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Granny arms, big bellies, rotund behinds…. Can we choose where to lose our fat from?

Granny arms, big bellies, rotund behinds…. Can we choose where to lose our fat from?

“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.

​U​nfortunately 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).

​M​ost importantly, stop getting fooled by those marketing departments. Also throw out that ab-cruncher that is collecting dust under your bed! Please!

Do you use your World Gym?

Do you use your World Gym?

For many of us I am sure we associate exercise with a certain location or facility such as the gym, netball court, footy oval, usual running or walking loop, or community pool. We develop a relationship in our mind between exercise and the need to go to a particular place for certain amount of time in order to for it to be worth our while.
I worked with a client last year who was seeing me regularly for exercise sessions. She suffered from multiple sclerosis and found general day to day life challenging however she was determined to maintain her function to the best of her ability. Each time she would leave the gym after her sessions she would say ‘goodbye, I am going to my world gym now’. It always made me think of how true it was that for her, negotiating the terrain of the Adelaide landscape, roads, curbs, stairs, uneven surfaces, was the best possible way for her to challenge her abilities and maintain her function and fitness. She had a gym at her fingertips all day long, and the fact is, so do the rest of us!
Although I am the first one to vouch for the importance of supervised tailored exercise, stories like this make me wonder how many of us are neglecting the opportunities we have day to day in our usual routine of work, home life and leisure time to challenge ourselves and work towards our goals.
Take a look at your ‘World Gym’ today and see what opportunities you might be missing. Can you be inventive?
FROM 0-TO-1000KM: The Value of COMMUTING while the TDU is on!

FROM 0-TO-1000KM: The Value of COMMUTING while the TDU is on!

Screen capture of Strava 'commute' ridesAdelaide is arguably Australia’s best city to be a cyclist in, and at the moment, with the Tour Down Under (TDU) in full flight, this is particularly the case! It is so good to see so many cyclists enjoying our beautiful roads, and in particular, the number of interstate riders that are here on organised tours.

I’m sure that with this activity going on, cycling apps like Strava would be seeing lots of kilometres adding up! For myself, and my ‘Leukaemia Foundation – Ride As One’ team members, starting to accumulate more kilometres on the bike is very important, as we have our 7-day 1000km ride in about 3 months!

One great way to beef up these kilometres can be achieved by commuting to work! 

As you can see from the image above, my travel distance from home to work is a short 5.7km, which would by cycling standards, hardly count as a worthwhile effort to pull the bike out of the garage. But even such a short distance can add up to something significant! Using my stats as an example, if I commute to and from work over a week, each day contributes 11.4 kms and about 140m of elevation. Over the week, this is 57km and 700m of elevation! That’s a decent enough ride if you were to do it in one go, and contributes a solid base to the rest of my weekly distances! Not too bad at all!

Other than the kilometres on the saddle, I think commuting can provide a number of benefits:

  • Easy roll of the legs – You know that heavy leg feeling you get the day after a big ride? I find that my morning commute works wonders to get the system moving again, increase blood flow to those heavy muscles, increasing delivery of nutrients, healing agents, etc, and clearing up the inflammatory waste products!
  • Frequency of rolling the legs, including multiple rides in a day! As a flow-on from the point above, as we are increasing the kilometres, and especially when preparing for a multi-day event such as the Melbourne-to-Adelaide ‘Ride as One’, the capacity to back up ride after ride is very important! While the commuting distances may be short, they help to getting used to getting on the saddle and turning the legs after shorter than usual recovery periods.
  • Specific training outcomes there are days when I’m pretty exhausted from the overall load of my regular riding + work, etc, so the commute home is an ‘easy’ ride. There are days when I want to hit some higher intensities, especially after some shorter but steeper hills, so I’ll take a little detour on my way home, and really the heart rate and lactate production up, to teach my system to deal with those stresses better; or it may be practicing some acceleration and faster work on flatter stretches of road… whatever it may be, knowing that you are not in the middle of a 3 hour ride, and that home is not too far away, may encourage you to open things up a bit more than you may normally do!
  • Improved productivity at work! – There’s nothing better than getting to work wide awake, having gotten your heart and breathing rates up a bit, and benefiting from the physiological and hormonal benefits  that this brings! There is strong research showing that a short bout of aerobic exercise increases your cognitive capacity (creativity, capacity to learn, etc) by up to 20%.
  • Switch off from work before getting home to the family – one thing I have learnt, is that when I get home, my beautiful wife and kids don’t necessarily want me to be ‘there’, they want me to be ‘present’. My ride home gives me 10-15 mins of time to transition from work mode to family mode… hopefully making me a better husband and dad!

