Are You Blowing It?

When someone looks to get started with a health and fitness routine it’s always interesting where they put the emphasis. 

Do they put most of their focus and effort on the training? Do they train as frequently and intensely as possible?

Do they put their efforts into their nutritional plan? Do they make most of their meals? Drink more water?

Do they focus on getting their sleep in order? Do they get to bed and get up at the same time daily?

There are lots of things that will lead to a positive result.

But often times we skip the one thing that is the most basic and can have a huge impact on results. Think back to the first thing and the last thing we’ll do in this world. And that’s breathing.

Breathing is vitally important to everything we do. Yet it gets skipped over or forgotten completely. Which is surprising when we consider we can’t go 3 minutes without it.

Below are 4 quick ways we can use breathing to help our training or sports performance

1. Calm Our NervesImagine trying to shoot a target with a racing heart rate.

Imagine trying to shoot a target with a racing heart rate.

Think of the number of sports that require accuracy and precision. Imagine having to make an 8 foot putt in order to win a PGA tournament. Or having to make a couple of free throws with no time on the clock in order to win a basketball game. Or, the one I think that would the toughest, would be having to shoot targets from a standing position in a biathlon race.With all of these there would be benefit to slowing the breathing pattern and calming the nerves before having to perform.

2. Increase Mobility

These days everyone is looking to increase their mobility. They want to have greater stride length as a sprinter. They want to have greater shoulder turn on the tee box. And they want to minimize the pain that comes when mobility is restricted or limited. As we’re performing our stretches or mobility drills we can use our breathing to help reduce tension and open up new ranges of motion.

3. Increased FitnessWith belly breathing, the diaphragm descends more and facilitates greater gas exchange.

With belly breathing, the diaphragm descends more and facilitates greater gas exchange.

Breathing, or respiration, involves gas exchange to allow for the availability of fuel and the elimination of waste products. When we aren’t breathing optimally we limit both of these. When we are breathing optimally through the abdomen there is more opportunity for the diaphragm to descend and create the negative pressure to draw air in. When the diaphragm doesn’t descend as much e.g. when we breath more through the chest, we limit the amount of air we can draw in and the waste we can expel.

4. It Can Serve as Our Timer

It seems like when we’re given a prescription for stretching we are told to hold the position for 30-60 seconds. But if we don’t have a watch this can sometimes be hard to monitor. And it’s hard to know if we should give it more time or not. Instead of monitoring our stretching with a watch we can use our breathing. If we use the pattern of inhale, hold and exhale we could do each for 2 seconds, 2 seconds and 4 seconds. This 2:2:4 ration leads to balanced inhalations and exhalations. As we calm the system we can get deeper into the stretch and be more attuned to our limitations.

Going forward if you want to give this a try, keep the following in mind.

  • Use a ratio of x:x:2x in terms of the time. As an example, inhale for 2 seconds, hold for 2 seconds and exhale for 4 seconds. The same ratio would work for 3:3:6 or 4:4:8 etc. Just realize that the longer ratios can get difficult to exhale that long.
  • Breath through the nose only. When the goal is to calm the system and switch from fight or flight to rest and digest we want to breath through the nose instead of the mouth.
  • Make longer exhales the goal. We live in a sympathetic state (stress) and besides involving the mouth and chest, more stress typically involves more inhalations. Pictures the overly excited or panicked person that is hyperventilating. With more stress we inhale more. Look to reverse this and exhale more and for longer.
  • Inhale as though there was a balloon in the stomach. Limit the amount of expansion through the chest. On the exhale shrink the abdominals back as much as possible as though a corset was being tightened around the waist.
  • Practice breathing on the back first. Progress to being face down. Eventually look to incorporate the patterns and cues into your stretches and exercises.

That’s it. Four ways you can influence, and potentially improve, sports performance and training with breathing. As the expression goes ‘if you’re going to do something, you may as well do it to your best’.

How to Recover More Quickly

I’ve written before about the importance of breathing on this blog. But a recent session with a client caused me to think it may be worth revisiting.

The session I am referring to was with a young client who was doing a vertical load of resistance exercises. This basically means he would do one exercise, move to a different second exercise and finish with a third exercise before taking a rest. This is different from horizontal loading, which is seen in many big box gyms, and involves doing a set of a particular exercise, resting for the prescribed amount of time, then repeating this to complete all the sets before moving on to the next part of the training session.

Not only does vertical loading allow for greater workout density it also allows for greater intensity. You can train more intensely because you have more time from one lift until you repeat that same lift again. There are two other exercises plus a rest break before completing the next set of the same exercise.

But this post isn’t about program design. Instead it’s to illustrate the importance of proper breathing during training.

