! He continues to improve strength, endurance and competence each week. Keep bringing that A-level effort day in and day out!

All of us at OPP are so proud of what Derek has achieved in such a short amount of time. When you have a moment, take some time to reflect on the things you do everyday. Where can improvements be made? And how can you get the most out of each day?  

Well done Derek! And thanks for sharing.

Training While Injured to Prevent Muscle/Strength Loss

There’s an expression in sports that ‘you play, you pay’. And this refers to getting injured.

You play frequently enough and push yourself enough and you will suffer an injury. It’s not a case of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Most athletes know what I’m talking about and have spent time in an ER, in a sling, on crutches or a wheelchair. I’d have to say being injured is the worst part of sports. Worse than losing.

Because when you’re injured you can’t play. You can’t help your team. And if things aren’t going well it’s even worse. You have to wait it out, go for your rehab appointments and wait for the OK to return to training and competition.

A recently study looked at how training the non-injured side minimized the losses that typically occur to the injured side.

What the researchers did was have 30 subjects, male and female, between 18-34 years, put their non-dominant arm in a sling for 8 hours per day. The elbow was bent to 90 degrees and then immobilized for the 8 hours. The non-dominant arm was determined as the non-writing arm.

All subjects had the non-dominant arm immobilized for 8 hours per day.

The 30 subjects were then assigned to one of three groups. The first group did no exercise, the second did eccentric and concentric exercise and the third group did eccentric only exercise. The tempo for the eccentric and concentric group was 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down. And for the eccentric group the participants took 4 seconds to lower the weight. The exercise performed was a biceps curl over a preacher bent with a dumbbell. For the eccentric only group the researcher grabbed the dumbbell at the bottom of each rep.

Participants did 3-6 sets of 10 reps of dumbbell preacher curls for 4 weeks.

For the next 4 week the subjects performed this exercise 3 times per week with 3-6 sets of 10 reps. For the eccentric and concentric group the loads ranged from 60-90% and for the eccentric group the loads ranged from 80-120%. For both groups the loads increased 10% each week.

The researchers wanted to see the impact this would have on arm circumference, one repetition maximum strength (1 RM), maximal voluntary isometric contraction, rate of force development and joint position sense.

So what did they find?

The group that did no exercise lost the most muscle and in this case they lost 28% of their arm muscle mass. The two exercise groups lost less strength and arm size with the losses being less with the eccentric only group. In fact, the biggest increase in strength was with the eccentric only group and there was only 2% muscle wastage in the immobilized arm.

Besides injured athletes this research is also valuable for those who have suffered a stroke. If you find yourself unable to exercise one limb make sure to continue with the exercise. But don’t just do any type of exercise as in this case eccentric only training did the best job of maintaining strength and minimizing losses.

Valdes, O., Ramirez, C., Perez, F., Garcia‐Vicencio, S., Nosaka, K., & Penailillo, L. (2021). Contralateral effects of eccentric resistance training on immobilized arm. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports31(1), 76-90.

Ways to Get Better in Soccer – Part II

This is a continuation of a blog post of all the things soccer players can be doing to improve on-field performance. For part one of this blog click here.

OK, now to the people that love and care about the players (your kids) the most. 

I know, I’m not a parent, so what do I know? 

I feel I’m pretty schooled in the area of how to look after a youth/high school player. Plus, I was raised by parents who would bend over backwards to make sure my sister & I grew up doing all sorts of sports & outdoor activities. 

During my childhood, I played for a football youth academy team, while also playing basketball (well the English version anyway haha), field hockey, and tennis. Sprinkling in climbing, kayaking, hiking all over the UK, skiing the European Alps, biking, cross country running, and swimming.

Anyway, enough about me, time to ask you some questions… 

How are you helping your football player progress, and get better? 

Do they need a forceful hand on them right now?  Probably not?! It’s been pretty stressful for them; the game is no longer the same as it used to be. Keeping it fun & enjoyable will keep them around football for the long term.

I know you work your tail off for your kids, I see it every day, and I love it! You drop them off at training in the early hours of the morning; you stand on the side lines freezing your butt off… I could go on. 

However, ask yourself, “Is there something more that I can be doing to help my child hit his/her goals, that doesn’t have to be pitch-orientated?”

