Category Archives for "Training"

Settle Down and Pay Attention (to your strength training)

dumbbell

Anybody that walks into a gym to train for the first time, or the first time in a long time, deserves a lot of credit.

Unfamiliar place, all these weird looking instruments of torture, people standing around gawking at the "newbie". And dumbbells? That's how you are left feeling sometimes. Who needs that mess? (In reality nobody, which is why Cr8 Fitness is the real "anti-gym")

All that weirdness, and you did it anyway - really cool. As for results? In the beginning just about any workout will start to get you at least some results. But regardless of how long you have been training, you need to pay attention if you want to make the most progress, the quickest. 

Good training design incorporates progression. "Progressive Strength Training" isn't some political thing, it simply means that you need to be continually increasing key training variables, usually volume and/or intensity, to continue making progress.

And that's why you need to settle down and pay attention when you are training. For instance the most common "progressive" variable our training cycles here at Cr8 Fitness uses is volume. The work periods increase over the 4-6 week cycle; from 30 seconds to 60 seconds, or even more at times. That's the easy part for you, at least from a "paying attention" standpoint. Load selection, or how much you are lifting, is where we miss the boat at times. If you are not paying attention and tracking, at least mentally, how much you are lifting on a weekly basis you will not progress as fast. 

Here's an example why it matters:

Let's say we are working on single arm overhead presses. In week one we do 30 second sets, and you use a 30 pound dumbbell. Our speed of movement is 3-1-x, so you are getting about 6 reps per side. The next week you come in, notice we are doing 45 second sets, so you drop the weight to 20 pounds, because the work period is longer (not an ideal strategy, but I'll get to that). Or you simply don't remember what you used last week. In the 40 second set you get about 8 reps. That's more reps than last week, so that' good, right? Well if you add up the total work you are doing, in week one you lifted 180 pounds total (6x30), and in week two you lifted 160 pounds (8x20). You see where I am going with that? Even though the set took longer, you did less work. Dropping back only to 25 pounds would have been better, and in reality staying at 30 would have been the best strategy. 

The take home on this? You have to know week to week what load you have been using, so you can track how much work you are actually doing. This is the key to progress. Smartphone, moleskin notebook, permanent marker on your forearm. Any of those will work. 🙂

I was talking to another "athlete of aging" this weekend and we were commenting that the older you get, the faster you have to peddle just to stay in place. It may not be "fair", but it is pretty accurate. And you need to keep track of how fast you are peddling somehow. Speedometers on a car, thermostats on an oven, numbers on the scale. They all give us crucial information, and let us know how we are tracking and if and when we need to make adjustments. Keeping track of how much you are lifting does the same thing.

And to put it bluntly, that's about the only thing you are responsible for when you train here, besides showing up. Our training design and coaching takes care of the rest; proper exercise selection, coaching your form, number and length of sets, rest periods, macro and micro-recovery strategies, the whole gamut. This one piece is where we have "co-responsibility", which is why we are consistently encouraging you to increase load, where appropriate. (Coach Nancy is SO mean, right?) 🙂

We have a recovery week coming up next week (July 1-5). This too is by design as part of your overall plan. You can check out why here: You Are Not A Unicorn. Recovery Matters.

So now that you know, how are you going to keep track? It might just be the piece you have been missing to making even better progress.

Need some help? That's what we are here for!

See you soon, 

Coach Dean

My New Favorite Website

Besides Cr8Fitness.com of course! 🙂

Seriously though, a huge shout out to my friend and fellow gym owner Ryan Morgan of Pursuit Fitness in St. Louis for turning me on to GrowingBolder.com

From the very first time I visited I knew I had found a kindred spirit in the founder, Marc Middleton.

Why?

Here's one reason:

As Athletes of Aging (and if you are reading this you are one or want to be one 🙂 ) you know how important exercise is. But what if you haven't exercised in decades? Are in bad health and lousy shape? Is it still possible?

These two stories show us the answer is a resounding "YES!"

Sister Madonna Buder (The Iron Nun) started in her 40's and is now the oldest living person, man or woman, to finish an Ironman Triathlon when she did it at the age of 82.

And while you (like me) may never dream of being on a bodybuilding stage at age 75, you'll find Jim Schaeffer didn't either, and then decided "What have I got to lose?"

Stories like these give the little extra push I need sometimes when I just don't "feel like it".

If Sister Madonna and Jim Schaeffer can do it - Why can't we?

If you are ready, click here to claim your free 2-week tryout.

Let's Make It Happen!

- Coach Dean

Can You Enjoy Life Without These Things?

