Tag Archive for: fitness

Its this time of year when our kids head back to school and soon a lot of them will be signing up for as many extracurricular activities as they can fit in.

I’m preparing myself for yet another year alternating between frustration, disappointment and amazement at what some schools and by compliance, parents, are doing to their children. In about 7 weeks’ time I’m going to be asked by parents ‘are squats bad for your knees?’ The motive behind this question will be the fact that their son or daughter has joined the schools rowing team and has been told that they must do 600 squats per week, and now has knee pain.

Or “are kettlebell swings bad for your back?’ At some schools, you must perform a kettlebell workout during the week to be eligible for team selection, regardless of whether you have the prerequisite flexibility and skill to perform kettlebell swings or not.

How about “is there anything we can do at home to help Osgood-Schlatters?’ We can’t get to the physio between football, basketball, volleyball and cross country training.’

Some of the injuries I see teenagers suffering are going to stay with them for life. I know this because I also work with the adults who have stuffed knees from playing 3 different impact sports at the same time and busted backs from rowing and lifting weights with poor technique. Most of these injuries are not just avoidable but completely unnecessary. None of the situations I’ve used as examples should happen. But they are all real examples, real teenagers at real schools, real injuries. And each year I’m seeing more and more of it.

Physical preparation of athletes is a specialist profession. That’s why top teams have fitness advisers and Strength and Conditioning Coaches in addition to the sports specific coaches and medical staff. Training young people, whose bodies are constantly changing, is even more specialised. There is much greater difference between individuals of similar ages and greater differences within each individual on a month to month basis. The effects of training, both good and bad, are much more profound. I routinely come across people who don’t even have the qualifications or experience to properly coach an actual sport, taking it upon themselves to start prescribing strength and fitness programs. This is a recipe for injury.

What’s of even greater concern is the trend towards people thinking they can develop someone’s ‘mental toughness’ by smashing them with physical exercise. This has started in mainstream fitness and has filtered into school sports. ’Mental toughness’ has become justification for people delivering exercise programs that have zero basis in physiology. Ever since Lay-down Sally stopped rowing mid-way through a race, armchair experts throughout the country think they know about mental resilience.

Training mental toughness should be left to the experts. And any training that is done should be based on an assessment of where the athletes is currently and what is require of them in the future. Unfortunately, there are a lot of coaches, personal trainers and fitness instructors who seem to think that designing tough exercise programs makes them some type of hero, bad arse or is testimony to their own athletic prowess. It doesn’t.

Performance will always be limited by the weakest link in their chain. With almost everyone, but particularly younger people, this weak link is much more likely to be technique or skill, coordination, flexibility, balance, and decision making than it is their ability to endure a large workload.

Ironically training someone into heavy fatigue guarantees they don’t develop skill, speed, balance, coordination, flexibility or decision making.  It just makes them tired and sore and teaches them not to listen to their body. Repeated frequently enough it makes them injured. Talking irony: one thing the world’s best athletes have in common: None of them sustain any significant injuries on their way to the top. Federer, Jordan, Woods, Phelps…No significant injuries on their way to the top.

Adults deciding to trust their wellbeing to someone is one thing. But as parents our job is to look after our kids. You have a responsibility to ask questions, educate yourself and to say no from time to time. A kid who doesn’t get to do everything they want, who misses out from time to time, who learns to listen to their own body and take responsibility for their own health will become a healthier and happier adult than the kid who grows up thinking they are physically and mentally inferior, or superior, based on how many kilometres they can run or how many push ups they do.

There was once a technique practiced by many, many people. Their survival depended on it. This, almost forgotten technique can make you smarter, more attractive and more interesting. It is imperative if you want your 2017 to be better than 2016.

This technique can help you achieve virtually any physical, financial or personal goal. Mastering it will improve your performance at work and sport and your relationships with family and friends. It will reduce your stress and the stress levels of the people around you.

