Warning – challenging content ahead!
Please only read on if you are prepared to have a serious conversation with yourself about your health choices over the next month; and if you are willing to not only set up a plan to survive Christmas, but to come out the other side feeling great about your choices!
As mentioned in a previous blog, we are currently facing a seasonal conundrum – our environment is against us! While we try to stay healthy, and perhaps even get in better shape and fitness to enjoy summer more, we are also being invited to more parties, with more food, and more drinks! And it’s hard to say no, as it is the ‘silly’ season after all, right?!
… but are we happy with the outcome this will lead to? How will we feel on the 2nd of January? Groggy, heavy, lethargic? Or energised and vibrant?
So, we have an interesting choice to make. We can go with the flow, and let circumstances and the environment dictate what happens to our health OR we can take a stand against the status quo!! In an earlier blog I shared iNform’s mission to help you push back against this environmental tide. We personally and professionally understand how tough it is to stand strong when everything and everyone around you is pushing another glass of wine or cheese platter your way! However, we would not be true to our calling, or doing our job; or doing you any favours for that matter, if we didn’t challenge you, and support you, to make this year different!
So lets make a plan to survive Christmas!
How will we do this? Well, I’ll share some practical tips to help you along, but of primary and most significant importance, is the choice you will need to make. Because at the end of the day, it will be you who will need to implement change; and that will be so much easier once you are convicted that it’s because you TRULY want to change. Your picture of yourself at the other side of Christmas in great health needs to be more important and real, than the desire for short term satisfaction that will come from over-eating… Are we ok so far?
I’d like to ask you some questions, which you should answer to yourself:
- How do you want to look and feel on the 2nd of January? (you may have some specific goals, such as an actual weight; scale of 1-10 of ‘wellbeing’; or an outfit you want to feel comfortable in.)
- How good will it actually feel if you achieve that goal, and why?
- What are behaviours that you feel put you at greatest risk of not achieving that goal? (such as eating too often/too much, etc)
- How good do those behaviours ACTUALLY feel when we do them? Have you experienced that sometimes the ‘idea’ of those behaviours is actually more powerful than the behaviour itself… for example, if drinking a lovely wine and eating cheese was actually SO good, you would be doing it all the time right? But you don’t, you can actually put those behaviours aside… see where this is heading?
- I hope this next question doesn’t sound patronising, as I certainly don’t mean it to be so…. Can you have a good time at a gathering without overdoing your particular behaviours in question?
- How much better will you feel when you get home from that party and you succeeded in not overconsuming??!
- Does that feeling of victory and control outweigh the short lived feeling had you eaten/drank more than you wanted… How nice to not have to regret anything, right?!
The process above is aimed to give some context to the behaviours you chose. It really comes down to a choice of ‘short term satisfaction vs long term pain’ OR ‘short term control for long term satisfaction’! Why would you choose the former?? Why do we tend to? Most often, because we just ‘go with the flow’… we don’t stop and take stock of the consequences, as we would with other behaviours. So if you just read through the numbered questions above without giving them some real thought, can I encourage you to go back and spend some time on them?
The process won’t necessarily be easy, but it will be worth it in so many ways! And as the ‘Quit Smoking’ ads encourage us to do: if you fail the first time, try again! you will get closer every time you do. Very importantly, don’t be harsh on yourself – these behaviours in question have been in place (in one way or another) for a very long time, in addition, the environment IS against you, so you have these two battles on your hands. But you have us by your side, every step of the way! If you would like our support through this process, can I encourage you to take advantage of our “Line in the Sand Campaign“?
As I’ve been writing this I’ve realised that this will be a short series of about three blogs, so part 2 and 3 will be out shortly!
Are you enjoying the warmer weather we are having in Adelaide? Have you started to attend a few extra barbeques and ‘Christmas’ parties already?! I certainly feel like the social calendar is getting busier, and so the demand for time is increasing. So I’d like to share with you my strategy for exercises to burn more calories over christmas!
Increased Strength Training to grow the ‘metabolic engine’ and burn more calories
This year I have increased my training both on the bike and in the gym in preparation for my next big cycling challenge, which is going to require much larger amounts of strength than my last (bike ride from Melbourne to Adelaide!). One of the side benefits of this extra strength training has been greater muscle mass, which I have certainly felt has helped my capacity to absorb some of those extra calories that I have eaten at the extra social events!
