I have a congenital back condition. One I can barely spell – spondylothesis. While having been a pain in the proverbial, it has also been an essential part of my relationship with my body and the ongoing exploration of the body and its relationship to health and wellbeing.
When I was thirteen I was given particularly bad advice from the medical profession. That I should avoid using my back and strengthen my abdominal muscles. The result of which was bad posture, more pain and an ever-weakening back.
On my journey, I tried just about every treatment out there to try and help and I have the scars to prove it. Yoga, shiatsu, osteopathy and acupuncture to name a few. Each had their benefits, but I found the results limited.
Now, however, my back is better than ever and I never have to resort to pain killers for it. So what made the difference? Weights. Heavy weights. Very heavy weights!
Studies have shown that only training abdominal muscles, as often recommended, to be ineffective in helping back pain and that was certainly my experience.
Research published in the Archives Of Physical Medicine And Rehabilitation showed that near maximal muscle activation is achieved during heavy compound exercises such as deadlifts. This muscle activation causes the back muscles to strengthen dramatically, supporting the spine and allowing stressed, locked and knotted muscles to finally relax.
Back pain accounted for 34.4 million lost working days in 2011. More than any other illness. It’s a big problem that can be helped by big lifts.
How heavy is heavy? You should be pulling around 70% of your 1 rep max (the heaviest you can lift 1 repetition of), which also happens to be around 10 reps with the tenth repetition being the last one that can be done while maintaining good form.
The deadlift is simple in some ways. It’s just picking up a heavy weight and putting it down again. However, it’s also fairly technical with a lot of details that have to be got right for it to be a safe and effective lift. So much so, that many trainers shy away from teaching their clients how to pull (deadlift) properly.
For me it’s been such a life saver that I find it absolutely essential for just about everyone. I’ve seen back pain and posture improve in so many of my clients. I find it well worth the effort of investing my time and attention teaching people how to deadlift safely and effectively.
Ok, so christmas is here and you’re piling on the pounds. Beating yourself over the head with the metaphorical stick to force to you in to the gym or to take control of your eating might seem like the only way you’ll get off your bum, but you’re actually setting yourself up for failure.
Well, No one likes to be told off right? There’s only so much abuse anyone will take before you turn around and say, “you know what? screw this!”. Even if the person doing the abuse is yourself.
The truth is that you did all that eating and drinking for underlying good reasons. To share time with friends, because the weather is cold, because you were under the weather or even cos you were feeling a bit down and wanted comfort. It happened – it doesn’t make you a bad person. Don’t beat yourself up.
In the new year, you want to get a bit more serious? Great. Ask yourself why you want to make changes. Because you loved how you felt when you were slimmer or you hate the feeling of your flesh bulging out over your clothes. Whether your motivation is towards a way of being you love or away from something you hate – it’s equally valid. Carrot or stick. If you make a list of reasons and see that most of them are to avoid something, then you are more motivated by the stick. But instead of beating yourself up, just acknowledge what it is you don’t like, be honest with yourself. and then decide what you are going to do about it.
This will generally fall in to 2 camps – eat less and move more. So simple and somehow so…. seemingly tricky!.
Below are some common areas that women want to improve. I will address each one in turn giving advice on each area.
Want a flatter more toned tummy? Well the bad news is that doing untold crunches is not really going to help you. There is no such thing as spot reduction of fat. You cannot choose what area of the body your system will burn fat from. You need to get your body into a fat burning state overall.
The good news is that you don’t have to do untold crunches. Yay!
The way to do it is be active for 5 hours a week – dance, run, cycle, climb, weight train, circuits, workout dvd. Choose fun stuff you like that you will stick too.
To get your body into a fat burning state there are three main factors. insulin, leptin and moving around.
Insulin keeps your blood sugar level safe by controlling spikes in sugar by turning that sugar into fat. Guess what – sugar makes you fat!
The more starchy and sweet carbs you have the more insulin you release. The more you release the more your body gets used to it and so the more you have to release further! A bit of a vicious cycle which creates a superhighway in your body turning sugar into stored body fat.
Leptin’s role in the body is varied but it is very much involved with feeling satisfied. The more often you eat the more you release leptin and the more you, again, get numb to it. The result is that you don’t feel as satiated by food as you should.
Wo what are these to factors saying? Don’t eat refined startchy carbs or sweet things as they spike the blood sugar levels too much. Startchy carbs include rice, potatoes, bread – all that stuff. And sweet things include chocolate and, well, sweets.
The other take home message is – don’t snack! Just don’t. You need to retrain your hormonal system to work more efficiently for you and if that means a couple of weeks of being hungry between meals, so be it.
