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Adaptation is at the Core of Continual Change

Your Red Deer personal trainer will teach you that your body adapts to everything, if you're progress is stuck subtle (not drastic) change is the key to continual progress.

Your body adapts to everything, if you’re progress is stuck subtle (not drastic) change is the key to continual progress.

This may surprise you but when it comes to changing your body I feel you could dial it down to one key concept that will outperform and make more sense than any other. Your body is a master of adaptation, your job is to provide stimulus to which it must adapt.

You may wonder why tonnes of our clients are losing weight and bodyfat by eating more (sometimes in excess of double what they were eating before coming to see us), while the world seems to consistently agree that eating less or portion control is the answer. In truth both are right for the simple fact they both force the body through a process of adaptation. Eating less or smaller portions limits the body’s resources, forcing the body to adapt by finding a way to supplement the resource deficit internally. Unfortunately this isn’t sustainable; you simply can’t create energy without energy. If you’re not convinced next time you fill up your car note the number of kilometres you travelled before requiring a fill and the number of litres of fuel you purchase. Now each subsequent time you fill up your vehicle I want you to travel the same number of kilometres but put 1L less fuel in than the previous refuelling, keep repeating this process. Oh and by the way, please register for roadside assistance as I’m convinced you may require it in the near future.

The above example may seem silly, but essentially any form of restriction on your body whether it be food intake, water intake or restful sleep essentially has the same effect. Lucky for us our body is much more adaptive and resilient than our vehicle so you won’t be stranded as quickly. My point is; it’s not sustainable.

By comparison, when you begin eating more a different kind of adaptation occurs. The initial assumption is that you would gain weight or bodyfat. This can be true if you’re consuming the wrong fuel. We could compare this to our cars again as a mixture of fuel and air, our vehicle requires both in specific amounts and in changing conditions depending on whether you are accelerating, decelerating, or what the air temperature is. We can generalize our body in the same way with one radical exception. Some foods actually require more energy to digest than can be extracted, creating an energy deficit. To a personal trainer this is an ideal environment. You will ultimately benefit from the nutrients from the food but without any physical effort on your part, you can burn more energy than you took in. You can see now the consistency of both examples is that additional energy is required by the body, and why both mechanisms may achieve a similar end result. Those eating more just tend to be happier, have more energy, and find it easier to sustain long term, but then I guess those feelings are a matter of personal preference.

This is just one example of the body’s ability to adapt. Exercise functions in a similar way. If you have a pattern of exercising on the same days, for the same amount of time, using the same exercises, at approximately the same weight or resistance there is little for your body to adapt to. As a result there is little progress. By changing just one of those variables in each workout your body has no choice but to make progress because it must adapt. Now this is usually where our good work ethic get’s us into trouble. A flash of inspiration (like a New Year’s resolution) makes us leap forward and change a whole gambit of things. Our “willpower” subsequently breaks down after a short period because the required adaptation is too much all at once, the body resists. It’s hard for us to believe but often the same or better results will be achieved with baby steps, implementing things at a pace that makes you say, think and feel that, “it’s no big deal.”

If you’re serious about reaching your goals once and for all remember that losing just 1lb/week adds up to 52lbs this year, these would be great results for anyone and are absolutely achievable. Determine your target than work backwards choosing the “no big deal” babysteps, even if it means you can only handle exercising 5 minutes a day to start. (Ex. An average new year’s resolution may last 17-25 days and average exercise might be 1 hour/day=25 hours of exercise. Just 5 min/day would be the equivalent of 30.75 hours of exercise over the course of a year, and no one will stay at 5 minutes for ever. This is why the tortoise won and so will you.)

How long should my workouts be?

TRAINING_WEB-17This is an age old question and one that’s been greatly under debate for many more years than I have been a personal trainer in Red Deer.

First you should understand how your body works. It is a perfect machine bent on adaptation, it adapts to everything. You expose yourself to harmful chemicals and it will do it’s best to adapt, filter and survive; if it becomes overloaded you feel the negative effects of that exposure. This may seem like a drastic example for an article on exercise but it’s not really; you see your body deals with exercise much the same way.

