A New Direction…. Among Other Things…

It’s been about three quarters of a year since I updated this blog. Reason being is simply I decided to take a bit of a rest from fitness and nutrition writing (put it this way- I have probably written 2 to 3 articles a week over the last ten years, not an issue if your main job is a writer or journalist- mine is not, it’s training people). The other reason I cut back on updates is that I wanted to have a bit of a rethink in the type of content I was sharing.

In the past I have written and ghost written some good articles/ books that I thought were legitimately strong in the sense that they were good solid content that people would use to enhance their fitness, training, performance, nutrition etc.

Other articles are what I term “click bait” or what you may recognise as another “7 reasons why you are fat/ not skinny/ are avoiding carbs.” This type of article is great from the point of view of attracting clicks but they are quite hollow in content. What I mean is they never really tell you the whole story or give any frame of reference of why this information is applicable to you.

One of my clients highlighted this the other day by asking me “Is dried mango good for me?” Now you could rephrase this in to 7 reasons why dried mango is good for you, indeed you could find 7 reasons that dried mango is “bad” for you. Now dried mango is not good or bad- what is important is the context that it can be good or bad in e.g. It depends upon what you eat every day and how much you train, exercise, move. Indeed writing an article on why mango is a “superfood” is a lot easier than explaining 7 reasons why mango consumption is context relevant. People generally want bite sized chunks of information backed up with a scientific reference- it could be a bad study, but it doesn’t matter because it’s all science right….. well no.

So that leads me to what this blog is changing in to. I am intending to make it more practical and application driven with more of a day to day view point of how we work with our clients at our gym Results FAST. What’s our average client? We don’t have one, we have no “niche” apart from sensible results driven programming backed by what we see as good science. We have a range of adult clients from 11 to 72 years old with the main aim of being strong, fit and healthy. Some manage joint injuries- chronic and acute, others are just trying to manage their lifestyles. We have a number of young athletes from swimming, tennis, football and rugby including county, regional, national and international level. We have clients who struggle with suitable nutrition, we have clients who are curious about any new diet or fad exercise (who we have to “try” and put straight). We generally train a better level of client who respect the training process as opposed to individuals who just chase “fatigue.” We have older athletes looking for smart programming to lengthen their careers. We have newbies and experienced lifters. What can I say everyone is on the training continuum in some way.

This blog aims to explain the programmes, the exercises, the processes and the work that we do with our Results FAST members. So quite simply any questions that you want us to field then ask and we will explain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons You Should Quit The Gym

I don’t normally post fitness business content but this piece highlights a few points for gym members and “fitness consumers.”

1. If you are a member of a gym, read their website. If the landing page informs you of what equipment they have in the gym then it’s time to quit. Why? There is a saying that facilities tell while services sell. If all they are doing is informing you what is in the place then how does this help you achieve your end goal. If they are not telling you how they can help you then you are paying an expensive equipment rental.

2. As a follow on to point one if the gym has an extensive range of TV channels, monitors, games, swimming pool, spa and saunas unfortunately they are trying to distract you from the thing that you go to the gym for. Don’t get me wrong music can be incredibly motivating and create a great training environment but watching the latest reality television series is only going to dampen your intensity while exercising. You don’t go to the gym for a distraction- you go to get fit, join a spa and stop kidding yourself that you are “training.”

3. If your primary source of information is from a trainer who has been working less than two years you are probably wasting your time. Controversial as I know that everyone has to make a start in the fitness industry and you can achieve a multitude of qualifications from certificates to degrees to start you off. The truth is most certifications are not relevant to actually performing the job. As with most professions personal training is learnt on the job.. There is an 80% drop out rate of employees in the fitness industry within 2 years of qualifications with poor pay being cited as one of the major reasons. The truth is it is a competitive industry, not a glorified hobby as some people think. Anyone who has made a success of a training business that I know has worked over 60+ hours a week for at least 5 years to get where they are. If you are working with a new trainer make sure that they are in a great learning environment and surrounded with experience- that way you can guarantee that you are getting the right advice.

