Categorized as: Motivation

When weight training goes wrong…

Document2Have you ever wondered why it is that some people exercise their butt off, yet never seem to change shape? Unfortunate genetics, right? Wrong!

The bottom line is: everyone has the same skeletal structure, ingeniously manoeuvered by an intricate network of muscles. Lying over this is a layer of stored energy, or body fat. The extent to which you choose to develop your muscle tissue (or allow it to deteriorate) and the degree of excess body fat you allow to accumulate is completely up to you. Saddlebag thighs and love handles cannot be blamed on poor old mum, grandma or a distant uncle on your father’s side! Of course, we all have certain genetic traits that may make fat loss or muscle gain a little easier for some, or more difficult for others, but generally, great bodies are not born, they are made … as are those which are out of shape!

Information overload…

These days you can’t swing a cat in a gym without hitting an ‘expert’! Unfortunately, there are more widespread, contradictory opinions amongst the experts than there are diet books, so whom should we choose to believe? How much of what we do is a necessary part of getting into shape, and how much is urban myth? Most diet and exercise veterans are still trying to piece it together, so I can certainly sympathise with the disillusioned novice enthusiast.

So where are we going wrong?

To make significant changes to our shape and general condition, we must change our body composition by adding lean muscle tissue and losing stored body fat. Contrary to popular belief, developing muscle does not necessarily mean increasing muscle size, but rather increasing the density of the fibres within that muscle, improving tone and shape.

Despite the growing number of exercise enthusiasts, I’ve always found that those individuals actually making significant gains are so rare that it is disturbing. The sheer frustration of witnessing this phenomenon over the past 20 years continues to inspire me to write books and work 1:1 with private clients.

If you feel like you’ve been working hard, yet your body shape is not changes as you’d like it to, or it is changing shape in a less than desirable way, perhaps you’ll find the answer in the list of common exercise faux pas below:

Overdeveloped upper traps: This common phenomenon results in sloping shoulders, a thick neck, poor posture and likely, headaches. Your trapezius muscle (or traps) is a diamond shaped muscle spanning from the base of your scull to the middle of your back. The upper traps often become dominant if you have poor scapula (shoulder blade) stability, poor technique, you are training too heavy for your capability, choosing the wrong exercises or, all of the above. This muscle ‘shrugs’ your shoulders up towards your ears. Once your upper traps become dominant, it’s very difficult to reverse and can ruin your symmetry and posture. It’s a particularly unattractive muscle for women to overdevelop. The most common exercises which can cause this issue: shrugs, (incorrect) deadlifts, (incorrect) deltoid raises, (incorrect) lat pulldowns or rows.

Thick waist: Whilst excess stored body fat is the most common cause of a thickening waistline, overdevelopment of obliques and erector spinae (lower back) muscles can also contribute and are particularly noticeable in lean individuals with unsuitable training regimes/technique. Compound movements, such as heavy deadlifts and weighted oblique work are common culprits. To make your waist look smaller and improve your symmetry, development of your lats (lattisimus dorsi) will have a positive impact on your overall proportion. Again, correct technique is rare, but crucial.

Poor posture: It’s common to focus your training on the muscles that are most visible (front) and neglect your ‘posterior chain’ of muscles. We also spend much of our day reaching forward (driving, sitting at a desk, reading, etc.), so strengthening the posterior chain of muscles and stretching/releasing anterior muscles (chest, shoulders) plays a crucial role in developing and maintaining good posture and avoiding injuries.

Underdeveloped glutes: Poor squatting and lunging technique, often exacerbated by inflexible hamstrings and tight hip flexors, will often result in poor recruitment of your glute muscles and potential lower back and knee injuries. Your glutes are powerful muscles and, when trained correctly, reduce injury risk and improve overall aesthetics.

Poor overall symmetry: Some of the most commonly neglected muscle groups are lats, rear shoulders, lower traps, hamstrings and calves, all of which contribute significantly to a symmetrically proportioned body.

Out-training a poor diet: For those of you who feel you need to be ‘smashed’ by your trainer in order to feel you either get ‘value’ from your session or you feel the need to work off your poor eating habits, think again. Engaging in smart, mindful, focused and planned training will see you gain more results, faster and with far less risk of injury and simply pushing your body with poor technique through inappropriate exercises, all in the name of ‘sweat’! I call this the new phenomena of the ‘Instagram workout’. It’s gathering momentum amongst some, both in the form of 1:1 training and group class cult followings. Experience tells me that many of these regimes will end in tears – both in poorly developed physiques and inevitable injuries – not dissimilar to the ‘aerobic’ movement of the ‘80’s!

All of the above can be overcome and/or corrected by a reputable, experienced trainer.

Bottom line? Train smart .. avoid injuries … get results!

