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!
With summer just around the corner many of us are starting to think about easing ourselves back into our old exercise routines. Whether it be to lose a couple of kilos, or to ensure we feel just more comfortable spending time at the beach, most are slowly starting to climb back into their running shoes or slide back onto their bike seats.
But what if I were to suggest that this type of exercise (as in exercise of the cardio variety) may not be the best way to promote changes in the way we look or feel? While it may go against somewhat ‘traditional recommendations’, strength training is an excellent means of exercise that can cause HUGE changes in the way we look. This makes it the perfect type of training to complement our cardiovascular exercise.
Strength training can help build lean muscle
A sentence I hear on a very regular basis when discussing training or body composition goals goes a little something like this: “I don’t want to get big and bulky, I just want to ‘tone’ up”. To be honest, this thought process is extremely common for those looking to get into the weights room seriously for the first time. Which is why I then proceed to explain that weight training will not make you ‘big and bulky.’ It is actually extremely difficult to put on large amounts of muscle mass (particularly for females).
*Just quickly, if you want reassurance that this is the case, take a look at 99% of regular gym goers. Many look fit and healthy, while very few look like professional bodybuilders (even despite their best efforts).
In fact, the ‘toned’ look that many train for is actually a matter of building some muscle while losing some fat, resulting in more visible muscle definition – pretty simple really. So with all this in mind, strength training builds muscle tissue, which is integral to making large changes in body composition.
Strength training can increase our metabolism
As an added bonus, the process of building muscle – no matter how small the amount – can have a huge impact on our ability to lose weight.
You see, muscle is highly metabolic tissue, meaning that it actually requires energy to survive (it uses the energy we obtain from food). With this in mind, by increasing the amount of muscle mass we have on our body (even slightly), we can increase the amount of energy we burn each and every day – irrespective of the exercise we perform that day!
By adding some lean muscle tissue you can literally increase the amount of energy you burn when you’re on the couch or at work – which makes it much easier to promote weight loss in both the short and long term.
All it takes is performing some form of strength training 2-3 times per week.
Strength training can help us burn a heap of energy
Now, in addition to increasing our metabolism, strength training is also an effective means of promoting weight loss as is quite taxing. Strength training is a challenging form of exercise, and as such performing a single session will use a heap of energy. But where strength training differs from more traditional forms of exercise, is that it has a slightly longer recovery period associated. It is commonly accepted that muscle takes anywhere between 24 and 72 hours to completely recover after a workout (this recovery time is dependent on the intensity and volume of work performed during that training session).
During this entire period, the body is using additional energy to recover from our workout.
As a result, strength training can help us lose weight by increasing our energy expenditure both during, and after, our training session.
Bonus: Strength training helps you function every single day.
While this isn’t necessarily related to making any changes in our body composition, it is still certainly a large positive!
Becoming stronger, and through this improving our ability to function on a day to day basis, is extremely rewarding. It not only provides a clear demonstration that all our hard work in the gym is paying off, but also makes life in a physical sense much easier.
Whether it means being able to move your own furniture, pick up children without a second thought, or bring your groceries in from the car in a single trip, it doesn’t really matter – getting stronger will help you in every aspect of your life.
Take away message
When it comes to bang for your buck exercise strength training is hands down our best option. It have some great effects on our body composition, it can also improve our strength and function – both of which are essential to improving ability to get through the day.
With this in mind, performing weight training 2-3 times per week is ideal to stimulate both large increases in strength and massive changes in body composition. If you have any questions (or maybe don’t know where to start), feel free to book in with us today, so you can draw a line in the sand and get started.
Dolezal, Brett A., et al. “Muscle damage and resting metabolic rate after acute resistance exercise with an eccentric overload.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 32.7 (2000): 1202-1207.
Kraemer, William J., et al. “Effect of resistance training on women’s strength/power and occupational performances.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 33.6 (2001): 1011-1025.
