A Year Off Writing About Fitness and Nutrition.

This is my first blog post for a considerable amount of time. Well actually pretty much a year. It was a conscious decision to take a step back from something that I had pretty much done part time for the last 12 years.

Pretty much I was writing 5-10 articles a week from witty one liner rent-a-quote pieces up to 1000 word articles about something health and fitness related. Some of it was fun, some of it was like pulling teeth.

For a period of time and the majority of the “volume” I was writing it was as a ghost writer for varying trainers which wasn’t really that challenging and in truth a bit boring. Consider it as the writing equivalent of “vanilla ice cream”, fundamentally dull (yes, I know some people love vanilla but that is super charged vanilla with hawaiian vanilla pods and all that). Personally I did a piece on Men’s Health on training Batman, did a few articles on the Huffington Post but after those I felt a step back was necessary. To frame it I don’t really make money of this blog, I do it for interest and to frame what we do at Results FAST and ultimately to interest people in the training and nutrition services we provide there (NB I hadn’t retreated to the Batcave to train Batman as has been suggested merely I just got a bit bored writing content for the sake of it (Batman’s trainer would obviously say that though)).

Well relatively time has moved on (as it does) and I feel recharged or re-focussed to contribute something beyond eight great glute exercises or a High Intensity Training video that makes you want to gag when you watch- not because it’s hard but more because you are wondering just why (this is more my issue- social media and the internet is great for sharing information but it really depends what you read and who you follow, put it this way my “circle” is smaller than it’s ever been).

I’m not the only person trying to share practical usable content- it’s just that there is so much volume it’s hard to discern from good and bad sources, hopefully the content I share will clarify certain things or at least be a flag in a hurricane (James Bond reference there… ahem).

So what’s been going on? The gym is busy and has been busy for the past 11 months good. Our fat loss, strength and fitness clients are achieving varying levels of success (our naughty list is pretty short at the moment so shame on you if you are on it). We have seen some good challenges beaten, PR’s being achieved in the weight room and generally all round good stuff for those wanting to take a step on. Our athletes are pushing on, predominantly our swimmers, tennis and our kayakers are doing great stuff at a county, regional and for a few national level so it’s great to see  their efforts being rewarded. What does this say? People who turn up achieve their results.

I have been working on some interesting side projects which hopefully we will be testing in the new year and by the way it’s not an app (as people keep on asking- good ideas can still be on paper btw).

We have refurbed the gym in the last couple of months as well- for me this was basically two 60 hour weeks of labour but at the same time a lifetime of praise for a partition wall that appears to be not falling down, we now look a bit sharper and the new flooring is better for dropping heavy things on!

I think that will do for now, I really wanted to not kick this off again in the new year.

Burpees: Saint or Sinner?

One of the most poorly programmed exercises in the history of fitness is Burpees. This post looks to examine their placement in training and the rationale for their inclusion in different parts of your workout.

Predominant more in bootcamps, outdoor fitness and when working with limited amounts of equipment the rationale for their inclusion in training can vary.

As it is such a big exercise which mobilises the whole body the question to be asked initially is what level of fitness are you?

Burpees commonly feel like the end of the world to new exercisers. They cause a massive elevation in heart rate and ultimately poor exercise form limits performance (which is caused by fatigue).

With most boot camps they seem to be included in the middle of circuits as well as used as finishers (the last thing that you do in a session which leaves you lying on the floor in a puddle of your own sweat). If included with other exercises in a circuit format to induce fatigue then their form may be compromised if their repetition range is too high. By nature they are not an exercise you should struggle through so when do you tolerate bad form? In my eyes never. Therefore, beginners are suited to low repetition numbers predominantly at the start of a session. If you are not combining it with resistance training it is likely to be the most neuromuscular fatiguing exercise you will perform. So for beginners it is as much a strength exercise as it is a conditioning drill. In my experience most coaches place them in the middle or at the end of sessions to invoke fatigue? My question is that if it is the hardest thing you do in a session should it not go at the start so form is maintained if you are a beginner?

With advanced exercisers does the parameters move? Well, the ability to perform the exercise against fatigue does as does power output (in theory). The limiting factor to the exercise is still failure of form so in that case it’s pretty much the same compared to beginners. Someone who has good recovery therefore can do more repetitions for longer but as it is still an explosive exercise should it not be placed at the start of all routines or does the training focus dictate its position?