The (not so obvious) benefits of exercise…

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In my experience, one of the most common reasons we’re motivated to exercise is aesthetics. Yep – shed a few kilos of fat, tone-up those flabby areas, fit into our ‘skinny jeans’ or look good on that beach holiday. While it can be a positive thing to have a goal, the downside of this kind of superficial/external motivation is that it’s more of a whim than a long term need. At the end of the day, is it really enough to make you change your entire lifestyle to achieve?

Whilst caught up in the frenzy of numbers on the bathroom scales and the profile of our belly in the mirror, sometimes we miss the other far more important benefits of living a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular, consistent exercise. I’ve known many individuals throw their arms up in the air in despair, claiming not to be getting any benefit at all from exercising, simply because the scales are not moving as quickly as they’d like. At times like these, it’s important to be aware of the many benefits of exercise and view the aesthetic results for what they are … a pleasant bonus!

The evidence is overwhelming: A body needs physical activity to stay lean and healthy

Fat burning: the effects of exercise are not as simplistic as ‘calories in vs calories burned’. You cannot out-run or out-train a poor or excessive diet. However, there are many physiological benefits activated by regular exercise, all of which assist your body in burning fat more effectively…

Increases insulin sensitivity: Muscles are the engines in your body that burn calories and make you move. And just like any engine that burns fuel to make it go (such as a car burning petrol), muscles need fuel too. That fuel is fat and carbohydrate (glucose). During exercise, the demand for fuel increases and the body responds accordingly. Glucose stored in the muscle is burned very quickly.  At about the same time, glucose stored in the liver is released into the bloodstream (like fast fuel injection). Fat is released from special cells called adipocytes (fat storage cells). This fat along with glucose makes its way through the bloodstream to the muscles to be used for fuel. Once the fuel reaches the muscle, it must enter through special pathways so that the muscles can use it for energy.

On the wall of every muscle cell are special receptors, like doors, that allow glucose to pass from the bloodstream to the muscle. These doors do not open unless they are ‘unlocked’ by insulin. The good news is that exercise has an insulin-like effect, making insulin work better in your body. During exercise, the doors swing open easily, allowing more glucose to enter the muscle to be burned up for energy.

Sometimes blood glucose continues to drop after exercise. That is because the glucose in the muscle that was used at the beginning of exercise needs to be replaced. The muscles, all revved up from exercise, continue to take glucose from the bloodstream to replace what was lost.

Increased Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

Our BMR is the calories we burn at rest. If you lay still for 24 hours, you burn a certain number of calories a day to keep your heart beating and sustain life. This BMR is generally around 75% of the total calories we use in a day, so it’s pretty significant. It is determined largely by our lean body weight (muscle tissue). The more muscle (density, tone, strength), the higher your BMR. Conversely, should you feel your exercise regime is ‘not working’ and become inconsistent, you risk a rapid loss in lean muscle tissue and a consequent decrease in BMR. Whilst you may remain the same ‘weight’, or even lose weight, you’re actually getting fatter as your body composition changes in the wrong direction (Less muscle, more fat).

The EPOC effect: Following high intensity interval training the body enters a state known as ‘excess post-exercise oxygen consumption’, or EPOC. After you finish your workout, your body will be working overtime for up to 24 hours in order to restore your body back to its resting state. This means you will be burning energy/kilojoules at a much higher rate, even whilst sedentary.

Protection against disease: regular exercise can reduce our risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, certain cancers (colon, breast), type-2 diabetes and depression.

Joint health and inflammation

Joints require motion to stay healthy. Inactivity causes joints to stiffen and the adjoining tissue to weaken. Building strength and ‘tone’ in muscles surrounding our joints allows that ‘tension’ in our muscles to pull pressure away from the joints, resulting in less compression and friction. Conversely, allowing muscles to deteriorate can lead to permanent joint damage over time.

Bone health and balance

Weight-bearing exercise is very beneficial for bones in people of all ages. This approach applies tension to muscle and bone, and the body responds to this stress by increasing bone density, in young adults by as much as 2 – 8% a year. Careful weight training can also be very beneficial for elderly people, particularly women. In addition to improving bone density, weight-bearing exercise reduces the risk of fractures by improving muscle strength and balance, thus helping to prevent falls.

Back pain

People who do not exercise regularly face an increased risk for low back pain, especially during times when they suddenly have to perform stressful, unfamiliar activities. These activities may include lifting children, gardening, digging, or moving heavy items.