How would you feel if you could not do these things?

Stoop/Kneel

Reach Overhead

Write

Walk 2-3 Blocks

Lift 10 lbs.

Any of These

Check out this chart from our partners at InBody and the CDC:

Does this chart surprise you? Scare you?

I don't care what the average teenager thinks, 65 years of age is not that old. 

Certainly not to have your quality of life degraded to the point you can't walk a couple of blocks. Maybe there are a couple on there you have trouble with?

I have some great news!

It's never too late to get started. That's not just me saying it, I see it every day. Women and Men who have not exercised for years absolutely killing it in the gym. Not the first day, maybe not even the first year. But they keep with it and make it happen. Seeing it is my favorite part of being a coach. Sometimes there are very good reasons you are not able to do some of those things listed above, but I have never seen someone who dug in and really tried to improve their physical well-being fail to do so. 

As I share this I am approaching my 53rd birthday. I am grateful that I can still do all the things listed above. But I also know that this is not the time to start "taking it easy" when it comes to maintaining my health and fitness. As our bodies get older they actually require more appropriate activity and better recovery strategies to make incremental gains, or even just stay the same. Nobody said life was fair!

I've had the privilege to train some older adults in their 70's, and they are amazing. In fact they give me hope that I too can continue to lift heavy things and be active as I reach those years. I also have an advantage to younger coaches when training older clients; I know firsthand what a body in its sixth decade goes through, what it feels like after a heavy training session, and how it needs to recover. It ain't getting any easier, but it is being done every day, by people just like you.

I would invite you to read the entire article from InBody "Strength Training Has No Age Limit"

But even if you don't, here's the take home quote from the article.

Resistance training in older adults also increases power, reduces the difficulty of performing daily tasks, enhances energy expenditure and body composition, and promotes participation in spontaneous physical activity.

Sounds pretty good to me!

It really is never too late to start, so if you have been putting it off, now is the time. If you want to be an Athlete of Aging, you gotta get in the game, and you gotta play to win.

We can help.

If you are ready to get into the game, check out your Free 2-Week Tryout Right Here

Let me know how I can help.

Coach Dean

What Kind of Exercise?

In part 3 of our "Athletes of Aging" series we learned that exercise truly is the best medicine.

Do you remember why?

  • Exercise is rarely contraindicated. Almost everyone can do some form of exercise
  • Side effects? If you are training smart and with injury prevention in mind, some soreness from time to time is about it.
  • Exercise goes to the root cause, not merely covers symptoms.
  • And insurance can't tell you "no, you can't have that".

But what kind of exercise should we be doing?

First let's take a look at what a comprehensive exercise program should be trying to accomplish. Our exercise program should have a positive health effect on all the systems of the body we have discussed in prior articles:

Musculoskeletal

Cardiovascular

Metabolic

Neurological

Psychological

There are also the specific physical qualities we are trying to influence with our exercise program:

Strength

Power

Speed 

Endurance

Flexibility (to include mobility & stability/balance)

Body Composition

And there are various different types of exercise, or exercise modalities we can use to accomplish our health, performance and proactive aging goals, broadly categorized as:

Strength (Progressive Resistance) Training

LSD (Long Slow Distance) Training

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

or various combinations of those.

If you like biking, running, or swimming, you are going to gravitate toward LSD. If you prefer more time efficiency and are more of a sprinter than jogger, HIIT will probably be your preference. Either are a very positive step in the right direction. However neither one of those is complete enough, by themselves, to check off all the boxes of a well designed training program that affects all health systems AND addresses all the physical qualities. In fact Strength Training is the only one of the three which in isolation can influence the entire spectrum, even endurance (albeit to a lesser degree).

The real magic comes when combine strength training with either LSD or HIIT, with Strength Training and HIIT having the advantage when it comes to the time factor, which is huge for most of us. 

For those of you endurance junkies, it is also wise to consider this; 99.9% of you, by the time you are in your sixties and seventies, will just not be able to run 10 or more miles anymore. In fact it is likely even a 5k will be out of reach. But you will still need muscle, healthy bones, balance, mobility and yes, a measure of endurance. You don't want to be the one who falls and can't get up, and all those things will matter in accomplishing a task your probably take for granted now. 

It is no accident that when we design training programs here at Cr8 Fitness we focus on the exercise modalities that are the most comprehensive and are also time efficient. It's why we incorporate Strength (progressive resistance) Training and Metabolic Resistance Training (HIIT) into our Program design.