If the training focus is on strength and power development it could be considered more sensible to place it at the start of a session or at least early on after your primary loaded exercises. If looking to use it as an energy systems training tool e.g. Fat loss or full body conditioning sports then it can be used as a supplemental exercise in essence in the second half of your training session. As advanced exercisers generally recognise good posture and bad form compared to beginners then it is suitable for this to be used as a finisher.

What is the relevance of this post then to training. Beginners need to recognise form and body position first and will find this harder if already fatigued. Advanced exercisers can use certain exercises to build up their capacity to do more but like beginners will ultimately be limited by fatigue. Often though beginners are thrown Burpees too early in too large amounts to develop suitable strength while advanced exercisers could throw them in to the start of a session as an explosive “primer”.

Fat Loss Fundamentals

3124848496_334c931676I haven’t posted recently due to a busy easter period but the next article is a continuation of a series of posts on fat loss and removal. Fat loss is not just about doing lots of activity or going to weight watchers. It involves a number of complex processes that will result in a net burning of “fat.” It highlights why a bad diet doesn’t result in fat loss even if training regularly. It also highlights why fat reduction is reduced if activity is not prioritized.

Although I may be stating the completely obvious removing fat from fat cells so it can be used as energy is the emphasis of burning body fat.

The speed of this depends on the activity of hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) (which is partly regulated by the hormones insulin, testosterone, cortisol, estrogen, growth hormone and the catecholamine’s epinephrine and noradrenalin).

Primarily the catecholamine’s (transported in the blood) activate HSL in turn breaking down fat cells in to glycerol (a carbohydrate) and three fatty acids (the catecholamines include noradrenalin commonly referred to as adrenalin).

Glycerol can be used for energy as a carbohydrate; fatty acids can also be utilized for energy though interestingly they can also be restored by the body as part of a fat cell if not burnt as energy.

This process is called (re-esterification) which may happen if blood flow is sluggish.

The key regulator of HSL is a compound called cyclical adenosine monophosphate (cAMP).

When this is in abundance fat oxidation is increased.

In turn elevated insulin (which typically increases when carbohydrates are consumed) lowers cAMP slowing the rate of fat mobilization. cAMP is increased or decreased when the catecholamine’s bind to adrenoreceptors depending upon what receptors they bind to.

The two most important adrenoreceptors are beta 2 receptors (which will promote cAMP levels) and alpha 2 receptors (which will decrease cAMP levels).

As you can see catecholamine’s can promote and inhibit fat mobilization, though this is dependent on the other relevant relative hormone activity and the proportion and distribution of both types of adrenoreceptors in the body as to if there will be a net increase in fat mobilization.

As you can see at a cellular level there are a number of factors that increase or limit fat burning- focussing upon one part of this process does not necessarily mean long term fat burning- in fact it could mean the opposite.

With increased blood flow from increased activity the free fatty acids will bind with a substance in the blood called albumin and are transported around the body.

When energy is demanded by tissue such as muscles or the liver the free fatty acids can be burnt as energy after being transported in to the mitochondria (where energy is produced) helped by an enzyme called carnitine palmityl transferase (CPT).

CPT activity is moderated by your aerobic capacity and muscle glycogen levels- this indicates that that improved aerobic fitness is an advantage when looking to burn fat as well as glycogen depletion (minimizing the amount of stored carbohydrate in the body).

So what are the takehome points from this (obviously it may need a rereed- but if you can not be bothered then this is a shorter format).

Activity stimulates fat breakdown, energy demands will dictate how and where this fat is burnt, when dietary carbohydrates are low then fat burning is prioritzed). Exercise intensity needs to vary to alter the hormonal stimulus relating to fat burning though your fitness levels will dictate your fat burning “potential.” Simple!

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: Ian King

Last Wednesday I attended a lecture by Ian King on Athletic Preperation Strategies for Elite Athletes given by one of the worlds best strength and conditioning coaches Ian King. Now Ian King is not a name that you may not have not necessarily heard. He isn’t quite as media friendly as a lot of other “expert” coaches as he more often then not speaks very straight and tells it as it is. No fads just the combination of 30 years of experience with a number of world class athletes and Olympians means that this guys opinion should be taken seriously. I first stumbled upon his work over ten years ago and put it this way- it is now just as relevant as what it was then.