When you exercise your body adapts, it increases heart rate and respiration in an effort to supply more oxygen to the muscles doing the work. It will utilize stored glucose to produce more energy and when those supplies run short will look elsewhere for ways to create fuel. As muscle fibers reach work capacity and begin to exhaust they begin to break down chemically into waste products like lactic acid. Your body through circulation works diligently to clear this waste at the same rate at which it is created, when it’s unable to keep up you “feel the burn” strength lessens and you become fatigued. If you push through beyond the point of discomfort pain increases, as pain increases so does damage to the working tissue and it’s ability to protect and support the tissues around it. An injury becomes more likely the further you push as the body’s tolerance for any unexpected circumstance is compromised. (ex. Suddenly running on uneven ground.)

When you stop exercising your body repositions it’s resources to increase repair and new construction. Each time you push your physical limits during this “down time” your body will replace resources like glucose, repair damaged tissues and in an effort to be more prepared next time, make them a little better. This is the real magic of exercise, after every single workout with adequate recovery your body will in fact be a little different than it was before.

Now I know what you’re thinking, if I workout harder and longer I can cause more adaptation or change after every workout. In the most simplistic manner this looks to be true, but there is a factor of diminishing return. When your tissues become compromised or “damaged” beyond a certain point you greatly increase your need for recovery but this doesn’t yield greater adaptation, just longer recovery. Further understand that during recovery because abundant additional resources are needed for repair these resources must come from somewhere, both from consumed fuel sources and often other systems such as the immune system. This is why if you’re feeling under the weather and then complete a really hard workout you might find yourself sick within the next day or so.

When it comes to workout duration there isn’t a right or wrong answer, but here’s something further to consider. Effective workout duration is equally influenced by fuel consumption, ability, and efficiency or intensity.

What this means is that if you’re eating poorly in the case of consuming processed foods or not eating enough your effective workout duration will be shorter because of diminished incoming resources for recovery.

If you are unfamiliar with the performance of the selected exercises inefficiency will lead to faster physical exhaustion and quicker damage to the affected tissues, meaning your workout duration will need to be reduced.

Even back in these days you might be surprised to know I only trained about 30-45 min, 4 days/week with an additionally 30 min of low intensity cardio each day while dieting for a show.

This probably isn’t what you want to look like, but you might be surprised to know that even back in these days I only trained about 30-45 min, 4 days/week with an additionally 30 min of low intensity cardio each day while dieting for a show.

Finally, and the biggest variable factor is intensity. The lower your intensity the longer your workout will need to be, the higher the intensity the shorter it will be. Now here’s where this get’s weird. Our body is so perfect that there is a variable also to intensity, in that our subconscious mind will regulate our perceived intensity. In an effort to explain think of it like this, if you plan to workout for 60 minutes and do so on a regular basis your body adapts to this, it will limit your ability to maintain a certain intensity to ensure that you can complete the 60 minutes. Your body, by regulating your intensity, basically ensures that you will be able to perform in some capacity for that duration. Inversely if you choose to workout just 30 minutes your body will regulate in the same way, because the duration is less it will begin to allow more effort to be expended in that duration knowing that it doesn’t need to preserve resources accordingly for survival.

This is a very general explanation but in the end it all comes down to our body’s basic function to ensure survival. It will sub-consciously regulate your ability to perform in an effort to give you the best chance of survival if this were an emergency situation it’s really about that simple.

So in the end there isn’t really a set duration anyone should workout, high-level athletes generally have developed metabolic systems to be able to survive longer training durations. The average adult will be notably less, which is why all of our exercise programs generally focus on a 30-minute duration. We know in terms of capacity this will be very effective for nearly everyone. People are always surprised to learn that in my peak training days for the nationals I still used to only train about 30-45 minutes, 4 days a week.

Hope this helps, more isn’t better, smart training for the best results!


How Often To Take A “Rest” Week

While for some people, making sure they stick to their workout program tends to be top concern.  For them, it’s a matter of taking less rest and doing more work.

For others however, the situation is reversed. If you’re someone who naturally likes to workout and is very motivated, you might just need to periodically remind yourself to take time off.

Going to the gym is almost like a habit – you do it without fail and over time, this can actually come back to hinder you.

Rest is an integral part of progressing with any workout program and if you aren’t taking enough rest, you’ll be in for problems ahead. Eventually overtraining, burnout, or injuries will occur, which will set you back, if not take you out for months at a time.