I feel like at this time of year we face an interesting conundrum, where on one hand the desire to get in shape for summer is matched by the gathering momentum of parties around us! So I have two thoughts for you to help you succeed this summer:
Structure your exercises to burn more calories over Christmas
There’s no question that the best way to avoid an expanding waistline is to a) limit caloric intake, b) eat wholesome foods, c) do the right types of exercise. But lets be realistic, ‘a’ & ‘b’ are particularly hard to do during the silly season (but not impossible, and a blog is coming up soon about this!), so ‘c’ can be a great way to shift the needle in the right direction. The key, considering the reduced amount of time we have because of all this socialising (!) is to be efficient. This means lifting as heavy as you can and exercising at the greatest intensity you can. Both of these strategies will ensure the best return for your time. My favourite work-out at the moment is alternating heavy deadlifts with push ups. This combination results in pretty much every muscle in my body being worked with just two exercises. Due to the very different nature of these exercises, I can back them up and do quite a few sets of each in a short period of time.
There are many different combinations you could do, but as a rule of thumb, focus on exercises that target large muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, deadlifts, pressing movements like push-ups, and pulling movements like chin ups or rows.
Partner an upper body exercise with a lower body exercise, so that while you are doing one, you are resting the other body part. And if you don’t have access to weights, then alternating a body-weight lower body exercise (such as squats or lunges) with some push ups (for example) will do the trick!
We can help with more guidance on this to ensure that your technique is good and you get the best out of your exercises!
I’m reading an interesting book (by Sonia Arrison) at the moment that explores the health changes we need to make to ensure we live an extended, and healthy, life. A quote from the book really jumped out at me and I’d like to share it with you:
“We cannot (or should not) outsource our own lives. In whatever capacity we can – as intellectuals, scientists investors, voters, cultural leaders – we must take ownership of the future. In order to win, we must fight! We are not mere spectators.”
What stood out to me from this quote is that at the end of the day we have to take a front step to change our situation. There’s no question that our environment, and in fact society, make it difficult for us to remain healthy, especially this time of year. So we have to make a choice to resist that momentum around us! My follow up blog to this one covers a process that will help you approach the festivities in a way that will see you succeed and avoid the extra calories in the first place!
Our commitment is to help and support you with that, so don’t hesitate to contact us!
I’m not surprised you may not have enough time to exercise, or to look after yourself. It is very clear that our society has it’s reward system back to front; despite the evident negative outcomes such as lack of energy and stiff bodies. I’d like to take this opportunity to boldly share with you our mission at iNform to push back against this tide and urge society to start rewarding differently, more smartly. We will be fighting the status quo for your health!
Invest a small amount in exercise and be rewarded with productivity
The research is very clear that when we invest a small amount of time out of the day for some brisk exercise, we get paid back in stamina and the ability to do more. Yet, our society does not reward this “timeout”. In executive circles, constant pressure to perform, whispers are hard to ignore that time spent at the gym or working-out is a waste of productive time. We have all bought this lie.
So, here’s a simple challenge that will pay you a solid dividend. Find 20 minutes before you leave for work in the morning, or build a half hour break time into your day, treat it as Stephen Covey’s Urgent And Important task, and get in a walk or a run or a cycle or climbing of stairs. Leave a few minutes for a shower if you have one at the office. Start this without telling the world about it. Let them see you start.
And here is what you’ll notice:
People will ask what you are doing and why. This will give you the chance to let them know that you are re-engineering the way our society rewards our behaviours.
You are doing this because everyone around you and the Australian economy, will stand to benefit from a fitter population (and workforce) with sharper thoughts and better stamina.
It all starts by finding any means possible for turning our backs on old habits and putting our backs into smarter efforts that will yield a bigger prize that we’ll all be around longer to enjoy.
Why should we reward ourselves?
Smarter rewards systems are needed in family time too! In the early decades of preparing for and then building a family, where do most of us place our health in the order of tasks and priorities? Nowadays, the ever-growing list of demands means that many women and men who run households and families, put others before themselves at a great and hidden cost.
The cost is all those moments when exhaustion has robbed us of exercise or tight finances have robbed us of health options like exercise physiologists or gym memberships.
There is just not enough time to go around and people with strong parental instincts yield to our inbuilt reward system of giving us an endorphin rush when we sacrifice ourselves for our loved ones. However, that healthy reward system evolved during a time of unavoidable physical labour.
So, we have a battle ahead, but evidence-based approaches to short, structured fitness plans like we provide at iNform Health and Fitness Solutions can give back to your body the strength and capacity it was always destined to have.
Yes, clocks can be turned back, despite all the momentum that tries to pull us away from taking personal time out to invest in our health. So come and join us in fighting the status quo for your health!
So, we have four weeks (eeeek!!) till the Leukaemia Foundation ride from St Kilda, Melbourne to Adelaide. That’s 1070kms in effectively 6 days (as we have a recovery day in the middle). Needless to say, some of us are getting a bit nervous about this undertaking! As such, I know that questions are being asked like “What was I thinking?!”, “will I make it?” and “how can I improve my training between now and then?!”
