Tagged: health

Why Walking Doesn’t Cut It

When I’m driving my kids to school and heading to work, I see a ton of people out in the mornings for a walk.  Sometimes with an animal, and sometimes holding a set of Nordic poles.  Enjoying nature, and getting in a great workout, right?  Well, as with anything – it depends.

The top thing I hear from potential clients who are overweight and want to lose weight and get more active is “well, I walk.”  The invention of the FitBit and devices like it have made getting in 10,000 steps a day a bit of a craze.  And I’m all for people getting more active and healthier, but for the majority of people who really want results like weight loss, more strength and pain reduction, simply going for a walk isn’t going to get you there very quickly, and here’s why:

Walking Isn’t Intense Enough

To change the body, you need to provide a stimulus that is beyond what you normally do.  Now, most people will think walking for 20 minutes is great – and if it’s more than you normally do it might be.  However, most people simply go for a stroll at lunch and expect to lose weight.  Simple math will tell you that this walk burns 140 calories, which is replaced as soon as you eat an apple.  Even five days a week the calorie equivalent is basically one good solid hour long workout of high intensity.  This is again, better than nothing, but please don’t expect any miracle weight loss.

Nordic walking at 4 MPH (which is quite fast for most people) burns 220 calories in 30 minutes.  This is with the added pole movement.  It feels great – and can be excellent for your mental health – but for fitness it is a bit lacking.

Walking will make you better at – walking.  Unless you’re getting your heart rate up significantly you’re not getting any cardiovascular improvement.  Unless you’re performing some body weight movements along the way (which is very easy to do) you’re not getting any strength improvements.  So, what’s the benefit?  One might be getting away from a seated position for a little while and destressing in the outdoors, but this again won’t give you any benefits for strength or weight loss.

People Use It To Justify Overeating

The amount of times I’ve heard “well, I went for a walk” at Starbucks while a person digs into a caramel latte could fill ten books.  It’s the equivalent of the ladies who do Zumba or Aquafit at the gym and then promptly order a sugar loaded smoothie at the juice bar (often because they think it’s healthy – thanks, smoothie bar owners), instantly replacing every calorie they just burned.  Plus, because they went to the gym that day I’m sure an extra glass of wine is fine at dinner.  And then they wonder why they aren’t losing weight.  Unless you’re paying attention to your nutrition weight loss simply isn’t going to happen.  It’s a massive part of the equation.

This does not mean that you need to severely restrict your diet!  There are simple changes you can make to support your new healthy habits (read my article HERE if you want some tips).  You can still enjoy social time with friends and drink green tea or something that isn’t loaded with calories.

It’s Easy to Overdo It

I deal with overuse injuries on a daily basis.  In fact, just because I spent the past weekend in Toronto and walked everywhere even my joints are a bit stiff today.  If you suddenly take yourself from zero to a hundred without any progression then it’s easy to run into problems in your hips, knees and feet and ankles quite quickly.  Then you get discouraged and stop.  Many people join a group or start walking way too far way too soon because “it’s just walking”.  It’s still loaded movement and repetition.  The last thing we want is for you to get discouraged or injured before you even start, and walking is one of the chief culprits for this.  Don’t even get me started on running.

So What are your Solutions?  Again, there are some easy ways to ramp up something as simple as a walk and it doesn’t mean you have to run, enter an idiotic boot camp or kill yourself.  In fact, for beginning exercisers this is a recipe for disaster.

It’s fairly simple to increase the intensity of a simple walk into something that will provide some results:

Get Your Heart Rate High, Even For Short Intervals

Studies show that increasing your heart rate to over 83% of your maximum for even four minutes can have a remarkable effect on your heart and lungs.  This doesn’t mean you need to run – simply walk faster and with deliberate speed.  It won’t take long for your heart rate to increase to the point where you are getting out of breath and you feel your muscles burning.  Then stay there.  Use the timer on your phone or other device and hold onto that level for 3-5 minutes.  Even one minute has an effect, you just have to do more intervals.  This is called interval training and it’s been proven to be the most effective method for increasing heart and lung capacity.

