Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Psychology beats physiology, EVERY time.

 I'm constantly reminded of this quote that I first heard from Alywyn Cosgrove years ago. It holds true with almost everything that I do. This simple statement dictates whether or not you will fail, or succeed.

  Let me give you an example.

 Let's say that you were going for a run. You have been doing a lot of sprinting lately, and you are trying to beat your 400m time. You lace up, grab your stopwatch, and go outside. Starting line. You imagine yourself pushing hard, and as soon as you hit that button on your stopwatch, you take off like a rocket. You pump your arms, drive your legs up and manage to run it in 1:03. Awesome. Your lungs burn and you can feel your heart in your neck.

 Now, let's say you take that same scenario, and set it up as a race. There you are on the starting line, with 7 other sprinters. You can feel that same heart beat in your neck before the race even starts. BOOM! Gun fires, you run. The crowd fuels you, and you push past the other runners to come out on top. You finish in 56 seconds. Awesome! That's far past your personal best. But, what has changed? Your training was the same, but now there was a much larger psychological factor involved.

 Next. You are walking down the street. About 400 meters ahead of you, you see an accident happen (you have amazing eyes, relax) and you hear a woman scream about her child. Dressed in street clothes you sprint as fast as you can to the scene of the accident to see if there is anything that you can do. You get to the scene of the accident in 50 seconds. How? You aren't even wearing your training clothes? Your dress shoes have as much support as a bath mat. How now, can you beat even your race time? Psychology. It was even more of a factor.

 Last one. You are hiking in the woods. It's a gorgeous day. You see a camp set up 400 meters ahead of you. You start to walk briskly towards camp when all of a sudden you hear something behind you. You turn to see a massive grizzly bear about 100 meters away from you, and he looks hungry. You drop your gear, ignore all running form and scream like Chris Tucker all the way to the camp. You barely close the door behind you when you hear the bear growling at your feet. WAY too close. But, you just ran a 400 meter, on rough terrain, in 44 seconds, while flailing your limbs. Was psychology a factor? A bear almost ate you, of course it was.

 The human mind is an incredibly powerful machine, capable of taking you places that you never thought possible. We are the ones holding ourselves back. I see it all of the time, training clients at All Canadian Fitness. I will have someone performing a deadlift (if you don't know what this is, you need to start deadlifting immediately) and I will put a 45 pound plate on each side of the bar, making it weigh 135 pounds. I then set it on the floor at look at them. They look at me, look at the bar, and immediately say, "No, I can't do that, that's too heavy." RIGHT THERE, they have already effectively talked themselves out of succeeding. Sure enough, when the time comes, they walk up to the bar, set up perfectly, attempt the lift, and it doesn't budge. They look at me with disappointment, and the 'I told you so' look. Ok, fine. I take the large plates off of the bar, replace it with a 25 pound plate and two 10's on each side, (which is still the same total weight) and set it on the floor for them. These plates are much smaller and look less intimidating, but mentally, to the client, I just removed 500 pounds from the bar, when in reality it's the same weight. They look at me and say, "That's much better." They walk up to the bar confidently, and though it looked tough, they always pick the bar up. What changed in that situation? The weight? Nope, that was still 135 pounds. It was the state of mind the client was in. Instead of the initial self-defeat when they used the bigger plates, they KNEW that they could pick up the bar when the smaller plates were loaded on. Psychology beat physiology.

 I want everyone to stop talking themselves out of pushing their bodies. Push your limits, and you will notice those limits become non-existent. If you are worried about an activity, or something at work, imagine how you will feel once you complete it, close your eyes and IMAGINE yourself completing it. Chances are, the anticipation of the activity, is much worse than the activity itself. And, if you keep building it up, and building it up, it becomes an impossible monster that you will always talk yourself out of doing.

  Pick one thing this week that is bothering you, close your eyes, and take a few minutes to complete it in your head. Now, make that a reality.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A little can go a long way

 Everyone usually takes the start of the year to write about resolutions. As much as I disagree with the whole idea of it all, January is a time where almost everyone sits down and thinks about their goals and where they want to end up in the coming months.

 FITNESS. It's usually pretty high up on everyone's list. Whether it be get back to a sport they lost a few years ago, run a marathon, or start working out 4 days a week, everyone usually sets pretty ambitious goals. I love goals like that. It sets the pressure to really push yourself to succeed. Unfortunately, it's not for everyone. If you are someone that already carries a very hectic schedule, then maybe finding the time to train for a marathon, or get to the gym 4 days a week can seem a little daunting. Where do you start? The end goal seems so far away that people usually give up.

