Yoga – Is It Good for Athletes?

Everything we do with our clients has to serve a purpose.

The foam roll drills and stretches need to facilitate increased mobility. The nutritional plans need to provide the essential nutrients, energy and hydration. And the training plans need to fit the needs, goals and abilities of the individual doing the work.

So I’m always curious as to why people go to yoga?

A quick google search lead me to with the Top 10 Benefits of Yoga. Their list includes:

1. Stress Relief 2. Pain Relief 3. Better Breathing 4. Flexibility 5. Increased Strength 6. Weight Management 7. Improved Circulation 8. Cardiovascular Conditioning 9. Focus on the Present 10. Inner Peace

***I’ll look at 4,5 & 8 below. The rest are fairly subjective and therefore difficult to measure.***

There is no doubt that a number of people practice yoga but I’m always curious as to their reasons? I look at everything that our clients do as being beneficial and purposeful.

And yoga has me perplexed.

Because I hear constantly of the purported benefits of yoga. And especially the benefits it lends to sports performance.

In fact there is power yoga which sounds like it would be perfectly suited to athletes that are seeking more power and to move more quickly.

But power is the definition of the amount of work done per unit time. And work is equal to a force applied over a distance. So you need to move a substantial force quickly over some distance to train for power. Holding bodyweight poses for extended periods of time hardly meets the criteria for power development.

Case in point India has one, count it one, individual gold medal in the history of the Olympics. Ever. And by the way that gold medal came in air rifle. Hardly a sport requiring power. Well, a powerful gun maybe 🙂

In a similar sense to the lack of power development afforded by yoga a similar example can be made for the strength benefits. For these purposes we can think of strength as the ability to develop force. And within strength training there is something called the SAID Principle which stands for specific adaptations to imposed demands. In other words the body will adapt accordingly to the demands placed on it. Lift a heavy weight and the body gets stronger to handle the weight.

The problem becomes that with yoga there is no external load. So the body does not need to become stronger to overcome an external resistance. Further, the load is maintained in a isometric contraction during a pose. In other words the muscles are not shortening and lengthing as they would in running, jumping, throwing or basically in sports.Athletes need muscles that change length and generate high levels of force. Sorry yoga :(

Athletes need muscles that change length and generate high levels of force. Sorry yoga 🙁

So for someone to say they practice yoga for strength and power benefits it lends to sports just doesn’t make sense.

But let’s carry on.

Maybe it’s not for sports performance that someone practices yoga. Yogis love to share the benefits related to flexibity. If the goal is flexibility is this something that is ok to do?

It depends.

I have some concerns about some of the hyper-mobile positions of the body in certain poses. We ascribe to the joint-by-joint approach to training and understand that our structure dictates our function.

For example the lumbar vertebrae have a unique structure and very different function than, say for example, the thoracic vertebrae. The lower segments have a primary function associated with stability and are not meant to move very much, if at all. The upper thoracic segments are more important for mobility and are vital for upper back and shoulder health and function.

Apart from the hyper-mobility that can result from some forms of yoga I’m not entirely sold on the concept of hot yoga. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a good steam room as much as the next person. But let’s use the right tool for the right job. If increased mobility is sought use the best tools to achieve this. The increased extensibility that is achieved from sitting in a hot room is not necessarily maintained after when returned to a moderate temperature room. There should also be concerns of athletes that may become dehydrated from hot yoga as 2% dehydration impairs sports performance.

To read more about some of the potential injuries that may result from yoga check out this article from the New York Times about one of the top yoga instructors in the US who has given up the practice due to his own injuries and these risks.

So if there are minimal training benefits for athletes and potential harm to key joints at the low back, knee, shoulder and neck why is yoga so popular?

Well part of it has to do with the fact it is easy.

Now I am defining easy as something that does not require high levels of strength, power or well developed energy systems. I’ve already covered the limits regarding strength and power development and with respect to energy system development the cells of the body become adapted to the type of activity. To improve your energy systems for cycling you need to cycle. Lance Armstrong won 7 Tour de France races but finished in the middle of the pack during the New York Marathon. He probably didn’t dope for the marathon, right?