4. If someone tries to sell you supplements that promise you weight loss you should quit that gym. But gyms sell weight loss supplements all of the time don’t they? There is healthy weight loss using sensible nutritional strategies then there are supplement based weight loss plans. Most of these products are poor quality soy protein mixed with a range of artificial ingredients. What’s more you don’t need a qualification in nutrition to sell these products. One of these meal replacement supplement company’s Herbalife are currently being investigated by The Federal Trade Commission for Multilevel Marketing which is technically illegal. Most people who push these products care more about earning money through commission then the benefits that they will bring you. If anyone suggests a supplement that is a meal replacement (therefore not actually supplemental to your normal diet) then you may want to seek alternative opinions about how to achieve your goals in a healthy fashion.

5. There is more cardio kit and weights machines than free weights. This isn’t a “hard core” statement. Simply the reason why big commercial gyms have lots of cardio kit and resistance machines is that they are low labour items to show their members what to do. Free weights necessitate explanations and examples meaning you need better educated fitness training teams compared to a machine that you either need to take a pin out of or press a button. I could talk about why there are more benefits of free weights but it’s not my job to convince you of that. What I am suggesting is that it is cheaper for a gym to provide less expertise.

Why Sugar Isn’t The Bad Guy: Part One

Just as fat was demonized in the 1980’s sugar seems to be taking a bashing as dietary zealots whipping boy. With sugar avoidance becoming the latest media headline it’s compelling that sugar now plays the role that saturated fat once played and it is now responsible for the obesity epidemic that was once fats responsibility.

 

With what has been published you never really hear about the positive side of sugar or how it is used in the human body. Overwhelmingly the opinion of newspapers and numerous documentaries is that sugar is evil incarnate and will get you addicted, hooked on the giddy feeling of euphoria that only milk chocolate can give before you are sat in a pile of high sugar energy drinks looking for your next hit if you can get your obese frame out of bed.

 

The alarmism highlights that sugar correlates with a number of diseases from diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. However all of these conditions are multi-factorial in cause. You cannot attribute their development purely to sugar intake. Lifestyle and other dietary behaviours are also responsible.

 

What also is clear is that over the last 30 years activity has decreased as we undertake more sedentary occupations while total calorific intake has increased by over 400 calories daily. Sugar consumption although being blamed for the increase in people’s weight has only risen by a few calories on  average since the 1970’s. In fact the consumption of fats, oils, dairy fats and flour and cereal products have increased by about 180 calories which is about 4.5 times the average increase in the intake of sugar. In summation- we are not eating excessively more sugar than what we were consuming 30 years ago.

 

This point highlights that modern lifestyles indicate we are eating more of everything and we are less active than the previous generation. It’s a bit hard then to primarily blame sugar for this issue as we do not see an exact change in sugar consumption.

 

In the next post I will highlight the role that sugar plays and how science has been twisted in pursuit of a media story.

Training Programmes- Critical Non-Essentials and Finding 5% Extra

Training by it’s general nature is the repetition of something to get better at a given task. This often can lead to a lot of repetion of certain exercises or types of training which can lead to staleness, boredom and sometimes a loss of motivation. In our training centres we pride ourselves on having an innovative approach to training.

Often changing or tweaking the way you train with subtle changes can provide a whole new training stimulus, indeed trying something different although not a wholesale change can give a good training effect. That is why I term some methods critical non-essentials. If anyone has read Sir. Clive Woodward’s autobiography on how England won the world cup then you will understand that sometimes little things can be the difference between a good and a great result- he discussed this with it’s merits towards winning a rugby match but the same thing can be applied to your training..

1. Go Barefoot… Dropping your footwear or buying a minimal shoe such as a Vibram Fivefinger or a New Balance Minimus can have a profound effect on your training. Though not necessarily for everyone and not necessary for those who run large distances the effect of trying a change in footwear can have a great carryover to balance, proprioception and strength. The concept revolves around training the foot to do it’s proper job helping strengthen your arches naturally- something that modern supportive shoes do not necessarily do very well. By performing your gym based workouts barefoot it can help develop foot strength and ankle stability with exercises such as walking lunges before moving on to low level running for those with suitable strength and good posture.

