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Is all or nothing thinking going to leave you with nothing?

perfect 10s

Every moment of every day our brain has to deal with hundreds of bits of information and make multiple decisions. To make this process easier we do a lot of it on auto pilot, we drive the same way to work, wear the same clothes, eat the same foods and spend our spare time doing the same things. Our lazy brain saves even more energy by resorting to all or nothing thinking, where everything must be one way or the other, black or white. Marketing experts know our brain work this way and capitalise on it:

‘Don’t eat sugar’

‘Eat everything made from coconuts’

‘Walk 10,000 steps per day’

When it comes to diet and exercise this way of thinking will hold you back.

While our minds would like things to be nice and simple and businesses would love us to believe their one product or system will solve our problems, it’s just not the case. The key to successful long term health and fitness is the ability to adapt and make smart choices rather than blindly following one edict.

Aim for better rather than perfect.

Having weet bix for breakfast, a focaccia for lunch and pasta for dinner is not a great way to eat. But all or nothing thinking will have you on some restrictive gluten free style diet or continuing to eat badly.  But the ideal thing for your wellbeing lays somewhere between the two extremes. Unless you’ve been diagnosed with coeliac disease, you should consume foods containing gluten, just not for 21 meals a week. Have your weet bix for breakfast, but at lunchtime have the chicken and salad in a bowl instead of wrapped in a bread roll. If you know pasta is for dinner, have eggs for breakfast.

Aim for sustainable not perfect.

None of us can lead the perfect lifestyle. There will always be weeks when we can’t fit in a gym session or Pilates class. That doesn’t mean your only option is to do nothing. You can always find 10 minutes in the day to go for a walk. After 5 days, that’s 50 minutes of walking…that’s as good as a visit to the gym…that’s enough to stop your fitness from going backwards. Can’t make your Pilates class? Stretch your hip flexors for 2 minutes and spend 5 minutes laying on your back with a rolled towel between your shoulder blades. 7 minutes each day for a week, that’s 80% of a Pilates class in a week you didn’t have time for Pilates.

Don’t lose sight of the forest because you’re looking at a tree.

If you are carrying too many kg’s it’s because you’ve consumed too much. I know it’s not very PC or EQ to say that, but it’s true. You can’t convert oxygen or water to fat. You didn’t absorb those excess calories via osmosis…you had to swallow them.  Is Beetroot more of a superfood than Kale… it really doesn’t matter if you’re still going to consume a plate of cheese and bucket of wine while researching it. So, if you want to lose weight eating less needs to be the priority not eating perfectly.

Strength Training for endurance. Part 2.

I’ve worked with endurance athletes who swim, run, cycle and canoe. They all had a lot in common, including the problems they have regarding strength training. I’m going to cover the most common problems athletes, and their coaches, have with strength training, why it doesn’t always yield positive results and the solutions to those problems.

Problem: Struggling to fit in strength training because you spend all your time clocking up miles.

Solution: Remember it’s the athlete that goes fastest on race day that gets the chocolates, not the one that covers the most miles in training.

As an endurance athlete the temptations is to spend all your training time banking miles. This thinking is often the result of misinformation, fear and the culture of the sport. However, any problems or deficits you have simply become more ingrained as you rack up those miles. Endurance training also makes you weaker, and weaker equals slower and less resilient.

Your body is a non-renewable resource. Instead of planning your training program around how much riding, running, swimming or paddling you can do, try thinking ‘what is the least number of miles you can do to achieve the performance you are after? What things can you do to improve your performance other than doing more miles?

Instead of going for a 90-minute ride, doing a 20-minute strength workout followed by a 70-minute ride will yield a better ROI.

Instead of doing four runs in the week, (that fourth run is 25% of your training time, but will make less than 10% difference to your running performance) try doing 1 strength session and 3 runs.

Problem: Thinking you don’t need strength training because you aren’t a ‘real athlete’.

Solution: You have a body, and your life is better if it functions well. This makes you an athlete, like it or not.

A top notch athlete has a better diet than you do. Has more access to rehab and medical treatment than you. Has a longer and better structured training history than you do. Doesn’t need to fit their training in around their work and family schedule…training is their work! So, it’s even more important that a recreational athlete trains smart. Strength training becomes even more important as you age, and/or are just starting out.

And if you are thinking that one day you will be mixing it with the elite, start your strength training today. There are many athletes not reaching their potential because even though they’re national level on the race track they are rookies in the gym.

Problem: Making strength training the last thing on your schedule.

Solution: Your sport specific training is the most important thing to do, that doesn’t mean it is the first thing you should do.

Your strength is the foundation on which you build your endurance.

Your strength is the thing that will determine how many miles you can bank without getting injured.

Strength training is the way you can correct imbalances and potential problems to ensure your body is able to performing optimally.

Doesn’t it seem smarter to injury proof your body and equip it to move quickly and efficiently before making it eat up 100s of kilometres?