Not only does this technique not cost you anything, it will actually save you money.
Oddly, after 28 years in the fitness industry, this is the one thing I’m seeing less and less people willing to do…


We all have different styles of learning.
Kinaesthetic people best learn by physically doing and feeling.
Auditory learners absorb and understand information when they hear it.
65% of people are predominately visual, taking in most of their information through their eyes.
What’s this got to do with health and fitness?
If something isn’t working for you, doing more of it, or less of it, isn’t really going to work either. Way too many people don’t achieve their fitness goals because they only think about how much they run or swim or lift, but don’t pay attention to how they do it.

If you want to improve your health and fitness, you need to make changes. The first step toward making changes is learning something new.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each learning style.
To learn exercises all 3 learning styles need to be used.

Imagine a predominately visual person learning to do push ups.
They watch someone doing push ups.
Their eyes take in too much information for the brain to deal with, and they have no way to sort that information in order of importance.
So they are left believing that to do a push up you put your hands on the floor and move your body up and down.
However, the most important aspect of doing a push up is the placement of the hands relative to the shoulders, and the posture you keep your body in during the exercise.


 If you don’t get these things right, the up and down movement is pointless in the short term and dangerous in the long term.
Just because you have a preferred learning style, that doesn’t mean you can’t learn via other methods. It just means it won’t be as easy.  The visual person needs to listen extra carefully to the verbal coaching, and concentrate on what things feel like, in order to learn how to do push ups properly.
Tips to make it easier to learn
Respect the process.
Slow down and give yourself time to learn the skill. 5 push ups per week done properly will make you stronger. 10 push ups done badly will not make you better at doing good push ups, but it will make you injured.
Stop talking.
Speech requires a lot of brain activity.
No one can hear while they are also talking.
No one can learn while they are talking.
No one. Not ever.
You may be able to talk underwater with a mouth full of marbles, but you will never learn to swim until you shut up.
You are not on a quiz show. You don’t have to buzz in with the answer. You just have to listen.
Reduce other input.
Ever noticed how people turn down the car radio when they are looking for a street address?
Your brain can only deal with so much information at a time. And it is always receiving information through all of your senses, sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. That’s a lot to deal with.
When you are trying to learn something reduce the amount of unhelpful input that your brain has to deal with. 
(If you are in a class with someone else trying to learn, do what you can to reduce the load on their senses by being quiet.)
No one knows what they don’t know.
Keep an open mind. What you need to learn, may be different to what you think you need to learn. Everyone who starts boxing focuses their attention on throwing punches. But if you want to punch hard, punch often and not injure your back, knees and shoulders, you need to learn footwork and breathing first.
Remember, it’s counter intuitive.
If you are having trouble learning something, its almost certainly due to your non dominant learning methods. Instead of trying to derive more information via your dominant method, make it easier for your less developed senses.
Having trouble understanding what someone is trying to explain? Close your eyes and keep still. This will reduce the amount of visual input and make it easier for you to process what you are hearing.
If you are having trouble mastering a physical skill, reduce visual and auditory input and concentrate on what the movements feels like.
Looking for a street address… turn the radio down.
Learning is the bridge between where you are now and where you want to be.

I’m going to start with the dry, some might say, boring stuff. This will be followed by the useful stuff. And if you make it all the way to the end, I’ll explain why I’ve done it in that order.

October 10th is world Mental Health Day.

Why is that important?

Looking at the following stats from the Mental Health Foundation of Australia it’s apparent that at any stage at least one member of our family, a couple of our friends and a few of our colleagues will be suffering with mental health issues.

  • One out of every five Australians [about 20%] will experience some form of mental illness each year. Three out of every ten [about 30%] will be seriously affected.
  • One in four people will experience an anxiety disorder at some stage of their lives.
  • Around one million Australian adults and 100,000 young people live with depression each year.
  • On average, one in five people will experience depression in their lives.
  • At least one third of young people have had an episode of mental illness by the age of 25 years.
  • Approximately two-­thirds of people with a mental illness do not receive any treatment in any 12-month period.

