2015 saw some monumental changes for me mainly thanks to the arrival of our triplet girls in June to compliment our two and a half year old son.
What I wanted to share with you today was something I’ve never experienced in my training life that I now have a new found appreciation for in terms of what clients or other people might be going through when they come from a similar space as what I have.
Training while tired or stressed is something I thought I had come to terms with when I had my first boy. Sure I lacked that little extra zing or push at the end of a heavy set but hey I would still find myself in the training arena each day and happy to punish myself time and time again.
Fast forward two years, one new business, a business mentoring course, a written book and of course triplet girls and I found myself in a completely new head space! Sure the broken sleep hurts but again I was used to that with my boy, it hurts but you pick yourself up and get your ass moving.
What no one can ever prepare you for with multiples is the unrelenting pressure that comes with multiples especially triplets. Cleaning bottles, washing nappies, patting to sleep it doesn’t stop....ever! You get through the honeymoon period well enough (sleepy baby stage) but over time and the persistent nature of what it is you do just slowly weighs you down, and I like to use the words ‘weigh you down’ as it’s this exact feeling that I’ll talk about in a second. Anyway, couple all that with the new business and everything that goes with it and you have one completely different mind to work with.
I love everything there is about a training environment, from the sweat and bad body odder right through to the pain that goes with hard yakka nothing gets me up quicker in the morning (except the ear piercing sound of three screaming babies). It’s the sole reason why I do what I do. I got my first formal training program when I was 14 years of age, was coaching by the age of 18 and haven’t looked back since.
What this past year’s experiences in particular the triplets has done to my training however is unparalleled in my world, while at the same time both frustrating and intriguing all at the same time.
Where I used to bounce off the walls in excitement at the thought of putting a weighted bar on my back and pumping out 5x5 squats I now feel nothing but exhaustion. My wife would say my mind is now normalising, and although I’ll never agree with her at the same time I do now have a greater appreciation for individuals who don’t naturally ‘get-off’ on training like us fitness professionals do. I can see now how throwing weights around as a concept can be more exhausting than liberating.
The difference here is that instead of doing nothing we as ‘fitness freaks’ will find different outlets to get our fix. So of course this means I haven’t stopped training, that thought will never enter my mind as long as I’m breathing, I however rarely pick up a heavy dumbbell these days and although I’m sure that will change in time, for now I have just found different outlets. I find myself doing far more calisthenics (which at 105kg is plenty of weight) while at the same time sprinting which I’ve always enjoyed from my track and field days, has brought a whole new dimension to it. Like most people who do any form of running they will tell you they feel ‘free’ (albeit for a short while) while running, this is most definitely the case for me and I have a new found love for it again.
There’s no doubting how much children enrich your life, however at the same time they certainly do teach you to appreciate the little things you took for granted before they were here. Time to train is certainly one thing but having the energy to train like a beast is another thing again.
I read an interesting research paper the other day that addressed this very topic along with reviewing others like it. Coming from a world where maximal efforts and pain are my friends. I struggled with the notion that the answer to this question could be yes, so I was obviously interested to hear what they had to say. It was attention-grabbing at the very least and thought provoking. As I briefly mentioned above if you also come from a world of hurt and love it as much as I do then you will need to step out of it to gain a better perspective.
Ok so the researchers took 22 university students that considered themselves ‘recreationally active’. Using a health questionnaire they were then put into one of two groups, the low intensity group (LIE) or high intensity group (HIE) this basically distinguished if the subject performed any low or high intensity exercise within their week to week routine.
The subjects performed 3 exercise sessions the first was performed at a moderate intensity on a stationary bike and stepper, while the final two sessions they played Wii sport Boxing, Tennis, Step Aerobics and Cycling. The entire time they were hooked up to a Polar Heart rate monitor to measure cardiac output. Now it’s fair to say the HIE group didn’t get a great deal out of the Wii games from a cardiovascular perspective. However the LIE group had favourable results with both Wii Boxing and Wii Tennis, and although the stationary bike and stepper came on top, these two games weren’t far behind. Not bad considering the games were played on the easiest level!
However the plot thickens when we start talking enjoyment levels and adherence rates. Each subject was asked to fill out a questionnaire after each session rating their enjoyment, enthusiasm, satisfaction ect,ect. Predictably, the Wii games topped the chart streaks ahead of the formal exercise with Wii Tennis leading closely followed by Wii Boxing. Copious amounts of studies have shown that when enjoyment levels and satisfaction levels are high, subjects are 30-40% more likely to adhere to an activity. So this obviously begs the question, if we have a client who is a serial offender for not following their 30-40min of movement a day, would active gaming act as an appropriate back stop?