A lot of the time it takes a duration for an industry to catch up with good practice, however the fitness industry tends to struggle with one major issue “over marketing” and the use of loose facts to drive fads and products. To say the focus of the day was on critical thinking of the “getting results” process was an understatement. Indeed by lunchtime I had started to scratch my head- in some sort of matrix style conundrum it was if everything was not as it seems. Now I could cover a large amount of detail from micromanaging squat form, basic core activation, trigger point release techniques but fundamentally the ultimate question was based around how do you know what you are doing is working and effective.

When you have a track record of 30 years at the top preparing international athletes who have taken medals at World Championships and Olympics you sit up and take notice. Indeed if you were looking for a coaches coach ahead of an ace marketeer then Ian King is your man. He isn’t a fan of vibration plates, high training volumes, standard gyms and the education the current fitness industry provides. He is a fan of reviewing what you do constantly and maximizing your results with simplification before advancement- indeed equipment wise it highlights the point that barbells and dumbbells will do most things well.

Without giving the whole talk away (as there are too many points to raise for a blog post) I will highlight my top 5 take away points:

1. Doing things in the right way at the right time are important. Maintaining your professionalism and your own personal ethics are key to being a good coach.

2. Flexibility is more imporatant for trainees (not just the elite). It is the most underlooked assett of fitness as it is the most undersold (you can’t sell too many £2000 treadmills that enhance flexibility). Joking aside flexibility is important and adding more repetition and strength on to already tight movements is what most “exercise” programmes do. Take a step towards flexibility and mobility and prioritze it in your workouts if it is lacking in certain areas.

3. As a follow on from that Ian emphasised the main components of “physical fitness” as flexibility, endurance, strength and speed. Most programmes emhaise strength inspight of the necessity of the other factors of fitness, indeed most training centres are set up this way. Having a better understanding of what constitutes balanced development whatever your goals are is the key to progression.

4. Every push exercise should be followed by a pull to balance the body to avoid postural dominance. Not exactly a ground breaking revelation for the way I have always written programmes however I just wanted to mention it to put another nail in the “chest and triceps” split programme that still dominates a lot od the fitness industry. Old school rules is not always a good thing!

5. The internet is a minefield of misinformation- choose your sources of information well. A lot of information is now very brittle in if it is actually fact. Many fitnss pro’s relay this informaton back to their clients with a definitive spin on the issue without necessarily knowing thay what they are saying is true. You see this more than often in nutrition as well where a certain food is demonized or prioritzed without looking at the bigger picture. Information now has the ability to travel quickly though it does not necesssarily this information is right- apply a filter to this and you will be in a lot better place.

Overall it was a great day hosted by Graeme Marsh and the guys at The Foundry so thanks to them for organizing.

10 Years, 10 Lessons…

A decade of training a variety of individual’s for a variety of goals starts to teach you a lot of things. I have had the luck to work with some great personal training clients, focussed fat losers, developing athletes, rehab based physio’s, teams and coaches who have gone on to great things. Most importantly I have worked with some great trainers who have helped me develop my career. This post is basically a celebration of this and lists 10 of the most important lessons people can learn when looking to get stronger, perform better or simply to just look great.

 

1. Nutrition is 75% of the “fat loss” battle…

You cannot out train a bad diet. Food is abundant in western culture and forms an integral part of our daily routines. The truth is that although activity levels can be increased if it is not supplemented with a focussed nutrition plan then the results you will get are going to be limited. The everything in moderation crowd will disagree with this but if you want wholesale change and great results you have to “buy in” to the process. When it comes to nutrition it also means you can play the “fast fat loss” card or take it steady over 6 months- different strokes for different folks. Consistency over that period though is vital and therefore the nutrition plan can vary. That in effect explains why there are so many different weight loss plans. There are certain ways that we believe are most effective and that’s how we support our clients goals at Results FAST

2. Conditioning is only skill specific…

Whatever you do, be it running, biking, high intensity circuits, olympic complexes or even Zumba (yes, Zumba). Your ability to resist fatigue is only comparable to the task. Different people will need different levels of conditioning but as conditioning is only specific to the energy system you want to train. There are a variety of facet’s of conditioning to train from strength based conditioning with methods such as circuit training, to high intensity intervals such as sprints or spin bike based work or even including aerobic base building common in a lot of endurance athletes. The truth is short high intensity “intervals” will not always cut it, training has to be varied for progression too much one way and progress will be limited hence why programming needs to be changed often and varied for progression. This is a practice that we follow changing up our clients programmes from month to month.