Add Some Strength Work

People seem to think that strength training is this horrible thing you need to do in a gym.  Almost daily I provide simple isometric exercises for people they can do literally anywhere against a wall.  In your office, at home or even at the gym with zero equipment required you can still generate strength.  Do me a favour right now and find a wall.  Stand with your back to it, rotate your foot out and left the side of your foot into the wall.  Feel your butt fire?  Great – push a bit harder and hold it for 30 seconds.  Hang onto something if you need to for balance.  You just gave your glute a workout.  Most people while walking barely use their glutes at all because of the motion they are doing – so do this simple isometric (and a few others) in between those interval bouts – and give yourself some strength work at the same time.

All day long you’re going to pick things up, put them down, rotate your trunk, sit, sprint for the bus and many other things that need joint strength.  It’s easy to add this into your daily walk with isometrics or bodyweight movements.

This may seem like a simple breakdown – because it is!  Taking something like walking as a healthy habit and turning it into something much more effective over time isn’t difficult.  If you’re trying to introduce this into your life, feel free to reach out for more detailed suggestions.  I have an entire isometric at home system that I can share with you.

And, as always feel free to comment, tweet, add me to Facebook and reach out if you need anything!

5 Nutrition Basics You’re NOT Doing

I have clients who constantly talk to me about nutrition.  I’m not an expert (even though my first certification ever 17 years ago was in nutrition) and usually will refer out if someone is looking for specific advice.  Meal plans can be found readily online (for free, don’t know why people pay money for them), but people simply don’t stick to them.

However, there are some universal nutrition items that come up in everyone I deal with who is trying to lose weight or change their body composition.  These are some harsh truths, but I hope they resonate with you.  It’s nothing complicated.  As with exercise, people obsess about the last 10% when they should be focused on the first 90 for real results.  These are simple fixes and don’t take a lot of effort to adjust, but the results in a period of time can be staggering.

Here’s a quick list of 5 nutrition basics that you’re probably NOT doing:

You DON’T eat vegetables, or enough of them.

Most of us default to vegetables being a second thought when it comes to what goes on our plate.  It’s a side at a restaurant that isn’t even considered beyond what kind of topping you’ll get on your baked potato.  We will also eat fruit instead of vegetables and consider that just fine because it’s the same thing.  Well, it’s not.

Fructose is more easily converted into fat – if you’re overeating, which most of you are.  If you’re eating within your caloric energy requirements then it gets converted into blood sugar like any other carb and you use it for energy.  However, if you want to remove that small risk (and greatly reduce your calories to boot) try changing out your banana for some carrot sticks or celery.  1 large banana is 140 calories and a cup of carrot sticks is 50.

You don’t get rid of starchy carbs when you can. 

“Hey, instead of the pasta or mashed potato side can you just double my vegetables or give me some rice?”  said nobody in any restaurant EVER.  They will do it, by the way all you have to do is ask.  This falls under the heading of portion control.  One small serving of (1 cup) ravioli can be 200 calories and a cup of broccoli is 30.  In a restaurant where you can actually control what they make and that you are PAYING FOR is where most people don’t limit the choices they should.

When was the last time a restaurant gave you a portion that was 1 cup?  Again, never.  This leads to overeating.  If you now look at menu items in a typical restaurant you will see how loaded they are in calories (thank God for that) and that you can eat literally half and be just fine.

You don’t limit your added sugar intake.   

One of my clients’ husbands literally took one step and started drinking his coffee black instead of double double at Tim’s.  He dropped 8 pounds in two months DOING NOTHING ELSE.  Traps like specialty coffees at Starbucks or protein smoothies which are touted as good for you are the worst culprits.  I can’t count the amount of women who would do a group exercise class and then head down to the front desk for a “healthy” smoothie loaded with frozen yoghurt, replacing every calorie they just burned plus extra and wondered why they weren’t losing weight.