As with any illness seeking help from appropriate medical professionals is vital and the earlier that process starts the better. I once heard a Doctor compare mental illness to being in a hole. You may be able to climb part of the way out on your own, but there is a good chance you will slide back in whenever you get close to the top. Professional help is the ladder, use it to help yourself climb out. And even if you’ve never been in a hole, one could open up when you least expect it. No one can afford to neglect their mental health.

TIP: Remember you are not alone. No matter how much you feel like it, you are not alone.

Attractive female swimming under the water surface with eyes opened. Focused on face, polarizing filter, convenient copy space

How exercise helps.

It’s a well published fact that exercise is one of the best things someone can do to improve/maintain their mental health. But most people don’t realise just how big an impact exercise has. The effect is exponential. Exercising stimulates chemicals in your brain that improve your mood. But those chemical reactions also improve your memory and ability to learn. Do you think having a better memory and improved learning ability will also help your mood, outlook and self-esteem?  Do you think that might be important as you age? Do you think it may help people dealing with exams or performance pressure?   You don’t need to do a heap. 10 minutes of moving is better than 10 minutes sitting down. The most important thing is being mindful when you are doing it and being consistent.

TIP: Exercise regularly and do it for the rest of your life. Have your regular exercise routine e.g. swimming, tennis, running or class. But also have a backup method, e.g. walking, home exercise video, body weight exercises (there are literally dozens of apps available) for you to use if you encounter a stressful time and can’t keep to your regular routine. Don’t fall into a rigid mindset, thinking ‘If I can’t do my 10000 steps then it’s no point going for a walk at all.’ Exercise will help you deal with stress and anxiety, don’t make it part of your stress and anxiety.  If you know you are coming up to a stressful time, travelling, doing exams etc. and you won’t be able to exercise for a few days, then increase your exercise leading into it. You can actually build up a little ‘exercise credit’ to carry you through the tough times. Unfortunately, you can’t do ‘catch up’ exercise.

For exercise to improve your fitness it must present a challenge. For some people it may be to lift a heavier weight or it may be to run further. But for some people getting out of bed and walking to the letter box may be challenging enough. It doesn’t matter where you are starting from, just start. Overcoming a challenge is one of the best feeling anyone will ever experience. And It can’t be hacked. It can’t be gifted. You can’t buy it. Regularly tackling and overcoming challenges builds confidence and self-esteem. It increases a sense of self-worth and reduces anxiety. You don’t need to climb Mt Everest; you just need to do something that challenges you. Having someone to help you face those challenges is great, but they can’t do it for you.                                                TIP: Just start. How much, how often, what type will all sort itself out in time. Just start.

Sleep. Its important. Very important. One of the first signs that your mental health is less than optimal is if your sleep is screwed up. You may not sleep at all, you may do nothing but sleep, either way it is a danger sign. And it works the other way. Screw around with your sleep and it will set you up to get sick. Exercise helps reset your body clock and does a bunch of other stuff that will help you sleep better.                                                                                                             TIP: Look into sleep hygiene and you will find some things you can do to improve your sleep but regular exercise is near the top of the list. Give it some time, it doesn’t work straight away but it does help.

Learning new skills. Research shows that learning throughout life is associated with greater satisfaction and optimism. People who carry on learning after childhood have greater wellbeing and ability to cope with stress. They also report more feelings of self-esteem, hope and purpose. Continual learning is one of the few things that is known to help ward off the effects of age related mental health problems. Your brain benefits from being kept active, flexible, agile just as your muscles do. You may not have the time, money or inclination to start guitar lessons or do further study, but lots of types of exercise involve learning new skills. Exercise isn’t just for the body, heart and lungs, it should involve your mind. Try new things, ones that you aren’t good at straight away, work away at it you will experience how good it feels to master something new.


Tip: No one else knows how to do everything, so why should you? Be open to learning something new. Stop talking for a while and let yourself learn. (No human can hear what someone else is saying and talk at the same time. Sometimes you just need to shut up and listen. It will reduce your anxiety and the anxiety of the people around you). So what if you muck it up a bit, each time you try you will get better at it. The rewards are worth it. And yes being out of your comfort zone, either physical or mental, is uncomfortable, that’s the point!