While this blog post could give many readers ideas to improve their cycling results (or running) at any stage of their training, I am particularly writing this for my ‘Ride as One’ team members.
There are three training-hacks that I would suggest will significantly improve your cycling results and give you significant improvements above the benefits you are getting from your current training. Now, different riders will need different strategies to fast track their improvements and be ready for this great undertaking, so pick the one or two that you think will address your needs more specifically. I’ll expand on each below.
Three Training hacks to fast-track your cycling results:
- Increasing kilometres and riding frequency by commuting
- Increasing fatigue resistance through improved strength
- Increasing efficiency by dropping some weight!!
Increasing kilometres and riding frequency by commuting
One of the things that will be the hardest during the ride from Melbourne is the accumulated fatigue of long days on the saddle, and then having to get back on the bike early the next morning! Now that we are all committed to our training rides, and have put some decent Ks in the legs, it can be a good idea to put some more consecutive rides together, to get used, and adapt, to that feeling of heavy legs from the day before. Adding a few commutes to your week over the next 4 weeks would not only increase your total weekly mileage, but also get you used to being on the saddle day after day. I wrote a blog a few months back which discusses this in more detail, which I would encourage you to check out!
Increasing fatigue resistance through improved strength
Introducing some strength training into your weekly routine can have two significant effects. Firstly, and perhaps obviously, if you are stronger, each pedal stroke is a smaller percentage of your maximal strength, so you accumulate less fatigue over a ride; and you also get to apply more power to each pedal stroke if desired, so you get to ride faster both on flats and up hills!
Secondly, and along the theme of the effect mentioned above for commuting, the timing of your strength workouts can also affect your resilience to ‘heavy and tired’ legs. Doing your strength work the day before a ride will have a ‘pre-fatiguing’ effect for your ride. While this is likely to make your ride a little bit less enjoyable, it will result in overcompensations happening, which will lead to accelerated results.
Ideal exercises to perform would be squats, split squats, step ups, etc. If you are unfamiliar with these, I would suggest focusing on the other ‘hacks’, or consulting an exercise professional for guidance.
Increasing efficiency by dropping some weight!!
In my opinion, this is the greatest return on investment strategy at this stage of the training journey. If needed and desired, you could easily lose 2-3kgs in the next four weeks without losing strength or affecting your performance negatively.
Now, buckle up (!) because I’m about to potentially bust some long-held cycling myth! One of the best strategies to achieve the outcomes mentioned above (or even better) would be to adopt what is known as a Low-Carb-High-Fat (LCHF) eating style. In essence, this would be made up of about 60% fats (yum!)-25/30% protein-10/15% carbs
Ok… are you feeling alright??… Let’s continue.
There are some things that I would like you to keep in mind before we flesh this out further:
While there are large volumes of research that clearly show that to maximise high intensity exercise we require adequate amounts of carbohydrates (glucose) in our system (as much as 100grams per hour), this does not necessarily translate to exercise requirements at lower intensities. Let’s remember that we are not racing from Melbourne to Adelaide! so improvements in ‘elite’ performance at maximal intensities is not what we are concerned about!! If you were a TDF rider, we’d be modifying this for competition.
High Fat, and fat adaptation for cycling
So how does this work? Well, in simple terms, by following such a nutrient breakdown, we increase our reliance on fat as an energy source, as highlighted in this paper.
There are some key benefits to this, which are described in more detail here which include a lesser reliance on ongoing external sources of carbohydrate supplementation during a ride. We effectively use much more of our own fat stores for energy than we would when ingesting larger amounts of glucose.
This increased reliance on fat for our energy also leads to decreased lactate production at given workloads… meaning less fatigue! This happens because lactate is a by-product of glucose metabolism. Relying on fat for energy delays the need to access glucose in large quantities, hence elevating the threshold at which you start to produce lactate.
In fact, studies such as this one show very favourable improvements in performance at moderate intensities, that may not be seen at high intensity.
There are many benefits to a LCHF eating style, including consistent weight-loss and reduced hunger, as well as many health benefits for those with any range of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. All these are well explained here in a good narrative style, so if you would like to delve deeper, I would encourage you to read the paper.
Application of a low-carb-high-fat diet for cycling
Many of the studies I have shared have seen results from LCHF in 2-3 weeks, so the four weeks we have left give you plenty of time to see some good results. Ideally you would commit to it and follow the eating style everyday, but it isn’t essential, so you don’t have to do it everyday or during your riding days – but I would recommend it! And you certainly don’t have to do it during the ride from Melbourne. I would suggest that now you treat it as a training exercise to get greater adaptations!
