Tag Archives: Personal Training in London

How Water Can Help You Burn Fat by Gen Preece (Personal Trainer)

As a Personal Trainer, one of the first things I ask my clients when they arrive at the studio is how much water they have been drinking. And I mean good ol’fashioned H2O, not squash, tea, coffee or sports drinks.

Whatever the weather in Southampton (or wherever it is you live) the importance of water is paramount throughout the year, not just in the summer months. This article is here to shed some light on just how paramount, as well as explain how it can actually help your body to burn unwanted fat – yes really!

If we think back to our biology lessons, we may recall learning how water is involved in absolutely every bodily function. The body therefore interprets dehydration pretty much as a state of shock.

This consequently doesn’t do our hearts any favours – they are put under unnecessary pressure when we are not hydrated as our cells draw water from our bloodstream. And if you bear in mind how hard your heart will be working during your personal training session…I guess you get the idea!

Being dehydrated also means three other negative things are likely to occur:

1.     The first is that we are more likely to retain water, which is the body’s way of attempting to re-hydrate us. This is never fun for anyone, especially when we are planning on actually fitting into our clothes or hoping to eventually have to buy those of a smaller size!

2.     The second is being dehydrated can actually hinder our fat burning efforts! And here’s how:

A key function of the liver is to metabolise fat for energy. When our kidneys are deprived of water, they rely on the liver to help them out. If the liver has to do this, it means it is therefore not working to its full potential – which ultimately leads to more fat storage!

3.     Sometimes we can even misinterpret thirst as hunger. This may result in us ending up eating more than we need to when all our body really needs is a glass of water!

Now if these are not reason enough to get on the H2O then I am at a loss to what is.

If you are not a fan of water for whatever reason, you can make it slightly more interesting by adding a slice of lemon or lime (both full of antioxidants) or a load of ice (which your body will actually burn calories having to warm up) or both! The best kind of water is filtered or bottled rather than tap, but tap water is still better than no water.

If you think you’re likely to forget to drink up during the day, then start carrying a refillable bottle wherever you go. When you get home, make sure you get yourself a glass and keep it close by (and at least half full!) at all times. You’ll find this will eventually become a new habit that you do automatically, and one your body (and personal trainer!) will thank you for!

If you have found this article useful please feel free to pass it on to anyone else you feel might benefit from it.

‘Til next time, keep hydrated and H2O happy!

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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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Things to look out for when hiring a Personal Trainer

Personal Trainersno prescription cialis

g> can be a great aid when it comes to getting in shape. However, this is only the case some of the time. Currently in the UK today there are thousands of Personal Trainers around with varying degrees of knowledge, skills and quality of service. Some Personal Trainers out there are outstanding at their jobs while others aren’t worth their salt and should be working in a different industry. We find this varying degree of quality in most gyms, health clubs and other exercise environments across the world and to the naked eye or the gym newbie there is very little to distinguish the difference between a world class PT and someone who is nothing short of rubbish! This is the reason why I’ve decided to help you – the general public – out when deciding who’s a great PT to hire and who’s just dire!

Here are a few things you need to watch out for when choosing a PT to train with – it’s not all about what’s on the advertisement board. So here are some pointers to find the right trainer for you:

1. Go to a busy Personal Trainer: Look for the PT’s who are interacting with everyone in the gym and are always doing something productive and constantly training people. This can be a little bit deceptive when a trainer is first building business as they may be quiet on that front and this doesn’t make them a bad trainer. However, if a trainer has been at a club for a good few months or years and they seem to be slacking off on the gym desk or just stand around like a wet lemon then they probably have too much time on their hands and are less likely to be on top of their game!

2. Check their Qualifications: The most qualified Personal Trainer in the club isn’t necessarily the best trainer for you. It’s quite likely that the notice board in your gym is full of Personal Trainers advertising their numerous qualifications, most of which you’ve likely never heard of and don’t understand. Take the time to ask around or do your research into certain qualifications – find out if their qualifications are from reputable sources, and whether they are suitable for your own goals. For example, a PT with only Strength and Conditioning qualifications (i.e. lifting big bars and weights) might not be appropriate for someone who wants to improve their posture or lose weight.

3. Presentation: Presentation is everything – the posture a person assumes, the words they use and the body language they demonstrate are all very important aspects of a good professional. Look for someone who looks the part and is well-dressed and tidy as these people are the ones who care enough about their jobs to take the time to present themselves well. Plus, if you surround yourself with people who you want to be like, different traits of their personality and mannerisms will rub off on you – as Jim Rohn said, we are the combination of the 5 people we spend the most time around, and for some people their trainer is in that top 5.

4. Punctuality and Professionalism: A good Personal Trainer will be professional at all times and will turn up on time. They will deliver your programs, send you emails and follow through everything they say to you promptly and with minimal fuss. This shows that this trainer cares about you and your results and is willing to go the extra mile for you outside of your sessions.

5. Find a trainer that is engaged and engaging when they train you: by this I mean they will be eye level with you when they can be during an exercise, they are motivating and supportive, willing to do partner exercises and join in the session when they can. The best PT’s will get involved with their clients in terms of using touch correction and hands-on techniques – whether it’s to assist a movement or a stretch at the end of a session. A good PT London will make records of what weights you lift, your distance times and maybe even go as far as videoing your techniques to ensure you are performing safely and optimally. They will also always recap what you are doing at the end of a session to find out what you enjoyed and what you didn’t – remember this is about what YOU want and not what your trainer wants, so if your trainer isn’t asking how you felt about each session, they’re not doing the best job.

6. Desire to improve: Some trainers will be quite happy to be laxey dazey and content with what they learned 10 years ago. These trainers will give you stagnant sessions and their knowledge runs the risk of being outdated. The fitness industry is constantly adapting and evolving and what we know today is likely to be rubbished tomorrow. The best trainers will show desire to improve and learn and will be asking for feedback from you and their peers on a regular basis. These are the trainers that are going to get you results.

7. Fair Pricing: Some Personal Trainers are cheaper than others and sometimes this is down to affluence of the area and variations in quality of their knowledge base. Obviously, it goes without saying that you should go for a trainer that you can afford. However, I find that if you’re looking for a “good deal” or a massive discount on Personal Training, you’re probably going to get a lower quality session – a good Personal Trainer may appear expensive but it is what they bring to the hour that matters and what they can do for you away from your sessions. A well paid PT is more likely to look after you and support you when you need it, whereas a PT looking to make a quick buck isn’t going to care because they are already devaluing their product. That said, pricing doesn’t necessarily reflect a trainer’s ability – there are some great PTs out there who charge much less than some awful trainers!

Hopefully these points will help give you a better idea of what to look for when hiring a personal trainer. But do remember that any PT who is worth their salt will be willing to give you some time for free before you sign up with them – whether that’s through a taster session, a consultation or a brief chat to help you on the gym floor. Make the most of this time to ask questions and get answers but remember not to abuse it.

A great Personal Training in London product is built on the trust and relationship between a client and a trainer. Try not to take on the Personal Trainer that promises you the world as they will often fail to deliver, but instead seek out someone more assured, humble and honest about their goals, ethos and what they are about. Seek to come away from a trainer who tries to force the hard sell on you and pressures you into buying-in. A good PT will know their session went well and will give you the option to go away and think about it and most of the time you’ll come back anyway if they were good enough! After all that’s what taster sessions are for and if you don’t like what you get you have no obligation to buy into it.

Now you know what to look for in a trainer I hope you’ll make your decision with a wiser viewpoint.

Thanks for reading.

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