Final Tip: If you are doing something that you know isn’t very good for you (eating that second piece of mud cake, lighting up a cigarette) you get a feeling of pleasure just before you do it. Then after its done you feel guilty, dissatisfied and unhappy. Sometimes this can be so intense you are driven to have another cigarette or third piece of cake to try and make yourself feel better. Not good for mental health.

Conversely when we are going to do something that is good for us (exercise, study, house work) we get an attack of the ‘I can’t be bothered’ just before we start.  (often disguised as I’m too tired, it’s too cold blah,blah,blah) But after we have done the good deed, we get the ‘I feel great” thing. Very good for mental health. So… feel good right now, but feel crappy later on. Or push through the crappy feelings now and feel great later on. You have a choice.

Your entire body is set up to make you respond well to exercise. From altered brain chemistry, better sleep, better learning and memory and even looking better, exercise will make you feel better and be healthier and happier. Exercise is about getting you out of your comfort zone, making you ‘comfortable with being uncomfortable.’ Even if you are already fit and healthy you need to look for new ways to challenge yourself to maintain both your physical and mental health.

That uncomfortable feeling maybe because you are breathing really hard or that your muscles are tired and feel heavy or that you keep getting your left and right feet confused or it may be that you are leaving the house for the first time in a while. Whatever it is, just push the limits of your comfort zone a little bit every day and you will find the zone gets bigger. You learn that you can not only survive the uncomfortable zone, but that you feel so much better on the other side of it. You will find that you are stronger than your thought. You will find you are more capable and more resilient than you expected. The more often you exercise the less emotionally stressful it is and the more consistent the feelings of well-being become. It’s not easy, but it is worth it.

Just start.

 Over the last couple of years the fastest growing trend in fitness has been the uptake of wearable technology. This range of products are now the biggest sellers for electrical retailers and most early adopters are onto their second, if not, third generation of wearable fitness tracker. Its estimated 68.1 million wearable fitness trackers sold in 2015, and
91.3 million are expected to sell in 2016.


Fitness technology now comes built into our wrist watches, smart phones, ear buds and sunglasses. It provides data about where we are, how far and fast we travel, our sleep quality and even our hydration levels.
Check out Xmetrics. This swim specific tracker is worn on the back of your head and gives you real time audio feedback about your stroke count, kick rate, time between turns and breathing.
And why should humans get all the cool gear? Nuzzle is a wearable GPS and activity tracker for your dog or cat.
One of the latest development in fitness trackers is the ability to get a heart rate reading without the need for a pesky chest strap. This is due to optical technology.
And this is where we run into a problem.
The monitors worn around your wrist giving you a heart rate reading without a chest strap, DON’T actually measure your heart rate.
Unlike chest straps, which read the electrical pulses associated with heart beats, optical sensors work by using a light to illuminate the capillaries in your wrist. A sensor then measures how frequently blood pumps past. There are a number of problems with this:
1.  Blood flow slows significantly by the time it reaches your wrist and doesn’t reflect heart rate accurately. As the heart rate goes above 100bpm accuracy decreases even further.
2.   Blood flow in your wrist is affected by movement and muscle tension.
3.   The ability to measure blood flow with an optical sensor is affected by skin tone and the size, shape and structure of your wrist.
What sort of numbers are we talking?
 Testing indicates that optical sensor readings taken at the wrist are about 90% accurate at hearts rates around 80-90bpm, when you are completely still. Not an ideal state for improving your fitness.
Pump the heart rate up to 160bpm and you’re looking at approximately 50% accuracy. Add in movement or use your hands and they bug out completely. Essentially we have a fitness tracker that cant track your fitness activity.
Why do we want to measure heart rate anyway? Heart rate is the simplest way to measure how hard you are working. Knowing how hard you are working is critical to understanding if you are exercising the right way to achieve your goals. For heart rate data to be meaningful we want it to be accurate within +/-5bpm.
While wrist band fitness trackers offer many features, if tracking your heart rate is important to you then you really need to get a chest strap, or you can always revert to the two fingers on your pulse trick.

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.

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.