But how often should you take time off? Let’s go over a few factors to consider.


The Intensity Of Your Workout Program

First, consider the intensity of your workout program at hand. The more intense a workout is, the more demanding it’s going to be on your system and the more rest and recovery you’ll need.

For those who are training hard 4-5 times per week, a one week break every 10-12 weeks would be a very good idea.

On the other hand, if you are only exercising hard 2-3 times a week, along with 1-2 lighter workout sessions added in, you can go longer before taking time off.  4-6 months should be more appropriate.


Your Lifestyle

Next, also consider your lifestyle. Are you looking after your sleep needs or does your busy schedule only allow for 6-7 hours per sleep each night?

Likewise, do you suffer from high levels of stress thanks to a demanding career? Or, are you more carefree and relaxed?

Those who are keeping tabs on stress and sleep will recover better from week to week, thus they may be able to go longer before having to take time off.

Those who aren’t, they can expect to need time off at regular intervals throughout their training.

Listen to your body. If it feels like it’s begging for time off, chances are you should give it this.


Your Nutrition

Finally, also look at your nutrition. If you are dieting, using a lower calorie intake than normal, this also places extra demands on your recovery ability.  As such, you’ll need to not only lower the intensity of your workout program, but also take rest more frequently as well.

For those who are eating in a surplus of calories, they can do the opposite. They’ll have plenty of fuel to train hard and keep recovering day by day.

So keep these quick points in mind.  Scheduling some time off every few months – or as needed – is an important part of seeing ongoing progress.


Regular Measures are Key to Success

As a Red Deer personal trainer I’ve always explained to my client how important regular assessments and measurements are. They were often surprised when I explained measuring yourself surprisingly might be the best method for a number of reasons, learn more in this weeks video.


How-to Plan a Successful New Year's Resolution

How-to Plan a Successful New Year’s Resolution

ny-picNew Year’s is one of my favourite holidays of the year. Kind of an odd ritual when you think about it; time doesn’t stop, the world doesn’t suddenly change overnight, yet we generally have an entirely new outlook on the days ahead. Our perception of this even leaves us supercharged and full of vigour, a focused energy to strive toward new goal, dreams, ambitions, achievements. This is a massive time of growth for the fitness industry.

One statistic I came across suggested that only 12% of people who set New Year’s resolutions will reach them. By the end of February more than 60% of resolutions have been abandoned and by the end of June this swells to over 80%.

I can’t imagine that any of us look ourselves in the mirror and think, “I’m excited about setting this goal knowing that I’m going to fail.” Yet the likelihood of this reality is significant. I hope with each column I write, at any time of year, that many more of you will be empowered to beat the statistics.

There is an acronym that as a Red Deer personal trainer I’ve used for effective goal setting for a long time; this New Year’s I’d like you to set a SMART goal. Here’s the Breakdown on what SMART stands for and how to use it.

Specific – All goals must be as specific as possible, written down and reviewed often. It’s not enough to say, “I want to lose weight and tone up.” A specific goal would be, “I am going to lose 30lbs, 3 pant sizes and be able to run 10kms by the end of April.”

Measureable – Define how you will measure and how often you will measure. For the above goal this individual should commit to weighing on Fridays, trying on the goal pants at the end of each month and ever week to two weeks completing a long distance run to see how progress is coming. By tracking weight, if they can fit into the pants and recording running distances they have effective measurement metrics to know whether they are progressing to their goal.

Attainable – This letter in the acronym can be interpreted differently. In my interpretation of attainable I teach that each goal must be reverse engineered. Attainability is dependent upon breaking it down into short periods of weeks or days and outlining the baby steps you will need to complete in each of these micro periods to reach your goal. These micro-periods play to our emotional side making commitment easier because it doesn’t feel overwhelmingly long. For example based on our above goal to lose an average of 2lbs per week one suggestion would be to complete about 45-75 min/day of cardiovascular activity, this will also help with the secondary goal of running 10km. Each micro-period might be one week where it will be important that at least 5 of the 7 days I complete 45-75 minutes of sustained cardiovascular exercise. Just checking that off my list each day will be a small victory that feels good reinforcing me to greater likelihood of reaching my final goal.

