Category Archives: Trainers

Seasonal Birds: running, weight-loss and the advent of winter.

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A few years ago I was out doing a long run in preparation for the London marathon. It was in the second week of January, a Sunday morning if I remember correctly. All of a sudden I was running alongside a man wearing brand new trainers, track-suit etc.

I started a conversation with the guy and I asked him if he was on a new year’s resolution. He told me that it was not the case. His wife had bought him the gear for Christmas and as soon as the celebration had ended she was on his case. He said the first two times that he had gone out, instead of doing his runs he had pulled over at the pub. His wife was not very pleased when he got home and all the gear was still unused.

To cut a long story short he said to me that he had been fast asleep on this Sunday morning and his wife had woken him shouting “ You lazy bastard, wake up and go for a run” and there he was huffing and puffing.

I never saw him out again.

 

This man belong to a category of exercises that I like to call ‘Seasonal Birds’…

They come out in January every year wearing new trainers and gear, such as heart rate monitors, I pods and brand new gloves. You spot them along roads, in parks and in the forest.

A couple of weeks later they disappear to reappear briefly in April, around the time of London Marathon.

They were out again over the summer, inspired by the Olympics, the Paralympics, and the milder weather.

And now that it’s getting colder and darker they are once again disappearing from the streets, leaving the canal paths, tarmac and cycle paths free again.

 

Now, it is a general belief that people have that running is the best way to lose weight. I don’t blame people for believing that – Just look at the world’s fastest long distance runners. They don’t carry any excess do they?

Unfortunately a lot of it is down to genetics. To get to that level you need to have the right genetic makeup, a body which is lean and which has the right kind of muscle fibre to endure hours and hours of running. Perhaps you need to come from East Africa too.

The average person is not going to get that sort of body if they take up running. What is most likely to happen is that your appetite will increase when you take up running and your body shape will more or less stay the same. Although your body shape will not transform, you will get’ fitter’, and your heart and lungs will get stronger. Also, if you do enjoy running by all means, carry on doing it – it certainly gives you a buzz!

However, if you’re a after a leaner physique, a better way of transforming your body is most likely to be a healthy combination of improved diet, moderate cardio and resistance training. This kind of approach is the one most likely to give you the results you’re after and hence is the one you’re most likely to stick with – unlike the seasonal birds who always disappear (along with their fancy equipment) when their efforts have failed to give them the body of their dreams and the cold nights and dark mornings override any motivation to hit the streets.

PT London

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Outdoor Fitness Equipment: Taking the 'play' out of the playground?

Recently there seems to have been an increase in the number of parks that have outdoor ‘gyms’, with more and more community parks sprouting pieces of specialised equipment designed to encourage adults to be active. In theory, these ‘adult playground

s’ sound like a great idea:

 

1. They’re free: for anyone put off by the cost of gym memberships or home equipment, free outdoor gyms are a great alternative.

2. They’re outside: perfect for anyone who doesn’t have space at home to workout, or who wants to get out in the fresh air and maybe get some sun (not that we’ve had much of that here in the UK lately).

3. They’re a good exercise reminder: acting as a prompt to anyone walking past that they should maybe get a little more exercise.

4. They’re inexpensive: As far as public health interventions, outdoor gyms are relatively cheap – there’s a one-off payment for the equipment and that’s it – no fees for staff, no printing/advertising costs etc.

 

 

BUT, how effective are these outdoor gyms in practice, really? Personally, I think there are a number of reasons why investing public money in outdoor fitness equipment isn’t the best idea:

 

1. No privacy

For anyone wanting to get fitter/ get in shape, an outdoor gym probably comes a close second to donning a swimsuit in terms of potential for embarrassment. Many people often claim that they dislike gyms because they feel embarrassed about working out in public, so working out in a community park (surrounded by children, teenagers, dog walkers, etc.) would probably not be a good alternative!

 

2. No instruction

Again, for anyone starting out, these workout spaces provide very little instruction about how to use the equipment. Sure, each piece of kit may come with a sign explaining how to use it and what it’s good for (e.g. cardiovascular conditioning, leg strength, balance etc.) but there’s rarely any information about how to put everything together – for example, how long should you do each exercise for, how many exercises should you do in one session, how often should you do the exercises. This might seem to take the ‘fun’ out of using the equipment, but another barrier to exercise often cited by people is that they don’t know what to do! Providing free equipment is therefore only one half of the solution.

 

3. They just make no sense!

Okay, so this is my biggest argument against these outdoor ‘gyms’. Most of the ones that I have seen have at least one or two pieces of equipment that are designed to mimic the ‘cardio’ machines found in fitness centres. Now, call me crazy, but surely you have to question the sense of producing specialised outdoor equipment that mimics gym equipment…which was itself originally designed to mimic the kind of activities that people do outdoors! For example:

  • An outdoor ‘treadmill’ (i.e. steel rollers that you ‘run’ on) mimics an indoor treadmill which mimics walking or running!

  • An outdoor stationary bike mimics an indoor stationary bike which mimics cycling!

 

  • An ‘air walker’ mimics the beloved cross-trainer which mimics…well, I never really have managed to figure out what movement a cross-trainer is designed to imitate!

 

I mean, come on! You’re in a PARK! If you want to encourage people to excise, what about providing them with actual bikes? Or setting up a walking or running group? Or even a setting up a frisbee golf course?!

 

Now, okay, some of you may agree that providing outdoor cardio equipment might not be the best idea, but surely there’s a place for outdoor resistance machines like a shoulder press, chest press or leg press?

Well, I don’t know if you’ve ever come across any outdoor resistance machines, but on the whole they actually offer very little actual ‘resistance’, mainly because it’s tricky to provide an adjustable outdoor machine which won’t rust excessively or need regular maintenance, but also because it’s generally considered unsafe to provide heavy weights to the (unsupervised) general public. So, given that the ‘resistance’ machines don’t actually offer much resistance, why not just encourage people to use their own bodyweight instead:

  • Chest Press? —-> Why not a push up?
  • Shoulder Press? —–>Why not a pike push up?
  • Leg Press? —–> Why not a squat?