Staron, R. S., et al. “Skeletal muscle adaptations during early phase of heavy-resistance training in men and women.” Journal of applied physiology 76.3 (1994): 1247-1255.
Zurlo, Francesco, et al. “Skeletal muscle metabolism is a major determinant of resting energy expenditure.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 86.5 (1990): 1423.
“Give me abdominal exercises to lose fat around my stomach! Can I do triceps exercises to get rid of my granny arms? These are statements or questions I have heard more times than I can count. It is a question steeped in marketing, wishful thinking and a desire for that society driven “six-pack” and or “buns of steel.” The “spot reduction” theory is based around the act of selectively reducing fatty deposits in targeted areas by exercising the specific area. It seems logical to an extent. If a client works a muscle, then the fat around the area is used to produce the energy needed for the movement.
Unfortunately this is not the way it works!
If only it was that simple!!
Let’s briefly look at why we burn fat from the whole body:
When we need to complete a movement… say climbing a set of stairs
— We use glucose (carbohydrate) as our first pick to create/fuel a muscular contraction/movement.
— This glucose is either floating in blood stream or the liver (which stores glucose) gradually releases it into the blood stream.
— Once the glucose runs out, we tap into our fat source by way of a signal from the brain. This results in a release of triglycerides.
— This literally breaks up the fat cell (triglyceride) into a fatty acid and a glycerol molecule. The fatty acid the travels through the circulatory system, to the heart, liver and /or lungs (if blood has time to be oxygenated).
— From there it heads to the working muscles where it goes through a process to release the energy to make movement
— No matter which muscle needs the fuel, the molecules (fats, carbohydrates or proteins) travel around the circulatory system.
So all in all, it is not as easy as grabbing a fat cell from the specific muscle and using it’s energy. It is essentially easier and more efficient to steal those fatty acids from everywhere. We can’t choose where we lose our fat from. Sorry guys!
There is research to back up this idea.
In 1984, a study found that a sit-up program does not preferentially reduce fat cell size or fat thickness in the abdominal region in comparison to other body sites. In 2007, another study determined that an upper-body program resulted in a generalized loss of fat mass rather than specifically the upper-body. Finally in 2013, it was found that training a single leg was effective in reducing fat mass but not specifically in the trained limb. This was determined using a whole body DEXA scan, which is the current gold standard for determining fat mass.
So what helps reduce waist circumference (fat mass)?
From that exact research gives us a clue. Each of those studies looked at a different body part (arms, abdominals and legs) and all had an effect on the bodies fat mass. So, if we completed a whole-body strength program we would see an effect over the whole body. Whilst getting stronger overall in the process.
It is a win-win!
Furthermore, from an energy balance perspective, completing exercises incorporating large muscle groups in big compound exercises creates greater energy deficit. These are exercises such as the squat, deadlift, bench press and rows. Why?
The more muscles used in one movement, the more fuel (fat/glucose) it needs. Just doing a sit-up, which works abdominals, look at a squat which can use legs, glutes, abdominals etc. You will also produce less fatigue and therefore complete more exercises by looking at a whole body approach. So rather than looking at 1-2 abdominal exercises to lose weight, try variety. We encourage clients to complete aerobic exercise, some resistance training and any incidental activity your heart desires. Plus think about the quality and quantity of food and drink you consume (but that’s another story).
Most importantly, stop getting fooled by those marketing departments. Also throw out that ab-cruncher that is collecting dust under your bed! Please!
Let me start my clarifying that I would never want to discourage anyone from running! Even more so if you are on a journey to improve your health. My whole business and life mission is to help others achieve great health! And this is exactly why I don’t think it is a great idea to use running to start getting fit or lose weight…. as I mentioned in our introductory post to this series, running is inherently hard, and carries with it about a 50% chance of giving you an injury in a year! What I really want to help you do is to LOVE running!
I don’t think it is a great idea to use running to start getting fit or lose weight.