2. Intensity Ahead of Volume… The efficency of what you do has a direct corelation with the results that you want to acheive. As you become fitter you develop the ability to do more- in effect you acumulate training volume. The key to really taking your fitness levels up to the next level is working on developing your training intensity- not just how much you do. The benefits of interval training are pretty well documented so rather than using steady state cardiovascular exercise mixing periods of high intensity work with active recovery is a more efficent way of working. We have found (escpecially in women) that aiming to improves someone’s top levels of strength translates well to helping improve their conditioning gains once their general conditioning levels have plateaued. Dropping your repetitions per exercise to 5 for bigger exercises such as squats, deadlifts, press ups and pull ups will help lift maximal strength levels and can give you training the kick it needs to take you on to the next level.

3. Turn the Session Upside Down… From time to time we get stuck in a training rut. Turning things on it’s head from what you normally do can have a great effect. For example, do you normally stretch at the end of your session? If you do it may mean that you have not been prioritizing flexibility as part of your training. Moving it to the start of the session may help give this facet of fitness a push as well as give a slightly different emphasis to your training. Do you normally train your abs at the end of a session? If you do place them at the start, it will switch your abs on and mean that you core muscles are ready for the session ahead instead of justing throwing a bit of ab work together at the end of the session.

So why not try this three methods and let me know what you think!!!!

Fat Loss Optimization Introduction

From the number of clients who I have trained and advised it always bugged me that there currently is not one way of training or diet that is better than the other when considering fat loss. It is funny that I admit this now in the opening days of the New Year but consider the number of diet and exercise books, guides and DVD’s available for this topic.

What is displayedon thiks blog is what I believe current science supports as good advice and most importantly what has worked well for the people that I train. That is not to say this is a cutting edge approach or the newest sensation but this is a collection of science, practice and common sense applied in a useable format. The posts are to be read all the way through for a full understanding of the points.

Why you may ask? I feel as my primary role as a coach is to give you advice and guidance on your exercise and nutrition plan while helping you understand why you do something and the implications this will have upon your results. This topic is vast and I have added detail where necessary as fat metabolism and energy utilization is still a rapidly expanding area of research. If you are an experienced or motivated exerciser this provides a resource to design your own nutrition programmes. For all new readers and beginners to trying toi acheive the physique they want this will set out an approach to fat loss underpinned by the science.

An adage that someone said to me about giving training and nutrition advice which I feel will always hold true is that if you lose someone body fat, make them stronger or take their pain away they will train with you for life. As a trainer these are fundamentals to be adhered to as no one wants to always train fat, weak and injured clients (as it means your clients are not acheiving their goals) and in turn no trainee wants to be overweight, weak or suffering from injuries. This to a point explains my motivation for developing this text as a “go to” resource.

American trends commonly are repeated in the westernised world as you can see from talk of an “obesity epidemic.” In 2007 it was been estimated that Americans spent over $40 billion on diet and weight loss related supplements and products. The supplement industry generated $16.1billion in sales with over 20,000 different products consumed by up to 100 million people. There are now more obese people in the world than starving people. With an aging population and therefore a higher mortality rate the well documented effects of the slowing of metabolism with age highlights that strategies to promote healthy levels of body fat are important in obesity prevention. Twinned with a decrease in activity levels at school and with sedentary occupations elevating the chances of gaining weight it is clear that fat loss is a growing market.

Fat loss is an unregulated industry both in advice for exercise and nutrition filled with what could be considered bad science- just because a compound, food supplement or exercise intervention is involved in the metabolism of fat, supplementing with it massively or doing just one mode of exercise does not necessarily bring about long term sustainable results. This could be considered bad science as of thesed processes/ supplements are unproven- we may not understand the potential problems that may arise by their usage.

So why do we want to lose body fat? Usually it is for three reasons:

Aesthetics        

Simply to look good and show muscle definition. Society norms currently indicate that a low level of body fat is considered attractive in the westernised world so this is an evolutionary mechanism.

Performance     

Body fat is excess weight. More body fat equals a lower strength/ power to weight ratio which is undesirable for most sports persons unless weight plays an integral part of their sport- in this case it needs to be balanced.

Health              

The evidence is now overwhelming that obesity (defined as excessive storage of energy in the form of adipose tissue/ fat) has adverse effects on health. Obesity is associated with hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM), excess of certain cancers and a host of other medical problems. Thirty-four million adult Americans have a body mass index greater than 27.8 (men) or 27.3 (women) which is very close to a weight increase of 20 percent above desirable. When diabetes, hypertension, or a family history for these diseases is present, treatment will lead to benefits even when lesser degrees of obesity are present.