So holding static postures is not going to develop the necessary energy systems for hockey, soccer, basketball, football (insert any other sport here) unless your sport is yoga. Then, specificity of training is achieved. And although today when I write this yoga is not an Olympic sport I don’t like the way the IOC is going and I may end up eating my words.

Does this mean I am totally against someone practicing yoga. Definitely not. If they go because they enjoy it I’m ok with that. If they find it relaxing or meditative then go. If they are like some of younger male athletes who seem to have figured out girls like yoga I’m also ok with it. Basically we as a society are under enough stress (sympathetic) and sometimes the thing we need most is to rest, digest and recover (parasympathetic). I’m sure for some of our athletes and clients, yoga serves this purpose just fine.

However if an individual is seeking to get stronger, more powerful, develop their energy systems, move better and become a better athlete yoga is not their best option.

What it comes down to is why are you practicing yoga? If someone can easily answer this and yoga is their best option they should carry on. But when you examine what the best tools are for athletic development yoga may not be one of them.




Top 13 Fitness Predictions for 2012

So here we are a day out from New Year’s Eve. 2011 was a great year but what does 2012 have in store for us? Read along to learn the Top 13 Fitness Predictions for 2012.

Prediction #1 – We’re Going to Learn to Breathe

What? Really? Isn’t this something everyone learns to do with a huge wail as they enter this world? And if not they get a whack on the backside from the delivery room doctor.

Well, yes I am not saying we don’t already breathe, we’re just not breathing the right way. And this leads to problems with improper muscle firing patterns, increased tension through the upper thoracic and neck as well as decreased sports performance. While I’m not a huge advocate of yoga this may be something we could steal a page from this practice.

Prediction #2 – Where is Your Head At?

This ties in a little bit with #1. But think about it…your head houses the CPU of the body. If the head is out of alignment what happens to the rest of our posture? And our movement? And our sports performance? The chance for injury?

Prediction #3 – Long & Neutral Spine

When it comes to spine position we’ve heard all different types of coaching cues and recommendations from drawing in to bracing and everything in between. Probably the simplest and most beneficial approach would be think of lenthening the spine and maintaining a neutral position. Bonus tip (these tie in with #1 and #2 above…I love efficiency 🙂

Prediction #4 – I Need More Angled Bar

To truly appreaciate the above prediction you need to say it with a Christopher Walken voice ala SNL. Cow bell anyone?

Anyways angled bar training is in. This could in the form a landmine unit or a grappler handle. Sometimes you’ll simply see people putting an Olympic bar on end in the corner of the gym to do the same. Whatever means is used to do this you’ll see more if it in 2012.

Prediction #5 – More Online Programs

We now have, our ‘Year Long Training Plan’ (Year I and II), as well as our ‘Non Running 1/2 Marathon Program’ all online. We work with people all around the world. Watch for more programs and more offerings from the web when it comes to fitness and performance.

Prediction #6 – More Days

What kind of results does 2 day/week training get you? Not much. But we all want the most from our efforts. We used to say that 3 days a week was adequate but the truth is the body can handle more. And when we talk of wanting more energy this is usually the case of moving more to mobilize stored energy (i.e. fat) and feel better as a result. Look for more people to train 4-6 days per week instead of 2 or 3.

Prediction #7 – More Mobility

For a while there we heard the message ‘mobility before stability leads to vulnerability’. In other words if we moved a joint before we could control the movement at that joint we risked potential injury.

And so we spent time focussed on stability. We did front planks, side side bridges and glute lifts. We did them for time and one leg and on balance toys. But now we’re ready for some mobility work.

Look for more people to realize the need to have ankles, hips and t-spines that move well and facilitate optimal movement.

Stay tuned for Part II of Top 13 Fitness Predictions for 2012.