The same goes for machines like the ‘twist plate’ that are designed to improve hip mobility – what about good, old-fashioned hip circles? Or multi-planar lunges?

 

The solution?

I really do appreciate the councils are genuinely trying to encourage people to be more physically active and I definitely think that money invested in physical activity promotion / interventions could bring significant savings in terms of NHS costs. However, I think that money spent on outdoor cardio equipment and resistance machines is just a waste of resources. But what’s the alternative?

Personally, I would love to see some money spent on creating outdoor ‘gyms’ for adults which not only provide areas and advice on bodyweight exercises, but that also put the ‘play’ back into ‘playgrounds’ with balance beams, monkey bars, cargo nets and zip wires!

 

 

What are your thoughts on this issue and what physical activity promotion programmes do YOU think would be a good idea?

Personal Trainer

 

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Poor form? OR the body being awesome!

I am writing this article as a bit of an add-on to the articles claiming that exercise repetitions don’t exist. As I spend a f

air amount of time in different gyms, I can’t help but watch people train and watch personal trainers and fitness professionals train their clients, and ‘poor form’ is rife in the industry….or so the so-called ‘experts’ would have you believe. Now I’m not really bothered about exactly who wrote the textbook on exercise but what I am concerned about is this – was it written with the client’s best interest at heart?!

All exercises with so-called ‘form’ and ‘technique’, such as the press-up or the lunge or the squat seem to have been designed to put as little amount of strain on the body and joints as possible. For example, how often have you heard the cue ‘neutral spine’ for the pushup, or ‘knees must go straight forward’ for a lunge or squat? These “rules” are there (in my opinion) to protect the personal trainer who prescribed the exercise from injuring their client during the session and getting sued! And this may seem great – after all, no-one wants injuries…but the thing is, these kind of ‘form pointers’ are only applied in the gym….What happens when something goes wrong in the real world where the body needs the capability to deal with danger (e.g. a golden laborador barreling into you while you’re out for your Sunday morning jog) and awkward positions (think standing on one leg, trying to reach an item on the top shelf in a supermarket while holding a heavy basket in the other)? For example, if, in the gym, the knee has never been allowed to ‘collapse-in’ as this is supposedly “bad” for it, how can it deal with the situation where my client steps on an uneven surface that forces the knee to abduct (i.e. ‘collapse in’)? What generally happens is that the body ‘locks up’ to protect itself, limits range of motion at the joint, and the forces of nature (e.g. gavity and momentum) will cause something to pull or tear!

Now, before all you advocates of perfect technique get all worked up, let me explain a little more about where I’m coming from and what I mean by this.

Movement is movement and nothing more. We shouldn’t immediately condemn someone for ‘poor technique’ and demand they change because it looks funny. I believe this is the greatest opportunity to study movement and ask why? These “dysfunctional” patterns are telling a story of the client’s history and how they like to train. We can learn a lot about what the body likes and dislikes and use this knowledge to subconsciously tease the body into a better way of doing something. After all, it’s much better if an athlete can do the movement better without having to always think about good form! (I promise a subconscious movement article is next :-) ) If we ask the body to perform a task it will show us the best way for it to , in its current state, to complete the task. It will show us what it’s good at and what it’s not so good at, and, if we pay attention, we can learn a lot from this. Like I mentioned in my articles on “When is a Rep not a Rep”, paying attention to your body is probably the most critical component to the success of your training.

Let’s get a little more specific to demonstrate exactly what I mean. For now I’m going to stick to the example of a press up, and the common misconception that ‘sagging hips’ can lead to a back injury….

 

Example: Are ‘Sagging Hips’ in a Press Up really ‘poor form’?

If we take a closer look at what joint movements ‘sagging hips’ consists of, we can see that it is simply hip and thoracic extension (i.e. think a standing backward bend in yoga), and this particular movement loads the hip flexors and the abdominals to spring the body back up to help complete the task, i.e. to help complete the press up! Imagine that, a body that uses its major muscle groups to complete a task, that can’t be right! The body imust be “cheating” to try and engage its bigger muscle groups to help out a chest that isn’t strong enough to deal with the load imposed. Now, some people argue that in this example the core isn’t strong enough, but really it’s the core that is doing most of the work!

A standing backward bend involves hip and thoracic extension.

However!!! if my clients’ hip or thoracic extension is poor (or more than likely the sequencing is poor, due to lack of training) then this may cause the pelvis to rotate forwards instead of backward and force the lumbar region to hyperextend instead (i.e. creating a lordosis), this less-mobile joint (we’ll say) doesn’t cope well with large ranges and big loads so this can sometimes refer a little back pain as a warning sign to change something. However, rather than teach fitness professionals what to look for and how to solve the problem we just ignore it and sweep it under the rug and make it a rule that dropping the hips will hurt the back!

And maybe the client would be fine without this ability to load their abs and hip flexors properly, but what happens if this client trips when walking and lands in a press up position and gravity, mass and momentum pull those hips to the floor? The hips will go down, you can’t fight physics :-(, and that inability to deal with that load, in that direction will cause the body to lock up and potentially pull something! Alternatively, if that person had been training to deal with those kinds of loads and movements then the back issue will be less of a problem, as the body knows it has, safely, been in that position before and can handle the situation just fine.

 

So to round this up before I begin to rant or rhyme off examples and case studies I want my message to be clear:

I am not promoting going into the gym and being reckless with technique and form. I want readers of this to be clear that proper form is essential but ‘bad form’ shouldn’t be thrown out as just bad form. The answer is in the question – examine what is going wrong and you will find out how to achieve effortless form. Essentially what I want is to promote good form, but good form that is acheioeved without having to consciously concentrate so hard on keeping everything right. We shouldn’t need to worry about form – it should happen naturally. Start small with small forces and speeds just pay attention to the little things and ask why:

  • Why am I doing it this way?
  • Why does it look funny at low levels?
  • What does it feel like and should it feel this way?