I use the words Training and Program very purposefully. Exercise and Training are not the same thing. Any type of activity that gets you up and moving can be considered a form of exercise; push mowing the grass, playing golf, walking the dog (or cat, if that's your thing). But Training is a whole different animal, (a unicorn maybe?)

Training uses specific types of exercise and manipulates variables (load, speed of movement, rest periods, to name a very few) as part of a long-term effort to improve one or more of the physical qualities.

The program is that long-term effort designed in a way to deliver the training exercises at the right dose at the right times, in order to elicit a positive response as measured by improvements in the physical qualities.

"Going To The Gym" and a "Training Program" are not necessarily, and not usually, the same thing. Good program design is rarer still. The necessity of good program design is why I am not a fan of gyms that offer a "pick and choose" menu of classes that you can drop in and out of at any time. Exercise - yes. Training - not likely. I'm too old to waste my time and effort in the gym on things that are less than optimal at best, and downright harmful at their worst. Injury in the gym may be unavoidable, but it better be rare, and it better not be happening by doing stupid stuff. Life is too short, I'd rather do what works, not just the latest craze.

And when it comes to that, Strength Training is King and Queen, which is why Strength Training rules! 🙂

Get Strong. Stay Strong. Live Strong.

See you next time,

Coach Dean

Is Exercise the Best Medicine?

In our last article in this series we discovered we often equate "medicine" with "drugs". In fact that is usually the way we think about medicine. Ask even the smallest child what medicine is, and the answer will be something mommy or daddy gives him to make his tummy or head feel better. And this true - that is one definition of medicine.

But let's center this discussion around the other definition of medicine.

"the science dealing with the preserving of health and with preventing and treating disease or injury"

Preserving Health.

Preventing Disease.​​​​

The interesting thing about modern medicine is that the more drugs that we invent, the farther away from the roots of medicine we travel. It wasn't until the last couple of centuries the focus turned away from prevention and maintenance of health to the treatment of disease. Again I am grateful for the drugs that have wiped some disease off the face of the earth and can treat the sick. That is good. But that is far different than creating concoctions that cover symptoms of largely preventable disease. And this trend toward treatment over prevention has created a false dichotomy; it doesn't have to be one or the other, when necessary it can absolutely be both. But prevention and maintenance should be the priority. 

Why?

A consistent focus on the maintenance of health makes the treatment of disease much less necessary. Yet we so often get it backwards. It isn't until some health scare wakes us up that we even think about prevention, and by then it's too late. Now we really have to get to work.

In the 4th century BC Hippocrates said "eating alone will not keep a man well; he must also take exercise. For food and exercise work together to produce health."

Did you catch that?

"Take Exercise".

I love that. We take exercise. so that we don't have to take drugs.

Exercise is truly the most powerful medicine in the world. I did not come up with this, but how often have you really thought about this as factual?

No drug in the world could ever be as effective as the power of exercise. Consider just a few of it's many benefits on:

Musculoskeletal Health

Metabolic rate, endurance, strength, power. Improved bone density, joint function, range of motion, connective tissue elasticity and strength.

Cardiovascular Health

Decreased resting heart rate, increased cardiac stroke volume, positive effect on blood pressure and lipid profiles.

Metabolic Health

Improved insulin sensitivity and blood glucose levels, positive changes in thyroid hormone, decreased systemic inflammation.

Neurological Health

There is so much we do not know about brain health and the preponderance of disease states such as Alzheimers and dementia. But there is a preponderance of evidence that the same mechanism that promote cardiovascular health also have a positive effect on the brain. Exercise decreases the loss of brain tissue as we age, and I don't know about you, but I need all I can get.

Psychological Health

How do you really measure "quality of life"? It is very different from person to person. But anything that helps you sleep better, improves your mood, and sharpens your thinking certainly contributes. Exercise does all that and more.

Not all people can (or certainly should) take every kind of drug. Some of us are allergic to certain meds, some are contraindicated depending on other disease states.

But Exercise? 

  • Rarely contraindicated. Almost everyone can do some form of exercise.
  • Side effects? If you are training smart and with injury prevention in mind, some soreness from time to time is about it.
  • Exercise goes to the root cause, not merely covers symptoms.
  • And insurance can't tell you "no, you can't have that".

So where do we start, and what kind of exercise should we do?

Stay tuned.