So there you have it friends. Don’t under value those short kms between home and work!

Move Well to Move More to better Health! The genius is in the order!

Move Well to Move More to better Health! The genius is in the order!

Senior Couple stretching In Park

Couple stretching in Park – Moving well to Move more!

If I could wave a magic wand, and make exercise feel easy for you; if you knew you were going to feel light, agile, nimble – would you want to do more of it??

60% of our population (an average figure across many ‘western’ countries) is inactive… I don’t think that this is because people intrinsically dislike movement! I think we lose our joy of movement at some stage, maybe it’s not a clearly defined line in the sand, but that change certainly happens… after all, we can all see the faces of kids when they are in the full blown joy of movement, right? when they are running after a ball, or jumping into a pool… so what happens? why do we stop to enjoy that movement, that used to give us so much happiness once upon a time?

I think the answer is that it has become hard to move.

One way or the other, it just doesn’t flow anymore does it?! There’s less time for it; it just seems like hard work. Maybe there’s fear of pain, or fear of an injury. Perhaps it’s as simple as the fact that we may stink after sweating (!) and the process of being ‘presentable’ again is too hard…

We all know the benefits of exercise right? So information is not the answer either… so can I challenge you to explore the FUN you used to have when you allowed your body to gain full flight?

I strongly believe that one of the keys to wanting to move more is being able to move better! It’s about putting it in the right order. Think about it for a sec… if you move well, then movement is all of a sudden easier. Things ‘connect better’. There’s less pain; less effort. There’s more power! More strength! More agility! More CAPACITY.

The key to moving more, what ever your motivation, is to move better. From there we can start to set new goals! Such as being able to re-join that sporting club you loved; being able to run around with the (grand)kids without fear of not being able to move tomorrow! or perhaps you want to run your first marathon, or climb a high peak… Or do a tumble turn again!! what ever that goal, let us help you put things in the right order, set up the right process for you to move better – so you can move more!!

Don’t run any more? Who do you think you are?

Don’t run any more? Who do you think you are?

I’ve taken on a lot of clients who have been told by a Health or Medical Practitioner that they should not run ever again. Usually it is due to chronic knee pain with some evidence of structural change- like some cartilage degradation for example. This may not sound shocking, but it should.
“So Mr. Wood, every time you run, your knees pull up sore. Running is very hard on the knees, and your knees aren’t exactly in show-room condition. I recommend that you cease running from now on”.
If this news was delivered to me it would be analogous to a shotgun blast to the guts.
“Don’t run any more?
But I love running!”
“Get yourself a bike, bike riding is great for the knees”.
“But what about when I have kids, I won’t be able to kick the footy in the park with them?”
“Not if you don’t want a knee replacement in 5 years time!”
“Well what if I am being chased by an axe wielding maniac, can I run then”.
“Well, in that instance yes, but don’t blame me when your knees are killing you the next day!”
This is pretty clear cut. And that is the problem I have with this type of delivery. By being so definite in the stance that running (without pain) is not possible in the future, they are effectively saying this.
“On behalf of all Medical Experts and Conservative Health Care Providers, I state that it is impossible for you to run in the way that you want to without aggravating pain and accelerating degeneration of the structural features of the knee.”
Now I know some pretty bloody awesome people in the above mentioned fields, but I wouldn’t think anyone has the right to speak on behalf of every Medical and Health Practitioner both currently alive and those to come in the future.
Instead, why not just word it like this:
“I don’t know how to help you run”.
Simple, and absolutely more true than the previous example.
And imagine if you were given this perspective instead. What would your reaction be? Mine would be:
“Ok, thanks for your honesty. I’ll search for someone who can”.
The reality is that it is quite possible that for some people, running without pain is impossible. But who has the right to make that conclusion. If my clients want to run, it is my job to help carve out a pathway to make that possible. I’m not always successful, but I’d like to think I am humble enough to own my shortcomings rather than deem the goal impossible.
If you’ve been told that you can’t run any more, maybe you can’t. But maybe you can.   
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