Regress to the most basic and progress slowly and at a sustainable rate. Think outside the box with regard to movement: try it and if it feels good, go for it; If it feels bad then don’t, but ask the question of why it feels bad? Is it me or that movement with that force??

When I move on to talking about subconscious movement this should all start to come together into how to progress your training in the best possible manner. In the meantime you can hit me with any questions so I can explain why I have just tossed the big book of exercise techniques out the window :-)Rich Text AreaToolbarBold (Ctrl / Alt + Shift + B)Italic (Ctrl / Alt + Shift + I)Strikethrough (Alt + Shift + D)Unordered list (Alt + Shift + U)Ordered list (Alt + Shift + O)Blockquote (Alt + Shift + Q)Align Left (Alt + Shift + L)Align Center (Alt + Shift + C)Align Right (Alt + Shift + R)Insert/edit link (Alt + Shift + A)Unlink (Alt + Shift + S)Insert More Tag (Alt + Shift + T)Toggle spellchecker (Alt + Shift + N)▼
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I am writing this article as a bit of an add-on to the articles claiming that exercise repetitions don’t exist. As I spend a fair amount of time in different gyms, I can’t help but watch people train and watch personal trainers and fitness professionals train their clients, and ‘poor form’ is rife in the industry….or so the so-called ‘experts’ would have you believe. Now I’m not really bothered about exactly who wrote the textbook on exercise but what I am concerned about is this – was it written with the client’s best interest at heart?!
All exercises with so-called ‘form’ and ‘technique’, such as the press-up or the lunge or the squat seem to have been designed to put as little amount of strain on the body and joints as possible. For example, how often have you heard the cue ‘neutral spine’ for the pushup, or ‘knees must go straight forward’ for a lunge or squat? These “rules” are there (in my opinion) to protect the personal trainer who prescribed the exercise from injuring their client during the session and getting sued! And this may seem great – after all, no-one wants injuries…but the thing is, these kind of ‘form pointers’ are only applied in the gym….What happens when something goes wrong in the real world where the body needs the capability to deal with danger (e.g. a golden laborador barreling into you while you’re out for your Sunday morning jog) and awkward positions (think standing on one leg, trying to reach an item on the top shelf in a supermarket while holding a heavy basket in the other)? For example, if, in the gym, the knee has never been allowed to ‘collapse-in’ as this is supposedly “bad” for it, how can it deal with the situation where my client steps on an uneven surface that forces the knee to abduct (i.e. ‘collapse in’)? What generally happens is that the body ‘locks up’ to protect itself, limits range of motion at the joint, and the forces of nature (e.g. gavity and momentum) will cause something to pull or tear!
Now, before all you advocates of perfect technique get all worked up, let me explain a little more about where I’m coming from and what I mean by this.…
Movement is movement and nothing more. We shouldn’t immediately condemn someone for ‘poor technique’ and demand they change because it looks funny. I believe this is the greatest opportunity to study movement and ask why? These “dysfunctional” patterns are telling a story of the client’s history and how they like to train. We can learn a lot about what the body likes and dislikes and use this knowledge to subconsciously tease the body into a better way of doing something. After all, it’s much better if an athlete can do the movement better without having to always think about good form! (I promise a subconscious movement article is next ) If we ask the body to perform a task it will show us the best way for it to , in its current state, to complete the task. It will show us what it’s good at and what it’s not so good at, and, if we pay attention, we can learn a lot from this. Like I mentioned in my articles on “When is a Rep not a Rep”, paying attention to your body is probably the most critical component to the success of your training.
Let’s get a little more specific to demonstrate exactly what I mean. For now I’m going to stick to the example of a press up, and the common misconception that ‘sagging hips’ can lead to a back injury….

Example: Are ‘Sagging Hips’ in a Press Up really ‘poor form’?
If we take a closer look at what joint movements ‘sagging hips’ consists of, we can see that it is simply hip and thoracic extension (i.e. think a standing backward bend in yoga), and this particular movement loads the hip flexors and the abdominals to spring the body back up to help complete the task, i.e. to help complete the press up! Imagine that, a body that uses its major muscle groups to complete a task, that can’t be right! The body imust be “cheating” to try and engage its bigger muscle groups to help out a chest that isn’t strong enough to deal with the load imposed. Now, some people argue that in this example the core isn’t strong enough, but really it’s the core that is doing most of the work!

A standing backward bend involves hip and thoracic extension.
However!!! if my clients’ hip or thoracic extension is poor (or more than likely the sequencing is poor, due to lack of training) then this may cause the pelvis to rotate forwards instead of backward and force the lumbar region to hyperextend instead (i.e. creating a lordosis), this less-mobile joint (we’ll say) doesn’t cope well with large ranges and big loads so this can sometimes refer a little back pain as a warning sign to change something. However, rather than teach fitness professionals what to look for and how to solve the problem we just ignore it and sweep it under the rug and make it a rule that dropping the hips will hurt the back!

And maybe the client would be fine without this ability to load their abs and hip flexors properly, but what happens if this client trips when walking and lands in a press up position and gravity, mass and momentum pull those hips to the floor? The hips will go down, you can’t fight physics , and that inability to deal with that load, in that direction will cause the body to lock up and potentially pull something! Alternatively, if that person had been training to deal with those kinds of loads and movements then the back issue will be less of a problem, as the body knows it has, safely, been in that position before and can handle the situation just fine.