8 Steps for Weight Loss – Where hCG Fits In

Last week I introduced some of you to the hCG Diet. And a few of you were already familiar with it which is good. In fact one of you replied with what your experiences with it had been.

 8 Steps for Weight Loss   Where hCG Fits In

Just to let you know in January, I did use HCG. I lose 40lbs in 40+ days. The HCG came in a spray so there were on injections. I did not have any side effects (discounting the breasts I grow – just kidding). I was eating more than 500 calories daily, but not much more.

 I agree that I could have lost the weight without the HCG but it does help you focus on your goal and in the final view I did lose the weight.

 It is 8 month and I still have kept the weight off but I have watched what I am eating and eating less.

 I am not recommending HCG but I lost the weight.

 Thanks for the feedback.

 And besides this comment there was some other feedback as well. So it has people taking I think it makes sense to clarify my position on this.

 I don’t the doubt effectiveness. I don’t doubt that it can be safely administered.

 Here’s my issue with it.

 It can become step #1 for some people.

 Step #1? What the heck am I talking about, right?

 Well here’s how I approach weight loss and body transformation in terms of 7 steps. So I guess you could call this my 8 Steps for Weight Loss.

 Step #1 – Get Your Head in It

 8 Steps for Weight Loss   Where hCG Fits In

 I’ve mentioned this many times before and probably sound like a broken record. If want to have success at anything in life you need to believe in the process and in your ability to achieve that success.

 For example, if a health practitioner is advocating a prescription (not necessarily a drug) towards better you either take and follow the prescription or your don’t. You either believe it’s going to work and you follow it to a ‘T’ or you don’t bother.

 This is no different than someone seeking weight loss. You either buy into the plan or you find another plan.

 Step #2 – Get Your Rest in Order

 Most of us don’t get enough sleep. And then we disrupt the hormones related to fat loss. And we have trouble finding the energy to work out. Or if we do workout we give half the effort and it takes us twice as long to recover.

 We always advocate ensuring your sleep is of the highest quality and quantity before progressing to the next stage.

 Step #3 – Eliminate the Negatives

 Usually this has to do with food. You need to go through your fridge and pantry and throw out the processed foods, diet sodas, the refined sugars and anything else that doesn’t bring you closer to your goal.

 But besides food you need to cut ties with other negatives in your life. Maybe this is the relationship you’ve developed with your TV for 3 hours after work every night. Or the friends who aren’t into fitness but know where all the weekly beer and wing specials are.

 In other words, if it doesn’t bring you closer to your goal, eliminate it.

 Step #4 – Buy Quality Groceries

 8 Steps for Weight Loss   Where hCG Fits In

Learn how to fuel your body properly. Figure which foods contain which nutrients. And then buy the best quality you can.

 A couple more tips towards knowing which foods qualify as high quality:

 * they are food around the periphery of the grocery store

 * they will go bad if not eaten fairly soon

 * they have one word in their name

 Step #5 – Move Fast or Move Heavy

 Exercise. A minimum of 3 times per week. You either need to move fast or you need to lift heavy weights.

 Golfing is fun and takes 4 hours but doesn’t count. Nor does hiking. Or gardening. Or playing with your kids unless your kids weigh 200 lbs.

 Step #6 – Fill the Gaps

 This is the point where you might look at an omega-3 supplement. Or maybe you need to get a little more protein.

 This one is a little more specific to the individual, their goals and their ability to consume all the nutrients they require for optimal health and performance.

 Step #7 – Performance Boosters

 This is where I ‘may’ recommend sports supplements for athletes and individuals with specific training goals. And even with that we with the more proven and recognized ones such as creatine, whey protein, beta-alanine and a few others.

 If you notice these come way down the list after you should have eliminated all the crap from your diet, fuelled up on the best quality nutrition and attained a high enough level of competition to justify supplement with any of these substances.

 Step 8 – Alternative Methods

 Here’s where the chg. Diet should rank for most people. Why at this stage?

 Because most people don’t do a complete job of #1-7.