It could be things like:

  • Helping them research players who they aspire to be like
  • Miss a day of training (yes, I said it) to go skiing, or another activity that they enjoy. 
  • What food are you leaving around your house for them to snack on
  • Getting them to bed earlier than usual. I understand that this could be a challenge for some, but if they want to play at a high level they’re going to have to get used to going to bed earlier.
  • Reduce their screen time
  • Keep a regular sleep pattern – (weekdays, the same as weekends) – type in the circadian rhythm on google, it’s a ‘thing’
  • 8 hours sleep MINIMUM
  • Try not to over evaluate their performance after a training session/match, and stress them out too much. When a player is stressed, it causes the release of certain hormones, which pretty much shuts down the immune system and prevents healing/recovery.
  • Help them with their goals, see where they want to go with football, or just life in general. Some kids know at an extremely early age.
  • Maybe give them a break from football for a couple of months, let them take part in another sport. I don’t think I played football for more than 8 months a year when I was younger. Raising your kid as a multi-sport athlete is always the way to go.

Do you notice sleep comes up several times in there, as it is probably one of the most underutilized, recovery & injury risk reduction tools, plus its free, and I know we all love free stuff.

A recent study showed that athletes who slept on average <8 hours per night were 1.7 times more likely to have had an injury compared with athletes who slept for ≥8 hours (1). 

There is proof in the pudding when it comes to not being a single sport athlete from a young age too. A study by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine & Public Health which included more than 1,500 high school athletes, found those who specialized in one sport were twice as likely to report a lower extremity injury as compared to those who played multiple sports (2). 

Multiple sports also increase their chances of playing at a higher level, which is what we want for all of them. If they have hopes of playing professional sports, their chances decrease by sticking with a single sport. They should be running, sprinting, cutting, jumping, crawling, climbing, lifting, etc. Learning how their bodies move in all different ways. 

Remember, it doesn’t always have to be pitch-orientated to help them progress towards their goals. Let them enjoy the process of figuring out their role in football, or sport as a whole, and I promise you they will shine!

References

  1. Milewski, M. D., Skaggs, D. L., Bishop, G. A., Pace, J. L., Ibrahim, D. A., Wren, T. A., & Barzdukas, A. (2014). Chronic lack of sleep is associated with increased sports injuries in adolescent athletes. Journal of Pediatric Orthopaedics34(2), 129-133.
  2. McGuine, T. A., Post, E. G., Hetzel, S. J., Brooks, M. A., Trigsted, S., & Bell, D. R. (2017). A prospective study on the effect of sport specialization on lower extremity injury rates in high school athletes. The American journal of sports medicine45(12), 2706-2712.

Ways to Get Better in Soccer

Hey everyone, Coach Harry here! Yes, Coach Harry, writing a blog post, miracles can happen! This is my first one so please bear with me! And if you have any questions, please forward them on to Coach Mlait, he loves answering all of them, and promises to get back to you within 30 minutes, 24 hours, 7 days a week! 😉

Anyway, why am I writing this?  Well it’s a crazy world out there right now, so I wanted to write one for the youth/adolescent soccer players, parents of players, and soccer coaches. I think we all agree it has been stressful in some way or another for everyone, and it is probably harder than ever for the players to progress and get better at football.

I love the game, and I love coaching youth players, especially. As an S&C coach, my goals for each player are to:

  1. Keep it fun, engaging, and educate them
  2. Help and guide them with their goals
  3. Make sure they can play the game well into their 60’s (Injury risk reduction, for my fellow S&C coaches out there)

I’m telling you this because I want you to know that I have a purpose behind everything that I do for the player, which is so important when it comes to coaching an athlete. I’m constantly asking myself why? Why am I making them do this lift? Why am I testing? etc.

Hold up… just so you know I’m English (big shock right), and refuse to call football, soccer! So, from now on you’ll see football in this post, no more soccer nonsense! Anyway, back to the blog…

So, I want to ask you, the player, the kid with the big dreams of one day making it as a pro , a couple of questions… 

You all have goals, and you all have things that you can control. So, what are you doing off the pitch to get better? And what are you prepared to do that others aren’t? 

