Archive for May, 2010

Sweaty Underwear and Fitness Conferences

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

What was your last fitness conference experience like? Did you fire up brain cells, burn calories or both? In the month of April, I presented in the UK, Chicago and Ocean City, Maryland. There was lots of time in airplanes to contemplate my experiences at the shows.

This is a rant and rave that I’ve been thinking about for a few months. And after an incredibly busy first quarter of conferences, I’m putting it to paper.

I love fitness conferences for the energy, enthusiasm and comradery I get from so many good friends I see at the shows. But recently, I’ve started to struggle a lit bit with some of what seems to be a theme throughout all the conferences-sweating takes priority over thinking.

Do you go to a fitness conference just to take a workout class that is led by one of your favorite instructors? At a recent show I witnessed two women talking as they were toweling the sweat from their foreheads in sweat soaked clothes. You could hear them discussing the workout they just went through. This would have been inspiring had it not been there third one THAT day!
Is this a case of addictive behavior toward exercise? If it was additive behavior, they were in great company because lots of folks were doing the same. I believe it is more a case of the huge number of people who spend their conference hours working their bodies and not their minds.

I realize that we are an industry that teaches and practices movement as part of what we do. But our conferences often look like labs that never had the lecture. The movement part of what we do is to experience what we have intellectually learned.

If we used the college or university model as an example, a student would never graduate if the only classes he ever took were activity classes. Why is that? Because you can’t possibly learn the scientific foundations and fundamental principles that are prerequisite to teaching others skills properly.

I know some amazingly smart presenters with great science behind what they do finding themselves only doing presentations in the huge rooms where bodies are flailing about. Why do they (and admittedly me at times) do this? Because we feel obligated to get people up and running around or else they won’t stick around for the nuggets of science we sneak in there. That’s sad.

This is certainly not a knock on group exercise presenters or participants. Because the top group exercise instructors I know would love to have their conference attendees sit through an hour of instruction before they started a workout. But would those attendees do it?

The next educational event that I have anxiously anticipated for a couple of years now is finally coming back to Southern California. The Interdisciplinary Congress on Low Back and Pelvic Pain will be in Los Angeles. I attended the very first event they ever had at the University of California San Diego back in 1995. Guess what? There will be no presentations to music or sweat towels required. But there will be massive lecture halls filled with chairs and tables so that detailed note taking can occur. And I’ll be soaking up every minute of it.

What can be done about this trend in fitness conferences? I understand that for those organizations that put on the shows that it is a business venture. And they are in many ways just giving the people what they want. However, they are marketed as educational events. So I’d like to see the scheduling of the sessions to be such that people did not have a workout option available in every single time slot. Then they mind find themselves wandering in to some lectures to kill time and might just enjoy the listening and learning. Don’t just give the attendees what they want, give them some direction toward what they need.

And wouldn’t it be great if they did not schedule presenters with similar subject matter in the same time slots? It seems any of the presenters that I want to see at a conference are inevitably presenting during the same time slots as me. Not only is that a bummer for me, but it also means that the attendees are forced to choose between great presenters on topics that interest them instead of giving them the chance to see two or more at non-conflicting time. I think this hurts everyone.

Fitness conferences are a blast and are so great for our industry in many ways. As we mature as an industry and seek to become part of the health care continuum, our educational events should reflect as much. Yes, we need to move and yes it is OK to sweat. I’d just really like to see us exercising our brains as much as we are exercising our bodies.

What do you think?

Corrective Exercise #16

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

(Due to a server crash, this post is being reposted after originally being posted on April 17th, 2010)

We take the Thomas Test that is used for hip flexor contractures and create a beneficial corrective exercise with it. A great way to lengthen the hip flexors for certain populations.

Review of Mike Boyle’s book: Advances in Functional Training

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

(Due to a server crash, this post is being reposted after originally being posted on April 17th, 2010)

I have certainly known of Mike Boyle for many years. His name often came up in discussions and articles on strength and conditioning as well as functional training. Mike is as well known for calling it like he sees it as he is for his contribution to strength and conditioning.

Up until a couple of years ago, Mike and I had never met. I wasn’t sure what kind of guy he was going to be when we did finally meet because I can’t say that I’ve always agreed with everything Mike’s ever written. But who wants an industry of clones?