Now as you can imagine doing a workout of this type your heart rate will begin to climb. And if you are a little bit deconditioned, tired, under-fueled, dehydrated, stressed or coming down with a cold your heart may have to work a little harder than normal to do the task at hand. And as your heart rate climbs and you try to push yourself you may find you aren’t recovering adequately to maintain the intensity and pace of your workout.

Since safety precedes results you need an option here. Here’s what we did for this client that helped him complete not only this set but the rest of his workout.

When it came time for his rest break we had him lay on his back. One hand was placed on his navel and we asked  him to close his eyes.

Next we asked him to follow a breathing pattern of 2-2-4 which represents a 2 second inhale, a 2 second hold followed by a 4 second exhale. And we asked him to do this all through his nose. Nasal breathing helps restore a parasympathetic state more effectively than oral breathing.


The other two points regarding closing his eyes and placing a hand on his navel were to help him relax more quickly. In particular the hand on the navel was to provide a tactile cue to encourage belly breathing and see that on inhalation the abdomen lifted and expanded and then retracted during the exhalation.

Within 45 seconds of using this recovery technique this client was able to complete the training session at or above the prescribed intensity. Had we not given this a shot the client was most likely done for the day and mentally planning to end the training session.

A bonus with this type of recovery is that it may help athletes move more quickly as well. It is becoming better understood that the difference between elite, world-class athletes and great athletes has little to do with their ability to produce force. Instead one of the big differences between being good and great lies in the ability to limit inhibition of the antagonist muscle groups. While this is a topic for another blog post I believe proper breathing may play a role in assisting an athlete to turn down a muscle and allow them to move more quickly.

In any event give this recovery technique a try the next time you train. Even if you aren’t hitting the wall and feeling nauseous you will still benefit from a quicker and more complete recovery facilitated by proper breathing.

Chris [fb-like]

An Easy Way to Be Better at Every Sport

Do you remember growing up and having your parents drill into you proper manners? I’m talking specifically ones that had to do with your mouth. You know what I mean?Poor manners cost him a lucrative pro career.

Poor manners cost him a lucrative pro career.

‘Chew your food with your mouth closed’

‘Don’t smack your gum’

‘Close your mouth’

And besides helping me develop proper manners and etiquette so I won’t be a social outcast this also helped me with my sports performance. So thanks mom & dad!

But how exactly does chewing with your mouth closed help with sports performance? Well honestly it has nothing to do with the nutrition and more to do with how we take in oxygen and expire carbon dioxide. I’ve got to give credit to Mr. Sherwin, my high school science teacher, for teaching me some of the following.

Below are 4 benefits of nose versus mouth breathing.

Benefit #1 – Nasal air is warmed and humidified

When you consider the location and properties of our lungs we know they are in the chest cavity and moist to facilitate inflation, deflation and gas exchange. The more similar the air we breath in is to this environment the better. For example, air taken in through the mouth needs to warmed and moistened before arriving at the lungs.

***I remember when going to university in Regina riding my bike in the middle of winter. In -35 C weather I learned that although you may be tempted to ride quickly to get out of the cold weather more quickly this caused me to breath through my mouth and typically was followed by a sore throat or chest cold. It was a better strategy to bike more slowly and keep my mouth closed. This allowed me take air in through my nose only and ensure the air was warmed before reaching my lungs.***

Benefit #2 – Nasal air is filtered

Are you concerned with air quality? Are you aware of all the pollutants floating around in the air you breath at home, work or school? And I’m not even talking about people upstairs from your work that smoke cigarettes right out the front door of our gym. Yeah that happens on a daily basis.

Anyways, the nose has small hairs in it called cilia which help to filter out dust, pollutants and other air borne particles to clean this air before it makes its way to our lungs.

Benefit #3 – A dose of nitric oxide

Not to be confused with nitrous dioxide (N2O), nitric oxide (NO) is made by the nose and serves a number of functions. NO helps to lower blood pressure, helps increase the oxygen carrying capacity of our blood and also kills bacteria, viruses and germs.

So NO helps us be more efficient in our transfer of oxygen and helps keep us healthy. This same benefit is not provided when we breath through our mouth.

Read also about Kai Greene’s famous “Grapefruit” video

Benefit #4 – Calmer breathing

Breathing through our mouth is associated with chest breathing and stress (sympathetic). For example, think of a dog or animal that is about to attack. It bares its teeth and breaths through its mouth. And you can see the chest and shoulders rise and fall which each breath.

Or picture the athlete who has just won the 800 m at the Olympics. This is a painful event involving high levels of stress. Upon crossing the finish line some athletes may collapse to the ground, eyes closed, pained expressions on their faces and breathing rapidly through their mouths.Nasal breathing would help them make the shot.