Lack of exercise leads to the following conditions that may threaten the back:

  • Hamstring inflexibility may alter the pivot point in general movement, causing you to compensate by bending from your lower back rather than your hips. This repetitive strain can lead to pressure on discs and consequent injury.
  • Tightness through the hip flexor muscles (from sitting for prolonged periods) can also contribute to lower back pain and eventual disc damage.
  • General muscle inflexibility can restrict the back’s ability to move, rotate, and bend, forcing unnecessary pressure on surrounding joints.
  • Weak core muscles can increase the strain on the back and can cause an abnormal tilt of the pelvis (hip bones).
  • Weak back muscles may increase the load on the spine and the risk of disk compression.
  • Carrying excessive body fat puts more weight on the spine and increases pressure on the vertebrae and discs.

Effect of Exercise on Cancer

A number of studies have indicated that regular exercise may reduce the risk of breast, colon, and possibly prostate cancers.

Studies confirm that exercise significantly reduces the risk of colon cancer (by up to 50%). Exercise also decreases the risk of breast cancer in pre and post-menopausal women by up to 30%.

Low intensity exercise has a protective effect against colon cancer, according to studies, including the Nurses Health Study and the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II. People with colon cancer who exercise may reduce their risk of a recurrence.

Exercise also has a beneficial effect on people receiving treatment for cancer. Aerobic and resistance training can reduce fatigue in patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer. Fatigue is a common side effect of such treatments.

Effects on the Gastrointestinal Tract

Moderate regular exercise may reduce the risk for some intestinal disorders. These disorders include ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, and diverticulosis. Older people who exercise moderately may have a lower risk for severe gastrointestinal bleeding.

Effects on Neurological Diseases and Mental Decline

Studies have shown that regular exercise helps reduce one’s risk for memory loss. Epidemiologic studies have found an association between increased exercise and slower rate of functional decline in older adults.

People with existing neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease, should be encouraged to exercise. Specialized exercise programs that improve mobility are particularly valuable for patients with Parkinson’s disease. Patients with neurological disorders who exercise experience less stiffness, as well as reduction in, and even reversal of, muscle wasting. In addition, the psychological benefits of exercise are extremely important in managing these disorders.

Effects on Emotional Disorders

Some research has suggested that exercise may have antidepressant effects. Although there is little evidence that exercise can correct major depression, a number of studies have suggested benefits in mild to moderate depression in adults. Research findings include:

  • Just 30 minutes of brisk exercise three times a week was as effective as medication in relieving symptoms, and reducing relapse, in many patients with mild-to-moderate depression.
  • Teenagers who are active in sports have a greater sense of well-being than their sedentary peers. The more vigorously they exercise, the better their emotional health.
  • Physical inactivity is strongly linked to depression in children 8 – 12 years of age.
  • Exercise decreases some of the most troublesome emotional symptoms of menopause. Women who exercise during menopause showed less anxiety, stress, and depression than inactive women with menopause did.

Exercise’s Effects on Diabetes:

Moderate aerobic exercise can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Exercise has positive benefits for those who have diabetes. It can lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and strengthen the heart. Strength training, which increases muscle and reduces fat, may be particularly helpful for people with diabetes.

In conclusion…the next time you become frustrated with your lack of ‘results’ on the scales, remember all of the above health benefits of exercise and remember to take a long term, holistic approach. Exercise (and diet!) is not something we do for a short stint to reshape our backside, it needs to become part of our general body maintenance. You don’t necessarily ‘see’ a result from brushing your teeth everyday, but you continue to do it as you know it is a significant part of care and maintenance. Regular exercise is no different.

 

PROCRASTINATION: the art of keeping up with yesterday and avoiding today!

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We’ve all done it – some more than others…

Contrary to what we tell ourselves, “putting it off” doesn’t exist. It simply remains undone. If you’re a person who lives one way, yet proclaims to live another way in the future, I’m afraid you’re simply trying to justify not getting things done.

If you spend your time complaining about how much you have to do (aka procrastination) you have no present time to get things done. What a perfect excuse! This flimsy justification for not living in the present moment causes further self-doubt and self-delusion, moving you further away from being strong and capable and propels you towards being a victim … full of hope and wishes. Fairytale stuff!

Accompanying procrastination is the inevitable neurotic behaviour, along with useless, negative emotions such as guilt and anxiety. These emotions consume more time and energy than just getting it done in the first place.

Lying to yourself keeps you from having to admit you’re not a doer. The bottom line is, if it’s important enough to be on your list of activities, roll up your sleeves and get started!

3 common neurotic phrases:

“I hope it will work out”

“I wish things were better”

“Maybe it will be ok”

Sound familiar?

As long as you use the above you can absolve yourself of responsibility and continue to rationalise doing nothing.  Things rarely improve on their own. If they do improve, it’s because you’ve made the choice to do something constructive.