In the summer of 2007 I had arranged a meeting with Chris Poirer of Perform Better to show him a pre production prototype of the Core-Tex™ at the Perform Better Summit in Long Beach, CA. I sent Mike an email because I knew he was going to be presenting there and asked him if he would be available to take some time to look at the Core-Tex and give me his opinion.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Mike gets approached all the time by people with products and ideas (because I certainly do). Even so, Mike got back to me right away and graciously agreed to spend some time with me between his presentations.

When I finally got to meet Mike, it was a pleasure to see that he just one of the guys. Like so many of the great educators in our industry, Mike had no ego and was genuinely interested in hearing more about the Core-Tex™. He didn’t have to do this since he didn’t know me but he extended me a professional courtesy. And to me, that was a class act.

When I got Mike’s book, Advances in Functional Training, I took it on a plane to England and read it cover to cover. This book is probably the most comprehensive book out there right now in respect to the amount of content it covers on the various components of functional training.
We all know that some people believe that functional training equates to circus acts-which of course it is not. This book covers the full continuum of what functional training really is and leaves out the circus acts.

I often speak in terms of training for function versus functional training because for me functional training denotes a mode or method of training and training for function denotes and objective. The content covered in Mike’s book falls right in line with training for function.
Mike has spent a lot of years in the industry. Yet he is humble enough to readily cite those that have influenced his approach to training and states his reasons for following the training principles he adheres too.

Since the functional training continuum covers everything from restoring normal movement patterns to maximizing sport performance, there is a tremendous amount of information to cover. A book could be written for each aspect of training for function along the continuum. As comprehensive as Advances in Functional Training is, it couldn’t possibly cover everything along the continuum in the depth that each topic requires.

But that is not bad thing. Because what Advances in Functional Training does is give the reader a full appreciation of the many aspects of function. And there is no shortage of content in this book (314 pages).

For example, my professional strengths are focused more around the assessment process and corrective exercise. Therefore, it’s not often that I get to work with clients as they move toward the more advanced end of the functional continuum. Mike’s book serves as a great resource to me for identifying some of the critical variables that need to be part of the training progressions.

The term “soup to nuts” keeps coming to mind when I read through this book. The book begins with where all training should begin-the assessment process. It then takes you through the continuum with appropriate progressions right up to athletic preparation. Mike not only does a great job at guiding us through the functional continuum, but he highlights critical areas where injury and common training pitfalls take place.

A minor criticism of this book is the lack of direct references from the research literature. Although Mike does give credit to other authors and practitioners, I don’t recall reading any direct citations of the literature. Doing so would have strengthened the delivery of many of the concepts in the book.

Advances in Functional Training really is a comprehensive look at a topic that regularly stirs debate from trainers and coaches with different training philosophies. Mike Boyle has made some tremendous contributions to our industry and with this book he provides ample evidence and rationale for a functional training approach.

Published by On Target Publications (January 11, 2010)

Is Your Body a 1974 Pinto?

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

(Due to a server crash, this is being reposted after originally being posted on February 17th, 2010)

If it feels so right, how can it be so wrong?

If the only vehicle that you’ve ever driven in your entire life was a 1974 Pinto, then your only frame of reference for a car is a 1974 Pinto. As far as you know, all cars feel every tiny bump in the road, rattle when moving over 55 miles per hour and take 3 people to turn the steering wheel. Then one day a kind friend of yours hands you the keys to a 2010 Mercedes SL 600. Wow! You have just experienced automotive engineering excellence.

What if your body is a 1974 Pinto? Then that is your only frame of reference of how a human body feels when it moves. You can’t step out of your beaten up body and into the body of a Mercedes SL 600. And because you are unaware how good you could feel or how efficient you could move, you accept life as a 1974 Pinto.

From an aesthetic stand point, we can look at someone else and say “I want to look like that” (or “I don’t want to look like that!”). By looking in the mirror, we can see how we compare visually. But movement and kinesthetic awareness (awareness of your body parts and their relationship to one another in space) is not something we can evaluate in the mirror.