It’s a tough one I know, but if you are serious about getting to the next level, NCAA Division 1, U Sport, or whatever that may look like for you, you have to be taking care of yourself off the pitch. While making sure you are prepared to do the things that your teammates aren’t doing. So yes, that may mean you have to miss out on that party with your friends.

It became more relevant to me over the summer, when I was lucky enough to work with 3 high level youth female football players. I would constantly ask them what they were doing outside of their training, to help with recovery and make sure they were ready to go for the next training session.

My questions were pretty simple, and the answers they gave were pretty consistent across the board…

  • How much sleep are you getting?  8-9 hours
  • How was your nutrition the day before? Always some sort of nutrient rich food, carbs, proteins, and healthy fats.
  • What are you doing on your rest days? Hiking, biking, swimming, chilling with friends, some form of active recovery.
  • What do you do before bed? Read, hanging with the family, stretch, essentially reducing their screen time as they got closer to the time they go to sleep.
  • What extra did you do this week, to make yourself great? This one was probably the hardest for them, so I helped them out by giving them homework each week. They had to research a player of my choosing. They all played in different positions, so I would make sure to give them players that were relevant to where they played on the pitch. The wing back, got someone like Trent Alexander-Arnold, the centre back, Lucy Bronze, and the central midfielder, players like Edgar Davids. They also came back with answers like, taking time out of their day just for themselves/meditation, to reflect on goals, decisions, training, etc.

Success leaves clues… do I think that what they do off of the pitch has a direct correlation to how successful they are on it? DEFINITELY!  Are they on a path to achieving their goals? I’d say so. They currently play at a very high level, and I’m certain that they will all be picked up in the next year by top ranking NCAA teams, while a couple of them are being scouted for the national team. As their coach, I can also tell you they brought another level (or 2) of intensity and drive to their training, that we could all learn from and is another topic entirely.  OK, so this was meant to be one blog post, but I got a little carried away, and wrote way too much (I’m pretty passionate about football), so you’ll be getting this in 3 posts! SORRY!

Does Exercise Need to be Vigorous?

I remember going to a local business a few years back to give a corporate health presentation.

And before the presentation I connected with someone I knew previously in the foyer. And catching up for a few minutes I excused myself in order to go get ready. The person I knew headed off in the opposite direction. I asked if they were going to attend. And here’s what they said…

‘No, I already do yoga regularly, so I’m good. But good luck with your talk’.

I guess this would be similar to declining a presentation by a financial planner because you already have a bank account. Sure bank accounts and investing are both in the financial sector but that’s about where the similarities end.

Maybe to the average person physical fitness is all the same. Whether you want to do yoga, Pilates or strength training, they are all equivalent and offer the same benefits.

New research says this isn’t so.

A new study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) looked a the effects of exercise on lowering disease and extending lifespan. On a side note I like how our friend Sam Spinelli uses the term ‘healthspan’ rather than ‘lifestyle’.

Anyways, the authors of the study reviewed over 400,000 people, evenly split as male and female with an average age of 42 over a period from 1997-2013. The participants would then self report the duration and intensity of their daily exercise. They wanted to see the difference of moderate and vigorous exercise on all cause mortality.

In other words, when you push hard with your exercise how does this compare to less intense exercise on death due to cardiovascular disease (CVD) or cancer. Exercise intensity can be defined as to how much energy it burns compared to sitting at rest and is known as metabolic equivalents or METs. Moderate physical activity is in the range of 3-6 METs whereas vigorous physical activity is greater than 6 METs.

In terms of how much exercise was involved the authors compared a couple of conditions. For the moderate intensity this was 150-299 minutes per week or about 22-44 minutes per day. And for the vigorous training this included 75-149 minutes per week or 11 to 22 minutes per day.

What they found was that vigorous exercise was more effective than moderate exercise at preventing early mortality or death from CVD or cancer.

Back to the conversation I had with the acquaintance at the top of this story. Yoga, pilates and other lower intensity forms of exercise can be great to include in a training program. But think of these as the sides to include with a great meal rather than the main course. Strength, power and speed have been known to be the obvious benefits of intense resistance training. Now we can add increased health span and lower risk of mortality to this list.