So to round this up before I begin to rant or rhyme off examples and case studies I want my message to be clear:
I am not promoting going into the gym and being reckless with technique and form. I want readers of this to be clear that proper form is essential but ‘bad form’ shouldn’t be thrown out as just bad form. The answer is in the question – examine what is going wrong and you will find out how to achieve effortless form. Essentially what I want is to promote good form, but good form that is acheioeved without having to consciously concentrate so hard on keeping everything right. We shouldn’t need to worry about form – it should happen naturally. Start small with small forces and speeds just pay attention to the little things and ask why:
Why am I doing it this way?
Why does it look funny at low levels?
What does it feel like and should it feel this way?
Regress to the most basic and progress slowly and at a sustainable rate. Think outside the box with regard to movement: try it and if it feels good, go for it; If it feels bad then don’t, but ask the question of why it feels bad? Is it me or that movement with that force??
When I move on to talking about subconscious movement this should all start to come together into how to progress your training in the best possible manner. In the meantime you can hit me with any questions so I can explain why I have just tossed the big book of exercise techniques out the window
Path:

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What's The Best Exercise For A Flat Stomach and Awesome Abs? Try the 'Push-Away'

 

Eve

rywhere you look today there are:

1. Magazines claiming to tell you the best exercises or workouts for ‘six pack abs’.

2. Adverts for ab-sculpting equipment that will give you ‘great abs in just 5 minutes a day’.

3. Group Fitness classes with ‘ab sections’ full of endless crunches, sit-ups and planks.

4. People in gyms working on their ‘abs’ and always looking for the answer to the question:

‘What’s the best exercise for getting great abs / a flatter stomach?’

 

But what is the answer to this question? What is the secret to getting a flat, toned stomach or six-pack abs?

 

Well, in the past I have heard a number of answers to this question:

– I’ve read that celebrities claim that they do 500 sit-ups a day to keep their stomach toned;

– I’ve heard fitness professionals claim that working on the ‘core’ with planks and cable rotations (possibly while standing on a BOSU ball) is the key to having a flat stomach;

– I’ve heard martial artists and dancers say that they’re convinced that their activity is great for the abs because nearly every movement they do works the abdominals in different ways;

– I’ve also read that performing exercises that focus on strengthening the abdominals (e.g. hanging leg raises) for a small number of reps is much better for ‘sculpting’ the abs than performing endless reps of exercises that do not require as much strength (e.g. crunches).

 

But who’s right? If we want a flat, toned stomach should we be performing lots of crunches every day, dropping into a plank whenever we can, or performing a small number of ‘Pull Up Pikemans’ on gymnastic rings one or two times a week?

Well, a few years ago at a fitness convention I heard a speaker (I can’t remember who) say that the ultimate exercise for getting a flat stomach was something he called the ‘Push Away’ and in the time since then I have come to agree with him…

I firmly believe that if you want to get a flat, toned stomach, the Push Away is the best exercise you can do to help you reach your goal.

 

The Push Away

The Push Away Can be Performed in one of two ways:

1. When eating a meal, push the plate you are eating from away from you when you have eaten 80% of what is on it.

2. When a tempting ‘treat’ (like cake, chocolate, biscuits etc.) is offered to you, push the food away from you.

 

Perform this exercise at least once a day and watch that belly fat disappear!

 

Okay, okay, so I’m being a little facetious here – I’m not really advocating that you go around pushing food away from you every day. However, the point is that there really is no magic exercise that you can do to get a flat stomach and six-pack abs – you can perform crunches or hanging leg raises ’till the cows come home but if those great abs you’re building are covered by a layer of fat, you’re still not going to have a visible six-pack or a flat, toned tummy.

The painful truth is that the state of your mid-section is primarily down to your diet – if you want a flat stomach or great abs then the best exercise you can do is change the way you eat.

 

N.B: The Push-Away is NOT a genuine exercise. ‘Changing the way you eat’ is not as simple as eating less food – the QUALITY of the food you eat is as important as the QUANTITY you eat…..but that’s another story for another time.

Personal Trainer

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The Right To Progress by Rob Cook

When dealing with exercise or program progression for your athletes or clients, I believe there should be a sound, uniformed level of mastery of fundamental basics and exercise foundations before the ‘reward

’ of progression is applied.

Sometimes it’s easy for us as trainers and coaches to get caught up with a new ‘fad’ training concept or piece of equipment, and to feel the pressure to keep up with the crowd. A positive bi-product of this is creative design – the new kit or concept enables you to explore and understand new possibilities and ideas, which ultimately leads to the industry furthering itself. On a whole, this is a very good thing. However, the negative sides to this, as I see it, are:

1. The over-complication of exercises by trainers who’s creativity gets the best of them (Note: Creativity is a good thing, but only when applied correctly!); and

2. The progression of clients and athletes who still haven’t achieved technical competence of an exercise’s fundamental technique.

 

“Let them adapt before moving on.” –Kelvin Giles

If we progress a client or athlete who is yet to gain technical competence in a certain area of their training, they will carry this deficiency of skillset through their development and into an area where there is going to be an increase in load, speed, volume and power output. When these aspects of an exercise are increased without a sound, competent foundation to work with, the result for your client or athlete can be injury, plateau and restriction in strength development. This could then ultimately also have a psychological impact on an athlete’s mindset or a client’s motivation which can potentially result in a lack of faith in themselves, and you or your methods.

The right path through an exercise progression begins with your client or athlete having mastered the foundations of an exercise before moving on to adding load, increasing speed, increasing volume, etc. By taking this approach of ‘Earning the right to Progress’, you are ensuring the best possible long-term development of your client or athlete, and by increasing their body awareness you in-turn increase their ability to improve.

 

References:

1) Movement Dynamics Athletic Development – An Introduction to Athletic Development. –Kelvin B. Giles MA, CertEd

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Coaching the Model Client

I greet my client for an evening session, in this instance it’s a movement session, but very quickly I can sense and see that all is not well…

“I’m absolutely shattered, I tell you what, the last thing I need is a tiring session tonigh

t.” his bag hitting the floor with a sort of angry resignation.

Now if you’ve been a trainer or a coach for any appreciable length of time, these situations aren’t uncommon and can, if you’re not “on your game,” catch you unawares and be disconcerting, at worst, triggering perhaps a defensive or unwelcoming response from you.

I chose to immediately frame the session by saying “we’ll find the right balance tonight, you’ll leave feeling better, tell me more if you’d like.”  We have a history of sit-down coaching sessions regarding his resilience and performance at work, so this was agreed to and he began.