 But here’s where it can be unique.

 Sometimes there are very unique circumstances where nothing else has worked. Sometimes you have individuals who are not able to move, for whatever reason, to create a caloric deficit and lose weight. And sometimes there are those who are simply in a position where they can afford to follow this protocol, which works, and realize the results it offers.

 I know intent can sometimes be lost in the written word.

 And so I want to clear that this opinion is simply just that. There are unique circumstances to every situation and as fitness professional I need to be sensitive to this fact. But at the same time I want the best for everyone we work and I believe following these 7 steps, in this order, allows for the greatest chance of long term weight loss.

 As always, I open and willing to consider any critique or commentary.


3 Ways to Get the Best Results When You Workout

Last weekend I was in Tofino for a wedding which is a really beautiful place but not exactly a  weekend getaway. Give yourself some more time if you go.

And if you plan on doing some surfing make sure to use a wetsuit. I went for a quick, maybe a few minutes, swim in the ocean and it was refreshing. I’m not sure you’d last more than 10-15 minutes in that water without a wetsuit though.

But I’m not writing you about road trips or swimming in the ocean.

Instead I want to you understand there are a few ways you can get better results when you train. Here they are.

3 Ways to Get the Best Results When You Workout.

#1 – Prioritize Your Weak Links

Most times when this is mentioned to us we think of bilateral differences such as my left arm is weaker than my right. But you can think of this in other ways as well.

For example after sitting for almost 12 hours in the car and on the ferry yesterday I noticed my left hip gets tighter than my right. And I notice more tension in my right trap than in my left.

You don’t always have to think of your weak link as being related to the loads you can lift. This can also be deficits in your range of motion and the quality of your movements.

Try and pin point the things that you are the most aware of and address these first.

#2 Focus on Your Posture During Your Most Challenging Movements

If I have difficulty performing push ups I am most likely going to compensate when I do them.

My hips might sag.

I might struggle to press my body off the ground.

And my head might sag as I lower myself to the ground.

All of these things are indications of my posture, and therefore my core, breaking down, during the lift.

Imagine yourself standing against a wall with your heels, hips, shoulders and head touching the wall. Now freeze yourself and place your body in a push up position.

Not many people maintain this when they do push ups.

Why does this matter?

You will better recruit your core musculature with proper posture and be less likely to put undue strain on your back.

#3 Don’t Forget to Breathe (properly)

Ever notice what happens when someone gets fatigued?

Their respirations increase, don’t they?

No big surprise there.

But what also happens is that the breathing goes from diaphragm-based to chest-based.

And as the chest starts to heave and fall the traps and neck muscles are triggered as well.

And this disrupts our ability to maintain our posture as well as our ability to maintain a stable position through our trunk.

So the take home messsage from all of this is that when you do address your weak links make sure you maintain ideal posture and then relax your breathing. Allow the breathing to happen from lower down rather than in your chest and you’ll be in a better position to address your deficits and get better results.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                      ‘always moving forward’

Think of Your Core Like a Young Tree with Supports

I never ceases to amaze me how stronly some people hold on to ill-conceived notions.

For example, there are still people that believe the earth is flat.

Or that the end of days was May 21, 2011. (I hope they had a huge party on the 10th!)

Or that the best way to engage our core is by shrinking the midsection.

Ok, so maybe the last example  isn’t exactly in the same category as the first few but to those in this industry it should be pretty cut and dry. You don’t engage the core musculature by:

* sucking in the gut

* drawing the navel towards the spine

* creating a vacuum stomach

* or trying to activate a single core muscle such as the transverse abdominus

This is wrong on a number of levels. But maybe the easiest way to understand it and appreciate what I’m getting at is to use the following analogy.

This analogy is very similar to one used by Stuart McGill but I like the version we’re going to use more because it involves movement and change. A couple of things that are synonymous with health and life.