 I see it all the time at the Studio. People come in who haven't exercised in years, their eating habits are atrocious, and I ask them what their goals are. Everyone has these unrealistic ideas as to what it is that they have to do in order to reach their goals. I hear the same few comments all of the time;

 "Ok, I guess I have to start eating salads now..."
 "I suppose I have to take up running.."
 "I am going to be practically starving myself..."

 I am here to tell you that you don't have to think like that. If you have terrible eating habits, and skip out on certain meals, why would you go straight to thinking salads are the answer? I tell people the same thing. If you don't eat breakfast, eat breakfast. The next question is, "Ok, well, what do I eat?" My answer is always the same.

  "Whatever you want."

 Get your body into the routine of eating breakfast first, before you even think about the foods you are putting into your mouth. Consistent, scheduled eating works wonders on metabolism as well as energy. Don't try to run before you know how to walk. . isn't that how the saying goes?

 That is a good 2 week goal. For someone who hasn't eaten breakfast in 10 years, making their body eat that early will be tough. Who cares about the rest of the meals in your day. Start with breakfast within an hour of waking up. Simple. Once breakfast becomes regular, you will feel better and probably even start gravitating towards more healthy food options anyway. Drop a rock into the pond, which in this case is eating breakfast, and watch the ripple effect in the rest of your nutrition.

 This same pattern is seen in exercise as well. I can't count the number of joggers I've seen in the last 2 weeks, most with horrible form - kind of resembling someone in a bad horror movie running from zombies..

 Chances are that they won't keep that up for long. It's too hard on the joints, and discouragement and pain are bound to set in.

 Why not just walk? If you go out for a walk for a half hour, it's probably more than what you've done in a few months. It's safer, easier, and you won't have people asking you what you are running from and if they should join you.

  All I want is for people to start thinking about smaller, attainable goals before they think about the final result. Goal setting is imperative to success, but you need to know the road to take. It's like grabbing a map, getting in your car and saying, "I'm going to China," and pointing at China on the map. You can drive west as far as you want, but eventually, you will drown. Instead, grab your map and a pen, figure out the fastest route, realize that there are obstacles along the way, and make a clear, concise plan with pit stops to check progress, to ensure success.

   Going from 0 to 100% is unrealistic and very difficult. Why not just take a few weeks and get from 0 to 10% first?

Monday, September 17, 2012

I am offering you an opportunity....

  Alright..  I'm getting better. I'ts only been TWO months since the last post. I have been very busy in the last little while, really trying to make a name for myself in the Hamilton fitness community. Recently, I have been featured on the radio for my work with clients, on the news as a post rehab specialist, and am currently finishing a book about sitting, the havoc it wreaks on your body, and how to fix it. Needless to say, my free time is limited.

  So, I am really writing this blog today to get the help of a select few individuals. We can benefit each other. If you are in pain, RIGHT NOW, and you have a job where you either sit all day, or have long commutes, I want to help you.

 When my manual is finished, I need a test group. I need 5 indivuals that want to take a copy of this book FOR FREE, and follow it like it's the bible. I want you to do all of the exercises, and purchase the 2 KEY pieces of equipment that I talk about in my book. Then, I want you to either write up what you liked, or what you didn't like, and how it has helped you, for me to use as testimonials. Unfortunately, I haven't assessed any of you, or your movements, so this will be quite generic in the way that it wont exactly be tailored to your needs, but if you do everything like I ask, it *should* alleviate some of your pain. In this book, I explain to you what exactly happens when you sit, the pain it causes, and how to fix it. I want you to understand how your body works, and why it isn't working correctly. Anyone could skip over the chapters and say, "Blah blah blah, only my knees hurt, so I'm just going to skip all of this other stuff. Well, in this 50 page book, EVERYTHING is connected. You wont fix your knees without looking at your hips and ankles, and you wont fix your lower back without looking at your hips, your butt, and your upper back.

 My book is called "The Sitting Solution" and will be available for retail purchase sometime in the next couple of months. Like I said, within the next couple of weeks, it will be free for 5 people who want to dramatically change their posture, get rid of pain, and just move better. If you have pain in your upper back, chest, lower back, hips, knees.. . . this book is exactly what you need. There are no gimmicks here. 5 free copies to the first 5 people to send me an email. I'm not in this to make money (at the moment). . I'm here to see if my over 5 years of studying and trial and error with clients have paid off. I want pain to be a thing of the past for you.

