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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…

Learning.
brian-herbert

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.

pilates-push-up-2

 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’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.