As he spoke, I listened, aiming to create in my own mind a solid working landscape of what he was talking about.  After some time it became apparent to me that he was very focussed on facts and events about what sounded like an incredibly difficult schedule and situation.  The more detail he went into, the more our heads felt like they were going to explode!  I saw and felt him live out, literally, the embodiment of his stress.

Very often we can get so subsumed and overwhelmed by our clients’ stories that we, like them, lose perspective and objectivity.  Detail can bombard our senses and quickly we can feel like we have to provide an answer or a solution.  In these instances models can provide a creative and helpful “frame” by which we can start to interpret what is occurring.

In “The Case for Coaching” (Jarvis, Lane, Fillery-Travis, 2006, p. 13) there is some strong empirical evidence that coaching can deliver “tangible benefits to both individuals and organisations” and is “an effective way to promote learning in organisations.”  Over 75% of managers and practitioners stated coaching to be an “effective to very effective” interaction.  (CIPD Chartered Institute for Learning Development.  Survey. 2005)

The effectiveness of our, or indeed any coaching, of course, comes down to the coach and as an evidence-based approach to coaching grows, we can see when, where, why and how coaching becomes necessary and powerful to help craft change, and indeed where it is harmful or unwarranted.

So, my client spoke and a model that I like to use sprang to mind.  This is an organic process that I have learnt to trust and the model that came to my aid was this one, called “Domains of Competence.”  This model is from the work of Habermas and is found and described in the excellent book “Coaching:  Evoking Excellence in Others.  (Flaherty, 2005, p. 84)

 “Domains of Competence” (Flaherty, p.84)

Ken Wilber takes this model and expands on it in “Integral Life Practice” (Wilber, Patten, Leonard, Morelli, 2008, p.28) an excellent resource for any trainer bridging the ‘exercise’ to ‘personal’ gap with their clients.

If we look at the three levels here, it becomes apparent where my client was focussed in his account of his situation.  He was reporting entirely from the “it” domain – facts and events weighed heavily on his mind, waking him at night, creating stress responses with each bombardment of potential worse-case scenarios.  It became evident that he was largely unsupported in the “we” domain and due to his existential aloneness, not therefore, engaging with the “I” domain, or how to “self-manage.”

Using the model in this way allowed me to do two things.  The first was offer some support, bridge the “we” domain and start, via listening and being present with him, to offer a “container” or a space to share experience.  The second key point is; as he relaxes, I help him become aware of the change in his state and the physiological differences as he becomes more embodied and grounded, thus highlighting the “I” domain for him.  This became a key practice for him, namely to “notice” when he became very identified with facts and events, forgetting literally, his breathing and his physicality.

In “The Psychology of Executive Coaching” (Second Edition, Peltier, 2010, p.165) there is an excellent section on “The Existential Stance” the first core concept given is “individuality and context.”  This points out that; “things are fixed” yet “there is no fixed person.”  My client was stuck in undeniable “things”, a very tough period in a very tough climate, yet due to a lesser engagement with “we” and “I” domains he had lost two vital resources, namely self and other support.  Bringing the concepts to light through a discreet use of a model gave his situation and him some needed context and reference points to work with and create new perspectives.  He felt able to really relate to the concept of “self management” particularly and I, as his coach, was now able to share this frame with him and provide “self management tools,” namely body awareness techniques and reframing ideas.

To summarise the take-away message from this article I’ll refer to “The Skilled Helper” (Sixth Edition, Egan, 1998, inside cover)

Egan outlines a brilliant model with three distinct phases to it, which I feel can be applied very simply or with sufficient training, very extensively.  I’ll refer to the first stage here because it’s simple and can be a “meta-model” for the application of other models.

 

The Skilled Helper Model

Stage One:

“Current Scenario”

This is a really beautiful and simple flow chart.  Listen to the story, intently, with all your senses.  Get a “feel” for where your client is metaphorically and literally with their story.  Start to internally ask yourself  “what am I hearing?” and also “what is missing in this story?”  “What is it that we are not seeing clearly enough or at all?”  In this instance my “Domains of Competence” model allowed us to see where the focus was too dominant and therefore see what unused and underdeveloped resources where in fact available, granting us “leverage.”  Two further stages go into how to create plans for action in this process.

Alfred Korzybski, the “father of semantics” remarked famously “the map is not the territory,” and he was right.  Models aren’t our reality they simply give us a filter through which we may understand our experience.  If we hold them lightly and let them inform our situation they can be immensely powerful.  I know I’m far happier with a map heading into a city centre than without one!

 

References:

Jarvis, Lane, Fillery-Travis, 2006, p. 13. “The Case for Coaching” The Chartered Institute of Personal Development

Flaherty, 2005, p. 84. “Coaching:  Evoking Excellence in Others.”  Elsevier Butterworth Heinemann

Wilber, Patten, Leonard, Morelli, 2008, p.28. “Integral Life Practice” Integral Books, Shambala Productions

Peltier, 2010, p.165) “The Psychology of Executive Coaching” Second Edition, Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

Sixth Edition, Egan, 1998, inside cover. “The Skilled Helper” Sixth Edition, Brooks/Cole Publishing Company

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Make Your Body Your Gym! by Rob Cook

Something that is forever being thrown up as a barrier and reason for not moving and exercising is the excuse of not having enough time. As a trainer this is something that I hear quite often but can combat quite easily to get clients out of their se

dentary lifestyles. If you’re a reader of Fitness News you will have seen

the ‘Alive in 5’ articles that are there and these challenges will give you an amazing all round workout in no time at all…….about 5 minutes actually 😉 So to add on to that I wanted to talk about calisthenics, or body weight exercises, so that no matter where you are, how much or how little time you have, you’ll never be ‘gym-less’ again!