Wang Y, Nie J, Ferrari G, Rey-Lopez JP, Rezende LFM. Association of Physical Activity Intensity With Mortality: A National Cohort Study of 403 681 US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. Published online November 23, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.6331

A Constraint Led Approach to Training

Hey Peak Performer, it’s Coach Nathan here!

Do you have a teenage son or daughter? Well, like them I have a slight problem with remembering to turn the lights off.  When my wife Jen and I first moved to Kelowna we moved into an apartment where some of the kitchen lights were under the cabinetry.  Specifically, the cabinet where we keep all of our supplements and vitamins. What’s the problem? Well, the lights would make the cabinet heat up which could ruin the vitamins, and well, these were my favourite lights.

As much as I would try to remember I would always leave this light on, which would not make Jen too happy. Solution? She wanted me to stop using the lights altogether.

After a few weeks of repeating herself to no avail, she finally decided to tape the light switch down so I would not be able to switch it on.  My ego, obviously, was not too pleased about this as I immediately stated that the tape was overkill. 

Well over the next few days I would repeatedly still turn that light on, but I would notice the tape rip off the outlet and would panic push the tape back onto the wall.  This happened over the next while until I finally learned my lesson.

So what is the point? Well no matter how many times she would tell me to not turn that dang light off, I would fall into a familiar mindless pattern, until she broke that pattern by putting in a constraint.  The tape provided me with a physical boundary that facilitated the desired outcome she wanted. This is very similar to a method we use to teach movement solutions at OPP.

At OPP we utilize a constraint led approach for teaching movement solutions.  Constraints are physical or abstract boundaries, within which learners can search and explore movement solutions.  Wondering what I’m talking about? Here are some examples.

Perhaps you have been a victim of a water bottle being placed on your foot for alternating leg lifts to make sure you keep your leg straight up?

Or maybe you have been crawling and a coach placed a cone & ball on your lower back to keep your hips level?

Or were forced to hinge with a dowel rod on your back, while your knees are against a bench, to make sure you keep a neutral spine and accomplish the movement with your hips?

Essentially all these are different constraints coaches at OPP use to help you accomplish the desired movement outcome.  These constraints are usually worth a thousand words, and help keep you from getting frustrated and sick of our voices!

 I recently had a client doing side lying leg lifts to target the glutes and hip abductors. As she would lift her leg it would shoot forward, instead of going straight up.  I asked her if it felt like her leg was drifting forward and she said no.  I then held a dowel upright in front of her shin, so when she would lift her leg it could not drift forward. As she finished her set I asked if she felt the difference. She said yes and followed by saying “It always feels like I’m doing what you ask until you show me how to do it properly. ” The language was specific.  She didn’t say tell me, she said show me.  I could have said lift your leg straight up and do not drift forward over and over again, but to her perception that is exactly what she was doing.

Constraints give you feedback in real time and show you how to accomplish the movement. Words can be perceived differently from person to person. Constraints for the win!

So let me ask you.

Have you ever had a coach who would just repeat the same cue to you over and over again?

Have you ever experienced frustration because you feel like you are doing what that coach is saying, but they are still telling you that it’s ‘wrong’?

Or you know you are supposed to feel a particular movement in a certain area but can’t seem to figure it out?

I’m sorry if you have had to experience that, because it’s not your fault. So, if you are sick of the frustration and want to maximize your time and efforts, come visit us at OPP and let us help you look, feel and play better!

Lessons from the ISL Pro Swim League

Success leaves clues. And there can a lot of value is studying someone that’s at a level where we’d like to be. This can be true of watching a professional athlete compete and paying attention to what they are doing differently or at a higher level.

The ISL (International Swim League) has kicked off season two in Budapest, Hungary. The best swimmers in the world, including Kierra Smith from Kelowna, are competing as part of teams including the LA Current, which Kierra is on, as well as the newly formed Toronto Titans.

Last week we had a number of swimmers in for training while the ISL races were happening. So we put the races on the TV while they were training.

And it was interesting to see what the best in the world were doing differently than everyone else. For example, Caleb Dressel, Chad Le Clos, Sarah Sjostrom and Florent Manadou were better than the rest when it came to this aspect of the races. And the commentators were picking up on it.