 

 

3. There is no such thing as a training “system” just “philosophies”…

If someone says they have a system of training it means they have basically closed the door on new methods or being able to react to an individuals specific needs. A good coach will listen and add new styles of training if they see it a useful for improving their trainees results. Training is quite simple- anyone can write a programme or a workout with rudimentary knowledge, the internet is awash with experts. The key though is good coaching and long-term programme design where you have to roll with the punches sometimes from a session to session basis. It’s the difference between someone who is just there to motivation to someone who will help you achieve your training goals.

4. Trainers are not here just for “motivation”…

Seriously- motivational quotes are the cliché of personal trainers and fitness coaches which makes us all look like Ben Stiller’s character on Dodgeball. Motivation has to be internal as well as an external thing to achieve a goal or at least to keep going forward. A good coach is someone who provides support but not someone who’s role is so integral that the person cannot exercise or train without their presence. The truth is though most people want to have some form of accountability e.g. someone designing your programme, helping with organisation and giving you the motivating push here and there. A trainer does not need to become a crutch to lean on. While feeling “accountable” to a trainer the motivation has to be partly internal, you have to want the goal enough yourself in the long-term this is more important for getting results.

5. Turn up, consistency counts…

Over a period of time turning up more often gets you to your goals than not turning up. Sometimes when you don’t fancy training it’s those sessions which will keep you going forward. Simply said but probably one of the most important concepts. Consider your own training, if you are not achieving your goals how consistent are you at turning up be it training or/and nutrition?

6. Intensity is key for the plateauing exerciser…

Repeating the same programme over and over again without improving is sort of like replicating a hamster on a wheel. You are working hard but going nowhere. Intensity is the key here- taking your programme in a different direction is key for changing things up. You have three things you can mix up intensity (how hard), volume (how much) and complexity (what you do). Changing complexity too often does not allow learning and mastery of the skill so it should be changed month to month. Volume can be changed by doing more which can be useful at certain points though excessive training volume can be tiring and counter productive. Intensity though allows you to push yourself to new heights especially if you have been working at the same consistent level. Training volume often has to be dropped when taking intensity up but for the person who needs that extra push it can make all the difference.

7. Your weaknesses are often more important than your strengths…

It surprises me when people remark on how lean they are or how much muscle they have. Also a lot of people think they are strong because they can bench press xkg or are a great runner because they have a 35 minute 10km. A lot of time we are good at the things we practice more. Most of the things I find that people need to add to their programme are the things that they preferentially avoid. For instance, most guys avoid training their legs. Most females avoid lifting heavy weights afraid of bulking. Well for both sexes getting stronger and improving your weaker points will have a better effect on improving your strengths in the long run.

8.  Environment is key to success…

Where you train and the people you train with are vital for success. It’s probably the seminal difference between getting a good and a great result. In my mind an atmosphere where you are not judged, receive positive social support with an accountability factor that keeps your training consistent is key to goal achievement. Be it getting stronger, rehab or weight loss where you go to train and the standards set by the people around you be it your coach, friends or trainees will often govern the results that you will achieve and continue to achieve. It’s something we take great care of at Results FAST in Ware as we feel it separates us out from the competition.

9. Movement skills and integration doesn’t happen in isolation for the lower body…

From a corrective and rehab perspective I am lucky enough to have worked with some great individual’s who have taught me a lot. A lot of rehab protocols in my mind though tend to work on muscles in isolation. Although in some cases this may be relevant in others it means their progress to full exercise can be hampered. With a lot of trainees they need to reintegrate in to exercise quicker and start to build up basic movements so that they do not become completely deconditioned. I have seen people with knee pain lie on their side doing hundreds of glute exercises followed by stacks of glute bridges because glutes are good for stability. Did anyone consider that quads and hamstrings are good for stability as well? Simply said if it’s the right time to progress get on to two feet as quickly as possible and start developing the base movement patterns even through limited range initially.

10.  Education is experience, experience is education…

This one is for the fitness professionals in the crowd. It doesn’t really matter how long you have been training people as a coach. It does not really matter what qualifications you have. What really matters is what happens in between those points. Everyone is so concerned with being specialist they forget that all specialism starts with a great general rudimentary knowledge. Brain surgeons don’t just become brain surgeons it takes quite a few years to get through medical school before that level of specialism happens. It’s the same with training people, if you have worked with fat loss clients predominantly step outside the box and get some practical work with a physio or nutritionist or another allied health practitioner. If you work with athletes get out and work with the general public. Which ever direction you are coming from improve your “frame of reference”, it will make you a better trainer in the long run.