I’m sure you’ve all heard of and have done some bodyweight moves before – things like burpee’s or mountain climbers – but have maybe ignored the potential benefit of these and other calisthenic exercises. Some of the hardest and most challenging workouts I have ever done have been using nothing more than what I was born with (i.e. my body) and a little space in my hotel room. Plus, as a bonus, I haven’t spent a dime and have also avoided potential overload injuries….But that’s a little off the subject and another article all on its own, so lets get back to the topic at hand…

 

Your Body Is Your Gym

To put it as simply as possible, calisthenics are where you use you’re own bodyweight as resistance. This may sound boring and limited if it’s not something you’re very familiar with but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Once you begin to play with the speed, angles, body positioning, explosiveness, progression/regression and exercise combinations, you have an unlimited arsenal of moves that will not only keep you fit and strong but will also challenge the pants off you! To go through and list off all of, or even some of, the potential exercise possibilities would take a collective group of people a long time and they would almost always certainly continue to come up with more and more. So to give you a taste of the endless possibilities let’s use one exercise everyone knows – the push up – and show you how it can be tweaked to produce numerous variations.

 

Push-Up Variations

A Standard Push-Up: This is done by placing your hands on the ground approximately shoulders width apart while being prone with your toes on the ground. You then lower yourself and push back up….easy right?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beginner Push-Up: If a standard push-up’s too difficult, either perform the exercise on your knees instead of your toes, or place your hands on an elevated surface, e.g. a table, a chair, or a step (and gradually use lower and lower surfaces until you can do a ouch up with your hands on the floor).

 

 

 

 

Advanced Push-Up Variations: If the standard push-up’s too easy, try:

(i) Single Leg Push-Ups: raising one leg in the air;

 

(ii) Feet-Elevated Push-Ups: place both feet off the ground onto a higher surface.

 

 

Can you see where I’m going with this? Now lets play with your hand positions….

 

 

Wide-Hands Push-Ups: Place your hands wider then shoulder width.

 

 

 

 

 

Close-Hands Push-Ups: Place your hands close together, directly underneath your chest.

 

 

 

 

Rotated-Hands Push-Ups: Turn one hand out and the other hand in.

 

 

 

 

Staggered-Hands Push-Ups: Place one hand further in front and the other one further behind.

 

 

 

 

Single-Arm Push-Ups: Try taking one arm out the equation all together – and tell me that’s not effective and challenging enough! (although like the standard push up, this can be made easier by placing the one hand your pushing with on an elevated surface)

 

 

 

 

Next we can begin to play with the speed and force at which you perform each press:

 

Plyometric Push-Ups: Starting in the standard push-up position, lower yourself to the ground and push up with enough force to drive you’re hands off the ground. Once you’re able to perform these and want more of a challenge try shifting your hand positions with each explosive push, moving them forward/back, wide/narrow, hands turned in/out, or even onto and off of a raised object.

 

 

 

 

As you can see, one simple exercise can become many. Imagine the endless possibilities! You can find an enormous amount of calisthenic exercises on the internet to quench your workout thirst but for a more structured, effective workout for your own personal goals seek out and find a reputable PT London to help guide you in the right direction.

With the right bodyweight exercises and their numerous variations, no matter where you are or what you have at your disposal you will never be gym-less again!

Now go get creative!

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Inspire Your Personal Training Clients to Tackle Challenges One Step at a Time

Wilma Rudolph was born in 1940 to a poverty stricken family in

Clarksville, Tennessee. At a birth weight of 4½ pounds, her doctors didn’t expect her to survive through the night.

She did survive — barely — yet her fight for survival was just beginning. A sickly child, Wilma battled near-fatal bouts of scarlet fever and double pneumonia by the time she was just five years old. Just as it seemed the worst was behind her and she would get to enjoy a normal healthy childhood, at age seven her legs became progressively weaker and eventually deformed. Eventually she lost the function of her left leg.

Wilma was told she would never walk again. Her doctors advised her and her mother that the most reasonable course of action was to accept Wilma’s diagnosis as a cripple as soon as possible because polio was incurable at that time, and therefore unconquerable.

As luck would have it, her mother was not a reasonable woman. She either could not or would not grasp the finality of that diagnosis. She forced Wilma to once again fight an arduous battle; a battle more fierce and enduring than she ever could have imagined. Wilma began a physiotherapy regimen that lasted up to four hours per day, week after week, month after month, year after year without pause.

The process was exhausting and painful. Results came slowly, when they came at all, and Wilma was often discouraged. But her mother didn’t give up on her; she pushed her little girl harder and farther. Wilma reluctantly resolved to push on.

Her life changed one day in church when she decided she walk unaided down the aisle. Her attempt was crude and clumsy, but she walked. From that day forth she never had to depend on vision her mother held for her. She could see it for herself.

Her determination was unshakable. Wilma Rudolph was so encouraged by her unwieldy attempt at walking that she kept at it until little by little, step by step she got better…not by much, but by just enough to keep her motivated one step after another.

Her encouragement grew to the point where she allowed herself to be influenced by a coach at her school to join the track and field team. In her first race she came in last place.

That within itself is an inspiring finish not only to that race but to the story, but it doesn’t even come close to ending there.

In 1960, Wilma Rudolph made history by becoming the first American woman to win three Olympic gold medals in within the same Olympic Games. She is remembered as one of the fastest runners in history.

Wilma never started off with Olympic aspirations, she merely wanted to take a single step and then another.

The lesson for us all is when the challenges our personal training clients face seem insurmountable, it’s not a matter of going the distance, but simply one small step beyond where they are to where they wish to be.

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Neural Dysfunction and Movement Retrieval

Our brain is a buzzing network of communication, which creates learning capacity, focus, mood, behaviour, emotional stability and memory. It allows us to work, play, sleep, focus on specifics, remember salient events or facts and produce emotionally

appropriate responses. When the brain is functioning efficiently all these come into play successfully. However, if we are battling with mood swings, anger or memory lapses, it suggests there is a neurological inefficiency somewhere

Training clients with brain stem damage can be immensely rewarding for both parties. The impact of endorphins kicking in should not be underestimated, but it does take a degree of physical exertion to achieve that, and that may not be appropriate for clients in early stages of recovery. Despondency can quickly set in when a gym setting does not suddenly mean the client can exercise energetically. Expectations have to be managed. The sense of achievement, when a new movement has been retrieved, however, can be exhilarating in its own way.