Can you guess what it was?

It was how strong they were off the wall.

Dressel, Le Clos, Sjostrom and Manadou were surging ahead during the underwater portion of the turn. Or if they were slightly behind at the turn they were able to close this gap and catch the leader by the end.

So why were they better off the wall?

This can be summed up into three main things they are doing well which are:

  1. A strong push off the wall
  2. A seamless streamline position
  3. A strong and stable core

Let’s look at each in more detail below.

A Strong Push Off the Wall

The turn is different than the start in that the feet contact the wall with motion as opposed to a static position for the start. When a swimmer comes off the wall effectively we see an efficient transfer of power with the push to propel them in the opposite direction. This is the combination of muscular power as well as setting the ankles-knees-hips to take advantage of the stretch reflex to ‘jump’ off the wall.

When the joints aren’t set properly, or when there isn’t adequate joint stiffness, the swimmers hits the wall more like a red tomato rather than a rubber red ball. The swimmers mentioned above all do a good job of loading up their muscular power, setting the joints to the right angles and exploding off the wall.

I remember last summer working with a swimmer from Ball State University, an NCAA Division 1 school. Anyways when Cassidy returned to university she sent me a proud text. During one of the practices the coach had them do a drill, ‘furthest off the wall’. Cassidy was the best on her team for this test. As a distance swimmer, getting further and more quickly off the wall will result in faster times.

A Seamless Streamline Position

In swimming the body moves forward during the glide phase and not as much during the propulsion phase. For example, the winner in the 50 m at the Olympics typically takes the fewest strokes.

Russian sprinter Alexander Popov was an Olympic champion and would take the fewest strokes in the 50 m free.

Being in a solid streamline position is even more important off the wall, and the start, when speeds are maximal. If a swimmer lacks overhead mobility at the shoulder, thoracic spine and/or lats this will limit the streamline position and further impair speed off the wall.

Maintaining a streamline position is even more critical at the end of races. This is when the body is under more stress and will typically resist being in a extended position. When a body is in pain it goes into flexion i.e. the fetal position. So at the end of the race swimmers really need to focus on getting long and overcoming the urge to get short.

A body in pain will go into flexion i.e. like pulling the hand back when it touches something hot. At the end of a race the body is in ‘pain’ and will not want to reach and get long.

Lastly, when we extend the limbs as in a streamline position, we are better able to engage the core. This leads to the next point.

A Strong and Stable Core

Reach overhead and pay attention to how much your core engages. Now try and reach another inch or two higher. Reach as high overhead as you can.

You should notice your core engages as you reach further.

With a stronger and more stable core the legs won’t sink as readily meaning there is less drag behind the body. As well, when the body is in a stable position it rewards us with more mobility. When we lack stability we can’t get into the same positions and our mobility is compromised.

So we can see how #2 and #3 above are related. If you lack the ability to move it is more difficult to engage the core. When the body lacks core stability it withholds certain ranges of motion to protect us.

This can feel a ‘chicken and egg’ type of scenario and leave young swimmers wondering what to address first? If this feels like you, leave us a comment below or send an email to athletetraining (at) shaw (dot) ca and we can guide you through the process.

Research Proves – Use It Or Lose It

Back in March we returned home from a Caribbean cruise. Once we arrived back in Canada we were required to quarantine and self-isolate for 2 weeks.

We were probably among the first people to do so as the Canadian government closed the border to international travel as we arrived. I remember the customs agent coming on the plane, explaining the quarantine process and duration and giving everyone a handout with the same information. I remember this agent saying we should feel lucky as were the last flight to arrive in Kelowna as the border was closed.

The next two weeks were spent at home. We didn’t go to work, school or out for any reason. It was kind of nice actually as we would simply text a friend or family member our grocery list and send them an email money transfer. We literally didn’t even step out of the house for two weeks.

And we could notice the difference this was making on our physical and mental health. I couldn’t wait to get back in the gym, train and do something active.

As someone who is normally active a couple weeks break from the gym probably wasn’t the worst thing in the world. If I were a couple of decades older this quarantine could have been catastrophic.

A new study looked at how 2 weeks of quarantine affects our health. In this study of 22 men and women, average age of 69 years, total daily steps were reduced to less than 1500 per day.