Until next time,

Coach Dean 

This article is part 3 of the series "Athletes of Aging"

1 The Twin Terrors of Aging

I think the effects of aging really hit me as I watched my grandparents bodies decline toward the end of their lives. They looked, and were, fragile. My recollection is that the first time I heard of Osteoporosis was in the context of my grandmother having it. It also occurs to me that these two were some of the hardest working people I ever knew; they had far from a sedentary job. They owned a small business, a bait and tackle shop in New Milford, CT. In the summers they would open at 5:00am and close at or often 7:00pm, and they were open every single day. Some of my fondest memories of my childhood were spending a week or two in the summer with them, as my grandfather had a route delivering bait and tackle, checking his chub traps, the shiner tanks sloshing around in his red International truck. There was a lot of manual labor involved. But even that wasn't enough to keep them from "The Twin Terrors of Aging" - Sarcopenia and Osteopenia.

twin terrors

Simply defined, Sarcopenia is the loss of muscle mass, and Osteopenia is the loss of bone density. These twin terrors have a cause and effect relationship on the aging process.

Losing muscle tissue (Sarcopenia) has been shown to cause a decline in your bodies ability to use glucose and a corresponding decline in insulin signaling and sensitivity. This becomes a vicious cycle, as a decrease in insulin sensitivity makes it more difficult for the body to grow and repair itself, which can lead to further muscle atrophy, which can lead to further decreased insulin signaling, and around and around we go. And don't miss the important distinction here. Muscle Atrophy is losing mass because the cell is getting smaller - this is largely reversible. But a muscle cell that dies is difficult if not impossible to replace. 

Bone mass has been shown to peak at about age 35 and decline with age. Our bones are living active tissue, and just like muscle if you don't give them much to do they will start to decline and you lose bone density more rapidly, which leads to Osteopenia, and can progress to Osteoporosis. 

And this leads to the frailty I saw in my grandparents - because of muscle and bone loss they became easier to break - they became fragile.

But let's back up a little. Why and how did this muscle and bone loss get started? While it might seem like it, nobody wakes up one morning after the "fragile fairy" visited, weaker and fatter. More than likely they have been experiencing a very gradual decline, which like a snowball racing downhill, becomes bigger and bigger as momentum gathers.

Have you ever been diagnosed with one or more of the following?

Hypertension - elevated blood pressure.

Dyslipidemia - abnormal amounts of blood lipids (triglyceride/cholesterol). In North America, this is usually hyperlipidemia - elevated cholesterol and/or triglyceride.

Systemic Inflammation - these can be measured with a Hemoglobin A1C and C Reactive Protein blood test, among others.

Insulin Resistance and/or Hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) - these were briefly discussed above.

Visceral Obesity - accumulation of fat around the internal organs. The InBody scanner at Cr8 Fitness is one way to get a measure of this.

Usually these disorders build on each other, and often lead to Metabolic Syndromewhich affects 1 out of 3 Americans.

Including, at one time, me. 

Yes. Yours truly had hyperglycemia, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, high visceral obesity, and if I remember correctly my A1C tilted toward the high side too.

Key word: HAD

So what can we do about it? 

That is the million dollar question, right?

Now I don't want you to get me wrong here. I am not a doctor, and I have a tremendous amount of respect for the hard work it takes to become one. There are realities of the system and constraints that medical professionals have to navigate and work within. But the cold hard truth is that much of western medicine is very broken.

If you look up the word "Medicine" in the Cambridge Dictionary, you will find the following definitions in the following order: 

  1. the science dealing with the preserving of health and with preventing and treating disease or injury:
  2.  a substance taken into the body in treating an illness:

I LOVE the words "preserving (health)" and "preventing (disease).

Yet I bet you if you asked, 9 out of 10 people would equate the word "medicine" with "drugs". And while there are certainly appropriate drugs to be taken in acute circumstances -  where would we be without penicillin? - I am talking about other kinds of drugs that function far differently.

In "The Barbell Prescription" Dr. Sullivan introduces a word, Polypharmacy, which he simply defines as "lots of drugs". 

It got me thinking. How many people do I know that take prescription medications regularly take only one?

Rarely do we see clients that are only on one med, usually there are three or four or more. Often we will see a diabetes drug (or two) paired with blood pressure medicine, maybe thyroid or statin thrown in, with a side of something to help indigestion, or just as likely constipation, caused by the other drugs. Prescription anti-inflammatory and SSRI's are also very common. 

Again, don't get me wrong. I am NOT "anti-drug", and recognize the necessity for these in certain situations. And I am not making a value judgement here, because I have no room to talk given my history.

But in my mind there is a crucial question and subsequent conversation we should be having. "What is this plethora of prescriptions doing to solve the underlying cause, rather than just covering the symptoms?"