 

Does Sub-Maximal Training Lead to Submaximal Results?

Training for endurance sports is generally a question of efficiency. Efficiency of good performance though is a product of replicating competition and it’s demands. Competition in itself is performed at maximal or close to maximal intensity. This leads to a question about excessive training volume, lower intensity sessions and how a training programme is structured. “Should all training be maximal or close to competition pace?” So do swimming, cycling and running as well as gym training have to be challenged at a maximal of close to maximal level to administer improvements and can excessive amounts of training hamper their progress?

Swimming out of all of the disciplines is a sport traditionally born out of efficiency of movement. Streamlining and body position can make a difference of seconds and that can mean a matter of places at the top level. Race pace for sprint swimmers is as much a question of efficiency as physical capability, simply stated you cannot have shear power with no efficiency. That said form will breakdown for two reasons laziness (or poor coaching) and fatigue. Fatigue in nature is a product of inefficiency and broadly speaking is a result of the level of conditioning not being sufficient to maintain a suitable technique. Indeed the fatigue factor is relevant also to cycling and running where inefficiency in technique leads to further fatigue as ideal body position cannot be maintained.

Running in itself is governed by form. Poor running style though has the element of impact with the floor to be concerned about- something that swimming and cycling do not have. Structurally this is harder for the body to deal with as there is greater stress on the joints and connective tissue. This brings in to the equation the role of core stability, reactive strength and the ability to maintain form with good structural strength. Many new runners find the demands of running plays havoc with their joints- specifically the lower back and the knees. Both these areas have a limited amount of movement in them and predominantly need to be trained for stability. The ankles and the hips need stability though they also need a suitable amount of mobility. Without sufficient mobility or movement in the joint forces may not be transferred in an efficient way leading to overuse- specifically in the areas that have limited mobility. This highlights that excessive training volume in the form of too many miles or time spent on the road can have a detrimental effect on the body. Simply said if you are training for competition sub-maximal training should not be too long in volume. Favouring shorter runs more often is possibly a more efficient way of organising volume even as you build up the amount of training over a period of time. Recovery runs also should not be excessive in volume if your goal is to run quicker.

Cycling in turn is slightly different again. Cycling does not have the elastic plyometric bounce and impact that running has as you shift from leg to leg. Maximal training in this case can replicate competition at race pace or slightly above and below. While there is a need for training volume cycling and swimming are less destructive on the joints as you look to build efficiency of the energy systems.

As with most training excessive volume is what causes overuse injuries, I tend to term these “junk” miles and consider that you need to be training to gain ahead of just training. In all forms of training there is a need to cultivate efficiency of technique and energy systems efficiency. Technique breaks down under intensity and is where you also see injury. The key is being to maintain a sufficiently high intensity so you have carry over to performance, be it a tempo or interval session. Too much recovery work or also what some may call “base building” may end up blunting higher intensity sessions as cumulative fatigue holds back intensity, especially in running. Commonly, winter training is guilty of this as it sacrifices intensity for sheer volume. Cyclists commonly base build through the winter though is a phase of training that can be greatly helped by spikes of intensity at regular points. This means that race pace is being challenged and therefore you are training yourself to move faster. Swimming training volume is an area of debate- longer sessions should be technique refinement led and pace should not be ignored if faster times are sought.

With all three disciplines it highlights the point that slower sessions should be performed but they should be technique led, for beginners two sessions a week is ample but for the more advanced with good technique and structural strength then once a week is enough for energy systems eficency- train with intensity as when it comes to race day not knowing how quick is quick means that your overall result may suffer.

Hamstrung- Effective Hamstring Training for Performance

Both runners and cyclists in the past have considered the quads to be the primary muscles to develop for performance commonly leading to overbuilt, dominant anterior leg muscles.  

The hamstrings are among the muscles responsible for running and cycling fast as they are involved in both knee flexion (bending and hip extension (torso straightening at the hip)). The hamstrings are also key decelerators- indeed the faster you can stop the quicker you can move again.

The Anatomy of Movement of Running and Cycling.