Most of what we do with movement every day is done unconsciously and automatic. We might initiate the process consciously but once the action begins, most of it is on autopilot. For example, you might see that your shoe is untied and consciously make the decisions to bend down to tie it. But once the movement starts you’re not thinking about how much to bend from the ankle versus the hip. Those movements are based on your existing, unconscious movement catalog (even if they are those of a 1974 Pinto).
74 Pinto

When you are learning a new exercise or dance move, nearly all of the learning is initially through visual and auditory information. The movement is demonstrated (visual) and the cues are spoken (auditory). The kinesthetic part of learning or what we feel works off its existing 1974 Pinto point of reference and are not something we can evaluate in the mirror.

When people learn a new movement, they often miss out on some of the critical kinesthetic cues the body provides. This is because when you learn a new movement or move, the tendency is to be more concerned with the final outcome of the movement, versus what’s the best route to getting there. In other words, the focus is more on what needs to be accomplished (i.e. tying your shoe) rather than the quality of the movement. Therefore, you end up working from a foundation of movements that you are already doing wrong, even though it feels so “normal”.

So what can you do about this? First, it is important to understand that the best way to influence how our body moves is with subtle movements. This is how our nervous system detects change from the status quo. A good example of this is with corrective exercise. The precisions and control of corrective exercise movements allow the nervous system to recognize differences in formerly familiar movements. This is opposed to rapid, dynamic movements that essentially generate momentum with the bigger muscles in the body. Granted, you won’t get your heart rate up the same way, but that is not the purpose.

Corrective exercises will help “reboot” your software so that your body can ultimately learn to do things in a new and improved way. With this your body starts to receive kinesthetic cues that are more like a Mercedes and less like a Pinto.

Corrective Exercise #15

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

(Due to a server crash, this is being reposted after originally being posted on January 20th, 2010)

As you are reading this, my guess is that your thoracic spine and the lower cervical (if not all the cervical segments) are in flexion. So I’ve taken another of the exercises from the Pain-Free Program for Corrective Exercise #15.

As always, I hope to offer you a little more insight and detailed information on an exercise/posture like this that goes way beyond the obvious.
Click on the image to watch this short, informative video.

Ouch! Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

(Due to server errors this is being reposted after originally being posted on December 18th, 2009)

It’s the time of the year when people make those resolutions. You know the same ones we here every year: “I’m going to start taking better care of myself by exercising and eating right”.

You should be welcomed with open arms and applauded for taking the initiative toward better health. Statistics show a tremendous drop in exercise adherence after the first several weeks following the initiation of a new exercise regime. There are many reasons for this that are physical or psychological or both.

Ours is a society that wants things NOW. Therefore, all too often the previously sedentary person attempts advanced moves and to pick up where they left off 3 years ago…all on day one. On the next day they start to think that that might not have been a good idea. And two days after that first workout, they know that that wasn’t a good idea. It is forty-eight hours after a workout when delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is at its peak. This is one of the most important events in shaping the attitudes of a new or renewing exerciser. It is the attitudes and beliefs about exercise that will keep them coming back, or throwing in the proverbial towel.

If the new exerciser does not know that DOMS in moderation is a positive benefit from exercise, they may not come back. If they do not know that it comes from micro damage to the muscle fibers and that they can control how much micro damage occurs (by reducing weight lifted, reps, etc.), they will not come back. And if they do not know that mild to moderate cardiovascular exercise can actually reduce DOMS by flushing the waste from the muscles, they may not see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Here are a few suggestions that anyone can use to see that new exercisers become seasoned exercisers by sticking with the health benefits of a regular regime:

1. Understand that there is often a transitional period of slight or moderate muscle soreness that might occur from new uses of the muscles.

2. Know that muscle soreness is OK, but joint pain, swelling and any sharp or localized pain is a sign that something is wrong and a qualified professional should evaluate them.

3. Get help. A qualified fitness professional can provide you with many safe and effective alternatives to properly work the body. The new exerciser will not know what their limits are until it is too late. (Check what our personal training services offer here)

4. Find a partner or work out with a small group so you can communicate with someone who might be experiencing similar challenges and provide each other with support.

Keeping the new exerciser invested in their health is good for all of us. It is good for the individual’s longevity and quality of life and it is good for society as a whole because it is one less person burdening our health care systems.