Anyways, so the way this analogy works is to imagine planting a young tree into the ground. This new tree doesn’t have much of a root system yet it has some height to it. And since the trunk is not yet at its full thickness it may not be able to support its own weight. Or at best it may get pulled out of alignment quite easily.

So to make sure this new tree grows straight and tall we will support it with some landscape ties.

Any 5 year would understand that the landscape ties are there to support the tree and prevent it from falling out of alignment.

And we would understand that the supports are there but not with high levels of tension but enough to get the job done.

Because sometimes there will be a need to give the tree a little extra support.

Ok, now quick question…if the wind was really blowing and bending this young tree back and forth all over the place, would you move the landscape ties in closer to the base of the tree?

In other words, if the landscape ties were each 2 feet from the tree, would you move the ties in a foot?

No, of course not.

This would take away at least 50% of the support the tree receives from the ties. As well it would the tree in jeopardy of  more damage as now the wind can move the tree that much more.

So let’s go back to the example of the engaging your core.

If you need to fire your core muscles would you:

A) want to suck in your gut, draw your navel to your spine and ‘decrease the distance from your support to your spine’?


B) want to maintain or increase the distance of your supports to your spine?

It should be a fairly simple question to answer.

But unfortunately many still use the wrong approach.

As a colleague told me recently:

* Never draw in

* Brace when necessary

* Breathe always

If you guys like the posts on core activation and musculature let me know in the comments section and I’ll put together some more content on this topic in the future.

In fact I’m currently working on an article ‘Who else wants Fat Abs and a Double Chin?’ that you’re going to love.

Have a great weekend.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                      ‘always moving forward’

Exactly how many calories does (xxx) workout burn?

Hi there: I hope you had a great Hallowe’en weekend. It’s such a great time of year to be able to let loose and be a kid again for a night. And possibly the next morning if you promise to wear your costume the following Saturday AM for a stairs workout. Looking back this probably wasn’t the smartest thing I’ve decided to do but I did it and hopefully it lightened the mood for those that came out for the workout and helped them work a little harder. Below you can see a picture of Wonder Woman, Les Grossman and Kat Von D.

I’ve got some video footage from the Saturday morning workout and will try to work that into a future post.

Switching gears here a little bit I want to let you of a device I’m testing out. It’s called a BodyBugg and it measures you caloric expenditure. You wear it around your left arm and it records how many calories you expend during day.

Now some people will be thinking ‘I have a heart rate monitor that tracks my calories so how is this any different?’

True, a heart rate monitor provides an estimation on calories burned but it isn’t very accurate. Basically the caloric measurement from a heart rate monitor correlates to how many calories would typically be burned at a particular heart rate.

So first of all we realize this is an estimation and therefore is not a totally accurate method of tracking your calories. But secondly your heart rate monitor has no way of detecting whether an increased heart rate is due to physical exertion or a hightened emotional state. For example if you wore your heart rate monitor to a scary movie you might get a number of spikes during the frightening scenes of the movie. And your heart rate monitor would calculate these spikes as physical work being done and calories burned. But sitting on your butt for 2 hours watching a movie doesn’t burn a lot of calories. Actually when you consider the barrel of popcorn and huge pop most people drink at the movies there probably is a caloric surplus after the movie rather than any type of deficit as represented by the heart rate monitor.

So how does the BodyBugg do this? Well it has four different sensors to measure caloric expenditure. And if one sensor detects caloric expenditure but the other three do not it doesn’t count that initial reading. According to the manufacturers this results in the device having 95% accuracy of a clinical measurement.

But why is this important? Well for a number of reasons including:

* If our goal is weight loss we’ll know whether we have achieved a deficit or not.

* We’ll be able to quantify various type of workouts for effectiveness. How does one hour of a particular type of exercise compare to other types?

* It makes us more accountable. Just as writing down our goals leads to a great chance of success so too does having true numbers to record and measure keep us more on track and focussed.

I’ll provide more details and some video of the BodyBugg in days to come. There is also an online food diary component that I’ll review as well.

Have a great week.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                      ‘always moving forward’