    Now, the ball is in your court. Send me an email, these spots will go quickly.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Now, onto the MEN.

    It's been about 4 months since my last update (I know, pathetic) but in that time,  have managed to be hospitalized for heart problems, get branded (don't ask), be smitten by a young lady, work about 12 hours a day, and spend as much time with my little squirt as possible.

   In that time, there has been much reflection as well. I have been interested in possibly going back to school for kinesiology at McMaster - but as of 2012, they no longer accept mature OR transfer students.. So that idea was scrapped. Then, it was massage therapy. This was something I've always been interested in as well, but after a coupld of days of arthritic pain in my wrist from a prior accedent, I don't know if that is the right avenue either.

   Keep in mind, I never wanted to stop being a triner, just kind of expand on what I am doing now, and make myself a bit more accredited academically. I am now taking some seminars online, and will continue to try and help clients with their mobility issues and the constant obsesity epidemic that plagues our society.

     (Tiny side note - I may be featured on CHCH news in the near future for my work on hips, and helping people understnad that life isn't over becasue you are in pain, you just need to find someone willing to fix it, and don't just let someone tell you that if golfing hurts, stop golfing - I'm incredibly excited.. . I'll keep you posted as I get more details)

 OK! Now, the reason for this blog. I had gotten quite a good repsonse from my last blog post ages ago, about women and their postural likeliness to a certain creature from the Triassic period....  BUT, I also got some flak for not addressing men and how they are becoming more and more like the Hunchback of Notredame.

  So, ladies - this is my rebuttal. Here it comes men. Put down the gaming controllers and sit up straight when you read this - I'm about to fix that nagging shoulder/low back/neck problem you have been living with for so long.

 Well, I will start off by saying that it is not only women that suffer from anterior pelvic tilt (see last article) but a lot of men have this imbalance as well.. . myself included... But, that is not what I have stopped by to write about today. It's kyphosis, fellas.

 Kyphosis is now becoming the norm. I see people every day hunched over; whether it be in their cars, at their desks, on the couch, in front of the computer.. . it's constant. Unfortunately, society plays a huge role in this. I am one of the lucky ones who is able to be up at both jobs, never really getting a chance to sit down. I I am very fortunate in this respect. Others, are not so lucky. If you are sitting at your desk right now, pay close attention to your posture. You probably have your shoulders rolled forwards to reach your keyboard, with your head pushed out towards the monitor like a turtle peeking out of it's shell. Stop that. Sit up straight. Now, there is a big difference between sitting up straight, and pushing youyr chest towards the sky like someone shoved a popsicle down the back of your shirt. Imagine there is a string on the top of your head, and it is "pulling" you upwards. It doesn't have to be dramatic, just subtle. Try doing this every day, as many times as you can remember.

 "But Bryan," you ask, "why do I need to do this?" Well, superstar, let me tell you. Being rounded in your upper back and having forward head posture is very detrimental to your activities away from your desk. Do me a favor and stand up. Now, exaggerate this rounded shoulder posture. From there, I want you to try and raise one arm straight in front of you, and over your head. It wont go. You can "make" it go, but then you compensate by using your low back and really hyperextending your lumbar spine. Now, do the string thing I told you about earlier. Stand tall, and raise an arm above your head. Easier? Exactly. There is a simple test to see how much you absolutely suck at something as simple as raising your arms above your head. It's called a wall slide. This is the link.

    It consists of getting against a wall. With your heels about 5 inches away from the wall, push your butt, your upper back, your elbows and your forearms against the wall. Now, slide your arms up and down the wall and see how far you can get. Also, make sure you aren't forming an upper case "C" with your lower back to compensate for your problem. Keep your low back nice and close to thwe wall. Embarrassed? Now, get your girlfriend to do it. More embarrassed? You should be. Now sir, we fix it.

    Obviously I can't assess you all. So, what I will do is give you some generic corrective exercises to hopefully fix this problem. Do these a lot. Think about how much you are stuck in that terrible position. Doing these once every 2 days is not going to help. Start with every morning. Then, do them every morning and every night. You will feel like a million bucks after a month. You will excel on the field (if you play sports) you will excel with the ladies (nobody likes a hunchback) and you will excel in the bedroom. (Ok, maybe not that last one, but you get my drift.

  #1. Stretch Your Chest - You aren't going to be able to wake up any of those posterior postural muscles if your chest is ridiculously tight. And chances are, it is. Do this. Hold it for at least 45 sdeconds. Build up to holds of 2 minutes.