Drugs are not like vitamins. You can have a Vitamin D deficiency. You do not have a Lisinopril, or Celebrax, or Zantac, or Cardizem deficiency. There is an underlying cause that is rarely being addressed simultaneously to the prescription being filled. 

And even worse is that some of these drugs can actually increase the rate of muscle and bone loss we discussed before.

Is that really healing? Preserving health and preventing disease? I think not.

Years ago I remember talking to a co-worker who had just been to the doctor. He said the doctor told him he was clinically obese, and if he got on a regular exercise program and good eating plan he could lose the weight, without drugs. But then he said (according to my co-worker), "Since I know you aren't going to do it, I am going to put you on X, Y, Z." I couldn't settle on if that was a bigger indictment of my (still unhealthy) co-worker or the doc. You decide.

Dr. Sullivan also pointed out an interesting thing about modern medicine. We don't generally don't die of syphilis and smallpox anymore. Instead we die of heart failure, stroke, myocardial infarction (told you he was a doctor) and dementia. And not when we are in our eighties and nineties. It's very common for any and all of those things to happen in our 50's and 60's.

I am not afraid of dying. But I have no desire to live longer if in reality it is just extending the length of time I hurt, don't want to move, and have no energy. And I am guessing neither do you.

So we've discussed one option to the "Twin Terrors" - drugs. Is there an alternative?

As an Athlete of Aging, I'll be you already know at least part of the answer.

We'll explore next time. Until then, take stock. If you take prescription drugs; Do you know what they are for? Do you know how they interact with each other? Have you discussed with your doctor a path to get off of any or all of them? If not, consider investigating these your homework.

Until next time,

Coach Dean

This post is second in a series called "Athletes of Aging".

Resistance Is Not Futile

This post is first in a series called "Athletes of Aging".

Nancy and I used to be huge fans of the TV series "Star Trek:The Next Generation". In the second season we were introduced to the Borg, a seemingly unstoppable collective of cybernetic organisms (how's THAT for displaying some ultra-geekdom?) whose phrase "Resistance Is Futile" has become a catchphrase in pop culture for any force which is deemed to be unstoppable.

But I am here to tell you that for those of us who want our best health and fitness, resistance in not only not futile, it is the best and most impactful of all.

The resistance I am referring to, is of course resistance training - training for power and strength. 

I have often shared with our expecting clients that being pregnant and delivering a baby is the hardest event many women will ever train for. It ain't for sissies, which is why they don't let men do it. 🙂

I have come to believe that while pregnancy is indeed one of the toughest events, there is one that is even tougher, for women and men.

Aging Well.

You see we are all going to get older, until we don't. But there is a big difference between being alive and living. Between having more days and making the most of the days you have. Between taking breath in and breathing life to those around you, for as long as you can.

I am going to do something that is not very popular these days. I am going to contend that there is a best way for the aging adult to train, and its foundation is by becoming stronger.

dumbbell

This isn't just my opinion. In the past few years there has been a virtual explosion of evidence, published biomedical evidence, that resistance training - training to get stronger, is key to slowing and even reversing many of the effects of aging. We don't have to get weaker, lose mobility and balance, and get fatter. We can actually gain muscle in our 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's and beyond, and reap the benefits that come with it.

Dr. Jonathan Sullivan, in his book "The Barbell Prescription: Strength Training for Life After 40", co-authored with Andy Baker, likens "every bout of strength training as a prudent deposit into a 'Physiological 401 K': saving strong muscle, hard bone, and full mobility for your retirement."

As we all know when it comes to our retirement savings, the earlier you start and the more consistent you are, the greater the benefits. It is absolutely no different in the "strength training bank of life". 

I am the first to recognize that strength training, more colloquially known as "lifting weights" is not the only form of exercise. And again I will contend it is to be the foundational modality of exercise, the "mother modality" if you will. We start with strength training, and we remain focused on strength training, now and forever. All other forms of exercise rely on this simple fact - you must be strong enough to actually do them. Yes, even walk. We strength train so we can do the other activities we enjoy doing, because when we are stronger, we can do them better. 

It's also why I like the term "resistance training", because we can create resistance in many different ways and with many different tools. Bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, leveraged bodyweight resistance with a tool such as a TRX suspension trainer, and many others. But there is another word we need to add to the equation - Progressive.

As in "Progressive Resistance Training". In other words we must consistently be seeking to increase the resistance - the load we are working against - as our body adapts to the load we are currently putting it under. Put simply, to get stronger, you gotta keep lifting heavier. At some point some modalities that may initially increase strength when you start doing them; yoga, pilates, biking, swimming - all wonderful things mind you, will no longer be able to add to the strength and muscle you already have, and certainly as not as efficiently as progressive strength training.