Nasal breathing would help them make the shot.

Contrast this with breathing through the nose which is calmer, less thoracic and more diaphragmatic, and helps restore a state of parasympathetic stress.

As you continue on with your training and day to day activities pay attention to how you breath. Is it nasal or oral? When does it change? If you play hockey or ringette a mouth guard is a great way to practice breathing through the nose as the lips are kept sealed around the mouth guard.

And if you’re a decent athlete with good manners make sure to thank your mom & dad.

Chris [fb-like]

Stand Tall for Better Recovery

One of the great things about coaching is that there are plenty of opportunities to train. 

We never have an excuse for access to equipment. While it’s nice to have access to kettle bells, Olympic platforms and anything that makes a session more enjoyable the truth is all we need is gravity for an effective workout.

But besides that we’re always getting exposed to new training methodologies and research. And so this can become our lab. This is the place we test our theories, see what works, what doesn’t and how to make any changes if necessary.

And just as the best part of our job is the people we get to work with this place is great in that we can usually find another coach to rope into a training session. Megan, Kayla, Graeme and Jordy all place a high value on training and are always up for the challenge as well.

Recently when training with Megan and Kayla I noticed they were doing something at the end of each set. And it’s something most of us do usually out of habit.Kayla or Megan? Take your pick

Kayla or Megan? Take your pick

If this were a live presentation and I asked for a show of hands ‘who bends over and puts there hands on their knees to recover?’ almost 100% of the room would be reaching skyward.

But there’s a couple of problems with this.

First of all let’s take a look at what an ideal posture should be. And compare this to the common forward head posture many people have.Ideal or forward head posture

Ideal or forward head posture

Now if you look at the bottom arrow of the picture on the right you can imagine this is close to where the pelvis would sit. The picture on the left would have a pelvis parallel to the ground and on the right it would be pointed up in the front and down in the back.

The problem with this poor postural position, especially at the hips and pelvis, is that with each inhalation the diaphragm descends and the chest expands. When the pelvis is poorly positioned with a forward head posture this limits the extent to which the diaphragm can descend. And this limits the amount of air that can taken in with each breath.

This gets worse when you drop the head further forward, flex forward at the trunk and round through the low back.

Dropping the head down creates a posterior tilt of the hips & pelvis. Dropping the arms in front of the body limits the ability to expand the chest. And when you compare the recovery rates of people who stop moving after activity and those that walk or move slowly, the movers recovery more quickly and completely.

So being hunched over limits thoracic expansion, impedes the ability of the diaphragm to descend and prevents movement for recovery.

Next time you are running intervals, shuttles or any type of a push-recover type of workout remember to ‘stand tall’ during the recovery phase.

Chris [fb-like]

Train Smarter Not Harder

There seems to be a theme in fitness these days regarding intensity. Check out any number of YouTube videos or social media updates and they all seem to be tagged with descriptions of beast mode, strong is the new sexy or something similar.Seek results not soreness.

Seek results not soreness.

Add to this the popularity of obstacle course racing where the greater the chance of serious injury the more people talk about it. Now no one seems to bat an eye to hear you’ve done a 10 km race. Unless it involved electrocution, possible hypothermia and challenged you completely in all areas physically.

And for the right person at the right stage of their training this can be a great thing. But there are a lot of conditions attached there. This is not something for the person just getting started in fitness or is not already training regularly with a high level of intensity.

So while you want to push the intensity and challenge yourself make sure you aren’t overdoing it from the get-go or getting strong-armed into signing up for an event you aren’t physically ready for. When you consider the injury rate at a Tough Mudder can be 20% you can quickly appreciate how many people are in over their heads when they step up to the start line. 15,000 at the start line and as many as 3000 injured is not a good statistic. Unless you are a physiotherapist than you may be glad to hear the phone ringing off the hook Monday after an event.

So what are you to do? Play it safe and never enter these events? Or can you be a little smarter with your training and still push yourself, get great results and do some fun races?

Absolutely you can. And the key is listening to your body.

I know this expression can sound trite and over-simplified but here are a few tips to ensure you are on the right track.

1. Ease into your workouts

When you are doing multiple sets think of slowly building up. For example, if I was doing 4 sets of something I might think of giving 70%, 80%, 90% on the first three sets. Then depending on how things are going I can decide how much to push on the last effort.

2. Use a heart rate monitor

If you aren’t measuring what you’re doing you have no way of knowing if you’re improving. Using a heart rate monitor helps you know the highs, lows and average heart rates achieved. You will also know know how long your session lasted, have a clock for rest breaks and get an estimate of calories burned.