  #2. Side Lying Rotations - 2 sets of 10 each. This one is good because it works on extension and rotation in your thoracic spine. You don't need an actuall medicine ball under that top knee, just something to keep that knee elevated so your hips stay neutral - so that you don't use your lumbar spine for any of this movement.

  3#. Quadraped Thoracic Rotation - 2 sets of 10 each. This one is relatively simple. Get on all fours and I want you to sit back on your heels slightly (he isn't doing this in the video) and keeping your abdominals braced and an elbow against your head, follow the movement in the video and make sure you follow your elbow with your eyes.. Only go as far as your upper back will let you, don't do this with your lower back.

  #4. Wall Slides - 2 sets of 10. These are the first exercise we tested with. Do them now, after you completed these. Much easier, is'nt it?? I know, I know.... I'm like a magician.

 So, my soon to be "mobile friend". . .  enjoy these excercisesand let me know of your progress. If I can help even one of your rounded freaks out there, I'm a happy camper.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Skinny Girls and Office Workers - Pay Attention!

   Ok, listen up. I'm going to talk about a subject that I see now with almost all of my female clients - it is especially noticeable in the skinny ones. . now that the nice weather is out and the clothes are getting tighter it is very easy to spot.

 3 sexy words - Anterior Pelvic Tilt.

   You know who you are. You are the women who either wear heels all day or who sit at desks for the majority of the day. You are the women who complain of back pain and have flat stomachs that tend to stick out. You have a low back curve big enough for a family of small birds to make a nest and raise a family in.

  I can tell as a woman is walking to the back office for a consultation if she has a desk job. We've all seen Jurassic Park. Remember the velociraptors? Minus the hissing, this is essentially what I see. Shortened dorsiflexors, excessive lumbar curves and slight kyphosis. There are actually a few women who even have the limp wrists like the raptors do, but I wont get into that now. I hope they don't read this..

   So, what do we do to fix this?? I hate to say it, but if you want to have a long and healthy, pain-free life. . . .ditch the heels. Ok, maybe just don't wear them so much. I know, you look gorgeous, but it has to be done. Believe me, I hate to say it - I love the way women look in heels, but they just aren't natural. Think about how you feel after a day of heels. No woman is like, "Wow! That was incredible! My feet feel amazing, and I feel like I could run a marathon!" No. They hobble around and want foot rubs. Nothing wrong with a good foot rub by the way.. I'm just saying, foot rubs don't usually just end with foot rubs - think about it, men.
   I am on my feet here at the studio for sometimes 11 hours at a time, training clients, bending and lifting, and I feel like a million bucks at the end of the day.  

 Ok, we need to get down to business. There are a few things we need to do in order to combat the heels (since I know no woman is going to get rid of them) and prolonged sitting.

   First! Get the range of motion back in your ankles that you've lost over the years.

 Ankle mobility drills -

        Just gentle rocking back and forth. Move 10 times towards the front of your foot, 5 towards your big toe and 5 towards the little one. 3 sets. 3. . . .4. . .maybe even 5 times a day.

   Second! Stretch out those hips - Reduce the amount of "velociraptoring" - new verb -

        Make sure to keep upright with your upper body and try to actively squeeze those glutes on the back leg. Hold for 1 minute each side. "Feel" the stretch.

   Third! Get those glutes working again.. this will help with the back pain and help pull your pelvis back into proper alignment.

         Focus on making your butt work and not your hamstrings! Really concentrate and play around with the distance from your feet to your butt.

   Lastly!! Pull that core back in and find neutral spine..

          Now, this may look like nothing, but you have to really focus on keeping your low back flat during this whole exercise - fighting to maintain this will be more difficult depending how long you've been in your raptor mode. Tilt your pelvis back and slowly exted one leg out all the way, keeping it about an inch off of the ground. Bring it back in and switch legs. If your low back comes up at any time, start over. It may take some practice, but this will REALLY help with your posture by strengthening all of those stretched out, weakened core muscles.

   So - office workers.. . as the clothes get tighter, make sure your posture isnt making you look bloated. Fix yourself up, and you will thank me when you are in your bikini.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Getting Beach Ready

Ok.. . So it's that time of year.

  Winter bulk is over. (I didn't put on 50 lbs this year, only 15) Now, I know that eventually in the coming months, my shirt is going to have to come off in a public setting. I started the winter at 170, and am now about 185. A few lbs *could* be muscle, but I drank like a fish this holiday season, and I can only pretend so much.