You will also note that I use the word "Training" very purposely. There is a huge difference between "Working Out" and "Training".  "Working Out" refers to what you do for exercise, but that is not training. Training encompasses so much more than that. 

Training is exercise that manipulates training variables (load, speed of movement, time under tension, rest periods, to name a few) as part of a long term program designed (purposeful word) to improve one of more of the general fitness qualities - Strength, Speed, Power, Endurance, Flexibility.

Training also includes what happens outside of the gym - recovery, sleep, stress mitigation, nutrition. We call this "The Other 165" - the hours you aren't in the gym exercising. You must treat those hours as seriously as the hours you are resistance training if you want to remain healthy, injury-free, and continue to progress.

What do you think of when you think extreme sports? The X-Games? BASE jumping? Cave diving? 

Extreme all, for sure.

But it's those brave souls who take on the ultimate challenge against an unbeatable foe (for who among us will ultimately cheat death?), who daily take up the mantle of training for their best life by continuously seeking to learn and improve, and to strengthen body, mind and soul, who are the most extreme athletes of all.

These are the Athletes of Aging.

Make no mistake, when you train, you are an athlete. You may not feel like one, or think you act or look like one, but you are. 

Embrace it.

Posted right in front of me is a note card that is titled "My Why":

To be as useful as I can 
To as many people as I can
For as long as I can

I'm not going to accomplish that sitting on my tail feathers all the time, and neither are you. 

It's time to join the resistance.

Get after it!

Coach Dean

You Are Not A Unicorn. Recovery Matters

Recovery Week is April 21 to April 27. Enjoy!

Ever since we opened the doors of our training gyms, recovery weeks have been built into the training schedule. This is not an accident. Neither is it just "vacation time" for Dean and Nancy, although those are the only weeks we can schedule time off.

To me recovery is instinctual. Training hard is taxing on the body and the mind. There is a point where your CNS (Central Nervous System" says NO MORE, and training starts to make you worse, not better. Our goal is that you never reach anywhere close to that point. We were doing "recovery" before recovery was cool, and we ain't a gonna stop now! 🙂

You might be cute, but you are NOT a Unicorn!

In fact proper recovery between workouts is factored in as we design your training program as well. It's one of the reasons we do not have regular training on Wednesdays. Two days on, one day off, two days on, two days off is by design. More is not better, better is better.

As I have gotten older, I have become even more sensitive to recovery. I recently read a book by science writer Christie Aschwanden called "Good to Go". The subtitle is "What the athlete in all of us can learn from the strange science of recovery".

"Strange Science"?

The science of recovery is pretty new, and there are some pretty weird, wild and yet-to-be-proven things that people do to recover. From recovery pajamas to float tanks, the book examines it all.

When it comes down to it, what we are trying to do is recover from the systemic stress that is placed on our body and mind on a daily basis. This is hardly just training stress. Work, kids, traffic, politics, illness - you name it, there are a lot of stressors in life. We want to manage the overall stress load in order that we can achieve physical and athletic improvement. 

The biggest take home I got from the book is no secret - the #1 thing you can do to de-stress, and enhance recovery is sleep. Not always easy, I know. You are talking to a guy whose alarm goes off before 4:00am. I get it. But I do what I can to get as much as I can whenever I can.

I have used a lot of different tools to measure my recovery over the years. Right now I am testing a piece of software called RestWise, which monitors overall training load based on objective measures such as Resting Heart Rate (RHR), HRV, SpO2, and Weight fluctuations, as well as subjective measures such as energy and mood. It's pretty interesting, and they boast clients from pro sports teams and olympic athletes. 

If you don't want to get that fancy, one of the simplest ways to monitor your recovery is to measure and log your Resting Heart Rate every morning when you get up. I use one of these $15 devices to take my pulse and SpO2 every morning - takes about 30 seconds. If your RHR is trending up, it's a good sign your recovery is compromised.

The bottom line. Enjoy your recovery week. It is a purposeful part of your training plan, and just like your don't want to miss workout days, you don't want to miss recovery days. You WILL NOT de-train in 7-10 days, so chill out - you are NOT a unicorn.

If you want more on the science of recovery, keep reading. 

Train Hard. Recover Harder.

Coach Dean

---

Our recovery weeks are what I would call Macro-Recovery. In other words we take a planned week off every training phase in order to let the body rest up from hard training and get ready for the next phase.

The Recovery Curve

I saw the recovery curve for the first time during my time with Australian physical preparation coach Ian King. His principles laid the foundation for the way we program, train and especially recover here at Get Fit NH. The principles that work with professional athletes apply to us too!