Realistic – This point in your goal setting is a point of review. Your goal must be realistic in the sense that it must fit your current lifestyle habits; or that you’ve planned for an appropriate period of time and baby steps to adapt to it. People often say they lack willpower but this is inaccurate. Emotionally if we become discouraged or resentful toward a goal it’s our body protecting itself from us trying to force it to adapt to fast. A realistic goal is one that encompasses a pattern of adaptation that you will find reasonable comfortable and manageable. For instance if you know you need to complete 45-75 minutes of cardiovascular activity per day starting at what’s comfortable (say 10 minutes) and adding 2 minutes every 3rd day may seem like no big deal at all. This would be my definition of a realistic plan for reaching your goal.

Time – The final step for creating an effective goal is finalizing a timeline. Based on the steps above you should now have a pretty definitive plan for what you want to do, broken down into what you need to do, that’s then broken down into the baby steps that will make it all a reality. The timeline could really read deadline, and it needs to be taken seriously. Set a defined date with a real risk and reward that waits for you, and don’t let yourself off the hook. Plan a special event with your spouse or friends, plan to wear the new pants that are 3 sizes smaller, tell someone about it or write a basic contract as a form of greater commitment and accountability.

Effective goal planning takes a little time. I suggest you don’t complete your SMART goal plan all in one sitting. Just jot everything down quickly completing each step, then come back to it later that day or the next and review and revise.  Review and revise one more time and you will be amazed at how much easier the little ideas and details will come that will ensure you know what you need to do, how you need to do it, and it won’t seem nearly as daunting. As a final step visit us on facebook and tell us your New Year’s resolution and deadline. J

I'm Not The Fitness Grinch But...

I’m Not The Fitness Grinch But…

ChristmasGrinHere we are, Christmas time once again. It’s that time a year we engage in a social marathon of Christmas parties, dinners, functions and family gatherings. They say the average person will gain approximately 5lbs over the four week Christmas season. If this concerns you read on, I created a short Christmas Fitness Survival List for you.

1)     Deep breaths and relax – With inconsistent sleep hours, hydration, and increased or unusual food intake your weight will fluctuate. Understand that it’s almost physiologically impossible to gain pounds of fat in just a few days; much of the fluctuation that occurs is simply a change in intercellular volume, something that will take care of itself once normal habits return.

2)     Don’t be on the naughty list – New Year’s is coming, the clean state, start fresh, oodles of motivation time. Don’t wait until New Year’s to start exercising, start now. Even with unstable nutritional habits regular exercise on a consistent basis, now and through Christmas, will minimize holiday weight gain. Set your body up for immediate change in the New Year, and psychologically ensure you don’t become a dreaded statistic for an abandoned resolution.

3)     Frequency is always important – If you’ve been eating 5-6 times per day up until now, try to maintain that, and if you haven’t try to start. What most of us have a hard time realizing is that our stomach is an amazing calorie burner, every time you put something in it uses a lot of energy to break it down. By eating small meals frequently you can burn additional calories and minimize the impact of the holiday additives.

4)     Drink, drink, drink – Sorry I mean water. If I could only ensure everyone learned one thing about how to look and feel better it would be consume more water. We require much more than 8 glasses per day in to offset the physiological demands of a drastically changing climate, increased amounts of stress, altered sleep habits and of course the possibility of holiday spirits. Increased water intake is a keystone catalyst of controlling how you look and feel a good target for each day is half your bodyweight in ounces.

5)     Speaking of spirits – I’m sorry but it’s the truth, there are few things worse for you metabolically than alcohol. As little as one ounce will drastically reduce metabolic function for up to 72 hours, the more alcohol consume the longer your metabolism is disrupted and the more suppressed its function. Be a socialite but try to pick your functions and minimize consumption, I hate being the bearer of bad news but you will thank me later.

These few tips should help you avoid the holiday weight gain woes but in all seriousness please don’t worry about fitness and weight gain too much at all through the holiday season. This is a time for friends, family, celebration and reinforcing the relationships that matter most. Take this time to enjoy what really matters. Have a Merry Christmas and know that when celebrations settle and normal habits return, the scale will begin to drop and you’ll only be left with the memories of the happy moments shared with others. If for some reason that’s not the case than at least you know a good trainer to help you out, happy holidays from our family to yours.