Understanding the hamstring almost needs a full anatomy lesson in what happens during movement and specifically how energy is transferred. More specifically the elastic power transferred from between one leg to the other leg during normal gait. Running in this case is different to cycling; running is a movement which relies upon elastic power being converted to kinetic power before being converted back to elastic power (think as you move from leg to leg).

In running the hamstring is stretched as the opposite leg swings forward, the pelvis maintains position as the hamstring stretches away from the torso trying to stabilize against rotational forces (this highlights the role of suitable core strength for runners who have symptoms of hamstring pulls or sore lower backs). As the foot transfers through the gait cycle there is a changing of emphasis of the muscles that are recruited. As the toe pushes of there is a transference in muscular recruitment from the hamstrings, glutes and erector spinae (back) to the abdominals, iliopsoas and the quadriceps muscle group. Broadly speaking this is a transfer between the muscles at the back of the body to the muscles at the front of the body. If the pelvis is in an incorrect position away from neutral it can make the transference of muscular recruitment difficult. Why? The torso has to stabilize against rotation and forward leaning. This can be seen in runners who lose control as they run, simply elastic energy transference is affected and the individual finds it hard to bring the swing leg through in front of the body. If as they push off on their toe there is too extreme a level of backwards movement (or the back hyper extends) it will result in the forward movement of the pelvis (often termed anterior tilt), this highlights that the knee does not need to travel backwards far past the hips in order to maintain pelvic stability. Great sprinters show this knee and hip position, if efficiency is leaked over 100 metres it can mean a difference of seconds. While in distance running efficiency is vital for quick times it is also vital for injury protection. Running in an uneconomical way can lead to poor joint position that loads the muscles and connective tissues and can ultimately lead to injury. If the hamstrings are tight it can pull the pelvis downwards posteriorally, tightness in this case limits the range of movement of the leg and limits stride length. If not strong enough anterior pelvic tilt occurs causing hyperextension at the lower back and possible back pain. Both may be related to hamstring pulls but for different reasons.

Cycling is different, when seated the pelvis is affectively fixed in a different position. As you do not have the elastic challenge to stability and transference from leg to leg, efficiency and leg power have to be built within relative few changes in environment as the movement is essentially closed chain. There is a need though to maintain pelvic stability and resist rotation (as in running). A stable pelvis leads to economical movement of the legs and therefore efficiency on the bike can be maintained. It highlights why leg power or strength is only task specific- most great sprinters would not come close to setting the world of time trialling on fire and vice versa.

The Myth of Sports Specific Training for the Hamstring.

So does this mean hamstring strength is trained differently? Well no, technique for runners and setup and technique are vital for both runners and cyclists. Beyond that though training the hamstring in itself is about training not just that muscle but the muscular balance between all the muscle groups that act around the hip and knee.

Most movements that operate through the hamstring tend to be ballistic- this highlights the necessity of the hamstrings to be able to control rapid lengthening. Hamstring training should initially be eccentric in nature; this means that during training there is an emphasis on controlling the lengthening of the muscle. This should also be multi-joint so that the muscles are recruited as a unit, not independent of each other- this is often where injury or overuse occurs. In regard to injury occurrence poor warm up procedures are blamed for hamstring pulls and strains. Type of warm up matters but specifically stretching the hamstrings effectively turns the muscle off, this increases the chance of injury as the muscle cannot lengthen under control.

Initially exercise selection to develop strength should consist of exercises such as stiff leg deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, step ups, and reverse lunges. These can progress towards walking lunges, cable hip extensions, glute ham lowers/ negatives and forward lunges. Beyond this technique training for both cycling and running can be reinforced. Bike work needs to be on the bike, variation of resistance can be used.

Dynamic hip mobility exercises for both cyclists and runners is important. Lack of hip mobility is a major cause of many hamstring problems. Without proper hip mobility the leg will not be able to work through the full range of motion. This limitation will eventually lead to flawed mechanics especially in a fatigued state as more limited ranges of movement will be worked through. These drills should be incorporated daily as part of warm-up or cool down and initially may be performed for posture correction reasons.

On a single leg the abductors and adductors play a major role in the stabilization of the hips. Resisted hip abduction helps strengthen the glute medius (vital for knee tracking). If they are weak or not coordinated with the hamstrings more strain will be placed on the hamstrings. Lateral resisted side steps with a rubber band placed above the ankles or  the hips can be utilized as a warm up and cool down drill. This is quite effective for cyclists who can develop dominance in certain muscles leading to faulty knee tracking.

