Thursday, November 28, 2013

I Can't Wear V-Necks

Something I've come to accept is that I can't wear v-necks.  In a sweater, sure - as long as there's a t-shirt underneath.  But as a standalone t-shirt?  Not a chance.

I felt this was pretty much a sure thing, enough so that I never bought them myself.  But a few years ago, my wife bought me a couple for Christmas and while they were very nice - good material, good colors... despite my best efforts, they just looked wrong.

This is sometimes the case with certain exercises for people.  No matter how hard they work at a particular one, it either looks bad or they wind up sore in a way they shouldn't be.  Now, if it's from technique, then having a good coach can help clean that up.  But if it's simply that the way you're built doesn't line up with that particular form of movement, then sometimes... sometimes we have to let that exercise go.  Again, a good coach can help you determine which scenario applies and, if it's the latter, offer some other exercises that will allow you to work that same movement.  But in the end, sometimes we need to be willing to accept that we shouldn't do certain types of exercises, and allow ourselves to move on... simply put, we're not all meant to run long distances or straight-bar deadlift.

Unless we're talking about skinny jeans on men or the "Insanity" program, of course.  Because those are absolutely never okay.


Monday, November 25, 2013

You Don't Want Me to Build Your New Deck

Seriously, you don't.  Construction really isn't my strength.

But let's say, for a moment, that I actually was a decent handyman - as a hobby.  I coach, teach and train 5-6 days a week, but on my off times and in the evenings I enjoy building things.  Back in university, maybe I worked a summer job helping framing, and nowadays get out to the garage to build  birdhouse, a fence along the back... something along those lines.  Now, you decide you want to build a house from scratch - you need to level the ground, put in the foundation, make sure it's structurally sound and will last for a century.  Would you want to put all of this in my hands, or, although it's more expensive, would you hire a professional who makes their living at it, constantly educating and practicing what they do to elevate their craft?

If you'd rather hire me in this case to save money, well... what can I say.  You'd get what you pay for.  But if the thought of this is ridiculous, then let me ask: why would you hire a trainer who works full-time at another career, and trains people in their spare time?  


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Don't Chase an Image

An article popped up recently on the Huffington Post in which the author highlighted the illusion of the "before and after" pictures we always see posted with various ad campaigns, usually for some sort of "fat burning supplement", "workout accelerator", or "extra-super-powerful protein/creatine meal replacement ass-kicker" that's crammed into the latest "fitness" magazine.  And yes, I'm using quotes on the word "fitness" because these publications are often nothing more than a glossy, full color  128pg advertisement, hocking psuedoscience and fads while continually perpetuating misinformation strictly because doing what's popular sells... even if it's a lie.

Reading the article reminded me of another one I had read earlier this year, written from the female perspective and demonstrating the same thing. (You can read the Huffington Post article, "Seduced by the Illusion" by Andrew Dixon here, and the earlier post "The Hidden Truths Behind Transformation Pics" here at MelVFitness).  In fact, the author of the former latter article goes into more detail about a true transformation that she undertook, again with before and after pictures, that covered close to three years.  She goes on to say, thought, that the person in the "before" picture, while not the healthiest she'd ever been, was a much happier individual than the one who had obsessed, dieted, and deprived herself in order to get the look she wanted for the "after" picture.
The point is, make your choices in health and fitness based on what is good for you, not because some a picture in some magazine is telling you that it will make you look like something else - because more often than not, the image you're seeing is no more real than those you've seen in  "Grimm's Fairy Tales".


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

How Many Calories Did You Burn?

I've grown to hate this question.

I've grown to hate it because it's another example of people fixating on a number as a measure of their success or failure, either during a workout or throughout a week.  Worse, the people for whom these numbers become important lock onto them so much that their mood for the day is dictated by these stupid numbers, whether their on a scale or on a watch.  There are folks out there who weigh themselves 2-3 times a day - and when you suggest they try going without getting on a scale for... say a month - they tell you they can't.  They can't stop.  Or they do a strength-based workout, focused on quality movements and heavy lifts of 4 repetitions, with 2-3mins of rest after each set.  And maybe they even set a personal best on a lift, but then they look at the stupid watch and say "Oh, but I only burned 100 calories.  What a shitty workout" and they leave feeling uninspired and lazy.

This is not okay.

If you read this, and think "Oh - I've said that" then please, re-evaluate.  Focus on something other than a number - focus on an achievement.  And then train for that.  Stop basing your sense of accomplishment on an arbitrary number that can fluctuate based on external influences beyond your control.  Instead, set your sights on experiences, where the journey is as much of a reward as the "finish line".

Train to live.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Almonds and Exercise

I don't know what it is, but lately I've been finding that clients I talk to are adding more and more into their training programs - doing at least one, if not two workouts per day.  Which, in and of itself (and if properly managed) isn't a problem - if you're doing a multisport, such as triathlons or adventure racing, you'll know that there are extended periods of time where this is the norm.  However, if you've had a good coach or program designer, you also understand that they have to be of varying intensities, and you have to organize the week so that you are working a variety of systems (regenerative, aerobic, high intensity conditioning, strength, etc).

However, that's not what I'm hearing about.  More commonly, it's that they are coming into the gym and doing a moderate to high intensity resistance session 2x a week, running intervals 1-2x a week, and then doing some sort of home program nonsense like "Insanity" 2-4x per week on top of all that.  And, not surprisingly, they're finding that they are plateauing, burning out or getting injured.

Like everything else, exercise is crucial to a healthy lifestyle - it's as important as everything else that fills the day, like work, family, friends, and so on.  However, like these (and other) things, there is a tipping point - a place where it can become too much, and the returns begin to diminish.  Or possibly, in a worst-case scenario, they may actually start to have the opposite effect.  Unfortunately, what people tend to do in reaction to this stalling in their progress is to try and do more, adding another couple of "fat-burning" runs, or extra high-intensity sessions into their week... then become more and more frustrated by the lack of progress or decline in performance/results that become apparent.

I'm going to work from the assumption that if this describes you, you haven't spoken to your coach and been upfront about this - because if you have, and if you have a good coach, they would already have told you everything I'm writing about here.  If not, then please keep this in mind:

More isn't always better.

Or an alternative example - almonds.  Almonds are a powerful superfood, with plenty of positive attributes that contribute to your health: such as "good" fats, lowering sugar and insulin spikes in your blood after eating, to name a couple of examples.  But this doesn't mean you can eat an endless amount every day.  At some point, these benefits become outweighed by things like lack of variety, other missing nutrients and massive caloric overload.  

So look back over your last few weeks of training, and consider the types and/or intensities that you've been working at... have you been eating almonds as part of a well-rounded nutritional plan, or eating bags and bags of nothing but?