Training Tips

Two Quick Ideas to Improve your Kid's Well-Being

The school year has gone and summer time is in full swing, so here are two quick things to consider as your kids enjoy their camps and free time outside.

Remember that unstructured play time is just as important as structured training.

"Don’t ever say a child is “just” playing. That's like saying a surgeon is “just” operating or a pilot is “just” flying an airplane. Play is the essence of being a child." - John Rosemond

Sometimes parents are flummoxed when we don't have a strict plan laid out for our PA days, camps or our after school program. "So you don't know what you're doing this week?"

The truth is that the structure is loose. It's usually based around a theme, and at the end of our programs the children have time to get curious and explore what they've just learned or get better at the things that interest them.

They can use their imagination, spontaneity and find self-motivation.

As kids get older and become more socially trained to be another cog-in-the-wheel, unstructured free time becomes just as important as structured hockey practice. It fills a hole that a strict school timetable may not be able to provide.

Stop thinking weight training will stunt your kid's growth

Strength and conditioning specialist Eric Cressey explains this better than we could...

"When your kid sprints, she encounters ground reaction forces several times greater than her body weight.

When he jumps out of trees, those numbers are even higher – and he’s probably landing on a more unpredictable environment.

When she wears a big backpack full of books, she’s actually lifting weights without any coaching whatsoever.

Doing a goblet squat with a 20-pound dumbbell isn’t going to stunt your 9-year-old’s growth. And it isn’t going to turn him into a meathead steroid abuser.

What it will probably do is teach them a lot about the value of hard work. It’ll demonstrate that consistently showing up and putting effort into something can lead to specific quantifiable improvements.

It’ll make them more durable to participate in and enjoy sports – and do so at a higher level than they otherwise would have experienced."

You can read the whole post here.

We would add that most athletes, like wrestlers, tennis players or kick-boxers would rather face someone with slightly more talent than them but who's not as conditioned.

So strength-and-conditioning programs really matter, and yes, they should include lifting weights and unstructured play.

Kevin & Victoria

P.S. Our Fit Kids After School program is now registering at the Danforth and Beach locations for Fall. You can check them out here, and save 50% when you join the Beach program.

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The Best Way to Measure Progress

To measure the progress of health and fitness goals, it’s normal to use less-than-stellar methods. Often, it’s the scale or mirror.

We call these lag measures. They track the thing that you’re trying to improve.

The problem is that it comes too late to change your behaviour. The performance that drove this measurement is already in the past.

Lead measures are new behaviours that will drive success on the lag measures. (1)

“Lead measures turn your attention to improving behaviours you directly control in the near future that will then have a positive impact on your long-term goals.”(1)

If you wish to lose 10lbs, a relevant lead measure could be the number of meals you track, or the number of workouts you do.

When you use lag measures to evaluate body change, it's usually not a positive experience. And even if you get to your goal, it’s not as satisfying as you think it would be. That's because you’ve treated the process as a shallow means to an end. This will keep you miserable.

What you need to focus on (and what makes humans happy) is the journey to get there. Not looking back at it, but being in the moment with it, using lead measures that are fun and progressive.

A recent tweet from James Clear states “…if you optimize for the outcome, you win one time. If you optimize for a process that leads to great outcomes, you can win again and again.”

Lag measures is where you dream and feel miserable. Lead measures is where you’ll find enjoyment and a fulfilling life.
 
Kevin & Victoria

1 -- Excerpts from “Deep Work” by Cal Newport

P.S. The Transformation Challenge that begins this week and a lot of focus is on behaviour change and using lead measures to track your progress.

Save 33% with the early bird price (ends on Tuesday). Click the button below for more details.

Three Training Principles That Will Explode Your Results

There are many positive, healthy reasons why you should put more muscle onto your frame. It's metabolically active, so you'll burn more fat at rest (and throughout your day), and there's less chance of you injuring yourself.

This week we want to geek out a little bit and discuss the three main methods of muscle development. It's really important because if you are not doing one of these three things then you may not be training efficiently as you could.

In simple terms, the three main training methods are...

Mechanical Tension - your muscles generate the largest force possible through full range of motion. Usually, the rep range is shorter with heavy weights.

Metabolic Stress - keeping your muscles under constant tension, often with zero rest between reps. Usually, the rep range is higher and the weights do not have to be heavy (or used at all).

Muscle Damage - usually involves high tension when your muscles are lengthened while contracting. Think of a slow descent on a pull-up or a stiff-legged deadlift.

Okay nerdy-mac-nerd-nerd, you might say, what does that mean for a normal person who just wants to survive a Bootcamp and get on with more fun things like looking at baby wombats.

Here are some things to try out...

Mechanical Tension - Stop doing as many reps as possible and think about using more weight and time under tension. When a weight gets too heavy we all are guilty of stopping short - like not going deep enough on a bench press or goblet squat. Think about using full range of motion throughout and drop down a weight if you feel you can't quite get there.

The Get Strong class has the best format to try this out.