The critic

People who are not ‘doers’ are often ‘critics.’ It’s much easier to be a critic as being a doer require effort, risk and adaption to change! It’s always easier to talk about how someone else had performed than to turn around and look in the mirror. By being a critic you can feel important at the expense of others – using others performance as stepping stone to elevate yourself in your own mind. This way, you can avoid having to fail, coming face to face with self-doubt.

Procrastination is also a great way to justify sloppy or poor performance by saying you simply didn’t have time. Or even better … you may be able to manipulate others into doing it for you!

The doer

Doers have no time to criticise others – they’re too busy doing! They spend their time helping others who are not so talented rather than serving as their critic.

Boredom doesn’t exist for the doer. Procrastination creates boredom in the present moment. The choice is always yours.

Examples of typical procrastination:

  • Remaining stuck in a job where you feel unable to grow
  • Hanging onto a relationship that’s gone sour
  • Refusing to address/work on relationship difficulties
  • Not tackling addictions, saying “I’ll quit when I’m ready”
  • Putting off menial tasks
  • Avoiding confrontation
  • Being afraid to change
  • Deciding to start your diet next week, tomorrow
  • Using tiredness as an excuse
  • Getting sick when you are faced with a difficult situation
  • I don’t have time to do it
  • Constantly looking forward to that dream trip
  • Being a critic to camouflage your own refusal to do things
  • Refusing to get a physical check-up so you don’t have to deal with illness
  • Planning but never putting into action a regular exercise program
  • Living your entire life for your children and always putting off your own happiness

SOLUTIONS

  1. Make a decision to live 5 mins at a time instead of always thinking long term. Use each 5 mins to complete tasks and get things done
  2. Simply begin a project you’ve been putting off
  3. Ask yourself, what’s the worst thing that could happen if I take action now?
  4. Make a designated time slot in your diary to complete tasks you’ve been putting off
  5. Procrastinating is substituting the now with anxiety about the future – ask yourself what you are trying to avoid in the current moment by procrastinating
  6. Quit smoking NOW, start your diet THIS MOMENT….do one push up NOW. Immediate action is how you tackle the problem
  7. Ask yourself – are you doing now what you’d choose to do if you only had 6 months to live?
  8. Decide not to be tired until the MOMENT BEFORE YOU GET INTO BED
  9. Eliminate the words hope, wish and maybe and replace with “I am going to do the following things to ensure I feel better”
  10. And finally … BE A DOER – NOT A WISHER, HOPER OR CRITIC!

Secrets of success

Just a short post today about some startling statistics that confirm what I have been saying on this blog. The US National Weight Control Registry tracks over 5000 individuals who have lost more than 13kg and kept it off long term, improving their health & quality of life. Below are a few of the common traits of each participant:

98% modified their food intake

78% eat breakfast

75% are weighed/weigh themselves at least once a week

62% watch less than 10 hours of TV per week

90% exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day

Did you know…

  • It takes 20 minutes of brisk walking to burn off 1 x skinny latte
  • Every ‘standard’ glass of wine takes 20 minutes of walking to burn off
  • We lose around 5% of muscle each decade after the age of 30 (if we don’t do regular strength training)
  • Your metabolism drops by 140kjs for every kilogram of muscle lost
  • 95% of people regain their weight after ‘going off’ a diet
  • 75% of your calories are burned by your basal metabolism

You cannot out-run or out-train a poor diet!

Coping with Peer Pressure

peer-pressureIt’s one thing to change your own psychology when embarking on a new eating and exercise regime but watch in wonder at how all of your friends react too. It’s quite an eye opener.

Often the people you think will be most supportive, turn out to be the most threatened. They start to notice you are choosing different foods from a menu, bringing lunch to work from home instead of the local sandwich bar and all the questions begin. Curiosity develops into lectures or challenges on the subject because there is always one friend or colleague who knows better.

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Donna’s Tricks to Fast Track New Habits

DonnaIt may take a lifetime to form our behavioural habits, whether good or bad, but practice makes perfect! No-one else created your habits. They are your invention. You may have copied your family, your friends or your favourite celebrities but ultimately it comes down to you. The good news is that you created those habits so you have just as much power to change them into healthy habits to last a new lifetime.

The most crucial emotion to remember is to stay positive. Edison tried 10,000 times to get his light bulb invention to work but failed each time. His lack of success was no deterrent for the scientist claiming “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” You may have tried 10,000 diets that don’t work either and if you are plagued by persistent negative thoughts towards life these new changes won’t work either.

They say we have to practice something 1000 times to form a habit. Lord knows you’ve practiced your bad habits at least this many times, so you’re a champion at them! In terms of a lifetime it’s a drop in the ocean. During this process make an extra effort to eat nutritious and balanced meals because this will help improve your mood and feed that positive outlook.

It’s also crucial to sleep well. Missing sleep is a major hindrance to healthy living so make sure you have adequate rest.

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