There is hidden sugar in many things we consume all the time, so adding more into it isn’t a good idea especially since again – more sugar in the blood gets converted to stored fat FIRST.  Believe it or not, if you eliminate it for a couple of weeks you may go through withdrawal.  That’s how prevalent it is in many things.

You don’t track your calories.  Honestly.

Fitbits and other wearable devices have made exercise accountability easy and mindless.  If only there was something you could do to track your calories.  Oh wait, there is!  There’s probably about 100 apps you can load onto your phone, and god forbid you have to type something into a database and press a couple of buttons.

Many of my clients complain it’s too hard and I give them my patented withering look.  It takes five minutes a day.  Literally.  Delay the Netflix queue and input it and BE HONEST.  If you had a handful of M+M’s at work, that goes in there.  If you had sugar in your coffee or a glass of wine, it goes in there.   You don’t stop recording on the weekend because “you were bad” and feel guilty.  This is called self control and consistency, both of which are exactly what you need to lose weight.

You indulge “once in a while”. 

Be honest with yourself.  If you were, you would realize that the reason your weight isn’t under control is because you reward yourself and indulge way too often.  Once a week MIGHT be fine for some people, for many it isn’t if you have a serious goal and a commitment.  If you’re exercising intensely several times a week (which again, most of you aren’t – be honest) then you can get away with more.

That means ONE drink at Starbucks, not 3-4 times a week.  That means ONE decadent dessert a week, not a couple of cookies every night.  It means getting in touch with the reasons you’re eating the stuff, not just eliminating it.  All those brownies, chocolate, sodas, restaurant food and French fries add up over time.  And it takes time to eliminate them.  Yes it tastes good.  And yes, it helps when you’re stressed or feel like you need a hit to calm you down or feel better.  But if it’s contrary to your goals then just STOP.  Take a good look at your habits and figure out what patterns you have or what your relationship with food is and adjust it accordingly.  Easier said than done I know, but it is the right step to take if you want to get your weight and health under control.

There you have it. 

Did any of these resonate with you?  Maybe more than one of them?  Well, the best time to start a new habit is today.  Don’t worry about days past and failed diets and bad things you have done previously.  Today you can start a new habit.  Start with the five items here and work on them and I can guarantee that you’ll be in a better place months from now.  Get CONSISTENT.

As always, if you enjoyed this feel free to share and like it, or subscribe to my Facebook page.  Comments are also always welcome.

An Update from the Institute

Wow, it has been about six months since I’ve posted a proper article on my site.  Due to lots of personal stuff and my business exploding in May time to sit down and write has been minimal at best.  I also have some exciting side projects that I have been working on, but I wanted to touch base with my readership and let you all know what is in the works.

First of all, for those of you who haven’t experienced it yet, ISOPHIT has become an integral part of my practice.  The results have been nothing short of amazing for providing new stable joints and allowing people who have limited range of motion to strengthen muscles without having to risk any issues.  I’m still offering FREE workouts on this apparatus if you want to experience it any time, just contact me.

I’m heading to Toronto in October to finally take the first part of the ISOPHIT certification program (I took the second part in April) and gain some more knowledge about the apparatus and how to apply it effectively.  It’s really a game changer.

The second part of the Joint Injury Management Series is almost completed!  Due to schedules I don’t know if I’ll be able to roll it out this year and may have to wait until next year to get it going, but that just means I can do it back to back with my initial course again on the knee.  This one focuses on the shoulder and will help fellow trainers and other therapists learn pathology and solutions for things like rotator cuff problems, labral tears, tennis elbow and more!

The third exciting thing is I’m finally putting together a short Ebook on total back care and recovery from back injury.  I’m excited to say that this offering will be FREE and will provide comprehensive information about your spinal health including recovery movements, strength movements and some things you can focus on to make sure back injury never comes back once it’s gone!

So essentially besides training my clients all the time I have a lot on the go.  If you have any interest in anything I’ve discussed please let me know and I’m happy to sign you up for updates and get you on my mailing list for the new Ebook and course offering.  Just click on the subscribe button at the top right!