The following illustrates a “good” recovery curve:

The green line represents what we are all looking for – continual, never ending progress over time. We are getting stronger, faster, thinner, better looking (ok at least that’s what I wish for).

Reality Check – ain’t gonna happen. The process of changing your body is not linear, in fact what we are looking at in an optimal training environment is more of a “One step back brings me Two steps forward”.

A closer look at the chart will help explain what I mean.

The red line represents Equilibrium. This is where your body wants to stay, no matter if your goal is losing fat, gaining lean, or both. As you have no doubt found out, forcing your body to change is hard work – really hard work. When you walk into Get Fit NH, our training is designed to elicit that change. But it’s not as simple as “working out” day after day after day. In fact as I am about to illustrate, training without proper recovery is actually hurting you, not making you better.

The blue line represents the “recovery curve”. Starting at the left hand of the chart all the lines intersect. For this illustration that point is where your first training occurred – you “worked out”.

But what’s going on?

Instead of performance going up, that line is actually heading down – this is what is called Depletion. If you think about it makes sense – you have worked hard, you are fatigued, your body is depleted of nutrients – you are spent!

Don’t worry, your body will get over it, if you treat it right! This is what we call Adaptation. Your body wants to be able to handle the increased demand that was placed on it, and starts the process of getting better.

You are in charge of if and how fast that happens. A few of the factors that influence this adaptation include recovery nutrition, stress levels, sleep habits, supportive nutrition, age, and training history.

The recovery curve continues with Supercompensation. Here is how Coach King describes this process:

“It is only when recovery is allowed that we see the super-compensation effect, the unique phenomenon where the bodies physical capacity is elevated in response to training, in anticipation of another exposure to the same stimulus.” – King, I, 1999/2000, Foundations of Physical Preparation

In other words your body has gotten better in response to your training, a new Equilibrium is established and this state is when we will ideally train again. Our programming at Get Fit NH is carefully designed to give this the best chance of occurring, but as I hope you are discovering, you have a lot to do with this with how you treat your recovery!

As you can see, when things are clicking, this process when repeated over and over means you are getting better and better, the blue line is headed up – pretty cool!

The flip side to all this is what happens when the recovery process isn’t working so well.

This chart represents recovery gone “bad”:

When we continue to train in a state of “Depletion”, regardless of the reason, the adaptation to super-compensation effect doesn’t occur, and instead of getting better, we find ourselves in a downward cycle. This can happen when we train the same muscle groups too soon, when we haven’t taken the steps described above to recover optimally (sleep and nutrition for instance) regardless of time between training, when we train too hard coming off an illness, etc. The last thing we want to happen is new equilibrium to be established in a downward pattern – not good.

The long and short of it is your body absolutely needs to recover from hard training. Consistently training in a fatigued state results in injury and illness. Your body is an amazing machine designed to put up with a lot, but it was also designed to need rest. Recovery weeks provide that rest.

If you want to know more about the recovery tools I use and why you should consider them, hit me up and let's talk.

- DC

5 Power Pointers For Fending Off Father Time

In my last article I shared my "Why" for training and taking care of myself the best way I know how. (Finding Your Fitness Focus In February)

To be as useful as I can.
To as many people as I can.
For as long as I can.

That "why" has changed for me as I have gotten older. When I was in the service I went to the gym to lift weights because I wanted to get bigger and stronger. And while those things remains on my radar, they serve a purpose greater than only wanting to look good. Being strong, flexible and fit means I can put in a good days work without being trashed, and still have something left for my family. 

Aging happens. There's nothing you can do about getting older, except dying. That's the bad news. The good news is that you are not the first person (or 100,000,000th person) to get older, so we can see some patterns to how the aging process works. AND we can do something about fending it off. 

Here's are just 5 of the ways you can "Fend Off Father Time" and live your best life now and for many years to come.

1. Brush Your Teeth and Floss

Gum and teeth health are not only an appearance and quality of life issue, but an overall health issue as well. Gum disease is associated with an increased risk of heart disease; in fact according to the Harvard Health, people with gum disease are twice as likely to have heart disease. AND poor dental health leading to bacterial infection can actually damage your heart valves. Yeah, brushing and flossing is that big of a deal.

2. Learn To Fall and Get Up

Coach Dan John shares that after age 55, statistically, the most dangerous thing we do (outside of commuting to work) is shower. At that age and above, slipping in the shower, falling on ice, and being in a traffic collision are worse for our longevity than anything else. Being able to get on the ground and get back up is THE skill to master and retain as you get older. There is a reason we do balance work, work down on the floor, and do "Get Back Ups" around here.

