Posted by Ian Kay on May 24, 2009
“The great French Marshall Lyautey once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for 100 years. The Marshall replied, ‘In that case, there is no time to lose; plant it this afternoon!’” – John F. Kennedy
Cause you’re all growns up!
Usually, if you look back on your life, you can see patterns of development in almost every category of day-to-day activity. Most of the time, you can see a clear path of maturation. For instance, you may still like the same music you did when you were in college, but over the years you may have stopped cutting your hair like the band, stopped wearing band t-shirts every day, stopped following the guitarists’ lives, stopped rushing out to buy the new album the very day it is released, stopped going to as many shows… you get the idea.
Some of these changes are intentional, others not. For most of us, having a crazy hair-do and wearing a band’s t-shirt became inappropriate for our lives, specifically our careers and social gatherings. In the beginning this was intentional: it was a realization that a change had to be made. After a while though, you got used to it, and you are no longer even tempted to dye your hair purple.
Other changes may have come unintentionally: following the personal lives of the band members, or rushing out day-of for tickets or a new album lost it’s place in your life. You didn’t decide to stop caring that much about the band; your life just filled up with other things that made the band a little less important to you. You might still eventually get the album, but hearing it next month is just as good as hearing it right now.
What does any of this have to do with fitness or exercise? Well, just like in every other part of life, there is a certain level of “growing up” to be done when you decide to get your body into shape.
The moment you realize that you can’t get away with eating whatever you want any more, or the moment that a doctor tells you that your physical exam scores aren’t very good, is similar to the realization that in order to get a good job, the crazy hair and piercings need to go.
When you get your first real job, there is a shocking transition: you no longer have the freedom to just do what you want: there is a boss and a schedule and specific demands – and you may be uncomfortable with it, and sometimes dread it, and be tempted to quit. When you join a gym or a training program, the same thing happens: you get a clear picture of what your body cannot do. The exercises are difficult. You’ll get sore. The immediate effort doesn’t seem to be producing equivalent results.
But after the initial shock has worn off, after you’ve gotten used to the system and gotten a look at your first paycheck, somehow you don’t miss the crazy outfits as much. Maybe you can afford a new computer now, or you can finally fix up your car. In the gym, you start to get the rhythm of the exercises: they are still challenging, but they don’t hurt the same way anymore; and for the first time, someone says to you, “Hey, did you lose weight?”
So the intentional change: choosing to join a gym or begin a training program, lead to a change that was gradual and wasn’t dependent on a single moment of decision: your body changed enough for someone else to notice and comment. You decided every day not to quit. And for that, you received your first paycheck.
As time goes by, you really don’t miss going to a show every weekend. Listening to the album in your car on the way home from work is pleasant enough. Besides, you’re going hiking with your significant other and some friends. When it comes to exercise, you don’t miss eating an extra roll or two at dinner. Giving 3 hours of your week to exercise really is quite nice: you can let your mind stray from work, and you no longer feel wiped out from it; instead, it’s often invigorating. That hike with your friends is something you can actually handle now: you won’t be the party pooper who always suggests seeing a movie instead.
Eventually, you’ve established a lifestyle that requires dedication to your work: you actually go for a promotion and a raise: how else will you pay for the extra car, the vacation overseas and a fantastic birthday present for your significant other? The idea of leaving work early on Friday to get to a show is absurd: you’d rather go to Europe. Likewise with working out: if you find yourself somehow kept away from the gym for a week, you start to feel fidgety and down; in fact, on particularly rough weeks, you go to the gym more often to feel better!
At some point, you may have children who require guidance. You strive to teach them the value of getting a degree and a good-paying job. They will resist, but you’ve seen the benefits and wish only to share it with them. You can even point out an old friend who dropped out of college, never went in for a full-time job, and is now living, alone, in a small apartment. He never goes anywhere because he can’t afford it. And when you are fit and healthy, your overweight friends may occasionally ask for advice, or give you dozens of reasons why they don’t have the time to get fit. You can tell them about your improved blood tests, your higher energy levels, the disappearance of joint pains. Some may listen. But others will continue to refuse, and will continue to get warnings – more dire as you get older – from doctors; they will continue to bow out of physical activities; they will continue to feel rundown. But you made the sacrifices early on; you realized later that they were hardly even real sacrifices compared to the benefits you gained. You matured and they did not.