And, as always you can follow me on Facebook and other social media outlets.

Just a quick update for today, but much, much more to come in the future from the Institute!

Read This Before You Hire a Trainer

It’s a New Year and gyms are flooded with people with the best of intentions.  They’ve set a weight loss or other fitness goal to work towards in the New Year.  Many of them have never been in a gym or haven’t used their membership in a long, long time.  So what’s a good idea?  Hire someone to help keep them accountable and help them with your goals, right?

Now before I go into the negatives, I believe strongly in my industry.  A good trainer is worth their weight in gold towards keeping you accountable, safe and progressing towards better health and physical movement.  Someone who is dedicated to their craft, learns constantly and uses many types of tools depending on the client.

The reason for this article is that in most chain gyms this is rare.  The personal training world has no barrier to entry.  I can direct you to a web site where for $200 and doing a quick multiple choice exam (which I got 92% on without studying a thing) you can get a certificate as a personal trainer.  Many certification courses out there aren’t much better than this.  Goodlife for one actually has their own training certification (called GLPTI) their employees are forced to go through (and have to pay for themselves) that teaches sales techniques, not proper training principles beyond periodization.  Here in Ottawa, I recently learned that another big chain gym (Movati) is doing the same thing now.  It’s not about results – it’s about money.  Sales drives the training industry, especially in chain gyms.

Training also has its’ share of people who really don’t care.  Most trainers (80%) leave the industry within two years and get into it for the wrong reasons.  They want an easy way to make money because training has a high pay rate per hour while they can work where they like to hang out – the gym.  At the beginning, maybe they have good intentions but quickly realize that they aren’t going to be working with athletes and fitness models and have to get up at 5am to service people.  So their motivation is gone, and therefore your results.

So what can happen is a lot of people who really need help hire a “trainer” who has no knowledge or intention to really do a good job.  Or, at most chain gyms you book a “free consultation” (ProTip:  EVERY TRAINER OFFERS THESE, IT ISN’T SPECIAL).  You get paired with not who is the best fit, but who has an open time that fits yours or a new trainer who needs to fill their schedule.  And you get results – maybe – or possibly a higher risk of getting hurt or bad advice.

So here’s my recommendations of what to do when anyone starts looking for a trainer, either at a chain gym or elsewhere.

Do Your Homework

Chain gyms often have a wall of trainers, with lists of their skills and certifications.  The newer ones will have less – or have things like “former college athlete” on their bio along with their one certification.  This is to fill space, it isn’t a qualification.  They will also be a lower level therefore cheaper to hire.  This isn’t necessarily bad, it is just an indicator that they haven’t been around as long and possibly don’t sell packages well (ProTip: At most chain gyms, the “Level” of trainer is based on sales – not skills.)

Read the bios, then if you find one that you think sounds like they have qualifications to match what you want – go find them.  Preferably WATCH them with a client.  Some things to look for:

  1. Are they paying attention and focused on the client?
  2. Are they writing things down or recording somehow (some use tablets now)?
  3. Are they coaching and correcting when needed or just counting reps?
  4. Are they doing proper rest periods or chatting for minutes between sets?

Then – if they seem to be doing all these things – approach them (or the manager) and ask specifically to meet with them for a consultation.  I’ve been doing this job for over 15 years and my consults are my time.  Why?  Because I as the trainer need to know if we are a good fit to work together, and sometimes I need to refer people to someone else if we’re not.  I just recently did this with a friend of mine because she wanted something I don’t specialize in, even though she wanted to work with me.

If you’re going the independent or at home trainer route, make sure to ask for references from people who have similar goals to yours.  Any good long term trainer has lots of happy clients, even if they are former clients for whatever reason.  If they can’t provide this simple thing, then you might want to be wary.  You also want to make sure that their style and facility matches with things like your location and how they will motivate you since you likely can’t see them work with people ahead of time.

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Don’t Fall For Sales Tactics

A good trainer will have a plan, but if a potential client asks me how long it’s going to take to get to their goal my first answer is I DON’T KNOW.  I can give a rough estimate, but it depends on a variety of factors, the biggest of which is your adherence as a client.