Metabolic Stress - Think about not going full lock-out on an exercise. When you're at the bottom (or lock-out) of a squat you are actually in serenity for a split second, where the weight doesn't feel as challenging. Think about just stopping short of that moment and then avoid lock-out at the top (another serenity position), essentially keeping your muscles under stress throughout.

Try this with a Jump Squat at your next Cardio or Bootcamp class.

Muscle Damage - This category gets a little bit tricky because it needs to be programmed well. Your muscles will get sore as hell so you need to know what you're doing. Hiring a trainer and doing some one-on-one sessions or in a small group is recommended.

But if you feel competent, on top of negative pull-ups and stiff-legged deadlifts, you can try multiple pauses throughout the essentric (the lengthening of a muscle) component of a rep. You can grab a buddy to do forced reps - where after set failure they help you through the concentric (shortening of a muscle) part of the exercise but not the slow essentric part.

Kevin & Victoria

How To Realistically Satisfy Your Cravings

The habit books would like to think you're a robot when dealing with cravings.

If you have a hankering for a Dangerous Dan's (R.I.P.) Colon Clogger hamburger followed by getting so drunk you end up doing doughnuts in a Walmart car park while drinking from a Pringles can, then the books will say no, no, no just do ten push-ups instead and celebrate with a nice fruit salad made from the saliva of baby unicorns.

We all know it's not that easy, and cravings is a helluva large topic to get into. So, here are a couple of more realistic, next-step tips you can make to take you from a 1 to a 2 in response to cravings.

1) Swap out the ingredients of your meals with healthier versions

Take a tuna mayonnaise sandwich on brown bread. Replace the regular tuna with low sodium tuna, replace the mayo with light mayo (saving 65 calories per serving but increasing sodium) and replace the bread with a sprouted grain version (similar total calories but zero sugar and 6x less fat).

This reduces the sandwich by 85 calories and a massive 29.5g of fat while still keeping the taste and satisfying the craving. Over a week, and at each meal, that's a huge saving.

2) Purchase mini-versions and just have a taste

Usually your brain needs just a taste to satisfy the craving. Consider buying stubbies of beer, mini soda cans and chocolate bars, and get kids size versions of takeout food - like McD's fries or Ed's Real Scoop.

One problem is that it's just half the size so it means I can have two, right!? Be wary of that.

These two tips won't cure your cravings in one go and as we said, it's a huge topic full of finding triggers and mantras.

But just taking action on one of these steps is far better than trying to jump from 1 to 10 where you'll most likely end up back at square one - drunken donuts in a Walmart car park.

Kevin & Victoria

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Power Generation

I was having a conversation with a coach last week regarding common humps and hurdles that people in the gym can’t seem to get over.

One that we both agreed on was the lack of power generation, and it’s one that if you fix will explode your results as quick as the click of your fingers.

Lack of power generation (or force creation) can be summed up using a common example:

Scenario: Bench Press. You can burst out 15 repetitions using a pair of 20lbs dumbbells, but the moment you try to use a pair of 25lb-ers you’re lucky if you can do 2-3 reps.

Has this ever happened to you?

There can be other forces causing you to fail at this progression, for example, poor mobility or you are simply at the edge of the maximum weight you can lift, but more commonly it is the lack of power creation.

So how do you fix this sticking point and create force? Simply by making sure you are firing on all cylinders.

Imagine a 4-cylinder car that can only turn on 2 or 3 of them. It would not be as powerful as a machine as it could be.

It will not elicit the results as expected.

Exercise patterns usually have way more than four and if you can turn on all cylinders, you will develop into a serious bad-ass.

Ladies and gents, parked cars will implode as you walk by them.

Flowers will shrivel in the yards that you pass.

People will bow at your feet and offer to wash them.

Well, we can all dream anyway.

Using the bench press example from above, most people just use their arms to move the weight and maybe even squeeze the chest, but here’s how you turn on all the cylinders to get the most out of the exercise and lift more than you think you can:

  • Lock your shoulders back and squeeze your upper back muscles together

  • Before you lift, squeeze your glutes and abs, squeeze the dumbbells tight

  • Through your nose, inhale to the pit of your stomach, this will also set your spine in place

  • Plant your feet, spread your toes, and push into the ground as you lift the weight

  • In fact, think of pushing your whole body away from the dumbbells and into the bench

  • Exhale strongly

But most importantly, make sure you explode with the weights or movement.

You should pretty much never, ever perform the concentric movement slowly. And you just thought you had to lift with your arms and do an Arnold Schwarzenegger “clunk” with the weights.

Another quick example you can do right now is a push-up. Rather than only using your arms to push your body up:

  • Spread your fingers into the ground

  • Peel your shoulders back and down

  • Tuck your elbows. Imagine you’re holding a piece of paper in-between your armpits

  • Squeeze your abs, clench your butt

  • As you lower down, inhale to the pit of your stomach, this will also set your spine in place

  • Keep your shoulders peeled back as you lower, don’t “neck pinch”

  • Breath out strongly, extend your arms as you push up using your whole body

You’ll notice that both exercises have common traits. In fact, most exercises do. It also gives you the power to complete one more repetition than you think whether you are a beginner or advanced, whether you can currently do 5 or 15 reps.