 

Head Injuries

Years ago, stroke and brain trauma implied high dependency, total disability, and a full dissociation from active living. This is no longer the case, and today many people make a recovery sufficient to return to work and sport, in the long term. Others will benefit from rehabilitation and a skilful trainer to help them retrieve some level of movement and independence. Many of the early assumptions about brain injury have been challenged in recent years, and now the plasticity of the brain is accepted, implying much greater scope for recovery, but the need for greater understanding of this recovery process persists.

 

 

Head injuries, when people first began to survive them, were seen as holding out only a small window of recovery, during the first 6-18 months post trauma. After this time, intensive rehab programmes were withdrawn and the assumption was that no further progress would be made. While physical problems could be managed fairly readily, it was deemed that the long term cognitive and behaviour problems would prejudice the individual’s ultimate recovery. Now the emphasis is on a longer term recovery, and understanding that the client who has sustained serious head injuries still has the ongoing ability to learn and to adapt his behaviour, and ultimately to lead a satisfying and positive life.

 

Stroke survivors are also now returning to productive lives, after a sometimes lengthy rehab process. Hemiplegia and hemiparesis (a weakness on one side of the body) are debilitating and force the body into dysfunction, but much can be done to

re-educate the body to accept functional movement patterns again. Working with clients post stroke or brain trauma can be very challenging for a trainer: a year ago, I would have told you it was all about understanding function and movement, but now I see things very differently for this special population, and believe the solutions to be rooted in left/right perception and visual cues.

 

Mood Swings

Mood swings and depression are very common in patients with stroke. As much as 50% of survivors will feel depressed or moody after a stroke. (Source: Stroke Association) After a stroke there may be rapid changes in mood: survivors might feel happy but then experience a dramatic turnabout and begin to feel very sad. Emotions can be all mixed up, with a desire to cry and/or laugh at inappropriate times. Just like depression, these mood swings can appear when there is an injury to a specific area of your brain.

It is useful, maybe even before meeting your new client, to read around the subject, to gain some insight into what your client may have lost in terms of cognitive ability, physical strength and emotional resilience. Organisations such as Headway and The Stroke Association provide plenty of information for those working with these special populations. However, the advice is only generic, and doesn’t tailor itself to your client. Brain injury isn’t general, and the rehab will always need to be specific. The primary focus for the trainer will always be to help the client to find his own path to recovery. This is especially important in clients who are looking for answers and are emotionally vulnerable.

 

 

Progress will be halting, sometimes counter-productive, frustrating. I have worked with stroke survivors over a period of weeks to retrieve a single movement, such as picking up a tennis ball, only to see the new skill lost again following on from a mild respiratory tract infection or simply a reduction of sensation in the weaker hand. These blips can cause much heartache for the client.

 

Clients may have lost the ability to retain optimism, may seem very pessimistic or cynical, and this can have a knock-on effect on the trainer’s ability to empathise, or motivate his client, but I have found it helpful to remind myself that these are not necessarily characteristics known to the client before the brain trauma.

 

The brain injured client probably has a long list of things he/she now hates, or things that make them feel vulnerable or anxious. Often these include tight clothing, external noise, certain smells, tastes or textures. Things that should be pleasurable such as sex or being in a happy social setting may actually induce pain. Pain can also erupt spontaneously, or seem disproportionate to the trigger.

 

Trainers and therapists will need to learn to read their client’s body language, and this is a much more difficult task than usual, since facial expressions may have become dissociated from the underlying emotion. Weaknesses in facial muscles will further impair this. Motion at the limbs may also be counter intentional. Mood interpretation is going to be affected by brain stem damage. The brain stem can organize motor movements such as reflexes. It coordinates with the motor cortex and associated areas to contribute to fine movements of limbs and the face.

 

Sensorial Cues

Visual cues to assist movement can be a boon. In their favour, they can boost confidence, allowing the weak side to mirror movements and enabling the weak limb to achieve more through prompts. Ultimately the client wants the arm or leg to move through the correct set of messages coming from the brain down to the limb and it was previously thought that shortcuts wouldn’t really cut it in the long term. However, what I believe matters is that if the body hasn’t recognised the movement as functional, it may reject the movement, and resort to another level of drastic shutdown. Visual affirmation could be the difference between progress and a downward spiral of uncontrolled movement.

 

Other cues worth using, but not wholly depending on, are texture and sound. Texture and temperature can really help with simple movements. So much of my early stuff is about picking up extra cues to make movement flow. I have had some success with working barefoot, or bare armed, in order to pick up as many sensorial and kinaesthetic experiences as possible. Training on different ground surfaces has been beneficial: sand, grass, cushioned flooring and concrete all provide different stimuli.

 

Sound, too, can increase the client’s ability to respond. Try clapping, or pad boxing, and it is quite likely that a surprising level of reaction is achieved. The brain responds to the extra stimuli of the sound impact, encouraging the weak side to react. Again, this can be very rewarding for the client. A few years ago, I spent some time observing at Standing Start in Cambridgeshire, an innovative spinal column injury rehab unit. I was amazed at these guys, many of them with devastating spinal column injuries, learning to box. The level of response achieved from limbs officially paralysed was incredible, and set me thinking about sound impact. More recently, I have seen with a stroke survivor client of mine a retrieval of sensation in his weak arm soon after we began pad boxing. Even as we trained, he was exclaiming at renewed feeling. An hour or more after the session, the sensations persisted, increased even. Not pain, just renewed awareness of the limb.

 

Left/ Right Recognition

So, post-stroke, the brain would seem in some cases to have great difficulty in recognising the two sides of the body as different (tending to view them as interchangeable), leading to sensations such as “feeling” right arm overhead when it is the left arm in that position, or “feeling” the leg kicking out a roundhouse kick, some hours or days after the training session. If I cannot see or hear my weak arm moving I do not always know the speed or direction in which it is travelling. I cannot necessarily instigate movement starting from the weak limb – it gets glued to the spot in a panic reaction to the brain’s request.