The idea that you need to eat 6 times a day and to eat breakfast in order to maintain a high metabolism is just an old wive’s tale. If you are the sort of person that has breakfast and then is hungry an hour or so later and all day – then don’t have breakfast! Also, if you aren’t hungry in the morning – then don’t have breakfast!! If you are trying to lose weight – why eat when you’re not hungry!
guess, what? see above.
Do weight Training.Properly executed heavy squats, dead-lifts and military presses should be the bread and butter of a weekly or twice weekly workout regime. Also work on Sky-divers/back extensions and planks. This will give you a very strong core and back and a robust body all round. It will also help you maintain a strong upright posture and keep your running more efficient. You’ll also be less prone to injury.
- Don’t lose weight in order to go faster. Some people are tempted to shed a few extra pounds in the last couple of weeks in order to have less weight to carry around the course. Don’t! Any extra speed gained by being lighter would be negligible, however, you’ll risk significantly reducing your strength, energy and glycogen stores, making the whole thing much harder and slower.
- Do make eye contact. Connecting with others on the race and even during training will make you feel better and help with a sense of camaraderie. This will help make the challenges of the running more bearable. Also connecting with any charity that you’re running for and all the good your raised money will do will inspire you to keep going when it gets tough.
- Don’t buy special sports clothes. Any special wicking properties of so called high-tech materials are pretty irrelevant once you’re proper sweaty. However, if you like the figure hugging effect or that it helps you get into the right frame of mind or even that you like it cos it dries quicker after washing – then crack on.
- Don’t buy special sport gels. As far as race nutrition goes, the most important thing is that you can stomach it and digest it on the hoof. Carb gels are designed for the purpose but can be pretty gross. Kit-Kats are preferred by some people I know. The advantage of sports gels is that they often have added electrolytes is which good as you’ll have been sweating a lot. You can also get a similar effect from coconut water, bananas or having a bit of salt. It is essential that you practice the race nutrition on your long training runs to see what you best get on with. If a race is being supplied by a particular gel or bar, get hold of a few in advance to see if you like them.
- Do eat more protein. You need protein to repair muscles after training to make you stronger for your next run. After each training run chug down a pint of milk or a protein shake. You can also get protein from food like chicken, fish etc, but a shake is a lot easier when you’re knackered.
- Don’t drink too much water. On the day you absolutely need to keep hydrated, but if you’re constantly drinking water you’ll only need the loo which means jelly legs afterwards and obviously having to stop means you’ll be delayed getting to the finish line.
- Do take an old top to the start line. It’ll be pretty nippy at 7am when you are standing around waiting for the race to start. Take a top you want to donate to charity for before the start. You can get rid just before you actually set off and volunteers will take it to the charity shop for you.
- Don’t eat curry. Eating anything spicy or too fibrous in the day before the run is a bad idea as long distance running loosens the bowls, so anything that might make that worse is best avoided. You’ll have enough on your plate without worrying you might poo yourself half way round.
- Do have a drink the night before. If you’re used drinking moderately during your training then a small, and I mean small, tipple the night before might not be such a bad idea. It’ll help you relax and hopefully get better sleep than you would anyway. It might even help top up the glycogen stores in your muscles.
- Don’t worry about all those runs you didn’t do. No one has ever done every single training run on their programme. As long as you’ve been reasonable consistent you’ll be in good shape. Don’t try and catch up when you should be tapering!!
- Do enjoy the race! All the hard work is done. All that running in the cold and dark is behind you. You’ve put in the miles, now you just have to have a blast.
2. You’re At A Loss At Where To Start
3. You Don’t Like Gyms
4. You’re Bored With The Same Old Workouts
5. You Want To Be Pushed
6. You Want Confidence To Workout On Your Own
7. You're Motivated by Accountability
8. You Have A Specific Illness, Injury Or Condition
9. You’re Training For A Sport Or Event
10. You Want Supervision And Support During Workouts
Studies, such as the one carried out by Dr Carrie Ruxton, have shown that eating 2 eggs for breakfast compared to a bagel based breakfast leads to people eating 200-400 less calories throughout the rest of the day. The 2 compared breakfasts had the same calories, but the people who had the eggs were not as hungry by lunch time and so ate less. My advice? Eat eggs for breakfast. Or indeed any protein rich “real food” such as smoked fish, leftover chicken.
Ditch the cereal and the bread. It’s junk, unsatisfying and damages insulin response in the long run.
Worried about eggs increasing cholesterol? Don’t! The British Heard Foundation dropped it’s advice to limit egg consumption in 2007! Eating cholesterol does not increase blood cholesterol in the vast majority of people and even if it does, there is no evidence that this increase leads to heart disease. In fact the yolks contain most of the nutrition like the much needed omega-3 fatty acids, cretinoids and other vitamins.