  I've always said that up until you are in your mid 30's, winter bulking is completely acceptable in order to put on some quality mass. After that, you can still do it, but it gets harder for you to lose that added weight. It's not impossible, and I know people that are the exception to the rule - but for the most part, it gets harder as you age due to the slowing of your metabolism and your body's response.

   So, now I need to come up with a plan. It's relatively simple and I've made it work for myself the last few years. Find what works for you. I know people that can do 3 full protein days in a row with no carbs at all for 72 hours. Well, let's get one thing straight. If I go for more than 24 hours with no carbs, everything starts to look like a potato and someone is going to get bit. I get hazy, cranky and start to be really bitter about life. I just can't do it.

  So, I incorporate a carb cycling approach. I still like lifting heavy while I "cut". There are many benefits. I get to keep the strength that I have accumulated over my bulking period, and I wont lose as much muscle as if I just completely switched to cardio based exercises. I keep my cardio to fasted morning runs (or walks if I'm feeling lazy that day) and the biggest change comes in the food that I stuff into my face.

  I have high carb days and low carb days. I will explain the difference and why I do it the way that I do. My high carb days fall on my heavy lifting days. I need the extra energy to maximize my performance on my big lifts and the added glycogen (sugars from these carb sources) does just that. I'm eating leaner protein and my fat content stays roughly the same. Now, the big difference comes on my low days. I cut my carbs down to about 50g per day (roughly 2 slices of bread) and make sure to get cardio in on that day. Now, what this does is depletes your body readily available glycogen stores and your stored fat is more likely to be used as a fuel source when that happens. I replace the carbs with lean protein and greens as to keep my total calories at a decent level. So, on the days I am lifting and eating high carbs and protein, my body can be slightly anabolic, and on the days I am jogging and eating less carbs, I will be more catabolic and elicit a different response from my body.

  I start this early in the season as I don't like counting calories...  It's a lot of work and I just don't want to do it. I'll eat this way for a couple of weeks, to see if there is a loss without cutting down my total calories by too much. If I am losing too much (more than 1.5lbs per week) then I will add in more calories. If I am not losing, I will simply cut my calories down by 2 or 300 a day. It's relatively simple.

  As you can tell from my previous blog posts, I really don't like to complicate things in my nutrition, or my life.. haha, so this works out perfect. So now, by the summer, I shouldn't be this pale mess that sits in front of this computer and writes this blog.

   Feel free to try this approach yourself - let me know how it goes.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

 Yesterday I had a client who came to me complaining about low back spasms that she was having last weekend. Now, this client is the epitome of perfect health. Middle aged, works out with me twice a week, does yoga twice a week and is in very good shape. Yet, she had this terrible back spasm in her RIGHT spinal erectors  (vertical low back muscles) whenever she raised her LEFT arm overhead. She attributed it to having a problem with her low back. She was up all night that night stretching and icing. Nothing helped.
  So, I suggested she move her focus from her low back to her shoulder. Her back didn't hurt when her arms were at rest, they hurt when she forced that overhead movement.
  Too many people look at just the affected area. That area may be the source of all of your pain, but it's not necessarily the source of the problem. Chances are, it's a symptom of a much bigger issue.
  In this woman's case, that was exactly the problem. I did some range of motion and mobility tests on her shoulders and upper back and her left side was lacking almost 1/3rd of the right when it came to mobility. On the right side she was fine, but as soon as we started forcing extension through her left side, she compensated by leaning back with her low back instead. This happens a lot, and is a huge factor of low back pain in a lot of clients that I see.

  So, I could have had her do some soft tissue work on her low back, stretch the hell out of it, even suggest that she get a massage.. But, I always try to take a step back and see how everything else is moving. At the end of her session, the back pain was gone and the range of motion in her thoracic spine and shoulder were improved dramatically. Even something like pain in hip musculature on your right side, can be caused by tightness in the shoulder on the left side.

  I am trying to take the same outlook on things that are happening in my life. I can take things day by day and worry about the little things that are happening, or I can step back, get complete control of my life and put things in place that ensure that I will get to where I want to be. Living day to day is tough, it's full of unexpected surprises and you never know what's coming next. Getting rid of that tunnel vision and preparing for these things before they happen is much easier. So, next time that you get cut off in traffic, or your bread falls peanut butter side down, step back and figure out how it's going to affect your entire day or even your entire week.