As for running, stair and gradient running is an efficient way of emphasising a high knee lift and powerful drive on toe off. Hill sprinting at a 15-degree grade provides an excellent means to develop good top speed mechanics. It is virtually impossible to overstride sprinting up hill and helps develop an efficient leg pick up from the hip flexors. Low hops and jumps serve to facilitate muscle stiffness which is more important for running than cycling. Stiffness does not mean necessarily mean tightness it means stability and quick transfer of movement, the opposite of stiffness would be the leg collapsing at ground contact. The emphasis here should be on the knee being slightly flexed with quick movements and low ground contact times. The key is in the ability to absorb force efficiently and transfer quickly.

This article has highlighted that subtle differences exist in the conditioning of cyclists and runners though there are more similarities especially in the gym that leads to optimum transfer to better performance.

Experiments in Fat Loss: Part 1…

March is a month that I am hitting a fat loss nutrition programme. Every time I do this I like to add some new things in to the mix to draw me back from the dry taste of repetitive protein meals. Some new bits I am bringing in to my plan this month (or as Claire calls them little “fads”) are a few things that I have used on and off before though with each of these I am making them integral parts of my nutrition plan:

Green Protein Powder- the rationale for this lies in variation of protein sources. There is also a bit of an “industry” movement to alkaline/ vegetarian based nutrition so I thought I would get involved to see what the fuss is about. While I don’t necessarily think going completely green is necessary using a pea, rice and hemp protein blend can be quite useful in varying protein intake sources while not necessarily consuming large amounts of peas and beans which can provide quite a bit of gastric distress. This takes care of your whole amino acid profile which nutritionally is a plus. The negative is that the taste and texture are not exactly A*. Well, with a minty taste I feel pretty good after consuming it- the process of getting it from my mouth to my stomach though makes me wretch. That said I have this with breakfast to get the day of to a good (healthy probably is a better descriptive than good) start with some sort of egg (boiled, scrambled, poached) concoction usually with chilli and spinach. Anecdotally I find the green protein quite light from a digestion point of view.

Lemon Juice and Water- This appears to be on every “celebrity” based plan. However, there is some valid sanity in the madness. Lemon juice can help reduce the glycemic index of food- a lower glycemic index means less extreme spikes in blood sugar. This means that there is less potential chance of calories in theory being stored as fat. Again- lemon juice is not the complete answer; however, I find it hard during the day when eating a higher protein diet to drink enough. At least with lemon juice pre-meal or snack I can stay hydrated with a carryover that may help reduce my body fat a bit more.

Almonds- Nuts in generally have a good correlation with fat loss based diets. The one problem I find is that 6-10 almonds can very quickly become half a pack. This is where in fairness mental toughness comes in to play and portion control. Nuts are generally easy to store and carry with you as a quick snack. I make this one of my mobile snacks especially if I know I may not get a chance to eat properly. In fact nuts and a protein shake are pretty much a default 5 minute meal between sessions or clients.

Coconut Oil- I have been using coconut oil for the last 6 months, coconut oil is solid at room temperature and is an alternative for cooking compared to vegetable or olive oil. It is predominantly saturated meaning it is often highlighted as unhealthy even though the calorific yield is slightly lower. Why is it a good alternative? The reason for my usage is that it is formed of medium change triglycerides (MCT). MCT’s have a better availability to be turned in to energy; in effect they will be metabolized quicker than long chain triglycerides. As I am eating light on carbs this could be handy. Of course not a complete fix but keeping fat intake steady has a number of metabolic benefits include maintenance of the immune system.

In the rest of the plan I am gunning to consume protein every 3 hours as well as some servings of vegetables or salad. In all it’s not that hard as long as you prepare at the start of the week. For instance I have my breakfast at 5am (I have a pretty long day), a shake and some nuts at 8am, a piece of chicken and a green salad at 11am, a tin of oily fish such as tuna, sardines or mackerel with more salad or vegetables (sometimes I may have an innocent vegetable pot which works quite well) at around 3pm and then an evening meal e.g. chilli and salad which is usually a bit too late (8pm), most of the time I will be training people till then.

This is not a maintenance plan and is only set up for 4 weeks but after one week  and 2.8kg of weight loss it’s going pretty well (probably a bit of the weight loss is water so it isn’t necessarily fat). Next article I’ll talk a bit more about my training and the highlight of my week- cheat day!