It pains me to say that it actually has merit. Don’t get me wrong it would have to be a last resort, however the key again comes back to adherence and in our world consistency is key. If the Wii means that individuals would actively move 4-6 times a week for 30-40min when they previously wouldn’t then as I said it has merit. At the very least a combination of formal training and Wii could act as a good way to break up the formalities of exercising while the client is still finding their feet in what is initially a daunting and fearful world known as regular exercising.
KEITH E. NAUGLE,1 KELLY M. NAUGLE,1 AND ERIK A. WIKSTROM 2, 2014, CARDIOVASCULAR AND AFFECTIVE OUTCOMES OF ACTIVE GAMING: USING THE NINTENDO WII AS
A CARDIOVASCULAR TRAINING TOOL1, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida; and 2University of North Carolina Charlotte, Charlotte, North Carolina
Training whether it be running, lifting, climbing or other is all about stressing your physiological system to gain as much adaptation as possible. In a very simplistic view, the more stress on your body the more your body is forced to adapt Take away the stresses and you diminish the effectiveness of your workout. Here are 3 sure ways to increase your results in the gym environment.
1) Excessive rest periods - Stop taking your phone onto the gym floor!
Now I understand that these days with smartphones and the hundreds of fitness apps we have access to there are times we need our phones on us while we workout to gain access to training programs, GPS and the likes of. However, there isn't a greater distraction during your workout than a mobile phone. When your Personal Trainer programs 60 secs recovery between sets they did so for a reason. A sneaky check of Facebook or text message to a friend rapidly extends your rest period and eats into the possible gains you could gain from the workout. So leave it in the locker!
2) Time under tension - Don't rush your movements
From a resistance training perspective, most people are after improvements in strength and/or hypertrophy. How fast you perform your squats or push-ups plays a critical role in getting the gains you want, this is commonly known as your time under tension. Most tearing of the muscles occur during the eccentric phase of a movement (Downward phase of a squat or push-up). Slowing this phase down brings many benefits but the two in particular are 1) increased tearing of muscle fibres and therefore better adaptation and 2) Safety, the faster you move the more force you generate and the therefore the greater chance of injury. Always try to keep a 3 second count on the eccentric phase of all your movements.
3) Pain is your friend not enemy - Mind beats matter every time!
It's well known that success is won or lost more times than not by mental will power. The person who folds first is generally always the loser.
Training is no different, and when it comes to gaining the most from your training sessions the longer you're prepared to push through the discomfort the better your results are going to be. So the next time you find yourself running up a steep hill in the final 5min of your run and that little voice kicks in and says..."just walk a little". Visualise your goal, picture yourself in that bikini or crossing the line in the next fun run in a PB time! You'll be amazed in the "kick" it gives you and of course this ultimately means better results.
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There are many forms of visualisation, and most of us know it in a sporting context as the use of imagery to reinforce a desired outcome of an activity or competition. It’s often used in preparation for the activity, for example an Olympic lifter going through their cues before they go to the platform or a soccer player seeing themselves performing the team plays.
Visualisation from a sports psychology perspective has been around for quite some time and is an important part of an athlete’s mental focus (studies have shown that visualisation alone can improve performance without training!). It can also be found in any good counsellor’s clinic, yoga studio or meditation retreat. So why wouldn’t we as Personal Trainers look to tap into this powerful tool also?
In fairness, visualisation techniques aren’t really part of the Cert 4 framework, are they? However the use of imagery techniques can also work for our clients as a powerful motivator. I am living proof of that, as are many of my clients. We even see extreme examples of it in use on weight loss reality TV shows, where trainers might shout at the participants asking the question, “Why are you here?” This cue then fuels a flood of images in the mind which hopefully represent where they see themselves in 10 years, and all of a sudden there is some fire in the belly and they are able to overcome the challenge they were given with ease.
We too can use imagery to get the most out of our clients. This is how:
On one hand, like any skill, practice makes perfect and by that I mean have your client think of the image regularly and feel the passion it ignites (stick a picture on the bathroom mirror and tell them to look at it while brushing their teeth). On the other hand, call on their image only when your client needs you the most to push them to a place where they wouldn’t take themselves. Whether that’s a strength set to failure or burpees at the back end of a hard core circuit. Save it for those big occasions when you are truly teaching your client how strong they actually are, and watch them take control of their goals.
Tristan Hill, Masters of Sports Coaching, author of Lifting the Bar and mentor to Personal Trainers.