So what does this look like on a day-to-day basis?
While a simple Google search can give you lots of great ideas, the broader structure looks like this:
Breakfast: eggs with some sort of added meat (bacon/ham/salmon) plus some veges (mushroom, baby spinach), cooked in olive or coconut oil (I tend to add extra butter!)
Lunch: some sort of a protein (fish, seafood, chicken, red meat) plus salad. LOTS of olive oil added.
Dinner: some sort of a protein (fish, seafood, chicken, red meat) plus veges. LOTS of olive oil added.
Snacks could be a small handful of nuts.
On rides I just take nuts… and I’ve even been known to take some roasted sweet potato (yum!!).
First few days are hard… stick to it!! You are probably on a sugar roller-coaster, and getting off it takes a bit of effort, but it is worth it on MANY fronts!
Alright, good luck!! As always , if you have any questions, leave a comment below or contact us!
Road cyclist fatigued!
Wow, I can’t believe its only 4 weeks until we leave for Melbourne to start our 1000km bike ride back to Adelaide for the Leukaemia Foundation’s RideasOne! It’s been a little while since my last post on the series – sorry! But I promise I’ve been on the bike!
In fact, since we last chatted, I have fallen in love with road riding. For a trail addict (running and mountain biking), I never thought I would put that in writing! But the growing sense of strength climbing up hills, the speed of a light and responsive bike flying down hills, and the camaraderie and great chats of group rides has been something that gets me out of bed in the early mornings with a smile on my face!!
Dealing with Fatigue
By now the kilometres on the bike are starting to really build, due both to a few months of riding, and the ‘pressure’ of time getting shorter and shorter ahead of us! So one thing I’m aware of personally, and I think also for my riding companions is that this is the time when little niggles may start to appear; in the form of tight muscles or joints, and perhaps little aches and pains as our bodies compensate for the increasing demands by tightening up.
So this is the time that looking after our muscles and joints becomes paramount to make sure that we get to the starting line healthy!! This ideally involves a warm up before we ride as well as a cool down, and even some other sessions of mobility and flexibility work during the week. The one negative thing about road cycling is the amount of time that is spent in a pretty fixed and flexed position. It is not unusual to spend 3-5hrs o the bike, especially during the weekend rides, and most of this is spent in repeated hip flexion with a flexed trunk and arms fixed to the handlebars… so there isn’t a lot of extension or rotation going on!! So ideally these warm up and cool down sessions focus on stretching and ‘mobilising’ a lot of these joints that are ‘stuck’ in very short ranges of motion for kilometres on end.
Warm ups are important
I know that for most riders a warm up entails nothing more than pulling on the lycra, pumping up the tires and perhaps taking it easy for the first few Ks of riding; and cool downs revolve around checking out our stats on strava! I also know that anything else for a warm up is a hard ask, as most rides need to start very early in the morning, so consider spending even 5minutes preparing the body for the fun work ahead, and focus more on the post ride mobility sessions – your body will love you for it!!
This will be particularly important for those of us doing a multi-day event such as the 7-day Ride-as-One from Melbourne to Adelaide, to ensure we give ourselves every chance to keep our bodies in good form as fatigue sets in!
An optimal mobility session should improve performance and reduce our risk of injury, while only taking 10-15 minutes to complete.
Ideal Mobility for Cyclists Routine
There’s a well established process for achieving best results during one of these sessions:
- Ideally one should start with some self ‘releasing’ (think about the type of ‘soft tissue’/massage type of treatment that a therapist would do to you). This is referred to as Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). Any time you use a foam roller or some sort of ball on tight muscle tissue, you are performing some form of Self-Myofascial Release (SMR). SMR is suggested to improve mobility at joint segments and the flexibility of specific muscle tissue.
- Once we have reduced the stiffness of specific muscle tissues through effective SMR, it is time to move onto stretching. These stretches are going to be short and to the point! with the intent to increase the length of short and stiff muscle tissue. By increasing the length of these specific tissues, we can increase the flexibility of that tissue AND increase the range of movement we have at the joints in which that tissue acts on.
The reason we want to keep these stretches short (~10-20 seconds) is twofold. Firstly, we want to reduce our total mobility time to something efficient and sustainable. Additionally, in our experience, short and strong stretches where we try and focus on ‘teasing out’ the muscle tissue are extremely effective.
The key areas we are going to focus on are:
- Hips – including hip flexors at the front and glutes posteriorly
- Quads and hamstrings
- Thoracic/rib cage region
Spend 10-15mins after your rides going through the program described in the PDF below and let me know if it helps!
iNform Cycling Mobility and Self Massage Program
If you would like more specific advice for your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us!