3. Use Sunscreen

Your skin isn't just a cover for your muscles and bones. It is a living, active organ, and one of the most important ones of the body. As you age, your skin gets thinner, dry, and less elastic. Using sunscreen and moisturizer helps keep it from prematurely aging and protects you from the environment. And PLEASE! Do not ignore moles or spots that change over time. Doing so can turn the small inconvenience of getting them checked by a doctor into a big problem, like skin cancer. Be nice to your skin, and it will reward you with better health.

4. Exercise Your Mind

Never, ever, ever stop doing the things that keeps your brain active. Reading, learning a new language, take up a new hobby, journaling - these are all things that keep the mind strong and healthy. And keep your "fat head". The brain is made up of about 60% fat, so don't avoid getting essential fatty acids (EFA) into your diet. And yes, this is a plug for you taking a high quality EFA supplement such as SFH Omega 3 - it does your body AND brain good.

5. Move Your Body

It's not a secret that our bodies deteriorate as we age. Muscles lose size and strength. Bones get smaller and less dense. Your tendons and ligaments follow suit, and mobility is lost. Coordination and balance start to go.

BUT...

There is something you can do about all that. And that something is exercise. But not just any old exercise is ideal. Yes, walking is good for you. And cardiovascular exercise has its benefits. But NOTHING is as effective to slow down the systemic decline of aging like resistance training, strength training, weight training; whatever you want to call this kind of training. Loading the muscles through a full range of motion, regularly and appropriately is key to maintaining an optimally healthy body as you age. And you don't have to lift a kajillion pounds. You just have to work on progressively loading and making the body respond by getting stronger over time. Get in here already! 🙂

There is no fountain of youth - sorry. No magic pill, lotion or potion that has been or will ever be found that will make this body live forever. But don't let keep you from taking action and doing the things you can do to live "useful" for as long as you can.

Brush Your Teeth. Learn To Fall and Get Back Up. Use Sunscreen. Exercise - Mind and Body. And for crying out loud, don't smoke).

Be PROactive. Do It Now.

Make It Happen!

Dean

Injury is a Teacher

I am reminded often that getting older is not for sissies. For those of us who live in New England, I think that is why it is so fascinating to see an athlete like Tom Brady maintain a high level of performance in a very demanding game for so long. He said this morning on WEEI he wants to keep playing for a few more years, although he only negotiated with Gisele for another year. I bet that's getting as difficult as winning another Super Bowl!

I have been training off and on with weights since I was a teenager. (Unfortunately for a number of years I was a lot more "off" than "on"). I have never had a severe training accident in the gym which caused me to miss a bunch of time. But there are times I have done something unwise which put me out of commission for a few days.

If there is one thing injuries have taught me over the years is this:

Avoid Them At All Costs!

Now you may be thinking "no duh", but don't dismiss the obvious. Getting injured is not only about accidental slips and falls. Sometimes the "come out of nowhere" aches and pains are the cumulative effect of ignoring the seemingly minor. 

Here are three things you shouldn't ignore:

1) Attention To Properly Warming Up.

I didn't write just "warming up" for a reason. Being present and going through the motions is not the same as giving attention to it. Focus on each and every movement, work to complete the full range of motion, and spend the time getting focused for your session.

2) Pain.

There IS a difference between pain, tightness, and soreness. I designed this poster with the input of Dr. Brett Coapland at Performance Health a number of years ago. The take home on this? Your coach needs to know! 

2) The Stress of Daily Life.

I want you to train has hard as you should, every day you are supposed to be here. And yes, I said "should" not "can" purposely. None of us our at our best 100% of the time. The teacher of experience has taught me when to go full bore and when to back off a little. Technologies like HRV monitoring keep me honest about it. Learning this has also kept me from making the mistake so many of us do - not training when we don't "feel" like it. I don't feel like it more often than you may think, which is why I have training partners and why training with a coach and group that will keep you accountable is vital to long term success.

Injury is not something I want any of you to experience. The good news is - being proactive and paying attention to the "Big 3" outlined above can go a long way to preventing it. 

Remember. You can't train if you have a serious enough injury. If you are tight, sore, or in pain, let us know. That way we can help you or refer to someone who can. Eat like an adult. Sleep like a baby. Train like your best life depends on it.

Because it does.

Coach Dean

P.S. Please share this post by clicking the buttons below or to the left. Facebook is our friend! 🙂

1 2 3
>