3. Pay attention to how a movement feels

Imagine taking a transatlantic flight then stepping under a bar to do some overhead squats. How would that feel? Probably not very good. But after a bit of a stretch and warm-up and a few lighter sets you’ll start to feel things loosen up.

In the same way that movements can start to feel better with more mobility and warm up we also want to pay attention to when our form changes for the worse. If you feel pressure at certain parts of the body we should know to not power through but adapt our training to this feedback. This might mean adjusting the range of motion, the tempo, the load or the reps. Sometimes making these adjustments makes minimal to no difference and we have to call it a day. Better to forgo a step forward with our training at the risk of taking two steps back with an injury.

4. Pay attention to your breathing

One of the easiest things you can do is to be aware of your breathing. And don’t think this is only a quantitative thing in terms of how many breaths you take in a certain period of time but only the quality of your breathing.

Do you breath through nose our mouth? Is your breathing balanced with equal time spent on inhalation as exhalation? Do you breath with your chest (thoracic) or you abdominals (diaphragmatic)? Is the expansion when you inhale three dimensional or anterior? And is the breathing relaxed or laboured?

Since #4 is the easiest to do and you have everything you need to practice already start to track your breathing when you train. It’s easiest to do flat on your back a little harder from a seated or kneeling position and most difficult from a standing position. Perform your workouts with more attention given to your breathing. When you notice your breathing changes to being more laboured, unbalanced and through the chest this is a good time to switch exercises or grab a water break. As your fitness improves you’ll notice you can go longer or more intensely and eventually build up to beast mode.

Chris [fb-like]

3 takeaways from Hawaii

I’m just finishing a vacation with my family in Hawaii. And it’s been a great week to spend time together and relax.

But even though I’m on vacation there are still times when I notice little things that will help me as a coach. Below are the 3 takeaways from my time in Hawaii.

Slow down to learn

It seems as though everything in life is automatic and has to happen now. We can stream pretty much anything online without having to wait, do our banking in our pyjamas and have learned that we don’t need to wait.

While I was snorkelling near Waikoloa I would float over a some corral and not notice too much. I could very easily have changed directions, looked elsewhere or switched gears and grabbed a boogie board instead.

But I waited and just floated there for a second. And a variety of life came out from hiding. Fish that had tucked under the corral or stopped moving to blend in with it assumed everything was safe. The amount of life, colour and activity that presented itself was amazing.

It’s all because I gave it 5 seconds to develop for me.

Do the same thing with your training. Don’t rush things. Be patient. Really learn to listen to your body, to the movement and to notice the subtle aspects of your training.

Because if you’re always in a race you’ll miss a lot of the little, very important lessons right in front of you.

There is always lots to improve

As you become more patient with your training you will notice more things that you can improve. Take breathing as an example.

The complex where we were staying at had a gym. And by gym I mean a 10×10 foot room with a treadmill, bike, elliptical and a universal gym. So no gym.

But i still wanted to stay active and so I joined my father in law for his morning runs. Each day I would think about something different to focus on with my running. For example I would:

* run with a hand on my belly to ensure I was breathing with diaphragm and not solely through my chest

* run while shaking out my arms to ensure no wasted energy through the upper body

* pay attention to how quiet my feet were when contacting the ground

* focus on having a forward lean

* focus on trying to run tall

* pay attention to what areas of my body developed tension after the runs

As you can see there lots of things to focus on and improve with regards to running. The key is run only fast enough that nothing falls apart. For example, as soon I noticed my breathing becoming more chest rather than stomach based I would dial back the pace to bring this back under control.

Start with and always revert to the basics

If you’re a runner you’re probably looking to run further or faster. And if you’re a lifter you’re probably looking to lift more weight or a similar weight for more reps.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in the end goal that we gloss over the steps that help ensure we safely achieve our goal.

For example, what if the goal in every workout was to initiate each rep with proper posture? What if we established a neutral pelvic alignment by contracting the flutes first? What if we ensured a neutral rib that didn’t flare up? What if we set or braced the abs? Or packed the neck?

From this ideal starting position I’m guessing each rep would feel a lot better. I’m guessing loads would feel a lot easier. I’m guessing the potential strain that accompanies poor posture would all but be eliminated. And I’m guessing the recovery time for your workout would be reduced substantially.

And that’s if we just looked at posture.

The key is to remember what is your foundation and always come back to it. It’s a great way to center yourself and have a great starting place before trying a new lift or attempting a new max.

The take home message is that we can use opportunities to improve when all the conveniences of home aren’t readily available. Just remember to slow down, pick something to improve upon and always come back to the basics.

Chris [fb-like]

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.


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’