With a society gaining in body fat and the health implications related to this the fitness industry and its professionals are at the front line of this epidemic. By the time doctors pick up the problem often the damage has all ready been done and the health services are not equipped currently to deal with this issue. Doctors treat the problem but currently have their hands tied to deal with prevention- by the time someone gets to the doctors surgery the damage is already done. 

Science has been simplified in our consumer society by the media and other authorities in order to provide information to the masses. It can be a complex thing for a lot of people- it is not as simple as calories in and out.  

A health professional’s role in fat loss is to be outcome or result focussed for their clients goals. The achievements of the client should be behaviour and processed focussed- fat loss is as much a lifestyle goal as a training goal as this will promote long term adherence to dietary and exercise interventions which is at the core of the principles I believe in.

4 Overated Exercises (And How To Make Them Better)!

What goes in an exercise programme is usually a mixture of opinion, fact and experience of the person writing that programme. Now that does not mean the more experienced you are the more relevant your exercise choices are. In turn qualifications mean nothing without practical experience. What follows are 4 exercises that you may commonly see on training programmes. In this post I will quantify why we programme them rarely or not at all and most importantly options to perform instead.

 

Tabata’s- Based on a protocol from a Japanese Sports Scientist, Tabata training seems now to include any form of short maximal intensity workload with short 10 second rest. When you look at the original paper that this type of training was coined from the workload has to be supramaximal (up to 170% of yourVO2 Max). It’s tough working that hard and a bit nasty- you can not last a long time working at these intensities. My issues are the fact that performing work for 20 seconds and resting for 10 seconds has all been coined “Tabata.” Simply you can not swing a kettlebell, perform bodyweight squats or burpee your way to this type of intensity. As well as this when being performed on the Treadmill, Rower or Bike you will see technical fatigue very quickly. If used at all the benefits of Tabata style training plateau after 3 weeks. The good side if used is that it can enhance VO2 Max and anaerobic capacity but should only be used as ashort term measure and most certainly is not the only form of cardiovasculkar training you should utilize.

Upright Rows- The old school body building classic to build up those shoulders. Now when you perform the upright row the shoulder joint internally rotates as well as flexes (turns inwards as the arm raises upwards). What happens here as you bring the arms up is that it closes the space in between your humerus and your acromium process (shoulder joint). In this area there is a large amount of musculature and connective tissue fitting in to the joint space. If this space is compromised and this tissue gets caught in that joint we may have an issue- shoulder impingement. It does have implications for those performing the Olympic Lifts though. Scapular position is vital and strong scapular retractors and depressors are vital for good performance. It also explains why they may be a step too far and too advanced for some individuals- especially if they are not using their lower body to generate enough force relying on the pull of the shoulders to elevate the bar. So what are the options for shoulder development and if necessary the Olympic Lifts? Well we are looking to work the shoulders so variations of dumbbell horizontal and vertical pressing (in those with stable shoulders) may be of use. With the Olympic Lifts if the shoulders need work postutrally then addressing mobility and stability with a suitable focussed programme may be the answer. This doent stop you looking at loaded jump based movements as an alternative as well as lower loading for squats and deadlifts and working on acceleration before returning to the O-lifts when structual balance is a lot more suitable around the shoulder.

Leg Extensions- Again, non-functional and unrelated to developing movement. The forces placed around the knee cap on a leg extension cause an increase in sheer force across the knee. As muscles develop in proportion to one another in a chain any form of dominance in one muscle group can cause postural imbalance and poor movement quality if performed over time. Single leg works multi-dimensional stability of the lower body- vital to move effectively and maintain good posture. Most people dodge it as it is tough- often we only do the things we are good at and leg extensions are an easy option for lower body training. Examples for other exercises include weighted lunges, step ups, single leg squats, heavy sled pushes/ pulls and single leg deadlift variations.