Once you master firing on all these identical cylinders you’ll see immediate progressions whether it’s a squat, bicep curl, lunge, burpee or a Muay Thai punch or kick.

And of course, people will offer to wash your feet.

Kevin

PS – The next time you do a push-up using the above cues you might find you actually do FEWER repetitions than normal. Now before you demand your money back (for this free blog), all I can say is congratulations, you’ve finally done a push-up… CORRECTLY!

The Hierarchy of Fat Loss

"As to methods there may be a million and then some, but principles are few. The man who grasps principles can successfully select his own methods. The man who tries methods, ignoring principles, is sure to have trouble" - Ralph Waldo Emerson (writer, philosopher)

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A few month's back we let you peek inside the construction of our training at the gym based around the most effect principles for fat loss. It was taken from an important article (for us anyway) written by one of our mentors, Alwyn Cosgrove, and it bears condensing into one blog post.

If you've always wondered why our classes and training are set up in a certain way, why you do burpees, goblet squats, strider sprints and alternating lunges, it is all based on the following principles. 

1) Nutrition

Yes, it's true, you can lose fat without exercising. In fact, Alwyn's article mentions nutrition as the first two components of fat loss, it is that important. You simply cannot do a bicep curl in one hand, while munching on a burger with the other, and expect amazing results. You can NEVER outwork a poor diet. The ones who tell you that you can are liars, thieves, or blessed with freaky genetics.

Losing weight via healthy eating is great, but you also don't want to become weak, get injured, have excess skin, and lose that endorphin rush that is so important from exercising. So the next step you want to incorporate in the hierarchy of fat loss, is...

2) Metabolic Resistance Training

You'll have likely heard of the effects of this type of training, whereby after creating a "metabolic disturbance," you can burn fat up to 36 hours after your workout. Study after study has been made to conclusively show that this is the best training method for fat loss (refer to the original article for evidence).

So how does it work and what does it look like? The most effective way to create a metabolic disturbance is to try to engage and intensely attack as many muscle groups as possible, using resistance. Bicep curls and side lying leg lifts might get you stronger but single joint work is not as effective for fat loss. Things like weighted lunges, step-ups, pull-ups, goblet squats, deadlifts, trx crunches and rows are far more effective. Surprise, surprise, you may have noticed these exercises in our Bootcamps, Get Strong and TRX classes and is a staple of our personal training.

So unless you have a metabolic health disorder or you're an alien from another planet (the same one who allegedly abducted Renee Zellweger and replaced her with a completely different person) it's nearly impossible that this type of training won't work for you. It's pretty hard to cheat biology!

So how do you make metabolic resistance training effective? Make sure you lift weights that are heavy enough to burn your muscles and drain your central nervous system. Do compound movements as mentioned above. Ensure that you are engaging your core and the correct muscles for each repetition, and that you're leaving each training session blowing out your derrière! If you are quite bulky, losing weight through nutrition first will really help you perform better in training.

Finally, we do realize not everyone likes to lift weights, so the next stage is level is...

3) High Intensity Anaerobic Interval Training

Or as I'm sure you'll have heard its shortened term - HIIT. This is where you perform short but intense bursts of exercise, with little rest in between. If you've been part of Victoria's Strider classes you may have experienced intense sprints, hill climbs etc... like this, and if she's feeling extra horrible that day, she'll put you through a Tabata-style class of burpees, jump squats and more compound movements.

Much like #3, this has to be done with intensity. Walking in and out of a burpee doesn't cut it if you're more than capable of doing it with a jump. Like we said above, if you have trouble performing these types of exercise, losing some weight by correcting your nutrition, and starting off at a less intense pace is the way forward. If mobility or tightness is an issue then dynamically stretch, foam roll and  attend Yoga, Pilates, Stability Ball, Fitness Essentials and the Sunday Tune-Up before progressing.

Here's a brief mention of the last two in the fat loss hierarchy...

4) High Intensity, Steady State Aerobic Training (e.g. running at an intentional fast pace over a long time period) 

5) Low Intensity, Steady State Aerobic Training (e.g. walking)

Conclusion

Ok, so you might be thinking what does this all mean to me? What it says is, if you are a busy parent and only have 1-2 times per week to workout and you want to lose fat, then you shouldn't be running slow for 20 minutes and then doing a mat-based Pilates class. You should be paying attention to your diet, and then smash your muscles hard and fast (i.e. a session each of #2 & #3).

If you have more time on your hands, say 3-4 sessions per week then variance in your training will be the best route. If you do high intensity training three times per week then a fourth session of lower intensity (Yoga, Pilates, Running) will help you recover better while still putting stress on the body and still expending calories.

What this hierarchy also shows is that if you are couch-based and ready to take on a fat loss program, you might want to work your way up from the bottom of the intensity ladder for a few weeks, as your tight, inactive body might not be able to take the stress of a high-intensity class.

Finally, this also clarifies that while there is no magic pill or 30-day, 60lb weight loss transformation, whoever "created us" has said if you work hard for around 3-4 days per week for just 30-45 minutes, and eat healthy 80% of the time you'll lose weight, gain muscle, be strong and live longer.

Kevin