Plan out your training program. In the first third of your program commit 30% of your training time to strength work. Focus on using progressive overload and increasing your relative (strength/bodyweight) strength.  This should include general, total body strength training and specific injury prevention exercises. In the second third of your program, when your miles are building up to their maximum, dedicate 10% of training time to maintain your relative strength and include injury prevention exercises into your warms ups for every endurance session. In the final third of your program continue with the injury prevention exercises and incorporate specific strength training (hill repeats, adding external resistance etc.) into 1-3 sessions per week.

To maximise the results from your training you need to build up your strength first then convert it to endurance. Make strength development the priority at the start of your endurance career, at the start of every season and at the start of each training session.

Problem: Not realising strength is a skill.

Solution: Strength training is a skill. You need to invest the time and energy into learning that skill before you will be able to increase your strength in a meaningful way. Too many athletes ignore this and think that they can jump into the gym and they will start to get stronger straight away.

Applying your strength is also a skill. It requires the fine coordination of not just multiple muscles but also the coordination of specific groups of fibers with-in each muscle. The skill of strength, just like the skill of tennis, swimming or playing the piano, requires consistent, regular practice. For the best results skill practice needs to be short, focused and performed when you are fresh. This means strengthening exercises are an ideal way to start your training sessions.

Problem: Training like a body builder

Solution: Body builders train to make their body appear a certain way. This doesn’t equate to athletic performance. Body building training is characterized by moderate weights and high volume and short rests. As an athlete you need to be training with heavy weights, long rests and a moderate volume.

Ironically many athletes actually use high volume and short rests in the gym trying to build endurance and avoid heavy weights because they, incorrectly, believe they will get too big.

If you still aren’t sure if you would benefit from working on your strength or don’t know how to go about it contact us via the comments section or email us info@stablebase.com. I look forward to hearing from you.

High Intensity Interval Training

Last week Catalyst (ABC TV, Tuesday nights) ran a story about the benefits of High Intensity Interval Training. (There is a link to the episode on our Facebook page.)

It was focused on how HIT or HIIT has a positive impact on your mitochondria, the cells in your body which produce energy. Its the decline in these cells that is responsible for numerous aspects of the aging process, from needing nanna naps to saggy skin.

Until recently many people believed this could only be achieved by doing longer duration sustained ‘cardiovascular’ exercise. But HIIT is proving to be a much better option, especially if you are time poor, looking to keep your weight under control or wanting to prove that 40 is the new 30.  Talking of being time poor, I’ve decided to recycle an article I wrote about HIIT early last year.

Here is what you need to know:

High Intensity Interval Training refers to a method of training where short bursts of very intense efforts are interspersed with short rest periods.

It has evolved from Tabata training which involves 20 seconds of  maximal effort work, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This is done for 8 rounds or 4 minutes and was shown to improve the aerobic and anaerobic fitness of test subjects. The original Tabata work was done on a stationary bike. Obviously most of the training effect was in the cycling specific muscles. For the general population a more ‘well rounded’ approach is recommended.

As well as using ‘aerobic’ exercise like running and cycling for HIIT you can also use strength building exercises.

By alternating carefully selected exercises e.g. push ups and squats, you can work one muscle group with sufficient load to maintain or increase muscle strength, then while those muscles recover, you work a different muscle group. You are continuously active, going from one muscle group to another; hence your cardiovascular system is challeneged at the same time.

Because the intensity level is high, you burn a large amount of energy (calories) in a short time frame.

The other ‘secret weapon’ that high intensity training offers is EPOC. (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption). To put it simply, your metabolism (how much energy you burn) stays elevated for a very long time after the workout finishes

Another advantage of HIIT is a great return for the time invested. It enables you to work on both muscle strength and aerobic fitness simultaneously.

Because you are working against moderate to high resistance, you are able to maintain or even increase muscle mass. Muscle burns energy, so the more muscle you have the higher your metabolism. Long, sustained exercise results in muscle loss, which is detremental to nearly every reason you could have for exercising including weight loss.

HIIT style training also allows  you to do a lot of different movements instead of lots of repetitions of the same movement. This will help reduce the development of muscle imbalances and overuse injuries.

So if you want improvement to everything, body composition, aerobic fitness and strength in a relatively short time frame, give HIIT a go.

In my experience you get the best results if you apply the following guidelines:

Emphasise hips and shoulders movements. Movements that combine both hips and shoulders are the king!

Alternate exercises for the lower body, upper body, core and total body.

Use relatively low skill exercises.

If you are after fat burning, use shorter rest periods.

Training and rest interval times should be varied over the course of weeks to challenge different energy systems.

The ‘training age’ of the person, their current state of health and fitness and their lifestyle has a huge influence on how much training someone should do. As does the persons goals and how much time they can invest. For weight loss Id recommend shorter more frequent workouts. For strength gains I like slightly longer workouts with more rest days. For most people 3 x 30 minute workouts per week will get great results if it’s well designed.