Ab Crunches- Ab crunches to end range flexion and extension are pretty much pointless for most individual’s that I work with. The reason being is that posturally most people do not need a shortened abdominal wall. If tight the rib cage is pulled down (towards the pelvis) it can affect breathing, round the upper back and in some cases be related to increased back pain as it will affect pelvic tilt. As an alternative we use a lot of side bridging drills, ab rollouts and sit to stand movements. This way we can challenge the dynamic nature of the abdominal musculature to resist against excessive force. As a point crunches do not give you a toned ab region. That is roughly about 80% diet related you won’t crunch your way to a six pack if your nutrition plan is not perfect. That also goes for any other “core” contraption.

Throw any others out there…. and feel free to disagree below!

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.

 

How to Pick a Minimal Gym Trainer: Part Two

As discussed barefoot training can be a good method of strengthening up the musculature around the ankle though it does not mean that you just have to train in one pair of shoes what follows is a review of the main contenders for minimal support based footwear…

Converse….

The main stay of the lifting community, now perhaps more of a fashionable shoe than a training shoe. The value of converse with a stable base with a flexible mid-foot shows its use for lifting weights as a flat shoe. In more dynamic work the coarser upper material is less than ideal for movement, specifically with the high top version. For those with wide feet it can also be an issue.

Neutral Running Shoes…

Can be useful for those who may need a bit more support. The main issue with any type of running shoe is the issue of an elevated heel lift, as discussed before this can cause increased heel contact time which may not be desirable when looking to encourage a more natural forefoot running pattern with less ground contact time. For those in the gym it can provide a suitable amount of support if your arches/ ankles are weak and is a good transition shoe if you have been training a more heavily supported shoe. Often our clients have orthotics which may be necessary for some individuals especially if they are not going to invest the time in some barefoot training drills. Therefore, I would tend to favour a neutral running shoe with a customized orthotic opposed to a heavily supported running shoe as it will be more personal to the individual’s needs as this will also help preserve knee alignment and give support where necessary. The orthotic can also be adjusted over time if barefoot training drills are undertaken to improve lower body strength. This is often what I recommend for runners- with a more minimal shoe for gym work and occasional runs.

Nike Free…

I have a couple of pairs of Nike Free’s myself and think they are great as any everyday shoe. There are a number of models with varied heel lifts a higher heel lift in the 5.0, 7.0 and “Run” versions so their benefits as a minimal shoe now are not as great in comparison to the 3.0 which has a lower heel lift. I also find the added heel lift with minimal medial support not in line with the ideals of barefoot training in the sense of developing and allowing full range of motion at the ankle. The light weight nature of the show though makes them suitable for gym work especially if you can find some of the earlier models though they make a decent everyday shoe even if they can get beat up pretty quickly.

Vibram…

Perhaps the weirdest looking of the shoes as the illustration suggests these shoes are akin to wearing a more durable glove for your foot. Fundamentally they are very comfortable though their base is pretty thin meaning if you have sensitive feet you may have to build up to using them outside. The Vibrams is a great shoe if you really want to get the feel of being barefoot. The feeling on your feet is akin to grabbing hold of the floor with your feet and therefore when working on a single leg you really feel everything working from the foot upwards. I generally use these every other day for work (indoors) and training. Anecdotally, I have tried a light amount of running in them but believe that there may be better options especially if looking to elevate the amount of training you do. That said as part of your footwear for training they are a really useful addition.

Merrell…

Introduced to me by one of my clients the Merrell barefoot shoe combines the feel of the sole of the Vibram with the appearance of a normal shoe. One of my training clients told me that this was the evolution of shoes and that my Vibrams where now where irrelevant as at least you could wear these outside with “normal” people- the Merell incidentally has a Vibram sole which I didn’t mention to him. The Merrell shoe is a great option for a minimally constructed shoe for those who want a more normal looking covered shoe; it was going to be my favoured selection until….

New Balance Minimus…

I had a preview of this from Eric Cressey’s blog, realizing they were not available in this country… until one of my colleagues managed to get me a pair through a contact in the States! The New Balance shoe has a sole made by Vibram with a full upper like the Merell. It’s very comfortable to wear and has the appearance of a climbing shoe. Some of the other models almost look like more durable versions of the early Nike Free. It just edges the Merell in looks with the upper feeling a bit more flexible on the upper foot and is great for dynamic work in the gym, short distance speed work and occasional short distance running.