Researchers looked at insulin sensitivity and muscle protein synthesis after 2 weeks of inactivity.

What they found was that insulin sensitivity and muscle protein synthesis both decreased after only 2 weeks of sitting around. Leg muscle mass decreased by 4%. A key, and concerning, finding of the study was that insulin sensitivity and muscle protein synthesis were not restored after the study. In other words, for those in the study that didn’t use it for the 2 weeks, they lost it.

That should be a real wake up call to all of us that if we don’t stay active all the time, a 2 week period of inactivitty leads to an increased risk of developing diabetes and losing muscle mass that may not come back.

Although it may be difficult to get in all our steps if we are stuck at home that doesn’t mean we can’t be training. In fact, resistance training is one of the best things you can do to maintain your insulin sensitivity.

If you would like a program to follow at the gym or at home make sure to send us a message or leave a comment below. We will follow up and find the right plan to keep you healthy and strong.

McGlory, C., von Allmen, M. T., Stokes, T., Morton, R. W., Hector, A. J., Lago, B. A., … & Baker, S. K. (2018). Failed recovery of glycemic control and myofibrillar protein synthesis with 2 wk of physical inactivity in overweight, prediabetic older adults. The Journals of Gerontology: Series A73(8), 1070-1077.

12 Minutes of Exercise Improves Health

This summer we got a puppy. And the interesting thing about puppies is that they don’t really have a concept of time.

I could come in at the end of the day and the puppy is excited to see me, wagging her tail and weaving in between my legs for contact and comfort. The same reaction could happen if I’m working in another room for a bit and rejoin the puppy and family wherever they are. The puppy doesn’t distinguish between an 8 hour or a 20 minute absence.

Our kids are a little smarter than the dog, although sometimes I wonder? And they have a slightly better concept of time. But they will still ask to go outside and play with their friends minutes before we’re due to head out the door for a family function. Or after pajamas and brushing their teeth they’ll ask if we can start a movie.

But puppies and kids can be excused if they don’t know time or how long things should take. Adults however know what an hour is, how long things take and how to manage their day.

When it comes to exercise a common challenge is making the time to be active. We might assume that for a health goal to be realized requires a certain amount of daily fitness to achieve it. Intuitively I would guess most people think they need to exercise an hour a day.

Now there’s nothing wrong with training an hour daily. And if you’re already in the habit than definitely keep going. But for those that aren’t that active and haven’t gotten started yet because they haven’t carved out those 60 minutes per day, a new study should give them hope.

The study was part of the Framingham Health Study and included over 400 participants. Most of the test subjects were in their 50s and mostly female. This is a well known study based out of Massachusets and started in the late 1940s. Since then the children, spouses and grandchildren have been included in the study.

What the researchers wanted to know was the effect of exercise on certain metabolites. A metabolite is a entity involved in or a by-product of metabolism.

Participants of the study did brief bursts of exercise to the effect on certain markers of health. The exercise was 12 minutes on a stationary bike and the health markers included insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity. When you consider how relevant diabetes, heart disease and ageing are to most adults we can appreciate the value of knowing how exercise impacts these markers.

So what did they find?

Well they found that metabolites associated with poor health and disease went down after cycling for 12 minutes. For example, glutamate, a marker of insulin resistance dropped by 29%. And DMGV, or dimethylguanidino valeric acid , went down 18%. On the other hand a marker of lipoylsis, or fat burning, 1-methylnicotinamide , increased by 33%.

The researchers noted that variations in results were due to sex, BMI and the amount of exercise performed. After a 3 minute warm-up study participants continued cycling with gradual increments in load of 15 or 25 watts. Those cycling at higher power outputs saw more favourable results.

Life is busy. There are times when school, work, family and other committments make training hard to fit in. Hopefully research such as this will encourage us to do something, even if it’s only 12 minutes per day.

Nayor, M., Shah, R. V., Miller, P. E., Blodgett, J. B., Tanguay, M., Pico, A. R., … & Pierce, K. A. (2020). Metabolic Architecture of Acute Exercise Response in Middle-Aged Adults in the Community. Circulation142(20), 1905-1924.