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Posted by Ian Kay on May 11, 2009
I’m proud to say that nobody who has trained with me has found themselves standing atop a BOSU, with weights, without weights and certainly not squatting.
I’ve always looked at the BOSU with suspicion. The rounded top never made sense to me (for leg exercises like squats and lunges), because it gives the user too many opportunities to apply force to their ankles, knees and hips while the ankle is turned in awkward positions.
I think that there is an interesting misunderstanding about this type of exercise: beating yourself up in an awkward position doesn’t always lend to improvement in the normal position.
Martial artists may practice slamming their fists into cement blocks, leading to adaptations in their bones and muscles. Then when they hit an opponent’s face (less hard than a cement block) they cause major damage.
But these martial artists wouldn’t practice slamming a limp hand into a cement block. Doing so would not improve their punch against an opponent; rather, it would cause damage that would set them back.
The key is to learn proper form (a punch or a squat, for instance) and then to progress while maintaining this proper form. In martial arts, they learn how to punch into the air; then perhaps they move to a punching bag, then a thin piece of wood… on and on until finally they smash cement blocks.
On a squat, you learn proper form maybe by sitting back onto a bench with no weight. Eventually you go a little deeper, then you lose the bench, then you add a bar or dumbbells… on and on until – if you are a competitive power-lifter – you find yourself with 800-900 pounds on your back. At no point would any of these people, beginner or power-lifter, ever squat with their feet in any position but flat. No turning ankles.
So what happens if you do squats – say on a BOSU – which would require that at least one ankle was turned inwards? You would be doing these things:
Stretching the ligaments of the ankle. These ligaments are supposed to help guard your ankle from turning (i.e. spraining); when you sprain your ankle, you can stretch these ligaments into a place where they no longer help your body respond to a twist- this is why it is so common to re-sprain an ankle. If you were to repeatedly put stress on an ankle in that position (bodyweight squats on a BOSU with ankles turned in) you would perpetuate the stretched-ligaments situation, leaving you more susceptible to ankle sprains. [Imagine the damage you can cause if you also added weights!]
You would also be training the rest of your joints in an inappropriate manner. If your ankle is turned in, then subsequently your knees, hips and back end up adapting – but adapting to a position that you would not be in while you squat on the flat floor, or while you stand waiting for coffee, or while walking up the stairs… You body learns patterns, and your muscles and joints adjust: why would you teach it the wrong pattern?
The big muscles that you are attempting to train in a squat (legs, butt, etc.) will not get the same workout because you cannot use the same amount of weight as if you trained on the flat ground. Your muscles change when given an overload – but the load will be less if you are forced to stand on a rounded, unstable BOSU. In other words, you will be greatly dimishing the value of doing squats at all.
Now there are certainly other tools for training on unstable surfaces: Airex pads, stability balls, various air-filled discs; and they are safer than the BOSU (and certainly serve a great purpose for rehab of the ankles). I’ll talk about those next time.
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Posted by Ian Kay on May 4, 2009
After my post about doctors and their lack of exercise knowledge, I decided to take a quick glance around the net and see if they (doctors) are doing anything to remedy the state of things. Were there any doctors speaking out? Are there courses for doctors on exercise?
I discovered a Continuing Education course through Harvard Medical School called “Prescribing Exercise”. I signed up and finished the online “course” in 90 minutes… obviously not a very detailed education.
What I found was that doctors are being told to
Talk about exercise at every patient meeting.
Search for contraindications for exercise.
If there are no contraindications, they should recommend light or moderate intensity exercise, based on a patient’s likes/dislikes, the number of health risks (heart conditions, family history, etc.) and a realistic progression of frequency and duration.
Follow up with emails, postcards or phone calls to see how the exercise is coming along.