Lets face it, doing anything while we are heavier is harder, and the harder it is, the less likely we are to do it long term. In addition, being heavier would logically put greater stress on joints, connective tissue and muscles. Interestingly, research doesn’t strongly support this logic. Body Mass Index is not a predictor for injuries, other than plantar fasciitis (an injury to the connective tissues of the sole of the foot). However, poor body condition is a strong predictor of injury, so if we have gained weight due to not doing much, then lets make sure we approach this well.
I would recommend that we start to improve our conditioning to run in a few different ways. Firstly, looking at our nutritional intake is KEY. The most effective way to lose weight is to improve what we eat! If you are brand new to running, I would start by walking daily. A quick walk before and after work, or during lunchtimes will go a long way to start strengthening those tissues mentioned above, help with weight loss, and start to get your aerobic fitness going! I would then definitely add strengthening exercises, as we know that these will certainly protect you against injury, and increase your running efficiency – now we are talking! Then we can start to add a few jogs into those walks, or as part of your warm up and cool downs around your strength work outs. In our next post I’ll give you some ideas on how to start your actual running program.
Effects of weight on performance
I am always amazed at the effect that weight has on running performance. That is, how quickly you are likely to run a race… This is why elite distance runners are so light! For example, Lets assume that an 80kg male completes a 10km run in 50minutes. If his fitness and all other external conditions remain the same, but he now weighs 70kg, he would run those 10kms in under 45mins!
So, don’t run to get fit, as it’s less likely to last! Run because of everything you get from it… of course fitness will be a part of that, as weight loss will be, but there’s so much more to be gained from your time out in nature!
Picture this… Its January 1st. This year you want to lose weight! In fact you have
already started to cut out the cake at lunch, park your car further away from work and have joined the local yoga class. You have been weighing yourself daily and watching the numbers on the scales decrease. You have started off strong…
But then the weekend hits, you have that important birthday and you become discouraged. This weight loss thing doesn’t seem so fun anymore and you may have just convinced yourself you just don’t have self discipline! You have already resigned to the fact that any further weight loss is in fact impossible and you might was well start eating the cake at lunch time again. You begin to put that weight back on and focus your energy on something else. This vicious cycle continues again and again. Does this sound familiar?
How do we break out of the vicious cycle?
Goal setting helps quantify and clarify the ‘how,’ the ‘what,’ the ‘why’ and the ‘when’ behind these statements. The aptly named S.M.A.R.T goals provide you with direction, structure, accountability and give you a deadline to meet. The SMART criteria is as follows:
- Identifies exactly what you want to achieve.
- Studies have shown that task specific and challenging goals lead to higher performance than ‘do your best’ or no goals at all.
- Feedback or reward has been shown to increase task performance
- Places a measurable value on the task for example; centimetres; dress; minutes;
- It allows for re-evaluation to objectively review a goal
- Do you really believe you can do this?
- Your goal must challenge you enough to be outside of your comfort zone, however should be within your reach.
- Are both the goal and the timeframe you set to complete the goal realistic?
- Going from sedentary to running marathon distances may be realistic but doing this in 2 weeks may not be.
- Set a time frame to achieve this goal by. When do you plan to achieve this goal?
- Not only does writing down your goals increase success rate, but it has also been shown to improve happiness, satisfaction levels and also creates a sense of achievement.
A goal without a date is just a vision
- Try and limit the amount of goals you have at one time and prioritise them
- Follow the SMART goals principle and write them down
- Re -evaluate: goals are there to be adaptable and flexible to your current situations and change, a review of your goals with change of circumstances or a period of time is essential to the goal setting process.
- Share them with the people who will help you achieve them; choose wisely!
If you currently do not have any clear goals written down, I encourage you to set some time aside or book in for a review with your trainer to nut out what you want to achieve. Goal setting is something which most of us recognise the importance of to achieve success, so lets be SMART about it!