I began to get interested in studies of others experiencing left/right recognition difficulties, and looked at the evidence from upper limb amputees(1), as well as a study dating back to 1977 on the developments of recognition memory for the left right orientation of images (2). It was all fascinating reading, but I still struggled to see how this might possibly be connected to my own left/right confusion and the symptoms my own clients are living with.

In “The Body has a Mind of its Own” (3), the authors describe how some of their patients displayed denial of paralysis, which has a specific underlying brain pathology. These “denial patients” presented with brain damage in the supplementary motor area, responsible for the mental stimulation of movements. We activate this section of our brain simply when we close our eyes and imagine a movement. When we ask a stroke survivor to move the paralysed limb, the supplementary motor area produces a familiar pattern of activity in the brain. But the regions of the brain that actually carry out the movements are not working. In this situation, the patient experiences a very strong conviction that the movement was achieved successfully. The paralysis is indisputable. The solution is for the patient to create a story. I find this explanation useful as a powerful reminder that the brain holds the answers for so much of the dysfunction that we see.

What I wanted to do was introduce a measured feed of images and information to the brain regarding left/right recognition, in the hope of firing up improved responses. Fortunately for me, someone had thought of it before me! I found an awesome resource via NOI (Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, Australia) and I got reading. NOI stipulates 5 “critical conceptual change issues” (4)

  1. Injury or disease does not mean that you feel pain
  2. The nervous system moves and stretches as we move
  3. Pain, stress and performance are outputs of the brain
  4. Knowledge and movement are the greatest pain and stress liberators
  5. Nervous system plasticity gives new hope and technique

(taken from www.gradedmotorimagery.com)

So I began to understand that I needed to change the brain’s left/right perceptions, and that there was a possibility that this could positively affect the pain output for myself and my clients. If I could provide improved information, along with movement patterns that would reinforce that new information, maybe I could reduce a body’s panic/pain response. It would be worth a try, at least.

I have been working with an improvised mirror box for a couple of months now, and have recently started using an NOI iPad App to test and hopefully educate the brain in spontaneous responses to images of left/right.

In their book, Phantoms in the Brain, (5), the authors describe the dramatic use of mirrors with patients unable to move a limb without them, a presentation described as “learned paralysis”. Mirrors have many uses in the rehab environment: affirming, reassuring, deceiving and defying learned assumptions.

I have many more hours ahead of me with mirrors and audio cues, in search of progress in left/right perception, and a path to pain/panic reduction. However, I feel it is a route worth pursuing in my struggle against the destructive neural dysfunction I have personally been experiencing, and I fervently hope to find some solutions for my clients and others in my own modest way.

 

References

 

(1) Left and right hand recognition in upper limb amputees. Nico D, Daprati E, Rigal F, Parsons L, Sirigu A. Dipartimento di Psicologia, Universita La Sapienza, and IRCCS Fondazione S. Lucia, Rome, Italy. Brain 2004 Jan; 127 (pt 1); 120-32. Epub 2003 Nov 7.

(2) The Development of Recognition Memory for the Left-Right Orientation of Pictures, Juliet M Vogel. Child Development Vol. 48 No. 4 (Dec. 1977), pp 1532-43)Blackwell Publishing

(3) The Body Has A Mind of its Own, Sandra Blakeslee & Matthew Blakeslee, Random House 2008

(4) NOI: Neuro Orthopaedic Institute Australia www.gradedmotorimagery.com

(5) Phantoms in the Brain, Sandra Blakeslee & V.S. Ramachandran, Harper Perennial 2005

 

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Training For Sport – Part 2a – Exercise Selection

The bell just sounded and we are off with the second instalment of my blog… How far am I going to run today? Well I’m aiming to cover the art of exercise selection or at least appropriate selection for sports by the time I run out of breath…

If we look back at my 3 key points I left you with:

  • What it is you want to achieve/improve
  • How you intend to measure improvements
  • How much time can you give to this

I would like to start by focusing on the first of the points, what is it we are trying to improve? If you haven’t already started writing your plan down, you may want to start now… Just a thought…

I shall start with a simple example… Lets say you’re a prop (if you don’t play rugby, that’s one of the two really fat guys) and you want to improve your strength when lifting a jumper in a lineout. I don’t want to get overly technical here, I want this blog to appeal to regular people as much as for trainers, we can debate the more technical items at another time.

So I’d say start by thinking about what the move you’re looking to improve in the following way:

  • What does it look like?
  • Does that vary?
  • What does it feel like?
  • How is it loaded?

A few examples of lineout lifting

Let’s start with the first question, what does it look like? Well it looks like a step (or steps) into a squat to a press with the weight moving from chest height to above head in a shoulder pressing type motion. So that’s going to be my exercise, a step into a squat where as I rise from the crouched position, I shoulder press.

Now does that vary? What I mean by that is if you’re lifting someone, are your feet always going to be in the same position? The chances are no. So why not vary the foot positions of the exercise so that you ensure that you are strong no matter where you are? So vary the exercise with different feet positions and take a wide, narrow, normal, right foot forward, left foot forward stance.

What does it feel like? Is it fast or slow? Heavy or light? The fact is you get what you train for and so if you train slow, you’ll be slow. In this case the move is explosive and heavy so your exercise needs to replicate that otherwise you’re going shoot yourself in the foot. This said, I wouldn’t hurtle out of the blocks straight into explosive and heavy lifting tomorrow, you should build up to this, especially in terms of weight.

Finally how is it loaded? Or more importantly, what in terms of weighted object would replicate the lifting of a grown man the best? Is it a barbell or a medicine ball or a dumbbell etc? I’m going to say for the sake of argument 2 dumbells, you could probably find a better loading vehicle but not everyone will have access to 50kg powerbags!

If everything has gone to plan, we should now have an exercise to improve our lineout lifting, either that or we now have a very confused reader! I’m hoping you have followed this… If not, don’t worry, I will post a video for this tomorrow and talk about how we add some meat to the bones of our workout and also a few other exercises for you to have a look at. Then I’ll do the same for golf, football and anything else you want me to look at…

Si Tate

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