Recommend heart-rate based exercise. Everything from gardening to swimming was mentioned… though weight-lifting was not. (Any of you who train with me know that your heart-rate can get plenty high and for an extended period of time during weight-lifting!)
Focus on the physical and psychological benefits that come with regular exercise.
Try to get healthy patients up to a minimum of 2.5 hours of low-to-moderate intensity exercise each week.
I didn’t find anything that jumped out as contradictory to what I know. It was based around safety first, with no mention whatsoever of movement patterns, periodization or “phases”, strength development, proper exercise form or corrective exercise.
Now I realize that this was just a simple CE course… but it was developed by a Harvard professor for Harvard Med students. So I’ll stick with my statements earlier that it seems that beyond the very basics of “exercise more, but don’t do anything that will hurt you,” doctors still have a long way to go.
The coolest part about it is that now, whenever I decide to quit training, go to Harvard Medical school, and graduate… I’ll already have one whole credit towards my Continuing Ed program! You can basically start calling me “Doc” right now!
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Posted by Ian Kay on May 2, 2009
“Even Satan can disguise himself to look like an angel of light.”
"This is no ordinary apple. It's a magic wishing apple. Now, make a wish, and take a bite!"
2 Corinthians 11:14
Leigh Peele (author of the Fat-loss Troubleshoot) is not only an expert in fat-loss, but also a very funny, candid blogger. If something stinks, she’ll sink her teeth into it and shake it around until the BS is exposed.
Recently, she tore into Jillian Michaels’ book: “Master Your Metabolism”.
Here is a quote:
“Most of the book, and really I do mean that, is filled with wrong information on studies, how things work, and personal stories that have no relevance to science in anyway, shape, or form.”
Read the rest here.
Now you might be thinking, “If she is so wrong, how do all of those people lose so much weight?”
Well, I’ll tell you something that is screamingly obvious, but is oh so important: the contestants on that show have accountability like you wouldn’t believe.
Now tell me: if you were asked to do something, something you strongly disliked, and at the end of the week all you had to do was look in the mirror and say, “You did it!” or “I failed!”… would you accomplish the unpleasant task? Perhaps, if it was absolutely necessary, or if you were having a good week, right? But what if it was something that could slide another week? Do you think it might find it’s way into your “I’ll do it later” pile? You bet it might.
Now what if, for some strange reason, this unpleasant task had to be done by the end of the week, or else you’d have to look into a TV camera in front of millions of people and say “I failed!” Do you think you might be more compliant? Think you might be scared stiff into doing it? Me too.
So what is my point? It’s this: “eat less, exercise more” works. How you do it is up to you. If you do it is also up to you. That’s why Weight Watchers clubs work better than buying a book and trying to lose weight on your own: the members weigh-in together. It’s why working out with a friend or a trainer brings better results: there’s someone to push you.
It’s why The Biggest Loser contestants lose weight and you often feel like you can’t.
So try a little experiment: #1: Choose a fat-loss plan. #2: Choose 5 people you trust to report your weekly progress to. Choose people who care about you, not a workmate who might just tease you or forget to check in with you.
Make it really simple. Once a week, in person, on the phone or email, have them ask you these questions:
How did you do this week? And you respond with a “5″ (I did great!) or maybe a “3″ (I did ok) or you may have to say “1″ (I screwed up).
What made this week a “5″? or a “2″? And you tell them what made the week a “5″ (I worked out all 5 times and I stuck to the meal plan throughout!) or perhaps a “4″ (I worked out 4 times, but I was exhausted on Thursday so I skipped that day, and my eating that night wasn’t good either) or a “2″ (I worked out on Monday and Tuesday, but then couldn’t get back in all week. Breakfast was good most days, but I usually lost track of my food after lunch…)
What can you do to improve on a “2″? or What things will you repeat to make this next week a success? And you explain your plan to change the factors that screwed you up… or what you intend to repeat this next week to keep up a successful run.
It won’t match the ungodly stress of being on national TV, but then, you likely don’t have 100+ pounds to lose either.
There are many plans that work (and there aren’t any “secrets” or “magic pills”), but only one way to make them work for you: compliance. Find a way to make it happen!
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