Many trainers will sit you down and say “It will take x amount of weeks at this phase of training (usually using big words like hypertrophy or mesocycle) to get to the next phase, we go through these phases and then you’re at your goal!”  Hooray, right?  But that’s over a period of 9 months and most will tell you you need 3 sessions a week to get proper results.  Don’t get me wrong, you get the best results with more sessions – but cost (and time) is a factor for most people.  Any trainer who says you MUST have this amount to reach your goals is trying to sell you something.

But wait – the total amount might be $$$ but we can stretch out that amount and you can pay for it over 12 months instead of 9, so it’s affordable.  And then they start in with telling you all your flaws, or reminding you of that dress you want to fit into in six months and try to shame you into signing a big contract.  I had a former co worker who prided herself on making people cry during consultations.  Many trainers are really very good salespeople disguised as experts.  It’s a huge pet peeve of mine and honestly it disgusts me.  However, many trainers are hired by gyms for sales skills, not training skills.

A good trainer has a plan – but it is adjustable and takes into consideration things like time, budget and realistic situations.  Most of my client roster basically had three weeks off schedule recently because their kids were out of school for holidays.  A good trainer will adjust based on these circumstances.  If you are in a specific phase of training then it can be extended, adjusted or whatever you need.  Life happens.

If it sounds more like you’re buying a used car than hiring someone for a service then please think twice.  The person should be telling you about how they are going to do things, not haggling on prices.

Don’t Sign a Long Term Contract

You’ve found a good trainer.  You’re getting results, you get along and they seem to be a good fit.  Excellent!  But one day your trainer tells you that they are changing to a different gym that is inconvenient for you – or worse, is leaving the industry.  There are little to NO safeguards that you can get your money back if you have paid them up  front.

A chain gym will simply assign you another trainer (it’s in your contract).  If you do your vetting process properly as in my previous paragraph this may work out well.  But they will NOT give you a refund.  Find another trainer that is a good fit for you and hopefully you can continue on the road to results.  However, if you never signed a long term contract in the first place you can potentially move with the trainer which might be a better option.

If it is an independent trainer, then hopefully they are ethical enough to refund you, but this can be drawn out, and if they are more of a salesperson than a good trainer then likely they will simply disappear, especially if they are leaving the industry.  Buyer beware.  It’s much safer just to not have a long term commitment paid for up front.  If a potential trainer is trying to get you to sign something for a long period of time, be careful and ask for options.   (ProTip: Sessions should not cost less just because there are more of them, no other professional does this type of thing.)

Don’t Be Afraid to Fire Your Trainer

One thing that should drive the personal training industry is SERVICE.  Just like any other industry.  If your trainer is showing up late, constantly cancelling or rescheduling and you’re not getting the level of service you want then have a discussion with them about expectations and if they don’t meet them, you have the right to find another one who meets your needs.

The trainer/client relationship is often fairly close and can develop into friendship (which some trainers take advantage of in my opinion) so a client can “feel bad” for asking for good service from someone they are paying for a service!  This is ridiculous.  You’re paying $1 a minute for service – not a chatting partner or rep counter or someone who just doesn’t feel like working that day.

Just like any other professional, you have the right to expectations, and so does the trainer.  I can count on one hand the amount of clients I’ve actually fired myself over fifteen years, but it has happened.  Don’t be afraid to re-evaluate and do what is best for yourself and moving towards your fitness goals.  Any professional will understand.

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I applaud any of you who are looking to improve in 2017 and work towards getting healthier and in better shape.  Set some short and long term goals, and remember the key to your success is consistency over time.  The journey is worth it when you realize how good you feel and how much you can move without pain.  A good trainer is a partner in that journey with you and I hope that you all find good ones.

If you want to reach me for inquires within the Ottawa area or elsewhere you can reach me at strengthrehabottawa@gmail.com or head to my web site at http://www.srottawa.com if you have questions.  I’m always happy to help.

Happy New Year!